Friday, April 24, 2015

How to Frag Corals and Build a Frag Tank




So you've mastered the art of growing coral to such a degree that your tank is becoming cluttered and colonies have reached the water surface. What next?

Building a frag tank is a fun and rewarding way to keep evolving in the hobby. Collecting and growing frags to sell or share with other hobbyists is a great way to spread your love of reefing. Plus, seeing your corals grow inside other hobbyists' tanks is very satisfying.

At Marine Depot, we carry everything you need to frag corals or build an awesome frag tank! Stay tuned to get the lowdown on how to put a frag tank together plus we’ll share some of our favorite tools to make fragging corals fun and easy.


THE FRAG TANK

When shopping for a frag tank, ideally you’ll want something shallow, like the JBJ 20 Gallon Shallow Reef Aquarium. Shallow tanks are easier to clean and offer better light penetration to grow coral. Plus, a shallow tank is more accessible so you can add or remove frags, place frags racks and perform tank maintenance.



FRAG TANK FLOW

Just like in a regular reef aquarium, proper water flow is required for a successful frag system. You don't need anything too fancy. Standard powerheads like the Hydor Koralia produce a broad, natural flow for an affordable price.



HEATING YOUR FRAG TANK

The same aquarium heater rule of thumb we all follow applies to heating a frag tank: typically 3-5 watts of power per gallon of water. One of our favorite heaters for frag systems is the Cobalt Neo-Therm because the slim design allows you to place it in tight spaces.



LIGHTING YOUR FRAG TANK

Most frag systems are less than 16" deep and are only used as a temporary holding tank, so you really don't need a high-powered light to successfully grow coral. A simple T5 light fixture like the AquaticLife Marquis or a LED strip light like the Current USA Orbit Marine will do the job. Kessil A160 and A360 lights are another popular option. They are compact, linkable (should you decide to expand your operation) and do a great job growing coral.



FRAG TANK AQUASCAPE AND MAINTENANCE

Live rock and sand are not usually used inside a frag tank which helps keep the system clean. Since your hands are going in and out of the water fairly often, more frequent water changes are recommended, especially since many of your corals will be recovering from fragmentation. Performing 15-25% weekly water changes and running fresh activated carbon will help your corals thrive. Without fish, your frag system will likely have low organic waste levels, so a protein skimmer is optional. Adding a skimmer will make the water cleaner, but running one is not required.



FRAG TANK EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

Once you've leak tested your tank and acquired all the basic components, it's time to fill it with saltwater and start the cycle. Since you're not quite ready to start chopping corals yet, you still have time to pick up the remaining items you’ll need to be a successful coral farmer.

We carry some really nice frag kits that include many of the tools you'll need to safely propagate your coral plus a variety of plugs to mount them to. To make things easy, we've compiled a list of some of the not-so-obvious items you may still need to pick up (also available as a downloadable PDF):


HOW TO FRAG CORALS

Cutting coral is done a few different ways depending which type you are fragging. SPS corals are cut using sharp shears, similar to what you might use in a garden. The Dissekt-Rite Cutting Shears and Taam Coral Clippers are both great for chopping hard SPS at home. Cutting coral at a "Y" or at the base of new growth is the best way to get a clean cut and nice fragment.

The technique used to frag LPS corals will vary depending on how the particular species grows. Branching LPS can be fragged the same way as SPS: using shears to cut away a branch or new growth. Colonial-type LPS, like Acans and Favias, can be fragged using a small bandsaw, like the Gryphon AquaSaw, or even a dremel. Cut around the mouth—not directly down the center—like you would for an anemone.

Soft corals and anemones are a little trickier to deal with. Since they lack a rigid skeleton it makes handling them more challenging. You can usually accomplish a clean cut using a scalpel, razor blade or sharp pair of scissors. Exactly where to cut depends on how a particular coral grows. A little research on your favorite aquarium message board or a quick call to our support team is a surefire way to get advice from more experienced reefers.



HOW TO MOUNT CORAL FRAGS

Mounting your new coral frags can be accomplished a number of different ways. Hobbyists get pretty creative when it comes time to make their new frags stick to a plug or rock, especially in cases where glue cannot be used, like with mushrooms and anemones. This is when rubber bands, thread and toothpicks can come in handy.

The main thing to remember when fragging and mounting corals is to have a plan. Ensure all your fragging and mounting tools are within arm’s reach before you begin cutting. Keep coral handling and out-of-water time to a minimum.

Dipping or dosing iodine and target feeding amino acids are a couple of helpful ways to help your new frags recover. Just like a regular aquarium, it is important to keep your parameters stable. Be sure to test your water regularly to ensure it mimics the natural living conditions of the corals you’re growing.



CONCLUSION

Collecting and trading coral frags is one of the most fun aspects of the reef aquarium hobby. For many of us, discovering a rare coral or stumbling across a hard-to-find frag adds a whole other level of excitement to reefing.

If you have questions about building a frag tank or need some help fragging coral, please contact our experts and we would be happy to help you out.

Thanks for reading and until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.



4See all of the coral fragging products available at Marine Depot.

4Get our free email newsletter for hot deals, how-to's and expert tips.

4Subscribe to our YouTube channel so you never miss an episode.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Feed Frozen Fish Food to Increase Color and Vitality




For many aquarium keepers, fish become members of the family—just like cats and dogs!

When you spend as much time around fish tanks as we do, it becomes obvious that fish have their own little personalities. Interacting with fish during feeding time is often an aquarium hobbyist's favorite part of the day.


Just like the other pets we keep, providing balanced nutrition is important. This brings us to our topic for today which is frozen fish foods. We are going to highlight some of our favorite frozen fish foods, share some of the useful feeding tools we use plus offer tips to help you keep your fish healthy and happy.

Frozen foods offer the highest nutritional value over dry, freeze dried and even liquid foods. Freezing preserves more of the "goodness" in food which helps ensure your fish are getting the best possible nutrition with each and every bite. Frozen foods are much more palatable than dry foods and trigger a stronger feeding response when added to your tank. This excited response is very helpful when caring for finicky or fragile fish. Many of the more delicate aquarium fish—like Anthias, Butterflies and some Angelfish—actually require a regular diet of frozen foods to survive in captivity. Of course, even the hardiest of aquarium fish will benefit from receiving frozen foods in their diet.

Healthy fish with balanced diets will be more colorful, more active and more resistant to disease. They will live longer than malnourished fish that only receive the same old flake food every day throughout their lifetime. We recommend feeding a variety of foods to marine aquarium fish, with frozen foods being offered at least 3 times per week, if not daily.



A couple of the more popular frozen fish food brands we carry are H2O Life and Rod's Food.

H2O Life offers a variety of frozen fish foods including all of the hobby staples like Mysis Shrimp, Brine Shrimp, Krill and Bloodworms. They also have Silversides for large carnivores and Clams on the Half Shell for the specialized eaters in your tank. Other popular foods in their expansive lineup include Rotifers, Cyclops, Reef Caviar and the new EZ-Pods. They are awesome choices for smaller reef fish—plus your corals will love them, too!

Rod's Food takes a different approach to frozen fish food. Rather than force you to figure out what an appropriate feeding regimen might be and have you buy multiple foods for a balanced diet, hobbyists need only to select the Rod's Food blend that best matches your aquarium type so a single food can feed your entire aquarium. They accomplish this feat by including a variety of appropriate foods in a single frozen flat pack. The food is then cut into various sizes to help ensure each and every one of your tank inhabitants gets the food and nutrition and they need.

Rod's Food Original Blend is perfect for typical mixed reef tanks with a variety of fish and corals. Predator Blend is great if you are keeping big, hungry, predatory-type fish. Several other blends are also available, including Herbivore Blend, Fish Only Blend, Breeders Blend and Coral Blend.



While it is tempting to just toss a chunk of frozen food in your aquarium to feed your fish, it is not ideal. You risk fouling your water quality and triggering algae problems due to the leftover food and nutrient-dense liquid that the food was frozen in.

A better approach is to thaw your food first, discard of the "juices" and feed the strained food to your aquarium inhabitants. By thawing food first, it gives you an opportunity to enrich the nutritional value even further by adding food soaks like Selcon, Brightwell Vitamarin-M or a garlic supplement. Some hobbyists take this a step further and pre-rinse foods in RO/DI water before feeding. Some manufacturers have already caught onto this and are now pre-washing their foods prior to processing to reduce extra waste in your aquarium. The NextReef Frozen Fish Food Strainer makes the task of rinsing food easy and helps ensure mess-free feeding. A handheld strainer—like what you might find in your kitchen, for example—also works great for this task.



We put a lot of energy and effort into keeping delicate fish and corals in our homes. By maintaining good water parameters and providing them with the right nutrition, we can help ensure our wet pets live long, healthy lives.

If you are looking to stock up on frozen fish food or have questions about choosing the right food for your tank, our team of aquarium experts is eager to lend a hand. Feel free to contact us with any and all questions or leave us a comment below and we'll be sure to respond.

Thanks for reading and until next time... take care and happy reefkeeping.



4See all of the fish and coral food products available at Marine Depot.

4Get our free email newsletter for hot deals, how-to's and expert tips.

4Subscribe to our YouTube channel so you never miss an episode.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Coral Food: Make Your Corals Fat and Healthy



While every single one of us feed our fish, not everyone is aware of the importance of feeding the corals in our aquariums. Corals are animals and while most of them obtain a majority of their energy from photosynthesis, it is also very important to feed them to ensure they have the necessary building blocks to grow and thrive.



All corals have mouths and there is a good reason for it. Many corals exert a lot of energy and have developed a significant portion of their biology to capture food, even SPS corals that are highly-dependent on light for survival can benefit greatly from feeding.

Hobbyists are often  pleasantly surprised to see how well their corals respond to feeding. The coloration becomes much more vibrant, the corals grow quicker and their flesh becomes meatier and healthier.



Different types of corals have different sized mouths and benefit from getting the appropriate sized foods. LPS corals along with colonial polyps typically have larger mouths so they can easily consume pellet or frozen foods such as brine and mysis shrimp. Many soft corals and SPS corals have much smaller mouths and will require liquid or powder foods with smaller particles.

Here are some of the Marine Depot staff's favorite coral foods:
  • Polyp Lab Reef Roids is an extremely economical powder food: a small 4oz jar will feed a 100 gallon tank for 3 up to months! Simply mix with tank water and feed to your corals.

  • Coral Frenzy Reef Pellets are great for feeding LPS corals because they have a hefty amount of nutrition packed into a tiny pellet that corals seem to love. They use very high quality ingredients so you are getting the maximum amount of nutrition and fish also really crave these pellets too!

  • DT's Phytoplankton is live phytoplankton and although it can be costly, it is a live product so nutritional value is maximized and there is very little risk of over-feeding. It is great for clams and SPS corals. It will also help increase biodiversity in your tank because it will feed many of the microorganisms in your aquarium and refugium.

  • Rod's Food is one of the best frozen foods available and is awesome because you can feed your fish and corals at the same time. The regular blend includes food particles ranging from 5 microns up to 3/8". The high-quality ingredients include scallops, oysters, seaweeds, cyclops, fish eggs, rotifers and more which are frozen to preserve nutritional value better than powder or liquid foods.

  • The Brightwell Aquatics line of liquid foods are a great choice for those of us who like options or may not have the time to spot feed. They offer a wide variety of different sized liquid foods to suit any type of coral. These products are easy to store and easy to feed which makes them perfect for hobbyists on the go or for those of you using a dosing pump to feed the aquarium.


Spot feeding with a bulb syringe or feeding device is the best method to deliver food to your corals. This helps reduce leftover food in your aquarium which is pretty much inevitable when feeding your corals so be sure to keep an eye on your waste parameters. More frequent water exchanges and regular maintenance of your mechanical filtration will be important when you start feeding your corals regularly.

We generally recommend feeding coral 1-2 times per week when keeping photosynthetic corals in the evening after your aquarium lights have turned off. If you are keeping Gorgonians, Sea Fans or non-photosynthetic corals, you will need to feed much more frequently as these types of corals rely heavily on food to produce most of their energy.



Coral feeding is yet another great way to interact with your aquarium and the results can be amazing. If you are looking to stock up on coral food or have questions about feeding your tank, our team of aquarium experts are available to answer your questions via phone or email.

Until next time, take care and happy reef keeping.



4See all of the fish and coral food products available at Marine Depot.

4Get our free email newsletter for hot deals, how-to's and expert tips.

4Subscribe to our YouTube channel so you never miss an episode.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

We want YOU to join the Marine Depot team!


If you love aquariums, making customers happy and live in the LA/OC area, we'd like to speak with you! We are currently looking for customer service representatives to bolster our support staff. Read on if you think you might be a good fit for this opportunity.

CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE JOB DESCRIPTION

We are looking for customer service representatives to join our support team in MarineDepot.com's Garden Grove, CA headquarters. You will be the front-line of our company and engage with customers on a daily basis via phone, email and live chat. Your job is to make customers happy by resolving problems and providing accurate information in a professional and timely manner. You will provide shoppers with accurate information about our products and how to properly use them. You will also answer questions about order status, order tracking, returns and site navigation in a prompt and courteous manner. MarineDepot.com offers paid training, flexible scheduling (great for college students!) and an excellent healthcare package.

YOUR DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES WILL INCLUDE:
  • Responding to and resolving customer issues with urgency
  • Assuming responsibility for projects and tasks as they occur
  • Assisting customers to ensure they have a positive shopping experience
  • Ensuring the implementation and development of the Family Friendly Concept
  • Working with the Customer Satisfaction Index to benchmark and improve our service execution
QUALIFIED CANDIDATES SHOULD POSSESS:
  • Computer literacy (Windows PC, web browsers)
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • The ability to multi-task in a high call/email volume environment
  • Proven problem solving skills with attention to detail and follow-up
  • An outgoing, positive attitude about providing superior customer service
  • The desire to share your knowledge and experience to help others succeed
  • Saltwater/reef aquarium and fishkeeping experience and/or the willingness to learn more about the hobby
If you're interested in joining our team, please email your resume to hr-csr@marinedepot.com for consideration.

ABOUT MARINEDEPOT.COM

MarineDepot.com is a fast growing online aquarium supply company located in Garden Grove, CA. We're looking for smart, creative people who will give 100 percent. Ideal candidates must be dedicated, detail-oriented team players that will thrive in a fast-paced, high-volume ecommerce work environment. The office atmosphere here is low-key, casual and collaborative. We have regular company BBQs, celebrate Take Your Dog To Work Day® and have a great healthcare and benefits package that includes discounts on aquarium and pet products. Although it is not a prerequisite to working with us, most of our employees are pet/aquarium owners. We love what we do!




Friday, April 10, 2015

How to Replace Your RO/DI Filter Cartridges



A RO/DI system is your reef defender, preventing harmful contaminates from ever entering your aquarium water. That is why it is important to regularly maintain your RO/DI filter so your reef is protected from these unseen killers.

The biggest challenge most hobbyists face is not knowing precisely when to change out their filter cartridges. But you’re in luck! Today we are going to show you how to properly monitor your filter cartridges to help you get the most out of your RO/DI system.


The recommendation you often hear in the hobby is to change your sediment, carbon and DI cartridges every 6-8 months and your TFC membrane every 2 years. While this is a good starting point, it can be misleading. The rate at which cartridges are exhausted actually depends on the level of impurities in your tap water and how much water you produce using your RO/DI system.

If your tap water is fairly clean or you don’t use much water, you might be changing out the filter cartridges prematurely (and therefore wasting money). On the other hand, if the quality of your tap water is poor or you use a substantial amount of DI water, you may inadvertently be allowing harmful impurities into your aquarium.

Fortunately, finding out exactly when you need to change your filter cartridges is quite easy and requires only a few simple tools to monitor your filter usage.



The most important tool is a TDS meter which measures the Total Dissolved Solids in parts per million (or PPM for short). HM Digital Inline TDS Meters are among the most popular because they allow you to take readings while your RO/DI system is operating.

Water exiting the DI should read 0 or 1 ppm. When the TDS reading begins to rise, it means that the DI is exhausted and should be replaced. We recommend changing your DI cartridge when your TDS reading is 3-5ppm. It is a good idea to change out your sediment and carbon filters at the same time because they usually exhaust at about the same rate.

If your tap water has an unusually high amount of sediment, you should swap out the sediment cartridge more often. It is easy to tell when your sediment cartridge is clogged because it will turn color from white to a medium brown. You will also see a drop in water pressure inside the membrane housing. Low water pressure will slow down water production and make the TFC membrane less efficient. You should replace the sediment filter cartridge when water pressure drops by 15-20%.

Most aquarium hobbyists change the carbon block filter at the same time as the DI. The carbon filter’s main job is to remove chlorine and chloramine (if you live in a municipality that uses chloramine), so it is a good idea to monitor your carbon cartridge weekly. An exhausted carbon filter may allow chlorine or chloramine through your system which can damage your TFC membrane and exhaust your DI cartridge prematurely.

To test your carbon filter, you will need a total chlorine or free chlorine test kit. Allow your RO/DI system to run for 10 minutes then test the waste water coming from your RO/DI system for the presence of chlorine. If the chlorine measures above 0.5 ppm, it is time to change out the carbon filter.

The TFC membrane is the heart of your RO/DI system. It removes 95-98% of the impurities from water passing through it. With proper care, a TFC membrane will last anywhere from 1-3 years. However, they are sensitive and can be easily damaged. Running hot water accidentally through the system, allowing the system to freeze or the membrane to dry out are the most common reasons why TFC membranes fail.

In order to test your membrane, you will need to measure the TDS of both the tap water entering your system and the product water coming out of the membrane before it travels through the DI filter. Having a Triple Inline TDS Meter is helpful here because you can install one of the inline probes between your membrane and DI cartridge. Otherwise, you can simply disconnect the water line from your DI cartridge and collect some of the RO water coming out of your membrane.

After passing through the membrane, your water should have no less than 95% of the impurities removed. For example, if your tap water TDS is 100 ppm, then the TDS reading after the membrane should be 5 ppm or less. Once your TFC membrane allows more than 5% of impurities to pass through, it is time for a new one.



Flushing your TFC membrane regularly with a flush valve kit will help to maintain optimal performance and extend the life of your TFC membrane. Be sure to pick one up if it was not included with your RO/DI system. Manual flush valve kits are inexpensive and can double the life of your membrane.

Be sure to turn off the supply water line before replacing RO/DI filter cartridges. Spilling a small amount of water is inevitable since there isn’t any way to magically drain all the water out of an RO/DI system after it has been used, so keep a towel or small bucket handy. Gently remove the filter housing with an RO wrench or plumber’s pliers to access and change your filter cartridges and/or membrane. When reinstalling the canisters, be sure to hand-tighten only! Overtightening the canisters may cause leaks or damage. Whenever you change out your reverse osmosis system’s filter cartridges, it is a good idea to produce a couple of gallons first (you can use it to water your plants) before you start making water for your tank.



Knowing how to properly monitor your RO/DI filter system will save you time and money because you will know exactly when to replace your filter cartridges. More importantly, you will be protecting your aquarium from being poisoned with harmful contaminates.

If you have questions about maintaining your RO/DI system or wish to purchase any one of the products featured in this video, feel free to contact our aquarium experts for fast and friendly service. Thanks for tuning in and until next time… take care and happy reefkeeping.



4See all of the reverse osmosis products available at Marine Depot.

4Get our free email newsletter for hot deals, how-to's and expert tips.

4Subscribe to our YouTube channel so you never miss an episode.