Blog posts relating to reef aquarium set-up, maintenance, and the care requirements for species of corals, invertebrates, and marine fish.

Mandarins and Scooter Dragonets

»Posted by on Feb 24, 2017 in Blog, Chris F, Education, Reef Aquariums, Saltwater Fish | Comments Off on Mandarins and Scooter Dragonets

Mandarins and Scooter Dragonets

The family Callionymidae is comprised of several species of small, colorful, reef-safe fish that have captivated the attention of aquarists for years, most notably the mandarin dragonet (Synchiropus splendidus and others), brightly colored members of the family that have been a staple for the aquarium hobby. However, these are considered the most difficult of the commonly-kept dragonets due to the difficulty in sustaining adequate amounts of food (more on this later). Hardier species are commonly available such as the brown scooter dragonet (Synchiropus ocellatus), red scooter dragonet (Synchiropus stellatus), and the recently described and popular ruby red dragonet (Synchiropus sycorax). What makes these species hardier than the mandarins is their ability to accept prepared foods, such as frozen foods, more willingly. Mandarins, on the other hand, are strictly dependent on copepod and amphipod populations within an aquarium to sustain their nutritional needs. To meet the requirements of dragonets and their relatives, an aquarist must be well-prepared in advance. A minimum tank size of 30 gallons (the larger the better) that has been cycled and established for around a year with adequate amounts of live sand and rocks should be considered mandatory. A refugium would be also be welcome in conjunction to adequate filtration, as it would provide a safe haven for copepod and amphipod populations to grow without predations. Most people will dedicate a compartment of their sump to a refugium filled with sand, live rock, and macro algae. Tank mates should be peaceful and small, as large aggressive fish may harass and eat the small dragonets (although some dragonets can emit a toxic, foul-tasting slime). Another consideration in regards to tankmates is the competition for copepods and amphipods; limiting the introduction of fish that feed on these should be considered to avoid competition and starvation. Prime choices are gobies, fire fish, clownfish, cardinal fish, blennies, chromis, etc. Dragonets are very aggressive towards others of the same species and careful planning in regards to stocking of conspecifics must be considered, especially for males. Large tanks, with adequate amounts of food and rock, help limit aggression. Here at Absolutely Fish we almost always have scooter dragonets in stock, so stop on by and have a look! If you have any other questions regarding this unique group of fish, feel free to approach a M-1 Certified employee....

read more

Top 10 Saltwater Reef Critters

»Posted by on Jan 20, 2017 in Blog, Kristen S, Reef Aquariums | Comments Off on Top 10 Saltwater Reef Critters

Top 10 Saltwater Reef Critters

Maintaining a reef aquarium allows an aquarist to create a mini ecosystem in their tank. The fish and corals are of course the highlights, but reef critters can perform useful clean-up jobs and are pretty fun to watch. Here are our top 10 most sold reef critters!   #10. Cleaner Shrimp are both entertaining to observe and useful in a reef aquarium. They can be seen cleaning parasites off of fish, which is important in a reef tank where medicating is difficult. #9. Emerald Crabs are great when that pesky hair algae takes over. They do a great job picking the algae out from between corals that can be difficult to get out manually. #8. Sexy Shrimp are just fun to watch. They will host an anemone and ‘dance’ by wiggling their tails. It’s especially cool if there’s a whole group in one anemone. #7. Banded Coral Shrimp are another purely ornamental reef critter. They usually hide a lot but their long claws make them a very interesting tank mate and they also come in gold and blue. #6. Trochus Snails are a very useful part of any clean-up crew. They do a great job cleaning algae off the glass, keeping the aquarium looking tidier for longer. #5. Scarlet Leg Hermit – another great clean-up crew member. They’re great for picking algae and detritus that collects on live rock. #4. Nassarius Snails are a helpful part of your clean-up crew that you’ll probably never see. They burrow under the sand and keep it moving to prevent algae and cyanobacteria from forming on the sand bed. #3. Sand Sifting Starfish are an alternative to the nassarius snails. They also burrow under the sand and move it around, plus they’ll feed on detritus in the sand bed. #2. Tuxedo Urchins are another option for cleaning up hair algae. They’re a cool alternative to emerald crabs and are fun to watch crawl across the reef. #1. Tigertail Sea Cucumbers are excellent detritivores, cleaning up left-over food in tough to reach places. They are also very unique looking and make an entertaining addition to any reef...

read more

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: Keeping Seahorses and Pipefish – Not a Pipe Dream

»Posted by on Jun 23, 2016 in Blog, Kristen S, Reef Aquariums, Saltwater Fish | Comments Off on Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: Keeping Seahorses and Pipefish – Not a Pipe Dream

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: Keeping Seahorses and Pipefish – Not a Pipe Dream

Seahorses are one of the most unique and easily recognizable marine fish, so it’s no surprise that many customers ask about keeping them in their saltwater aquariums.  Because seahorses are very different-looking from other fish, they require special consideration when thinking about keeping them at home.  The seahorse’s lesser-known cousin, the pipefish, is also a very interesting fish to keep.  Unlike seahorses, pipefish can be kept in reef tanks, but certain considerations should be kept in mind such as tank-mates and feeding. Seahorses fall into the genus Hippocampus within the Sygnathidae family.  It’s easy to see at first glance that these fish are extremely different from your average tang or clownfish.  Seahorses don’t have scales; instead they have a bony armor that protects them.  They also don’t have a caudal fin; instead they have a prehensile tail that they use to anchor them on to rocks, coral, or algae.  They only use their dorsal and opercular, or modified pectoral, fins for movement and as a result, they’re not very strong swimmers.  In the wild, seahorses live in sheltered areas of coral reefs or grass beds with little water current.  Their horse-like mouth is specially adapted to suck up tiny organisms like amphipods, isopods, copepods, and mysid shrimp like a vacuum. Because seahorses are so specialized, they do not do well in high flow reef tanks competing for food with other fish.  A species only aquarium is the best way to house and appreciate them.  With the right equipment it’s easy to create a seahorse display at home.  A 29/30 gallon tank is a great starter option.  You may also want to consider getting a taller tank; seahorses are more vertical swimmers than horizontal.  After you have a tank picked out, you want to make sure that you have good filtration as seahorses are messy eaters and they are especially sensitive to changes in water quality, so a protein skimmer is a great addition.  The second thing you want to make sure you have is low flow because they can’t swim against strong currents. Unique features of seahorse tanks are hitching posts, or things for the seahorses to hold on to with their tail.  Branch rock, plants, gorgonians, and soft corals can all be used as hitching posts.  Soft corals may be used because they usually don’t have a strong sting; other more aggressive species of corals should be avoided because the seahorses lack scales and are stung much easier.  Crabs and shrimp should also be avoided as they may injure the seahorse or a particularly large seahorse may pick at them.  A good tank mate would be Nassarius snails; seahorses are messy eaters so having a sand-sifting snail will help prevent too much waste buildup.  Feeding seahorses can be a challenging task; they can be fed live foods such as brine shrimp, but should eventually be moved on to frozen food such as mysis shrimp.  Getting a seahorse to eat frozen food may take quite a while, so be patient.  There are many species of seahorse available to purchase that come in a few different colors.  The common species that we carry are Hippocampus erectus, H. reidi, and H. kuda.  There are also hybrids available that are combinations of two species. Pipefish may look very different from seahorses, but they are essentially stretched out seahorses.  Pipefish are much more suited to a reef aquarium than their cousins; but there are a few things you want to keep in mind.  Pipefish should be added to an established aquarium, preferably one that has a large culture of copepods, as getting these guys to eat frozen is also challenging.  There should be no aggressive fish in the tank, so in a reef tank, fish like tangs and maroon clowns may be too territorial.  Any strong stinging corals and anemones should be avoided; pipefish don’t have scales like seahorses so they are easily stung.  You may also want to place a guard over the teeth of the overflow box to ensure one of the pipefish doesn’t end up in the sump. There are two main groupings of pipefish that are commonly found in the aquarium hobby:  flagtail pipes and dragonface pipes.  Flagtail pipefish are a bit easier to get on a frozen food than the dragonface pipefish and like seahorses they should be kept a pair per 30 gallons.  The Bluestripe Pipefish (Doryrhamphus excisus) is perhaps one of the hardiest pipefish to keep.  These pipefish can be aggressive so caution should be taken adding more than one to a tank.  The Banded Pipefish (Dunkerocampus dactyliophorus) and the Yellow Banded Pipefish (D. pessuliferus) are much more sensitive than the...

read more

Top Ten: Nano Reef Fish

»Posted by on Feb 4, 2016 in Blog, Education, Reef Aquariums, Saltwater Fish, William C | Comments Off on Top Ten: Nano Reef Fish

Top Ten: Nano Reef Fish

Check out our top ten nano fish! We carry all of these and more! Top Ten Nano Reef Fish at Absolutely Fish William C Skip to our top ten nano reef fish! Let’s talk about something I’d like to describe as Saltwater Syndrome. When afflicted with said syndrome, saltwater newbies(and old-timers alike) ask to purchase fish such as the magnificent Queen Angelfish. Which is fine. Only when I ask about their aquarium, it’s a 30 gallon reef tank… not at all adequate. And no, it’s not a good temporary home— as a matter of fact a “home” should be a fish’s permanent dwelling. The Queen grows far too large for a 30 gallon aquarium and should be housed in something closer to 90 gallons or more! Further, the entire grouping we call Angelfish ARE NOT REEF SAFE. Sure you may have a 50-50 shot with that Argi Angel when it is first introduced in the tank, but you’ll be really upset 6 months down the line when you can’t add any corals that are even minorly “fleshy” (Bye, bye Acans!) After explaining this though the saltwater syndrome kicks in further, “But I bought a saltwater tank to keep exotic fish!” Exotics such as the Queen Angel and say — the Hepatus tang (popularized by Finding Nemo) should be housed in large appropriate tanks. So I’d like to clear up some misconceptions about the saltwater nano reef, and suggest the APPROPRIATE fish one might keep in such a habitat. Firstly a lot of fish are not reef friendly, meaning they eat corals, shrimp, worms, sponge, or some other reef invertebrate you care deeply for. Angelfish, Butterflyfish, and Triggers are the major offenders in this category. Alternatively some fish just grow too large for a nano reef (40 gallon tanks or less). Tangs for the most part grow to sizes of 7 inches or larger and need plenty of space to grow. In addition some very active species just need lots of space to live in a natural way. Take anthias for example,while most species do not exceed 6 inches they do like ample space to swim during the day! Lastly, there are the aggressors — some fish may be perfectly happy in a 30 gallon tank, and that’s great — but when your Domino Damsel goes on a killing rampage because his tank mates occupy too much of his space— we have a problem. Aggression doesn’t just include towards other fish… If you have a full grown Maroon clown in your 30 gallon reef and you just purchased the most magnificent little torch coral — expect the Maroon to attempt to host this piece (your results may vary). So what fish does that leave us with? Well below is a top 10 list of what in my opinion are the best common nano reef fish. Top Ten Nano Reef Fish 10. Clown Goby Max Size: 2″ Minimum Recommended Tank Size: 10 gallons Clown Gobys are some of the cutest little fish for the nano tank. They stay incredibly small, and are either bright yellow or vivid green. Some specimens will live in and around the corals in your tank. They’re quite the little beauties!   9. Skunk Clown Max Size: 4″ although most rarely exceed 3″ Minimum Recommended Tank Size: 20 gallons Hold your seahorses folks, I know there will be an uproar over Skunks v. Ocellaris. I’ll have you know now — Skunk Clowns are cooler! They come in pink and orange! They’re also unique in a sea of Nemos, and will host some anemones more readily… but for those naysayers Ocellaris would be good too. 8. Pajama Cardinal Max Size: 3″ Minimum Recommended Tank Size: 10 gallons PJ Cardinals are some of the prettiest fish, with their big beautiful eyes and polka dotted patterns. The only downside is they move infrequently some people find this boring, but I see it as conservative! 7. Sixline Wrasse Max Size: 3″ Minimum Recommended Tank Size: 10 gallons Small, zippy, bright colored fun! With the sixline wrasse it’s a blast of excitement. A warning though: If you plan to keep other small wrasses, or small pseudos down the line this fish may not be right for you. 6. Royal Gramma Max Size: 3″ Minimum Recommended Tank Size: 10 gallons It never ceases to surprise me at just how many people really dig this fish. Small children will exclaim, “I want the purple and yellow one!” This fish is peaceful, brightly colored and small growing. It’s nearly the perfect reef inhabitant. 5. Firefish Max Size: 3″ Minimum Recommended Tank Size: 10 gallons Firefish are wonderful little animals. They...

read more

Parasites, Parasites, Parasites! Part One

»Posted by on Jan 7, 2016 in Blog, Glenn L, Reef Aquariums, Saltwater Fish | Comments Off on Parasites, Parasites, Parasites! Part One

If you have spent any time at all in our Aquaculture Facility, you know that we literally dip every day for flatworms, nudibranchs, etc. We have done a few blogs on different parasites and infections. I want to give a brief overview of some new techniques I have been using to combat some of these issues. Iodine based dips: A diluted Lugol’s, Tropic Marin Coral, and Coral Dip by Precision Solutions. We tend to use this for bacterial infections or to prevent infections after fragging. As a dip follow the instructions given by the manufacturer. As a diluted Lugol dip, add drops until the water takes on a light gold color (about 15-20 drops per gallon) leave coral in for 10-20 minutes, rinse in fresh salt water, then return to the tank. I would recommend a dip every day if needed, up to 5 days. Lugol’s in frag water, 5-10 drops per gallon can be used until you are finished fragging. Melafix: Also used for bacterial infections. I find it very effective on soft corals like sarcos, sinularias, cladiellas and the like. Not so great for SPS as I feel they slime up so much the Melafix does not penetrate and they generally suffer more parasitic maladies than bacterial ones. Dosage is about 4 caps per gallon. Corals can stay in there up to 20 minutes without effect. This has worked very well for sarcos with black or yellow rot! Revive, Coral RX (lemon juice citric acid based dips) We tend to use this more than anything else. Great for any external organism whether good or bad! That means commensal trapezious, harmless brittles, etc will die with the bad as well so be careful! Revive is also pretty deadly to the coral after about 7 minutes in my experience. If you put an acro in a dip and check on it after 20 minutes, you will usually have a nice bleach white piece the next day (do not do this!) Be careful! Dosage: Now I will go on the record and say, I pretty much double the dosage as I feel the regular will not affect larger flatworms. I think they can tolerate low doses and hang on. Using a turkey baster is a must to help flatworms, nudis, and the like to release from the coral. The eggs still need to be scrubbed off with a toothbrush or hard scraper blade. The dip should be repeated over a few days to ensure all the eggs are gone! H2O2 Hydrogen Peroxide This is a fairly new dip we have been using at the Aquaculture Facility and in the store. It works very well on external parasites, and like revive does not discriminate on commensal organisms. We have only used this on Zoas and Palys as it can be dangerous to LPS and SPS. It also works wonders on any algae that is attached to corals or frags. It will turn white and die off! Dosage: Hydrogen Peroxide works in a four to one ratio (4 parts water, 1 part H2O2) As with everything, I push it and use a higher concentration of 3 to 1, and it works wonders! Just like a wound you will see it bubble, parasites jump off, algaes turn white. I have not pushed past the 5 minute mark yet but we’ll see soon! Josh and Paul T. have helped a lot with these trials. You can also see them with your dosage/treatment questions. I think that’s a good amount for Part 1. As a side note, even after 20+ years of “playing” with coral, I still see new things. Today, 01/04/2016, I dipped a Galaxea in melafix. It had a bacterial infection from a sting, or so I thought. A flatworm, over 2” fell out, my immediate reaction is WHAT THE HAY! So I move the Galaxea to a revive dip and immediately 8 more flatworms fall off. I’ve now found a giant Galaxea-Eating flatworm! Crazy! Coming in the future, PART 2! Bayer Insecticide, Interceptor, Bifuran, Flatworm Exit, and...

read more

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...

read more
Copyright 2013 Absolutely Fish, Inc. All Rights Reserved