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Giant Clams, Not Just A Pretty Face

Posted on Monday, February 8th, 2010 at 4:35 pm

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

Oceanic BioCube HQI Metal Halide Nano Aquarium

Posted on Sunday, February 7th, 2010 at 2:20 pm

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

Venomous Velvetfish

Posted on Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010 at 6:23 pm

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

EcoTech Marine Releases New Battery Backup‏

Posted on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 at 12:19 pm

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.

Clownfish Feeding an Anemone

Posted on Monday, February 1st, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Well, maybe nemo is not that nice…. Here’s a video of a clownfish pulling a damsel into an anemone. That’s not quite the “nemo touched the butt” you see in the movie 🙂 More like, “nemo grabbed my butt and pulled me so that i get eaten”. Well, clearly we’re kidding, it’s just a glimpse at nature, nothing more.

ORA Ice Tort on Live Aquaria’s Diver’s Den

Posted on Friday, January 29th, 2010 at 12:03 pm

From Ocean’s Reefs and Aquariums:
The ORA Ice Torticon has the typical Tortuosa branching growth form with a deep sea green base and glowing baby blue branch tips. This coral may look similar to the standard Tortuosa that we sell, but rest assured it is not the same thing. In addition to a different color pattern, this slow growing variety has thicker and considerably longer branches than its more common counterpart. The contrast of the dark base, blue polyps with green rims and almost white tips is stunning. Interestingly, all of the Ice Torts in the ORA greenhouse spawned 2 weeks ago.

 

Apogee Instruments Quantum Meter

Posted on Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 at 10:28 am

The Apogee Instruments Quantum Meter is an excellent reef tool. With so much of the focus in reefkeeping placed on lighting, one must wonder, how do I make sense of it all. A quantum meter is wonderfully helpful in measuring light intensity (specifically relevant to photosynthesis; we’ll get back to this), comparing bulbs and lighting options, making decisions about coral placement, and much more.

Basic info
A quantum is simply the reference to the amount of energy carried by a photon. The Apogee Instrument Quantum meters approximate Photosynthetic Photon Flux (PPF) for Photo synthetically Active Radiation (PAR) between 400 and 700 nanometers. This is of value since photosynthetic organisms primarily utilize the number of photos between these wavelengths. PPF is measures as µmol m-2 s-1 (micromols of photos per meters squared per second).

Using a Quantum Meter
In order to use this meter in the aquarium, we mounted the sensor on a simple “holder” made of 3/4″ pvc ( a long piece, then  an elbow, short connector piece, and another elbow). This allowed us to move the  sensor around while always having it pointed at the light source.  Once the sensor is mounted, we took several measurements above the waterline, then right below, and pretty much all over the tank.

Many hobbyists turn their powerheads/pumps off so that the water surface is not disturbed during the reading. We intentionally keep ours on, since that best replicates the conditions the corals are under. It was amazing to see how much variation there is within a pretty small area. We were able to compare metal halide reflectors, ballasts and bulbs, T5 reflectors, ballasts and bulbs (as well as the results of overdriving T5 bulbs).  We will report specific results in follow-up articles.

Having used the quantum meter over a large number of display and frag tanks, and were extremely impressed with the information it provided.

Here is some information directly from Apogee Instruments

Apogee Instruments, developers of high-quality instrumentation to monitor the environment, is pleased to announce that our quantum meters now include both data recording capability and sun and electric calibration with each meter.

Each meter can store up to 99 manually recorded measurements. In automatic mode, measurements are made every 30 seconds and averages are stored every 30 minutes. Daily totals are also calculated and the past 99 days are recorded.

These meters still feature our innovative blue lens for improved spectral response along with our cosine-corrected head, self-cleaning characteristics, and long-term stability.

Guardians of the Acropora

Posted on Friday, January 8th, 2010 at 10:45 pm

There are two genera of Guard Crabs commonly found in the aquarium trade – Trapezia and Tetralia – that are symbiotic on small polyp stony corals such as Acropora, Pocillopora, Stylophora, and Seriatopora corals.
Trapezia crabs can measure up to 1-3/4″ from elbow to elbow. They are also “equal handed,” having same-sized chelipeds (claws). Trapezia crabs are symbionts on Pocilloporid corals. Trapezia cymodoce, Trapezia septata, and the beautiful, red-spotted Trapezia rufopunctata host on Pocillopora corals, while the brown-clawed white Trapezia guttatus hosts on Seriatopora Birdsnest corals. These crabs are perfectly camouflaged to their host coral. The legs of T. guttatus are almost identical to the branches of a Birdsnest coral, and the spots of the T. rufopunctata mimic the host coral’s polyps and color. In captivity if a Pocilloporid coral is not available, a Trapezia crab may host on an Acropora coral.
The tiny Acropora Crabs of the genus Tetralia rarely measure more than 3/4″ and have one claw that is larger than the other. It’s not uncommon to see these crabs living in corals as pairs. Tetralia Crabs are commonly found as hitchhikers on wild Acropora colonies, and only host on Acropora corals. These crabs come in a wide array of colors. They are usually purple, white, or orange and have a brown, black, or blue “mask” across the eyes, giving them the common name “bandit crabs.”

In captivity it’s best to keep large Trapezia crabs on larger SPS colonies. Their activities have (uncommonly) been reported to cause damage to smaller colonies or frags. Guard Crabs are beneficial to their host corals, as they protect the coral from some pests, predators, and settling sediment. In the wild scuba divers see them pinching the underside of the crown of thorns star – a large predatory sea star that consumes coral – until it moves on to an unprotected coral. I’ve personally witnessed an Acropora crab evict a smaller pest blue eyed crab from its host coral. Blue eyed crabs can cause serious damage to the coral colonies they inhabit. Guard Crabs also remove debris that settles on the host coral, preventing tissue necrosis. In turn the crab gets a home and a free meal.

In the aquarium Pocillopora and Acropora Guard Crabs appreciate the occasional target feeding of small mysis, but most of their food is provided by their host coral. They are easy to keep in captivity, but must be given an SPS coral to host on.

Photos and article by Felicia McCaulley

For The Love of Seahorses

Posted on Friday, December 18th, 2009 at 10:49 am
Reidi Seahorse

Seahorses used to be considered one of the most difficult sea creatures to keep in an aquarium. Wild caught seahorses were plagued with internal parasites, bacterial infections, and appetites for expensive live shrimp. Advancements in technology and marine fish breeding have led to large populations of readily available captive bred seahorses, making it unnecessary to buy wild caught seahorses. Because of this, seahorses are no longer difficult to keep, as long as you follow basic seahorse care requirements.

If you decide to keep seahorses as pets, it is important to find a supply of healthy stock. Check with the breeder to make sure the seahorses are bred indoors and not in ocean pens where they would be subjected to the same parasites and disease that wild caught seahorses would. Purchasing seahorses from a local breeder or an online company in your country will reduce travel time and stress. the Hippocampus erectus or Lined Seahorse is among the hardiest and easiest to keep of all medium-sized seahorses. They are native to the United States; most of the captive bred stock in the U.S. today is likely descended from Floridian ancestors. In this article, we’ll focus on Erectus seahorses.

A 30 gallon aquarium is the minimum size for a single pair of Erectus seahorses. Two pairs may be kept in a 50 gallon aquarium. If breeding or courtship viewing is a goal, the tank should be at least 16 inches tall. Seahorses need frequent meals of frozen mysis, at least twice a day.  Live rock and macroalgae can help reduce nitrates and house tiny, nutritous crustaceans called Copepods and Amphipods for the seahorses to snack on between meals. A powerful filter will also help reduce nitrates.

Baby Erectus Seahorse

The most important piece of equipment on a seahorse aquarium is a chiller. Seahorses are sensitive to infections of the bacteria Vibrio spp. A protein in the Vibrio bacteria changes when the temperature rises above 74 degrees Farhenheit. The seahorses then have reduced immunity while the bacteria becomes more virulent, aggressive, and prolific. It’s a good idea to keep the aquarium temperature between 68 and 74 degrees for Erectus Seahorses. Raising the temperature for even a short time can open the door to an infection.

Seahorse tank mates should be carefully considered. Large, aggressive fish like tangs, triggers, puffers, and lionfish are not safe with seahorses. Anemones, corals with stinging tentacles, brain corals, and crabs can be very dangerous to seahorses. Use caution with clams which may pinch a seahorse’s tail, Cleaner Shrimps which can irritate a seahorse or be aggressive, and nuisance anemones such as Aiptasia and Majanos which can sting. Only the most peaceful, shy fish are safe to keep with seahorses. Tiny gobies, small Brotulids, Firefish, Pipefish, Mandarins, and Scooters are a few fish that are totally seahorse safe. Once your seahorses are fully grown and comfortable, Flasher Wrasses, small Anthias, Tilefish, and other small, peaceful fish may be added, but should be removed at the first sign of aggression or if the seahorse can’t get its share of food.

White Seahorse

Seahorses will try to wrap their tails around anything, including the impeller of a powerhead or a scorching hot heater. Avoid using open powerheads and heaters in a seahorse aquarium. A heater is unnecessary in all but the coldest climates. If you must put a heater in your seahorse aquarium, use a heater guard or put it in the sump away from seahorse tails. Although seahorses aren’t the best swimmers, they are tolerant of fast, gentle currents. Avoid powerheads that spray water in a tight jet and instead opt for spraybars and wide nozzles.

Captive Bred seahorses that are well fed and cared for can live five years or more in captivity. They aren’t the weak, delicate creatures they were once thought to be and are actually quite sturdy and forgiving of minor water quality problems. Unlike wild caught seahorses, captive bred seahorses are accustomed to human interaction. They can become very tame, begging for food and hitching to the seahorse keeper’s fingers.

Photos and article by Felicia McCaulley

 

Aquatic Life – pH & ORP Controllers & Monitors

Posted on Friday, December 11th, 2009 at 1:38 pm
pH & ORP Controllers & Monitors

AquaticLife™ offers a series of contemporary stand-alone or wall-mounted pH and ORP Controllers and Monitors

Each solid-state unit is housed in a corrosion-resistant solid plastic housing, comes with an easy-to-mount controlled grounded outlet with a quick disconnect three prong power cord attachment and features easy to read LED displays. Depending on location requirements, the front clear plastic lens cover can be installed to open from the left or the right. An added feature is the raised splash guard on the back to protect the connections from exposure to water.

For easy probe placement and installation, a probe holder assembly is included with each probe. The 12 mm diameter by 160 mm length pH probe has a range of 0–14 pH and a temperature range of 0–60C. The ORP probe has a measuring range of +/- 1500 mV. The probes are easy to attach (two meter cable included), calibrate, and clean.

These controllers and monitors with easy-to-read LED’s, solid state electronics, and laboratory grade probes make routine maintenance and adjustments straightforward and uncomplicated.

click here for more information

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