Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kamoer Slave Dosing Pump Product Review


Having used the Kamoer 4 Channel Dosing Pump unit for six months now, I've been eyeing the Slave module to go with it for quite some time.

For the time being I had a Bubble Magus 3 Channel Dosing Pump used for dispensing amino acids to my tank.

While Bubble Magus was doing its job, I had a few months to run them side by side and compare the two. The Kamoer dosing pump was the clear winner based on a few different criteria:
  • It is much quieter. I could hear my Bubble Magus doser every time it would run even with my aquarium cabinet closed. The Kamoer pump, on the other hand, is simply inaudible.
  • It has calibration. I can calibrate the unit from time to time to ensure incredible precision. Different liquids have different viscosity and even your tubing configuration may affect how much liquid you are adding to your tank, so being able to calibrate it is an indispensable feature.
  • Tons of scheduling options. I can choose to dose only between certain hours of the day.
  • Power outage memory. Even when unplugged for a period of time it does not forget its settings or current time.
All of the points above influenced my decision to purchase the pump from Marine Depot. The package arrived soon after in a well-packed box.



The Kamoer 4 Channel Slave Aquarium Dosing Pump includes the main dosing unit, 4 dosing heads, 4 flow valves, some tubing, tubing connectors and a cord to connect this pump to the master unit.



Attaching the heads to the main unit is a breeze, you just need to click them in. Pay attention when inserting the tubing connectors to make sure they go with the narrower side in. The wider side will be used for the clear tubing.



You can see the unit it will be replacing. This Bubble Magus dosing pump has been with me for a good three years. I'm certain that the new doser will last even longer.



One thing you will have to do is to cut a hole for the "Group B" port on the back of the master unit. I've used a knife for this purpose.



A couple of minutes and the new doser is now fully hooked up.

Once plugged in you will need to change your Master settings from 3 or 4 channel to 7 or 8 channels, respectively. Make sure to write down your current settings since this change will reset your doser.

All in all it took me about a half hour to get everything going. Now the unit is plugged into the system and seem to be functioning exceptionally well.

The only criticism I have about the Kamoer 4 Channel Slave Aquarium Dosing Pump is the cord on the back. It does not have a low profile and sticks out a lot so both of my units had to be moved by an inch from the back wall. Small price to pay for an otherwise superb setup!


About Our Guest Blogger

Dmitry Tumanov is the founder of AquaticLog.com, an online service used by aquarium hobbyists around the world to track water parameters, log changes, schedule tasks and share info and photos to enrich and empower aquarists to keep successful aquariums. Visit AquaticLog today to register for a free account and join the Marine Depot customer group.

Maxspect Gyre XF130: Unrivaled Flow, Quiet Operation and a Bevy of Cool Controllable Settings




The Maxspect Gyre is one of the most exciting new aquarium products to hit the market in recent years.

The first Gyre pump, the XF150, was released late last year and basically changed the way we produce water flow in our aquariums. The unrivaled flow it produced has allowed many hobbyists with large aquariums to reduce the number of powerheads in their tanks to create a more natural reef environment.


Now Maxspect has released a smaller version of the Gyre called the XF130, which will allow even more hobbyists to experience this revolutionary water-moving technology.

The Maxspect Gyre XF130 is 10" long, which is a whole 2" shorter compared to the bigger XF150 model. It produces a maximum flow rate of 2300 gallons per hour (GPH) and can be set to run at lower flow rates so you can dial it in perfectly for your nano tank—or pretty much any aquarium from 25 to 100 gallons in size and up to 4' in length.



All of the same capabilities and features found on the XF150 are present in the XF130 including the same strong waterproof magnet mounts, programmable controller with mounting cradle and spare rotors for reverse flow operation. Once cool difference is the new rubber suspension mount that helps minimize noise.

The controller is pretty simple to use. It has two buttons and a control dial that allow you to adjust the various settings and switch between different modes. Four modes of operation are programmed into the controller: Constant Speed Mode, Pulsing Mode, Alternating Gyre Mode and Feed Mode. To see how each of these modes work, just watch the video which accompanies this blog post.



Mounting the Gyre in your tank can be done two ways. You have the horizontal mount which is good for long tanks with open rock work. It will move water across the top and then roll back across the bottom in constant speed mode.



Vertical mounting is nice for the back of your tank to help push water around the front of a peninsula or in cube-shaped aquarium. It can also help get water moving behind a rock wall or to a specific area of your tank that naturally has a dead spot.

The XF130 works best in standard 55, 75 and 90 gallon aquariums but would also be a great choice for  many of the popular nano tanks starting at 25 gallons and up. Multiple Gyres can even be used together for larger aquariums or to create some very interesting wave effects.

Having adequate water flow is one of the keys to having a successful reef aquarium. If you have questions about flow, the new Gyre XF130 or any other aquarium-related topic, please don't hesitate to contact us for expert advice from our friendly staff of fish nerds.

Until next time... take care and happy reefkeeping.



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Friday, February 20, 2015

Filter Media Guide: Carbon, GFO and BioPellets




With all of the different types of filter media available for our aquariums, choosing the right kind can be extremely confusing.

When keeping a reef aquarium, it is especially important because using the wrong media or using it the wrong way can have some pretty nasty effects on your tank.

Carbon, GFO and BioPellets are currently the most popular types of filter media, and for good reason: they are inexpensive, easy to use and proven to help keep your aquarium water clean, clear and free of impurities. Keep reading to learn precisely how these different types of filter media benefit your aquarium and how to use them correctly.


Carbon

Activated carbon is the most widely used type of filter media and the benefits of using it are pretty amazing. Carbon effectively removes medications, organics, chemicals, color contaminants, odors and other impurities from your tank.

Most hobbyists use activated carbon at all times, but it can also be used situationally to remove medications or chemicals. In fact, many of the medications and algae treatments on the market recommend the use of activated carbon to help remove any residual chemicals from your aquarium after the treatment is complete.

Many of the corals we keep inside our reef aquariums release toxins into the water as a form of defense. Carbon removes these chemicals from the water column which allows hobbyists to successfully care for a variety of corals. With regular use, carbon can help you achieve crystal clear water. With better light penetration and less dissolved organic waste in your aquarium, fish and coral are more likely to thrive. Carbon also keeps your tank from stinking up the house—which should make your family or roommates happy.

The best way to use carbon is to fluidize it inside a media reactor with moderate water flow. Adjust the flow so the carbon is tumbling and slowly "boiling" on top. Carbon can also be effective when placed inside a filter media bag and dropped into a media basket, canister filter, sump or hang-on power filter. Just rinse before putting it into your tank and place it where water will constantly flow through it.

Under normal circumstances, carbon should be replaced every 3-4 weeks. When used to remove medications or chemicals, you'll want to swap out the carbon after only a few days since it will become exhausted rather quickly. It is important to note that leaving carbon in your tank for too long can cause problems. It is important to change your media regularly. If you do not have extra carbon media available, just remove the carbon from your tank in the meantime until you do.



GFO (Granular Ferric Oxide)

GFO, or Granular Ferric Oxide, is pretty magical stuff. GFO filter media is one of the best defenses against algae outbreaks and lasts a surprisingly long time when used properly.

Phosphate is the leading cause of nuisance algae in aquariums. It also inhibits the growth of calcareous corals. An elevated phosphate level may even cause your prized SPS corals to brown out or perish.

Phosphate enters your aquarium mainly through fish waste, but also via supplements, food and even top-off water. GFO binds to the phosphate in your aquarium water making it unavailable to fuel algae growth or adversely affect your corals.

You can use GFO filter media at all times in any reef tank. Fluidizing the media inside a reactor yields the best results. It helps prevent clumping and ensures maximum contact time with your aquarium water. Adjust the flow inside the reactor so the top layer of GFO is "simmering." You do not want it to tumble or move too fast. Higher flow may turn the media into a fine dust which could potentially be released into your aquarium.

GFO media must be thoroughly rinsed before it can be placed inside your system. Testing your phosphate level regularly will let you know when it is time to replace it. In short, if you see your phosphate level begin to rise, it is time to swap out your GFO for fresh media. In an aquarium with elevated phosphate, GFO can become exhausted in a matter of days. Once phosphate has dropped to an acceptable level, a single batch of GFO can last for months.



BioPellets

Last but not least, we have BioPellet media.

BioPellets have become more and more popular with reef aquarium owners in recent years. They work in conjunction with a protein skimmer to remove nitrate from your aquarium. They have a small effect on phosphate, too, but you should still run GFO since BioPellets are not really an effective way to control or reduce your phosphate level.

The way BioPellets work is pretty cool. The pellets are made of an organic-based plastic that acts as a food source for bacteria. As bacteria grows on and consumes the pellets, nitrate in your aquarium is also consumed. The bacteria colonization on the pellets soon creates a "biofilm." As the BioPellets tumble inside a reactor, the biofilm sheds off the pellets carrying with it the bacteria and nitrate. The film is then removed by your protein skimmer and the nitrate along with it.

You can't use BioPellets without a BioPellet reactor. Adjust the flow into the reactor so the pellets gently tumble. Place the effluent or outflow from the reactor in close vicinity to your protein skimmer intake or plumb it directly to the skimmer intake for best results. This allows the skimmer to remove the biofilm immediately after exiting the reactor. When running BioPellets, you will likely need to empty your skimmer cup more often and clean your mechanical filters more frequently as well to prevent them from becoming clogged.

It is important to note that it takes time for the bacteria to grow, so be patient and be sure to keep the pellets tumbling. It generally takes 4-6 weeks for a BioPellet reactor to start working effectively. You should slowly introduce your system to BioPellets, starting with a ½ or even a ¼ of the recommended amount for your aquarium size. As time goes on, you can slowly add more pellets until you reach the full recommended amount. This will minimize the shock to your system from dramatic changes in nitrate levels. You will need to replenish the pellets as they become consumed over time. Using a full dose right off the bat can cause a sudden change in water chemistry and really shock the animals in your aquarium. It is crucial that your protein skimmer is working properly because without it, the nitrate and bacteria film cannot be removed from your aquarium water.

Filter media is fundamental part of keeping a healthy reef aquarium. If you questions about filter media, please leave us a comment or contact us! Our staff of experts is always happy to talk tank and share our experience with you. Don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date on all the latest aquarium news.

Until next time, take care and happy reefkeeping.



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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

SPS Corals for Beginners, Part 1

MetroKat's famous 'Katropora', (A. Subulata)

You've got a sweet setup. You watched over that cycle like it was a newborn, added the token clownfish, clean-up crew, and you've been eyeing those small polyp stony corals at the LFS. You finally bring home a pretty frag, find the perfect spot for it and glue it down. It looks great under those actinics so you can't wait to add more. The next day you go to see how the frag is doing and IT IS BONE WHITE! What happened?! You try again a couple of times till you figure you are cursed and can't keep SPS.

This series of articles will cater to someone who expresses interests in maintaining and keeping small polyp stony corals in their reef aquarium for the first time. These articles assume you know what a nitrogen cycle is and that your tank has been set up for as long as it takes to have completed that cycle at the minimum. We will talk about our personal experiences in keeping beautiful, healthy, and bright SPS. We've had failures too, and it took some degree of trial and error to be able to sustain SPS.


Arce's Green Acropora

Tank Maturity

You may have heard of a time requirement to be able to keep SPS. This time requirement is put in place to give your tank an opportunity to build up its biological filtration so that it can handle the bioload you intend to have. What does that mean?


Arce's Millepora

Bacteria is your friend. Whodathunkit?

New systems that are just starting, and have fully cycled, will only have enough of a bacterial population to get through their initial cycle. As you add fish, which adds waste from the food you feed, over the course of the next few months that bacterial population will increase to be able to process the added bioloads. Aside from converting wastes through the nitrogen process, bacteria are also consumed by your corals and are essentially food.

New systems are very clean. You may think this is a good thing as most SPS keepers rave about their ultra low nutrient systems (ULNS). The term ULNS refers to low concentrations of phosphates and nitrates. Coral care instructions specify low nitrate and phosphate levels as requirements, but there is a big difference between an established low nutrient system and a young tank.

An established low nutrient system has the necessary bacterial population and diversity to sustain corals. It will also have Dissolved Organic Compounds (DOCs) in the system which in turn feed the SPS corals and help maintain their health.

A young tank is nutrient starved in this regard. You might think you can just feed heavily, or stock a young tank with a few fish to produce these DOCs but that can lead to ammonia spikes and algae issues due to your system not being able to handle the added nutrients.

This is why time is important, to give your tank a natural way to boost its biological capabilities to handle livestock.


Metrokat's Jason Fox Setosa with a Blenny under actinics

Stability

If there is one secret recipe to keeping beautiful and healthy SPS corals—it is Stability. A new system will fluctuate in a variety of parameters. Your nitrogen cycle will continue to fluctuate until you reach your equilibrium in your bacterial population. The parameters that are affected by this are your ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. During this time you should not be putting any SPS in your system.

Alkalinity, is probably the most important element to keep stable. It can swing due to your system being new and still establishing itself, or due to the salt mix you use. Coralline encrusted rocks for example, suck up alk like crazy and a low alk salt mix will quickly deplete between water changes. If you have alkalinity swings, your SPS will show stress in some form, usually lack of Polyp extension (P.E.), necrosis and loss of color.

It is suggested to keep alkalinity between 7 to 11 Dkh, which will support SPS, but some coral keepers like us feel the range of 7.0-8.5 to be the sweet spot.

Through the calcification process, stony corals will consume calcium and alkalinity to create their skeleton. Magnesium also plays a role in that process. As they consume these elements, their respective levels in your system will lower and need to be replaced. This will lead to dosing and supplement requirements which we will also discuss at a later time. Right now you need to understand the fact that your levels need to remain rock solid (with some slight variations) to keep your SPS happy and healthy. A spike in your alkalinity can lead to burnt tips, necrosis, and browning. RTN presents itself as a bone white coral, here one minute, gone the next. STN can sometimes show up as whitening at the base that slowly crawls upwards, it can also show as peeling flesh that spreads.


MetroKat's Red Sea Max

From personal observations, we have noticed that alkalinity swings, at the lower end of the suggested spectrum, prove to be less harmful to SPS corals than a swing at the higher end. There can be several factors which contribute to this observation, but as of now we can only speak from our experiences as hobbyists, not scientists.

Aside from your alkalinity levels, your phosphates and nitrates are another important level to watch and maintain. Large feedings or inadequate nutrient export can increase both of these levels and each can result in browning, growth stagnation and tissue necrosis.

Stability, in all parameters, is the key to a successful SPS system. Though some parameters will not be as detrimental to SPS, for example a swinging calcium level; they are nonetheless important to maintain stable as they in turn can throw other levels off.


About Our Guest Authors

Arce: Name’s Justin Arce, known as “Arce” on forums. My experience in reefs has been short, with only two years experience. But my current tank, a standard 29 gallon, has proven to be a successful SPS reef. My addiction to sticks is obvious when looking at my tank... and especially when looking at my wallet.

MetroKat: Kat has been blogging and testing products for Marine Depot since 2014. Her current system is a 50G CAD Lights Artisan mixed reef with a custom hybrid light and the new Gyre. She was Tank of The Month on Nano-Reef in 2012, featured on Reef Builders, Marine Depot and recently won Most Creative Nano on Reef2Reef.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Aqua Medic EcoDrift Controllable Pump: An Affordable Way to Create Waves in Your Reef Tank



Water circulation in your reef aquarium is crucial to the health of your corals and to help keep the tank clean and algae-free. This is the reason powerheads are so important for reefers and why you see such a variety of different pumps available.

Aqua Medic just released an affordable new controllable powerhead and today we are going to take a closer look at all the features and show you how to us them.



EcoDrift Series pumps offer an incredible value, with 4 models ranging in price from around $98 to $170 that are suitable for aquariums from 75 all the way to 500 gallons. All are controllable, featuring 9 different programs plus a light sensor that will automatically reduce the flow rate when it detects it's night time. EcoDrift pumps run on safe, low-voltage DC motors and are really energy-efficient considering the high flow rates they produce.

The included magnet holder is strong and will stay securely in place on aquariums up to 5/8" thick. Something that surprised me were the vibration-reducing rubber bumpers that result in quieter operation. This is not the first time we have seen something like this on a powerhead, but it's definitely a cool feature to have. The bracket allows for 180° rotation, but you can also adjust the direction by spinning the magnet—just be mindful of the power cord.



We installed one of the 8.0 models in our 4' long office aquarium. I had to set it at 50% in constant speed mode because it was just too strong at 100%!

The controller is simple and intuitive. The first three modes are Constant Speed modes indicated by the P and # value that corresponds to the speed, P100 being 100% and so on. You can scroll through the modes by pressing the mode button.



The next three modes are Wave modes. W1 mode allows you to control the speed and frequency of the pulse. Use the mode button to select W1, then press the Speed button to select 100%, 75% or 50% indicated by the S1, S2 and S3 LEDs on the right. You can then adjust the frequency of the pulse using the control dial to tune the wave to your liking.

W2 mode is a preset Wave mode which will operate on a pre-set slow pulse rate from 0 – 100%. W3 mode is a little different: it quickly increases the speed to 100% and then slowly decreases back down to 0%.

Random mode is exactly as it sounds. Press the MODE/Feed button until the Random LED is illuminated and the pump will randomly rotate through all of the possible programs.

Lock mode is cool because you can lock the control dial to prevent any accidental changes to your wave setting. Press and hold the Speed/Lock button to activate. The LOCK LED will illuminate indicating the control dial is now locked. Press and hold the Speed/Lock button for 5 seconds to deactivate.

The controller also has a Hold mode—represented by the 10 Min. LED. By holding the MODE/Feed button for 5 seconds, the 10 min LED will illuminate and the pump will stop for 10 minutes. This is handy for feeding or maintenance purposes.

You can activate Night mode by attaching the optical sensor to the side of the controller. Then mount the sensor in an area that is illuminated by your aquarium light.

The Marine Depot staff was surprised and pleased to see so many features packed into these incredibly affordable pumps. Even more good news: Aqua Medic just released a full series of controllable DC returns pumps called DC Runners that are also now available in our online store.

If you are looking for an affordable way to create waves in your reef tank, the Aqua Medic EcoDrift is definitely a pump worthy of your consideration.

Until next time... take care and happy reefkeeping.



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