Employee blogs written by Josh Maxwell

SPS and How to Keep Them

»Posted by on Nov 6, 2017 in Blog, Josh M | Comments Off on SPS and How to Keep Them

SPS and How to Keep Them Written by Josh Maxwell               SPS (Small Polyp Stony) corals are some of the most beautiful corals to keep in a reef tank.  They have amazing coloration and growth patterns that liven up any aquarium.  However they are among the most difficult corals to care for and that air of difficulty surrounding them makes reefers who would aspire to keep them reluctant to try their first frag.  As a reefer who pulled the trigger on keeping SPS and absolutely loves them I’ll attempt to help would be SPS keepers learn the basic ins and outs of keeping these amazing corals.              Most SPS corals that are seen in the hobby are native to the Indo-pacific region of the world in shallow waters surrounding islands and coasts such as Indonesia, Australia, Fiji, etc.  Stony corals in general are important ecologically as they make up the very foundation on which the reef itself is built with their calcium carbonate skeletons.  The structures that these invertebrates build are essential safe havens for many species of fish and invertebrates.  In the  hobby, SPS represent the highest tier of care for most reef keepers.  They are in some cases very demanding to care for but are very rewarding when successfully grown in an aquarium. (See all photo credits at the end of article.)             The question now is how to keep them.  SPS, in general, are found in shallow water reefs in the wild, where there is abundant sun light and flow from the crashing waves at the surface.  As such when these corals are kept in a reef aquarium they require strong light and strong flow.  Lighting can be provided by LEDs such as Ecotech radions and AI Hydras, or through T5 lights.  Flow can be provided by any strong powerhead such as Ecotech vortech pumps, or sicce voyagers.  Flow is important because as SPS colonies grow they can collect detritus in their structures and if left unchecked can actually kill tissue in certain areas if not swept out by adequate flow.  Filtration is extremely important for keeping healthy SPS.  Nitrates and phosphates need to be kept to a minimum as they can irritate SPS tissues, phosphates especially hinder skeletal growth on SPS.  Filtration should include an adequate protein skimmer as well as the use of chemical media like GFO (granular Ferric Oxide) to remove phosphates specifically.              It’s not just about what you remove from your tank, its also about what you add to keep your corals healthy.  SPS require the addition of calcium, magnesium, and carbonate (alkalinity) continuously so that they may build their skeletons.  Levels are as follows for optimal health and growth; calcium at 400-450 ppm, magnesium at 1400-1450 ppm, and an alkalinity of 8-12 dKH.  This is typically done in two ways.  The first is the use of a calcium reactor which uses carbon dioxide to break down aragonite into calcium and alkalinity to be used by your corals.  The other method is to use a dosing pump which adds certain amounts of calcium, alkalinity, and magnesium at certain times.  Organic elements need to be introduced as well.  I prefer using both planktonic foods and liquid foods.  SPS are quite capable of catching small planktonic organisms and benefit from target feeding.  My personal favorite food is Polyp Lab Reef Roids as SPS respond well to it.  As for liquid foods, my go-to is Red Sea Reef Energy A and B.  This is a supplement that introduces carbohydrates that function as an energy source for respiration and amino acids, which are the building blocks of all proteins essential in tissue growth.              There are a few genera of SPS corals that are commonly available in the hobby.  The first coral that many SPS keepers start with are montipora corals.  The ever famous Montipoa capricornis is still a mainstay in the hobby with its amazing “shelfing” growth pattern.  Monti caps also come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, many of which are available at the store.  Another species that isn’t commonly seen is M. setosa which has a very nice burnt orange color and what can only be described as a random growth pattern.  They table, plate, branch, and encrust.  Pretty much any growth pattern you can think of M. setosa can do it.                The next few genera which are all quite similar in terms of general care and appearance are Seriatopora, Pocillopora, and Stylophora.  They form tight-knit bush like colonies with their branches and display a great deal of polyp extension as well.  These corals are usually forgiving in terms of water quality...

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Pests in the Reef Aquarium

»Posted by on Dec 10, 2015 in Blog, Education, Josh M, Reef Aquariums, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Pests in the Reef Aquarium

  As aquarists, it brings us great joy seeing the organisms in our tanks not just survive but thrive and grow.  To the reef aquarists it’s a more acute feeling, whether it’s seeing our single polyp of rasta zoanthid start growing like mad or that acropora frag that you’ve had for months start growing ever so slightly at the base of the plug that it’s on.  That feeling of excitement at seeing our corals and other organisms grow in our tanks is, for most, the reason we keep a reef tank.  This is why it’s heartbreaking and frustrating when your corals become dinner for some strange little creature that has randomly appeared in your beautiful tank.  Sadly this happens more often than not, but there is hope! In this piece I’ll go over a few more common pests that can appear in a reef aquarium and how to remove them safely so that your coral can once again go about growing and thriving. Flatworms Flatworms, also known as planaria, are flat disc shaped worms that crawl on corals and coralimorphs.  The reason they do this is because they contain symbiotic zooxanthellae in their tissue that perform photosynthesis and provide the flatworm with nourishment and in exchange get a home just like corals.  This means they have to find a nice bright location for the algae to perform photosynthesis, and the best place in a reef tank is unfortunately on our corals.  When they do this they can effectively smother corals with their numbers and prevent the corals themselves from photosynthesizing. Treatment The best way to remove flatworms is by manual removal, the most efficient method is dipping the affected corals.  The best results we’ve seen is from Revive by Two Little Fishes.  The dip will knock off the flatworms almost immediately.  Another way to get rid of flatworms is using a predator.  Blue Velvet Sea Slugs of the genus Chelidonura are highly efficient at eating flatworms but unfortunately don’t live very long after eradicating them. Nudibranchs We all know about the beautiful, colorful sea slugs from nature documentaries.  The ones I’m talking about are anything but.  Coral eating nudibranchs typically feed on montipora and zoanthid corals in reef tanks.  The main problem with nudibranchs is that they not only eat corals but they also lay lots of egg clusters near their victim so that their offspring have a meal as soon as they hatch.  The eggs look like the cerata on the adult nudibranch’s back and are laid in clusters that often look like spirals on or near their host coral.      Treatment Just as you would get rid of flatworms, dipping corals affected with nudibranchs will remove the adults.  The eggs however can really only be removed manually with a pick-like tool of some kind.  If you don’t want to poke and prod your corals to remove the eggs dip the corals constantly until no more nudibranchs are found. Mantis Shrimp Everybody knows about these guys and dreads hearing that clicking sound in their tanks.  Mantis shrimp are not typically a threat to corals but pose a very real threat to the fish and other motile invertebrates that call a reef tank home.  Some species of mantis shrimp that hitch a ride in live rock are nocturnal and are active hunters during this time.  This is of course bad news for the unsuspecting fish that’s caught sleeping in a rock or the snail that’s happily grazing on algae. Treatment Unfortunately, mantis shrimp are difficult to remove from an established aquarium.  The best way to remove them is to make an effective trap or find the spot in the tank that it calls home and remove it manually.  If you choose the latter route, use caution. Mantis shrimp claws can hit with enough force to create light, heat and sound.  As one can imagine it’s not a great feeling when one of these guys attacks your hand so use extreme caution in removing and handling a mantis shrimp.   These are a few of the pests that plague reef aquariums.  The best way to remove these little devils is to ensure they don’t get into your tank in the first place.  Prevention is key when it comes to stopping outbreaks of these little critters from making your experience in reef aquaria less than...

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Deep Water Marine Aquarium Fish

»Posted by on Jan 3, 2015 in Blog, Conservation, Education, Josh M, Reef Aquariums | Comments Off on Deep Water Marine Aquarium Fish

Marine Fish for Sale – Absolutely Fish, NJ   Deep Water Marine Aquarium Fish   By Josh Maxwell   For many marine aquarists, there is a fish in their aquarium that represents the crown jewel of their collection. This fish may be difficult to care for. It may only come from one place in the world, or from some of the deepest parts of the Earth’s oceans. Fish that come from deep waters are unusually shaped, very colorful, have unique behavior and often carry a hefty price tag. The reason for such cost is the effort it takes for divers to bring them to the surface so that we can appreciate these animals that few ever get a chance to see in the flesh. For a fish to be considered deep water, it must occur in 100ft of water or deeper. These fish are rarely seen in areas outside of their home depths. In the areas that these fish naturally occur, temperature is typically cooler and it is usually dark as sunlight doesn’t easily reach down to these depths. Soft, non-photosynthetic corals and gorgonians typically inhabit these depths and it is at these depths that divers must descend to acquire the fish that call this region of the ocean home. In order to reach these depths divers need to use specialized breathing apparatuses called rebreathers. What these devices do is remove the carbon dioxide that is exhaled with each breath and takes the unused oxygen from each breath and returns it back to the air supply. What this means is that the diver can stay underwater longer. When divers do get to the bottom they search out desirable species and catch these fish using wall and hand nets. Bringing their catches up to the surface however is no easy task. Like divers these fish are subjected to extreme pressures and have compressed gasses in their systems that need to be released slowly or they can get decompression sickness and die. To deal with this divers put their catches in containers, fill a bag with air, leave the bag under a ledge, and ascend in increments of 50 feet at a time to decompress the fish slowly and carefully to ensure survival. Many of the fish are very enigmatic as studying them in their natural environment is very difficult due to the depth at which they live. Because of this we know very little about them and their behavior, most of what we learn is in aquaria and from similar species. Most of these fish like caves and overhangs and appreciate aquariums that are not lit too brightly, but most will acclimate well to brightly lit reef aquariums. These are a few of the most well-known deep water fish that we see in the aquarium trade: Dr. Seuss Fish (Belanoperca pylei) Location: Marshal Islands Depth: 300-350 ft The Dr. Suess fish is a deepwater ambush predator. Preferring caves and overhangs where it can sit and wait for prey to pass buy. It feeds similarly to groupers and anglerfish where it uses its prostubule mouth to rapidly inhale prey items. While this fish will not prey on coral, shrimp and small fish may be eaten by this predator. Spanish Flag (Gonioplectrus hispanus) Location: Western Atlantic (Collected at Curacao) Depth: 220-350 ft Found in the Caribbean, this grouper only grows to about 8 inches and is suitable for aquaria unlike many species of groupers which can grow very large. It behaves similarly to the Dr. Suess fish in terms of feeding where it uses ambush tactics to feed. Just like the Dr. Suess fish it can possibly prey on small invertebrates and small fish in reef aquaria. It is generally docile, preferring to live in caves or overhangs. Candy Basslet (Liopropoma carmabi) Location: Western Atlantic (Collected at Curacao) Depth: 100-250 ft A very small basslet found in the Caribbean in similar environment to the Spanish flag. This fish is perfect for nano reef aquariums because of their diminutive size, achieving a maximum size of about 2 ½ inches. In the wild they prefer to live in and near caves and overhangs and grab any planktonic organisms that float by and will do the same in aquaria. This fish is completely reef safe and will not bother coral and only bother the smallest of shrimp or similar invertebrates. Neon Hogfish (Bodianus sanguines) Location: Hawaiian islands Depth: 300 ft + (recorded 600 ft) Occurring in the deep water reefs of Hawaii, the neon hogfish feeds on planktonic invertebrates in the water column as well as those on the substrate. It is a very active fish and can be found...

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