Product Spotlight: AquaEl Unimax Canister Filter

One of the newer additions to our canister filter line, is the UniMax Plus canister filter from AquaEl. AquaEl is still a relatively new name to the US marker, with a long history of quality products sold in Europe.
The UniMax Plus is one of the best canister filters to hit the US market in recent years, with several features that make it both unique, and high performance.
The feature that really stands out with the UniMax plus, is its internal UV sterilizer, providing unrivaled water quality, with a single piece of equipment. Mechanical, Biological, Chemical, and Sterilization all in one.

Another cool feature of the UniMax, are the multiple intakes and outlets on the two larger models. This gives you much improved water flow in larger tanks, versus models with only a single inlet and outlet.

The impeller design is also unique in the unimax, the impeller housing sits below the water level inside the canister, unlike most other units that have the impeller housing above the water level of the canister. This allows for easy priming of the filter, and extra quiet opperation. The Unimax models with multiple intakes and outlets, also use a multiple impeller design, which gives you a built in back up should one impeller be damaged, or stop functioning.

If you are considering a canister filter, give the UniMax a good look, I think that you will be impressed with the features it has when you compare it to some of the other filters on the market.
Until next time,


Spongeblog Squarepants

I would like to welcome another guest blogger to That Fish Blog, Desiree Leonard. Desiree is an Assistant Manager in the fish room here at That Fish Place, as well as one of our Staff Marine Biologist. I hope that you enjoy the information that she is blogging about, as well as her sense of humor.
Sponges: Beyond Spongebob.

Sponges are animals? Believe it or don’t. Most of us are familiar with the dried colorless varieties that populate the kitchens and bathrooms of the world, or worse, the cellulose fakers that our children believe dwell in pineapples at the bottom of the ocean. But that’s not what sponges are at all. To me, they are some of the most fascinating and fun sea creatures. Fun? Well, they may not actually do anything, but in the home aquarium, they are “fun” in the aspect that they are beautiful and challenging to keep. They are remarkably adaptive, and if purchased healthy many not only survive in reef tanks, but can grow well and reproduce.

“Sponge” refers to the animals classified in the phylum Porifera; which means loosely “bearer of pores”. The first type of sponges that most aquarists encounter in their aquariums belong to the class Calcarea. These little guys are the tiny little sponges you’ll find in your sump, on the standpipes, and bopping around in the bio-tower or skimmer output. They are about the size of a large grain of rice with a fine, funnel-like extension at one end. They don’t hurt anything, so if you are new at this, don’t be alarmed.

Those sponges most commonly sold in the trade as ornamental sponges belong to the class Demospongiae. They are variable in form and color – from branching blue to orange paddles, to yellow or red balls. Others in this group that are not sold, but most reefers see in their aquarium are amorphous, encrusting species in colors of white, yellow, pink or black.

Sponges are one of the most primitive animals in the sea, yet are far more complex than most hobbyists are aware. All sponges differ from other marine invertebrates in that they have no true tissues or organs. Their structure is made up of silica based spicules and/or collagenous spongin. Most sponges are constant filter feeders with little need for lighting. To feed, sponges pump an incredible amount of water through their bodies. The uni-directional flow allows the sponge to absorb fine food particles (most not larger than 1.5 micron!) and release wastes back into the water column. It’s nutrition by diffusion, Cool Thing #1! As the sponge grows, it will modify its surface and cavities to optimize the water flow around and through it. For this reason, once a sponge settles in a spot in your aquarium, it is best not to move it.

Not all sponges are obligate filter feeders. There is a group of calcareous sponges, like my current favorite, the blue finger sponge, which are moderately photosynthetic (due to symbiotic cyanobacteria) as well as filter feeders. Use high light, high water flow, and don’t forget your calcium!

A note about purchasing sponges; Do not ever EVER remove them from the water. If you remove them, air bubbles become trapped in the body cavities and there is no way to purge the air so those cells will die. When buying, look for uniformity, no transparent or fuzzy spots. Don’t buy sponges with necrotic tissue, unless you are brave and willing to eat the cost, as many retailers will not guarantee sponges. If the sponge is new, and it was exposed in shipping, it may not show dead tissue for a while. If after a few days you see some of your new sponge dying, just cut off the bad spot. Sponges have remarkable regenerative abilities due to Cool Thing #2: Totipotent Cells. Think Stem Cells. These cells can revert to any type of cell needed to ensure the regeneration of the sponge.

I feel I should include Cool Thing #3 even though it’s not really related to the hobby but it’s cool nonetheless: Sponges are one of the most chemically rich resources identified to date. They’re packed full of biochemicals that are currently the basis of the majority of new pharmaceutical research. Products from anti-inflamitories to anti-cancer agents have been derived from sponges. But that’s a different blog.
I hope I’ve manage to convince you of the hidden charm and FUN of poriferans, and I encourage aquarists who want to attempt keeping sponges to research them further and to go ahead and try them out!

Very cool article, thanks Dez.
See you next blog.

Species Profile: Anglerfish

One of the most interesting fish available in the aquarium hobby, is also one of the most difficult to see. Anglerfishes, also known as frogfish, are masters of disguise and camouflage, and have developed an amazing array of shapes, colors and textures to allow them to blend into their surroundings. Some look like rocks, some look like sponges, some look like algae, and some look like aliens from a distant planet.
Anglerfish get their name from the specialized dorsal spines that are found on their foreheads that resemble a fishing line and lure. They use this special appendage to lure prey towards them, then eat it whole. Anglerfish have enormous mouths for their size, and are capable of eating objects as big as they are.
Anglerfish are easily kept in aquariums, and some species do well in fairly small aquariums. Make sure that you know the adult size of the species that you are planning to keep to make sure that you are giving them enough space, Anglers can reach there adult size fairly quickly, dont be fooled by the small size that are usually found in pet stores. Some species like the Giant Anglerfish, Antennarius commerson can get up to 13″ in length. Anglers are predators, so you must be careful when choosing tankmates, if an Angler thinks it can eat something it will try. Do not keep anglers with fish of the same size or smaller, they will be eaten. Someone once described them to me as a giant mouth with a little fish attached. You should also not keep Anglers with shrimp or other small inverts that may be tasty. Other than towards prey items, Anglers are not aggressive, and make fine tank mates for larger, non aggressive species. Do not keep Anglers with aggressive species, they are easily picked upon and have little in the way of self defense.
Anglers spend most of their time sitting on the bottom, or “walking” around on their modified pectoral fins, that look more like legs in some species. You will rarely see an Angler swimming around in the open, as they are poor swimmers.
Feed Anglers a varied diet of small live foods, such as ghost shrimp or guppies. You can also train Anglers to eat fresh or frozen foods with the use of a feeding prong.
I hope that you have found this information interesting, Anglers are one of my favorite fishes, and I hope this will inspire someone to give them a try.
Until next time,


Canister Filters for Saltwater

A customer recently asked me a question about using a canister filter on their saltwater aquarium. The customer had read on Reef Central that you should not use a canister filter on a saltwater aquarium, especially on a reef aquarium. That they do not work well, and will cause high nitrates.

This is a topic that you will see differing opinions on. The problem with canister filters is not that they don’t work on saltwater or reef aquariums, they work very well. Any biological filter is going to produce nitrate on a closed aquarium system, it is the natural end product of the nitrogen cycle.

This is why many reef tank owners will remove the bio balls from their wet dry filters, or run their systems on a sump only set up, in an effort to reduce nitrate production. This is why some people are of the opinion that canister filters should not be used on a reef tank. You can get away with this approach if you have a sufficient amount of live rock and substrate in your aquarium to act as your biological filter. In fact, live rock is an excellent source of nitrifying bacteria, and will function as a very efficient biological filter in an aquarium with enough rock. Most reef set ups will work well without a dedicated biological filter, so long as the biological load is not too high, and you are using a good protein skimmer. This method is often referred to as a “Berlin” style aquarium (lots of live rock, good water movement, heavy protein skimming, and no biological filter). Canister filters can still be used on reef tanks, they can be used as additional biological filters in heavily stocked tanks, and can easily be used for whatever chemical filtration media you may want to use.

Saltwater fish only tanks are a different story; in most cases you will need a biological filter to handle the fish waste and biological load, even if your tank has live rock in it. You will also want to have a mechanical filter on a saltwater fish tank, especially if you have large fish in your tank. Most canister filters give you the ability to operate them in different ways. You can use them for biological, mechanical or chemical filtration as needed.

Nitrate is going to be produced in any set up, some more than others. My best advice is to use as much filtration as your aquarium demands. Ammonia and Nitrite should be near zero in an established aquarium, if you are detecting either, chances are your aquariums biological filter is insufficient. Nitrate levels will creep up slowly over time in any system, so whatever filtration method you employ, you still need to monitor your water chemistry. Water changes will remove nitrate from your aquarium, so as long as you are testing your water, and performing regular water changes, nitrates should not be a problem.

Speaking canister filters, here’s a video my staff created to help aquarists set up a canister filter on their aquarium. Canister Filter Video


Lighting Question: What is Kelvin Rating

So your thinking about upgrading from your fish bowl, and are looking at your options for your next aquarium. You start looking at the live plant aquariums or the saltwater reef aquariums and what the requirements are. Quickly you realize that there is a wide range of specialty lighting available, and you have no idea what you are looking at. This is a common problem faced by many aquarium hobbyist.

One of the questions about specialty lighting that I am most often asked from customers in our store is what spectrum, or type, of light do I need for my aquarium. To really understand the answer to this question, you need to understand the universal rating system that is used to describe the spectral out of aquarium light bulbs; The Kelvin Scale.

For those of you who paid attention in science class, you know that Kelvin is a temperature scale in which zero occurs at absolute zero and each degree equals one kelvin. Water freezes at 273.15 K and boils at 373.15 K. Just thought I would throw that in there to confuse you, obviously that does not help describe the spectrum of a light bulb.

Kelvin Rating, or simply K. Without getting too technical, is a numeric scale that describes the color of an object at a given temperature. For aquarium lighting purposes Kelvin rating describes the color, or spectrum, of sunlight in a given environment. Most aquarium light bulbs will have a Kelvin rating between 5000K-20,000K. For example, the approximate Rating of natural sunlight at sea level is 5500K, this is a very warm white light that includes all the colors of visible light(red,orange,yellow,green,indigo,violet) This is the ideal spectrum of light for shallow water aquarium plants and fish. The deeper you go into the water column the higher the Kelvin Rating becomes. 20,000K light bulbs are designed to mimic deep water environments. Red, yellow, and orange light are short wavelengths and get filtered out of the water column very quickly. Blue and green light can pentrate much deeper. The result is that the deeper you get in the ocean the more blue the environment becomes. Animals that live in these deeper water environments have adapted to the light spectrum at these depths.

Now all you have to decide on is what you want to put in your aquarium, sorry I can not help you with that one. Here is a general guide for deciding what Kelvin rating bulb you should choose for your aquarium.

Daylight spectrum (5000K-10000k) bulbs are ideal for freshwater aquariums with live plants and Saltwater fish aquariums, higher Kelvin bulbs (6700K-20000K) are ideal for saltwater reef aquariums.

Hopefully that has shed some light(pun intended)on the different aquarium light bulbs available.

Until next blog,