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Archive for November, 2009

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

WOW! This large reef tank is simply awe inspiring. We were absolutely speechless watching this 10 minute video. We know it’s long, but it’s SO worth it. Incredible acropora colonies “plague” this tank, together with an astonishing collection of reef fish. Gorgeous clams are scattered throughout the pristine substrate. The colors and variety are just amazing. And just when you thought, there couldn’t possibly be another tang in there, here comes another one, or two, or five. Tell us what you think.

Pieter’s 6 meter reef tank, A very unique tank by its size and shape. with a 6 meter bend display you can call it unique in the world and with this i can say it belongs in the few top tanks that are kept by hobbyists.

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Chemi-pure Elite take the aquarium filtration power of the original Chemi-pure to the next level. Chemi-pure Elite is an excellent aquarium filter media combining the original Chemi-pure with phosphate removing ferric oxide. A safe and effective filter media, Chemi-pure Elite will help you achieve crystal clear aquarium water, and will reduce the time needed between water changes.

We’ve been using Chemi-pure Elite for over two years now in our tanks, and have been extremely impressed with the results. We have both run it in a filter, and had it placed in the return chamber of our sumps, where flow from the refugium would constantly pour over and through the bag of media. The results have been outstanding, and we continue to use it in our tanks today.

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

If it’s green, stringy, and overtaking your tank, chances are it’s Green Hair Algae. Green Hair Algae is the marine equivalent to our lawn’s summertime dandelion explosions. I mean that in the sense that it’s oddly attractive, yet completely a nuisance. Once Green Hair Algae has shown up in your reef tank, it can rapidly spread and create an aesthetic nightmare. Not to worry though, there are a few quick fixes and preventative measures that can keep this green beast at bay.

The first part of any good war strategy is to get to know the enemy. Green Hair Algae is a simple minded opponent that needs very specific things in order to survive and thrive. If you cut it off from its resources it will surely surrender. Green Hair Algae needs Nitrates, Phosphates (PO4), and Light to expand its empire. If you cut off access to these you will have it waving a white flag in no time.

Now that you understand Green Hair Algae, let’s look into ways to eliminate its food sources. The root of all evil in a marine aquarium is generally your water. If one uses anything other than RO/DI (reverse osmosis/deionized) water in their marine aquarium they risk adding numerous potential chemical and mineral nightmares including phosphates and nitrates to the system. It is essential that you use RO/DI water for both top-offs and water changes. Your success is directly affected by the quality of water that you introduce to the system. Other causes of Phosphates and Nitrates include the natural nitrogen cycling process, overfeeding, and waste within the tank. Below are a few ways to knock out these menacing sources.

  • Do water changes. Chances are if you are having Green Hair Algae issues you’re using tap water. I get it, it’s cheaper (in the short-run). Spring for an RO/DI unit or find a commercial source. It will save you hundreds in livestock losses and many headaches.
  • Add mangroves to your sump system. The roots of the mangroves absorb phosphates and are a unique natural solution.
  • Add some form of Macro-Algae to the sump system. Chaeto is an excellent choice. Chaeto will remove a lot of the unwanted excess nutrients out of the system, thus lowering the nitrates
  • Use a chemical weapons! There are several chemical alternatives such as GFO (Granulated Ferric Oxide), Nitrate Sponges, etc. Do your homework and find your own chemical warfare comfort zone. I suggest running GFO in a media reactor.
Ideal Reef Tank Water Parameters
Specific Gravity 1.024 – 1.026
pH 8.0 – 8.4
Alkalinity 8 – 12dKH
Calcium 400 – 450 ppm
Magnesium 1300 – 1350 ppm
Ammonia 0
Nitrites 0
Nitrates 10ppm or less
Phosphate .03 or less

You now know a few different ways to combat Green Hair Algae, but you still need to do some work to understand the most likely cause of your outbreak. Your ideal water parameters are as outlined in the table to the right:

Using your test kits you should be able to see where your problem areas are. However be warned, your Green Hair Algae may be absorbing the nitrates and phosphates giving you a false reading of near zero. If the Algae is there, you can be assured that you water quality is not up to par. Testing your water with quality testing kits is also a huge stepping stone to success.

You have now tested your water, chosen a plan of attack, and have started doing adequate water changes. You are on the right path. You need to do a few more things to eliminate the Green Hair Algae.

  • Remove all access clumps of the Green Hair Algae as carefully as you can to avoid splitting it up and sending fragments of it around to settle on your rock and build new colonies.
  • Clean all of your pumps and skimmers thoroughly. Be certain to eliminate any build up of algae that might be hiding within the sump chambers.
  • Stop over-feeding your tank!
  • Purchase a good cleaning crew. Many snails and crabs will eat the Green Hair Algae. I prefer Turbo Snails due to their demanding appetite.

With these methods you should be able to watch the Green Hair Algae disappear in a matter of a few weeks. You will hear this mantra often: Nothing good ever happens fast in this hobby. Just remember, keeping stable and acceptable water parameters in your marine aquarium is the single most important step in preventative and reactive Green Hair Algae defense. It will be a challenging battle, but a sure victory none-the-less. Good luck.

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

I wanted to write a tutorial about taking beautiful pictures of reef tanks. Let me start by saying that it’s not as hard as some people make it out to be. Nowadays, cameras have come so far, that you can take wonderful pictures of your reef tank and it’s inhabitants, even with a point and shoot camera. I also want to say up front, that in today’s age of digital photography, my first advice for taking better pictures is TAKE MORE PICTURES. You don’t have to wait for these to develop or printed, and you can check them and shoot again all day long; so shoot away. Ok, we’ll start with some basic photography concepts.

The goal of a good photographer is to achieve good exposure. Exposure is a product of 3 main factors: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. These components determine how much light is getting to the film (in traditional cameras) or sensor (in digital cameras). Good exposure is achieved when the desired amount of light hits the film/sensor. Let’s look at each components individually first, and then we will look at how they interact with each other.

Shutter Speed
Shutter speed simply refers to the amount of time the camera’s shutter stays open when you take a picture. Depending on your camera, shutter speed can vary from a thousandth or a second to a few minutes. The longer the shutter stays open, the more light hits the film/sensor. A shutter speed of 1 second lets in twice the amount of light as would a 1/2 second shutter speed. Shutter speed may also effect the sharpness of a photo, especially when a camera is hand-held, or the subject (ex. fish) is moving. Your fish, for example, don’t exactly wait for you to take the picture. If your shutter is open for a whole second, it will record the fish’s movement and you will get a blurry photo. A short shutter speed (maximum of 125th of a second) is my recommendation for shooting a moving subject. If a camera is held by hand, you must take into account your movement as well. Even the slightest movement can create a blurry photo. Ideally, you want to shoot with the shortest shutter speed possible when shooting a moving subject.

So why don’t I shoot at a really short shutter speed you say. Well, because 1/500th of a second, may not allow enough light into your camera, to get a good exposure. Let’s move on.

Aperture (f stop)
Aperture, refers to the size of the opening in your lens. A large aperture means that the opening is large, and more light will go through the lens. A small aperture means that the opening is small, and less light will get through the lens. Aperture, or f-stops, are given a number, for example 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22. The amount of light doubles or halves as you go up one “stop” or down one “stop”. The confusing part is this: a small f-stop (ex. 2.8) means a large opening, while a larger f-stop (ex. 22) means small opening. I’m not going to go into explaining why that is (it has to do with f-stop being a ratio), just remember that as the numbers get bigger, the opening gets smaller. The amount of light that enters the lens also determines something called Depth of Field. Depth of field refers to the are “front to back” that is in focus in your photo. The higher the f-stop, the more “in focus” your picture is. A low f-stop  (ex. 2.8) allows more light it, but will have less of your photo in focus. A high f-stop (ex. 22) will let in less light, but will have more of your photo in focus. I like to draw the analogy to squinting. When you can’t see something well, you squint. By squinting, you are making the opening smaller (higher f-stop), and making more things in focus. Remember, with depth of field, we are talking about focus in terms of front to back,. (I’ll add a few photos soon).

ISO or Film Speed
Film Speed (ISO) is simply a measurement of how sensitive the film, or camera sensor is to light. The larger the ISO, the more sensitive it is. The more sensitive the sensor/film is, the less light is needed to achieve the right exposure. An ISO of 100 will need 2x the amount of light as an ISO of 200, to get the same “brightness”. Why not just shoot at the highest ISO your camera lets you? Well, as the ISO get’s higher, your photos will become more grainy. So as a rule, you want to shoot at the lowest ISO you can. The better your camera is, the higher ISO you can shoot at, and still get photos that are not grainy.

Fill the Glass Analogy
So what does it all mean? I like to look at exposure as a glass of water. Let’s look at a glass of water as a representation of a good exposure. You need enough water (light) to fill the glass, in order to achieve the correct exposure. So, the length of time you pour water is the shutter speed, and the diameter of your hose is the aperture. If you were pouring water into a glass, and were using a small hose (aperture), you would need to pour it in for a longer period of time (shutter speed) in order to fill it. If you were using a large diameter hose, you would fill that glass in less time. Therefore, as the diameter of your hose gets bigger, you need less time to fill the glass. As the diameter of your hose gets smaller, you need more time to fill the glass. Within reason, any combination of shutter speed and aperture that yields the correct amount of light, will result in a good exposure.

DON’T USE A FLASH!! (sometimes you can, but try not to)

White Balance for a Reef Aquarium
Ok, so I can take, nice, sharp pictures, but the corals don’t look like they do in real life…they are really blue…why? The answer is white balance (or color balance; same thing). White balance simply means that white will look white in your pictures. You camera will most likely have different settings for different types of light (sunlight, fluorescent, auto, etc) referring do different light “temperatures”. In the reef keeping hobby, we are all quite aware of how our tanks look under 10K lighting vs 20K bulbs. The problem is that our camera has no idea what’s going on, and because we normally use lighting that is more “blue” than natural light, the photos come out blue. Our eyes and brain are incredible, and therefore can adjust for this discrepancy, but our cameras need a little help.

To the rescue comes “custom white balance”. This is as simple as telling the camera “this is what white looks like under this lighting conditions”; nothing more. Most new cameras will have a custom white balance setting. The procedure for each camera may differ slightly, but basically, you need to set a custom white balance, while you take a picture of something white inside your tank. This let’s the camera (sensor) re-calibrate the colors based on what you just told it white is. I normally do this by putting a white piece of PVC in then going to “set custom white balance”. I can then save that setting and use it in the future. It is important to remember that your reef tank lighting temperature will differ when you have your metal halides and T5, just T5s, just metal halides, etc.

Tank Preparation
Please remember to clean your glass either earlier in the day, or the day before you want to take pictures. This will ensure that you don’t get Coraline spots in your photos.Turn off all pumps and powerheads, so that any floating particles stay still, your corals are not swaying in the current, and your fish come out to see what’s going on.

When taking Full Tank Shots (FTS) make sure that no lights, windows, etc are reflecting off your your tank. Wearing dark clothing will ensure that YOU don’t create a reflection. Turn off the room lights, close shutters and curtains.

Try to stay as still as possible. Using a tri-pod is always a good idea for macro shots and full tank shots, but bracing yourself on a stool or any nearby object will greatly help when holding the camera.

I hope this is helpful for all you reef hobbyists. Please comment below with any questions and suggestions. I will be adding some articles about selecting a camera for reef photography, as well as more advanced tutorials, shortly.

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

This beautiful video by coralfriend (youtube) shows the remarkable tanks in the Waikiki Aquarium in Hawaii. The video shows several incredible outdoor tanks exhibiting growth that is sure to be the envy of every reef hobbyist out there.

Here is the caption attached by coralfriend to the video:

I have luck to visit Waikiki Aquarium (Hawaii) in the year 2000. This video show the outdoor tanks of the aquarium. The first tank is a famous outdoor tank which is regularly post in every aquarium magazine around the world. The staghorn or SPS coral growth is crazy with intensive colouration. A surge tank is also jointed to this outdoor tank. Another tank is an outdoor pool of reef which inhabit many fishs such as butterfly and surgeon fish.

Friday, November 20th, 2009

There is a long list of desirable reef fish that are considered jumpers. Now, why a fish would jump out of an aquarium is beyond me (not really, but let’s let it go).

Often, a “tight lid” is recommended when housing these species. Unfortunately, adding a lid to a reef aquarium has several downfalls. First, it would quickly get covered with salt creepand block a significant amount of the aquarium light. Next, it would not allow heat to escape, and therefore could cause serious heat issues.

One option a hobbyist has, is to place a sheet of eggcrate atop their tank, and by so doing prevent any jumpers from getting out. Another popular option, is a DIY screen top for your reef tank. We put together a quick tutorial as to how this can easily and inexpensively be accomplished.

List of tools and materials:

  • Aluminum screen framing material – You can get this at Lowes, Home Depot, etc.) You will need enough to construct a frame 🙂
  • hacksaw – or miter saw
  • 4 screen frame corners
  • a spline roller
  • a roll of spline
  • some screening material – there are several options available. For the purpose on this tutorial, we chose deer netting from Home Depot. It was found in the gardening section. You can also use a clear or white netting material.

Begin by measuring your tank and choosing dimensions for your frame. Next, determine the lengths of each side, making sure to subtract the length of the corner pieces from each side (in this case 3/4 inch each). Use the saw and cut the pieces to size. Next, attach the corner pieces to the each end and assemble the frame. Once completed, your corners should look like this.


Here is a photo on the completed frame.


Now, take the mesh material and stretch it over the frame. Take the roll of spline, and starting in one corner, slide it into the groove:


Using the spline roller, push the spline deeper into the groove. It is best to start at one corner of the frame, and then slowly working your way around. It is important to note, that you want to pull the screening material so that it is taut, but not to hard to where it pulls the spline out.


Once you are finished, go around and cut the excess screening material, and you are done.


This is a very easy diy project and it so worth it in the long run. Many times, the screen will fit inside of the aquarium frame and will be almost invisible when looking at the tank. Again, this solution allows for oxygen exchange, allows heat to escape and light to penetrate. It is also easily removable, when any reef tank maintenance is needed. We hope you find this Reef Tools tutorial helpful. Please let us know what you think.

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

This 55 Gallon Reef Tank get’s another video update. As is to be expected, the many SPS corals look absolutely stunning. There are so many incredible chalice corals, encrusting montis, and acans, that it’s hard to believe they all fit in a 55 Gallon aquarium.

Let’s hope for more soon :0

Here’s a great still from this reef video:

Monday, November 16th, 2009

As a marine aquarist, we all seek a common goal. That goal is to fill out tanks with the most beautiful and visually appealing marine life that we can get our hands on. I know hat I personally love nothing more than the rush of a potentially venomous sting from one of my beloved pets. I get it. We are all gluttons for reef-punishment. However, with proper precaution and a well thought out stocking strategy you can successfully house a reef filled with the deadly gems of the sea. This article is going to outline the fish-on-fish violence vs. the fish-on-human stings that we will all indubitably encounter with time.

Many fish are marine fish are poisonous, but some carry a deadlier sting than others. There are some fish that are only able to inflict a venomous sting upon other fish and then there are some fish that can release toxic poisons into the entire aquarium. I refer to these fish as “fuckers”. Now that you are aware of the two different attack styles it is time to identify their symptoms. If a single fish has been stung and a large amount of poison has not been released into the aquarium, you will generally only be alerted by the sudden death of that fish. If a healthy fish suddenly dies, there is a strong chance that lurking somewhere within the tank is a predator. The indications of the second type of venomous attack are much more apparent and detrimental to experience. If a poisonous fish has released a fair amount of toxins into the aquarium the fish will begin to swim erratically, potentially loose their sense of direction, breathe in a rapid manner, lay on the bottom of the aquarium, or have a cloudy appearance in their eyes. All of which, will generally lead to a dramatic passing including a convulsion period and ending in death. All of this can happen rather quickly, and depending on the size of the aquarium and the toxicity of the fish your personal experiences may vary.

There are several families of commonly found poisonous fish in the home aquarium. They, along with a few of their venomous characteristics are mentioned below. Although limited, the information should help guide you through any future stocking predicaments that you may encounter.

Box Fish & Cowfish

These fish have a hard, rectangular shaped body, thus giving it its name “Box” Fish. They also have firm plate-like hexagonal scales. It uses a small dorsal and anal fin to propel itself through the water, at which time it curls up its tail on one side or other of the body. It swims in a rowing manner. The mouth region protrudes from the front of the body, looking similar to a snout with a small mouth at the end.

Toxic Profile
This little fish might look harmless, but when frightened it will release a toxic poison from their skin to protect itself. However, in a closed system, the boxfish can kill everything including itself. This is totally bad news bears.

Additional Precautions
Because of its nature for being toxic, use extreme caution when having one in an aquarium. They get along fine with other fishes, are very non-aggressive, but be sure you don’t mix other fish that will harass them. It is not wise to put two Box Fish of the same sex in a tank together, They will fight right off the bat. This is Dynasty-Style drama that no reef aquarium needs.


The spines of the dorsal fin and the rays of the pectoral fins are unusual, because they are very long and extend far beyond the membranes connecting them. All of the pectoral rays are unbranched and the upper pectoral rays, in particular, are developed into long, feeler-like filaments. These fish are absolutely stunning and adored by many hobbyist, but be weary of anything that can send you running to the E.R. (if a human is stung, the recommended treatment is to immerse the appendage into near boiling water until the pain subsides… OUCH! I say ask the doctor about that before giving it a go)

Toxic Profile
This fish is as painfully venomous as it appears. Extreme caution is highly advised when keeping any members of the lionfish family. They are venomous to other fish and humans.

Additional Precautions
This fish is traditionally a bottom dweller that likes plenty of sheltered hiding places. They will also prey upon many of your aquarium cleaners and smaller fish. Although the fish is not generally aggressive, they do have a tendency to eat fellow tank-mates.


Highly compressed body with stout pectoral fins used for “walking” and support. They are found in a wide variety of colors such as red, pink, brown, green, orange, purple, rust, black, and undoubtedly others. These fish also have a true jaw teeth. Not to be overly redundant with my wording, but OUCH! Teeth and venomous spines on one fish!

Toxic Profile
Their spines are venomous stinging tools and therefore should be kept and handled with immense caution and care. Their spines are covered with a venomous mucus that will protect it from any potential danger or serve to attack their loyal caregiver… You.

Additional Precautions
Because it will most often only eat “live foods” in captivity, it does not adapt well to aquarium life. I would recommend doing a ton of research before diving into the Scorpionfish family.


These fish are primarily identified by their scaleless bodies, ability to inflate. and round edged fins. It has the ability to inflate by inhaling air or water. This is a protective defense that Puffers have which prevents them from being eaten by other fish. When it expands and inflates itself, a predator finds it difficult to swallow or get its mouth around the fish. When inflated, this Puffer’s body has a soft prickly texture, which is harmless to the touch, yet intriguingly attractive and fun to view.

Toxic Profile
This fish will release venomous toxins through it’s skin when threatened causing the second type of aquarium poisoning. Also when this fish dies there is a strong possibility of it releasing poison into the system killing off your other aquaria. In addition, to having a toxic attack method, many puffers are known as “nippers”, meaning they are able to use their teeth to nip at their fellow tank-mates.

Additional Precautions
This fish should be kept with caution. They will nip at your corals, pick off your cleaning crustaceans, and do a bit of damage to any fish that might be easily bullied. They also, depending on species are able to grow to large sizes. Do adequate research before selecting one of these brilliantly entertaining fish.

Sea Cucumbers

They typically have thick, muscular bodies equipped with tube feet used for clinging to the substrate and moving about, and pointed fleshy projections called, papillae often cover the body. Sea Cucumbers come in many varieties and many beautiful color combinations, making them an appealing choice for aquarists.

Toxic Profile
Sea Cucumbers expel poisonous toxins into an aquarium when stressed or after death. Due to the many different toxic natures of Sea Cucumbers it is important that you do research on the specific cucumber you are considering placing within your tank.

Additional Precautions
Sea Cucumbers can grow to exceptionally large lengths. In this case, size does matter, so choose wisely. Also, make sure that your tank will be able to support the dietary needs of the Sea Cucumber.


The body forms of Nudibranchs vary enormously. Nudibranchs often have venomous appendages located on their sides which look like some form of exotic orchid. They are as deadly as they are beautiful. Often brightly colored and natural flatworm predators they are selected for the home aquaria without much research. Do the homework. It is better than going in blindly and having sudden mass casualty.

Toxic Profile
Nudibranchs have a trait of excreting a toxic mucus when disturbed. This poisonous excretion can foul up the water and cause a rather quick biological crash that can be deadly to all other reef habitants.

Additional Precautions
Nudibranchs are sometimes marketed as superb algae eaters, but this is false information since all known Nudibranch species are carnivorous. I’m just saying they like a little meat in thier diet and for long term success you will need a well stocked aquarium. Always research your particular Nudibranch species to find out what type of diet it needs. Good luck with these gorgeously toxic critters.

I hope that you found this information on venomous aquaria useful. As always, and clearly overly mentioned throughout this article please be diligent in your own research and be your reef’s best advocate. Good luck and great reefing!

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

The XM 250W Double Ended (DE) 15,000K Metal Halide Bulbs are a new release from XM Lighting. This bulb is the outstanding result of extensive research and development over at XM Lighting. The 15,000K XM Double Ended bulb provides a please spectrum without the use of supplemental actinic lighting.


According to XM Lighting:

This lamp alone creates a crisp blue color similar to medium depths on the coral reefs.

Reef Tools is very impressed with this bulb, and we will release a follow up article detailing our experience with the 15K XM 250W DE bulb shortly.

Saturday, November 14th, 2009 has always been a good source for nice corals. Here are a few ORA Corals they are currently offering:

The German Acropora, Green with Blue
icon is propagated and grown by Oceans Reefs and Aquariums™. This staghorn Acropora was acquired from a hobbyist in Germany and was brought over to the U.S. and grown at ORA’s facility in Florida. The exact species of this unique small polyp stony (SPS) coral is very difficult to identify.

The Australian Delicate Staghorn Coral
icon is a beautiful species of Acropora. Like the name suggests, it originates from the reefs of Australia and has very thin and delicate branches. The tips of the branches are bright blue in color, and are adorned with tiny fluorescent green polyps. The color intensity of this species will increase under very high lighting.

The Hawkin’s Blue Echinata Acropora Coral
icon is a new release from Oceans, Reefs & Aquariums™ (ORA™). A delicate tubular branched bottle brush Acropora coral, this color variety features stunning sapphire blue polyps. According to ORA, this frag is named after coral facility manager, Robert Hawkins, and originally acquired from a hobbyist in Germany in 2006.

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