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

Interesting Environmental Adaptations Developed in Some Aquatic Animals

Pillow StarfishThe adaptations developed in the waters of our world are some of the most amazing in existence. From bioluminescence to specialized mouths built to feed on certain foods, the fish and invertebrates living in Earth’s oceans, lakes and streams have some of the most unique traits found anywhere. What is even more interesting is how two life forms that are completely different and unrelated can develop a near identical solution for a problem.

I have always been fascinated by the strange and the odd. From fish that mimic pieces of driftwood like the Chaca chaca to the lobe-finned and air-breathing Polypterus species, I have had the pleasure of keeping many unique fish species. Recently, I received an email from Frank Indiviglio that contained a link to some weird starfish.  After reading it, I immediately saw a parallel to another article that I had read a couple of days earlier about a new fish from Lake Tanganyika. Read More »

Understanding the Role of Iodine in a Reef Aquarium

Seachem Reef IodideIodine is one of the most misunderstood, and misused, elements in the marine aquarium.  Iodine is both essential, and toxic, so understanding your aquariums needs, and proper use, is critical when using Iodine supplements.

What is Iodine?

That is a complex question. In nature, the element Iodine can take many forms, and is one of a group of elements called essential elements. Many are unstable, or play only minor roles in what is relevant to maintaining your aquarium.  The forms of Iodine that are most relevant and form the vast majority of Iodine present in the ocean are Iodide (I), and Iodate (IO3)

Iodide is an inorganic form of Iodine. Concentrations of this form increase with depth in the ocean, and it is considered the most biologically available form of Iodine.  It is also the safest form of Iodine to use in the aquarium, and most of the Iodine supplements use this form of coral dip to kill invertebrate parasites, bacteria, and other pathogens.

What is Iodine used for in the aquarium?

Peppermint ShrimpIodine is a critical element for cellular function and the transfer of nutrients within cells.  Larger organisms require Iodine for proper thyroid function, production of hormones, and regulating metabolism.  Iodine is utilized by corals for the synthesis of pigments, which allow them to adapt to varying light conditions and provide their tissue with protection from UV radiation.  Invertebrates with exoskeletons (primarily shrimp and crabs in the aquarium) incorporate iodine in to exoskeletons and require iodine for molting and forming new exoskeletons as they grow.

Testing for Iodine

As I mentioned above, Iodine is in many forms, and testing for iodine is a complex issue.  Some test kits measure “total Iodine”. Some test kits don’t tell you what exactly you are testing for at all. Quality test kits, like Salifert, will test for both Iodide and Iodate, allowing you to fully understand what your iodine landscape looks like.  Natural seawater has a total Iodine concentration of .025ppm-0.08ppm, depending on depth and location. It is important to monitor the Iodine levels in your reef, as low levels may inhibit the important biological processes that have been discussed.  Iodine is also a toxic substance, so levels above natural seawater concentrations can be toxic or fatal for invertebrates, and very high levels can kill fish and other vertebrates also.  The standard level to shoot for in the marine aquarium is generally recognized as about 0.06ppm.

Dosing Iodine

Whether you need to actually dose Iodine or not is a topic of debate amongst reef experts. The answer lies mostly in the type of system that you are running.  Iodine is present in salt mix, many additives, and most importantly many foods that you put into your tank. One of the myths that has grown in the hobby is that you HAVE to dose iodine if you’re keeping soft corals and molting invertebrates. While it is absolutely true that these animals demand Iodine, it is also true that Iodine is highly toxic if Salifert Iodine Test Kitoverdosed, and blindly supplementing with iodine additives can be quite dangerous. Just because you keep these animals, does not automatically require that you dose iodine.

Iodine levels are lowered or depleted by protein skimmers, chemical filtration, and biological processes.  If you are running a heavily stocked, heavily fed fish only (FO) or fish only with live rock (FOWLR) aquarium, you may find that you are maintaining natural seawater levels of iodine simply through water changes and feeding alone.  If you are running a low nutrient, coral dominated, lightly fed aquarium, you will most likely find that supplementation is required to maintain optimum Iodine levels.

There are a number of quality Iodine products available from manufacturers who specialize in marine supplements, like Brightwell Aquatics, Kent Marine, SeaChem, Red Sea and others.

Hopefully you found this helpful, keep an eye open for upcoming blogs about the roles of other supplements for marine/reef aquariums.



Do-it-Yourself – Making an Aquarium Pest Trap

Trap MaterialsMany aquarists encounter some sort of nuisance animals at some point. Whether it is snails in freshwater or shrimp, worms or the errant troublemaking fish in saltwater, trying to remove the offender can be difficult. While there are traps galore available for sale, you can also make your own at home if you need a quick trap. This kind of trap is effective on things like Mantis Shrimp, Pistol Shrimp, freshwater snails and other small inverts and can be made from items you probably already have in your home. Read More »

EcoTech Marine Coral Glue – A Pro Fragger’s Dream Adhesive

Super Glue TubeI have been fragging corals for over 8 years, through those 8 years I have gone through hundreds of bottles of Cyanoacrylate better known as Super Glue, or other brand names marketed by a variety of companies. The problem with basic super glue is that it’s way too runny. Fraggers know that you tend to end up having more glue on your hands than on the plugs and corals. Over the past couple of years, companies within the aquarium hobby have developed their own “reef glue” formulas. They are much easier to work with, thicker and quicker to set. However, even with improvements, many still aren’t that great. The neck and pointed opening eventually become clogged with old glue, making it impossible to use all of the glue. More often than not, the glue in the bottle just becomes too hard after extensive usage, thus making it no longer useable. Read More »

Guess Who? Shrimp Addition – Stenopus Banded Coral Shrimp Identification

Coral Banded Shrimp, CozumelEver play the board game “Guess Who?”? Its the one where you have to guess which character the other person is by asking questions like “Do you have a mustache?” or “Are your eyes blue?”. Sometimes identifying aquarium animals works the same way.

Banded Coral Shrimp, also known as Boxing or Boxer Shrimp, are popular for aquarists of all levels. Within this group, common names overlap, most are some variation of red-and-white-bands, two shrimp can be identical except for their antennae color and other subtle differences. These shrimp will almost always fight with another Stenopus species (and may not even tolerate their own species) so knowing which one you have is important. Read More »