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After graduating from Coastal Carolina University with a BS in Marine Science in 1996, I started my professional career in 1997 as an aquarist at Ripley’s Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, SC. This was an amazing experience, in which I gained invaluable hands on training in exhibit design and construction, as well as husbandry skills for a wide range of animals. In 2000 I started working at That Fish Place as one of the staff Marine Biologists, with the responsibility of maintaining one of the largest retail fish holding systems in the world. I presently hold the position of Director of Aquatic Science, where I oversee the operation of our 35,000 gallon retail aquarium systems, and provide technical support for our mail-order and retail store customer service staff. As an aquatic product specialist, I also provide support for our purchasing and marketing departments, as well as contribute web content and analysis. As a Hobbyist I acquired my love of aquariums from my father who was keeping a large aquarium in early 70’s, and set up my first aquarium when I was 12 years old. I have now been keeping aquariums for over 35 years, and through this time have kept more aquariums and types of fish than I can remember. I set up my first Saltwater aquarium in 1992, which led me down the path I still follow today.

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Pond Health Tip: Using Salt

Pond Health Tip: Using Salt

One of the easiest things that you can do to help promote the health of the fish in your pond is using Salt. Whether you have a small pool of Goldfish, or a large Koi Pond, using salt as part of your maintenance regiment is a simple, safe and inexpensive product that can greatly benefit your fish’s health.

During times of stress, whether from parasites, pathogenic bacteria, or poor water quality, fish can struggle to maintain proper electrolyte balance in their bodies. Fish use special cells in their gills, called chloride cells, to absorb electrolytes from the surrounding water. The absorbed electrolytes play an important role in a fish’s ability to intake oxygen, and release Carbon Dioxide and Ammonium through their gill membranes. When a fish’s natural ability to maintain its electrolyte balance is reduced, they can suffer from a condition known as “Osmotic Shock”. Fish suffering from osmotic shock have trouble absorbing oxygen, and in poor water conditions are at high risk of perishing from nitrite toxicity. Keeping a therapeutic level of salt in your pond will help maintain your fish’s electrolyte balance, and help prevent Osmotic shock, and reduce the stress of elevated nitrites in new ponds, or poor conditions. Another benefit of using salt is that salt will also promote a heavy slime coat on your fish. Your fishes slime coat is its first line of defense of attack from parasites and disease. Proper gill function and slime coat are key to a fishes over all immune system and health.

Salt can be used for several purposes in maintaining your fish’s health. As I have already discussed, you can use salt at a low maintenance level for an indefinite period of time, how much salt can safely be used depends upon your pond. You need to be careful with the amount of salt that you use in your pond, especially when using salt in ponds with live plants. At Higher concentrations, salt can have negative affects on plant life. You need to be sure of your pond volume; this will allow you to accurately calculate your salt dosage requirement. For ponds that have live plants you should keep a maintenance level of salt between .05% – .1%. For ponds with fish only, you can maintain a maintenance level between .1% -.2%, these concentrations are safe to use all the time.

Salt is also a highly effective treatment against common parasites found in ponds, as well as nitrite toxicity. If you do not have plants in your pond, you can use an elevated therapeutic level of .2%-.4% for 2 to 4 weeks, this will reduce the stress of parasitic attack on the fish, limit the parasites ability to reproduce, and even kill many of the parasites. If you want to use a therapeutic level of salt, but you have plants, you can remove your plants temporarily into a kiddy pool, and then treat your pond. After conditions have improved simply perform a water change to get the salt concentration back below .1% and then reintroduce the plants.
Salt can also be used as a short term bath when severe parasite infestation or bacterial infection has reached advanced stages. You can catch your fish, and place them into a high concentration of salt to rapidly kill and remove parasites from the fish. Bath concentrations of salt should be 2%; the fish can be dipped for up to 15 minutes, depending upon the behavior of the fish, and its reaction to the salt bath. If the fish is not handling the salt bath well, or is having trouble breathing, remove immediately.

What kind of salt do you use? Non Iodized table salt (sodium chloride) can be used, but a better choice is a salt that is made from evaporated sea salt, or a synthetic equivalent. While sodium chloride is the major componet in seawater, there are a number of other minerals in seawater that fish can use to maintain electrolyte levels, such as calcium, magnesium and potassium. Brand name salts such as Aquarium Pharmacueticals Pond Salt, and
Pondmaster Pond Salt
by Supreme, are evaporated sea salts.

One last thing to remember when using salt in your pond is that salt does not evaporate, so it never leaves the pond. Do not add more salt when you add water to your pond that has evaporated. The only time you need to add more salt is when you have physically removed water from your pond, like from a water change, or a severe rainstorm that caused the pond to overflow. You should always test your salt level before making any adjustments.

I hope that this has helped answer some questions about using salt in your pond

Until next blog,


Amazing Coral Story

With this weeks passing of Earth Day 2008, I thought I would write a blog about this great article that I had read recently on www.sciencedaily.com. Some of the darkest days in U.S history involve the nuclear weapons use and testing during and after WWII. Most people learned about the bombs dropped on Japan during WWII in history class, or from family members who lived in that era.

Much less well known nuclear testing was done in the years following WWII as the cold war escalated, and the demand for bigger and bigger bombs grew. From 1946 to 1958 the U.S. Government conducted nuclear bomb tests on the remote Pacific Island Group of Bikini Atoll, which is part of the Marshall Islands. In 1954 the U.S. detonated, what was at the time, the largest hydrogen bomb ever tested. The bomb was code named Castle Bravo, and was 15 megatons (1,000 times more powerful that the bomb dropped on Hiroshima). The blast vaporized 3 islands, raised the water temperature to 55,000 degrees, and left a crater that was over a mile wide and more that 200 feet deep. Needless to say, there was nothing left of what was a thriving tropical island group and surrounding reefs.

Enough of the bad news, this story has a happy ending. Recently a group of international scientists returned to Bikini Atoll to see what was there, almost 50 years later. Plant life on the surface had returned, but is still contaminated with radiation (don’t eat the coconuts). What the group found underwater was truly amazing. As they planned their dive into the Bravo Crater, expectations were running wild. The last time the area was surveyed it looked like part of the moon, and was irradiated.

What they found was a thriving coral reef ecosystem that had completely self seeded itself in the once barren wasteland. Porites corals that reached 25ft in the water, huge formations that looked like trees reaching for the surface. The belief is that water currents from untouched neighboring areas brought larval corals to Bikini, where they settled and matured. The corals had recolonized as much as 80% of the habitat in some of the areas studied.

Compared to studies performed at Bikini prior to the testing, the results show that there has been a serious impact on the diversity of corals to the area. The new study showed that 40 species that were documented to have been there prior to testing, where no longer there, and appear to be locally extinct. I found it amazing that what was there had reclaimed space that had felt the worst of what human kind can offer.

This news shows that, given the chance, reefs can recover from even the most severe destruction. Maybe by looking at the species that are thriving in the Bravo Crater, we can use them to as a guide to recolonizing reefs that have been destroyed by shipping, fishing, and pollution around the world. The main thing that I took from the story is that if we as a society can get our act together as far as protecting our natural resources, that Mother Nature can fight back pretty hard if we let her.

Until Next Blog,


World’s Oldest Aquarium Fish Celebrates 75 Years

I just read this article and thought I’d pass it along to you. It’s about an Australian Lungfish named Grandad that’s lived in the John G. Shedd Aquarium for 75 years, making it the oldest aquarium fish in captivity. As That Pet Place is the World’s Largest Pet Store, we’ve gotta’ support these Guinness-worthy fish achievements. Now I have heard many a “fish tale” about certain species living for years in various conditions, obviously pond koi come to mind, but I’d love to hear any fish records. Take a look for yourself. This article and picture were originally posted by the Daily Herald in Chicago. The image is taken from there. “The Oldest Aquarium Fish in the World Celebrates 75 Years”

Until Next Time,


High Tech Wave Makers

Wave makers have gone high tech in recent years; I would like to introduce you to a couple of the units that we carry here at That Fish Place. The EcoTech Marine VorTech propeller pump system, and the Seio Electronic Controller from TAAM.

The EcoTech Marine VorTech is one of the most ingenious water pumps ever made. The motor section of the pump is actually located outside of the aquarium, and powers the inner propeller section through a magnetic system. This eliminates heat caused by traditional submersible pumps, as well as gives the internal portions of the device a really small size, especially for the amount of flow that it is capable of. This system allows the pump to be mounted virtually anywhere in your aquarium

The pump is controlled wirelessly with the EcoTech Marine Wireless Wave Driver. The driver allows you to control the output of the VorTech from 500 gph to 3000 gph, with several settings for different flow patterns. It also has a feed mode that shuts the pump off when you want to turn it off for feeding your aquarium.
EcoTech Marine also makes a battery back system for the Vortech that can keep the unit running up to 30 hours in the event of a power outage.

The Seio Electronic Controller, when mated with two Seio Super Flow Pumps, creates a powerful wave making system. The controller will operate one or two Seio Pumps from 30% to 100% output, and you can control the duration and cycle of speed changes. The result is wildly variable water currents that mimic nature in motion. The unit also has a feeding mode that shuts down the pumps for feeding your aquarium

I can’t wait to see what comes out next

Until next blog,


Home Aquarium Care – Choosing a Power Filter

At That Fish Place, we get questions from hobbyists at all levels of involvement: from those looking to try their hand at keeping a few freshwater tropicals to someone ready to install a 2000 gallon reef system in their living room. This post is geared toward those starter hobbyists looking for reliability, ease and convenience in maintaining their first aquarium: while keeping costs to a minimum. I’d like to focus on the “ol’ reliable” of aquarium filtration: the Power Filter.

First, let me say that though everyone wants a “quick fix” when it comes to aquarium filtration, there really is no filter that can take the place of regular water changes. Regardless of the system you choose, regular water changes will always be required to keep your aquarium in ideal condition.
Three of the most popular aquarium power filters, and certainly ones with staying power and longevity on the market, are the Tetra Whisper, Marineland Emperor and Penguin and Hagen AquaClear power filter models. All have been around for years and each are about as simple and straightforward as it comes in maintenance and operation.

Whisper power filters are designed with only a single moving impeller to draw aquarium water into the filter, where it then flows back into the aquarium through the filtration media. In this case, a simple-to-use and replace cartridge uses activated carbon and floss material to provide chemical and mechanical filtration, while an additional bio-sponge maintains biological activity. With only one moving part, they’re easy to maintain and repair and are renowned for their ease of use. As the name suggests, these filters are also very quiet. The only drawback is they really don’t offer many choices for additional filter media. Depending on your aquarium’s conditions, you may want to add extra media to take out ammonia or phosphate, and Whisper models don’t really allow for much customization.

Penguin and Emperor Bio-Wheel Power Filters are well-known for their patented Bio-Wheel design. This rotating wheel provides beneficial bacteria access to the atmosphere, which has much more available oxygen than your aquarium water. The bio-wheel system on the Penguin and Emperor filters allows for far more efficient biological filtration ability than a standard power filter. Chemical and mechanical filtration is provided with a cartridge, just like the Whisper model. Water flows through a single-impeller pump drawn through an intake tube. The Bio-Wheel and impeller parts are easy to find and replace. The Bio-Wheel design does add some extra water flow noise, but nothing that is too noticeable. Like the Whisper model, the penguin filter does not offer additional space for chemical filter media. The Emperor models offer an additional cartridge space that allows you to add your own choice of chemical media to the filter.

Hagen’s AquaClear Power Filters are also a popular option. Each one uses the single impeller motor design typical of power filters. The biggest difference is that these units also have a filter media area, allowing for more customized filtration options. Various medias are available in premeasured packets from Hagen, or you can add your own using a filter media bag. The lack of an easy-to-change cartridge makes these models not quite as simple as the others, but the premeasured media packets and increased versatility make up for that.

There are also a few new options on the power filter market. While not as proven or tested as the established stand-bys, some of these offer unique features worth taking a look at. The new Aqueon Power Filter offers a larger biological grid as well as a motor that actually sits below water level inside the tank: eliminating priming and noise.

The Biosystem Power Filter uses a typical cartridge type filter system, as well as a cool intake tube that actually acts as a surface skimmer to take away build-up on the surface of the water in your tank.


The new Rena SmartFilter Power Filter is one of the more innovative filters to come out in this market segment. The SmartFilter offers an easy-to-install cartridge design and bio chamber, and has many different cartridges available to customize your filtration options. The smartfilter also has an available integrated SmartHeater systems that actually doubles as the intake tube for that filter, thus eliminating the need for a separate heater in your aquarium, aquarium viewers will never know its there.
While not recommended for larger tanks, power filters offer excellent filtration to the right size aquarium; and they can’t be beat when it comes to ease of use and durability. I hope that this has helped you make a power filter selection for your aquarium

Until next blog,