Friday, August 19, 2016

Cooling Your Nano: Nano Chillers and Fans for Small Aquariums

Cooling your tank in the dead of summer can be a challenge.  Drastic temperature changes can be detrimental to corals, fish and other animals when it comes to any size aquarium.

When keeping a nano tank, temperature fluctuations are even more problematic due to the small volumes of water.  Changes happens much quicker when compared to larger aquariums.  This is  similar to boiling water, it takes much longer to boil a couple gallons of water compared to a quart of water.

In this video, we cover a few of the most effective pieces of cooling equipment perfectly suited for nano aquariums. We will also provide some creative tips to keep your tank cool through the long hot days of summer.

One of the most economical yet effective options for cooling a nano tank is a simple cooling fan.  When using a fan, you want to direct the air movement over the entire surface of your aquarium which increases the rate of evaporation and cools off your tank.

We have a couple of different cooling fans available; The Tunze AquaWind is a high powered fan that attaches directly to the side of your tank and is positioned in such a way to maximize air flow over the surface of your tank. The Ice Cap variable speed fan which has a really cool feature that basically increases the speed of the fan as air temperature rises.

Personally, I have used fans on numerous tanks both large and small without a hitches.   The downside is that you experience a much higher rate of evaporation so you will need to top-off your tank more frequently to keep salinity levels stable.  Using an ATO system is highly recommended for assuring that water level is always stable.

A chiller is classically the best way to efficiently cool your tank.  Many of the chillers available are quite large in size and made for larger aquariums.  Hooking up one of these standard size chillers to your nano tank is cumbersome at best.  Here at MD we have a couple of awesome alternatives.

The Chill Solutions Thermoelectric aquarium chiller is the smallest in-line water chiller I have seen measuring at only 4" Wide x 5.25" long and 4" Tall. These little chillers are powerful enough to lower temperature by 2-4 degrees in a 30 gallon aquarium.  They accept ½” tubing with a recommended flow rate between 40 and 250 GPH. A small powerhead like the Cobalt MJ will easily provide enough flow.

For applications where a hang-on device is a better fit, the CoolWorks micro-chiller is a perfect solution.  This little chiller combines the CoolWorks IceProbe mounted directly on top of a AquaClear hang-on power filter.  These little thermoelectric chillers work great and easily hang off the back of your tank so no additional plumbing is required.  They are suitable for tanks up to 10 gallons to achieve a maximum drop in temperature of 6 degrees.

One thing to keep in mind is that thermoelectric chillers are basically heat exchangers that takes the heat from the water and dissipates it in to the surroundings. If the room is hot, the thermoelectric chiller will not be very effective.

In cases where fans and thermoelectric chillers are not able to cool the aquarium sufficiently, your best option is still a traditional refrigerant-based chiller. JBJ offers a great little 1/15HP chiller that works well for aquariums up to 40 gallons, just be sure to install the chiller in a well ventilated area.  

- Take care and happy reef keeping!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Radion G4: More Color, More Coverage, More Control

It has been about 2 years since the EcoTech Marine released the third generation of the Radion LED light. Improved with each generation, the Radion has always been the gold standard for reef LED lighting when we heard about the release of this 4th generation Radion, we were definitely very excited to see what upgrades were in store.

At first glance, the G3 and G4 fixtures look very similar. However, as you inspect the fixture more closely, you begin to see the differences and start to appreciate the upgrades.

The most exciting upgrade is the new HEI Optics which stands for Hemispherical Edge Illumination which dramatically improves light distribution and coverage.  The unique lens blends the light in such a way that eliminates the hot spot directly beneath the LED cluster.  Instead, the light is evenly distributed over a larger area which results in better color blending and wider coverage.

The GEN4 Radion fixtures will continue to be compatible with the Apex WXM module so you can continue to control your Radions through your Apex Controller system as well as the robust EcoSmart live platform.

As expected, the LED chips have also been updated. On the PRO models, Yellow has been replaced with higher-output warm-white diodes, Hyper Red has been replaced with a more natural Photo Red and the “near-UV” Indigo chip has been replaced with actual UV diodes. Using top-bin diodes from CREE, OSRAM and Semi-led, the Gen 4 Radion provides more output and a wider spectrum of color than ever before.

Another welcome upgrade is the new heatsink design.  The surface area of the heatsink has been maximized to cool the LED diodes more efficiently.  This means the integrated cooling fan does not have to work as hard to keep the LEDs within an acceptable temperate rand and ultimately quieter operation.

Both Pro models have been boosted with extra power as well.  The XR15w Pro now operates at a maximum of 95 watts and the XR30w Pro went from 170 watts to an impressive 190 watts.

With all these improvements, you can expect more even lighting over your aquarium, better coloration and a wider spectrum for your corals.  Not to mention a quieter operating fixture that makes for less distraction and more room to enjoy your tank. After seeing the new GEN4 Radions we are sure these fixtures will stay at the front of the pack and will continue to be the go to light fixture for hobbyists looking for the best in LED lighting.

-Take Care and Happy Reef Keeping!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

AquaMaxx HOB-1 Protein Skimmer: What YOU Need to Know

AquaMaxx HOB-1

The AquaMaxx HOB-1 is our best-selling and one of the industry’s most favored hang-on protein skimmers and for good reasons.  The solid acrylic construction matched with a high quality, modified, Sicce pump provides unmatched performance and quiet operation.

The unique bubble plate helps reduce turbulence inside the skimmer reaction chamber and increase dwell time which ultimately means the skimmer will remove more waste. This is especially effective for small hang-on skimmers where reaction chambers are small and dwell time is limited. The HOB-1 fits onto aquariums up to ¾” thick and rated for tanks up to 75 gallons!

The responsive collection cup is easy to remove and clean and also has a convenient skimmate drain line.   The optional bubble stopper easily attaches to the outlet of the skimmer and will catch escaping micro-bubbles.  AquaMaxx really hit the nail on the head with this skimmer and be sure to check out the HOB-1 if you are looking for an effective, high quality hang-on protein skimmer.

-Take Care and Happy Reefkeeping!

Monday, August 08, 2016

Tips & Tricks for Creating an Amazing Aquascape in your Aquarium

Aquascaping is the art of creating a layout inside your aquarium that is attractive and functional. When looking at some of the most impressive reef tanks around the world the most obvious common factor is the use of a successful aquascape to display the corals in such a way that keeps viewers interested.

In this video, we are going to provide you with a handful of tips and tricks to help you guys understand how to achieve an attractive and functional aquascape inside your aquarium.

When looking at your new tank, you want to think of it like a blank canvas.  Of course not all of us are Picasso but it is important to think about your aquascape in this way.  Create something that gives depth with a back, middle, and foreground and keep in mind coral placement.  Corals grow and work really well to create a balance.  Growing corals can fill in space that may look void when first placing the structures in your tank.

The Rule of Thirds used by artists, photographers and designers is great for creating a great reef scape. Visually draw two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. This will create four intersections when looking at the front of your tank:

By placing interesting and differing elements at those intersections, the layout will be more balanced and will look more natural.  Be adhering to this method you will avoid creating an ugly heaping pile of rock or get stuck with the infamous rock wall.

When choosing your rock, stay away from using one or two large rocks without any interesting shapes.   Instead, use a variety of smaller rocks placed together in such a way that will create a cave, pillar, arch, over hang, drop off, or whatever shape or structure you think is interesting.

Don’t over-due it either, even though a new tank may look empty at first, in time corals grow and will need space, with too much rock you can run out of real estate really quick and end up having to move everything around.   Open spaces will also contribute to the overall balance of your aquascape.

When planning it out, I typically cut a piece of cardboard to the exact dimension of the tank.  Then draw a safe zone about 2” in from the edges and keep the rocks inside this zone.  This way you can ensure the structures are not too close to the walls of your tank and make it easy to keep them clean with an algae magnet or scraper.

 Don’t forget to account for your overflow box, pumps, pipes or anything else you might have inside the tank as well as the water level inside the aquarium.

Typically, I will build and construct multiple aquascapes outside the tank and take a picture of each one so I can remember what it looks like and go back to it.

Using dry rock makes this process much easier because you do not have to worry about die off; if you are using live rock it is best to create the structure inside your tank or do it quickly outside of the tank and transfer it.

Once you find something you like, stick it together.  While it may seem easy to just pile the rocks together without any sort of adhesive, this can be problematic inside the tank.  Rocks falling out of place or tumbling over is a real pain when you have fresh frags in the tank and will ultimately ruin whatever vision you had for the structure inside your tank.

Epoxy is the most commonly used adhesives for sticking rocks together.  We sell a variety of different epoxies that works great.  Just kneed the components together until a solid color forms and apply plenty of epoxy to hold the rocks together and let them dry.  Cyanoacrylate coral glue work very well for smaller and more-intricate designs.

Another great option for adhering rocks and building structures is the Nyos Reef Cement which comes as a dry powder.  To make the cement, mix a 3:1 powder to freshwater ratio inside a separate container until a dough like consistency is reached.  This stuff sets up pretty quick so I recommend mixing small batches.  After that, treat it just like epoxy by filling spaces to firmly secure the rocks together and let it set.

When creating over hanging and tall structures, use a stilt, zip ties or frame to hold the rocks together while the adhesive dries.  PVC pipe, dowels, and popsicle sticks work great for this.

Be careful when placing larger structures into the tank, they are heavy so don’t just drop them in.  Before adding water, take a final glance.  At this point I usually finish off the scape with some small rocks to really give the tank the full depth of field I am looking for.

Here at MD we stock a wide variety of both dry and live rock.  The AquaMaxx Dry rock varieties are really great because they offer everything from plate rock to tonga branch to help create a myriad of different structures.

-Take Care and Happy Reefkeeping!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

How to Choose a Properly Sized Return Pump for Your Saltwater Aquarium

With such a vast number of brands and sizes available, it can be difficult to choose the right pump.

For saltwater aquariums, the general rule is 5 times to 10 times turnover for the aquarium. So if you have a 50 gallon aquarium, you will want a return pump that is capable of delivering 250 GPH to 500 GPH back to your aquarium.

One important consideration to keep in mind is that these flow rates are the amount of flow you need going back to the tank. A return pump will typically need to pump water through 4-6 feet of plumbing and an elbow or two. This plumbing applies pressure to the pump and reduces the amount of water being delivered. This means that a pump rated for 1000 GPH will probably only deliver about 500 GPH back to your aquarium once it is installed.

This is why it is so important to calculate the head pressure of your plumbing and compare it to the flow chart of the pump you are considering.

To calculate head pressure, each vertical foot equal 1’ of head pressure.  Each elbow equals 1’ of head pressure and finally every 10’ of horizontal pipe is equal to 1’ of head pressure. As an example, if you need to pump water 4’ vertically, through 2 elbows and a 10’ horizontal run, your pump will be under about 7’ of head pressure. (a diagram would be helpful).

Tubing diameter can also have a significant impact on flow rate. It is best to keep the return plumbing the same size as the outlet size of your pump. If you change the diameter of your plumbing, flow rates can be drastically affected. Now let’s look at a flow chart. Let’s say the aquarium is 100 gallons and you have calculated your head pressure to be 7’. Looking at the flow chart you will see that the Sicce Syncra 3.5, 4.0 and 5.0 all fall within the 500-1000GPH range that you need.

If you want to be conservative with your budget and have just enough flow, you can go with the 3.5 which gives 581 GPH at 7’ of head pressure which means you will turn-over the entire water volume of 100 gallons about 5 x times per hour. If you want a bit of extra capacity, you can go with the 4.0 or 5.0 which is probably the wiser option. The flexibility of using a bigger pump can come in quite handy if you ever decide to change your plumbing, add a media reactor, UV sterilizer or even a chiller.

One thing I have always told other hobbyists in regards to return pumps is that you can always slow down the flow of your pump with a valve but you can never make it push more water. Now that you know how to choose the proper size of pump, let’s move on to the type and brand of pumps.

For larger aquariums that 200 gallons or more, the Reeflo pumps are extremely popular.  They move a TON of water and are efficient when you consider how much water they move.

If you are pumping water up from a basement or far away from a remote sump, the Iwaki or Pan World pumps are great options because they handle head pressure extremely well. These industrial-grade pumps also require very little maintenance and are extremely durable.

We have spoken to several customers that have been using these pumps for over 10 years. The downside is that these pressure rated pumps run a little louder and a little hotter compared to flow-biased pumps like the Reeflo.

For small to moderately sized aquariums with minimal head pressure, smaller pumps like the Sicce Syncra, Fluval Sea and Mag Drive are your best option. Installation is extremely flexible as most of these pumps can be used both externally or submerged and easily adapt to PVC or flexible tubing. When plumbing any type of pump externally, remember that these pumps are NOT designed to ‘suck’ or “draw” water.

Pumps need to have flooded suction so a bulkhead must be installed in your sump to allow water to flow into the pump freely. Attempting to use a U-tube to have the pump siphon water from your sump or installing the pump above your sump water level is a very bad idea. In recent years, DC or direct current pumps have become very popular. In addition to being more energy efficient and cooler running, DC pumps operate using safe, low-voltage electricity and offer a variety of advanced control features.

EcoTech’s Vectra DC pumps include flow control and feed mode capabilities which are available on most other DC pumps.  What makes these pumps special is the variety of additional smart features: such as active feedback, back-up battery compatibility, wave modes for closed-loops applications, as well as performance and status alerts when used with the Reeflink.

The Reef Octopus Varios DC pump is another exceptional DC water pump. These pumps are Apex Ready so you can connect the pump directly to your Apex for all the advanced Apex control/alert features. It also includes a float switch that be used control the pump based on water level and protect you against dry run.

- Take Care and Happy Reefkeeping.