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

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,


Chemical filtration: Media Reactors

One of the most beneficial pieces of equipment to make its way into the hobby in recent years is the media reactor. Media reactors maximize the efficiency of just about any chemical filter media. By actively passing fluid through a reactor, you will eliminate clogging and bypass problems found when using a traditional filter media bags. Media reactors can have very specific uses, like the calcium reactors and kalkwasser reactors that I discussed in a previous blog, or they can be used for a variety of other purposes. Two similar reactors that are sold as fluidized phosphate media reactors, the Two Little Fishes Phosban Reactor, and the Kent Marine Phos Reactor, can be used with most granular or pelletized chemical media. These units are not just for phosphate remover; these units work great for carbon and other resins.

One of the coolest reactors to hit the market is the new Simplicity Fluidized Bed Chemical Reactor from Magnavore. This unit is designed for use in a sump, and is very easy to install and operate. Micron sieves on either side of the reactor make sure that nothing escapes from the reactor, and the media container is reversible to eliminate clogging problems before your media is exhausted.

The Magnavore unit can be purchased as a stand alone reactor, or there are actually two units incorporated into the new Magnavore Berliner 125 wet dry filter, which is one of the most innovative wet dry filter available.

Get the most out of your chemical filter media, try a reactor

Until next blog


Vacation Aquarium Food

Worried about what to do with your aquarium when you go on vacation? Who will feed the fish? No need to worry, there are several products that are easy to use, that will feed your aquarium for you while you are away.

There are several options for feeding your aquarium while you are away from home. The first, and easiest, option is to use a vacation feeder block. Vacation feeder blocks, like the Pyramid Feeder from Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, are a community fish food that is imbedded into a slowly dissolving binder that slowly releases food for your fish. These work great for small fish, and community fish, and are safe to use on most aquariums. These types of feeders are typically made with plaster and should not be used repeatedly without performing water changes in between usage; repeated use will affect your aquariums pH.

A new type of dissolving feeder is also available from Tetra. The TetraVacation Feeders use a Gel binder to hold the food which will not affect pH in repeated use, and are considered safer to use than the older plaster type feeders.

If you have finicky eaters, or you travel often, an Automatic electronic fish feeder is a better option for you. Electric feeders give you the ability to use your fish’s favorite pellet or flake food, so that you know your fish is getting food they will eat. Feeders like the Current AquaChef, are programmable and adjustable, so that you can feed as often as you like, and also control how much food is fed at each meal. Automatic feeders like the Rondomatic from Grasslin have individual compartments for each meal, so you can feed different foods at different times. Automatic feeders are great to use year round. Most feeders are battery operated.

Whichever vacation feeder you choose to use it is a very good idea to do a test feeding before you go on vacation. This way you can fine tune your electronic feeder so that you have the feeding volume correct. If you are using one of the dissolving feeders you can make sure that it is acting properly with your water chemistry, and that your fish are eating the type of food in the feeder. Testing the products first will make sure that you do not over or underfeed your fish.

hope that gives you one less thing to worry about when you are on vacation, until next blog.


Power Outages and The Home Aquarium

With all of the recent ice storms that many of us have had the fun of experiencing this winter, I thought it would be a good time to discuss what to do when the power goes out and shuts off your aquarium.
There are a couple things that are going to become of immediate concern during a power outage; oxygen in the water; and temperature control. For short power outages, of up to an hour, you probably have nothing to worry about in most home aquariums. For longer power outages, several hours or more, you will need to keep a close eye on your aquarium, and action may be required.

The best time to think about power outages is before they happen, supplies will be limited or unavailable during a prolonged power outage, and you will probably have more important issues to deal with other than your aquarium.

212719Especially in heavily stocked aquariums, oxygen levels in the water are going to be your primary concern. Fish, invertebrates, and bacteria all consume oxygen, and can quickly strip all available oxygen in your aquarium, especially at high temperatures. A Battery powered air pump is a relatively cheap insurance policy in the event of a prolonged power outage, air stones are the best way to provide oxygen and water movement. Basic units run on 2 “D” batteries and can power an air stone as long as you have batteries to put in it. There are a couple of more advanced battery backup pumps available also. The Penn Plax Silent Air B11 can detect power outages and come on automatically; it also runs on two “D” batteries. The OSI PAP 10C will operate as a normal air pump while the power is on, and then switch to its internal rechargeable battery when a power outage is detected. The units internal battery keeps itself charged under normal operation, then supplies up to 10 hours of battery life when the power goes out.

There are also a couple of products that can add oxygen to your aquarium chemically. Jungle Labs Bag Buddies and Tom Aquarium Products Oxygen stones are dissolving tablets that release oxygen into your aquarium. These products are designed for use in transporting livestock, but can also be used in emergency situations like power outages.

Temperature problems are more difficult to deal with, as without power you are at the mercy of the room temperature where the aquarium is located. Aquarium temperatures will not change rapidly, especially in large aquariums. If you are fortunate to live in a climate that does not have extreme heat or cold during the year then you are most likely going to be fine. If you live somewhere that extreme temperatures occur, then the next step is something that you may want to consider.

Using an electrical generator may be your best option if you live in a location that is prone to extended power outages, or extreme weather. You can get a small generator that can run your basic aquarium equipment, including your heater(S) for about $400 dollars at your local hardware store. The range of generators available can be mind boggling, you can get anything from a small portable unit, to a hardwired unit that can run your whole house indefinitely. Depending upon the investment that you have in your aquarium, a generator may or may not make sense. If you have a large reef tank, or exotic species of fish, the cost of a small generator may not be much when compared to the investment you have in your aquarium.

I hope this information has been helpful, and that the next ice storm is far away

Until next blog.