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Friday, December 11th, 2009

Check out these great deal from TB Aquatics. There is something for every budget!

Great Holiday Gift Ideas

Under $20


Water Alarm

Grounding Probe

Reef Gadget

Under $50


Acclimate

Frag Kit

Frag Cave

Other Great Gifts


RK Lite

MP10

NAC6
Friday, December 11th, 2009

Here is an incredible video of Manuel’s 575 gallon (2178 liter) in-wall reef aquarium. This tank is filled with large colonies, and an assortment of fish. This reef video shows various species of anthias, clown fish, wrasses, tangs, and many more. Beautiful, mature soft and hard coral colonies fill every inch of this large reef tank. Outstanding polyp extension is evidence of pristine water conditions. The many close-up shots demonstrate the ample, variable flow that was achieved in this setup. Late in the video, we are also provided a glimpse into what this reef looks like with the moon lights. Tell us what you think.

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Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009
VorTech MP10

EcoTech Marine is raffling off a Vortech MP10 Propeller Pump. Please visit www.ecotechmarine.com for more information about the Vortech MP10 as well as their complete line of products.

This month, there is a twist. Once you have completed your profile (photo and tank information), you may start inviting users (click Invite from main menu, once you are logged in).  For each user you invite that sets up a profile (photo and tank information) you will receive one token. The member you referred should enter your username under “referring member” (profile–>edit profile information).

There is no limit this month on the number of tokens you can earn. The more users you invite, the more tokens you earn.

The raffle will be held on Jan 1st 2010!! GOOD LUCK!!

THERE WILL BE A NEW RAFFLE EVERY MONTH!

So don’t wait, visit Reef Tools Live , sign up, and start inviting your friends!!

Specifications
Flow: 200 to 1575 gph
Wattage: 8 to 18 watts
Maximum Tank Thickness: 3/8″
Appropriate Tank Size Range: 2.5 to 50 gal
Dimensions: Wet Side- 2.5″ diameter by 1.5″ long, Dry Side – 2.5″ diameter by 2″ long
Clearance Needed Behind Aquarium: 2.25″

Banner:

NOTE: You must have a profile photo and tank information to be included in this raffle. Must be a US resident. Winner will be announced on the “What’s New” page (you must be logged in to view). Prize must be claimed by winner within three (3) days of announcement.

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.

18-foot-reef
Wednesday, November 25th, 2009
chemi-pure

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.

Flash
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.

waikiki-aquarium-video-p
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.
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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.

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Here is a photo on the completed frame.

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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:

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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.

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

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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:

55-gallon-reef-tank-l
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