The Aquatic Critter Blog

Middle TN's Most Complete Aquatic,       Pond & Reptile Facility

5009 Nolensville Pk Nashville TN 37211

615-832-4541

SEE OUR COLLECTION

Aquatic Blog

Your All-In-One Source for Freshwater/Saltwater/Reef/Pond Information!

Press CTRL+F on Windows or Command+F on Mac to Search The Page

Clownfish

Saltwater/Reef

No other group of fish holds as much fascination for the marine hobbyist than clownfish. Closely related to the damselfish, they’ve developed (not necessary for captive keeping or propagation) a symbiotic relationship with sea anemones, hence their other name, anemonefish.


The symbiotic relationship between the clownfish and anemones, which are seldom found more than a yard away from each other in the ocean, guarantees the survival of the species from predators and reproduction problems associated with inbreeding.

All clownfish are born males. Soon after hatching the young clownfish begin searching for its own host anemone, with the same species of clownfish. If the clownfish is accepted into the family by the resident pair, he must join the ranks of the other lower "males in waiting." Sometimes as many as 30 are waiting.


Waiting for what? Well, these little guys have to wait for something to happen to the female of the host pair before moving up in the ranks. If the female dies, her former mate rapidly develops into a fertile female, then she motions for one of the males to step-up, and become a productive male. Unfortunately for these "males in waiting," breeder pairs may live to be over 10 years old. Thus, a newly arrived fish may remain there for life as an underdeveloped male.


Keeping and breeding the clownfish can be quite easy in captivity. As long as you’re not trying to keep wild specimens, which usually don’t do well in captivity due to the fact that they don‘t ship well, have extremely high mortality rates and are usually affected with one or more parasitic infections. Captive bred and raised specimens, like the ones bred by O.R.A. in Florida, (which we exclusively carry at the Aquatic Critter), are not affected by any of the maladies that affect wild fish.


Because they spend all their lives in and around the area of the host anemone, clownfish are great choices for aquariums. They don’t have major space requirements, usually a 20 to 30 gallon aquarium is sufficient, needing only appropriate water conditions and a suitable diet to thrive. The process of acquiring a "mated pair" is easy, any two juveniles placed together in an appropriate aquarium will develop into a pair within several months. This eliminates the need to purchase a small group of fish to get a "mated pair." While there are 28 species of clowns in the ocean, O.R.A. is presently breeding about half that number••• 

Frozen Food Recommendations

Freshwater/Saltwater/Reef

The intestinal lining of all fish is very sensitive and does not tolerate cold food very well. To serve frozen food properly, we suggest you thaw it first before feeding it to your fish. The following is our recommended procedure for feeding frozen food.


1. Decide how much food you’re going to use and place it in a plastic dish and leave it out to thaw for 30 minutes or so. Never leave it out any longer or it will spoil. Thawed food can be left in the refrigerator for two days maximum, any food left longer than that should be thrown away.


2. To supercharge your food with extra nutrition, dose your frozen food with a sterilized liquid multi-vitamin such as Selkon Concentrate. Pour the liquid vitamin over the food and let it soak in as the food thaws. By doing this the food will soak up the vitamin like a sponge. In addition to getting the nutrition they need, the fish will be getting all the vitamins and minerals of a balanced diet.


3. When completely thawed, the food should have a soft, spongy consistency. You can now feed your fish by squeezing it between your fingers just under the water’s surface. Let it drop away in pieces as the fish come up to eat it. For your own safety when feeding predatory fish such as eels, lions, triggers, and groupers, and to eliminate fights over food, use feeding tongs to deliver the food directly to each fish.


4. Never use hot water to thaw frozen food!!! This cooks the food and removes all the vitamins and mineral your fish so desperately need. It also breaks the food down into a nasty soup that your fish won’t eat, and only serves to pollute your tank.

In conclusion, we recommend alternating between the various formulas of frozen food available to ensure your fish get a healthy, balanced diet. A varied diet is the key to keeping healthy and happy fish. After all, you don’t want your fish merely to survive, but to thrive!•••

The Undergravel Filter Controversy

Freshwater

The undergravel filter (UGF) controversy has been raging for years. As modernization of aquarium filtration products advances, many aquarists think the need for a UGF has long past. However, some still feel you can’t run your aquarium without one. To help you make the decision of whether to use a UGF as a basic component or not, start by understanding what the purpose of the UGF is.


The two basic things you want in your aquarium is a good filter media base for strong biological filter growth, and clean, clear water. The UGF is a plate type filter that is designed to pull water down through a media base (substrate) that sits on top of the plate, trapping particles in the media as the water passes through it. The surface area of the substrate acts as your biological filter base. A UGF is run by an air pump and air stones, or some types can be used with a powerhead. These filters can be very effective, but are best used in tanks under 55 gallons in size, and are NOT appropriate for use in reef tanks. The trick is to keep the media clean, via a regular maintenance schedule. If a UGF is not maintained properly the media builds up an accumulation of detritus and other organic matter, which in turn contributes to a build up of high nitrate levels. Another factor is that underneath the filter plate, dead spots can form. This opens the door for the growth of unwanted bad types of bacteria that may contribute to poor water quality in the long run. The key to success when using a UGF is maintenance. With proper UGF care these negative factors are greatly reduced and should not present a problem.


Here are some pointers to help insure that your UGF runs properly:


- The media base needs to be thick enough to trap the particles, but not so thick that it defeats the filtering process. A layer of about two inches of fairly coarse material should be sufficient. If the media is too fine it will clog the filter plate, and if too course it won’t trap the particulates as it should.


- Make sure you have sufficient air/water flow in all areas under your UGF. Dead spots will allow bad bacteria to grow, as bad bacteria grows in oxygen depleted environments.


- Be sure to use an air pump that has sufficient volume to draw the water through the media and UGF plate.


- Use a hang-on-tank type canister filter as a pre-filter to help remove particulates that are free floating in the aquarium water. This can help to remove and cut down on the organic matter that is drawn down into the media. We recommend a Magnum 350 by - Marineland for this purpose. No matter what type of pre-filter unit you use, be sure to clean or change the pleat cartridge, floss or sponge several times a week, or as soon as it starts turning brown. You can tell when it needs changing, the water flow rate begins to decrease noticeably.


- Another feature of the Magnum 350 or H.O.T. model is that it has a siphon tube attachment that you can hook directly to the filter intake and clean your media with ease. When you siphon the media it only pulls out the junk, leaving the media behind, then sends the water through the canister where the pleat cartridge captures the organic matter, and then dispenses the clean, filtered water back into the tank. This makes for a simple and quick way to clean the media on top of the UGF plate. It even works great for quick surface cleaning on most any type of substrate in other types of system set ups as well.


- Some UGF’s are designed as reverse flow set ups. This type of UGF allows for back flushing of the area underneath the filter plate, which in turn can aid in simpler and more effective cleaning of the filter.


Get to know your tank and work out a regular maintenance routine. Do your research on the various types of undergravel filters on the market, and how each works.•••

Eliminating Fish Disease

Freshwater/Saltwater/Reef/Pond

Occasionally we hear people comment, with some pride, that their incidences of fish diseases are usually low. Although their intent is commendable, their true goal should be NO diseases at all! Is this be realistic? You bet it is. Accomplished fish keepers do it all the time. But before looking at how to maintain healthy fish it’s important to point out that all fish are infected by at least one and often several species of parasites. These parasites are, in fact, a natural part of their environment. If the fish are in good condition generally, their immune system (the body’s natural means of countering disease) will be active and capable of controlling the infection, ensuring that parasites are present only in very small numbers.


If a fish becomes unhealthy for any reason - for example, due to poor water quality, poor nutrition or stress - the immune system will be suppressed, allowing the parasites to multiply and cause problems.


To help you attain a 0% of illness in your fish we’ve listed a few basic guidelines:

BUY HEALTHY STOCK! We can’t stress this enough. Know your fish dealer and their stocking methods before you buy.


Take care to introduce all fish to their new environments in the least stressful manner possible. Next to poor water quality, stress kills more fish than any other factor.

Invest in and use a test kit. Many problems can be avoided altogether just by checking your water quality first. Never, never, assume just because your existing fish are fine, that your H20 is O.K. Everyday we check customers’ water that is, well let’s just say, not good, but their fish are fine. That’s only because the water value decreased gradually over a period of time and the fish adapted to it. They don’t like it, and usually are on the way to a disease breakout. Any new fish introduced at this time won’t have the opportunity to gradually adapt, and most likely will be the first ones to get sick or die.

If a disease does appear in one of your fish get it into your quarantine tank immediately! Don’t wait until the infection spreads. Doing a water change in your community tank at this time is essential. If it’s a parasite, then you must treat the entire aquarium because all the fish are exposed directly.


Make every attempt to accurately diagnose an illness before medicating. It’s also advisable to use only one medication at a time. Changing the water is probably the most beneficial action you can take. You’d be surprised at how often recovery takes place just by doing that!


It goes without saying that you should try to understand the needs of all your fish and keep together in one tank only those whose water quality requirements and personalities are compatible. We welcome your questions and will help you get the answers you need to be a successful fish keeper.••• 

Why Treatments Fail

Freshwater/Saltwater/Reef/Pond

There most assuredly is going to come a time in the life of every hobbyist when their fish get sick and treatment becomes the only solution for saving them. Sometimes, even after the most careful approach, the success rate is dismal. You would be understandably upset if this occurs, and would like to know the reasons why your medications didn’t work. In a large percentage of these failures we can usually determine the likely reasons and, for the vast majority of these failures, we can offer some guidelines as to the cause. Here are what we have ascertained as the major causes of "failed" treatments.


Most fish disease problems coincide with poor water quality, and should not be treated until water quality has been corrected.


Somewhere along the line to get to your fish tank, most fish, at one time or another, are exposed to smorgasbord of disease and parasites. Most of these organisms lie dormant in your aquarium just waiting for the right "stress" factor to arise in your aquarium so it can "attack" your fish. (See article "Stress, It’s Role in Fish Diseases" )


Poor water quality, such as a low pH value, high ammonia, or nitrite level, may be the "stress" factor that weakens your fish and makes them vulnerable to attack by various parasites and diseases.


At the first signs of discord with your fish you should immediately check your water quality and make any changes necessary to get the parameters corrected. Remember that while medications such as antibiotics and anti-parasitic drugs are destroying the bad bacteria or parasites that are harming your fish, they do not discriminate between bad or good, and will also destroy the beneficial bacteria in your aquarium that are keeping your water quality parameters, such as ammonia and nitrite, in check. Treating a tank with poor water quality only increases the stress on the fish and negates the effect of the treatment, and further decreases the water quality.

A wrong diagnosis has been made.


As everyone will realize, aspirin will not cure a broken leg. Therefore, if you don’t make the correct diagnosis and consequently use the wrong treatment, not only will you not effect a cure you will often make the problem worse as any chemical introduced into the aquatic environment can cause some stress.


Treatment has been instituted, but the protein skimmer, and/or charcoal filtration has been continued.


Depending on the efficacy of the skimmer and the amount and quality of the charcoal, much of the active ingredients of the treatment will be removed, ensuring a negative result.


Many aquarists are unsure about the amount of water in their tank, and often forget to include in their treatment calculations the water in their sump, etc. Also they sometimes do not allow for the water displaced by large amounts of live rock, etc.

Too little or too much medication, can have a negative effect. Too little will enable the parasite to continue it’s life cycle. Too much can have the effect of causing severe adverse effects in the fish. Before beginning treatment, it is most essential to calculate and then recheck the amount of water you’re treating.


The fish are in an advanced stage of infection before treatment is started.

When you begin the treatment too late, then it is very hard to bring back fish that are already at death’s door. These reasons account for, by far, the majority of failures in treatment. Pay careful attention to them, as well as the points above, and your success, as well as your level of expertise will move into a high percentile. The satisfaction, not to mention the good feeling of saving your fish, and consequently not losing lives and money, will add enormously to your self confidence, and no doubt many fellow hobbyists will seek you out to advise them also.•••

The Nitrification Cycle

Freshwater/Saltwater

The nitrification cycle is the process that transforms new biological filter beds into a biologically established filter, allowing your aquarium to convert harmful ammonia causing waste products into less harmful nitrogen (nitrates) gas:


Initially the aquarium should be lightly populated with relatively inexpensive, hardy fish. We do not recommend using feeder goldfish. Scavengers, algae eaters and scaleless varieties should not be included among the first inhabitants. Fish digestion, fish respiration, and the decomposition of uneaten food begin to produce ammonia.

Once ammonia becomes detectable, no other fish should be added to the aquarium. Do not do partial water changes unless you are experiencing multiple fish death.


The aquarium may become cloudy and/or emit a slight gaseous odor during the initial stages of nitrification. This is usually self correcting, but reducing the amount of food being offered will help correct the situation.


A species of nitrifying bacteria, nitrosomonas, begin to convert the toxic ammonia into less toxic nitrites. As this conversion begins, the cycle is at its most toxic level.

Another nitrifying bacteria, nitrobacter, then convert nitrites into even lesser toxic nitrates completing the cycle and allowing you to add fish and to commence regular, periodic, partial water changes and gravel vacuuming.


While short term exposure to nitrates may not be harmful, prolonged exposure to high nitrate levels can cause stress and greater susceptibility to disease in a limited number of freshwater species and in saltwater aquaria.


High nitrate levels promote excess algae growth.


The only way in which nitrate levels can be reduced in the aquarium is by making partial water changes.


It is possible to speed up the nitrification process by seeding the filter with bacteria, either in the form of a freeze-dried or liquid commercial preparation or by adding bacteriological medium from a mature tank. These should not be added to the aquarium until fish are introduced as the existing sterile conditions provide no nutrients to support the bacteria.

Filtration

Freshwater/Saltwater

Introduction


Providing a healthy environment is a crucial responsibility for all fishkeepers. Successfully maintaining aquatic animals in the home aquarium is dependent on the proper installation and maintenance of a COMPLETE water filtration system. Further, the size and the capability of the filtration system must be appropriate both for the aquarium gallonage and the number and size of the fish therein.

Filtration is divided into three distinct processes each of which serves its own specific purpose and all of which are necessary. The three processes are: mechanical, chemical and biological.


Mechanical Filtration


Mechanical filtration removes uneaten food, feces, plant material and other particulate matter that contributes to the haziness of the aquarium. This is the first phase of the filtration system because the particles it removes would clog the chemical and biological filtration media, making them less effective.


This method is usually described as the "trapping" of particulate and suspended matter from the water by straining. It is performed by passing the water through a media which retains the "dirt," allowing clean, clear water to be returned to the aquarium.


Mechanical filters, by nature and design, will become clogged, and then either the water will bypass the filter media, or the flow of water through the filter will decrease. This makes periodic changing or cleaning of the filter media necessary.


The second part of mechanical filtration is the removal of the strained material from the aquarium. This step is extremely important because most of this material is organic in nature, and therefore subject to further breakdown by bacteria.


Some common types of mechanical filter media are filter fluff, polyfiber pads, sponges, pleated cartridges and diatomaceous earth. The difference between media is the degree of filtration each performs. Keep in mind that the finer the media, the smaller the particles trapped.


In comparable situations, filter fluff and polyfiber pads may last one month before needing cleaning or replacing, sponges about two to three weeks, pleated cartridges two days, and diatomaceous earth less than one day. Every tank, depending upon its fish population, the amount of food they are fed, and the type of filter used, will have its own frequency of service requirement.


There are many different types of mechanical filters. Among them are corner filters filled with activated carbon and filter floss, air and water pump powered sponges, and the two most common - hang-on power filters and canister filters.


Power filters, which hang on the tank, are convenient and easy to clean, but are generally not as effective as canister filters because there is the possibility that as the media becomes clogged, the water can overflow unfiltered into the tank.

Canister filters operate on the principle of positive filtration. Water is sucked through the media inside the canister and is then pumped back into the aquarium, with no bypassing of the media. Over time, as the filter media clogs, the water flow rate will decrease, signaling that it is time to clean the filter. Generally speaking, aquaria over 30 gallons with large numbers of fish, or tanks with a few very large fish, should employ canister filters.


Chemical Filtration


Chemical filtration involves the removal of dissolved substances by chemically or physically binding them to the filter media. Unlike the particulate material removed by mechanical filtration, the compounds being chemically filtered generally cannot be seen because they are dissolved in the water.


This filtration is called adsorption, and is a phenomenon associated with the interaction between two different phases of matter (in this case, the liquid phase of water and the solid phase of the filter media).


First, and most importantly, the effectiveness of chemical filtration depends upon contact of the media with the water carrying the pollutants. Having lots of media in little contact with the water is not effective.


Second, chemical filtration should come after effective mechanical filtration. This will keep particulate material from clogging the pores and spaces of the chemical media, allowing the water to flow through it freely.


Third, no chemical filtration media lasts forever. While some can be recharged, it is often safer, easier and cheaper to simply throw away the old media and replace it with new.


Fourth, using chemical filtration does not eliminate the need for water changes and other good fish husbandry practices!


The most common type of chemical filtration media is granulated, activated carbon. It removes chlorine, chloramincs, organic compounds which discolor the water, dyes and some types of medications.


There are other media (usually types of zeolite) which can adsorb ammonia, nitrate or phosphate from the water. These media are generally referred to as "ion exchange media." Ion exchange removes unwanted or harmful substances from the water by exchanging them with a harmless chemical.


Most hang-on power filters and canister filters for chemical filtration come with granulated activated carbon. Others have reusable cartridges or accessory containers which can be filled with almost any chemical filtration media.


Biological Filtration


It has long been accepted that biological filtration is the critical phase of filtration in the home aquarium. Fish and other aquatic organisms release toxic ammonia into the water as their principal waste product. Ammonia levels will quickly reach a lethal level in the closed environment of an aquarium.


Fish may survive for some time with inadequate mechanical or chemical filtration despite the water's murky or discolored appearance, but the absence of a process for eliminating ammonia and nitrite will kill fish within hours if the levels rise enough.

A simple definition of biological filtration is the conversion of ammonia to nitrite, then nitrite to nitrate, by bacteria. This process is called "biological" filtration because the filtering is done by living organisms, as opposed to mechanical and chemical filtration which are accomplished by physical media. The technical term for the process is "nitrification."


Nitrifying bacteria will grow on every surface in the aquarium. The biological filter is designed for the purpose of supporting huge numbers of bacteria in a small volume of space.


The types of biological filters range from simple, but effective, corner box filters, to advanced looking systems with electronic probes and control mechanisms. The more common types are undergravel filters, sponge filters, wet/dry systems and fluidized bed. A quick review of these four will illustrate some important concepts that should help you in the selection and maintenance of an efficient biological filter.


The most common biological filter used in the U.S. is the undergravel filter. The principal behind its operation is the continuous circulation of water down through the gravel, up the lift tubes and back into the aquarium. The water is pumped either with a combination of airstones and an air pump, or by using a powerhead.


A second common biological filter media are sponges. There are a number of different sponge-type biological filters - some use air to pump water through the sponge, while others connect to a powerhead. A few power filters and canister filters have sponge inserts that act as biological filters. Some good situations for their use are fry rearing and hospital tanks.


Another type of biological filter is the "wet/dry" biological filter. These filters have been adapted to the aquarium hobby from the aquaculture and waste water treatment fields.


There are too many different models to describe here, but all operate according to the same central principal: The bacteria are not underwater. Rather, the bacteria in a wet/dry filter grow on media that alternates between being wet and dry.


When wet, they are in contact with the ammonia and nitrite in the water, and when dry, they can get oxygen from the atmosphere. Since the rate at which the bacteria grow and remove toxins is oxygen-dependent, they are more effective in a wet/dry filter compared to traditional types of biological filters.


A more recent type of biological filter available is the fluidized bed canister filter. Like the trickle filter, the fluidized bed concept has been used successfully for years in the aquaculture industry. It has only recently become available in a miniaturized version appropriate for the home aquarium.


Fluidized bed filters have many times the filtering capacity of the same volume trickle filter as the media is in constant motion and completely surrounded by water. This allows for every bacteria covered particle to be in continuous contact with oxygen, ammonia and nitrite and allows for a faster exchange of minerals and dissolved gases.

Both wet/dry and fluidized bed biological filters MUST have highly efficient mechanical prefiltration incorporated into the system. This prefiltration eliminates the collection of deitrus which prevents the media from contacting with oxygen and restricts free water-flow paths.


There are certain areas in an aquarium setup where "corners can be cut" and a few dollars saved. The filtration system, however, is the very heart of your simulated aquatic world and should be given first priority.

Stress: Its Role In Fish Diseases

Freshwater/Saltwater/Reef/Pond

What causes stress?

Stress is a condition in which an animal is unable to maintain a normal physiologic state because of various factors adversely affecting its well-being.

Stress is caused by placing a fish in a situation which is beyond its normal level of tolerance. Specific examples of things which can cause stress (stressors) are listed below:


Chemical stressors:

Poor water quality - low dissolved oxygen, improper pH

Pollution - intentional pollution: chemical treatments - accidental pollution: insect spray, spills

Diet composition - type of protein, amino acids

Nitrogenous and other metabolic wastes - accumulation of ammonia or nitrite


Biological stressors:

Population density - crowding

Other species of fish - aggression, territoriality, lateral swimming space requirements

Microorganisms - pathogenic and non-pathogenic

Microorganisms - internal and external parasites


Physical stressors:

Temperature, this is one of the most important influences on the immune system of fish

Light

Sounds

Dissolved gases


Procedural stressors:

Handling

Shipping

Disease treatments


Alarm reaction (fight or flight response)

Increases in blood sugar are caused by a secretion of hormones from the adrenal gland. Stored sugars, such as glycogen in the liver are metabolized. This creates an energy reserve which prepares the animal for an emergency action.

Osmoregulation is disrupted because of changes in mineral metabolism. Under these circumstances, a freshwater fish tends to absorb excess water from the environment (over-hydrate). A saltwater fish will tend to lose too much water to the environment (dehydrate). This disruption requires that extra energy be used to maintain osmoregulation.

Respiration increases, blood pressure increases, and reserve red blood cells are released into the circulation.

The inflammatory response is suppressed by hormones released from the adrenal gland.


Stress triggers a chain of events which result in an "alarm reaction" (fight or flight response) by the fish which then triggers a series of hormonal changes. As the fish tries to adjust to the insult it uses up energy reserves but during this time it is able to resist or compensate for the insult. If the insult is not removed, its energy reserves become depleted and the fish becomes "exhausted." At this phase its ability to resist disease organisms, with which it is in constant contact, is severely compromised and the fish may become sick or die.


Resistance

An animal is able to adapt to stress for a finite period of time. During this period the animal may look and act normal, but is depleting energy reserves because of the extra requirements place upon it.


Exhaustion

The animal's reserves have been depleted and adaptation fails because the stress was too severe or lasted too long.


What is disease?

Disease is an abnormal condition characterized by a gradual degeneration of a fish's ability to maintain normal physiologic functions. The fish is not "in balance" with itself or its environment.


Disease resistance

All fish do not get sick and die each time a disease outbreak occurs. There are many factors which affect how an individual responds to a potential pathogen. The pathogen (bacteria, parasite, or virus) must be capable of causing disease. The host (fish) must be in a susceptible state, and certain environmental conditions must be present for a disease outbreak to occur.


Defense against disease


Protective barriers against infection

Mucus (slime coat) is a physical barrier which inhibits entry of disease organisms from the environment into the fish. It is also a chemical barrier because it contains enzymes (lysozymes) and antibodies (immunoglobulins) which can kill invading organisms. Mucus also lubricates the fish which aids movement through the water, and it is also important for osmoregulation.

Scales and skin function as a physical barrier which protects the fish against injury. When these are damaged, a window is opened for bacteria and other organisms to start an infection.


Disease rarely results from simple contact between the host (fish) and potential pathogen. Mitigating circumstances, such as poor water quality, excessive crowding, or similar stressor, are usually present before fish become sick. Identification and correction of these problems is essential for successful control of disease outbreaks.

Inflammation (non-specific cellular response) is a cellular response to an invading protein. An invading protein can be a bacteria, a virus, a parasite, a fungus, or a toxin. Inflammation is characterized by pain, swelling, redness, heat, and loss of function. It is a protective response and is an attempt by the body to wall off and destroy the invader.

Antibodies (specific cellular response) are molecules specifically formed to fight invading proteins or organisms. The first time the fish is exposed to an invader, antibodies are formed which will protect the fish from future infection by the same organism. Exposure to sublethal concentrations of pathogens is extremely important for a fish to develop a competent immune system. An animal raised in a sterile environment will have little protection from disease. Young animals do not have an immune response which works as efficiently as the immune response in older animals and therefore, may be more susceptible to disease.


Effect of stress on protective barriers


Mucus

Any stress causes chemical changes in mucus which decrease its effectiveness as a chemical barrier against invading organisms. Stress upsets the normal electrolyte (sodium, potassium, and chloride) balance which results in excessive uptake of water by fresh water fish and dehydration in salt water fish. The need for effective osmoregulatory support from mucus components is increased.

Handling stress physically removes mucus from the fish. This results in decreased chemical protection, decreased osmoregulatory function (at a time when it is most needed), decreased lubrication thereby causing the fish to use more energy to swim (at a time when its energy reserves are already being used up metabolically), and disruption of the physical barrier against invading organisms.

Chemical stress (i.e. disease treatment) often damages mucus resulting in loss of protective chemical barrier, loss of osmoregulatory function, loss of lubrication, and damage to the physical barrier created by mucus.


Scales and skin

Scales and skin are most commonly damaged by Handling Stress. Any break in the skin, or removed scale, creates an opening for invasion by pathogenic organisms.

Trauma caused by fighting (Reproductive Stress or Behavioral Stress) could result in breaks in the skin or scale loss.

Parasite infestations can result in damage to gills, skin, fins, and loss of scales which could create breaks in the skin for bacteria to enter. Many times, fish which are heavily parasitized actually die from bacterial infections; but the parasite problem, associated physical damage, and stress response create a situation which allow the bacteria in the water to invade the fish, causing a lethal disease.


Inflammation

Any stress causes hormonal changes which decrease the effectiveness of the inflammatory response.

Temperature stress, particularly cold temperatures, can completely halt the activity of "killer cells" of the immune system, thus, eliminating an important first defense against invading organisms. Excessively hot temperatures are also very detrimental to fish, although the precise impact of sudden increases in temperature on the immune system is not known.


Antibody production

Temperature stress, particularly a sharp decrease in temperature, severely impairs the fishes ability to quickly release antibodies against an invading organism. The time lapse required to mount an antibody response gives the invader time to reproduce and build up its numbers, therefore giving it an advantage which may allow it to overwhelm the fish.

Prolonged stress severely limits the effectiveness of the immune system, thereby increasing the opportunities for an invader to cause disease.


Prevention of stress

The key to prevention of stress is GOOD MANAGEMENT. This means maintaining good water quality, good nutrition, and sanitation.

Good water quality involves preventing accumulation of organic debris and nitrogenous wastes, maintaining appropriate pH and temperature for the species, and maintaining dissolved oxygen levels of at least 5 parts per million. Poor water quality is a common and important STRESSOR of cultured fish and precedes many disease outbreaks.

Feed a high quality diet that meets the nutritional requirements of the fish. Each species is unique and the nutritional requirements of different species will vary. Supplementing diets with fresh vegetables and live food is a good way to provide a balanced diet for fish which have poorly understood nutritional requirements. Fish in ponds have an advantage over fish raised indoors, because of the variety of natural foods available.


Proper sanitation implies routine removal of debris from fish tanks and disinfection of containers, nets, and other equipment between groups of fish. Organic debris which accumulates on the bottom of tanks or vats is an excellent medium for reproduction of fungal, bacterial, and protozoal agents. Prompt removal of this material from the environment will help decrease the number of agents the fish is exposed to. Disinfection of containers and equipment between groups of fish helps minimize transmission of disease from one population to another.


Prevention of disease

Fish farm management should be designed to minimize stress on fish in order to decrease the occurrence of disease outbreaks. When disease outbreaks occur the underlying cause of mortality should be identified, as well as underlying stress factors which may be compromising the natural survival mechanisms of the fish. Correction of stressors (i.e. poor water quality, excessive crowding, etc.) should precede or accompany disease treatments.


Stress compromises the fish's natural defenses so that it cannot effectively protect itself from invading pathogens. A disease treatment is an artificial way of slowing down the invading pathogen so that the fish has time to defend itself with an immune response. Any stress which adversely effects the ability of the fish to protect itself will result in an ongoing disease problem; as soon as the treatment wears off, the pathogen can build up its numbers and attack again. Rarely would a treatment result in total annihilation of an invading organism. Disease control is dependent upon the ability of the fish to overcome infection as well as the efficacy of the chemical or antibiotic used.


SUMMARY

The keys to minimize disease outbreaks on your fish farm are maintenance of good water quality, proper nutrition and sanitation. Prevention of disease outbreaks is more rewarding and cost-effective than treatment of dying fish. Disease treatments should never be applied in a haphazard fashion. When needed, chemical or antibiotic treatment should be targeted at a specific problem. Any management deficiencies in water quality management, nutritional management, or sanitation should be corrected. Fish which do not respond to a correctly administered treatment should be reevaluated by a fish health professional.•••

15 Stresses In The Aquarium & Pond

Freshwater/Saltwater/Reef/Pond

Stress is a condition in which an animal is unable to maintain a normal physiologic state because of various factors adversely affecting its well-being. It's caused by placing a fish in a situation which is beyond its normal level of tolerance. Any aquarium or pond condition that is not good for the inhabitants may cause excess stress, which usually leads to disease and oftentimes, death.


Overly stressed livestock are, by definition what we consider "sick." Stressors trigger the release of hormones that prompt the animals to fight or flee, and they increase their heart rate, blood circulation, and respiration. At worst, continual stress will cause livestock to die of exhaustion. They may become so weak that their immune systems no longer function and they will succumb to diseases or conditions that would not otherwise affect them.


Most aquarium systems have a constant supply of funguses, bacteria, and protozoa's that have little or no effect on healthy stock. Sufficiently stressed, however, they may fall prey to otherwise nonpathogenic organisms. marine fishes and invertebrates are more dependent on their environment than the terrestrial examples we are more familiar with. They are totally at the mercy of their owners to provide them with proper living conditions.


The 15 most common sources of stress are:


1) Improper pH or drastic and/or sudden changes in pH.


2) Improper temperature or sudden changes in temperature.


3) Improper salinity for short or extended periods.


4) No hiding places in which the inhabitants can retreat to feel safe. This includes not providing schooling fish with sufficient of their kind. Any schooling or shoaling fish requires at least three to five members of its own species to feel safe.


5) Aggressive tankmates. These can cause a fish to withdraw in hiding and miss out on feedings. Harassment or physical attack by tankmates leads to wounds, abrasions and further stress.


6) Poor diet. Deficiencies and dietary degenerative diseases are often the cause of loss of older captives.


7) High ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, or other metabolite levels. A high nitrite level prevents oxygen from reaching the cells and may cause suffocation or brain damage. Any detectable ammonia or nitrite is undesirable. For nitrates, there are many factors affecting toxicity and differences among species susceptibility. Keeping nitrate at less than 30 ppm for fish-only systems and less than 10 ppm in aquariums with invertebrates are appropriate goals.


8) Other toxins - chlorine, copper, detergents, iron, lead, zinc, commercial ammonia, nicotine, perfume/cologne, oil, paint fumes, and insecticides, including contaminants from dog and cat flea collars.


9) Too little or too much carbon dioxide, especially prevalent in systems that are either overcrowded with life or whose owners mismanage a CO2 infusion system.

10) Too much, too little, or irregular periods of light. Too much light (intensity, duration), affects the metabolism of all the livestock; too little light is problematic for photosynthetic invertebrates and algae. All benefit from a standard light interval of about 12 hours.


11) Dirty or cloudy water. cloudy water is usually caused by bacteria. the bacteria in the water may use up all the available oxygen or poison your stock with their metabolites.

12) Physical trauma such as pounding on the tank or sudden movements that scare the tank's inhabitants.


13) Infectious and/or parasitic disease-causing organisms.


14) Any other sudden changes in the environment.


15) Overcrowding.

The Aquatic Critter Has GloFish

General News

The Aquatic Critter, Tennessee's premiere tropical fish store for over 17 years, would like to announce the arrival of the GloFish Zebra fish on, Wednesday, December 3rd. Zebra Danios have been used in multitudes of biological and genetic laboratories the world over because of their ease of genetic alteration. First developed by the National University of Singapore, these fish have been introduced to the aquarium industry for hobbyists and those that like something a little different.


By injecting a naturally occurring fluorescence gene into the Zebra Danio, these fish not only fluoresce under natural lighting, they luminesce, or glow, when in darkness. It is important to realize that this is a naturally occurring gene in animals such as squid, not a dye or coloration. These fish are genetically healthy, live their full life spans, can pass the gene on to their offspring, and are harmless if eaten.


They were first developed to help detect the presence of environmental pollutants in water. Their fluorescence gene will not glow when in the presence of these pollutants. The National University of Singapore has agreed to license these fish to the aquarium hobbyist industry in exchange for a share of the proceeds to go back to the university laboratory for further research in the detection and alleviation of environmental pollution.


With only 200,000 fish being initially released, the Aquatic Critter is excited to be one of the first hobbyist centers in the nation to have these fish for display, as well a being the first store in the state to offer them for sale. The Aquatic Critter does not condone the sale of fish that are altered by way of dyes, artificial colors, or by physical means just for the sake of "creating" a more marketable fish. This is one reason why we find this so exciting: this is an animal and environmental friendly method of creating and offering something new and exciting for the industry. These Zebra Danios have been affectionately dubbed, "GloFish."

Want To Grow A Beautiful Aquarium Garden

Freshwater

Have you ever wanted to keep a freshwater, planted aquarium? Not just an aquarium with a few live plants, but a true aquatic garden. Doing so can be a very rewarding aquarium experience. An aquatic garden is the freshwater equivalent to keeping a saltwater reef aquarium.


Aquatic plants require three main factors to not just survive, but to thrive. These three factors are light, nutrients-fertilizers, and CO2. Light and nutrients are typically the easiest of the three to provide. However, in order to allow for lush, rich plant growth, providing adequate CO2 is the key. In order to do so, some sort of CO2 injection system is required.


Now, at The Aquatic Critter are the new Dupla pH controlled CO2 injection systems. Typically, injecting CO2 into an aquarium can cause dramatic, downward pH shifts. Well, the new Dupla system negates that worry. The injection process is controlled by a pH monitor, which you preset for the desired pH of the aquarium. As plants photosynthesize, they absorb the CO2, causing the pH to shift upwards. As this happens, and the preset pH is exceeded, the pH monitor turns on the Dupla system, delivering CO2 into the aquarium until the pH drops back to the preset, desired level. These changes in pH are minimal, however, only by a few tenths or hundredths of a point. A system such as this, is a revolutionary method of using a CO2 injection system to both provide adequate levels to the plants, while not creating the dramatic shifts in pH which can occur.


Of course, why just buy them to stock, when you can also buy one for display. We at The Aquatic Critter invite you to take a look at our new aquatic garden display aquarium. This aquarium features a 54 gallon bow front corner aquarium, giving a unique look into the aquarium. As a substrate medium we use Floramax gravel, an iron rich, deep red brown clay gravel. Beneath this substrate are heating cables by AZoo to both heat the water and help keep the plants from getting “cold feet.” By heating the water from the bottom of the aquarium, this creates a continuous upward and downward water current. The heated water from the cables moves up through the gravel and the water column in the aquarium, forcing the cooler water back down to where it is reheated. This prevents the gravel layer from becoming an anaerobic zone, and fresh water is continually brought to the plant’s roots.


Also on this aquarium are the JBJ power compact lights, which we now keep in stock, and Eheim’s new Professional II style canister filter. In addition to the Duple CO2 system, we also stock the CarboPlus system, which introduces CO2 into the water through electrolysis. So come in and take a look, and consider designing your very own aquatic garden.•••

Siamese Fighting Fish

Freshwater

America’s best friend with fins is the goldfish. But that long-standing love affair needs to end. A far better choice is a betta, or Siamese Fighting fish.


Here’s the sad truth: goldfish don’t like living in bowls. They do much better in a tank with a filter system, but betta fish thrive in torpid water. Not only are they hardier than goldfish, they’re way more suited to life in a bowl. When the water starts to become dirty and oxygen deficient, goldfish begin to fail and eventually go belly up. A betta doesn’t much care; it just reaches above the surface and takes a breath of fresh air with its rudimentary lung-like organ called a labyrinth. They also prefer lukewarm water, typical room temperature is just fine, while goldfish prefer larger spaces and somewhat cooler water.


Although goldfish do appear in various shades of gold, sometimes with black touches on their fins, bettas appear in a kaleidoscope of color combinations; blues and reds are particularly common. Their delicate fins, which appear too large for their bodies, gently fan the water.


However, don’t let the betta’s dainty appearance fool you. They’re called Siamese "fighting" fish for good reason. In the wild they live in rice paddies in such Southeast Asian countries as Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. They defend their small territories to the death, and don’t feel secure in large spaces. You’d be an accessory to a murder if you put a betta in a bowl already containing one. In fact, breeding bettas is a tricky proposition, one we don’t recommend you try without first learning as much about these interesting fish as you can.


It’s no surprise that a fish with this dramatic disposition is carnivorous. About half of a betta’s diet should consist of bloodworms. The other half should be a variety of frozen brine shrimp, freeze-fried tubifex worms, freeze-dried brine shrimp and freeze-dried chopped beef hearts. If you listen carefully, you can even hear your betta munch and crunch its food. But, don’t worry, their teeth are way too small to ever nibble on a finger.

Many people are not aware that you can keep bettas in a community tank, provided they’re the only one of their species. They’ll defend their territory from other bettas or other closely related betta species, such as paradise fish, gouramis, etc., but show little interest in other varieties of fish. In fact, other fish may harass the betta, so choose tankmates carefully. Put into a peaceful community aquarium, the splendid betta can be a star attraction•••

Goldfish... Second-Class Citizens

Freshwater

Are goldfish second-class citizens in the aquarium world? Given away as prizes at school carnivals and sold by the dozens as feeder fish, it’s little wonder that many hobbyists, and even non-aquarists, look upon goldfish as expendable or disposable. We’re referring, of course, to what are typically called "common" goldfish, not fancy goldfish. 


Aside from the ethical issues involved here, there seems to be little regard or understanding for the care requirements of these creatures. It is ironic that while goldfish are generally considered to be less challenging than "tropical" fish, they almost invariably suffer from early deaths at the hands of their keepers. In addition, goldfish are usually considered suitable for beginners, probably because they’re inexpensive. Oddly enough, despite the relatively brief life span the typical goldfish suffers, they’re still thought of as being hardy!


Let’s revise some misconceptions about goldfish. First of all, goldfish are no less important as living entities than any other species of fish. They deserve the same quality of care and feeding that tropical fish receive (or should receive). Some points to consider:


They should absolutely not be housed in "goldfish bowls." Because they have more body mass per inch of length than many tropical species, goldfish actually need more water and more dissolved oxygen. This means larger tanks and fewer fish than is acceptable for tropical species. Dissolved oxygen is dependent on the surface area of the water, so a bowl is particularly unsuitable because the more water it contains, the less surface area there is.


Goldfish need cooler water. Their respiration and metabolism are not suited to tropical water temperatures. For this reason, they should not be kept with species that need warmer water.


Goldfish grow large when kept properly, so a 55-gallon tank might only hold 4 to 5 adults. They will only grow to become full-sized adults if the tank is not crowded to start with.


Goldfish are vegetarians and will not do well on high protein diets. In addition to prepared goldfish foods, you can offer vegetable flake foods and frozen peas that are cooked for a few moments in boiling water or in a microwave. Brine shrimp, worms or similar foods, which are high in protein and offer little bulk, should not be included in their diets.


Goldfish tanks should have effective biological, mechanical and chemical filtration, just like with other fish. Regular partial water changes while hydro-vacuuming the gravel are essential.


Another thing you can do to help maintain your pet goldfish in the hot summer months when, at room temperature, your aquarium H2O may reach to the mid 80’s, is to double the amount of aquarium salt normally used to help with their osmotic (ability to effectively remove oxygen) process. We normally use one tablespoon per 5 gallons, doubling this in the summer.


When given correct care, goldfish are, in fact, quite hardy and long lived. If your goldfish aren’t living for 10 years or more, you’re not following the care requirements noted above. Anyone who has seen healthy adult goldfish can attest that the results are well worth the effort.•••

Medicating Freshwater Fish - 5 Steps To Success

Freshwater

The following steps should be followed in conjunction with the manufacturers directions on the pharmaceuticals you elect to use. When medicating sick fish, keep in mind that negative reactions to medication can happen. If you suspect your fish are not responding properly, we recommend you call us as soon as possible so that we might offer advice to help remedy your situation.


The key to success in medicating fish is making an accurate and early diagnoses, emphasis on the early. Fish are very sensitive and often become too sick to respond favorably to medication if the condition is left too long. You can help protect your investment and your pet’s well-being by becoming familiar with the basic diseases that can plague your fish and the recommended treatments to cure them.


1: Prepare your aquarium for the bombardment of a medication. Medications are often very caustic to the helpful bacteria that the aquarium needs to stay stable. Before medicating, do a partial water change of approximately 20%-30% and use a good water conditioner. Vacuum out any unwanted debris and uneaten food, and clean the filters. Remove the charcoal, carbon, or ammonia remover before medicating as this will absorb the medication instead of benefiting the fish.


2: Follow the manufacturers’ recommended dosages and ask for advice! Often there are slight variations we can suggest that might improve results, so please ask us at the time of your purchase.


3: The addition of aquarium salt to a freshwater aquarium will help the water retain natural electrolytes and can aid in stress reduction by improving gill function. Increase the surface movement by either aeration with an air pump or a water pump return. This transfers more dissolved oxygen into the water and will benefit sick fish by further reducing stress. Increasing the temperature a few degrees can eliminate weak parasites in the aquarium. These few simple steps alone will increase the fish’s strength and help build their immune system to fight off the disease, often without even the addition of a medication. But obviously, the addition of a medication will greatly benefit the situation.


4: Feed lightly! A sick fish will probably not be eating, and uneaten food can spoil your water quality. The addition of a good quality fish vitamin supplement, especially one with a strong B-12 complex or antioxidant can improve the fish’s strength during the trauma, and may increase their survival rate.


5: Wait approximately 5 days after your last dosage of medication, unless mentioned otherwise in the directions. This time can fluctuate a bit with certain medications, but as a general rule this 5 day period is needed in order to be effective. After the 5 day wait, repeat "STEP ONE," but add new carbon to the filter. The carbon along with a partial water change will begin the process of removing the medication from the environment. The continued presence of medication left in the aquarium can be harmful to your water quality. Now test the aquarium’s pH, ammonia, and nitrite levels to make sure they’re at acceptable levers.


Repeating this cleanup step may be needed in a week or two, in certain cases where the medication used was very strong. Again, if in doubt, please feel free to ask us.•••

About Snails

Freshwater

Many beginning hobbyists think snails are essential as scavengers, only to find that some red ramshorns, after a day or two in the tank, will get their antennae nipped by fish every time they poke their head out, and eventually starve inside their shell. It’s one of life’s ironies that if you want to keep snails they seem to be easily killed off, and if you don’t want them they multiply like crazy.


Most snails do best in harder/alkaline water. If the hardness/pH drops below a certain point, their shells will start to dissolve and/or grow improperly. Malaysian trumpet snails seem the hardiest, showing little adverse effect from soft water. The Ramshorn snails shell will start to dissolve, and gaps will form in the new shell growth. Mystery snails will form gaps. Most of these problems can be corrected by hardening the water, and the snails will recover, although exterior shell damage from dissolving will remain. Here are four popular species:


Ampullaria or Pomacea (Mystery or Apple snails):

If you’re breeding fish, this snail provides some great advantages. However, there are at least four distinct species of Ampullaria, three of which are ravenous plant eaters and should be kept out of planted aquaria. All are sometimes known as infusoria snails, and when kept in unplanted aquariums should be fed lettuce. Their droppings create ideal conditions for the production of infusoria, the first food of new hatched fry. If cared for properly, these snails can grow to tennis ball size. At the Aquatic Critter we carry the Mystery snail, which doesn’t eat plants.


Melanoides tuberculata (Malaysian live bearing snail):

The Malaysian snail is an interesting creature. These small snails rarely exceed ¾ inch in length, and have long sharp cone shells. They have two advantages: They dig deep in the sand for food, keeping it loose, and they reach food inaccessible to other snails. During the day they hide under the sand but at night they come out. It’s a livebearing snail and reproduces quite readily. The aquarist may experience a shock to wake up at night and see hundreds of them on the aquarium walls. However, it’s considered beneficial to a plant tank and doesn’t seem to harm plants, even in large populations.

Planorbis and Helisoma (ramshorn snails):


These shells take the form of flat spirals like the mainspring in a watch. They are generally in black but there is a red variety. These snails are usually seen in tropical aquariums. Red ones may add a little color to a tank, but have virtually no other advantage. In breeding tanks they are a nuisance, they consume eggs and eat most of the food fed to the fish. They breed profusely through the year and lay eggs in small yellow tinted balls of jelly.


Viviparus/Trapdoor Snail (Japanese live bearing snail):

These give birth to fully formed young snails and do not lay eggs. The snail is quite a large one and may be confused with Ampullaria, but the spiral of the Viviparus is much more raised, and the shell is wider than high. This snail is not hermaphrodite, so for breeding, male and female are necessary. Sex may be distinguished, as the male has a shorter and curved right antennae in comparison with the female. Their eggs hatch inside the females shell and look like tiny pearls. It doesn’t like high temperatures and is not altogether happy in a tropical aquarium. A great advantage is that it’s not a plant eater.•••

Snail Prophlactics

Freshwater

1. Use "Had-a Snail" freshwater snail control. Added directly to your aquarium, it kills snails and parasites and might guard against algae spores.

NOTE: Live plants should be removed during treatment.


2. Clown loaches will keep snails well under control.


3. Alum is also useful. Look for "Alum U.S.P." at the drug store. Soak the plants in a gallon of water that contains up to 10 teaspoons of Alum. The Alum kills microscopic bugs. Longer soaks (2-3 days) will kill snail eggs and/or snails.•••

Selecting Freshwater Fish

Freshwater

Most saltwater species cannot be kept in an aquarium with their own kind. In the freshwater world, things are totally different. Many of our more common home aquarium species require other members of their kind. The lack thereof produces stress, resulting in a life-span which is shorter than it needs to be. (See 15 Stresses In the Aquarium).


All of the tetra, danio, and rasboro species are schooling fish in nature. That is, they live in large homogeneous groups with a designated leader and individual purpose. They should not be kept in aquariums in groups of less than six.


A single male livebearer kept in the confines of an aquarium with a single female of the same species, will probably be much too aggressive towards her. They should be kept in trios consisting of one male and two females or in haphazardly produced groups where the females largely outnumber the males. This will allow the male to divide his affections.


Barbs, dependent upon their tankmates, may be guilty of chasing and fin nipping. However, in groups of five, six, or more, they are generally content to confine this "aggressive" behavior to themselves as a form of play.


Loaches and cory catfishes, while not being schooling fish per se, are very much of a social fish, and do not fare well individually. Both should be kept in groups of at least three to insure their long term well being.


Often, with the diversity of colors and body shapes available, it is tempting to stock your aquarium with one of everything. This is not fair or healthy to many of the species you have chosen.


As an entertaining and interesting change, you might consider a species tank. That is an aquarium stocked entirely of one species, with the exception of cory catfish or loaches as scavengers, and perhaps a plecostomus to perform some of the janitorial duties.

Alptasia X

General Information

Aiptasia X is an easy to use Reef safe product that will kill Aiptasia and Majano anemones. Simply feed the problem anemone a small amount of JoesJuice and watch the results. Within minutes, the anemone has disappeared and for good!


Reef Safe

- Feeding Aiptasia and Majano is simple

- Feeding can be done with the lights on

- Aitpasia and Majano DO NOT retract while being fed

- No injection required

- No need to siphon anemone out of tank after application

- Results in minutes not hours

- Applicator included

- No effects on water chemistry

Algae Blooms In Reef Tanks

Reef

The fear, often real, of most coral reefkeepers is that their corals and live rock will become overgrown with algae. To prevent this, much time, effort and money is spent on ways to prevent algae from taking over reef systems, and, if it does become established, on eliminating it. While there are many different opinions on how best to control algae growth, there is little detailed data on just what causes algae to grow so thick that it is able to smother reef organisms. Most articles on the subject (as well as products) discuss phosphorous concentrations and recommend keeping them below one milligram per liter (mg/L). Phosphorous is usually thought to be the cause of algae blooms in reef tanks, which is why hobbyists are directed to use such things as phosphate-free activated carbon. While this is sound advice, it does not always solve the problem.


There are several reasons for this. One may be that phosphorous really isn’t the problem. Perhaps another nutrient, such as nitrogen, is the real culprit. Further, is 1 mg/L really the magic number such that if you maintain phosphorous below this algae will be unable to grow? There is actually little data to support this number.


The problem of algae taking over reefs is not limited to the home aquarium. There are coral reefs worldwide that are being overgrown with algae, and there are several possible reasons for this. One study (Hughes, T. P. 1994. Catastrophes, phase-shifts and large-scale degradation of a Caribbean coral reef. Science 265:1547-1551) found that rather than high nutrient levels, the lack of algae-consuming fish was the cause of a shift from what had been a coral reef community to a macroalgae community.


Two terms that are frequently used in community ecology are “top-down” and “bottom-up.” They refer to how the structure of the food web is regulated. Bottom-up concerns the availability of nutrients or resources. Thus, in the context of a coral reef community, if nutrients are scarce, so that algae can’t grow, it is said that there is a bottom-up control on the community. On the other hand, if the production or coverage of algae is limited by the grazing action of fish (consumers) rather than nutrients, then there is said to be a top-down control on the community. The terms come from the fact that in food webs nutrients are at the bottom (used by the primary producers), while consumers are at the top. Thus, any effect nutrients have must go up the web, while any effect consumers may have goes down the web.


It can be often seen that coral reef hobbyists pursue both bottom-up and top-down control strategies when dealing with algae. Inputs of nutrients to the tank are minimized and filtration devices (protein skimming, denitrification, special resins, etc.) are used to limit the nutrients available to the algae. At the same time, certain species of fish are kept in the reef tank expressly to graze on any algae that might start to appear. In the following discussion the word algae is used frequently.


The best advice is to minimize inputs and maximize outputs. Outputs include protein skimmer waste — so use one and keep it clean — and particulate material that can be removed with a good mechanical filter, which should also be cleaned often. Also, limit the fish population to fish that are algae grazers, so that little fish food need be provided on a regular basis.


In short, good attentive husbandry is what is needed. There are no quick, easy cures. If your aquarium is experiencing massive macroalgae blooms, then consider all the different sources of nutrient inputs and work to minimize, if not eliminate, them. Finally, realize that aquaria can go through phases. For most, there is an algae bloom after set up. This is probably caused by the large amounts of nutrients from the live rock. So, rinse the rock well or use cured live rock. Algae blooms cannot be eliminated overnight. It takes time and diligence, but it can be done. •••

Eco-Wheel Aquarium System

Reef

In December, 2000 our new Eco-Wheel Aquarium System was installed. This breakthrough new system comes closer to creating a “natural” reef environment than any other set-up we’ve seen. It uses a commercial quality air pump which turns a paddle wheel on which algae grows. Using a wheel rather than a flat screen in a dump tray creates a huge surface area for algae scrubbing. The wheel has an asymmetrical internal compartment filled with bio balls, which tumbles as the wheel turns, increasing the O2 level and the biological capacity.


The wheel produces a delightful rhythmic, ocean sounding splash and surge as it turns inside its separate enclosed refugia. You really feel you’re at the ocean around these tanks.


The Eco-Wheel Aquarium System has been in design and testing by Aquatic Engineers, Inc. (AEI) since 1995 and is the first system to successfully mimic water filtration processes found in nature. The Eco-Wheel system provides water movement, water surge, algal turf scrubbing, biological filtration, “selective” protein skimming and uses a single air pump to accomplish all of these processes.


The main feature of AEI’s patented process is that it’s completely non-destructive to plankton and other organisms that comprise the lower echelon of the aquatic food chain. With these organisms left undisturbed, a complete eco-system can be achieved. As a matter of fact, it is the only commercial available aquatic life support system in the world that is non-destructive to plankton!


This amazing system features:


- Requires no centrifugal water pumps or powerheads for operation; runs entirely off of one air pump.


- Removes ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, excess nutrients, carbon, phosphates, and suspended solids.


- Greatly reduces nuisance algae in the aquarium.


- Provides “selective” protein skimming which fertilizes the algae with dead organic matter, but does not harm plankton or remove essential supplied elements.


- Maintains (feeds) zooplankton with phytoplankton and algae.


- Maintains saturated oxygen levels and a constant pH during day and night times.

Generates high flow water surge, and currents throughout the aquarium.


- Has only one moving part making for a very dependable system.


- Won’t clog, stick, or jam from debris.


- Requires very low maintenance, very easy to clean.


- Maintains a “cooler” water temperature due to the absence of centrifugal water pumps or powerheads.


- Electricity usage is minimal.


- Cannot overflow the aquarium.


- Eliminates the risk of electrocution.


Come see our new set-up and experience the wonder of this new technology yourselves!•••

Using Calcium Reactors

Reef

The use of Calcium reactors, or as they’re sometimes referred to in the aquarium literature; limestone reactors, are not really a new idea. Back in the early to mid 1980’s Dupla Aquaristic and Albert Thiel were among the first to introduce these type of reactors to the United States. In fact, if you reference Albert Thiel’s early works you’ll find numerous details about their usage and adjustments. Back in those days they were often used to increase the carbonate hardness of reef aquaria and little mention of all their other benefits were alluded to. This was due to the limited amount of knowledge available back then.


Today we know that these reactors not only provide an increase in alkalinity, but also provides an increase in calcium, magnesium and strontium levels. They also provide much needed CO2 for the inhabitants to photosynthesize more efficiently. Though the setup of these reactors is more complicated and their cost initially is high, their use can provide ease of dosing and increased efficiency.


There are essentially two types of reactor systems; the closed and open systems. The closed system is basically a reactor where the effluent is allowed to re-circulate back into the reactor and mix more evenly with the substrate enclosed in the chamber. This has the effect of using the carbon dioxide more efficiently and lowering its consumption. This system requires that a very accurate pH control device be used. Accurate calibration and cleaning of the probes is a must with this type of system.


The open reactor basically allows the effluent to immediately mix with the contents of the main system. The consumption of CO2 is higher but if the pH control system is not running properly the excess CO2 is allowed to diffuse into and out of the system.

The closed systems are more expensive but if you have many SPS corals in your tanks then it will definitely improve their growth rate. You may also elect to inject CO2 in a diffusing reactor and supplement the tank with kalkwasser. This will also work very well. In fact, the addition of CO2 will help in adding much more kalkwasser to the tank without raising the pH to dangerous levels.


Calcium reactors are excellent equipment to have if you can afford the cost of the initial setup. They will improve the conditions in the tank as well as cut down some of the chores involved with the making and dosing of Calcium solutions. They are not for everybody. The technical side of these products is something you must feel comfortable with before investing your money on a system. If you’re running small aquaria with little evaporation then one of the commercially available calcium dosing supplements are your best choice.


Calcium reactors are the best choice if you have a large number of calcium depleting organisms such as SPS corals and clams in your aquaria. The increased availability of hydrogen carbonates and carbonates will have a profound influence on their growth rate, and produce gorgeous coralines.

How Anemones Reproduce

Reef

Anemones were at one time thought to be plants, even the name of the class to which they belong, Anthozoa, means "flowerlike." However, they are animals, all able and carnivorous predators, and certainly not in need of the marine equivalent of the "birds and the bees" to carry on new generations. Anemones have developed a remarkably large variety of methods to reproduce in their natural environment.


Sexes of most species are separate with fertilization taking place in open water simply by the animals releasing their sperm and eggs. Sexual reproduction by external means is usually prompted by the phases of the moon with mass spawnings occurring at night during the first phase of a new moon. This ensures the full opportunity for eggs and sperm to unite and for the microscopic medusa-like larvae produced to join the zooplankton, all under the cover of darkness and safe from predators. They are then swept by the currents to settle and establish elsewhere.


Some anemones produce tiny complete replicas of themselves within their body cavities as a result of internal fertilization and are spewed out when fully developed. To ensure the maximum success of this particular method, these anemones are hermaphroditic, having both male and female reproductive systems.


Others increase their numbers asexually by division of the parent or smaller versions of the parent are sometimes produced as buds or offsets.


Although not all anemones will reproduce in captivity some, like a small number of species belonging to the rock anemones family Aiptasiidae, have earned the reputation of becoming pests in the aquarium by rapidly reaching plague proportions. They usually appear after hitching a ride on live rock and can take over an aquarium if not controlled.•••

Controlling Algae In Reef Tanks

Reef

Most reef keepers have, at one time or another, experienced problems controlling nuisance algae in their reef tanks. Much time, effort, and money has been spent on ways to prevent algae from taking over reef systems, and, if it does become established, on eliminating it. This article will deal with some of the causes as well as some of the methods for dealing with nuisance algae. Algae only require two things to grow, nutrients and light. Since we need all the light we can get on our reef tanks, we should concentrate on keeping nutrient levels low.


Phosphorous is known to be a major cause of algae blooms in reef tanks. This is why hobbyists are directed to keep concentrations below one milligram per liter (mg/L). While this is certainly good advice, it may not always solve the problem. There are several reasons for this. One may be that phosphorous isn’t the only nutrient used by algae. Other nutrients such as nitrogen may play an important roll, so overall management of the nutrient load in the system is important. You can achieve a low nutrient load in several ways. First, don’t overstock the tank with fish. Ideally, the tank should be "in balance," that is, it should produce enough food on its own to support the number of fish being kept. At this stocking rate, sufficient denitrification should naturally occur to keep the nutrient level low. In reality few of us actually do this. Most of us like to keep a few more fish in our tanks than we should. This tends to throw things out of balance. The system can’t produce enough food, so we have to feed. It can’t handle the elevated waste load so we must use other methods to help in the export of nutrients. The use of phosphate free activated carbon, regular partial water changes using RO/DI water, instead of tap water, and a good protein skimmer for the removal of dissolved organic compounds, will help. There are also other factors that have less to do with the nutrient load in the system.


The problem of algae taking over reefs is not limited to our home aquariums. There are coral reefs worldwide that are being overgrown with algae. Several studies on these reefs indicate that rather than high nutrient levels, it is the lack of algae consuming fish and invertebrates that allowed the reefs to become overgrown with algae. The same thing applies to our closed systems. We will always have algae growing, even with very low nutrient levels. The use of herbivorous invertebrates and fish, such as blue and scarlet legged hermit crabs, snails, and various members of the surgeon fish family, are a great help in keeping the growth in check.


In short, there is no one solution to algae control You should practice good nutrient management as well as introducing herbivorous inhabitants to keep nuisance algae to a minimum.•••

Setting Up The Eco-Sand Plenum System

Reef

Live sand systems are a completely different type of filtration because there is little real filtration. These systems depend on living organisms, rather than filtration systems, to maintain water quality Bacteria, copepods, and other organisms have adapted to remove wastes better than conventional filtration. The only other type of equipment needed is a protein skimmer which helps to remove organics from the main body of water and in gas exchange.


Place the Eco-Sand Plenum on the bottom of the aquarium with nothing between the filter and the aquarium. Placing the uplift tube at the front of the tank makes it easier to remove once the reef has been built and the tank cycled. The uplift tube is provided for the initial cycling of the aquarium. The powerhead mounted thereon will bring oxygen into the sand and encourage the growth of bacteria in the sand bed. Many types of bacteria switch from nitrifying to denitrifying bacteria in the absence of oxygen, but it is important to get the colony started by using the ammonia and nitrite produced by the fresh live rock.


Place washed CaribSea™ reef aragonite sand on top of the Eco-Sand Plenum, approximately 20 lbs. per square foot is required. Aragonite will stabilize the calcium carbonate and pH chemistry in line with natural parameters.


Place live rock on top of the CaribSea substrate, being careful not to lay large pieces of flat-shaped rock flat on the substrate surface. Dr. Jaubert recommends leaving 75% of the substrate surface unencumbered, allowing for maintenance and chemical interfacing with aquarium water. The live rock should be positioned so that plateaus or shelves are available at different heights, allowing the corals to be positioned where they are provided with the proper illumination. (Note: if live sand is used in conjunction with live rock, it must be very coarse or it will block the diffusion of water and chemicals through the substrate.)


Start the protein skimmer and lighting system once the live rock is in place. Use the Eco-Sand Plenum as an undergravel filter until there is no more detectable ammonia or nitrite. At this time, remove the powerhead and the uplift tube capping it off.•••

Debride Ointment

Pond

We would like to recommend a topical ointment for the treatment of Koi or Goldfish:

What it is:


Debride ointment is a petroleum based medication containing anti-inflammatories and topical anesthetics.


What It Does:

Applied to an ulcer or body sore in Koi or Goldfish, Debride ointment speeds healing. In 90% of cases, no injections were needed to bring about a full recovery.


Why:

Topical treatments for ulcers and body sores have ranged from Iodine in the olden days, to potassium permanganate rubs and even more recently, hydrogen peroxide. These have one thing in common: They excoriate or burn the adjacent tissues. Debride cream does not. Debride cream can be relied upon to clean a wound, applied with a cotton ball or a clean gauze. Then Debride results in accelerated healing. You have to try it for yourself.


How To Use:

Handle a fish as gently as possible. If the chase with the net becomes extended you should abort the mission and try again after dark. Never lift a fish in a net. Always bowl them into a pan and handle them in water.


We would advise that you apply Debride cream at least twice. As soon as healing appears to be starting, suspend treatment.

Pond Fish Checkups

Pond

Whether your pond fish will stay in the pond or be brought inside for the winter, now is the time to take a good health check and clear up any problems you may find. Bear in mind that the fish immune system ceases to function below about 50°F so any wounds or bacterial lesions that have not healed by that time will worsen during the winter. Bacteria have a lower temperature tolerance than the fish.


Stop by and pick up a package of Jungle Pond Anti-Bacterial Medicated Fish Food to help prevent these problems. Have questions? Call us.

Pond Hints

Pond

- Do not feed any food with corn or corn meal listed as one of the first three ingredients. Such foods are catfish chow which have been commercially prepared for rapid weight accumulation in pond raised catfish and have little nutritional value.


- Pond water temperature MUST be 70° before live plants are introduced.


- Do not buy more food than your fish can consume in 45-60 days. Even stabilized vitamin C will begin to break down after this time period, greatly reducing nutritional value. For extended food life, refrigerate; never freeze.


- Do not use pressure treated lumber above or near pond waters where run-off might be able to enter the pond. One of the primary chemicals used in pressure treating lumber is arsenic.


- If railroad ties are used to border the pond, an isolating layer must be placed between the ties and the liner. Preservatives containing bitumen destroy EPDM.


- Most commercially available snails are plant eating animals whereas Japanese Trapdoor Snails are true algae eaters.


- For those of you with smaller ponds, variegated plants of all species are generally slower growing and less invasive.


- A garden pond without algae will never exist; which is the way it should be. Algae forms the diet of many small creatures and thus is a part of the natural food chain. It is only if the algae become rampant that it must be suppressed.


Determining Pond Liner Size

Add twice the maximum pond depth to both the maximum

length and width measurements, Add one each additional foot to each total measurement (length & width) for overlap around the pond edge. 40 Mil EPDM liner available in standard widths from 10 to 40 feet in 5 foot increments.


Determining Pond Volume


Pond Volume Rectangular:

Multiply the length (in feet) by the width (in feet) by the average depth (in feet) by 7.50; the answer = total gallons.


Pond Volume Circular:

Multiply ½ diameter (in feet) by itself, by 3.412 by the average depth (in feet); the answer = total gallons.

Pond Planning

Pond​

Now that you're interested in building a water garden, it's time to decide on a pond size; total gallons as determined by length, width and depth. Every question you have from this point on: liner size, filtration and pump requirements, stocking capacity, number and kinds of plants, cost estimates, etc. will be a function of pond volume and cannot be answered without the volume being a known factor.


Take a section of garden hose or heavy rope and lay out your pond design trying different sizes and shapes until you decide on one which is visually appealing. There will be few limiting factors in terms of what is "right or wrong" other than trying to maximize surface area. Sketch the results on graph paper including dimensions.


A few brief comments regarding pond location:


- Choose a location which provides the maximum number of hours of sunlight. A minimum of five hours per day is required.


- Keep the pond as far away from trees and overhanging branches as possible. Trees, in addition to casting shade, annually shed large quantities of leaves, pollen, petals, twigs, berries and fruit; all of which serve to pollute the water.


- Do not choose an area where rain water run-off can have entrance to the pond. The presence of lawn fertilizers will make algae control an impossible task and weed killers are toxic to all of the pond’s inhabitants.


- Choose a visible, accessible site as the pond will become the focal point of your yard. Your involvement in the pond will be ever-increasing, even if it is only to watch. Convenience and comfort are of of primary concern.


- The availability of water and electrical service must be taken into consideration and/or provided for. Extension cords should not be used under any circumstances.

Please feel free to come in and pick up our pond planning literature.

Green Water... What To Do?

Pond

Algae. No other single word makes pondkeepers cringe the way it does. Basically algae is one of the most misunderstood plants in the world of water gardening. Pondkeepers need to know what algae is, why it is necessary, and how to keep it controlled. Control rather than complete eradication should be the goal for most algae.


Algae (there are 17,000 different species) belong to the plant group called thallophytes which consists of algae, bacteria and fungi. For an ecologically balanced water garden, algae is necessary. Algae is a member of the phytoplankton family and is the most basic natural food in water gardens. Small, often microscopic, suspended animals (crustaceans, rotifers, insect larvae and other invertebrates) called zooplankton feed on the phytoplankton. Small fish, in turn, feed on the zooplankton. Larger fish, on the smaller fish, and so on. Without algae, the beginning of the food web would be missing, causing everything else to go amiss.


There are two distinct types of algae: filamentous and unicellular (or single-cell). It’s the unicellular type that can cause pea green or cloudy water. Heavy blooms can have a disagreeable odor as well.


The filamentous type tends to grow around the pond edge, in and around plant pots, in waterfalls, etc. Some look (and feel) like hair and can be easily pulled by hand or using a simple tool like an inexpensive plastic spaghetti spoon. The bright green "bubbling" algae can be found where there is decay, such as around the top of a marginal plant pot that has decaying leaves. This type can be pulled as well.


All algae can be controlled by making it compete for the nutrients in the pond.

Vascular plants (also known as tracheophytes), which include nearly all of the higher plant forms to be found in the water garden, can make it difficult for algae to thrive.

Floating plants and floating plant leaves, such as those on water lilies, also help shade the pond from penetrating sunlight. Direct sun is a major contributor to algae bloom throughout spring and summer. Due to their exposed roots, floating plants make wonderful living "filters" as they uptake nutrients directly from the water.

So the trick to controlling algae is really quite simple: use lots of aquatic plants!

People who have Koi ponds, or a heavy fish load will need to take extra measures to control algae. UV sterilizers are a good choice for controlling unicellular algae, but do little in controlling the filamentous type.


It is recommended that water gardeners learn to keep the number of fish in check. The more fish, the more waste - thus, the more nutrients for algae to thrive.

Koikeepers who have no or little interest in aquatic plants will have to use various measures such as full pond shading, UV sterilizers, large biological filters and perhaps chemical additives to keep algae in check in their ponds.•••

Raising Discus

Freshwater

There are two types of Discus available on the market today, wild Discus, which are taken from the Amazon region and sold directly to the consumer, and “tank-raised” Discus, which are born and raised in aquariums. The “tank-raised” Discus is everybody’s best bet, because they tend to be more hardy and less diseased. This “sensitive” breed requires precise water conditions, good filtration, regular feeding, and specific tank mates.


While it’s true that young Discus don’t normally show a lot of bright color, when fed the right food and kept in a healthy environment, they can show their brilliant colors at a younger stage.


The most important factor when raising Discus is to be sure that your water conditions are suitable for them. The Amazon’s water is very soft, warm, and acidic, so if you’re maintaining wild Discus, it would be very important, but somewhat demanding to mimic these conditions. Fortunately, all the Discus we carry at The Aquatic Critter are “tank-raised,” and through many years of selective breeding techniques, the breeders have yielded a much heartier specimen that does quite well in an aquarium with a stable temperature anywhere from 82° to 90°, pH of 6.8 to 7.6, and a hardness of 60-120 PPM.


As a general rule of thumb, change slightly more than one third of your aquarium’s water about every two weeks. Changing too much water can rid your tank of beneficial bacteria that keep your fish healthy. It’s very important that you pay attention to the water temperature when adding new water to the aquarium. Make sure it’s exact to the tank’s. This is a good preventive to the most common fish disease known as ich. Water changes are important to keep the tank clean from excess food and waste, and they also promote fish growth. Discus don’t do well in dirty water!


Filtration is another important factor when keeping Discus. There are several different types of filters suitable for a Discus aquarium. We recommend Eheim’s line of canister filters as we’ve found these to be the most effective and maintenance easy filters available on the market today.


Feeding habits are going to differ from fish to fish, depending on what they were fed as young fish. Discus seem to acquire particular feeding habits, meaning they will usually pick certain foods and stick with them. This is why it’s a good idea to feed them a food high in all essential nutrients, e.g., frozen bloodworms, beef heart, krill, or brine shrimp. We also recommend OSI Vivid Color™, not as a staple but it does wonders to bring out their beauty! Young Discus should be fed three times a day to promote growth, and adult Discus should be fed two times a day. Be careful not to over feed as excess food on the bottom of the aquarium causes dirty water.


Give them plenty of places to hide, hiding spots will make them feel more comfortable. Use rocks to create caves, and driftwood to create structure. Live plants are always a good addition, they provide good cover for the fish, are beautiful, and are also a natural filter. We have found that most plants don’t do well at higher temperatures, although most varieties of “rooted” plants do quite well. Discus do well in community aquariums as long as they are the dominant fish. Stick with the smaller varieties of tetras, such as Lemons, Neons, Rummy-nose, and so on. Rams are also good tank-mates. Virtually any variety of smaller catfish or plecostomus can be placed in a Discus aquarium. Cory Catfish are a great addition because they will keep the bottom of the aquarium clean, and pleco’s take care of that unwanted algae.


At The Aquatic Critter, we have a new Discus supplier that provides us with some of the nicest tank-raised Discus we have ever seen. Come in and see for yourself!•••

Putting Your Pond To Bed

Pond

To successfully overwinter your plants and fish your pond should be cleaned in the fall and kept debris-free all winter long. After the first frost (usually in mid October) remove all containers and pond pumps from the water garden. Thoroughly clean all filter media and pumps. Store pumps in a bucket of water for the winter, preferably in an area above freezing.


Prune all the foliage off the HARDY pond plants (arrowhead, cattails, floating hearts, water lilies, etc.) leaving none to drop to the bottom and foul the water during winter. Very short, small leaves are produced near the crown of the hardy water lilies at this time. DO NOT PRUNE THIS FOLIAGE! If your pond is 18" or deeper you may submerse your plants to the bottom of the pond. If your pond is not deep enough and you need to store the hardy plants indoors, place the container in a bucket of water in a cool corner (40° to 55°) out of bright light. Be sure to check the moisture level periodically.


If you care to try overwintering your marginal plants they need to be taken indoors before the first frost. The umbrella palm, dwarf papyrus and taro plants (just to name a few) can be used as houseplants if kept wet and given enough light. Tropical water lilies may also be overwintered indoors, however, don’t take them out of the pond until all their leaves are dead. They can then be unpotted and put into a bucket of damp sand and stored in a cool, dark location.


With all the plant material out of the pond, pump pond water into clean containers to hold your fish. Keep pumping remaining pond water on nearby landscaping plants if practical. When the water is a few inches above the fish, net the fish and place them into the containers filled with pond water. Cover the container with cloth to prevent the fish from jumping out. The remaining muck can be scooped out or sucked out with a shop vac. Scrub the pond liner surface with a firm brush and clean water. Rinse the pond and drain.


Return the hardy plants to the deepest portion of the pond. Begin to refill the pond, then treat with a dechlorinator and salt, if needed. Add new, treated pond water to fish holding tank until the water temperature is within 3° of the pond water. Release your fish and scavengers into the pond. Remember to stop feeding the fish once the water temperature has dropped below 50°F. Unless your pond is covered with a net, keep an eye out for any leaves blowing into the water. They should be promptly removed.

As the temperature drops, ice is the cold weather culprit to be on the lookout for. It forms over the pond surface cutting off fresh oxygen supplies to the fish. The solution is to use a de-icer with a thermostat that is activated only when temperatures reach a few degrees above freezing. Be sure to check the pond in case of an electrical glitch. All pond supplies and fish are now on sale!

The Living Reef Aquarium

Reef

Currently, the most popular of the saltwater home aquaria is the living reef; complete with live rock, soft and hard corals, polyps, invertebrates, brittle stars, feather dusters, red and blue hermit crabs, and Astrea snails, while being virtually devoid of fish. Initially their popularity was economically limited as it was thought that to be successful, these aquaria had to be very large and equipped with elaborate filtration, lighting, and automated monitoring equipment. With increased species knowledge and more awareness of the biological functioning of a reef, this has proven to be false. Small, easy to maintain, affordable reef aquariums are available to anyone possessing basic water quality knowledge and an hour or so per week to devote to their maintenance. The rewards and enjoyment are unimaginable and ever-changing.


Due to the lighting requirements of many of the inhabitants, the aquarium should be of a longer, shallow construction, as opposed to the vertical "show" models available. Although equally functional, we would not recommend an aquarium of less than 20 gallon capacity. This restriction is primarily designed for visual pleasure, as the smaller aquariums do not provide sufficient area for species numbers and/or diversification.

Biological filtration is best provided by an Eco Plenum System (Reef Renovators). This is an adaptation of the Jaubert or Monaco style filtration system relying on natural bacteriological processes occurring within the aquarium. This system allows for excellent, virtually maintenance free biological filtration without the necessity or expense of overflow boxes, sumps, or water pumps. Approximately one pound of live rock per gallon of water is required. Many aquarists have reported better nitrite control and increased coral growth having used a seeding of live sand and live rock rather than live rock alone.


Mechanical filtration, strictly for debris removal and water clarity, should be provided by a simple, appropriately sized outside filter. It is not necessary to invest in the attributes of biological and chemical filtration capabilities as they are not necessary. The return flow from the filter will also serve to break surface tension, increasing oxygenation to the system.


Inexpensive illumination can be provided using either one or two twin tube fluorescent strip lights. One half of the bulbs should be of the actinic "blue" spectrum and the other half in the "white" full spectrum range. Timers should be used in conjunction with the lighting. A consistent and appropriate duration photo cycle is critical to proper coral growth and photosynthesis. If the lighting fixtures permit, the actinic bulbs should be the first on in the morning and the last off in the evening, allowing for a gradual conversion from daylight to darkness and vice versa. For rectangular aquariums with a frame of either 12 X 24 or 12 X 30, the Eclipse hood (Marineland) works excellently. It provides twin tube illumination and includes an integrated filtration system for debris removal.


Please be aware that fluorescent lighting probably will not provide sufficient illumination for all coral species and certainly not for the long term keeping of clams. The following can be used as a general guideline: When lighting the aquarium, bear in mind that corals can be loosely divided into two groups. Those within the color range of purple through red to orange and yellow do not require intense lighting. In contrast, those with beige, brown, green or blue coloring require strong lighting of the proper spectrum.


Circulating pumps or small powerheads are also necessary. Corals require a natural current to remove excreted organic waste matter and, conversely, to move nutrients within their reach. These pumps can be strategically located after the corals have been put in place, providing a more natural "wave-like" current.


A hang-on-the-back protein skimmer should be operating as soon as the live rock is introduced. Protein skimming is an area where the hobbyist can virtually spend as much as he/she wants without necessarily having increased the efficiency of the system. When making this decision, be aware that some skimming is better than none.

There are two distinct schools of thought regarding foam fractionization (protein skimming); both of which are equally well documented. One is that protein skimmers should be run twenty-four hours per day. The other being that protein skimming is indiscriminate in that which it removes and should therefore only be done eight to ten hours per day. This should probably be an area of personal preference decided by trial and error as which provides the best benefit for your reef aquarium.


Water quality is the absolute heart of the living reef aquarium. (See A Brief Introduction To The Saltwater Aquarium for more information on water and critical levels.) A living reef, by its very nature, is completely devoid of pollutants and excess nutrients. The same cannot be said for the tap water available to us. Success will largely be dependent upon using deionized or, at least, reverse osmosis water, and weekly testing of water quality parameters. The Aquatic Critter sells deionized, prebuffered, temperature controlled saltwater in five gallon containers.


Incidental equipment should include a high quality heater (preferably submersible), digital thermometer, saltwater test kits to include pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and calcium, a hydrometer, pH buffer, calcium, a coral "conditioner" of choice and dechlorinator.


Recommended equipment would also include a titanium ground probe to remove induced voltage created by circulating pumps, heaters, power filters, and powerheads, and a copy of "Natural Reef Aquariums" by John Tullock. This is undoubtedly the most comprehensive, understandable text which has been published on the subject of maintaining a captive reef.