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

Dave’s Bucket list and the Great Barrier Reef

School of Yellow and Blueback FusilierDave here. Most of you have heard of making a “bucket list”, a list of things that you feel you have to do before you die to make your life complete.  Well, I am far too disorganized to have much of a list, but one thing that I would have had on by bucket list if I were to have made one, I have been lucky enough to do:  Diving on the Great Barrier Reef.

Maxima ClamI just got back from a long awaited vacation to Australia, part of which I spent in Northern Queensland, where I was able to make a couple of visits to the outer reefs for some amazing diving and snorkeling fun.  Having been born in Australia, and still being an Australian citizen, there are questions that I have been asked all my life from friends and acquaintances. Have you ever seen a Kangaroo? Have you ever held a Koala Bear? What the heck is Vegamite?  Yes, I have seen a Kangaroo, and held a Koala, and Vegamite is an Aussie thing that defies description, if you know, you know.  The question that I have been asked a million times over the years that I have always had to answer “NO” to, I can finally answer “YES” to. YES, I have been diving on the Great Barrier Reef.  I have been a certified diver for 16 years, and ever since I began thinking about diving, the Barrier Reef has always been one of my target sites.

Tomato Clown in host anemone The reef was everything that I had hoped it would be, truly amazing.  I have done many interesting dives, mostly wreck diving in the Carolinas, and some diving in Florida and the Caribbean.  It just does not compare. The shear size of the Barrier Reef is overwhelming, you could spend a lifetime exploring, and still only see a small portion of it.   The pictures that are posted in the blog are from my trip out to the Agincourt Reef System, which is a portion of the outer Great Barrier Reef system about 40 miles off shore out of Port Douglas, Queensland

You could tell that I was the only reef geek on the dive boat.  While most of the divers on my boat were hoping to see a shark, or a turtle, or maybe a migrating whale (don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to experienced a dive with a whale), I spent most of my time in shallow water, looking in all the nooks and crannies, taking pictures of “nothing” as I heard someone say.  The diversity was amazing, and some of what I saw was quite surprising to me.  There were huge colonies of brown Sarcophyton and Lobophytum leather corals, growing very near the surface, and large colonies of White Pom Pom Xenia on the outer reef.

Fromia sp. starfishA couple of the things in particular that I was looking forward to seeing were some wild Clownfish, and Giant Clams, neither of which I have had the opportunity to see here in the Atlantic.  The reef delivered big time.  I saw some massive T. gigas clams that had to have been at least 4′ long, as well as T. maxima, T. crocea and T. squamosa.  Some of the clams were in fairly deep water, one of the T. gigas that I saw was in about 50 feet of water.

Clownfish litter the reef, wherever their host anemones can gain a foothold.  Common to many of the large coral boulders were clusters of Green Bubble Tip Anemones (E. quadricolor), which hosted mostly Clark’s (A. clarkii) clownfish, and also some Cinnamon (A. melanopus) clowns.  There were also quite a few spots where what I believe were Long-tentacle (M. doorensis) Anemones hosting mostly Clark’s and a few Maroon (P. biaculateus).  The most spectacular anemones that I saw were a few bright blue and purple colored Magnificent or Ritteri (Heteractis magnifica) Anemones hosting Pink Skunk Clowns (A. perideraion).  There were others that I caught glimpses of, but I was not sure of the species.

Soft Corals as far as the eye can seeThe large schools of fish that dart about the reef are equally impressive, one of the more brilliant schools that I saw was one of hundreds of Yellow and Blueback Fusilier (Caesio teres), which are quite common to the reef.  Also seen on the reef were large schools of Green Chromis that dart in and out of the reef formations as they sense danger.

I hope you enjoy the pictures from my visit.  I think that this experience needs to appear on my list a few more times, as once was definitely not enough.

You may check out lots more underwater pictures I took of the GBR at the That Fish Place Facebook page.

Until Next time,


Popular Pistol Shrimp for Home Aquariums


Like their fellow hitchhiker-turned-aquarium-stars, the Mantis Shrimp, Pistol Shrimp are coming into their own as popular aquarium additions. Unlike the Mantis Shrimp, most Pistol Shrimp can actually be kept with other tankmates.  They may even form bonds with some tankmates like Shrimpgobies that can be fascinating and entertaining to watch. Here are a few species of popular Pistol Shrimp for home aquariums.

Pistol shrimp get their name from the loud popping sound they can make by quickly opening or closing their specially adapted claws. This is used as a defense mechanism to frighten off would-be predators and, unlike the Mantis Shrimp they are sometimes confused with, they are harmless to most tankmates. They can be kept with most fish that will not prey on them but should not be kept with some other crustaceans, especially small shrimp or lobsters.

Tiger Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus bellulus)

Tiger Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus bellulus)

Tiger Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus bellulus)

The Tiger Pistol Shrimp is one of the most common and most popular pistol shrimp. It’s one of the species we get in to our store most often. These shrimp aren’t as striped as one would expect from a “Tiger” Pistol Shrimp but has a mottled, vaguely striped coloration in shades of tan, cream and reddish brown. The legs are striped and its claws have dark bands like the rubber bands on the claws of a lobster at a seafood restaurant. These pistols are true commensal species and may bond with any shrimpgobies – genus Cryptocentrus, Amblyeleotris, Stonogobiops and others. This species can grow up to about three inches in length and is one of the larger pistols.


Randall's Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus randalli)

Randall’s Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus randalli)

Randall’s Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus randalli)

The Randall’s Pistol Shrimp is also known as the “Candy Cane” or “Red-banded Pistol Shrimp” and is one of the other species that we get in most often. While the Tiger Pistol Shrimp has a more mottled pattern, the Randall’s Pistol has more solid bright red and white stripes over a somewhat translucent body. The body and legs may be yellow – sometimes bright yellow – in some shrimp. This pistol shrimp only grows to about an inch and a half in length but, like the Tiger Pistol, isn’t too picky about which shrimpgoby it forms a pair with. It is better for smaller nano-reefs than the Tiger Pistol Shrimp.


Red Caribbean Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus sp.)

Red Caribbean Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus sp.)

Red Caribbean Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus sp.)

These pistol shrimp aren’t usually identified down to the exact species since several different species are almost identical. All are red with white markings, some with purple accents or banded antennas. However, these shrimp don’t usually pair with shrimpgobies. Instead, they form a relationship with the Curlycue Anemone (Bartholomea annulata), a common Caribbean anemone with long spiraling tentacles.




Green Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus euphrosyne)

Green Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus euphrosyne)

Green Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus euphrosyne)

The Green Pistol Shrimp is one of the more understated species. These shrimp have a brownish, olive green color more suited to the environment where they live. Rather than the rocky coral reefs of many others, the Green Pistol is found in muddy estuaries at the mouths of rivers, usually in full saltwater but some can tolerate the more brackish waters closer to the bays and mouths of the rivers. These shrimp are best kept in tanks with deeper, finer substrate closer to the muddy bottoms they have come from.



Pocillopora Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus lottini)

Pocillopora Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus lottini)

Pocillopora Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus lottini)

Pocillopora Pistol Shrimp are fascinating and rare pistols with a different modus operandi than other pistols. Like its common name suggests, these shrimp live within Pocillopora colonies. They will sometimes live alongside other coral-dwellers like Trapezia crabs where they may even work together to fend off attacks from coral-eating starfish like Cushion Stars or Crown Of Thorn Stars. They stay fairly small, usually well under two inches, and can vary in color. Most are yellow-orange with purple markings like speckles or a stripe down their back. Some of these may be regional variations, others may be subspecies.

Bullseye Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus soror)

Bullseye Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus soror)

Bullseye Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus soror)

The Bullseye Pistol Shrimp is one of the most stunning in appearance. The body is bright yellow-orange and the claws, legs and antennae are bright purple. Although they are also sometimes known as “Michael’s Pistol Shrimp”, the name Bullseye Pistol Shrimp comes from the white-ringed black spot on the middle of each side. This pistol shrimp is another that doesn’t usually form a bond with shrimpgobies. Some may share a burrow with some shrimpgobies, but they aren’t as reliant on the bond as other pistol shrimp and will often live on their own without a goby and may leave a pair at any time. This species also tends to be more active and will venture further from home and more into the open than others.



These species are just some of the more common to enter the aquarium hobby. Others are sometimes available as well and each have their own unique behaviors and appearances but all can make for fascinating additions to a saltwater aquarium!

Refugiums for Marine Aquariums

CaulerpaYou may have heard the term refugium if you’re in the aquarium hobby, but do you know what it is and the benefits it can bring to your set-up? A refugium is  essentially a safe area for inverts and macro algae, but it also acts as a biological filter to help control nitrates and phosphates. Refugiums may be part of your sump, a separate hang on back unit, or even another tank plumbed into the display tank system. Generally, it consists of a deep sand bed (DSB), live rock, and macro algae with very slow water flow through the area and a relatively strong light source to support the live plants and inverts you choose to put inside. The light should be in the spectrum between 5,500-8,000k to allow for proper photosynthesis.

Refugium Styles

Let’s take a look at the different styles of refugiums first. One of the most common types is the in-sump refugium. This is a chamber in the sump that has a slow flow (roughly 30% of the water flow from your overflow box) moving through it. This flow rate allows the macro algae and beneficial bacteria to remove waste and nutrients. The best in sump refugium designs are set-up so you can control the flow through the unit, like Trigger Systems Ruby Elite. This style of refugium tends to be one of the most efficient. Read More »

That Fish Place – That Pet Place Featuring New Premium D-D H2Ocean Pro+ Salt

Galactic Purple DaniosThat Fish Place – That Pet Place is proud to introduce a new premium salt brand to our line of quality salt water products:  H2Ocean Pro+ Natural Reef Salt from D-D the Aquarium Solution.

Similar to brands like Red Sea Coral Pro, D-D H2Ocean Pro+  is harvested from sea water naturally evaporated with solar energy. What could be more natural than real salt water? After harvesting the salt, the natural product is tweaked a little to provide better results for use in our aquariums. For instance, the calcium and magnesium levels are slightly elevated above natural salt water levels. Why? Well, these two elements are quickly used up in reef aquariums, and because our reef tanks aren’t naturally replenished like the oceans, our inverts rely on us to keep these key elements in check. By slightly elevating the levels of calcium and magnesium, D-D H2Ocean Pro+ allows you to dose less, without getting too far out of sync chemically with their natural salt product. Furthermore, the chloride content is slightly reduced from what we see in natural saltwater. By slightly reducing the chloride content in the bucket, D-D H2Ocean has accounted for the extra chloride that usually comes along with dosing in reef tanks where most supplements utilize calcium and magnesium chloride. This helps make sure the chloride content doesn’t elevate too far beyond natural salt water levels in your reef tank. Just one other fine detail addressed by the chemists at D-D H2Ocean.

When this salt  is mixed to a S.G: of 1.025 @ 25°C = 35.5 ppt, your aquarium water parameters should look like this:

pH  level 8.3, range 8.2-8.4 
dKH level 9.3, range 8.7-9.8 
Calcium (Ca2+) level 440, range 430-460 mg/l
Magnesium (Mg2+) level 1340, range 1300-1380 mg/l
Chloride (Cl-) level 19550, range 19960-20130 mg/l
Potassium (K+) level 410, range 380-420 mg/l

So what makes this salt so good? Well, one thing we know about the ocean is that its parameters are pretty consistent. You’re not going to have one day on the reef where the calcium is 500ppm, and a week later be 400ppm. Its important that in our reef tanks we offer the same type of consistency. And, being that corals are from the ocean, doesn’t it make sense to stay as close to natural saltwater conditions as possible? D-D H2Ocean Pro+ mixes quickly, helping hobbyists get consistent results without having to wait 2-3 days for the salt to thoroughly dissolve. Those of us with sensitive stoney corals can attest to how finicky our corals can be over slight changes in parameters. Even hobbyists running Ultra Low Nutrient Systems have benefited from using D-D H2Ocean Pro+ because of its close-to-natural-saltwater levels. Regardless of what corals you keep, its vital to our reef systems to only deal with manufacturers with great quality control. 

Beyond the parameters, this salt is usually less clumpy, less dusty (not much worse than a salt cloud going right up your nose), and mixes up rather clear.  All and all, its this bloggers opinion that D-D H2Ocean Pro+ is one of the best salts offered at That Fish Place – That Pet Place. We currently offer the salt in the retail store, and it will soon be making it’s online debut.

Aquarium Salt Mixes – Choosing the Right Salt for Your Tank

Juvenile Queen AngelChoosing the right aquarium salt mix to add to your tank can be can be a confusing process, especially if you’re new to the hobby. But, it isn’t as complicated as it may seem, you just need a little background info to get you on the right path to choosing the salt that is appropriate for your set-up.  

Salt in Freshwater Aquariums

Adding salt to a freshwater aquarium is not a necessity, but it is used by many aquarists as a treatment to add electrolytes to the aquarium water, and as both a stress reducer and a parasite deterrent. Basic Aquarium Salt is not the same as the formulated mixes used to make a brackish or saltwater aquarium. Aquarium Salt is simply Sodium Chloride, and does not contain minerals and trace elements like calcium and iodine like sea water mixes. Adding small portions of this salt can help to treat osmoregulatory stress, an imbalance or disruption in the exchange of salts and minerals between the fish itself and its environment. Stressful situations such as transport, disease, or injury can cause osmoregulatory stress, but if used properly, aquarium salt can increase blood and oxygen flow through the gills, helping the fish relax and heal. When used in higher concentrations for short time periods as a dip or bath, salt can help to build a the protective slime coat on the body, preventing parasites from attaching and even killing one-celled parasites like Protozoa, that may already be on the fish. While aquarium salt does have some benefits, it is not a necessary additive. Once introduced to the tank, salt does not evaporate out of the tank. It can only be removed with water changes and plants, inverts and other sensitive species may be negatively impacted if the concentration is allowed to rise. Read More »