An Invasive Species Account: Purple Loosestrife

Please welcome back Brandon Moyer with another entry on invasive speciesPurple Loosestrife

The next species I would like to present to you in my exploration of invasive species is one that is notorious among biologists across the country. Though it is quite beautiful in bloom, it is known as a super invasive plant species that disrupts habitats and displaces many native species of fish as well as insects, birds, and other small mammals.

The species is Lythrum salicaria, and it may be something you see every day without even knowing it.  It is known by over ten common names including spiked loosestrife and purple lythrum worldwide, but is best known by the name Purple Loosestrife in the United States. Purple Loosestrife was first introduced into North America through several different vectors; as an ornamental plant for ponds and gardens, as an herb used in cooking and medicine, and through ship ballast water. The origin of Purple Loosestrife is unknown, although its current range is vast. It is very hardy, has spread across Asia and Europe, only limited by the extreme cold of the upper northern hemisphere.

Purple Loosestrife spreads in two ways. One adult plant (4+ years of age) can produce over two million seeds in a single season. These seeds tend to float which aids in dispersal. Their rhizomes, commonly known as runners, can grow up to a foot a season. New plants can spring from these rhizomes, which compounds the number of seeds produced each season.

In several biology and ecology courses I had taken at Millersville University, L. salicaria was a popular example of an introduced species that has taken a strong foothold in a new environment. The dense clusters of roots and rhizomes choke out the roots of other plants around the loosestrife, increasing the area in which it can spread and smothering native plants. Their leaves decompose in the fall when the weather begins to cool and detritivore activity decreases, leading to nutrification of infested waterways. Its thick undergrowth deprives native animals like turtles of areas to bask, but is not dense enough to protect other animals from predation.

Today you can see purple loosestrife almost anywhere you see water in the eastern United States including bogs and drainage areas around warehouses and malls. It can be found in every state except for Florida, Hawaii, and Alaska. Conventional methods of eradicating the invasive, including herbicides and burning, are ineffective. One interesting method of control, considered biological control, is introducing other non-native species that prey on the invasive species. In the case of Purple Loosestrife, leaf beetles, root boring weevils, and flower and seed eating weevils have all been introduced to help stop the spread of the weed.
In any case, control is necessary to protect the complex ecosystems of the wetlands that Purple Loosestrife dominates.  You can help by first learning to identify loosestrife, then using methods to control the spread of this invasive species if you find it on your property by digging, pulling, spot spraying or cutting the plants while they are in bloom and before they seed, usually June-Early August.  Remove the plants and cuttings in plastic bags so they degrade, or incinerate the remains of the plants in a contained area.  It is not recommended that they be composted.  Also, avoid certain cultivars of garden loosestrife and their seed, though they may not be invasive varieties, many may be able to cross pollinate with the invasive species.

For more information on Loosestrife visit the following sites:

Image referenced from Wikipedia, first posted by Megger and used under the GNU Free Documentation License

Thanks Brandon,

Until Next Time,



Copadichromis Cichlids: Breeding Observations

Jose MendesPlease welcome back our “Cichlid Guy” Jose with an article on his experiences with Copadichromis species.

In Lake Malawi, there is a group of zooplankton feeding cichlids known to the natives as “Utaka”. They are the most important and most successful group in the lake. As where most cichlids are bottom dwellers, they have developed into an open water species. Utaka have developed several breeding techniques. Some breed in the rocky habitat and some construct sand bowers in the intermediate habitat, while others breed on the open sand. A fourth strategy is employed by Copadichromis chrysonotus. It is the only known Utaka that spawns in the open water.  In the hobby, young chrysonotus have been confused with young Copadichromis azureus. I have had the pleasure of working with both species, and they are different in size, color, mouth structure and breeding behavior. While the azureus bred under a cave (where he would lure the female with figure eight motions), the chrysonotus bred six inches above the rocks. As much as I enjoyed working with this fish, I have always wanted to breed a species that utilized bowers. The species I came across is Copadichromis eucinostomus. It is found in Lake Malawi, and was previously known as Haplochromis eucinostomus and Nyassachromis eucinostomus. It is found throughout the lake where it feeds on plankton, and its habitat consists of sandy areas in shallow water where males construct “sand castle nests”.

Spawning takes place in the early morning hours. After the eggs have hatched, mouth brooding females congregate into nursery schools and release their fry simultaneously in very shallow water.

After acquiring a wild pair from work, I put them into one of my 75 gallon aquariums. The tank was decorated with caves and a fine Aragamax sand substrate. The water conditions were as follows: Ph 8.8, a hardness of 200 ppm, and a temperature of 82 degrees. Their diet consisted of different flake foods supplemented by occasional feedings of frozen brine and mysis shrimp.

After about one month, the male started piling sand into a mound in a corner of the tank. His color then began to intensify. He went from silver with a light blue face to a light blue with yellow dorsal and caudal fins. From the lower jaw to the anal fin he was black. He then started courting the female to his nest, where she deposited at least two dozen eggs in the normal mouth brooder fashion. At about 27 days I noticed some fry hiding in the rocks. I then removed the rocks in order to catch the fry. I captured 17 fry less than 1/4” in length. The fry then went into a breeder net that was hung in the same tank. They were fed crushed flake and baby brine soaked in Selcon. They ate very well and never turned down food. After three weeks, I transferred them into a 10 gallon tank for growth. This species is generally peaceful at 4.5”. Their max length is 6”, although in the aquarium they can probably get larger. It is definitely worth keeping along with Aulonocara and certain Malawi haps. They are not common along the East coast, but you might be able to find them through forums or specialized clubs dealing with cichlids if we are not able to get them for you. Copadichromis are great looking fish with interesting breeding behaviors. I would recommend if you keep African cichlids to give this family a try, you won’t regret it.

Thanks Jose, as always we look forward to future tales of your experiences.

Artificial Reefs – Reconstructing Coral Reefs Worldwide

Please welcome back Eileen with some insight into artificial reefs.


construction of artificial reefWhen most people think of coral reefs, they picture crystal clear water, colorful corals and active schools of fish like those in places like Hawaii and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. As pristine environments like these are becoming more and more threatened however, the face of the traditional “coral reef” is changing. Artificial reefs are becoming more popular as methods of saving the reefs, protecting the beaches they neighbor, increasing recreation and tourism and even creating more “farming areas” for those fish popular in the aquarium trade.


 Although artificial reefs are becoming more and more advanced as we learn more about what the marine life needs to thrive, the creation of reefs is nothing new. Ancient civilizations like the Persians and the Roman Empire created their own underwater barriers to help defend their harbors. Ancient fishermen were attracted to shipwrecks for the fish that would live in and around the wrecks. Japanese farmers created their own underwater farms to grow kelp in the the 1500’s and fishermen in South Carolina sunk unused timber to attract more fish to the coasts before the Civil War.


The “Osborne Reef” was one of the first efforts in the United States to create an artificial reef for recreational uses and to preserve and expand the existing coral reefs. This reef was used as the final resting ground for well over a million tires off of the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and was considered one of the most ambitious and environmentally-friendly projects. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. Marine life couldn’t grow in the tires and the tires themselves weren’t firmly anchored enough to save nearby natural reefs from damage during Florida’s active hurricane and tropical storm seasons. Though the original project had good intentions and the right idea – using items that would normally fill a landfill or have no other purpose – a multi-million dollar project is now underway to remove the tires from Osborne Reef.


Other projects have learned from the mistakes made with Osborne Reef and are now working to bolster the struggling coral reefs worldwide. The Rigs-to-Reefs program uses obsolete, unused or retired oil rigs to create new underwater reefs. The old rigs – most of which already have healthy reef populations around their bases from years of use – are either tipped onto their sides on the ocean floor or are cut in half, leaving the base intact and moving the top of the rig to a nearby location. New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) is also doing their part to save the reefs by sinking decommissioned, outdated subway cars. The stainless steel cars are cleaned, decontaminated, stripped of anything unsafe for the marine life, and then sunk to a new home in the Atlantic Ocean. Numerous decommissioned boats and ships of all sizes have also been scuttled and sunk to create new reefs, some of the most notable being the USS Oriskany and the USS Spiegel Grove, two naval vessels.


While projects like these are recycling structures that may have never normally seen the bottom of the ocean, other organizations are creating new structures designed specifically with marine life in mind. Reef Balls is an organization that creates structures for artificial reef use. They have over 20 styles and 10 sizes for various uses like coral reef and mangrove rehabilitation, oyster reefs, aquaculture farming, recreational purposes like fishing and snorkeling, erosion prevention, and scientific research. Companies can sponsor and build their own reef balls and government and private grants are also available. So far, over 59 countries have reef balls sunken off of their coasts. Companies like the Neptune Memorial Reef in Florida and Eternal Reefs, a Reef Balls’ sister company, are even creating artificial reefs using cremated remains to create underwater cemeteries.


Artificial reefs are becoming more and more common. They give new life to structures that would have been scrapped in the past and are helping to revitalize struggling reef communities worldwide. SCUBA divers, fishermen, surfers, and marine scientists are all already making use of these new reefs and as the aquarium hobby grows and expands, artificial reefs will become more important in sustaining populations for our own hobby. With the support of aquarium community and marine-loving citizens worldwide, we can turn terrestrial trash into new homes to brink some of the animals we love back from the brink.



Thanks, Eileen.  This is a really interesting topic.  Looking forward to your next article.


Image 2 attributed to:

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.

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.


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,

Red Sea Salt with Steven Pro

Please welcome back Steven Pro to That Fish Blog.                                Steven Pro

There is a breed of reef keepers that strives to setup their systems in such a way as to as closely as possible replicate nature.  They use live rock, live sand, refugiums with macroalgae, seagrasses, or mangroves, and they spend large quantities of money in lighting that replicates the power of the sun in the tropics.  They also invest a lot of time, money, and effort into maintaining optimum water quality and yet it is this very water, the basic foundation of any marine system, in which most reef keepers depart from this preference for all things natural.  The vast majority of these reef keepers instead use a synthetic salt mix.
Coral Pro Salt
Not to say there are not some good reasons for this.  Very few of us are lucky enough to live close enough to the coast to use natural seawater.  And for those that are, this is not always the best choice.  Our coastal waterways are often polluted by agricultural runoff, industrial pollution, nutrients, and other man-made sources that render this water inappropriate for aquarium use.  There are some companies that are now bottling saltwater from (hopefully) clean sources, but at today’s high fuel prices, transporting water at 9 pounds per gallon is not the most cost effective option.  That is where the Red Sea line of salt mixes can come into play.

Red Sea makes two brands of dry salt mix.  But, in contrast to most every other manufacturer, Red Sea does not use terrestrially mined components to create an artificial salt mix.  Instead, they evaporate salt out of the Red Sea to recreate Mother Nature.  Starting with water that is drawn from an actual reef near Eilat, Israel in the Red Sea, the water is evaporated using the power of the sun as well as the dry air from the surrounding desert.  Because the entire area is a desert, there is little rain and therefore little runoff.  Point of fact, the Eilat area gets little more than 1” of rainfall per year.  This coastline also has very little industry or agriculture leaving the surrounding water comparatively pristine.  The resulting dried salts are then screened, cleaned, and chemically analyzed.  At this point, the salt is 87% complete.  There are some compounds that once precipitated out of solution, won’t re-dissolve when hydrated again.  These are added back to the salt mix in ionic form.  At this point, a final quality control, chemical analysis is completed and if the product passes, it is packaged for sale.

As I mentioned before, Red Sea makes two brands of salt.  There is the classic Red Sea salt, which has been around for over 15 years.  And now, there is the Coral Pro Salt version.  It is specifically formulated for use with reverse osmosis water.  Many reef keepers have noticed that when using most salt mixes, the values of things such as pH, alkalinity, calcium, and magnesium might be a bit low when mixed with de-mineralized water.  That is because most formulas are designed to be safe for use with tap water.  Tap water usually has a certain amount of carbonates, bicarbonates, calcium, and magnesium.  When blended with tap water, these salts mix to their appropriate values.  But, when added to reverse osmosis water, which has been stripped of these components, the resulting mix is sometimes lacking.  Red Sea has heard the complaints of reef keepers worldwide to design a salt specifically for use with reverse osmosis water.  When mixed to a specific gravity of 1.025 at 75F, Coral Pro delivers a pH of 8.2, a calcium concentration of 450 parts per million, alkalinity of 2.5 milliequivalents per liter, and a magnesium level of 1,300 parts per million.  Even more importantly, because the mix was originally derived from the reef, it also has all of the minor trace elements as well and in their proper, naturally occurring ratios.  No elevated metal levels here.  Everything is as it was on the real reef.  And, in keeping with this natural theme, Red Sea salts also do not contain any EDTA or other binding agents.

Also, in testing done by Eric Borneman and Kim Lowe and presented at the 18th annual Marine Aquarium Conference of North America in Houston, Texas, Red Sea salt tied for “first place” in their general observations. It is with this in mind that I first decided to try Red Sea salts.  Actually a funny story, that is why I have the job I do now.  I operate as a side business a 7,200 gallon coral and anemone greenhouse propagation facility.  I was unhappy with the brand of salt I was using then, so I started to investigate other alternatives.  I recalled the MACNA presentation by Eric and Kim and tried to get in touch with their sales representative to buy their Coral Pro salt in quantity.  After several attempts in vain, I discovered that the reason I could not reach Dave was because he had moved on to another company and Red Sea was currently advertising for his job. I sent them my resume and after an interview, I had a job offer.  Now, I am the East Coast Sales Manager for Red Sea and a happy user of their Coral Pro salt in my greenhouse too!

Thanks Steven. If you have any questions about any Red Sea Products or anything else for Steven, feel free to send them along.

Until Next Time,