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Contains articles featuring information, advice or answering questions regarding saltwater aquariums, livestock or equipment.

Choosing the Right Substrate for Your Aquarium

OnyxThere are hundreds of ways that you can make your aquarium “your own”, from the decor or theme you choose to the plants and fish you keep, and even how you choose to accent your habitat with lighting. You may spend a lot of time anguishing on these aspects, hoping to match the vision you build in your head. One aspect that you may not guve the consideration it deserves is the substrate you choose, but the right gravel can make or break the look of your aquarium. This stuff is more than just rocks and sand, it may be the one thing that completes your perfect aesthetic. Let’s look at some of the popular substrate options on the market and explore why one may suit your aquarium better than others.

Freshwater Substrates

If you have a freshwater aquarium, you have a huge selection of substrate colors and types to choose from. First you have to decide if you’re going for a natural look or for something more thematic or colorful. You can purchase colored pebbles or glass accent stones in every color of the rainbow, but some colors are so vibrant they can take the attention away from the stars of the display, your fish.  Colored stones have their place, and can make for a realy fun set-up, but be sure you know what you’re getting into before you purchase a bulk of neon pink or blue substrate. Often these substrates are best as accent colors mixed with natural selections, or for use in smaller tanks.

The natural look tends to be more desirable amongst most hobbyists, shades of grey, tan and brown. These pebbles mimic the textures of creak beds, river shallows, and other natural habitats where these fish come from, making them feel like their back at home. While not all that eye-catching in a bag, these substrates complement the natural colors of live fish and plants, really allowing them to shine. These selections aren’t monotonous either. There are lots to choose from, different sizes, multi-tone, tumbled or rough, that can be mixed or matched to create a custom blend for your tank.  Keep in mind that the size of the gravel you choose may have some impact on fish and plants. Bottom dwelling or bottom feeding fish, and those who breed and nest in the substrate will generally prefer sand or very small pebbles that are easier to move and shuffle, and softer on fins, skin and scales. Likewise, plants may not root well in pebbles that are too large or rough. You may choose to create varying areas in the tank between larger pebbles and finer substrate like inert sand to accommodate several types of fish and plants.  Inert types of freshwater sands are available, but be sure to choose the right kind, otherwise your water chemistry could be effected.

Specialty Substrates

OnyxThere are also special substrates you can use in your freshwater tanks that not only look natural but also provide benefits to your livestock. These include packaged live sand, flourite/laterite plant substrates, soils and cichlid substrates. Live sand is harvested from a natural wet environment and is packaged with live bacteria intact. These bacteria jump start the cycling process and help to establish marine tanks fast. Plant substrates are naturally colored and sized just right for root establishment. These materials also contribute nutrients to enhance plant growth and vigor. Several substrates on the market are designed to cater specifically to the chemistry and habitat need of Rift Lake Cichlids. These help to maintain pH and hardness, and mimic the rocky appearance of their natural habitats. Some hobbyists also go to the next level for Asian and Amazonian species by creating a soft soil/sand bed using peat, laterite or coco fiber. The natural feel and tannin production helps to make these light-shy fish more comfortable and can make their colors super vibrant.

Marine Substrates

Marine substrates include shell, crushed coral, aragonite sand and similar materials principally composed of calcium carbonate. These substrates will help to increase and maintain pH and hardness. These materials are suitable for all marine set-ups and for Rift Lake cichlids that enjoy similar water chemistry minus the salt. These substrates present little variation from afar, with mostly cream or white coloration with flecks of pink, orange and other naturally occurring shell coloration. There are a few selections that occur naturally in gold or black hues which may be mixed with lighter varieties or used as primary substrate. Incorporating these darker colors may help to keep the colors of your fish more vibrant, as the bright bottom may cause the colors of the fish to appear washed out.

Going Without

Australian GoldIn some instances you may even choose to go bare in the aquarium. Bare bottom is usually reserved for med tanks or quarantine systems, but many aquarists opt for no gravel to make maintenance and feeding easier. While this type of set-up has advantages, there are several things to consider before going bare. Some fish may stress easily or not be able to behave naturally if there is no substrate to cover the bottom glass. This method is obviously not a good choice if you want to house gobies or other bottom dwelling or burrowing species. Rooted live plants will not have a place to anchor without a deep gravel bed, so you’ll also be limited to either artificial plants that suck to the bottom or bunch plants that do not need to be anchored in gravel. Substrate also provides a large bed for nitrifying bacteria…be sure to have ample biological filtration, porous rock, or other media to offer the bacteria a place to thrive.

What it all boils down to is taste. The gravel you choose will complete your aquarium’s look and can play a big role in how your fish behave in the tank. Consider the needs of your fish before you make the final decision on how to “carpet” your tank.

Which Filter Should I Choose for My Aquarium?

Emperor Power Filter Choosing the right filter for your aquarium can be an intimidating task. We’re asked this question every day, from people setting up their first aquarium and from those hobbyists who are upgrading to a larger or different type of aquarium. Most people are looking for a quick and easy answer, which they rarely get from me.  There is no one-size-fits-all in the world of aquarium filters, and anyone who is new to aquariums, and is trying to do some research, is probably overwhelmed with all the options.  We have assembled a lot of good basic information for all the major types of aquarium filters in the article archives on thatpetplace.com. These articles are meant to help and guide you through the process of choosing a filter for your set-up by breaking down how each type works and in which applications they really shine.

The follow up question that I am often asked, is what is my favorite filter?  Again, that is not an easy question to answer with so many options, but I thought I might highlight a some of those I would recommend  from a few different filter types.

If you are looking for the most bang for your buck, especially for freshwater aquariums, it is hard to beat the good old power filter.  Also known as hang-on-the-back filters, power filters are easy to use, provide proven performance, and most are inexpensive and energy efficient.  My favorite power filters are the Marineland Emperor line.  These filters have been around for many years, and have changed very little since introduction.  There are two models of Emperor Filters available for under $50, that can handle aquariums up to 80 gallons.  The Emperor filters, if properly maintained, will provide excellent mechanical, biological and chemical filtration.  The Biowheel feature of these filters is what sets them apart from simpler power filters, they maintain biological filtration at all times, something that is lost on power filters that depend on their filter cartridges, which will lose all their bacteria when filters are changed.  These filters are great for any freshwater aquarium set-up as a standalone filter, or as part of a filtration system for saltwater aquariums.

Filstar Canister FilterFor larger aquariums or aquariums that demand more powerful or customized filtration, the next step up are the canister filters.  My choice in this category is another filter that is time tested, and has been around for many years, the API Filstar XP line of filters (Formerly known under the Rena brand name) The Filstar canister filters are available in several sizes, up to the XP XL model that is rated for aquariums up to 265 gallons.  Modular filter baskets allow you to customize your filter media, so you can add extra biological media for heavily stocked tanks, chemical media for low nutrient levels, peat moss for amazon tanks, the possibilities are endless.  These filters are quiet, energy efficient, and easy to set up.

ProFlex Model 1For the more advanced aquarist, especially the reef enthusiasts, the filtration system of choice is the Wet/Dry or Sump type of filtration system.  Ultimate flexibility, and high performance, are the key features of the these filters, and they are probably the most diverse of the filtration types, in terms of form and function.  My choice here is the relatively new Aqueon ProFlex filter system, mostly because of its 3 in 1, modular design.  With the ability to be used as a traditional Wet/Dry or Refugium, or Berlin style Sump, the filter has the ability to perform many functions as your needs change. If you want to convert your freshwater system to saltwater, your fish tank to a reef tank, or anywhere in between.  The Aqueon ProFlex can be whatever you need!

I hope that this helps guide you towards the filter you are looking for,

Until next blog,

Dave

2012 TFP NCPARS Fall Frag Swap and Customer Appreciation Sale

2012 TFP/NCPARS Fall Frag SwapI can’t believe it is mid-September already, and we are just a few weeks away from our Fall TFP/NCPARS frag swap. The Swap is on Saturday October 6th, during our weekend long Customer Appreciation Sale here at TFP.  The Fall Frag Swap, one of the biannual swaps we host with NCPARS, is shaping up to be a great event.  Our joint swaps have been growing and growing with each coming event, and have become one of the largest swap events on the east coast.  Our Winter Frag Swap this past January had over 400 attendees.  With the additional crowd that comes for our Customer Appreciation Sale event, this swap should be a very busy.

The Customer Appreciation Sale weekend includes all the deals we offer in October throughout the store, Plus some great deals that are for the Frag Swap and Sale weekend.  Weekend deals include 25% off all TFP livestock, Buy three get one free select salt bucket deals.  There will also be some sweet coupon deals on our October sale flyer for the sale weekend.  If you are not already on our retail flyer mailing list, you can still sign up for our email notifications from our TFP home page (just make sure you select notifications for our retail store in your preferences)fragsfrags for sale

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the frag swappers, there will be eye candy galore, from some of the best coral hobbyist on the east coast, including NCPARS own Dan Rigle who was recently featured in Coral Magazine.  Jason Fox, will be on hand, showing off some of his rare beauties.  TFP will have a nice stock of our own frags on hand, including a nice selection of ORA and ACI aquaculture coral.  For more information visit NCPARS Website to register for the event, or visit Fragswapper to see or list items for trade or sale.

 

 

salt bucketsOur Vendors have donated some nice items for the NCPARS raffle, including a 60 gallon reef ready cube tank, stand and Reef Capable LED light from Marineland and many other great items.

Aquatic Manufacturer Representatives will be on hand from; United Pet Group (Tetra, Marineland, Instant Ocean, Perfecto…….), Two Little Fishies, Seachem, Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, Reed Mariculture, Hagen, Ruby Reef

Pet Product Manufacturer Representatives will be on hand from; Merrick, Nature’s Variety, Blue Buffalo, Nutro, Nutrisource, Answers, Earthborn, Dogswell, Zukes, Marchioro, Pawganics, Multipet, A&E Cages.

There will be a little something for everyone, so bring the family, and join the fun.

Hope to see you here!

Dave

Current TrueLumen Pro LED Strips Now Available at That Fish Place

That Fish Place now has the latest LED strip lights from Current USA, the TrueLumen Pro Series.  The TrueLumen Pro LED lighting system is modular, easy to use, environmentally friendly, and extremely energy efficient. The strips are available in four sizes (12”, 24”, 36”, 48”) and four different color spectrums. These lights can be adapted to any aquarium setup, offering brilliant lighting for any set-up.

8,000K Sun White – Brings the color of natural sunlight into your aquarium, perfect for freshwater planted aquariums, marine refugiums, and general lighting purposes

12000K Diamond White – Crisp white light for excellent shimmer and light penetration,  coloration on freshwater and marine fishes, limits growth of nuisance algae.

Deepwater Blue – 453nm actinic blue color provides proper wavelengths for enhanced coral growth, and intensified coloration in corals and fishes.

Marine Fusion – Blend of the Diamond White and Deepwater Blue LED colors to provide an ideal single light source any marine or reef aquarium. Can also be used on freshwater aquariums to enhance fish colors.

TrueLumen Pro LEDs come with a mounting bracket, that allows them to be easily attached the inside of a canopy or solid surface for an easy retrofit.  Aluminum mounting legs are also available for a more traditional tank frame mount setup, or they can simply be set on top of a glass canopy. Available inline dimmers and splitters allow for a wide range of custom installation possibilities.

The aluminum housing of the TrueLumen Pro is also a heat sink, that allows for cool operation of the LED chips, which will give them long life, and high performance. LED chips are also sealed in crystal clear silicone protectant, keeping all the electronic connection protected from any accidental splashing or corrosive salt creep.

The DC transformer power supply is sold separately, and can power up to 6 TrueLumen Pro light strips with the use of the available three way splitters.

Whether you are looking to upgrade, or replace your old lighting, the Current USA TrueLumen pro LED strips are worth taking a look at, they may be just what you are looking for.

 

Introducing the Bubble Magus Protein Skimmers and Dosing Pump

Bubble Magus NAC3We are happy to announce the introduction of the Bubble Magus line to our extensive selection of reef-keeping supplies. Bubble Magus is a rapidly growing international business, and if you are not familiar with them, read on as I’ll be explaining more about the Bubble Magus products that are now available here at That Fish Place.

Before I get to the protein skimmer line, I’d like to touch on the Bubble Magus dosing pump. Not a week goes by when I’m not asked by customers if there’s an “easier” way to dose the supplements many corals need. Admittedly, doing capfuls of this and that, A and B, or 1 or 2 can become a tedious task that sometimes gets forgotten or overlooked in our busy everyday lives. That was even the case for our own Doug Fries, whose Red Sea Max 250 (65 gallon reef display tank) developed a very high alkalinity demand due to its abundance of stoney corals. If the tank was not dosed daily, the alkalinity would drop dramatically- a very stressful situation for these more-sensitive corals.

There were several solutions for Doug’s problem. First, he could have installed a install a calcium reactor, but, if you’ve ever seen Doug’s tank you know there is little room for such equipment.  Another option was to drip kalkwasser into the tank, but because the Red Sea Max tank does not use a sump filter under the tank, a drip would require us to have an unsightly medical IV-like rack next to the beautiful display. He decided to utilize the Bubble Magus multiple-channel titration pump which allows him to dose his normal additives multiple times through the day, everyday. The dosing pump is much smaller than a calcium reactor or drip apparatus, and less unsightly in our opinion. The Bubble Magus BMT01 titration pump allows you to dose three separate liquids, in our case Red Sea’s Reef Foundation A, B, and C, at any quantity between 1 and 1999ml, up to 24 times a day. This means you can achieve gradual daily dosing for more stable parameters and consumption of these elements. The digital interface is simple enough to figure out with some help from the instruction manual (again this is an international company, so one should expect some broken English in the directions), and the built-in computer allows for all sorts of customization.

Bubble Magus Dosing PumpSince the installation, the titration pump has been working accurately and consistently. The corals have responded wonderfully to the schedule we were able to program into the digital interface, and the tank’s parameters (specifically the “big three”: calcium, alkalinity, and magnesium) have all remained stable as they are slowly dosed throughout the day. Now Doug doesn’t have to worry about attending the tank several times each day. The corals are growing stronger and more colorful–exactly what we as hobbyists are looking for.

The name Bubble Magus is better associated with its line of protein skimmers, and this blogger for one is looking forward to becoming better acquainted with these products. Out of the many varieties of skimmers built by this company, we have chosen a select few of the Bubble Magus models for our shelves in hopes that they have the qualities that our reef enthusiasts are looking for:

  • Affordability without sacrificing quality
  • Small footprints to keep “sump-hogging” low, keeping more space free for other equipment
  • Up-to-date features expected from quality skimmer brands

The Bubble Magus skimmers have all of these attributes. Powered by Atman brand pumps (aside from the Hero model which uses a Sicce PSK pump), their skimmers feature a compact design, ease of use, bubble diffusion plates in most models, and solid acrylic bodies. The models customers can expect to find on our website or in our retail store include:

 

Model # Tank Size Item # Description
NAC 3.5 25-80 Gallons 259148 Cone skimmer body with tiny footprint of only 4.5″x 6.6″ and 17.1″ height
NAC3+ 25-80 Gallons 259147 Strong, affordable skimmer with pump housed under the skimmer, footprint: 6.8″x 4.3″ height: 17.5″
NAC 5.5 80-135 Gallons 259149 Cone skimmer with pump housed under skimmer, footprint: 8.66″x 5.7″ height: 20.2″
NAC5E 80-135 Gallons 259152 Hang-on-back skimmer with large 5” cylinder, footprint:11.8”x .3″ height: 20.5″
NAC 6 100-160 Gallons 259150 Big power in small footprint: 6.7″x 10.4″ height: 19.6″; pump inside skimmer
NAC7 130-185 Gallons 259151 Big cone with small footprint: 9.4″x7.8″ height 20″; pump inside skimmer
HERO 180-S 185-240 Gallons 259153 Strong, energy efficient Syncra Sicce Psk1000 pump housed in a cone skimmer. Footprint: 9.8″x7.2″ height: 20.6″

 

Bubble Magus NAC6We were given 2 Bubble Magus skimmers to try out in our tanks.  We installed the NAC 3 on a lightly stocked 25 gallon cube, and a larger NAC 6 went into one of our coral tray. They’ve been working for a few weeks now and they’re going strong. We’ve been very impressed by the dark skimmate they’ve been pulling out, especially the NAC 6 on the tray (which also has a Hydor Performance Skimmer 505 maintaining it).

We couldn’t be happier that Bubble Magus products are now being featured at That Fish Place, and we are more than sure that our customers will enjoy them as well. We can’t wait to hear your feedback!

 

Until next time, Happy Reefing

Jeff Berdel