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Archive for February, 2010

Friday, February 12th, 2010

EcoTech Marine has announced that they will be launching their online service store by Feb 19, 2010. The store will offer customers replacement parts which were previously only available through EcoTech Marine’s 800 number.

EcoTech reports that their commitment to their retail network is second only to their commitment to their end user. This store will provide a great service to their customer, and keep them happy with their purchased items. The store will service domestic customers only, and will allow them to order parts 24/7. This is particularly attractive to their west-coast clients.

It’s important to note that this is simply an added service offered by EcoTech Marine. Customers who still wish to use their toll free number (800.785.0338) are welcome to do so. Once launched, the online part store will be accessible through

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Maintaining stable water parameters is something every reef hobbyist strives for. Many hobbyists use various test kits to measure parameters such as calcium, alkalinity, magnesium, etc. But now what? You’ve got the data…where do you put it? This is where Reef Tools Live Reef Parameter App can help. For the purpose of this tutorial, we will use Alkalinity as an example. We also assume that you have register for a free Reef Tools Live account here.

Begin by click My Apps–>Tank Parameters.


You will be taken to the Tank Parameter main screen. You will see Alkalinity, Calcium, pH, Temperature, Magnesium, Specific Gravity, Log, etc.


Since we are entering Alkalinity, you can just enter your Alkalinity Test Kit reading in the VALUE box. Then click SAVE.


You will immediately see the value you entered below.


To view your parameters in graph form, click on PROFILE.


On your profile page, click on the TANK PARAMETERS tab.


You will see a chart with the data you entered. By default, the chart will show the last 30 days, but you may use the calendars to select any other date range.


Over time, you will be able to see trends and identify whether your parameters are stable, whether your tank’s demand has gone up or down, etc.


We hope this free reef tool will be of use to all hobbyists. Remember to sign up here and enjoy using our app.Happy reefing.

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Get your dinner while it’s hot! Well, not really, but you know what we mean. Here’s a high definition video of a feeding frenzy in this beautiful reef tank.

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

The new IceCap LED Moonlight Retro kits are really fun! Sporting the same look as a standard T5 bulb tube, these new LED tubes are powered by a low voltage transformer rather than a fluorescent ballast. IceCap chose to enclose the LEDs in a tube, which not only provides ample spread, but protects the circuit boards from the humid, salty environment that can be so harsh on some aquarium lighting brands.

LEDs are usually favored for their low energy consumption, long life span, and low heat emission. And while those are all true with the IceCap LED Moonlight tubes, the crazy colors they bring out in corals is where their true appeal lies. We’ll post some photos and perhaps a video in a follow-up article, so for now, you’ll just have to take our word for it! All we have to say is that we couldn’t stop staring. The next day, we all waited for the T5’s and Metal halides to go off, so that we can inspect the tank under this great new light. The colors were truly outrageous. Actinics simply get blown out of the water by these LED Moonlight Tubes.

The IceCap LED Moonlight Retrofit kits ship out complete with mounting clips which can be used to attach the tubes to a canopy, hood, or existing fixture. The heat negligible emitted by the tubes is dissipated by the aluminum heat sink on the back of the tube, and at only 4 oz., you don’t need to worry about any added weight to you existing aquarium lighting scheme.

Length MSRP
21.6” $59.99
33.4” $79.99
45.2” $99.99
Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

There has been a lot of focus lately on sustainable aquarium livestock harvesting and responsible aquarium keeping. The Catalina Goby, Lythrypnus dalli, is one fish notorious for being kept in inappropriate captive conditions.

For years Catalina Gobies were marketed as tropical fish and sold to reef aquarists. When the gobies died shortly after purchase, it was assumed that they were delicate or had very short lifespans. Neither assumption is true. Catalina Gobies are not tropical or sub-tropical fish. They are temperate, cold-water fish and quite hardy, if kept in the correct environment. The maximum temperature to plan for in a home Catalina Goby aquarium should be no more than 65 degrees Fahrenheit, maintained by a reliable chiller.

Some retailers are beginning to notice that their customers are educating themselves about the habitats of the species they are keeping. These retailers have changed their recommendations for Catalina Gobies and other cold water livestock, admitting that they are truly temperate. But some are still recommending the incorrect maximum temperature of 74 or 72 degrees Fahrenheit, which are still tropical temperatures. It’s a step in the right direction, but this temperature recommendation is still way too high.

According to, the maximum water temperature Catalina Gobies can be found living in is 71 degrees. This is during the hottest point in summer in shallow water. Keep in mind that our reef fishes can be found in waters where the temperatures reach more than 90 degrees during the summer. Even the least responsible aquarist would never attempt to keep reef fish at those temperatures. Our aquariums and captive reefs are very different from our pets’ natural habitats. Oxygen levels decrease at warmer temperatures, metabolism and respiration increase, and diseases/parasites can reproduce unchecked by inadequate dilution and overstocking (compared to the ocean). Attempting to keep any fish at the very top of its natural temperature range is going to shorten its lifespan and weaken the immune system. 71 degrees happens to be the top of a Catalina Goby’s temperature range.

Public aquariums have known for years that Catalina Gobies must be kept at low temperatures. The Monterey Bay Aquarium houses Catalina Gobies in a chilled aquarium maintained between 58 and 60 degrees. Their Catalina Gobies’ average lifespan is 2 years and they have no problems with disease. The Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco keeps their Catalina Gobies at 60 degrees.

There are a few more species in the Lythrypnus genus, but only two show up in the aquarium trade with any regularity. The other is the Zebra Catalina Goby, Lythrypnus zebra. This species is not often collected, and the few that make it into the aquarium trade sell quickly. Not much is known about it except that its care is similar to the Catalina Goby’s.

There have been reports of Zebra Catalina Gobies being truly tropical because it ranges as far south as Clarion Island in the Revillagigedo Islands. The same argument could be made for its preference for cold water, as it ranges as far north as the cold waters of Caramel Bay, Central California. In fact, Zebra Catalina Gobies share most of their range with Catalina Gobies; the two species are often found living in the same area. lists L. zebra as sub-tropical, and L. dalli as temperate. It may be true that Zebra Catalina Gobies may tolerate slightly warmer temperatures than their cousin L. dalli, regardless, they should not be subjected to tropical temperatures in captivity.

I received this adult Lythrypnus zebra as a gift in September 2008. My aquarium temperature is maintained between 67 and 69 degrees in fall, winter, and spring. During the hottest summer months, I use a chiller to keep the temperature below 72 degrees. My Zebra Catalina Goby’s color began to fade as the aquarium temperature reached 72 degrees last summer. I turned the temperature down to 70 and it survived until the end of December 2009 when my aquarium “crashed.” Based on my experience with the handful of L. zebra I’ve worked with, I would consider L. zebra to be more delicate than L. dalli.

There are tropical gobies that rival the Catalina Gobies’ beauty and make much better additions to a reef aquarium. Gobies of the genera Trimma and Eviota are similar in size, color, and behavior. Trimma and Eviota gobies can even be kept in small groups with less aggression than groups of Catalina Gobies.

Responsibility begins with the collectors, wholesalers, and retailers, but we as hobbyists have a voice every time we purchase a specimen for our aquarium. We can educate fellow hobbyists about cold water livestock and avoid the temptation to keep them in our tropical aquariums only to enjoy them for a short time. By avoiding difficult to keep species, we can decrease demand for these animals, and fewer of them will be collected. We all play an active role in the future of our aquarium hobby.

Photos and article by Felicia McCaulley

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Giant clams from the Tridacna genus have become very popular amongst reef aquarium hobbyists for their vivid colors and beautiful patterns. However, commonly missed are the additional benefits these clams provide, beyond their aesthetic value. Of the Tridacna genus there are several species of giant clams that are commonly available in the reefkeeping world:

  • MaximaTridacna maxia
  • CroceaTridacna crocea
  • SquamosaTridacna squamosa
  • DerasaTridacna derasa

While these giant clams will add a bright splash of colors to any reef tank, their ability to filter out nutrients in the water column is often overlooked. As any hobbyist knows, nutrients in an enclosed reef tank tend to build up over time and become a concern even at pretty low levels. These nutrients, if left unchecked, may lead to problems with various forms of nuisance algae, cyanobacteria, and less then optimal health amongst reef tank inhabitants. These giant clams actually remove nitrates and ammonia from the water column, and can lead to better water parameters. Giant clams achieve this by continuously circulating water through their internal organs and consuming nutrients and plankton. Along with zooxanthellae within their syphonal mantle (the fleshy, colorful part of the clam), Giant clams use these nutrients to assist in the photosynthetic process.

The major advantage a clam has over other biological filtration is that it removes the ammonia BEFORE it is allowed to enter the nitrogen cycle, and therefore prevents nitrates from being formed. This action results in lowered nitrates and bioload.

Naturally, we do not suggest attempting to use these clams as your main form of filtration. The use of a refugium, protein skimmer, as well as chemicals is recommended in assisting any hobbyist with their goal of excellent water parameters. However, these giant clams can certainly increase both stability and biodiversity in your reef tank.

Photography by Felicia McCaulley

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

Oceanic’s new BioCube HQI sports a 150W DE Metal Halide bulb. This latest 29 gallon addition to the popular Biocube series comes complete with an air-stone protein skimmer, refugium section, glass canopy and feeding rings.

Oceanic also offers several optional accessories such as a mini ultraviolet sterilizer, a circulation pump, and a submersible mini hydrometer.


From the Oceanic Systems Website

A Complete System for Saltwater/Reef Environments

Biocube HQI offers an aesthetically appealing design and high quality components that make reef-keeping easier and rewarding. The key component is the HQI metal halide light which provides the high intensity lumen output preferred by reef-keeping enthusiasts. Now you can create a thriving coral reef with a broad variety of organisms including small polyp stony (SPS) corals and Tridacna clams.

Healthy reef-keeping also requires proper filtration and Biocube HQI has everything you need including a protein skimmer for removing harmful organic waste, a refugium chamber for establishing biological filtration and a replaceable filter cartridge to eliminate particulate matter.

And don’t forget beauty. Since a thriving coral reef is a beautiful reef, Biocube HQI includes a clear glass canopy for showcasing your aquatic masterpiece. The canopy is easily removed for stocking, water changes, and ongoing maintenance.

Other important features include:

Clear glass splash guard surrounding the U.V. shielded metal halide lamp
Powerful but quiet fan built into light fixture for active cooling
Light housing designed with small thermal vents so heat rises up and away from aquarium

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

A beautiful video of this 75g reef tank. The tank is bright and colorful, and we really like the fish selection. simple and beautiful.

Just a quick updated vid of the tank..Its been slightly re-arranged, and is no longer home to the two Tridacna Maxima clams. Just getting over a long battle with cyano bacteria, but its on the home tretch and looking nice and clean again. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Some of my all-time favorite fish are fish in the genus Caracanthus. There are four species in this genus, though only two are common in the pet trade — Caracanthus maculatus from the Indo Pacific and Caracanthus madagascariensis from Africa. Some common names for these fish are Velvetfish, Velvet Goby, or Gumdrop Coral Croucher. Velvetfish are often called gobies, but they actually belong to the order Scorpaeniformes like scorpionfish and anglers. The specimens from Africa are the most colorful, having pink bodies and red spots to resemble the Pocilloporid corals they inhabit.

These tiny fish only grow to about 2.5 inches max. They are clumsy swimmers and prefer to perch or squeeze themselves into tight spaces, holding on with their thick pectoral fins. Velvetfish have vertically flattened bodies so that they can squeeze into the branches of Pocillopora, Stylophora, Acropora, and similar corals. If you have large, healthy colonies of these corals in your aquarium, they shouldn’t be harmed by the activities of these fish. If you keep a breeding pair, however, you may notice some tissue loss on the underside of a coral where the Velvetfish lay their eggs.

Velvetfish are venomous, so use caution when cleaning their tank. As long as you don’t pick one up and squeeze it, you shouldn’t get stung. The sting isn’t nearly as bad as their scorpionfish relatives and feels a lot like a bee sting. If you do get stung, immediately soak your hand in hot water (as hot as you can stand).

Velvetfish can be aggressive toward their own kind, so they are best kept singly unless you find an established pair for sale. Otherwise, they are docile toward other fish. I kept my Velvetfish in a 55 gallon aquarium with many tiny gobies such as Trimma, Eviota, and clown gobies. My Velvetfish never showed aggression or interest in consuming any of my tiny gobies.

When choosing a Velvetfish for the first time, make sure to choose a fish that is not too skinny. Their bellies should be rounded and not concave. The head and dorsal area should also be full and not sunken in. Ask the pet shop to feed the fish in front of you so you are sure it is eating frozen foods. If the fish only eats live food, it might appear to be interested in the frozen food, only to spit the food out after tasting it. So be very observant and make sure the fish actually consumes the frozen food. It takes a lot of preparation to keep a Velvetfish who only eats live shrimp and has not been trained to eat frozen food.

It can be difficult to feed these fish, especially in a larger aquarium where they have a lot of places to hide. They normally will only eat food that falls within an inch of their face, so target feeding is required.

I would recommend keeping a new Velvetfish in a small, bare bottomed quarantine tank with one or two branching decorations for the fish to hide in. Then target feed the fish frozen food like Mysis with a syringe. There is a good chance the fish may not take to frozen food right away, even if it was eating it in the store. In this case you’ll have to buy tiny feeder shrimps until the fish learns to eat frozen food. Young freshwater ghost shrimps that have been enriched with vitamins and gut-loaded make a good live food.

Velvetfish are considered cryptic fish and tend to hide almost constantly, especially at first. Once they become comfortable in an aquarium, they can become quite tame. My Velvetfish was not afraid of me and would actually watch me and follow me as I moved around the tank. He ate directly from the tip of the feeding syringe and would even swim to it if it wasn’t nearby.

I was lucky enough to pick up a Pygmy Coral Croucher Caracanthus unipinna a couple months ago that arrived as a hitchhiker in an Acropora coral. This fish is tiny, about the size and color of a newly minted penny. It is so small, I have to keep it in a baby guppy box that hangs in the main tank. For the first couple weeks, I was target feeding it live amphipods from my aquarium, but it soon learned to eat small frozen mysis from the syringe.

Velvetfish are fascinating, beautiful little gems that can safely be kept in a small reef aquarium. If a non-reefer friend points out that your Velvetfish is not very active and a little “boring,” you could always impress them with, “Hey, it’s venomous.”

Photos and article by Felicia McCaulley

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

EcoTech Marine has just released a new Battery Backup. This new battery backup is produced in-house and ensures that EcoTech Marine has full control of availability and quality. The new battery now comes with two cables allowing the user to backup multiple pumps, or chain multiple batteries together for longer run-time. Along with a new and more powerful charger, this new battery looks to be a great addition to any VorTech setup.

From EcoTech Marine

In our quest to continually raise the bar for product excellence and customer experience, EcoTech Marine is pleased to announce the release of the all new EcoTech Marine Battery BackupTM. Thanks to our loyal and rapidly expanding customer base,EcoTech Marinecontinues to grow its product line. Expanding our product line and in-sourcing our production and quality control is a natural step for us to take and one we hope is embraced by the reefing community. After an extensive period of engineering, the new EcoTech Marine Battery Backup is now shipping. “By bringing the Battery Backup accessory in-house, we can now better control the availability and final quality of this critical piece of reef tank insurance,” said Tim Marks, President of EcoTech Marine. “We thank IceCap for their support over the years and are pleased to take this step forward.” The Battery Backup also now comes with two spare cables, instead of just one allowing you to backup multiple VorTech propeller pumps or link batteries together for more run time. Additionally, we are utilizing a more powerful charger which allows for longer run-time, all while keeping the price for this accessory at its current level of $165 USD. Look for it at on-line retailers and local shops now. Remember, it might take a typhoon to destroy a natural reef, but for our captive reefs it only takes a power outage.

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