Author Archives: Marc Levenson

Marc Levenson

About Marc Levenson

Based out of Fort Worth, Texas, I've been a hobbyist for more than 13 years. I enjoy helping others via my two websites melevsreef.com & reefaddicts.com. These feature articles, pictures, podcasts, interviews and product reviews, as well as documentation of personal experience maintaining tanks ranging from 3g to 400g. I make a living selling RO/DI systems and acrylic wares (sumps, frag tanks, overflows, photoboxes), which permits me to enjoy the hobby more. I'm a member of DFWMAS and have served on the board of directors for seven years, doing what I can to encourage growth while keeping it fun. My articles have appeared in print & online, and I'm happy to be blogging on Reefs.com as well.
Latest Posts

LED lights that make corals pop with color

I wanted to talk about LEDs for a few minutes. I've had the Radion Gen 2 over my anemone cube (60-gallon aquarium 24" x 24" x 24") for the past 12 months. As a light, it functions perfectly. Is it the best fixture ever? My feelings are a tad mixed, and I'll discuss why. The light itself provides sufficient lighting for anemones, SPS, LPS, gorgonians, zoanthids and even a T.
Posted in Corals, Fish, Invertebrates, Science, Tanks | Leave a comment

Reefware – Track your tank(s) parameters, livestock and more

A new resource is now available to help aid in routine fish tank maintenance such as checking water parameters, monitoring livestock behavior and growth, and keeping track of your aquarium's monthly and fixed expenses. This new resource is a free online program called Reefware. The official site URL: www.reefware.com I spent about 45 minutes on the website to see what it can do and where it is going. The first thing you'll need to do is log in.Once your email activation has been confirmed, you'll be able to start entering whatever data you know now, and you can log back in for future entries. I created a tank profile for the 400g as well as another profile for the 10g frag tank. Profiles ask for name, gallons, dimensions, fresh/saltwater, and the date of inception. Entering water parameters is easy, and for precision use the Up and Down arrows on your keyboard.Any regular media changes can be entered to stay on top of this task. Check when you changed it last, as well as when it expires (based on a date you've set yourself). Carbon lasts a week, and biopellets need replenishing every couple of months for my system.The dashboard updates accordingly.Adding all your livestock initially would be quite the undertaking, but if you are OCD about every detail in your tank, this tab will keep you busy updating. Livestock entries include date of purchase, size of fish/coral/invert, and provides the scientific name.
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Avoid a rockslide with an acrylic support system

Aquascaping is a challenge in itself. The ability to place rocks in an aquarium in a way that looks appealing, that provides plenty of surface area for the planting of corals, that offers hiding spots for the fish, and that doesn't look unnatural -- it's almost too much to consider. If all else fails, I'd strongly urge you to find a female to add her perspective because for some reason they have an incredible knack for this task. Ask your spouse, your significant other, or even a female friend for their input... trust me. You want to avoid a man-made pile (brickwork looking), as well as straight horizontal lines since these aren't common in nature. With your counterpart chiming in, you may only need to make a couple of tiny changes to get a great looking reef.Once the aquascape has been perfected with nooks, crannies, tunnels, overhangs and interesting structures, it is possible that all your hard work can come crashing down
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SCUBA: Regulator and Dive Computer

Until now, I've had at least nine different regulators in my mouth since I began SCUBA diving. Some have been incredibly uncomfortable, some were unwieldy making me reposition it or bite down harder, one was a bit cantankerous but not one left with without air. Reading a lot on this subject and keeping my eyes open to all the choices on the market, it really didn't take me long to decide upon the one that would make me happy and fit my budget. That being said, how do you know which one to buy? A friend of mine went on a dive with a brand new Mares regulator and it failed, canceling his dive. Seriously?! It was new!Before I took my first class, I felt every diver should own their own regulator since it is how you breathe. Can you trust rental gear? How often is it serviced? When was the last time? How was it treated previously by everybody? Regulators vary in price and in quality. It allows you to suck in a breath of air from a storage tank strapped to your back, and exhale air out the vented port off to the side. The internal diaphragm keeps the flap open or closed as you breathe in and out. It shouldn't let in any water, and the front of all the ones I've used is soft allowing me to depress it to force out any water before an inhalation if it was knocked out of my mouth. The hose that runs to this piece of gear is rigid - I had one of my instructors actually grab hold of it and tug me the direction he wanted me to head once. That hose can affect how the regulator feels in your mouth throughout the entire dive.Like anything you use, it needs to be maintained. After being told I'd have to give it to the local dive shop for annual servicing, I asked why we aren't trained to do this ourselves to make sure it is working correctly. If you own a gun, you are trained how to take it completely apart, clean it and reassemble it properly. Logically, if this is the one thing I have to rely upon to feed me every breath at 50' below, I'm going to want to know it's in tip top shape. Dive shops do all kinds of maintenance and make sure all the air tanks are up to code. I was given a brief tour of their work area, and they showed me the specialized tools that were designed specifically to make sure each piece of gear is reliable. If anything is amiss, they will repair or replace those parts as needed. Fair enough; they literally do this for a living, so some degree of trust should be extended. Still, I've heard and read so many stories of things going wrong that I'm cautious in this area.One feature I knew I wanted was a swivel connection, as this relieves some of the tugging pressure you otherwise encounter with a regulator in your mouth. Reading Atomic's website to learn the difference between every model they built, it explained why some were made of titanium, stainless steel, brass or monel, or combinations of these metals. The internal design includes a feature that reduces wearing out the seat within, unlike other regulators. Their site explained what "natural breathing" was, and I just came away from it very very impressed. I saved up my money, and then ordered the Atomic B2 regulator along with an Oceanic Dive computer. My "Adorama Photography" box arrived a few days later.If you are shopping or even researching online, it can be very frustrating at the lack of pictures provided by the various manufacturers and e-tailers. They list features and specific functions, but it's very difficult to know if it includes all the parts you need to assemble your gear completely. "Does the hose come with it" was one of the questions I kept wondering, for example. I'm not the only person with this complaint, as I've been talking about this a lot lately with other divers.Atomic B2-swivel Regulatorhttp://www.atomicaquatics.com/reg_B2.htmlAs soon as I opened up the box, I saw T2 on the included manual and was worried I got the wrong (more expensive) regulator. They do look very similar, but the one I ordered was correct as you can see below. The warranty card was also labeled with the B2 model.The hose is included. hehe First StageThe first stage is the part that you clamp to the air tank. I purchased the Yoke connection as that is the more popular one used. This same product can be purchased with a DIN connection instead if you wish. And if you need even more flexibility, I saw that you can purchase an add-on to adapt the Yoke to DIN if required.After loosening the knob to remove the dust cover, I spotted a screen within. There are two high pressure ports on the First Stage, and five Low Pressure ports. These are easily unscrewed with an allen wrench (not included).Since it came out of the box like this, initially I was a little confused how to connect the hoses so their orientation would work well with my BCD.Second Stage (Primary air)This is the part I'm probably the most excited about. Imagine that, the part that goes in my mouth! It's very light since it is made of titanium, and everything I've heard is that it'll be amazingly comfortable underwater. The swivel connection moves easily. The mouthpiece feels good, and breathing is touted to be very natural. I'll find out in tomorrow when I test it out in a pool. The Atomic Safety Second uses the same mechanism and it flows beautifully.The exhaust vents are on both sides of the regulator, and by tilting my head slightly to the right or to the left, exhaled bubbles will pass next to my mask instead of obscuring my view. The tension knob allows fine tuning how it feels to draw a breath, if necessary. The B2 is designed to feel natural when breathing at any depth.You can see the exhaust ports below, jutting out to the left and right beneath the bite tabs.This regulator needs to be serviced every two years, or every 300 dives.Oceanic Integrated Dive ComputerOceanic Pro Plus 2.1 Integrated Air/Nitrox with CompassDive computers come in wrist watch-style as well as the larger type. Prices vary greatly in this area. My experience with dive computers is limited, but I watched others dealing with theirs during my previous dives, and saw some outright fail. During my open water check out dive, my rented computer broke, giving me incorrect depth information during my dive. I opted to get a computer that was connected to my air tank because it will accurately measure what is left and compare what I'm doing to give me the best results per dive. It measures the air every second. Integrated means that it has a hose connected to the First Stage. (Wrist Watch computers don't normally track the air in the tank, but there is an RF emitter you can affix to the First Stage to add that feature, which runs on batteries to communicate with the watch strapped to your arm. I can always add a wrist watch computer later as a back up.) Computers are so widely accepted that PADI incorporated dive computers into their course plan instead of learning how to read dive tables. Dive tables use a specific algorithm to determine how long you can dive, and how long you must off-gas after your dive(s), but it doesn't take into account that your depth varies throughout your dive as you explore. You don't dive to 60' and stay at 60' the entire time; you may ascend 15' and descend 7' to hover around 52' for a while. The dive table would figure you were at 60' the entire dive. A dive computer measures what you are doing at all times, and gives you credit for those small ascents maximizing how long you can stay under safely. It provides visual and audible alarms, graphs, and can be programmed for specific dive expectations. It retains your data which can be downloaded to your PC later via USB. I read the manual from cover to cover, and the amount of acronyms used is somewhat overwhelming. Included with this purchase is an online dive computer class to help me learn all the features, which I'll do shortly. This computer needs to be serviced annually.The compass is very obvious. The rotating bezel can be used to get your bearings, and there is a small window beneath to read the degrees as well.While this computer also comes with a quick disconnect option, it would have driven up the price $125 more so I opted not to get that feature. The computer turns easily on the hose, there's no limit whatsoever.By pressing a button, it turns on. The two buttons are used to navigate through all the menus and allows preprogramming dive plans. The screen will stay on after the completion of my dives, counting down until it is safe to fly home again. It is back-lit as well, which no doubt will be handy. The screen is large and easy to read. The end of the hose came with a dust cap. It's amazing how tiny that hole is that the computer uses to measure air volume. A needle might fit in there, maybe.I called a dive buddy to come over to help me make sure I was connecting the hoses correctly to the First Stage, and after some time we landed on this configuration. It's important that all your gear be arranged so there's no undo tension on the hoses. The way this is pictured, the tank would be behind this assembly, and the back of my neck will face this. The upper hose is the high pressure hose for the computer. The lower hose is low pressure supply for the BCD inflator. The lower hose on the left runs to the Atomic B2 regulator. The first stage has multiple unused ports remaining, and various sections swivel to adjust the gear into the best desired orientation. It needs to be comfortable so it doesn't become a distraction.Two small plugs were unscrewed to install two hoses, and those plugs and o-rings were saved for future needs. Having extra o-rings in your gear will salvage an otherwise aborted dive. If something has to be altered on site, having a few basic tools, o-rings, zip ties, etc is best. Always think ahead of what you might need, what might go wrong. Be prepared.Retractor cable quick connectHere's a piece of gear that isn't included with anything, but definitely comes in handy. Using this, you can clip your computer to your person. When you need to read the computer, you can pull it into view. The cable will extend more than two feet, and then retract its cord putting the computer back where it should be within easy reach. Nothing should be dangling or floating loosely off your person as it could snag on something during a dive or on the boat.Once the computer was connected via the tethering ring, I clipped the other half to an unused D-ring. I'll have to see how I like where it is positioned during my next dive, and if need be clip it elsewhere.Here's the final assembly with my BCD.The Yoke connection will be screwed tightly to the air tank, providing air to the octopus of hoses for breathing and BCD inflation, as well as the dive computer.Tomorrow, I'll suit up and plunge into a saltwater pool to make sure everything works properly. Getting familiar with the gear prior to my dives in August will allow me to be more comfortable, knowing where each piece of gear is and how it operates.I hope this article helps you if you are on the cusp of getting into SCUBA diving. There are many components to learn, and I hope this (as well as our other SCUBA articles) takes away some of the puzzling unanswered questions encountered during the research phase. You will discover there is so much more to learn if you choose to dive in as well.
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SCUBA: Buying your own gear

If you are considering getting into SCUBA diving, you may end up with a passion to own your own gear rather than relying on rentals. Last year I wrote several articles about those initial required purchases and classwork, as well as the open water skills required to get PADI certified. Now that summer is heating up, I'm itching to get back into the water to see more of the creatures we love to put in our aquariums and began researching what gear I needed next. It was overwhelming. There are so many brands, so many styles, prices ranging from inexpensive to insanely high; how can an underwater enthusiast know what to buy? I'd already looked at many of the options at my local dive shop, and I'd used rental gear both from there as well as during my dives in Hawaii. Through experience you can learn what you do and don't like to use (like I'll never use a front-zipper wetsuit again!), but it's best to talk to other divers before you pull out your wallet. About a week ago, while surfing the net I kept seeing one specific dive shop requesting I'd rate their service. As I perused their page, I noticed they had a BCD (Buoyancy Compensation Device) on sale until the end of the month. The price was incredible, and I looked at the pictures and read the features carefully to determine if it would suit my needs. Everything I knew I liked appeared to be included, but I didn't know enough about it to make my decision. I asked my online friends for feedback and provided a link to the BCD in question, and waited.The answers I received were okay, but not overwhelming. The BCD is a vest style. You slip into it, and secure a velcro cummerbund around your waist and snap the male to female connector to lock it in place. The shoulder straps have the same pull down method I'd trained with. It had integrated weight pockets which were easily accessible from the front. It had a lot of bright blue though, which I wasn't too thrilled about. What I didn't know was if it came with the manual inflator hose assembly, or if that was another part I had to purchase. I decided to call the store in question on Saturday afternoon. They were East Coast Time, and their answering machine stated they were closed. I looked at a number of other dive shops that sold the BCD, and there wasn't a single product review on the web. Every site had the same phrase: "Be the first one to review this product." Ugh! I called a west coast dive shop that sold the same BCD, and was able to get my question answered. It came with the manual inflator (it was in the pictures, but you never know). Additionally, I'd fixated on a better choice for the inflator, one made by Atomic. Not only would it inflate / deflate the vest with the press of a button, it allowed me to manually inflate the vest if necessary AND it also became my alternate air source if the primary regulator had an issue. The salesman told me the Atomic SS1 would fit this vest, as it came with a number of adaptors. I asked if I needed to buy the low pressure hose, which I knew I needed but from the various links I'd checked, it wasn't spelled out. Typically it showed the main part I sought, but I was unsure if I'd have all the other pieces to assemble my dive gear completely.You may wonder why I didn't just go to my local dive shop and get their advice. Since I was purchasing my gear elsewhere and saving hundreds of dollars in the process, I felt that would be inappropriate. I had to rely on what information I could gather up online and from other divers if I wanted to save money. I had people helping me both locally as well as out of state, which I definitely recommend. The more people you talk with, especially if you have your wish list down to a few specific choices, the more likely you'll get good overall feedback to make an informed decision. The hours were passing and the special pricing was going to expire in another day, so I went back to the original website (Leisure Pro) once more. Clicking on different ones, comparing how they looked and what they included, I continued to be drawn to the one on sale. There was a chat option on the site offering to assist with any questions, but since the store didn't answer my call hours earlier, I didn't expect a response. Surprisingly, a person immediately offered his assistance, and explained why they were closed earlier: because it was the Sabbath. That never even crossed my mind. My new chat-buddy explained that he has been diving for 26 years, and after some back and forth, he finally sold me when he told me he'd wear it on a dive. That was a pretty stellar endorsement as you can imagine he'd have strong feelings for what gear to use versus what to avoid as a career diver, and that pretty much sealed the deal for me. He also agreed that ordering a Medium was the right choice for my body type. He offered to stay available during the transaction, and informed me that all went through successfully with the news my order would ship out first thing Monday. It was a very smooth transaction having the salesperson available for all my questions. Additionally, if you end up receiving something that doesn't fit properly, they will ship it back on their dime and send you another size as long as it was never used in water.By Friday, my order arrived as promised. The box was marked Adorama - the photography company - but inside was my new treasure! What I ordered was the Aeris Biojac BCD. It comes in a large bag, which can be used to keep it stored safely between trips. The oral manual inflator was attached. It seemed heavy when I took it out of the bag, and it weighed in at 7.2 lbs.And the Atomic SS1. When I opened the box, I saw the same part as every picture online, but under the cardboard flap was a new low pressure airhose, adaptor fittings, zipties and pins, instructions and the warranty card. http://www.atomicaquatics.com/reg_SS1.htmlBack to the Biojac. The purpose of the BCD is to hold your air tank to your back, and maintain a way to stay buoyant at a specific depth. As it is inflated, you rise; as you deflate it, you begin to descend. If you practice this skill, you can hover precisely where you want to be without bumping into anything nearby, like a beautiful reef. Here is the back of the Biojac. This is where the tank will be strapped tightly in place - the latching strap is included, and has velcro to lock down the strap so it doesn't snag on anything while diving. On either side of the tank are weight pockets. These are permanent weights that you keep with you the entire dive. If you need to add a little weight to balance yourself in a horizontal position, these pockets will hold a few pounds each, five pounds maximum. (Freshwater dives need more weight than saltwater dives.) This in the inside of the BCD, with a large pad that will press against your back for comfort. Near the top of that pad is a hard handle to grasp when carrying the vest.When you unfold the vest completely open, the cummerbund retracts into the "wings" - very nicely too.Integrated weights allow you to dive with all the weights in your BCD instead of having to strap on a weight-loaded belt. While their location vary depending on brand, these are located over your hips and are easily pulled out if an emergency ascent is necessary. All my dives have used these weight pockets and I'm very comfortable with how they work. The Biojac doesn't allow you to tug them out with one quick pull, you do have to squeeze the latch to release them. If it comes to that, you ditch them and begin your ascent. You will have to buy new weight pockets later.This is the business end of the Manual Inflator. You can blow into it to fill up your vest, but it also uses a low pressure hose connected to the air tank to fill it up with the squeeze of a button.Here is one of the drawstrings that allow you to release some air from the vest to level out perfectly. The vest has three such ports with drawstrings. There are plenty of D-hooks to tether stuff down if needed.There are two pockets to store a few items you may need while diving, like a small waterproof pocket camera.Comparison of the two manual inflators. The first thing I noticed was the air hose connection was on the opposite side. The SS1 is bigger, and there's a mouth piece to bite down on to keep this alternate regulator in your mouth.The next step was changing these two pieces out. I read the Atomic SS1 manual cover to cover to read their advice, then using a utility knife and needle-nose pliers, I was able to remove the stock part and install my nice upgrade. Since this was my first time to do this, my focus was to do it right, and thus there aren't any pictures of the process itself.Inside the large black breather hose, a cable had to be looped around a pin where the SS1 attaches, and it took me a few minutes to complete the task at hand. The new SS1 came with a new low pressure hose with a bigger quick-disconnect fitting. And of the three fittings included in the package, I had to use the smallest one to fit the breather hose. I used the included ziptie to secure it, making sure it had a snug fit. Then I carefully trimmed off the rest of the ziptie with a razor blade, making sure it was smooth and flush to avoid getting nicked when handling it. This plastic retaining clip was facing the wrong direction with the new Atomic SS1, but I was able to carefully pry it off the larger hose, flip it over and reinstall it, and the low pressure hose was then snapped into place by its side.This is the part I took off, and its hose. The hose quick disconnect fitting did not fit the SS1, in case you were wondering.Here's the Biojac with the SS1. Note the red tip at the end of the low pressure hose; that will be attached to the first stage of the regulator I'll be buying soon.The SS1 doesn't require maintenance other than to be rinsed in freshwater and stored somewhere safe when not in use. It can be easily disconnected from the BCD by unscrewing the black nut and the steel quick-connect.So there you have it, a key component for SCUBA diving. If I'm on a dive and my buddy runs out of air (or runs into trouble with his rental gear!), I can give him my regulator to share air, and I'll breathe off the SS1. Atomic is well known for how easy it is to breathe no matter what depth you are at, and this secondary will be just as comfortable as my primary regulator. The regulators I've used previously had an "Octopus" regulator - a second regulator with a much longer hose to use or share in an emergency. The SS1 eliminates the need for an Octopus.I still need two more pieces of gear: The regulator and a dive computer. I'm about to order those as I'll need them next month, and will be testing them out in a swimming pool prior to departure. Since every breath counts, I'm looking for quality yet not break the bank. Here's a link to the regulator with swivel connection I'm getting: http://www.atomicaquatics.com/reg_B2.html For the dive computer, I'm considering an integrated one by Oceanic, complete with easy disconnect. I want one that tracks air consumption, measures depth, time, temperature, has a compass, and is reliable: http://www.leisurepro.com/Prod/Categ...CNDMPP2WC.htmlThe best part of owning your own dive gear is familiarity. You know where everything is, how it operates, and know the maintenance performed. It will be the perfect fit every time with everything adjusted correctly, and when dive opportunities arise you are ready to go. Some may prefer to rent gear and hope it all works out, but I've heard enough stories about malfunctioning gear and canceled dives that I'd prefer to own my own. Heck, during one of my open water check out dives, the rented dive computer failed mid-dive! When I travel, I always check a suitcase. If I pack carefully, I believe I'll be able to pack everything in the same bag to avoid additional baggage fees.My entire life, I've purchased what I need to do the job right, and I'm very pleased with this purchase and can't wait to get wet and blow bubbles.
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Diving Galapagos

There are endless dive spots to visit in the world, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Galapagos is on the “bucket list” of every diver out there. I know it has always been on mine, and it absolutely did not disappoint. While the rules and regulations have changed a bit over the last few years with regard to combined land/water-based trips, you can still experience both underwater and topside locations on the same trip. Ideally, it would be perfect to book two weeks or more in Galapagos, the first half diving, the second hiking around on land, but since this much time off from the grind is not always an option, I think 10 days, including travel, is a reasonable amount of time to get the feel of this incredible place and hit the major dive spots and explore a bit on the islands.South of Mexico, West of Ecuador, a small group of islands draws divers year round.I booked my trip through DEEP BLUE (http://www.deepbluegalapagosdiving.com) and they did a fabulous job with every aspect of the trip. The staff was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the areas visited, diving conditions, and all manner of wildlife both underwater and on land. As can be expected, there is a huge emphasis on conservation when diving in Galapagos due to its status as a series of marine parks and protected areas, but more than that it’s an incredibly important place not only because of the unique biodiversity, but because Galapagos is a location paramount to the landscape of scientific knowledge as it exists today. Galapagos is the birthplace of modern evolutionary theory as described by the British naturalist Charles Darwin during his voyage there by way of the HMS Beagle in 1835; Darwin’s observations of the animal life, in particular the numerous variations and specific adaptations of avian fauna on the islands, served as the basis for the development and eventual publication of his unified theory of evolution in his best-known piece of literature, The Origin of Species (1859). Visiting Galapagos and standing in the actual footsteps of this great man is akin to making a pilgrimage to Mecca for science nerds, and I’d recommend this experience to anyone who values the importance of biological diversity and how we, as a species, both understand and protect it for future generations.Now, into the blue! We spent a day in Quito, Ecuador to get acclimated to the elevation. The next day was a short flight to Guayaquil on the coast where we shortly boarded the DEEP BLUE vessel and began the overnight cruise to San Cristobal. We arrived in San Cristobal around noon on a monday, where we did our checkout dive and got our gear ready and tested out for the rest of the week. Not a whole lot other than rockfish, starfish, urchins, and playful sea lions in some chilly 65° F water, but a neat dive nonetheless. On Tuesday we arrived at Punta Carrion. We did two dives that day and started to really get a feel for what Galapagos looks like under the waves with its characteristic rocky slopes and sandy reef flats punctuated with big boulders. There were plenty of sea lions, the ubiquitous schools of colorful creole fish, and lots of lovely little endemic dorid nudibranchs (Tambja mullineri) with black and blue stripes. White-tipped reef sharks visited us on both dives.We cruised all night to arrive at Wolf Island in the morning on Wednesday where we did three dives (water temp of ~73° F). The sheer amount of epic marine biomass present here will knock your fins off, as will the ripping current. Massive schools of scalloped hammerheads, eagle rays, turtles, white-tipped reef sharks, Galapagos sharks, silky sharks, Guineafowl puffers, and a variety of snappers were common sights on these dives. Bring your gloves, try not to drop your regulator out of your mouth as you say “WOW” to yourself every 10 seconds, and get ready to swim. You might be a little fatigued from fighting with a hefty current (4 knots when I was there in September), but the sore muscles are easy to ignore when you’re staring up at hundreds of hammerheads. This is certainly an incredible sight that will be seared into your mind’s eye for the rest of your existence. On Thursday we arrived at Darwin Island where we were greeted by a lovely pod of dolphins that showed us the way to the very recognizable Darwin’s Arch. We spent both Thursday and Friday diving Darwin, the northernmost island of Galapagos, where we completed a total of six dives. There is so much to see that it’s impossible to cover everything in this paragraph. So I will summarize Darwin as follows: back roll out of the boat, descend, realize that you haven’t breathed because the beauty of this undersea paradise literally took your breath away, put the regulator back in your mouth after you recover from your daze of slack-jawed awe, and breathe. Now, here comes the visual bombardment summary: turtles, sharks, jacks, sharks, rays, whale sharks, eels, sharks, octopus, whale sharks, parrotfish, sharks. Did I mention sharks?! You will be madly in love with Darwin Island, and you probably won’t mind the boobies all over the deck of the boat either. Brown-footed booby birds of course, get your mind out of the gutter! After two days of nothing but amazement, we arrived at Punta Vicente Roca on Saturday. Our departure south carried with it a massive drop in temperature. Grab every layer of dive gear you brought and put it on, and you’ll still be cold. The water temperature here was a balmy 51° , and the frozen extremities reminded you of it regularly. But the cold water was no match for the incredible creatures that inhabit this area. You soon forget you can’t feel your feet and start to notice all the unique animals here. The primary attraction in this dive spot is the endemic red-lipped batfish (Ogcocephalus darwini), which resides in about 100ft of water. Sea lions keep you company here as well as seahorses, cephalopods, all manner of crustaceans and then holy Mola mola! Right in front of you there are three ocean sunfish relaxing at a cleaning station letting you snap pictures until you run out of space on your memory card! Penguins, sea turtles, schools of salema, and marine iguanas accompany you in the rocky shallows, an area comprised of huge boulders covered by a layer of perfectly manicured macroalgae that looks more like the greenest rolling hills of Ireland than an underwater scene off the coast of South America. Finally, we reached our final dive destination of Cousin’s Rock on Sunday. We did two dives here, and while this spot has a good reputation, the day we were there the water was extremely choppy and the visibility was terrible. We still saw picture-worthy creatures, but the less than ideal diving conditions made it more of an exploratory experience than a photographic one. A few eagle rays were spotted along with quite a few sea lions, including some very young and equally curious pups. Black coral bushes grow under rocky ledges and slipper lobsters adorn the many crevices of the triangular Cousin’s Rock. In the afternoon, we enjoyed the dry land of the Charles Darwin Research Station on Bartolome. The following day was spent back in San Cristobal visiting the Charles Darwin Interpretation Center, photographing the famous Galapagos tortoises, and walking along the beautiful beaches covered with sunning sea lions. This sea lion rookery was fantastic for photos and was a great way to end an unforgettable week. We flew out of Quito, Ecuador the following day after some delicious local food and lots of chocolate. I hope to return to Galapagos some day, and honestly feel like this is one of those dive destinations that absolutely cannot be missed. The importance of conservation is a message that permeates every aspect of your time spent in Galapagos and stays with you long after you’ve returned to the likely less fantastic place you call home. Places like Galapagos are worth more to us as a species than any sum of wealth imaginable, and need our full devotion to their continued preservation and protection.Additional reading:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galápagos_Islands
Posted in Conservation, Fish, Science, Seahorses, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Product Review: EcoBak by Warner Marine

reefaddicts Product Review: EcoBak by Warner Marine

  Quite a few people recommended Warner Marine’s EcoBak media when it comes to nitrate & phosphate reduction in the aquarium. This was one of the first brands to come to market initially, and for a period it was almost always out of stock. If you’ve been on the fence, unsure if it is worth the effort, let me assure you that it replaces other choices like vodka dosing… and it does so nicely. product review ecobak by warner marine rirve 1 Product Review: EcoBak by Warner Marine Biopellets need to be run in a specially designed reactor. Two that I’ve used are by NextReef and by AquaMaxx. These reactors force water to flow strongly through the media, causing it to tumble at all times. Water shouldn’t channel or flow through clumped media, and using the right reactor will assure that it moves adequately.… More:

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Product Review: AquaMaxx biopellet reactor

reefaddicts Product Review: AquaMaxx biopellet reactor

product review aquamaxx biopellet reactor ob xt 1 Product Review: AquaMaxx biopellet reactor
When I first got the AquaMaxx Biopellet Reactor, I was very interested in how it worked because the demonstration unit on display showcased something unseen by other similar devices. Unlike its counterparts, this one causes the media to spin at a strong rate — the pellets orbiting a vertical riser tube provide one-way directional flow. It looked really neat, but I didn’t know how the media would do under such conditions. The reactor itself is made of acrylic and PVC fittings. The inlet and outlets are glued into place, which I personally don’t like as it forces the hobbyist to plumb it specifically to its configuration. I’d rather have the freedom to run lines as they suit my needs, but I’m quibbling over a very minor design decision. The fittings use hose barb connectors, and I used two different sizes of flexible vinyl tubing to match that connection. If you’d prefer to hard plumb it, the hose barbs can be omitted, but you’ll have to use unions with nipples to remove the reactor for maintenance. More:

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