Guest Blog: Diving in Honduras


That Fish Blog is proud to introduce our first guest blogger; Melissa Leiter. Melissa is one of our staff Marine Biologists, as well as being an avid aquarium hobbyist. Melissa is also a Fish Room Supervisor in our Lancaster, PA retail store.

Welcome Melissa.

If you are looking for a one of a kind vacation and are scuba certified, Roatan, Honduras is a place you really should consider. I had the opportunity to take a summer class offered through Millersville University in Roatan, Honduras. It was a very intense 3 week class but I learned so much and had a blast all at the same time. It was really nice to be able to see many of the fish that we sell at That Fish Place in their natural environment swimming around so gracefully.

The corals themselves were an amazing sight to see. The reef structure in itself was more than I could have ever imagined. We did many dives to observe the reef, paying close attention to detail so that we would be able to identify a variety of corals learning their common name as well as scientific name.

We had the opportunity to do two night dives to observe the night life on the reef. We descended into the warm darkness right around sunset. The reef is a totally different world when surrounded by darkness. Stoplight parrotfish, Sparisoma viride could be seen in a mucous cocoon and most of the fish that were out and about during the day were totally out of sight, hidden in crevices for protection from the creatures that roam in the night. Octopus and cuttlefish were out scouring for food as well as large spiny lobsters and spider crabs. Basket stars, Astrophyton muricatum, were also abundant with their arms outstretched collecting plankton as it drifted by. At random times throughout our night dives we took a few minutes to “feed the corals” where we held our dive lights to a coral and all the plankton swarmed to the light and became coral food. The pillar coral, Dendrogyra cylindrus was a favorite to feed with its polyps extending and retracting continuously.

One of the last things we did before our ascent to the surface was to gather together on the sandy bottom and turned out our lights for a few minutes. Once our eyes adjusted to the darkness the bioluminescence came into view. If you waved your arms that was enough to agitate the critters that store the bioluminescence and you could see a faint light coming out of the pitch black . Another spectacular sight were “string of pearls”. “String of pearls” are ostracods, which are tiny crustaceans that are scurrying about. These tiny crustations attract mates along the same lines as fireflies do flashing their bioluminenscence, each species with a slightly different pattern. They lit up the dark with flashes of light all strung together like fireflies dancing through the sky.

While my diving at the reef has come to an end for this trip the memories I have gathered will remain with me for many years to come. Maybe if more people we able to see the reef first hand they would want to do all they could to save it for future generations. The ocean truly is a world of its own.

~Melissa

Visit us MACNA XIX in Pittsburgh

This years Marine Aquarium Conference of North America(MACNA)will be held in Pittsburgh, PA on September 14-16, 2007. This show has grown every year, and this year looks to be bigger than ever. That Fish Place has a booth in the trade show, I welcome everyone attending to stop in and visit, sign up for our free gift certificate raffle, and check out our show specials. I will be doing blog entries from the show, check back to see what is going on.

MACNA offers consumers and hobbyist a unique experience to interact with manufacturers, industry experts, and other hobbyist. For more information about the show visit the official MACNA XIX Website

I am looking forward to a great show, hope to see some of you there.

Dave

Calcium Dosing: Choosing Your Reactor

Maintaining calcium levels in your reef aquarium is critical for the health and growth of your corals. Calcium is constantly being being depleted from your aquarium water because of the demand for calcium from new coral growth and coraline algae growth. Calcium must be replenished and maintained on an ongoing basis for your reef to thrive. There are many sources of calcium available on the market; liquid calcium, powder calcium, salt mixes with extra calcium. All of these products require frequent, if not daily, dosage to maintain calcium levels.

There is a better way; use a reactor. Using a Reactor is the best method to maintain calcium levels in your aquarium with a minimum of maintenance, and maximum results. There are two basic types of reactors to choose from, a CO2 powered Calcium reactor or line fed Kalkwasser Reactor. These two reactors accomplish the same goal in very different ways.

Calcium reactors supply a constant supply of calcium by introducing CO2 into a reaction chamber, which forms carbonic acid that dissolves a natural calcium carbonate media. Water is fed into the Calcium Reactor from your tank or sump, then the calcium rich effluent from the reactor is dripped back into the tank or sump at a controlled rate. The effluent from the reactor is not only calcium rich, but also has a high alkalinity to enhance your aquariums pH buffering ability. Basic units such as the Coralife Calcium Reactor are on the entry level, and units like the Precision Marine Professional reactor are available for serious reef hobbyists.

The effluent pH from a calcium reactor can be very low due to the carbonic acid formed when CO2 is introduced. Effluent pH should be checked regularly, the use of a quality pH monitor, such as the Pinpoint pH Meter by American Marine, is highly recommended. Using a pH controller, like the Milwaukee SMS122, to control the output of CO2 into your reactor will further safeguard your system from low pH conditions caused by overdosing of CO2.

Calcium hydroxide, or Kalkwasser as it has become commonly known,has long been considered and ideal source of calcium for reef aquariums, but ease of use and consistency of performance have turned aquarists away from the product. One of the biggest problems with using calcium hydroxide solution, is that it reacts with atmospheric CO2 and forms a calcium carbonate precipitate. As this precipitate forms it reduces the calcium level in the solution, and causes clogging of drip lines, and can irritate corals if introduced into the aquarium. Kalwasser Reactors, like the Professional Kalkreactor by Precision Marine, solve this problem and make the use of kalkwasser easier than ever. Kalkreactors are sealed units that prevent interaction with atmospheric CO2, so no precipitates are formed, and provide your aquarium with a constant supply of saturated kalkwasser solution. These units are best used in conjunction with an auto top off system, or a remote gravity fed reservoir and float valve. This way you can dose calcium while you are compensating for evaporation, allowing for slow addition of the saturated kalkwasser solution. Kalkwasser solutions have an extremely high pH and must be added very slowly to prevent rapid pH increases. Combining Kalkwasser addition and evaporation replenishment with use of a Kalkreactor makes what was previously a difficult product to use easy.

Choose your reactor, and spend more time enjoying your reef!

Dave

Quarantine: Protect Your Display Aquarium

A quarantine tank is simply a small aquarium that is set up for the purpose isolating a fish, or fishes, from your display aquarium. Quarantine tanks are inexpensive and easy to set up, and are an investment in protection for your display aquarium.

Parasites, injury, and infectious disease are an unfortunate, and unavoidable, aspect of the aquarium hobby. One of the main purposes of a quarantine tank is to hold new fish purchases in an isolated tank that allows for easy observation. If the fish should show signs of parasites or other infections you can medicate with no risk of infecting the fish in your main tank. If you have invertibrates, or live plants in your display, you are severely limited in your choices of effective medications, not introducing pathogens is your best defense. A quarantine tank also gives new fish an opportunity to get used to processed food without having to compete with your established fishes that most likely are aggressive eaters. Another benefit of a quarantine tank is that it also gives you somewhere to put injured or aggressive fish that you may need to remove from your display.

For most fish an aquarium of 10- 20 gallons will be fine, obviously larger fish or large numbers of fish will need a lager aquarium. You do not need to get fancy with your quarantine tank, a basic set-up is all that is required. A small power filter or air powered sponge filter, a heater, and standard aquarium light is all you need. A bare bottom aquarium works best, however something for the fish to hide in is important. A small cave constructed with rocks, some artificial plants, or a length of PVC tubing is recommended.

Quarantine of new fish should last for at least 21 days, this allows for extended observation, and for any parasites that may be present to complete their life cycles. If after 21 days there has been no sign of parasites or disease it is safe to acclimate and introduce your new fish to its permanent home with minimal risk of introducing any pathogens into your display. If at any point during quarantine you suspect there may be a problem with your fish, and you decide to medicate, your quarantine “clock” must be reset and you should start the 21 day period over again. Many parasites have multiple life stages, most medications are only effective against specific stages. For this reason, only an extended exposure to medication is truly effective against many parasites. This is also why some parasitical problems seem to come and go, the parasite may only become visibly apparent at certain life stages, although they were there “hiding” all along.

Controlled feeding is another important function of a quarantine tank. Wild caught fish can be very slow to acclimate to prepared foods, and may be very timid towards accepting new types of foods. Without competition new fish get a chance to adjust at their own pace, allowing them to compete once they are ready for the display aquarium. Use of appetite enhancers, like garlic, can also aid in training finicky fish to accept new foods.

There a few things that you can do to make setting up your quarantine tank fast and easy. You do not need to keep your quarantine tank running when not needed if you are limited on space. When needed, fill your quarantine tank with water from your display, this accomplishes a water change in your display, as well as gets you started with conditioned water in your quarantine tank. Another good trick is to keep your sponge filter, or cartriges from your power filter in your display tank. this keeps them colonized with bacteria and you will not have to worry about cycling your quarantine tank if you need it in a hurry. This is very easy to do if you use a wet dry filter on your display, simply hide them in the sump untill they are needed. You can set up an instant established quarantine system in just a few minutes if you plan for it (wouldn’t it be nice if your display was that easy)

Protect your display, you have put too much time, effort, and expense into your aquarium to put it at risk. A little patience and prevention will save you a lot of stress and disappointment.

Dave

It’s A Small World After All

One of the areas of the aquarium hobby that has boomed in recent years is the phenomenon of the mini, or nano, aquarium. Many models of small complete systems have hit the market, and it is now easier than ever to succesfully keep these pint sized wonders.

There are a few important things to consider when planning your nano-tank set up. Small tanks are notorious for having unstable water quality. Water quality and temperature changes occur much easier, and faster, in a small tank than in a larger system simply because there is less water to buffer and absorb changes. Even a five gallon water change can take out a lot of good bacteria and may be causing the same “new tank syndrome” that many aquarists experience when setting up their aquarium. Cloudy water and a brown algae bloom typically mark the end of the cycling process as bacteria neutralize nitrites and create nitrates that feed algae. These blooms usually die off on their own within a few days, but try keeping your water changes small to avoid this “re-cycling”. For example, instead of changing 25 percent of your water a couple times a month, try changing 5 to 10 percent every week or two. If you have to do a larger water change, keep a product with a live bacteria culture like Biozyme or Hagen’s Cycle on hand to replace the bacteria you remove. Increasing the amount of water in your system can also help to keep the water quality more stable. A small pump, some tubing and an extra tank can make a simple refugium to increase the volume of your system, allowing for a more stable display tank . With the addition of a light source, this extra tank can also be used to grow macroalgae to eat up extra nutrients, as a nursery for copepods and other live foods, or even as a safe haven for harassed fish and invertebrates. An extra 5 or 10 gallons will help to stabilize your water quality and prevent algae and bacteria blooms. Between water changes, avoid overfeeding your fish and invertebrates by using a feeding station to contain floating foods and a feeding syringe to target-feed directly to your animals. Make sure that you are choosing size appropriate species of fish and other animal, while this is important in any size aquarium, it is crucial in small aquarium. Try to stick to community fish, and be conservative with the number of fish that you are keeping. Heavy fish loads require heavy feeding, and can quickly overtax small filtration systems. Small systems take a little extra TLC than large tanks but can be well worth it in the end.

Dave