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Includes articles on new aquarium product spotlights, guides, or detailed reports on product effectiveness in aquariums.

Adding a New Fish? Don’t Forget to Quarantine

Sam here. Quarantine tanks are very important for new or sick fish. When bringing fish home they should be housed in a quarantine tank for the first couple of weeks to be sure they are in good health. There are several reasons for this.

1. Stress

Just like people, fish get stressed out when they are suddenly thrust into a new environment, and this stress only increases in the presence of other fish. A quarantine tank allows your fish to “come down” from that intial home stress, making it healthier to cope with life in the main aquarium.

2. Easier and Cheaper to Medicate

Transporting or moving fish is a stressful time, and often leads to disease. Fish commonly contract bacterial infections, fungal infections or parasitic infections after coming home, and the last thing you would want would be to spread these to your other fish. In addition, an isolated sick fish is much more ecomomical, quicker and easier to medicate than one in a large display tank. Many common fish medications, such as copper or formalin based, are detrimental to other tank inhabitants as well as biological filtration, so keeping an isolated quarantine tank is essential.

3. Easier to Observe

There is no better way to ascertain the health of a fish than simply by watching it. Large display tanks can have lots of nooks and crannies for fish, especially stressed ones, to hide. Having an isolated quarantine tank makes it quick and simple to gauge when your fish is in prime shape.

Have a great New Year,

Sam

New LED lighting technology coming to TFP – Part 1

Aquarium with 2 Panorama LED fixture Dave here.  I just got back from a trip to California to visit with the folks from Ecoxotic, a new aquarium lighting company that specializes in LED technology.  Many thanks to Ecoxotic for the opportunity,not only was the trip informative, but it is much warmer in southern California than it is here in frosty Pennsylvania.  Ecoxotic has just started shipping product this month, and we will have it here at TFP very soon, so I wanted to give a quick rundown of the new products that we will be carrying from this exciting new company. Read More »

So, You’ve Got Questions About Reverse Osmosis Water?

Hi everyone, Justin here. Working on the sales floor, we get a lot of technical aquarium questions, many involving water quality.  Today, I’d like to talk a little about reverse osmosis and what RO units do.  RO, or Reverse Osmosis units are the best way to ensure that your water is perfectly clean. Reverse osmosis is a process in which dissolved solids are removed from water. The pressure from your tap forces the water through a semi permeable membrane that allows only water to pass through. The contaminants are then washed out in the waste water.

There are many factors that will determine the efficiency of your RO filter. Incoming water pressure should be around 60 psi. This is standard pressure coming from most hoses and sink faucets. If the pressure is too low, a booster pump may be necessary to increase the pressure into the RO unit. Water temperature is another important factor. Water that is too cold will cause a drop in pressure, while water that is too hot will damage the membrane. A suitable temperature range is 60-75 degrees F. Total dissolved solids, or TDS, is the measure of the amount of solids dissolved into your water. The higher the TDS in the tap, the quicker the membrane will wear out and need to be replaced. The age and quality of the membrane will also determine the effectiveness of the RO. A new membrane will pull out more TDS than an older membrane. A higher quality membrane will also be more efficient and last longer.

RO membranes will remove contaminants on an ionic level. This means that the membranes will remove single ions and particles as small as 0.001 microns. As a reference, the smallest known bacteria is approxiamately 0.200 microns. Below is list of the ions removed and an average percentage removed:

TYPICAL REJECTION CHARACTERISTICS
OF R.O. MEMBRANES

Elements and the Percent R.O. Membranes will remove

  Sodium

Sulfate

Calcium

Potassium

Nitrate

Iron

Zinc

Mercury

Selenium

Phosphate

Lead

Arsenic

Magnesium

Nickel

Fluoride

Manganese

Cadmium

Barium

Cyanide

Chloride

85 – 94%

96 – 98%

94 – 98%

85 – 95%

60 –75%

94 – 98%

95 – 98%

95 – 98%

94 – 96%

96 – 98%

95 – 98%

92 – 96%

94 – 98%

96 – 98%

85 – 92%

94 – 98%

95 – 98%

95 – 98%

84 – 92%

85 – 92%

% may vary based on membrane type water pressure, temperature & TDS

There are two different types of membranes commonly available, CTA and TFC. CTA stands for cellulose tri-acetate and is safe for use with chlorine-based water sources. CTA membranes should be used for City Water sources. TFC stands for thin film composite and is not safe for use with chlorine based water sources. TFC membranes must be used with well water, or chlorine free water sources only.

Inside the lines of each RO unit are flow restrictors to ensure proper pressure and flow over the membrane. These flow restrictors are small “dams” or nozzles that allow only a certain amount of water flow through the lines. The membranes coupled with these flow restrictors are made to handle the maximum flow of water through the restrictors. Placing a membrane rated too low into the unit will ruin the membrane, while placing a membrane rated too high will not increase production of water.

There are many different styles of RO filters available. 2 Stage and 3 stage filters are the most commonly available, but other higher stage filters are also available. On all two stage RO filters, there is the membrane, a micron cartridge, and a carbon block. The micron cartridge pulls out tiny particles that may be in the water. The carbon block will pull out any organic contaminents before entering the membrane. The membrane is the last stage in all 2 stage filters. In 3 stage filters, the last stage is a deionization cartridge. The deionization cartridge or DI removes any ions that may have passed through the membrane. The 3 stage RO/DI filters are the most efficient and will guarantee clean water.

I hope this article helps you to understand what RO units do and how they benefit your aquarium and the fish you keep.  Feel free to comment or ask any questions you may have!

Thanks,

Justin

Freshwater Nano Aquarium Environments – The Things You Can See

Hey guys, Craig here again. With an increase in technology, the economic crunch, and just the versatility of smaller tanks in general, the popularity of nano tanks has exploded in the past 5 years. Not surprising, since many kits are now available with everything you need to get started. In addition to the obvious advantages of these tanks, I feel these small tanks give aquarists an opportunity to go back to their roots, so to speak, and focus on why they started in the hobby in the first place, their love of aquatic species. Nano tanks bring to the forefront the activities of the creatures within, and more accurately, provide access to a wealth of animal behaviors that may be missed in a large aquarium environment.  Sam has talked about some of his experiences with marine nano tanks, now let’s explore some freshwater ideas!

The Shell Dwellers – Small in Size, Big on Attitude

N. multfasciatusPerhaps one of the most amazing behaviors exhibited by any fish is that of the shell dwelling cichlids from Lake Tanganyika. Several species exist, each of them exhibiting the curious habit of living in abandoned snail shells. Not only do they use the shells as shelter, they even spawn and rear their young the shells! Neolamprologus multifasciatus, for example, can thrive in a small aquarium and may exhibit courting and dominance behaviors within its own colony. In a small aquarium, each member of the colony will pop in and out of its own shell and guard the entrance like a little bulldog. Even when cleaning the aquarium, your giant hand does nothing to discourage a dominant male from nipping at you to protect its little home! A sandy substrate and some empty snail shells that are about 2 or 3 inches in diameter are about all you need to give these fish the décor that they need to perform!

Dwarf Rasboras – Fish for the Smallest of Spaces

Bororas sp.Smaller freshwater tanks can have their mini-fascinations too. With several new species of tiny fish being brought into the hobby, putting together a stunning little freshwater nano tank is easy! One of the little fish from Thailand, Boraras sp. “South Thailand”, could easily be the centerpiece to such a tank. These little guys are less than an inch long at adult size. In a 12 gallon aquarium, you could easily keep a school of 10 to 12 fish. Given their diminutive size, keeping these fish with anything else would be extremely hazardous to their health, making them ideal candidates for a small species set-up. Dwarf Rasboras also show some interesting behaviors.  Males of this species will often move away from the school and stake out a little territory in an attempt to coax willing females down to spawn. In an aquarium with many other fish, intriguing little actions like this might easily go unnoticed.

Cherry Shrimp Colonies for Tiny Tanks

Cherry ShrimpNano tanks aren’t just suited for observing fish. You may want to consider keeping freshwater shimp! Little Cherry Shrimp are fascinating to watch as they graze on algae and skitter around the aquarium. In a small aquarium, you could start with 5 or 6 of these shrimp and you may have double that number within several weeks. Cherry Shrimp are known to be prolific, and with no fish in the aquarium to eat the baby shrimp, you can see the development of your very own little colony. An easy set up for these would include dark, natural sand with a couple of moss balls and a nice small piece of driftwood for decoration. The moss balls will help to provide natural food as well as an intriguing habitat for your shrimp.

Something for Everyone

These are just a few of the exciting freshwater creatures and aquatic behaviors you may have missed in a larger tank. From cichlids to shrimp, just a little creativity can really make something small into something special. Does anyone out there have their own little stunning aquarium they would like to share? Please feel free to comment and tell us what you keep in a nano tank.

Until Next Time,

Craig

Nudibranches – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Cory here. I thought I’d take my next few blogs to go over the “ins and outs” of Nudibranches. Like lots of organisms living in an aquatic system, these interesting creatures bring a host of features to your saltwater tank. And, along with the good, it’s important to point out the bad…and the down right ugly things about nubibranches in your aquarium too.

The Bad:

Nudibranches target Montipora, Zoanthids, and Softies

There are so many coral eating organisms, Butterflies and Angelfish are the obvious ones. However, some of the worst pests are ones that you can barely see. Flatworms and Red bugs are most notorious for destroying Acropora species. However, Montipora species have their own pest: a Nudibranch.

Montipora CapricornisThey are hard to see, especially if you do not know what you are looking for. The largest I have seen was a half centimeter in length, tucked behind a crevice in the coral. They are always near a piece of the coral that is in the process of dying. This particular nudibranch feeds only on Montipora tissues, more commonly the plating varieties such as Montipora capricornis. They lay their eggs in a spiral or cluster, on the underside of the coral. Usually hatching within a few days, depending on water conditions, they immediately begin munching on the coral tissue. A couple adult Nudibranches can easily consume a one inch frag in 24 hours.

There isn’t a simple way to eradicate them. Dipping the corals in a Lugols Iodine or Tropic Marin Pro Coral Cure solution will help to loosen the nudibranches, so they can be extracted. The dip however, will not kill the egg mass. The eggs must be removed immediately using a scraper, toothpick, or a toothbrush. Any portion of the coral that has died or seems to be infected should be cut off just in case there are eggs imbedded in the skeleton.

Nudibranches are also commonly found feasting on Zoanthid polyps. These particular types of Nudibranches are especially hard to find because they look very much like the polyp that they are eating, even matching the color in most cases. Zoanthids commonly close and stay closed for days, eventually polyps begin to disappear. This is usually the first sign of infection. Again, like the Montipora Nudibranches, dips will only remove the adults, leaving the eggs behind. The eggs are usually laid on the underside of the poylps, but can also be found on the rock itself.

Soft corals have many different species of Nudibranches that prey on their tissues. Some are extremely large and colorful, while others camouflage themselves, making detection extremely difficult. Like other corals, removing the adults with coral dips and manually removing the eggs when possible is the only effective way.

There are so many species of Nudibranches in the oceans, many found on the Reef and serving some purpose good or bad. We are learning more each and everyday about Nudibranches, what they eat and where they come from. We are importing corals from around the world, in some cases from areas we have never collected before. With new locations, comes new pests and most likely new Nudibranch species, good and bad.

Check back soon for the next part of this article.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cory