|my girlfriend's favorite coral... the Jack-O-Lantern Leptastrea.|
Friday, May 30, 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Aquarium chillers are devices that reduce the temperature of the water in a fish tank. At first glance, an aquarium chiller may appear to be an odd accessory for a tropical aquarium. They are, after all, filled with tropical animals that are accustomed to tropical temperatures.
While tropical fish need warm water, real problems can arise if the water gets too hot or fluctuates too much. As the temperature rises the oxygen level drops, making it more difficult for fish to breathe. Higher temperatures also lead to increased problems with nuisance algae and parasites. Most importantly, tropical fish like stability. High temperature fluctuations often lead to unhealthy fish.
This is especially true for a saltwater aquarium.
Day to day temperatures in the ocean are very stable. However, achieving stable temperatures in a reef aquarium can be very difficult. All of the equipment used to maintain a reef tank, like high intensity lighting and powerful pumps, put a lot of heat into the water. This can make the tank heat up rapidly. During the summer, the heat can become lethal. While fans may help some, many aquariums need a chiller to keep temperatures safe and steady.
BUY THE RIGHT CHILLER
Do not buy an underpowered chiller. Keep in mind that most aquarium chillers are rated for the volume of water they can cool, but do not take into account heat put into the aquarium by lights and pumps. So, if you have a 100 gallon aquarium, you will need a chiller rated for more than 100 gallons.
When picking a chiller, consider the long term costs. If you buy a chiller that is just powerful enough, you may save some money initially, but you will pay far more in the long run. A chiller should not run more than 15-20 minutes each hour. However, an underpowered chiller will run a lot. This will shorten the life of the chiller and raise your electricity bill considerably. You can get an estimate of your electricity usage using our free Aquarium Electrical Cost Analysis Calculator.
PLACE THE CHILLER
Most chillers are not works of modern art. But, hiding the chiller in an enclosed area like the aquarium stand isn’t wise unless the stand is well ventilated. As the chiller draws heat out of the aquarium, it needs to expel that heat into the environment. If the chiller is not well-ventilated, heat will build up. This will cause the chiller to work less efficiently.
Some aquarists place the chiller in a separate room (or the garage). This takes extra work, but can hide an unsightly chiller. When I installed my chiller next to the stand, I put an end table over the chiller and disguised it with a thin tablecloth. This kept the chiller well-ventilated and my wife happy.
You also want to consider the amount of power the chiller uses. Chillers pull a lot of electricity, so you probably don’t want your chiller plugged into a multi-plug adapter. You also need to be careful, because if your chiller, combined with your other equipment, is drawing more power than the circuit is built for, the circuit might trip causing power to be lost. This can be dangerous if it happens while you are away.
INSTALL THE CHILLER
There are two basic types of chillers: drop-in chillers and in-line chillers. A drop-in chiller has a heat exchange coil that is placed in the sump. This is pretty straightforward, so we will focus our attention on installing an inline chiller.
Inline chillers must have water pushed through them. Before installing your chiller, you need to determine the appropriate flow rate, which should be listed in the manual. If the water is moving too fast or too slow, the chiller will not work properly.
You will (probably) need:
- feed pump (like a Maxi-Jet)
- installation kit
- ½” hose clamps
- temperature controller
- fresh saltwater
Double check to make sure everything is snug and that you have created drip loops, and fire the pump up. Then, jump ahead in the article to "Temperature Controllers."
Chillers for Larger Systems
You will (probably) need:
- feed pump
- flexible vinyl tubing
- hose clamps
- return U-tube
- temperature controller
- fresh saltwater
Your other option is to have a dedicated feed pump sitting in the sump. Some aquarists prefer this setup. There are a few advantages to this. Water from the sump is not slowed down going through the chiller, affecting tank circulation. Nor will water sit in the chiller whenever the return pump is turned off. Standing water can easily freeze inside a chiller, which can cause significant damage. The downside is that you will need an additional pump.
Installing a chiller on a larger aquarium is not much different than the nano-chiller installation above. If you are using the return pump, insert the chiller inline between the pump and the return nozzle. If you are using a feed pump, send tubing to the inlet of the chiller and then from the outlet back to the sump.
The temperature controller measures the temperature of the water to determine when the chiller should run. Many chillers have internal controllers. But, you can also purchase an external temperature controller or use an aquarium controller like the Reefkeeper or Apex.
The best temperature controllers are dual stage. This means that they can control two devices at once: the chiller and the heater. The last thing you want to do is have your chiller and heater running at the same time.
Set the temperature controller to turn the chiller on when the tank reaches a target temperature, say 80°. Many controllers then allow you to set a temperature to turn the chiller off at. Set this a few tenths of a degree below the temperature the chiller kicked in at, say 79.5°. This way, the chiller will not constantly turn on and off. Set your heater to come on at a lower temperature, say 79°. This way, your heater and chiller will not be in competition, and your aquarium will not fluctuate more than 1°.
There you have it! You now have a functioning chiller that is keeping your fish safe and happy.
Now, don’t forget periodic maintenance. Check the chiller fan and housing often for dust buildup to keep the air flowing. A chiller choked by dust will run inefficiently and may break down. Occasionally, remove the chiller from the system and run a vinegar/water solution through the chiller to remove any calcium buildup. A bucket, pump, and some tubing work great for this task.
If you have any questions about choosing or installing a chiller, we would be happy to assist you.
|See how an aquarium chiller works in this diagram|
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE
Candidate will join the front line of our business and engage with customers on a daily basis. Primary duties involve problem-solving and providing accurate information to customers in a professional and friendly manner. Customer Service Representatives are responsible for providing accurate information about the specifications and proper use of the aquarium products available on the MarineDepot.com website as well as responding to customer email and phone inquiries regarding shipping, order tracking, returns, order status and site navigation.
Qualified Candidates Should Possess
- Saltwater reef and fish experience
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills
- An outgoing, positive attitude about providing superior customer service
- Computer literacy
- Ability to share your knowledge
- Multi-tasking capabilities
- Experience working in a problem-solving capacity
- Assist customers with a positive shopping experience
- Ensure the competence and development of your colleagues
- Work with the Customer Satisfaction Index to benchmark and improve our service execution
- Respond to and resolve customer issues with urgency
- Ensure implementation and development of the Family Friendly Concept
- Assume responsibility for projects and tasks as they occur
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 benefits package. Although it is not a prerequisite to working with us, most of our employees are pet/aquarium owners. We love what we do!
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
The most easily recognized symbiotic relationship in the marine world include clownfish with anemones and Gobies with Pistol Shrimps. Both animals benefit from a partnership, both have roles to play.
There are a few symbiotic relationships that are oddities. One of them is the Butt Fish.
Better known as the Silver Pearlfish, (although better remembered as the Butt Fish), these guys are long, skinny, eel-like fish that use a cucumber's hiney to get comfortable. Yup, they use the arse of the cucumber as a home. They lounge in these host quarters by day and come out at night to feed on small crustaceans.
This odd pair is rare in the hobby, but aquarists can find that the fish has hitchhiked in their tanks inside the unmentionables of the cucumber they purchased. Imagine explaining to your kids what the new fishy is doing.
So what do they do in there?
It is thought that they reproduce in the cucumber in addition to making it their habitat. Some species of the Pearlfish are not content by the protection their host offers, and are parasitic to the point of eating their hosts genitalia. It is not uncommon to find a PAIR of Pearlfish living inside Mr. Cucumber's bottom.
The odds of keeping the Pearlfish alive long term in the home aquarium is thought to be possible only with a cucumber host alongside with it.
Check out this video from Emmy Award-winner Richard Fitzpatrick:
Biopellets have been around in the reef aquarium hobby for the past 5 years or so. But a lot of mystery remains when it comes to figuring out what they do, how they do it and the best practices for using them.
In line with my "Reef it Simple" philosophy, I wanted to break down the confusion around biopellets and answer some questions that you're almost sure to have. So without further ado, here's your introduction to biopellets in the saltwater reef system.
What Are Biopellets?
Biopellets are a biodegradable polymer that is made from bacteria. They act like steroids for the beneficial bacteria in your system. You want a strong colony of this bacteria because it naturally controls the nitrates in a tank. Corals need some small levels of nitrates and phosphates to thrive. But too much of either can lead to problems like coral death or algae bloom.
Biopellets provide an ideal environment for beneficial bacteria to thrive. By pumping water from your system into a biopellet reactor we are creating a controllable, food-filled house where bacteria can live and reproduce.
Biopellets provide a source of carbon, but not carbon like the media that we use to remove toxins from the tank. This is carbon as in the building block of life. Because we're feeding the bacteria, you can choose to use some other form of food.
Vodka dosing, carbon additives (such as Red Sea NO3:PO4-X ), sugar and even vinegar are all ways to add carbon. Adding these elements to the system in a broadcast manner can turn the entire tank into an ideal environment for the bacteria. The potential drawback here is that it's less controlled than a reactor.
Should I Use Biopellets?
If there are so many alternatives to biopellets, why would you use them? One reason is that biopellets are so highly effective at lowering nitrates that (when used with heavy protein skimming) the hobbyist can often stop using granulated ferric oxide (GFO). Unlike GFO, biopellets only need to be "topped off", rather than changed out completely, as they are consumed by the bacteria. This lets the hobbyist do less work (and save a bit of money) while enjoying a crystal-clear water column and healthy livestock. A biopellet reactor also confines the majority of the bacteria to a single area. This allows more precise control over the effects that the bacteria will have on the system.
Hobbyists will see the best performance from using biopellets on systems that have a heavy biological load. Those of us who have a lot of fish or tend to feed heavy (or a mixture of both) have probably dealt with problems that this can cause. A bloom of algae or cloudy water, as well as less-than-ideal growth from our corals are common effects from heavy stocking.
Avoiding Biopellet Problems
Saying that biopellets have problems is a bit misleading. In almost every case that I've seen where people have problems, they come from couple of specific issues:
- Using the full amount of biopellets from day one, causing a sudden drop in levels, leading to system shock.
- Not having an effective protein skimmer to remove excess waste from the water.
It's important to remember the biggest rule of saltwater aquariums - stability is key. Hobbyists tend to run into problems when they "chase numbers" and make drastic changes rather than providing a stable environment. Because biopellets are used to control levels, it's easy to get into the bad habit of looking for perfection.
Getting Started With Biopellets
What we're aiming for is a gradual reduction of nitrates. To do this, we need to start with 1/4 or 1/2 the recommended "total dose" of biopellets in the reactor. Set your pump to gently tumble the pellets in the reactor. If they are allowed to be stationary, they can stick to one another. Allow the bacteria a couple of weeks to colonize the pellets, and make sure that you're using an accurate test kit every few days.
After a couple of weeks have passed, and your level drop starts to plateau, add another small amount of pellets. Again, we're looking for a slow decrease. Keep testing your water and looking for another plateau. It has been my experience, and I've heard from other successful biopellet users, that a nitrate level of 0.5 and a phosphate level of 0.03 to 0.05 is fairly ideal. As you approach these numbers, slow the level of pellets that you're adding. Once your tests show these levels consistent, turn off your reactor and mark the level of the pellets so that you know when to refresh them and how much to add.
cyanobacteria outbreak. (If you care about the technical aspect of why this happens, look for an explanation at the end of this post.) In order to make sure that this doesn't happen to you, you'll need to skim off this waste from the water coming out of the biopellet reactor. Hobbyists have had great results from placing the output of the reactor near the input of the skimmer, but some have even gone so far as to plumb the output line of the reactor to the skimmer. This ensures that absolutely all of the water coming out of the reactor is skimmed before returning to the system.
Finally, don't change your behavior just because you've started using biopellets. One pitfall is that people believe that they need to increase the feeding or population in order to give the system enough "food". But if we're starting from a known point on our nitrate and phosphate levels, we need to keep those levels the same in order to know how much we're reducing. If you want to feed more, or add a school of chromis, do so after you've established your biopellet level and then adjust as necessary.
Though biopellets can seem like a bit of aquarium magic, they're really very simple. We just have to make sure that we're looking at the whole picture instead of focusing on one specific area. By moving slowly, testing religiously and skimming effectively, you too can have a pristine tank with biopellets.
Warning: Technical Mumbo Jumbo Below This Line
Biopellets are often marketed as a nitrate and phosphate reducer, but that's only partially true. There are different organisms that will feed on nitrate versus the ones that feed on phosphates. Biopellets tend toward the reduction of nitrates by boosting the organisms that feed on them. Phosphates will naturally reduce by a certain amount in relationship to the reduction of nitrates. That is somewhere around a 16:1 ratio, whereby a reduction of 16 parts of nitrate will see a reduction of 1 part of phosphate.
With biopellet systems, we're reducing nitrates at a level faster than we can reduce phosphates. Nitrates will often become undetectable when using solid carbon dosing such as what we are accomplishing with biopellets. The remaining phosphates, then, become food for cyanobacteria if it is not skimmed from the water column.
It is imperative that the hobbyist remove phosphates from the system at a level that matches that of the nitrate reduction. This can be accomplished via water changes, but it's certainly not the most effective or simple method. While biopellets can replace the need to run GFO in a system, GFO is a considerably more effective phosphate reducer. However, by over-skimming (or boosting effective skimming via the direction of reactor outflow to skimmer intake), many hobbyists have found it unnecessary to continue the use of GFO in a system with biopellets.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
We are giving away containers of Chemi-Pure Blue to 5 lucky hobbyists to celebrate the release of Boyd's new all-in-one filter media!
Chemi-Pure Blue contains a proprietary blend of premium, low-dust pelletized carbon and high capacity ion-exchange resins skillfully combined to create a superior filter media for marine and reef aquariums.
Chemi-Pure Blue reduces organic compounds and phosphates while raising redox and helping stabilize pH for a healthy, crystal clear aquarium.
There is no purchase necessary to enter or win. Just sign up for our email newsletter!
Registration ENDS at 11:59 PM PST on 5/23/14.
Details: Open to U.S. residents 18 years or older. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Winner will be contacted via email.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
I'm testing this new skimmer in a 10 gallon tank without any livestock for a controlled environment. This is a simple barebones aquarium with just the Innovative Marine Ghost Protein Skimmer (FullSize) and a Tunze 6015 powerhead pump for water circulation. I used dirty water from my 75 gallon reef after a water change to fill up this tank.
I compared the Ghost Skimmer to my SWC 160 protein skimmer that I am using on my 75 gallon reef tank. I prefer to run my skimmers more wet compared to other hobbyists so I can pull out dissolved organics more quickly.
I wanted to measure how loud these skimmers are, so I downloaded the Sound Meter app on my Android phone to compare them. While this won't be the most scientific and accurate reading compared to an actual sound metering device, it worked well enough for a quick comparison test. My baseline room ambient noise reading came out to be 59 dB.
I made sure I turned off my return and reactor pumps before taking this reading. This is the measurement with my SWC skimmer at 66 dB
I had to use flash to be able to see the Ghost Skimmer so please excuse my blown out image. Next to the Ghost Skimmer I was getting a 68 dB reading. While it is louder, the skimmer has gotten quieter as it broke in. The pre-production skimmer has a metal shaft which I believe is making the impeller a little louder than it should be. I have requested the new ceramic shaft from Innovative Marine which I will hopefully get to test soon.
I've been pouring skimmate from my reef tank which has sped up the break-in process.
I started with my water level at about 11 inches which I think is close to what the Innovative Marine SR aquarium baffles are set at. The skimmer recently broke in so I will continue testing at this height to see if I can get dark and light skimmate after adjusting the height of the skimmer cup.
The skimmer is foaming pretty well. It took about a week until I got this thicker froth.
The foam has started to rise in the center column of the skimmer cup. Since the skimmer just broke in, I have the skimmer cup set at its lowest point.
Stay tuned for my final follow up post on its performance with the skimmer cup set at different heights, simulations with slight water level changes from evaporation, and reducing the overall water level to 6 to 9 inches which is the standard in most sumps.
Monday, May 12, 2014
This is a follow-up to my post from last week, LED and T5 Hybrid: My Ultimate Lighting System.
I received a lot of requests for more info on my DIY hood that houses 2 x EcoTech Gen 3 Radions and 4 x 55W ATI T5's, so I thought I'd address those topics in today's post. Many thanks to everyone for reading and for your questions/comments!
The hood measures roughly 20" x 50" x 3". Rather than constructing the top with a solid piece of wood, I decided to use two 6.5" x 48" long strips (1/2" thick birch) that are connected with three horizontal strips. Constructing the top this way made it easier to create the center "cut-outs" for the LED's. Additionally, it also made it made the top of the hood look more structurally appealing.
Friday, May 09, 2014
We all know by now that rock and (to a lesser extent) sand is the basis of filtration for any reef system. But for many of us, it's not enough to just throw some stuff in to a tank. We're addicted to the artform of aquascaping.
I called on the folks over at Nano-Reef.com to show off their aquascapes and we found some beauties. The great part about these nano aquarium aquascapes is that you can simply build them bigger or combine your favorites to build the 'scape for your larger reef tank.
So without further ado, here's a list of eleven incredible aquascapes, from rock walls to lagoons and everything in between.
Two Islands and a Trench
Lots of open space and multiple heights for coral placement make this a favorite of many reef addicts. That's one happy clownfish!
Waters of the Tonga area are known for two things - shelf rock and branches. This scape does an amazing job of recreating the natural look of the Tonga in a shallow reef.
Arches and Towers
I can't overstate how big of a fan I am of arches. But this aquascape takes things a step further with a huge, vertical reach of two pillars and an arch to combine them. Absolutely beautiful.
Bombora, or bommies, is an Australian term for waves that break over a shallow area of a reef. This minimalist scape does an incredible job of showing off just how beautiful those bommies can be.
Like the islands and trenches scape from above, this build focuses on an expansive sand bed and loads of places for corals to call home. Kudos on the use of the black sand too!
|via Pinner Reef|
This single, massive arch plays in contrast to the trench and island aquascapes that we've seen before. Also, the lack of a vertical pillar makes the arch the true centerpiece of the tank.
While it might break everything about the "rule of thirds", this tri-pillar design is as beautiful as it is functional. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that it's absolutely packed with quality corals.
Three Islands (and a Bonsai!)
This unique take on the island idea uses hammer corals and frogspawns to create the coral version of a bonsai tree. Lovely!
The Rock Wall
If you've ever had the pleasure of diving around a reef shelf, this will look very familiar to you. Although we don't normally see corals on the walls in the ocean, this scape gives lots of room to grow corals that need different levels of light.
A Shallow Reef
The beauty of a coral reef is that it's rarely ever one shape. In this aquascape we see towers, shelves, arches and a lagoon structure, all rolled into one view. An absolutely stunning example, and all hand crafted using dry rock.
I saved this one until the very end because it's absolutely the most beautiful aquascape I've ever seen. I'm a fan of minimalism, and this ultra-minimal lagoon manages to evoke feelings of serenity before any corals are even added to the tank.
Multiple, smaller pieces of rock built up and buried, combine to form what I can only describe as perfection. Well done indeed.