Showing posts with label Livestock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Livestock. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

OPINION: You should only buy high-end aquarium equipment

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to set up a reef aquarium.

If we were to take a closer look at 100 different reef aquarium systems, there would be some similarities, but most would be unique.

How can a hobbyist be sure the equipment they are buying is built to last? Does high-end always equal high-quality?

Most of us do not have unlimited means to buy aquarium gear. The simple truth is that owning and operating a reef aquarium is expensive. From buying equipment to purchasing livestock, the bills can quickly add up.

The expense of the hobby leads many aquarium hobbyists to make compromises on their aquarium builds. Rather than going with a trusted aquarium light or protein skimmer they really want, reefers often buy used or lesser-quality equipment "for now" to save a few bucks. Often the intention is to "upgrade" down the road when they have more money or when their tank matures.

I myself must plead guilty to the above scenario. Not surprisingly,  I've discovered that when I cut corners, I usually end up paying the price down the road. Rather than being patient and waiting until I could afford the light or powerhead of my dreams, I've purchased what I could afford at the time—only to have to replace that equipment later when it fails or when I have saved enough to buy the controllable LED or pump I wanted in the first place.

I've been an aquarium hobbyist for a long time and only recently came to the conclusion that compromising on aquarium supplies is neither in my best interests nor in the interests of my aquarium inhabitants. I've tried stretching my dollar in the past to get more bang for my buck. More often than not, I've ended up shooting myself in the foot.

Now I simply buy the right equipment the first time.

Generally speaking, top-tier brands produce top-tier products. Look at EcoTech Marine and Neptune Systems as examples. While it is certainly true not every hobbyist has the desire to simulate a sunrise, sunset and lunar cycle or have their aquarium pump make waves, I do—and so do many others.

I crave control, drool over data and basically just want the peace of mind that I've done everything in my power to create as close-to-nature conditions in my tank as possible. I also want to be confident that my aquarium is going to be OK if I decide to take a trip to MACNA for the weekend.

Today I've come up with a short list of tips to help you decide how to choose equipment for your reef tank. Rather than repeat my mistakes, hopefully you can learn from them!


This is very difficult for me. In a society filled with instant gratification, patience has been lost by many, including yours truly. I want a beautiful reef tank and I want it NOW!

Resisting this urge and going slow is one of the keys to being successful. So save up for that higher-quality piece of equipment that will be more reliable and feature-rich rather than sacrificing for a lower-quality alternative. This may mean waiting a week, a month or even a year.

Many times I have purchased a less expensive piece of equipment only to upgrade it a few months later because I was unhappy. Paying twice for the same piece of equipment is far from fiscally responsible.


It is always wise to read product reviews or forum testimonials before purchasing a new piece of aquarium equipment. We have tens of thousands of user reviews on our website on a variety of different products.

You can also search your favorite aquarium message board or use an Internet search engine to find more information about the equipment you are considering. You may even find a less expensive piece of equipment than the one you were originally considering that has better reviews or has been used successfully in a tank similar to your own.


We back all the products we sell at Marine Depot with a 60-day return policy, one of the best in our industry. But reputable product manufacturers generally have their own product warranties that cover your product anywhere from a few months to a few years.

Kessil, a popular LED manufacturer, promises all of its products to be free from defects in both workmanship and material for a period of two years from the date of purchase to the original buyer. Dolphin Pumps also carry a 2-year warranty and have a Lifetime Service Guarantee. AquaticLife has a similar program in place. In addition to their standard 1-year warranty on light fixtures, AquaticLife offers a Lifetime Fixture Guarantee and will perform all labor to repair a broken light fixture... free of charge.

You can't be too careful. Even high-end, high-quality aquarium products can fail from time-to-time. Don't get stuck without warranty coverage—be sure to fill out any warranty cards you receive with your products and promptly send them in to the manufacturer.


Don't be shy. Get in contact with the manufacturer prior to purchasing a product they produce.

Give them a call or send them an email to see how quickly they respond. See how knowledgeable they are about the aquarium hobby and the products they develop for it.

I prefer to deal only with brands that will reply to a customer inquiry within 48 hours (business days). If they reply back in a timely fashion with accurate and useful information, this is a good sign. If they treat someone who has never purchased one of their products with integrity and professionalism, it is likely any post-purchase interactions you have with them will also go smoothly. This is incredibly good information to know in the event you need to rely on their support down the road.

Checking out a company's interactions with customers on their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media accounts is another a good indicator of how responsive the company is and whether or not they value their relationships with customers.


This piece of advice isn't for everyone. But if you have the time, means and skill set to build functional aquarium equipment yourself, by all means do so!

You are your own harshest critic, so the pursuit of perfection, especially in a passion project, will be high. Perhaps your craftsmanship and customization may rival or be superior to what the professionals offer.

If you are handy, you can save a lot of money building your own aquarium stand, light fixture or sump. I have seen stunning homemade aquarium stands and canopies people have fabricated for their tanks for a fraction of the cost of what you'd pay buying one from a store.

Your reef creations may be such a hit when you share them on your favorite forum that you get inundated with requests from hobbyists who want to hire you to build a project for them. Next thing you know, you have a new career in the aquarium industry!


When you are in the planning stages of a new build, research the care requirements of the animals you are considering for the tank. You may need to rethink the size of the tank, the strength of your light and the effectiveness of your filtration system in order to accommodate certain species of fish and coral. It is better to have this knowledge early when you are designing your system before you sink money into equipment that isn't going to work out the way you want it to.

This is especially true for reef aquarium lighting. When people first get into the hobby, they often underestimate the power of the light they'll need. You may not want a light with all the bells & whistles, but you will need a light that can produce the proper conditions for the animals in your care.


If you are considering buying an aquarium light, filter or pump you will replace in six months to a year, don't. Buying the right equipment the first time is always the way to go.

I cannot recall an instance where I had buyer's remorse after purchasing high-end, high-quality aquarium equipment. While it may cost more up front and take a bit longer to get your tank running, you will save money in the long run by not having to replace or upgrade equipment later on. You will have more confidence in your aquarium system as a whole and will be less likely to have casualties. Your equipment will last longer, perform better and be protected by the manufacturer (to some degree) in the event the unfortunate happens.

Don't waste your time with cheap, low-quality aquarium supplies. If you do, you may end up paying more than you ever expected.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

8 Things You Should NEVER Do When Starting a New Reef Aquarium

They say we learn from experience—good or bad—and that experience is a great teacher.

The only problem with that for the new reef keeper is your bad experience may result in dead fish, dead corals and a lot of heartache. Aquarium keeping is one hobby where you should learn from the experience of others before you dive in on your own.

We put together a list of eight things you should never do when starting a new reef tank. Avoiding these common pratfalls when starting and maintaining your first aquarium will go a long way toward ensuring the health and longevity of your reef and all its interesting inhabitants.

If you are able to avoid these eight mistakes, this hobby will have you hooked in no time!

1) Do not buy your aquarium and livestock at the same time

No matter what size aquarium you are thinking about purchasing, actually setting it up and getting it running properly will take many hours, even days, of work to get going.

You may be able to assemble your tank in short order depending on the complexity of the build, but there is little chance your aquarium water will have enough time to build up the necessary bacteria and establish a stable environment for the animals you plan to keep.

Livestock will need to be taken out of store water and put into a mature, cycled tank (as mentioned in # 4) within 24 hours. If your aquarium water isn't cycled and ready for livestock, the animals are either going to die in the bag you brought them home in or inside the unsuitable conditions of your tank.

The first few days of a running a new aquarium are active and messy. At this stage, you are probably organizing your rocks to create the perfect aquascape which disrupts the sand bed and clouds up your water. I recommend purchasing your aquarium, equipment, rock, sand and water first before you even look at livestock.

2) Do not use tap water—use only RO/DI filtered water

Reef aquariums need exceptional water quality to maintain a successful ecosystem. Poor quality freshwater can quickly create an unsightly mess in a reef tank.

Some people mix a water dechlorinator product with tap water for their water changes and top-offs. This process successfully detoxifies the chlorine in the water making it safe but leaves behind all of the other impurities and minerals that may remain. Tap water can contain many other compounds such as chloramines, phosphates, nitrates, fluoride and various metals. Adding these nutrients to your tank will grow and feed nuisance algae everywhere and may even lead to the death of your coral and fish.

RO/DI stands for reverse osmosis/de-ionization and is a filtration process that pulls out all sediments and compounds from tap water and leaves you with pure H2O. RO/DI filtered water is the only water that should be used during water changes, top-offs and especially when starting your new reef aquarium to ensure these unwanted elements are not introduced into your aquarium.

You can purchase your own RO/DI water filtration system to produce pure water at home. Local fish and pet supply stores that carry saltwater aquarium supplies often sell RO/DI water by the gallon as well.

3) Do not work with dirty hands or equipment

As humans, we naturally carry bacteria and other grimy substances on our skin. Our hands are one of the main ways we transport this bacteria and dirt. Being that our hands are constantly in contact with the water in our aquariums you need to be cautious when working on your tank.  

Marine aquariums are very sensitive to any changes in water conditions and environmental parameters. Having dirt, bacteria or chemicals on your hands when you put them in your tank may alter the environmental conditions and put unwanted chemicals in your tank.

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after working on your aquarium. Be sure to rinse and dry your hands to ensure no soap or tap water can contaminate your tank. Some extra cautious hobbyists will even wear long sleeved gloves to protect the aquarium and themselves. Gloves will protect you from being scalped by your large Surgeonfish, bit by an angry Clownfish and even prevent accidental poisoning from one of your corals.

The same goes for aquarium equipment. Be sure to clean with vinegar or one of the specially formulated equipment cleaners available. Then rinse thoroughly with RO/DI water before placing equipment into your tank. Whether you are purchasing used equipment or simply maintaining your powerhead, be sure your equipment is clean so it will run properly.

Be careful when cleaning the outside of your aquarium glass as well. Do not use harsh chemicals (like Windex) where over-spray can easily contaminate your aquarium water.

4) Do not add livestock until your aquarium is cycled

The aquarium nitrogen cycle is a chain reaction process in which water goes through several biological changes to finally be able to sustain life. This process takes time as bacteria needs to grow and establish stable populations in your aquarium. The bacteria also needs a source of energy. This is why many hobbyists add some fish food to a new aquarium or even one or two small hardy fish, like Damsels or Chromis.

When starting a new tank, it will take anywhere from 2-4 weeks, sometimes longer, for the tank to fully establish a stable nitrogen cycle. As you add fish and animals over time, the bacteria will continue to grow in order to keep up with the additional waste in your aquarium and therefore is an on-going process.    

If you add livestock before the cycle is established, ammonia and nitrate can quickly kill your new aquatic friends.

You can add some beneficial bacteria in a bottle to help speed up the cycle time if you are impatient and tired of staring into an empty tank. Just remember the key rule for cycling an aquarium: patience. Even if you use this type of product, you still need to test your tank parameters regularly to determine when the cycle is complete.

Basically once you see a spike in nitrate levels, you cycle is established.

5) Do not stock your tank without proper lighting, filtration and water circulation

Some of the biggest differences between fish only aquariums and reef aquariums are lighting, water flow, and proper water chemistry.

It is essential to set up a good filtration system before running any aquarium, but especially true for reef aquaria. Corals, invertebrates and sensitive reef fish can be very vulnerable to poor water quality. Be sure there is enough room for all of the filter accessories you have or may purchase down the road to ensure you can keep optimum water quality for your reef.

Adequate water circulation is necessary to oxygenate the water, bring food to corals, remove waste from the aquarium and provide a natural environment for the animals in your tank. You can use powerheads, pumps and wavemakers to create ample water flow throughout the tank.

Corals in reef aquariums are similar to plants: they require ample amounts of full spectrum light to photosynthesize which in turn creates energy that the coral uses to grow and/or build a skeleton. You need to choose an aquarium light fixture that provides sufficient output to support photosynthesis within your corals.

As you begin to learn more about corals, you will understand that every coral is different and has preferences for water quality, lighting and water flow. Take the time to research the corals you are interested in keeping before you build your aquarium. Do you want to keep SPS, LPS or soft corals? Most of us want it all, so the placement of the corals in your aquarium is going to play a major role in their success or failure.

6) Do not purchase livestock without researching it first

The number of freshwater species available to aquarium hobbyists pales in comparison to the scores of marine animals found on the market. Having options is a good problem to have. Yet, all these choices increase the likelihood you will fall victim to temptation and bring home an animal that is unsuitable for your aquarium.

Make it a rule that you will never buy an animal for your aquarium without researching it first. Performing a background check on the livestock you are interested in keeping generally eliminates most problems before they start. There are so many dazzling (and in many cases useful) saltwater aquarium animals to consider that you may end up with a big wish list.

Don't make the mistake of spontaneously buying an animal that looks cool in the store and/or relying solely on the shopkeeper's advice on what is suitable for your tank. If you do, you may end up with a fish that needs a minimum tank size of 500 gallons when you only have a nano. Another common blunder is bringing home an animal that eats your other fish, corals or inverts. Avoid these missteps by showing restraint and doing your homework. This helps ensure you have the proper equipment and that your tank's mix of wet pets are reef safe and compatible.

Another factor to consider is that not all fish share the same dietary requirements. Some will not eat flake or pellet food and may need a special diet. Some fish eat more frequently than others in nature, so there is a chance you may overfeed or starve your fish if you have not done your homework. Some corals grow peacefully next to each other and others will fight and sting one another. As mentioned in #5, each coral has different lighting and flow requirements. With a little research, you will be able to determine where to place each coral in your tank so that they all thrive.

Do not go in blindly. Do your research. You don't stumble into a happy tank—you plan for it!

7) Do not add too many animals to your aquarium at the same time

Once your tank is cycled and ready for livestock, you may feel the urge to add as many fish and corals as your tank can contain or your wallet can afford. But don't—adding too many fish or corals at once to a young tank will surely result in a catastrophe because of the increased waste levels in your tank.

As mentioned in #4, it takes time for bacteria to grow and properly process the waste in your aquarium. The slow addition of animals at the tune of 1-2 every other week will increase the chances of survival tenfold. This allows plenty of time for the bacteria to grow and drastically reduce the chances of ammonia or nitrite poisoning.

8) Do not overstock and/or overfeed 

Placing too many fish in your aquarium is a huge mistake, especially for reef aquariums.

All animals in your tank will produce waste and if you add too many, you will end up with consistently high levels of nitrates. While nitrate may not be extremely toxic to your fish like ammonia and nitrite, it can certainly increase the chances of disease and infection. Not to mention elevated nitrate levels will irritate or even kill your corals and drastically increase nuisance algae growth.

The same result can be achieved via irresponsible feeding habits. Feeding too much or too often will result in elevated waste levels which can lead to all kinds of complications for your fish and corals.

It is difficult for us to give you the exact number of fish your tank can hold because this all depends on your tank size, filtration, water changes and the type of fish you plan on keeping. You must test your waste levels (ammonia, nitrite and nitrate) regularly in order to ensure you are on the right track.

Monday, December 02, 2013

33% off Everything at Marine Depot Live!

Happy Cyber Monday!

We're celebrating the biggest online shopping day of the year by having a 24-hour site-wide sale. Yup, you heard right: enjoy 33% off ALL fish, corals and inverts at Marine Depot Live until 11:59 PM PST tonight with coupon code CYBERMONDAY!

... plus ALL orders over $200 ship FREE, no exceptions!

Monday, July 15, 2013

50% off All Livestock at Marine Depot Live

1 Week Only - Save 50% off All Livestock at Marine Depot Live

Enter coupon code SAVE50 during checkout at Marine Depot Live this week to save 50% off ALL aquarium livestock.

Just be sure to place your order by midnight Friday to take advantage of this probably-won't-happen-again site-wide sale!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Choose Any Item: 15% Off!


First, we've dropped prices on our Top 10 Best Sellers.

Next, we're offering 15% off one single item* with coupon code 15OFF (yes, you can use it on items already on sale).

Last but not least, we're offering 25% off all livestock at with coupon code 25OFFLIVE. Happy Friday!

*Excludes AI, CoralVue, EcoTech Marine, Maxspect, Neptune Systems, Polyp Lab and Reef Octopus products. Limit 1 coupon per customer.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q&A Video Series #3: Can I put a tang in my nano reef aquarium?

Our question this week comes from one of our Facebook fans, Mario. Mario asks, "Can a put a tang in my nano reef aquarium?"

This is a question that raises a lot of debate in the hobby. The reason is many hobbyists feel a juvenile tang will thrive just fine in a nano reef aquarium.

In reality, this is not the case.

We do not recommend that you put a tang in a nano reef aquarium. Typically, tangs can get quite large, anywhere from 10-15 or more inches long. If you purchase a juvenile tang for your nano reef aquarium, they will quickly outgrow the aquarium within a matter of months. Furthermore, a crowded, small aquarium will decrease your chances for success and increase your odds of inviting the dreaded ich parasite.

Inside our August 2012 Featured Tank from Leo Chen
Most responsible hobbyists recommend an aquarium at least 6 feet long. This will ensure the tang has plenty of room to grow and thrive. All that space will provide plenty of room for your tang to naturally graze. Since tangs are herbivores, the more natural food sources you provide, the better.

Well, that wraps it up for this week's Q&A video. Thanks for your question, Mario! If you have a question you would like to see answered in a future video, send it to us in an email or call 1-800-566-FISH (3474) to speak with an aquarium expert.

Don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube videos to stay up-to-date on the latest hobby news and aquarium technology.

Friday, April 13, 2012

"Hold on to your butts."

What happens when a Red Scooter Dragonet faces off against a swarm of hermit crabs, nassarius snails and Newman from Seinfeld? Let's put it this way: you wouldn't like him when he's angry!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ecoxotic EcoPico: Shopping for Fish

Acclimating fish using the Float Method.
After fertilizing, planting and outfitting my Ecoxotic EcoPico with a teeny-tiny heater from Hydor, I decided to let the tank get established for another month before adding livestock.

What secrets lie behind the driftwood?
Experienced aquarists often emphasize the importance of patience in this hobby. I am by no means an expert—I leave that to our support staff—but it felt right to take things slow in the beginning. I'd never cared for aquatic plants before, so I wanted to keep a close eye on my underwater garden for a few weeks. If I couldn't keep the plants alive, I rationalized I had no business adding animals to the tank.

And, as mentioned in previous posts, it's been a couple of years since I've had a tank of my own. I wanted to get back into the habit of visually inspecting the tank each day, spending a few minutes making sure the plants looked healthy and that the equipment was functioning properly.

Soon Stella got her groove back, so I began visiting some local fish stores in Orange County, CA to scope out their freshwater fish selection. I walked the aisles of a handful of stores. It was Slim Pickens. Tank and shelf space were mostly dedicated to reefkeeping. The exceptions were Tong's Tropical Fish in Fountain Valley and Reef Tropical Fish in Anaheim; both had a nice balance of fresh and saltwater aquarium species.

I was hoping to find some small red fish, like Cherry Barbs (Puntius titteya) or Chili Rasboras (Boraras brigitta). A striking red would stand out amongst the greens and browns in my tank—plus I thought my wife would dig the color choice. I envisioned a school of synchronized swimmers in red uniforms paddling peacefully in an aquatic Eden.

I considered buying fish online after striking out at a few local fish stores, but I'm glad I resisted. Buying the fish locally probably saved me fifty percent. Not only that, I paid less for six freshwater fish than I would for one of their saltwater counterparts.

I'd planned to purchase one type of fish, but ended up with two. I brought home three Cherry Barbs (2 males, 1 female) and three Silvertip Tetras (1 male, 2 females) and acclimated them using the float method. The tetras white-tipped fins and sleek, shiny bodies had won me over.

Cherry Barbs (2 males, 1 female) and Silvertip Tetras (1 male, 2 females).
Twenty-four hours later, I felt the familiar twinge of buyer's remorse. After a long commute, I plopped down on the couch, kicked my feet up and gazed at the newly inhabited aquarium. I expected to be tucked beneath a blanket of sheer tranquility at any moment. Yep, any second now.

A frantic frenzy of fins fervently darted, chased and swam loop-the-loops while I sat back in horror. It was as if I'd dosed the tank with caffeine. I walked over to the tank and dropped in a mixture of food pellets. The tetras gobbled up every one before the barbs even noticed dinner was served. The tetras were hanging out near the surface, so I sprinkled in some sinking pellets for the barbs circling midway down the tank. That did the trick.

My feelings of buyer's remorse faded in the weeks that followed. The tetras were fast, playful and aggressive eaters. The barbs were timid, slow-moving scavengers. Their yin yang personalities reminded of Dave and Cody from Discovery Channel's Dual Survival. Initially the fish sided with their respective tribesmen. I think once they realized there would be no shortage of food in this underwater oasis, tribal tension eased and the tetras slowed down. The fish are so intermingled now I often wonder if they remember they're different species.

Tune in next time for a look at my CO2 system and how I monitor it with Red Sea's CO2 Indicator.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Q&A with Keith, 4/27/09


I bought the
130 Red Sea Max. It has live sand, rock and I am almost done cycling it. I want to stock a variety of corals, fish and tank cleaners. What should I add first? Is there a particular order I should follow?

There are differences of opinion in the reef aquarium hobby about the best way to begin stocking a tank. Some add fish and inverts (cleaners) first and corals later. Others prefer starting with inverts before adding corals and fish. And then are those who do not subscribe to either philosophy and will add whichever animals suit them.

Is one way better than another? This is a difficult question to answer directly since all can work.

The most important thing you need to do is just take things slow. It is all too common for novice aquarists (and even those who are more experienced) to become overzealous and add animals too quickly. In fact, certain species only thrive in mature aquarium systems, like anemones and SPS corals (Acropora, for example). Other more tolerant coral species like mushrooms and leathers can do fine in a less mature system. Please take a few minutes and check out The Building of a Reef (tank) thread by Eric Borneman in the forums. It digs deeper into questions about tank maturity and I believe you'll find the information useful.

My personal preference is to allow a new aquarium to cycle with live rock and sand for two months. Once the parameters have stabilized and I have a little algae growth, I add a few inverts, like snails, and a couple of hardy fish. I do not use "starter" fish, like damsels. Instead, I choose a couple of the hardier fish from the stocking plan I created while the tank was cycling. I may or may not also include a hardy coral at this time.

Over the course of the next few months, I observe, test and add more animals from my stocking plan (corals, inverts and fish).

We've got a ton of articles on stocking a reef tank so we encourage you to peruse through them at your leisure. They should help you get where you want to go.

And, of course, if there is anything more we can help you with, please let us know!

If you would like to ask Keith a question, click here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Top 10 Fish for your Reef Tank


Many of you are familiar with Keith MacNeil, one of our staff writers.

He pens articles for our email newsletter, contributes to our catalog, answers questions in our knowledge base, Yahoo! Answers and in our forum, writes category blurbs for our store ... you get the idea.

Keith is an experienced hobbyist and a terrific writer. When his passions combine, we always get great stuff.

Keith recently penned a guest post for The Reef Tank, an up-and-coming aquarium blog that features tons of edutaining in-house and guest posts about the hobby.

Mosey on over to
The Reef Tank (now's a good time - lol) to check out Keith's picks for the Top 10 Fish for your Reef Tank.

Mucho aloha to Ava and
The Reef Tank family for allowing us to join the community.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How we Handle Livestock @ MDL

Due to the amount of questions we receive daily, we thought we would offer some insight on how our livestock is handled at our facility. Upon receipt, our animals are inspected, slowly acclimated to RO/DI water and Tropic Marin synthetic salt mix and then quarantined. After this procedure, if any fish are showing signs of illness or problems, they are relocated to “hospital” tanks for further treatment while the healthy fish are transferred to our main systems. Handling is kept to a minimum with the use of acrylic containers, as opposed to nets, for the majority of the livestock. The fish are kept in several separate systems that rely on UV sterilization, huge skimmers, and a large filtration system incorporating a bank of filter socks. Each system is closely monitored 24 hours a day.

Salinity is kept at around 1.024 and copper is used very lightly depending on the animals in the system. Of course systems with corals and invertebrates are kept at higher salinity and copper is not used. Due to this procedure, you should avoid adding the water your order arrives in to your reef tank and each bag should be acclimated separately using the drip method. This is especially true if you receive corals, invertebrates and fish in one shipment. When acclimating fish and corals ensure not to combine the water from one specimen to another, meaning that fish with fish are okay, but fish with corals or inverts is not. Please see our Acclimation Procedures for more details.