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Contains articles featuring information, advice or answering questions regarding aquarium fish and other livestock.

TFP 700 Gallon Reef Tank

Hi, Dave here, I thought that I would do some blogs about some of the things that I have been working on here at TFP. I will start with one of my projects that I have been working on this year, the remodeling of our Custom Design Center in our retail store. The Custom Design Center is our showcase of aquarium displays. We originally set up the displays about four years ago, and it is time to give them some updating and upgrading. The first tank that we decided to give a facelift is the centerpiece of this display, our 700 gallon in-wall aquarium. Originally set up as a FOWLR (Fish Only With Live Rock, for you non reefers) and a few soft corals, we decided that our centerpiece should be a full blown reef. Putting this display together has been a blast, we really took our time with thinking out the design, and the components to the tank, then over a period of a couple months earlier this year we got the tank up and running just prior to our annual anniversary sale this past April. Those of you who made the trip out here this year got to see the tank after it had been running for about two weeks. We had a good starting point, as we tore down the original tank, and several small reef displays in the store, keeping all the cured live rock and some of the corals, fish, and Inverts for the new tank.

The Tank

The tank itself is a custom 700 gallon Oceanic that measures 120”x 36”x36”. As with all the large custom Oceanic tanks, it has a powder coated stainless steel frame, an ABS, HDPE and glass laminate bottom for extra strength, and ¾” glass panels. Ours has two rear overflow boxes, as well as 4 holes in the bottom panel for a closed loop flow system (I will cover this more in the filtration section) As you can probably guess this is a very heavy tank, I think its dry shipping weight was about 2,200 lbs when crated. Not something that you and your buddies are going to muscle into place, all moving was done with a forklift.

Lighting
700 Gallon Reef Tank Lighting From Above
Knowing we wanted to set up an SPS dominated reef tank that was 36” deep, proper lighting was going to be something that we needed to take care of. The guys at Ice Cap, Inc. really stepped up and helped us make sure that our lighting was top notch, and would allow us to keep whatever we wanted. We chose the new Ice Cap 400w HQI pendant lights, the tank has six of these, and the tank also has six 39 watt HO T5 actinics. All these are powered by Ice Cap electronic ballasts.

As you can see in the pictures, there are three openings in the top of the tank, each opening has two 400w halides and two HO T5 actinics. Each set is hinged above the tank on a hinged rack system that I designed, that allows you to flip the lights up a section at a time to work on that area of the tank. This works really well, it allows you to leave the other 700 Gallon Reef Tank at That Fish Place Lights Downsets of lights on so that you can see in the section that you are working on. On a tank that is 10’ long, that you need a ladder to look into the tank, this comes in handy.

Filtration

There are several parts to the filtration system on the aquarium. There is a Custom Trigger systems sump and protein skimmer, a closed loop circulation system, and a 60 gallon refugium/frag/quarantine tank.
The custom Trigger Systems filtration system that we had custom made for the filtration room that is behind the aquarium is a beast. The sump measures 60”x28”x20”, one end has 4 built in filter socks. 700 Gallon Reef Tank at That Fish Place Protein SkimmerThe protein skimmer recirculates on this section, so it has a constant supply of raw surface water. Then there are a series of baffles, an open center section, another series of baffles, and then a third section where the return pump draws water from. The protein skimmer is also a custom Trigger Systems design that is matched to the sump. It is a dual Beckett injector design that is 10” in diameter, and 44” tall, it works great, lots of thick dense foam. The skimmer is run by a Sequence Marlin pump, and the system return pump is a Sequence Hammerhead.

700 Gallon Reef Tank at That Fish Place Closed LoopThe Closed Loop system sits underneath the aquarium. There are four holes drilled into the bottom of the aquarium, one serves at the drain that feeds the pump, the other three are returns that circulate the return water throughout the live rock structure in the tank. The closed loop pump is another Sequence Hammerhead pump that puts out about 5,000 gph. Each return in the tank splits into four lock-line modular pipe sections with nozzles, which allowed us to direct flow wherever we want it. This is all hidden inside the rock work in the tank, it is hard to see any of it at all.

There is also a 60 gallon cube plumbed into the system that is used for a refugium and frag tank. This has a deep sand bed with a lot of live rock rubble on the surface, we also use this tank to house new fish before they are introduced into the aquarium.
There is also a one horsepower ESU chiller and an 80watt AQUA UV sterilizer that are plumbed into the system. The chiller, sterilizer, and refugium are all fed water from the main circulation pump.

Live Rock and Livestock

700 Gallon Reef Tank at That Fish Place RefugiumThe tank has about 1,000 pounds of live rock, that is a mixture of several types of Tonga and Fiji rock. We tried to use as many really large rocks as possible, several are 70 – 80 lbs each. The live rock was strategically placed to hide as much of the closed loop system as possible, and at the same time leave a lot of open space to give it a more natural appearance. I really wanted to avoid the wall-of-rock look that so many aquariums have.

One of the other things that I really wanted to do with this aquarium was to use as much cultured coral as possible, and limit the amount of wild coral went into the aquarium. This meant sacrificing size for the initial specimens in most cases, but I felt it was important to promote aquacultured and maricultured corals where possible. Of the over 70 corals that are currently in the aquarium, over 50 of them are from a cultured or captive source. Looking at the tank it does not look like there are that many corals in there, mostly because they are all fairly small at this point.

700 Gallon Reef Tank at That Fish Place CoralI will try to post some more pictures of the tank as time goes on, so that you can see the corals as they grow and fill in. This was another reason that I left so much open space in the aquarium when we did the rock work, I wanted to make sure that the corals had plenty of space to grow.
There are a few more tanks that we will be reworking in the custom design center here over the next couple months, I will post some blogs about them as they are completed. I hope that you found this interesting, let me know and I can do more blogs of this type in the future.

Until next time,
Dave

The Natural History and Captive Care of Native Seahorses – the Dwarf Seahorse, Hippocampus zosterae

Please welcome back Frank Indiviglio with another excellent article.

Introduction – A Most Captivating Fish
Seahorses, armor-plated and prehensile-tailed, and equipped with independently-moving eyes and fins that flutter like wings, seem to stretch the limit of what might conceivably be called “a fish”.  Add to this the phenomenon of “male pregnancy” (the male incubates the eggs in a pouch and adjusts the salinity of the water therein as needed; please see my article posted on this blog on June 27, 2008 for more details) and the fact that seahorses change color and can grow and discard filamentous appendages, and you can easily see why they have long attracted marine aquarists.  All of the nearly 130 species (Family Syngnathidae) are, however, strict live food specialists, and rarely thrive on the brine shrimp-based diet commonly offered to them in captivity.

The two species highlighted in this article (Please see Part I, The Atlantic Seahorse, published last week) were chosen because, of all, they are the most likely to do well on diets that are within the means of most aquarists.  Please do not be tempted to try other species until you are well-experienced with the following animals.  I will focus here on points unique to seahorse husbandry – water quality and filtration should be managed as for other marine fishes (please see related articles posted on this blog).
Dwarf Seahorse, Hippocampus zosterae

Description and Habitat
“Seapony” might be a more appropriate name for this diminutive creature, which, at an adult length of 0.9 inches, is only slightly larger than the smallest known species, Denise’s pygmy seahorse (please see below).  Ranging from Florida to the Bahamas, the dwarf seahorse may be white, yellow, green or black in color.  It dwells in sea grass beds, so much so that the species name, “zosterae”, is drawn from that of the plant with which it is most often associated.  Northern populations were formerly considered to be a separate species, H. regulus.

An Ideal “First Seahorse”
In sharp contrast to larger fishes, dwarf seahorses offer us the opportunity to observe nearly all of their natural behaviors in captivity.  Due to their small size, they adjust readily to the confines of aquarium life.  Three pairs in a 15 gallon tank will reward you with a display of activities not often observed among captive seahorses of other species.   As a consequence, their captive husbandry is well understood, and many specimens in the trade are commercially produced.  This is an important consideration at a time when many seahorse species are in sharp decline (please see below).

Interest in this charming creature peaked here in the 1960’s and early 70’s, when they were advertised for sale in the backs of magazines.  My grandfather, who kept marine fishes even before that time, so aroused my interest in them that I eventually wrote a book on the care and natural history of seahorses  (please see below).

The Key to Feeding Dwarf Seahorses
Dwarf seahorses are one of the only seahorse species that will thrive on a diet consisting solely of enriched brine shrimp.  They will, however, appreciate an occasional meal of tiny, wild caught invertebrates – thin meshed “plankton nets,” (available from biological supply houses) drawn through shallow marine waters will yield a wealth of valuable food items.  “Enriched” brine shrimp are those that have been allowed to feed for a few days before themselves being given to the seahorses.  This process increases the shrimps’ nutritional value, and is indispensable if one is to succeed in keeping dwarf seahorses.  Therefore, brine shrimp intended as seahorse food should be given Brightwell Aquatic’s Phyto-Green, or a similar product, for several days.

Breeding and Other Considerations
In common with all their relatives, dwarf seahorses require calm water and suitable “hitching posts” upon which to wrap their tails.  There is some evidence that wild seahorses consistently utilize the same hitching sites, so their aquarium’s décor should not be re-arranged once they have been introduced.  Captive reproduction is a definite possibility – the tiny young can take only newly-hatched brine shrimp, so be sure to set up a brine shrimp hatchery  in advance.

Tiny, Newly Discovered Specialists
The Pygmy Seahorse, Hippocampus bargibanti, first described in 1970, seems to live on only 2 species of gorgonians (soft corals) of the genus Muricella.  So closely does it resemble the coral’s polyps that the individual which led to the first description of the species was not discovered until it was seen on a coral that had been placed in an aquarium several days earlier!  At 0.8 inches in length, it was the smallest known species until the discovery, in 2003, of Indonesia’s Denise’s pygmy seahorse.  Adults of this minute creature are a mere 0.6 inches long.

As mentioned, I became so enamored of these unique fishes that I wrote a book on their care and natural history – if you have a chance to read it, please forward your thoughts and suggestions to me.   Until then, please write in with your questions and comments.  Thanks, until next time, Frank.

Project Seahorse is the world’s premier seahorse conservation and research organization.  A wealth of information is available at their web site:
http://seahorse.fisheries.ubc.ca/who.html

Thanks for the great article Frank,

Until Next Time,

Dave

Botia striata : The Smart Snail Solution

Please welcome Craig Beauchamp to That Fish Blog. Craig’s another of our fish room experts. He’s been Craig Beauchampinvolved with the retail fish trade since 1996, and served as Director of Freshwater Fish at top stores in Atlanta and San Diego. His interests and expertise lie in both Old World and New World Cichlids, tropical planted tanks, and marine reef aquaria. He’s been an aquatics supervisor at TFP since 2007.

With the rise in popularity of tropical planted aquariums, people are also beginning to look for new solutions to aid in snail prevention and eradication. Since many of the snail killing products on the market today contain copper, they are not a wise choice to use in planted aquariums because of the sensitivity of those plants to copper. That leaves aquarists with two choices : mechanical or biological snail control. Mechanical control consists of trapping the snails with a jar that contains a leaf of lettuce. The jar is placed in the tank at night and removed in the morning. Another mechanical solution is physically removing the individual snails by hand. One can see that neither of these methods offer complete control. Biological control involves using snail eating fish to remove the snails from your tank. This is often the best and most efficient way to remove snails in any tank.

Botia striataWhile many people look to the clown loach ( Chromobotia macracanthus) to help rid their tanks of pesky snail populations, there are several small species of Botia that are perhaps a better, smarter solution for tanks under 150 gallons. Botia striata is one of these species. While the clown loach reaches a size of nearly 40 cm (16 in.) the modest zebra loach only attains a size of around 10cm (4in.) A curious and attractive addition to your tank, the zebra loach has the typical torpedo – shaped body of most botia. They are yellow in color with diagonal black striations. The zebra loach hails from clear mountain streams in India, where it lives in shoals of several individuals and feeds on crustaceans, insect larvae, worms, and soft plant material. Botia striata are relatively undemanding fish to keep in a home aquarium. Although they prefer softer water, they tolerate a wide range of pH vaues (6.5 to 8.0) and can also tolerate temperatures from 75 F to 82 F, so long as the temperature is stable. Like most botia, the zebra loach does benefit from higher oxygen levels in the water. Performing small weekly water changes of 10% to 20% and placing an airstone in the aquarium will provide plenty of oxygen. Weekly water changes will also keep your dissolved organic levels down to a minimum. This will be appreciated greatly by all residents of the aquarium, especially any botia or loach.

Zebra loaches, since they live in shoals in their natural habitats, love the company of their own kind. A small group of 3 or more is recommended, although a male and a female will live together in relative bliss. Females tend to be more robust and heavier of body than their slimmer, more streamlined male counterparts. A pair or small group of these fish will work diligently to remove any unwanted snail from your aquarium. Supplemental feedings with algae wafers, sinking pelleted foods, and frozen shrimp will round out their diet nicely.

The size and peaceful nature of Botia striata make them an ideal choice for any community aquarium. It is their small size, combined with the gregarious and calm nature of the fish, that makes it an obvious choice for anyone wanting to rid their tank of snails. With proper care and feeding, Botia striata will live for up to 15 years and provide you with a wonderful and hardy addition to your community aquarium.

Thanks for the article Craig,

Until Next Time,

Dave

The Natural History and Captive Care of Native Seahorses – The Atlantic (Northern or Lined) Seahorse, Hippocampus erectus

Introduction
Today I would like to discuss a large, temperate water seahorse that can be kept and even bred in captivity by those willing to devote the necessary time and effort to its care.

Note: Please see my article posted on this blog on June 27, 2008 for information concerning new research into the phenomenon of “male pregnancy” in seahorses.

A Temperate Seahorse
Most people consider seahorses to be tropical in origin, and may be surprised to learn that the Atlantic seahorse ranges as far north as Nova Scotia, the waters of which are decidedly “un-tropical”.  It also occurs south to Venezuela, and it is the only seahorse to dwell north of North Carolina along our eastern seaboard.

Found from the shoreline to depths of over 230 feet, this weak swimmer somehow manages to survive in areas of strong tidal activity.  I have collected Atlantic seahorses attached to clumps of marine algae being swept along by very strong currents.  Mated pairs are believed to establish stable territories, but I cannot imagine how they can accomplish this in the turbulent waters they sometimes inhabit.  I imagine that individuals in such populations move to quiet bays during the breeding season – any information you might have concerning this would be most appreciated.

Feeding Atlantic SeahorsesNorthern Seahorse
The Atlantic seahorse’s rather large size, to 7.3 inches, allows it to take a wide variety of prey, including small shrimps, blackworms and fish fry. This, coupled with the fact that many individuals can be tempted to eat frozen foods moved about in a life-like manner, makes the Atlantic seahorse a good (but still delicate) candidate for experienced aquarists.

In addition to the foods mentioned above, Atlantic seahorses that I have kept were extremely fond of amphipods (scuds or side-swimmers), sand hoppers, seed shrimp and sand shrimp that I seined in local marine waters.  Their reactions to these food items were quite intense, much more so than to the fish fry, brine shrimp and opossum shrimp (Mysids) that made up the bulk of their diet.

I urge anyone attempting to keep seahorses to collect live foods whenever possible.  It is especially advantageous to maintain native species, as you have a better chance of providing these with a balanced diet based on natural, wild-caught prey (an extremely important consideration when keeping delicate live-food specialists).

Several specimens under my care also accepted frozen clams, shrimp and scallops.  This requires a conditioning period, and is best accomplished with young animals or long-term captives.  Frozen food is initially mixed in with live food, and kept in motion via the filter outflow (or, for the really dedicated, water squirted from a turkey baster).  You may also wish to experiment with freeze dried krill and similar foods.

Black mollies breed readily, and few pairs should be maintained as a food source for Atlantic seahorses.  Their fry, which will survive the transition to salt water if slowly acclimated, are usually readily consumed by the seahorses.

Other fresh-water food animals worth trying include fairy shrimp, bloodworms (midge larvae, Chironomus spp.), blackworms, micro-worms, grindal worms and white worms.  Please bear in mind that these animals expire and decompose rapidly in salt water, and that they do not likely provide complete nutrition in and of themselves.

Seahorse Companions
This species presents a limited exception to the general rule that seahorses should not be housed with other creatures.  Actively swimming fishes should be avoided, as they will out-compete the seahorses for food.  However, Atlantic seahorses will get along well with northern pipefish (these may be seined from eel grass beds where legal), hermit crabs, sea stars, small spider and horseshoe crabs and fifteen-spined sticklebacks, Spinachia spinachia (these last feed fairly slowly, but watch the seahorses’ intake carefully).

A quite interesting community tank can be built around the Atlantic seahorse and some of the creatures that share its habitat.  As these are generally over-looked by aquarists, the potential to learn something new is very great.  I would be most pleased if you shared your observations with me.

Other Considerations
Hailing as they do from temperate waters, Atlantic seahorses from northern populations should be kept in unheated aquariums.  Breeding (which I’ll cover in depth in the future) will be more likely if they are provided with natural fluctuations in day length and temperature.  This can be accomplished by situating their aquarium near a window (beware of over-heating during the summer) or by installing a light timer to regulate day length.  Atlantic seahorses may give birth to over 300 young.

Seahorses in Peril
Untold millions of seahorses are collected annually for use in Chinese and South Asian traditional medical practices, and for the curio and pet trade.  Many more perish due to habitat loss and as “by-catch” in commercial fishing operations.  Please be sure to purchase only captive-bred seahorses.

I became so enamored of these unique fishes that I wrote a book on their care and natural history – if you have a chance to read it, please forward your thoughts and suggestions to me.  I’ll write more about seahorses and their relatives in future articles.  Until then, please write in with your questions and comments.  Thanks, until next time, Frank.

Information about a reintroduction program for the Atlantic seahorse on Long Island, NY is posted at:
http://counties.cce.cornell.edu/suffolk/habitat_restoration/seagrassli/ecology/fauna_flora/seahorses.html

Seahorse (Hippocampus erectus). Taken at the New England Aquarium (Boston, MA, December 2006. Copyright © 2006 Steven G. Johnson and donated to Wikipedia under GFDL and CC-by-SA

Species overview of various Tangs for the Home Aquarium

Tangs tend to be a favorite among aquarists since they are very colorful and have a taste for algae. Tangs are primarily herbivorous and need a diet rich in algae. There are many algae based food that are great for tangs including live caulerpa, nori strips, and formula 2 that comes in a frozen variety as well as flakes and pellets. Tangs should also be given some meaty food to round out their diet. However, tangs that are fed primarily meaty foods over a long period of time are more likely to suffer from head and lateral line erosion(HLLE). HLLE disease in the short run is not fatal, but over time if the disease continues to progress the fish will stop eating and become lethargic. The open wounds that result will make the fish susceptible to other infections, and these secondary infections may eventually contribute to its demise. The best treatment is prevention; maintain excellent water quality and feed a rich vegetarian diet. Supplementing with a multivitamin (A, D, E, B complex, and Iodine) may also help prevent further erosion.  Selcon, garlic guard, and vita-chem are excellent food additives.  Tangs are also susceptible to Amyloodinium and Cryptocaryon so proper quarantine is a must. Once tangs make it through the initial quarantine they are usually pretty hardy.

Tangs are generally community fish and get along with most other tank-mates. They don’t usually bother corals and can actually help keep nuisance algae trimmed and under control. Tangs may become territorial and aggressive towards very similar tank-mates or other tangs from the same genus. Tangs are very active swimmers and should not be housed in any tank smaller than 50 gallons but larger is always better.

Yellow TangIn our retail store we have a great selection of colorful tangs.  One of the most popular tangs that we sell would be the yellow tang, (Zebrasoma flavesence). Yellow tangs are very hardy but can bully new tank-mates. They will do best if added to a community tank last. Yellow tangs can reach a max size of 8 inches so choose their tank size accordingly.  They are very active swimmers and become rather bold. They are sure to be a bright center piece in any tank.

Another tang closely related to the yellow tang would be the purple tang (Zebrasoma xanthurum). Purple tangs are a gorgeous deep purple to blue with a bright yellow tail. They are Purple Tangnot as readily available as some other tangs but we do have these beauties from time to time. Purple tangs are also pretty feisty once acclimated.  They can reach a max size of 10 inches so a large home is a must. 

Sailfin tangs, (Zebrasoma veliferum) and (Zebrasoma desjardinii), are one of the larger tangs with adults capable of reaching 16 inches. As juveniles both species of sailfin tangs look identical. As they mature Zebrasoma veliferum tends to retain most of its juvenile coloration where Zebrasome desjardinii will phase out its stripes and change them to spots and their overall coloration becomes muted. Sailfin tangs are rather peaceful tangs and get Sailfin Tangalong with most other tank-mates, however they do not tolerate others of the same kind or genus unless they are kept in a very large aquarium.  They also have great personalities and do recognize the hand that feeds them. 

Another very popular tang is the Hippo tang (Paracanthurus hepatus).  They have a bright yellow tail and electric blue body with a black hook shaped mark overlaid on each side.  Hippo tangs tend to be shy but may bicker with other tangs in the tank from time to time.  Juvenile hippo tangs are usually found in groups but usually do best as a single specimen unless the tank is Hippo Tangvery large since adults can reach a max size around 12 inches. 

Another true beauty would be the Powder blue tang (Acanthurus leucosternon).  Powder blue tangs have a baby blue body,  yellow dorsal fin and caudal peduncle, white anal and ventral fins, and a black face with a white area below the jawline.  Powder blue tangs are one of the more delicate tangs so extreme care should be taken when transporting and acclimating this fish.  They are also notorious ich magnets so quarantining new specimens is a must.  If proper care is given powder blue tangs can reach a max size of 8 inches.         

Powder Blue TangOne of my all time favorite tangs is the Achilles tang (Acanthurus achilles).  Achilles tangs are jet black with a splash of vivid orange in a teardrop shape right before the caudal fin.  The caudal fin itself is orange rimmed in white.  The dorsal and anal fins are also have a hint of orange with white and black.  Achilles tangs , like the powder blue tangs, are very delicate and rather difficult to acclimate and get to feed regularly.  However, if you are able to meet the demands of this fish they will reward you greatly with their stunning beauty.

In closing, most tangs are acceptable to be housed in a captive Achilles Tangenvironment and will thrive for many years to come.  Research is the key though.  Make sure you gain as much knowledge as you can since that in turn will give the tang that you choose the best possible home next to the ocean where it come from.

Check out some videos our staff here made on basic care for the yellow tang and hippo tang at You Tube.

Until Next Time,

Melissa