Dominick Cirigliano, Author at

Author Archives: Dominick Cirigliano

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Who Are You Calling Ugly?

Ornate Cowfish (Aracana ornata)

 In many cases our aquariums represent an extension of ourselves. Some people like zoa’s, some people like acans, and some people even like non-photosynthetic corals. My passion is “ugly” fish. Are they really ugly or are they just misunderstood? I’ve always had interest in keeping unusual pets. Mainly for the conversation-provoking aspect of having a pet that people do not see very often. Triggerfish were of interest to me but I found early on that many of them were too aggressive with many of the other fish I wanted to keep. As a result, I developed… More:

The Many Faces of Filefish

I’ve had many species of filefish over the years. Their behavior, ability to camouflage, and many different colors and patterns make them an interesting addition to any aquarium. They’ve also been known to breed in captivity. Probably the most well known filefish in the hobby is the Bristletail (Aptasia eating) Filefish (Acreichthys tomentosus). 

Bristletail Filefish (Acreichthys tomentosus)

 The Bristletail Filefish are kept in reef aquariums because they help manage aptasia populations. However, they are 50/50 in a reef system. They may pick on polyps especially zoa’s or acans. This particular species can also change color and patterns to better blend into their environment. 

Bristletail Filefish (Acreichthys tomentosus) Eggs

 My favorite fielfish by far is the Fantail Filefish (Pervagor spilosoma). The coloration on this fish is spectacular.… More:

The Unappreciated UV Sterilizer

Over the years I have read all sorts of negativity surrounding the use of UV sterilizers in a reef tank. But I haven’t found many of those comments based on experience or scientific evidence. So I’ve decided to take the two most common negative comments I’ve read and discuss them a bit deeper. 

Picture Courtesy of Emperor Aquatics, Inc.

 “UVs kill beneficial bacteria as well as the negative” This is true as a PROPERLY setup UV will kill most algae/bacteria that passes through it and at higher wattages will kill most anything living. But what most people don’t realize is that your SKIMMER removes both good and bad bacteria from the water column as well. Since skimmers are common on most reef tanks I think we can use logic to say we might be exaggerating the effect of removing “good” bacteria from the water column. I’ve been using UVs for years and I’ve found them helpful in controlling cyano, ich and other reef tank annoyances. I had a UV on my Gorgonian and Seafan tank that had many non-photosynthetic corals and I still did not experience any negative effects. Being that most corals in our reef tanks are photosynthetic, who cares about the good bacteria in the water column? As a matter of fact, why do we need beneficial bacteria floating around the tank? It’s not enough to have it pretty much everywhere else? Also, does this mean doing water changes is bad because we remove beneficial bacteria? Clearly this statement doesn’t have supporting evidence. It leaves you with more questions than answers.  “UVs only kill what passes through them so they are not an effective tool for parasite control” I find this one hard to swallow. Why does nearly every commercial fish or invert farm in the world us UVs then? Just so the water is clearer? I think not. UVs are very helpful in the control of parasite infestations especially those that are pelagic or have a pelagic stage in their lifecycle. They may not “cure” the problem but they certainly can prevent an epidemic or buy some time to fix the problem before things get out of control. How can a UV be so efficient at eliminating good bacteria from the water column (see previous quote) that people passionately recommend we shouldn’t use them but inefficient at removing parasites from the water column?… More:

Buy Captive Bred Fish: This is one of the reasons why

Bangaii Cardinal (Pterapogon kauderni) - Captive Bred Pair

 One of the great aspects of our hobby today is the innovations in method and technology for captive breeding of fish and  aquaculturing corals. Because of the economy downturn, I think we need to remind ourselves the importance of supporting captive breeding and aquaculture programs even though the cost may be slightly higher than wild caught/collected specimens. Recently, Segrest Farms located in Florida, alerted their customers that an outbreak of a highly contagious and untreatable iridovirus has effected… More:

Toxic Love: Boxfish

I absolutely love boxfish. It doesn’t matter what species, I love them all! I’ve had anything from the most commonly available Yellow Boxfish (Ostracion cubicus) to the more exotic Flame Boxfish (Anoplocapros lenticularis). 

Flame Boxfish (Anoplocapros lenticularis) Photo by Lissa Mann

 Most people have an understanding or have heard that boxfish can be poisonous to other fish when stressed. Knowing this myself, I still find it hard to avoid keeping them with other fish. Of the many species I’ve kept over the years I’ve had three incidents in which boxfish caused the death of other fish. The first incident was in 2008, when mysteriously fish were being found dead in the morning even though they showed no signs of issues. They behaved completely normal the day before. Having tested the water and took many actions to uncover the issue nothing appeared obvious. As a precaution, I added carbon filtration. The deaths stopped for 2-3 days. I thought it had passed when suddenly the deaths started again. At this point, my Large Male Whitley’s Boxfish (Ostracion whitleyi) stopped eating. This alerted me to the fact that it may have been releasing a toxin called ostracitoxin. I removed the fish and did a water change and replaced the carbon. The deaths no longer happened. 

Male Whitley's Boxfish (Ostracion whitleyi) Photo by Dominick Cirigliano

 Because of the number of boxfish I kept in the past, I believed this was an isolated incidence (okay, maybe the lack of intelligence on my part contributed). I kept others without the fear of poisoning other fish. I went incident free until I moved from Manhattan to NJ and put a Flame Boxfish in a bucket with my prized filefish and a powerhead failed. Within minutes of the powerhead in the bucket failing, all of the fish were dead. Certainly not enough time for oxygen depletion to be the cause. The Flame Boxfish must have gotten stressed and released toxins. As a result of the last circumstance I avoided boxfish for some time. It wasn’t until recently that I started keeping them with other fish again. I had a couple of male Blue Boxfish (Ostracion meleagris). One passed away without causing a problem. This built my confidence with keeping them in a community tank again. 

Blue Boxfish (Ostracion meleagris) Photo by Sanjay Joshi


  So now we get to the situation that prompted this post.… More:

Above Tank Refugiums…. Say what?

Above tank refugiums became interesting to me when I was trying to save space and a little on electricity. My first above tank refugium was used for holding seahorses and pipefish as an extension to my shark tank.I actually hung a 40 gallon long acrylic tank CAREFULLY over my 240. I had one pump feed water from the main display through a UV light into the above tank fuge. Over time, I started using the concept for other uses.  Here is one of my earlier attempts at an above tank fuge as a way to raise seahorses off of the main system. It was a failure but at least it was a building block to what became a well oiled machine.

  The main issue I had with this version was keeping the seahorse fry from getting stuck to the overflow screen. The benefits of this system was that is was placed above a mature system that was loaded with nutritional live foods that the fry could eat off of the wall of the fuge. Below is a picture of the mature system and a video of the fry in this version of my above tank fuge. As I was experimenting different ways to use the above tank fuge for seahorse fry, I actually decided to hang a small glass tank on the wall similar to what my first above tank fuge was. It contained modifications that were specific to the needs of the seahorse fry. It was still fed from the main system so live foods would be present but the over flow was modified to keep the fry from getting stuck as well as some modification were made to help keep the pelagic fry floating in the current. You can also see a video on how the fry were living in this version of my fuge. [stream provider=video flv=x:/ embed=false share=false width=600 height=360 dock=true controlbar=over bandwidth=high autostart=false /] After my experiments and optimization of the fuge for seahorse fry, I started using them for a live food source for other fish. I’m a firm believer in diversity in food offerings to maintain a healthy system and animals. Unfortunately its not practical to keep many different species together. So I started using above tank fuges to house incompatible species on the same system while maintaining the benefit of a live food source. The most recent above tank fuge I’ve used holds Asian Sure crabs which release fry on a regular basis.… More:

Seale’s Cardinalfish (Apogon sealei)

Seale's Cardinalfish (Apogon sealei) Photo taken by Sanjay Joshi

 Seale’s Cardinalfish (Apogon sealei) is an uncommon fish found in the hobby. These fish sport brightly illuminating blue eyes which are accentuated under typical reef lighting.  Many cardinals can be tricky to get eating but these fish have shown to be super hardy and jump on any opportunity to eat. According to, these fish attain a maximum size of  about 4″ but commonly only reach 3 inches in length. Seale’s Cardinalfish are found in the Western Pacific. Generally I’d consider these fish reef safe even though fully grown adults have the ability to eat ornamental shrimp. 

Photo taken by Sanjay Joshi

 Probably the most appealing aspect of these fish is they maintain schooling behavior even as adults. Naturally they are found on reefs in large congregations around corals and overhangs. Several of these fish schooling together with their bright blue eyes is stunning to say the least. You can’t go wrong by adding these beautiful hardy fish to your reef system IF your lucky enough to come across them at your local fish store or online retailer.… More:

Fun with a Microscope

I think most people in the marine aquarium hobby enjoy the daily surprises our piece of the ocean supply on a daily basis. Whether its hitchhikers, spawnings or new growth of our corals we all look on with a big smile. A few years back I added a different dimension to my enjoyment by purchasing a microscope that also came with a camera. I started thinking about getting one when my White Spotted Pygmy Filefish (Rudarius ercodes) started spawning. Their eggs and fry were so small I was curious to see what they looked like. Shortly after a quick trip to an online website, I had my microscope. 

Whitespotted Pygmy Filefish (Rudarius ercodes) Eggs

 After I got everything set up and I took pictures of the filefish eggs. I started looking at all sorts of reef-related stuff under the microscope. Soon after the pygmy files spawned my Bristletail Filefish (Acreichthys tomentosus) started spawning and I was able to gather their eggs for observation. 

Bristletail Filefish (Acreichthys tomentosus) Eggs

 Things got rolling from there. I didn’t miss an opportunity to view anything I could. Here are a bunch of things I thought were interesting. The captions describe what they are. 

Hippocampus erectus Stillborn Fry


Grass Shrimp (Palaemonetes pugio) Fry


Berghia Verrucicornis Egg Cluster


Northern Pipefish (Syngnathus fucus) Egg


Asian shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus) Egg Cluster


Spotted Anemone Shrimp (Periclimenes yucatanicus) Fry

 Besides entertainment, a microscope also could be used for necropsy purposes of dead fish and corals. This can be a useful tool in identifying the cause of death and help treat for disease and infection more efficiently. Microscopes can be found online on many sites and in all different price ranges. Mine has a max of 1000x magnification which is plenty for what most of us would use it for.  I recommend getting one. The entertainment value alone makes it worth it. More pictures can bee seen here: is the world's leading destination for sustainable coral reef farming and the aquarium hobby. We offer a free open forum and reef related news and data to better educate aquarists and further our goals of sustainable reef management.