Tuesday, September 16, 2014

6 Simple Tricks to Control Nitrates in a Reef Tank


The final by-product of fish waste and the cycling process in a saltwater aquarium is nitrate.

Having high nitrate levels in a marine/reef aquarium can lead to many problems. Nuisance algae growth, a decline in coral health (loss of color/growth) and fish/invertebrate illness or death are all possible if you allow your nitrate levels to rise to dangerous levels.

But you'd never allow THAT to happen, right?

As a responsible reefkeeper, you want to keep your nitrate levels as low as possible. You also want to accomplish that with as little effort as possible. Well, today is your lucky day!

We have discovered six simple tricks to control nitrates in a reef aquarium. We are confident if you employ one or more of these methods you will be able to successfully lower the nitrates in your tank and be on your way to a happier, healthier reef.


Make water changes and vacuuming substrate easy with a siphon and hose.

DO BIGGER, MORE FREQUENT WATER CHANGES

Don’t act shocked. Of course water changes are going to make our list.

Performing large weekly water changes in the 20-40% range can go a long way toward reducing the nitrate level in a saltwater aquarium. However, you must be certain the water you are adding back to your tank is nitrate-free.

We strongly encourage you to use filtered water (like RO or RO/DI) to mix saltwater for water changes and tank top-off. Test your water change water with a nitrate test kit before you add it to your aquarium to make sure it is nitrate-free.

If you continue to perform these larger water changes regularly with nitrate-free water, you will most likely see your nitrate levels drop within acceptable levels within a couple of months, if not sooner (it depends on your starting level).


Remove excess nutrients before they enter your tank with a fish food strainer.

REDUCE BIOLOAD and/or REDUCE FEEDING

We would all love our reef tanks to teem with life around every bend. But overstocking your aquarium can be a real problem.

If your tank is so overcrowded with fish that filtration equipment and regular maintenance can't keep up, we urge you to consider reducing the number of residents in your tank.

Increased bioload isn't the only problem livestock face in an overstocked tank. Animals also have to contend with each other in close quarters, which can lead to stress, aggression, lack of exercise and increased competition for food and habitat.

Overstocking and overfeeding often go hand-in-hand, but not always.

Feeding time is when the entire aquarium comes alive: nassarius snails burst from the sandbed, crabs scuttle out of the rockwork and even timid fish swim out in the open. It is truly a sight to behold and the primary reason why most hobbyists enjoy watching their fish, corals and inverts eat.

That is also why many of us are guilty of overfeeding at some point or another. Perhaps you feed too much, too often or both. We know you love to watch your babies eat, but if you want to reduce the nitrates in your tank, you are going to need to cut back (perhaps way back) on your feedings.

Frequent small feedings are better than occasional large ones. Using a fish food strainer to remove nitrate and/or phosphate-laden binders from frozen fish food prior to feeding can be helpful.

Frozen fish food is filled with nutrients, but the liquid juices these foods are packed in can sometimes leave behind undesirable pollutants. A fine mesh fish net is a tool you may already have handy that can hold frozen food while you rinse and thaw it with RO/DI water prior to feeding.


Dosing Red Sea NO3:PO4-X can gradually lower the nutrient levels in your tank.

TRY A LIQUID NITRATE REMOVER

There are liquid aquarium supplements designed specifically to reduce the nitrate levels in your aquarium. While these solutions are effective at lowering nitrate, they do not magically fix whatever is causing your nitrates to be high in the first place.

Liquid nitrate removers work in conjunction with your protein skimmer and/or other filtration equipment to enhance their ability to pull out nitrates or break them down.

One such supplement is AZ-NO3 Nitrate Eliminator. The manufacturer says AZ-NO3 "works entirely by aerobic cellular respiration on the target nitrate molecule, which is then removed by the protein skimmer."

Another option is Red Sea NO3:PO4-X Nitrate & Phosphate Reducer. Red Sea says their solution will "ensure steady bacterial propagation and complete nitrate reduction to nitrogen gas." They also state that efficient protein skimming is essential to provide the necessary oxygenation of the aquarium and to remove bacterial flocks from the water.

A third choice many of our staff has used to lower nitrate levels is Prodibio BioDigest. BioDigest is a hyper-concentrated bacterial compound sealed inside single-dose glass vials to preserve the efficacy of the ingredients. The recommended dosage is one vial per 50 gallons of aquarium water every 15 days.

BioDigest is made up of natural nitrifying, nitrate reducing and facultative bacterial strains selected for their ability to convert ammonia into nitrites, nitrites into nitrates and nitrates into nitrogen. These bacteria actually work together, with each strain finishing off the work started by the others. Some are capable of biosynthesizing nitrate-reducing enzymes in aerobic conditions. This enables water to be effectively purified, nitrates and phosphates to be reduced and prevents the spread of filamentous algae.


Biopellets run inside an upflow reactor can help lower nitrates and phosphates.

USE BIOPELLETS IN A MEDIA REACTOR

Biopellet filter media first hit the hobby about 6 years ago. Many reef aquarists have reported success using biopellets to reduce the nitrate and/or phosphate levels in their aquariums since.

Biopellets are beads or pellets of a solid plastic, used in an upflow reactor, for nutrient control. The basic idea behind this methodology is that a source of organic carbon, in this case pelletized biodegradable polymers in a fluidized reactor, is connected to the system (Murray Camp, 2012).

Marine heterotrophic bacteria—bacteria that must "uptake" carbon from sources in the surrounding water column—"feed" on the polymers, and in the process uptake other dissolved nutrients, such as nitrate and phosphate. For more information about biopellets, check out these articles by Murray Camp and Brad McCarty.

It takes a little time for bacteria to colonize on biopellets, but once established, they are very effective at keeping nitrate levels in check.

According to Reef Interests, makers of NP BioPellets and the recently released All-In-One BioPellets, the pellets "allow aerobic growth of bacteria which consequently consume nitrate and phosphate simultaneously."


Refugiums can be used to cultivate live food sources and for nutrient export.

START A REFUGIUM

I have always liked refugiums. I set up a refugium in all my aquarium systems, whenever possible.

Not only do refugiums reduce nitrate levels, they also help keep your pH stable (see diagram) and provide a safe haven for live foods (like copepods) to breed.

A refugium is a chamber within your aquarium system that is separate from your display tank. This chamber may be inside a sump, a separate aquarium, inside your tank, inside a back filtration chamber or hanging on the tank itself.

Within the refugium, you might add a deep sand bed with macro algae and/or live rock to help filter your aquarium water. Watch this video to learn more about the benefits of having a refugium and, when you're ready, read this article to help you set one up for yourself.


A nitrate reactor lowers nitrates without a skimmer regardless of phosphate levels.

USE A NITRATE REACTOR

Many hobbyists regard sulfur-based denitrate reactors as the ultimate solution for nitrate removal in a fish tank.

Joe from our staff recently called the Korallin Bio-Denitrator "just about the most hands-free and most-effective denitrifying filter available for your aquarium" (check out his review on this blog for the skinny). Another cool feature about the Bio-Denitrator is that it can be converted into a calcium reactor once your nitrates are under control.

By creating an anaerobic chamber inside the reactor, a colony of nitrate-consuming bacteria is established on the sulfur media. As long as the chamber is anaerobic, bacteria will grow and nitrate will be consumed. It is an extremely effective and proven method of lowering nitrates. Continual use in aquariums with high bioload (fish-only systems or reefs with a high fish population) will help keep nitrates at healthy levels.


Nano-Reef.com member Islandoftiki's Innovative Marine Micro Nuvo Aquarium.

TIME TO TAKE ACTION

Whether you keep it simple with water changes, take the "high-tech" approach or both, you owe it to your aquarium inhabitants to provide the healthiest environment possible.

If you have questions about nitrate control, aquarium equipment or reef tanks in general, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to help you succeed and will be there for you every step of the way.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Aquarium Top-Off Systems: What is the Difference?


An automatic top-off (ATO) system is a device that automatically top-offs your aquarium with freshwater based on the water level in your tank.

As water evaporates the water level in your aquarium drops and needs to be replenished with freshwater to maintain a consistent salinity level. Aquarium filtration equipment also operates more efficiently and effectively when the water level is constant.

Over the years, manufacturers have devised a few different ways of accomplishing the same task: automatically replenishing your aquarium with freshwater when the water level drops.

Although all ATO systems we will be discussing share the same basic components, they are not all created equal. For an in-depth blog post about how ATO systems work, click here.

You can consider this companion post your official ATO system buyer's guide. I have rounded up our most popular ATO systems to give you the lowdown on what they come with, what they don't and I provide my personal opinion on which units do the best job of keeping your reef safe and salty.



AutoAqua Smart ATO – $149.99

Sensor Type: Optical Sensor

Back-up sensor: None

Pump: Includes a safe, low-voltage 74 gallon per hour (GPH) water pump with 6' of tubing that can deliver water to a maximum height of 6.5'.

Bottom Line: This is a unique ATO system because of its design. The sensor and controller are built into one module that attaches to your aquarium with a magnet. The unit senses water through your aquarium or sump walls and can only be used on clear tanks and sumps. Pricing is on the lower end of the spectrum and everything you need to get up and running is included. It is suitable for aquariums and sumps with wall thickness up to ½".

The optical sensor has no moving parts, which eliminates all of the problems that can arise from mechanical floats. The caveat is you must keep the sensor clean so it can detect the water level through the walls of your tank or sump.

Although it does not have a back-up sensor, it does have a smart internal program (AFS Technology) that cuts power to the pump based on how many times and how long the pump cycles in a given period of time. This feature offers added protection against over-fill and dry-run.



Elos OsmoController – $199.99

Sensor Type: Temperature sensor

Back-up Sensor: None

Pump: Includes a safe, low-voltage submersible pump.

Bottom Line: This is another fairly priced and reliable complete ATO system—probably the second most popular system used by hobbyists today. It uses a digital temperature sensor with no moving parts which eliminates the problems associated with mechanical floats. It will dose small amounts of water frequently, keeping precise water levels in your aquarium.

It is the only ATO system with a manual top-off button, which allows you to turn the pump on from the controller. This is a great feature for mixing supplements or making small additions of water to your aquarium.

The OsmoController relies on a single sensor with no back-up sensor. Fortunately, there is an internal program that prevents the system from cycling multiple times without sensing water—so you are pretty safe against over-fill. It also features a built-in program that prevents the system from triggering due to small water movement. It comes with status indicator LEDs, but does not include tubing; 3/8" tubing is required to run water from the pump into your tank.



Hydor Smart Level – $89.99

Sensor Type: Temperature sensor

Back-up Sensor: Temperature sensor

Pump: Not included. The Smart Level accepts 110/120 VAC pumps with a maximum capacity of 50 watts and 2 prong plug.

Bottom Line: The Hydor Smart Level is one of the new kids on the block. It uses a unique three-pronged temperature sensor to monitor the water level in your aquarium. This eliminates common ATO problems associated with calcium, algae and water movement. For the money, it is a great unit that includes extra over-fill protection.

The Smart Level has an audible alarm that sounds if the third, "high" water level sensor is triggered and will cut-off power to the pump. It has status indicator LEDs and a magnetic sensor mount which is nice—just be sure to keep the sensor clean.

Hydor's ATO has has a maximum fill time of 10 minutes. You want to be certain the pump you choose can deliver all the water you need within this time frame. Also keep in a mind that the Smart Level has a minimum run time of 25 seconds. This means you must choose your pump wisely, especially if you plan to use this system on a nano reef.



JBJ ATO System – $79.99

Sensor Type: Dual mechanical float sensors

Back-up Sensor: None

Pump: Not included. The JBJ ATO system accepts any 110/120 VAC pump with a maximum capacity of 2 amps.

Bottom Line: JBJ's ATO uses dual float switches to sense the water level in your aquarium. With a low price tag and different operational modes, it is a great value and quite reliable. The controller has indicator lights that tell you the status of the sensors as well as the pump. The floats are replaceable and have suction cup mounts for placement in your aquarium or sump. Anytime you use suction cups in an aquarium, you have to be certain they are secure. If the suction cups become loose or detach, it may cause the ATO system to operate incorrectly.

With a maximum fill time of 14 minutes, slow-flow dosing pumps may not work well on larger tanks. Small submersible powerheads are best. The maximum fill time is adjustable, too, so you can dial it in based on your tank size and prevent even the slightest over-fill and dry-run.

JBJ's water level controller relies solely on float sensors and both sensors must be operating correctly for the system to function properly. Snails and other aquarium inhabitants can sometimes get in the way of the floats. Calcium and algae build-up can also cause float problems, so be sure to keep them clean.



Innovative Marine HydroFill – $198.99

Sensor Type: Dual Conductivity Sensors

Back-up Sensor: None

Pump: Not included. The HydroFill accepts any pump up to 1000W, 8Amp/120V.

Bottom Line: The HydroFill uses reliable graphite sensors to read water level based on conductivity which eliminates problems experienced with mechanical floats. It comes with magnetic sensor mounts for easy installation into your sump or aquarium. The unit has indicator LEDs that give you the status of the sensors and pump with a single glance.

Innovative Marine also offers the HydroFill ATO Pump which is sold separately for $98.99 and is thermally protected so it will not run dry. It moves a maximum of 15 GPH with a maximum head pressure of 10' and comes with a nice mounting bracket to attach the tubing to your aquarium or sump.

With a hefty price tag for both the pump and controller, it may not be ideal for hobbyists on a budget. You can save some money by purchasing a less expensive dosing pump or powerhead. The price of the HydroFill system is on par with other ATOs, but without the added security of a back-up sensor or an included pump.



SpectraPure U.P.L.C. II – $229.99

Sensor Type: Pressure sensor

Back-up sensor: Mechanical float

Pump: The SpectraPure U.P.L.C. II includes a high quality LiterMeter III pump.

Bottom Line: The SpectraPure Ultra-Precise Level Controller II is a pretty awesome ATO system with some really unique features that are not all that widely known but definitely worth the money. The primary sensor activates the top-off based on pressure and it also comes with a mechanical float for over-fill protection. The pump flow rate can be adjusted by 10% increments based on run-time. The pressure sensor allows you to adjust the water level variance up to about 4".

The LiterMeter III pump is probably the biggest benefit of this system. It is really great for situations where your RO container is stored in a remote location. The pump can deliver water up to 60 feet and can draw water up to 25'. It is also self-priming and will not experience any damage if run-dry.

Another really cool feature about this ATO system is that it has a separate "drain-mode" which can be used in other applications to remove water down to a set low level—much like a sump-pump is used to remove water from a basement.



Tunze Osmolator Universal 3155$209.99

Main Sensor Type: Optical sensor

Back-up Sensor: Mechanical float sensor with audible alarm

Pump: Includes a safe, low-voltage submersible metering pump with a maximum head pressure of 7.2' along with 6' of tubing.

Bottom Line: The Tunze Osmolator is one of the most widely used and reliable ATO systems available. It comes with everything you need to install onto your aquarium and has redundant over-fill protections. It is my personal favorite and I have used it on multiple aquariums with great success. For the money, this ATO system is hard to beat.

The electronic optical water level sensor is not sensitive to small waves or water movement so pump cycling is not a problem. The mechanical float switch will cut power to the pump in the event that water rises above the optical sensor. The pump will also turn off if it runs for more than 10 minutes—further reducing the risk of over-fill and dry-run—and has a minimum run time of 20 seconds to prevent pump cycling. It has multiple LED indicator lights that show the status of the sensors and the pump at all times. Since the main sensor is optical, be sure to keep it clean and free of calcium and algae build-up.

The Osmolator comes with two strong magnetic sensor mounts making it easy to install in any aquarium or sump with glass thickness up to ¾". It allows for multiple mounting configurations by using one or both of the magnetic sensor holders and even includes some strong Velcro to attach the controller to the inside of your tank stand.



Ultralife Float Switch – $79.99

Sensor Type: Mechanical Float Sensor

Back-up sensor: none

Pump: Not included. The Ultralife Float Switch accepts 110/120 VAC pumps with a maximum capacity of 10 amps.

Bottom Line: This is your basic float switch and is the best option for reefers on a budget. It utilizes a suction cup attachment for the sensor and comes with a 6' grounded power cord. All of the problems associated with a mechanical float put you at risk for over-fill, so be sure to keep the float clean and secure the suction cup well. The unit will only allow power to your pump when the float drops and cuts power when the float rises with no internal programming or protection of any kind.

The benefits to this unit are simplicity, affordability and long-lasting heavy-duty components. It is also very versatile and can be used in a number of other applications including dry-run protection and over-flow protection.

Wanted: Part-Time Customer Service Representative


POSITION AVAILABLE: Customer Service Representative (Part-Time Position) in Garden Grove, CA

Job Description
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
Duties and Responsibilities
  • 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 
If you're interested in joining our team, please email your resume to hr-csr@marinedepot.com for consideration.

About Us
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!


Thursday, September 04, 2014

CAUTION! 10 popular animals that may not be reef safe


As a reef aquarium owner, you invest a lot of time and money into making sure your tank looks great and that your livestock is happy and healthy.

That last thing you need is a new fish or invertebrate that may harm or kill your other tank inhabitants!

Today we are going to look at some of the most popular but controversial species available in the saltwater aquarium trade to determine which specimens would be suitable for your reef tank.

We share which animals could potentially make good tank mates in a mixed reef, which will not and explain why.


Photo Credit: National Marine Sanctuaries

Butterflyfish

This family of fish is arguably one of the most colorful and exquisite of all saltwater fish. Unfortunately, many butterflyfish are not reef safe and are actual corallivores (meaning they only eat coral polyps).

In addition, many of them, even ones that are considered "reef safe," are not always the hardiest and should only be left to the "experts."

Potentially reef safe: Pyramid Butterfly (Hemitaurichthys polylepis), Zoster Butterfly (Hemitaurichthys zoster) and the Copperbanded Butterfly (Chelmon rostratus).

Commonly available, but not reef safe: Raccoon Butterfly (Chaetodon lunula), Auriga Butterfly (Chaetodon auriga) and Marine Depot’s mascot, the Double Saddle Butterflyfish (Chaetodon ulietensis).


Photo Credit: Leo Chen

Triggerfish

If you have ever seen a Triggerfish swim, you were probably taken aback by their sheer beauty and elegance. It is almost as if they glide through the water, propelled by their elongated dorsal and anal fin. Triggers come in a wide variety of colors with some very intriguing color patterns.

Unfortunately, the majority of these fish are not safe for a reef aquarium. They are predators and can make short work of your invertebrates along with smaller and/or more docile fish.

Potentially reef safe: Niger Trigger (Odonus niger), Blue Throat Trigger (Xanthichthys auromarginatus), Cross Hatch Trigger (Xanthichthys mento).

Commonly available, but not reef safe: Huma Huma Trigger (Rhinecanthus aculeatus), Clown Trigger (Balistoides conspicillum) and Undulated Trigger (Balistapus undulatus).



Seahorses

While this may be a little bit of a controversial topic, I personally feel seahorses should not be placed in the majority of reef tanks, in particular SPS dominated tanks. Generally speaking, the high flow required for SPS tanks does not bode well for the seahorses.

Seahorses also require "hitching posts" to grab on to and will wrap their tails around almost anything to hold themselves in place. This can be damaging to some corals or the seahorses themselves (by getting stung by corals).

If you have your heart set on keeping a seahorse in a reef tank, you should build the cohabitants around the seahorses' needs first. Corals that don't sting or compete for food are your best bet, such as leather corals or gorgonians.


Photo Credit: Mike Poresky

Angelfish

When discussing angelfish, they are generally grouped into two different categories: dwarf angels (Centropyge) and "large" angels (Pomacanthus, Genicanthus, Apolemicthys and a few others). Within both of these groups, you will find some of the most colorful saltwater fish out there. With brilliant reds, yellows, oranges and all shades of blue... the colors are just bursting off (most of) these fish!

The bad news is some of the most colorful and stunning angelfish can wreak havoc on a reef tank. Even ones that are considered “reef safe” can one day decide they like the taste of your most prized corals.

Potentially reef safe: Flame Angel (Centropyge loricula), Flameback Angel (Centropyge acanthops) and Coral Beauty (Centropyge bispinosa) angels from the Dwarf group and any of the Genicanthus angels (Bellus, Lamarcks or Blackspot) or Regal Angel (Pygoplites diacanthus).

Commonly available, but not reef safe:  From the dwarf category the Lemonpeel Angel (Centropyge flavissima) and Bicolor Angel (Centropyge bicolor); from the large angels, Flagfin Angel (Apolemichthys trimaculatus), Rock Beauty Angel (Holacanthus tricolor) and the Majestic Angel (Pomacanthus navarchus).



Pufferfish

Who doesn't love a pufferfish?

They have some of the most outgoing and fun personalities of all saltwater aquarium fish and are known for interacting with their owners through the walls of the tank.

As you may have guessed, puffers can make short order of many reef aquarium inhabitants. Most pufferfish are therefore best suited for fish-only tanks.

However, there are some smaller puffers, sometimes called "Tobies," that have the potential to live peacefully within a reef tank. Just be sure to choose their tank mates carefully and be mindful of your water flow—too high can be bad for them.

Potentially reef safe: Valentini Puffer (Canthigaster valentini) and Blue Spotted puffer (Canthigaster solandri).

Commonly available, but not reef safe: Dog Face Puffer (Arothron nigropunctatus) and Porcupine Puffer (Diodon holocanthus).


Photo Credit: Jerry

Wrasses

Wrasses are a huge family of fish varying greatly in size and color. Most have a similar body shape, though: long and slender.

Many wrasses are very hardy and make great additions to a marine tank. Some varieties thrive by themselves in a tank; others prefer to be in a group. Wrasses made our list because some are outstanding predators that may cause issues if placed inside a reef aquarium.

Reef safe: Any of the fairy or flasher wrasses (Cirrhilabrus sp. and Paracheilinus sp.), Mystery Wrasse (Pseudocheilinus ocellatus) and Leopard Wrasse (Macropharyngodon meleagris).

Commonly available, but not reef safe: Green Bird Wrasse (Gomphosus varius), Paddlefin Wrasse (Thalassoma lucasanum) and Lunar Wrasse (Thalassoma lunare).



Photo Credit: Drow_male

Filefish

One of the most stunning fish, in my humble opinion, is found in the filefish family. With orange spots set on a bright green body, the Orange Spotted Filefish is a beauty!

There are many other types, although none as colorful as the Orange Spotted Filefish who, interestingly enough, NEEDS a reef tank to survive because it feeds on acropora tissue/polyps. Some hobbyists have been able to get them to eat prepared foods, but this does not guarantee the fish will survive in captivity. There are other filefish that are suitable for aquarium life, just not life in a reef tank.

Potentially reef safe: Matted Filefish (Acreichthys tomentosus)

Commonly available, but not reef safe: Tassle Filefish (Chaetodermis penicilligerus)



Anemones

A reef tank would seem to be the perfect environment for an anemone. With high intensity lighting and good flow required by both, they would seem to be a match made in heaven.

However, having a mobile invertebrate loaded with high-powered stinging tentacles can cause mass destruction in a tank. In addition, many anemones can grow quite large or even split multiple times and take up a lot of real estate in your tank.

My Rose Bubble Tip Anemones (RBTA) are perfect examples of this. I started with three anemones four years ago and now have over 20 anemones in my tank. I have also sold/traded well over 50 during this time period. The RBTAs have stung/killed almost every other coral in my aquarium and now dominate the tank.

In most cases, I would not advise keeping an anemone in a mixed reef aquarium. A species-specific reef tank would be a more appropriate home for anemones.



Urchins

Urchins are great scavengers. They eat all different types of algae as well as meaty foods. Despite their size, they are able to get into smaller cracks/crevices in your rockwork to help clean up algae.

The bad news: some also have a taste for corals!

The Diadema Urchin (Long Spine Urchin) in particular loves to chew on SPS corals and coralline algae. I have had multiple freshly glued SPS frags get annihilated by my urchin. While many websites list these guys as safe for reef tanks, I would suggest proceeding with caution before placing one in your own tank.

Reef safe: Blue Tux Urchin (Mespilia globulus) and Pincushion Urchin (Lytechinus variegatus).

Commonly available, but not reef safe: Pencil Urchin (Eucidaris tribuloides).


Photo Credit: Neıl ☎

Starfish

Starfish can be a great addition to a marine aquarium as part of the clean-up crew, but not all starfish are beneficial to a reef tank. Many are omnivores that feed upon algae and food scraps in the tank, but others will go after corals, clams or even fish.

Reef safe: Serpent Stars (Ophioderma sp) and Brittle Stars* (Ophiocoma sp).

Commonly available, but not reef safe: Green Brittle Stars (Ophiarachna incrassata) and Chocolate Chip Stars (Protoreaster nodosus).

*Brown/Black or almost any color except Green (see not reef safe list).



While there are exceptions to every rule, hopefully the general guidelines in this article will help you avoid a potential disaster in your reef tank. Every reef aquarium hobbyist, tank and its inhabitants are different—so while one hobbyist may have success with a particular species, another may not.

The key, as I'm sure you've heard many times before, is to research the livestock you intend to keep extensively before making a purchase. Don't buy fish or inverts spontaneously—it's not worth the risk. There is a ton of information available in books and on the Internet to help you make educated stocking decisions (plus you can always ask us!).

Doing your homework before you buy prepares you for any challenges that lie ahead plus helps you avoid making irresponsible and potentially catastrophic animal purchases.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Product Review: Cobalt Aquatics Neo-Flow and Nano-Flow Propeller Pumps


Cobalt Aquatics are well-known for their "Original Maxi-Jet" pumps, now simply called "MJ" pumps. They are amazingly reliable and versatile pumps we've all come to love.

New from Cobalt are the Neo-Flow and Nano-Flow propeller pumps. For water movement inside an aquarium, propeller-style pumps have proven themselves to be the best option available today. They provide an extremely large volume of water movement while using very little electricity and being ultra-quiet.



The smaller Nano-Flow is rated for a flow rate of 686 gallons per hour and consumes a mere 4 watts of power. Included is a powerful magnet mount that allows you to mount the pump on to aquariums as thick as ¾". A nifty ball joint allows you to easily aim the pump in just about any direction to target those dead spots. An anti-vibration magnetic levitation mount keeps the magnets away from the aquarium glass with rubber o-rings that help dampen vibration noise.



The larger of the two propeller pumps, the Neo-Flow, is the one that catches our attention.  This compact pump pushes an impressive 2,640 GPH and consumes just 20 watts!

The most unique feature is that this is actually a 12V DC pump with an adjustable knob for flow control. Twisting the knob (as shown in the video below) allows you to easily adjust the flow rate from 50% to 100% (1320 to 2640 GPH).

It's great to be able to dial in the exact flow rate you want for your aquarium. Should your flow requirements change or if you get a different sized aquarium, simply turn the knob to increase or decrease your flow rate.



Being a low-voltage 12V pump also means it is safer for your aquarium. The Neo-Flow features the same powerful magnet as the Nano-Flow which works for aquariums up to ¾" along with rubber o-rings on the magnet mounts to keep noise and vibration at a minimum. The same ball joint that is on the Nano-Flow is present here also, which allows for a wide range of adjustment.



While there are numerous propeller pumps already available on the market, these two pumps are great options to consider.

The Neo-Flow, especially, is extremely versatile with its adjustable flow rate. Being a Cobalt Aquatics product, it is sure to be reliable and work as advertised. The long 3-year manufacturer   warranty is another testament to the quality of these pumps.

If you have been shopping around for a new water circulation pump, definitely have a closer look at these!