Tips For Keeping Your Aquarium Cool in Hot Weather

Ice CubesWhether you have a freshwater or saltwater aquarium, rising temperatures in the summer time can be a cause of concern. Aquariums shouldn’t be allowed to get hotter than 83°F, or dissolved oxygen levels in the water will start to diminish. This triggers a competition between fish and invertebrates for oxygen  leading to a very stressful situation, and possibly even death, for your aquarium inhabitants. Detailed below are some tips to help keep your aquarium cool when temperatures rise. Read More »

Doomed to Dissolve – Plants to Avoid in Freshwater Aquariums

Peace LilyOnce upon a time you set up your first aquarium. You can remember the excitement of getting it all together, arranging everything perfectly, and introducing your first fish and plants. Chances are you also remember the disappointment and frustration when something in the tank just didn’t thrive the way you wanted it to. In many cases, beginner aquarists struggle with keeping live plants looking as good as they did in the store, but the speedy decline of pet store plants may not be due to your black thumb. While most plants offered in the aquarium trade are true aquatic plants, other plants simply aren’t meant for fully aquatic environments, waning and falling apart in the aquarium within days or weeks.  Read More »

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 »

A Bevy of Beautiful Bettas – Various Forms of Betta splendens

Half Moon BettaOne of the most popular fish among aquarists of all ages and skills levels is the Betta, also known as the Siamese Fighting Fish. Although there are almost 70 recognized species in the genus Betta, the one most often found in shops that sell fish is Betta splendens. Some people are surprised to learn that the long, flowing fins that most people think of when they hear  the name “betta” are actually not what are found on bettas in the wild. It is a special variation that breeders have “designed” by using the genetics of the fish to bring out certain qualities – and it is far from the only kind! Here are some of the most common varieties of Betta splendens that you may see at your local pet store: 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.