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Marine Aquarium Photography: Post Processing of Coral Images

There is no such thing as an unprocessed “image,” but the degree of said processing can vary greatlyOften the subject of heated online debate is the post processing of coral photos—the manipulation of the coral image by software to tweak color and exposure levels. Post processing of coral images is a particularly hot-button issue because it is possible to abuse it. Hobbyists unfamiliar with the practice may decide to purchase a coral online based on a stunning photo and be disappointed once they receive it because the photo was the result of heavy post processing. Half the equationSome in the reefkeeping hobby associate post processing with deceptive trade practices, which is unfortunate because post processing is merely a tool. That may be an understatement because post processing is half of digital photography. Let me repeat that: Post processing is half of photography. Let’s say, for example, that you are hiring a wedding photographer and the first candidate proclaims he doesn’t do any post processing and whatever comes straight out of the camera is what makes it to print.

The Pros and Cons of Using a Marine Aquarium Cover Glass

To put a lid on it or not to put a lid on it, that is the question!Okay, with profuse apologies to the Melancholy Dane, the point I’d like to mull over in today’s post is whether it’s a good idea to use cover glasses on marine aquariums—you know, those oft-hinged glass or acrylic lids that are available in various dimensions to fit tightly atop aquariums of different sizes. As with so many aspects of the marine aquarium hobby, there’s no all-encompassing right or wrong answer to this question. Suffice it to say that cover glasses may be appropriate in some circumstances but totally inappropriate in others. To determine what’s best for your system, consider these cover glass pros and cons: Pros: Having a cover glass in place reduces evaporation, which in turn can reduce the size and frequency of freshwater top-offs and helps lower the humidity in the room housing the aquarium. Fish prone to jumping or slithering out of a tank are kept in the aquarium where they belong. Some fish, such as eels, and even certain invertebrates, such as octopuses, are such good escape artists that a tight-fitting lid is a must when keeping them. However, for many fish species, there are alternatives to glass/acrylic lids that may do the same job, e.g., covers made of some type of mesh or screening material or plastic egg crate. The light fixture is better protected from splashes and corrosive salt spray.

Write-Up Wednesday: Top-Down Viewers

I’ve got a strong hunch that you setup a saltwater tank to stock it with beautiful inhabitants for your viewing pleasure. I’m also got a strong hunch that 99% of the time, you view those inhabitants from the side -i.e. through your tank’s side panels. I’ll make one more hypothesis – as your corals start growing, you really, really would like to take some great photos of them.

Here’s some insider information for you – corals always look much better when viewed from the top down. Therefore, if you want some great photos of your corals, try taking them from above. But how do you do that without getting your camera wet?

The answer: the top-down viewer for cameras

Avast Marine Work’s Top-Down Porthole

Top-down viewers that are built for cameras give you an easy and safe way to keep your camera dry, while giving you access to stunning top-down shots. The way they work is simple. A water proof sleeve goes around your camera’s lens. The top-down viewer is secured to the camera’s lens through set screws and the viewer is rotated to zoom in or out to get closer to the subject matter. Note that the focus ring isn’t accessible when the viewer is attached to the camera so auto focus has to be enabled.

While most top-down viewers are meant for cameras with detachable lenses, there are versions available for smart phones like Avast Marine Work’s Smartphone Top-Down Porthole

If you’re using a DSLR/SLR camera or a smart phone, a top-down viewer gives you stunning photos of a completely new way to view your livestock. Corals display different colors and clams especially can look dramatically different when viewed from the top down.

Compare these photos of an acan colony.  The side photo shows mostly red and a hint of orange/yellow:

Here’s the same colony viewed from the top. Notice how the orange/yellow band jumps out in this photo. Plus the coral now looks more orange vs. deep red:

Checkout this photo of a clam taken from the side:

Here’s a top down photo of the same clam:

It looks like a completely different clam, yet it is the same specimen.

Top-down viewing of your tank opens up a whole new world that makes for some great eye candy. And for your FOWLR types, don’t worry, even your fish look different when viewed from the top-down.

(Special thanks to Josh at Murfreesboro Aquatics for the photos)

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Reef Threads Podcast #230


What tells you that a fish is healthy?

We’ve returned again because we simply can’t help it. This week’s topics include MASNA scholarships, Bryopsis, mollusk tanks, healthy fish characteristics, floors for fish tanks, and Acropora resistance. Download the podcast here, or subscribe to our podcasts at iTunes. Also, follow us on Twitter at reefthreads.—Gary and Christine

Sponsor: Rod’s Food
Rod’s Food website

MASNA scholarships
The MASNA student scholarship page

Fed acros are tough acros
Feeding Acropora helps them handle elevated temperatures and CO2, Leonard Ho, Advanced Aquarist

The floor under your tank
Floor selection for reef room, WindeyD, Reef2Reef.

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Salt Speak – Episode 3: Coldwater Marine Aquariums

Alright, alright…I’m back with another episode of Salt Speak! In this third installment I sat down to talk coldwater marine systems with Stu Wobbe. Stu is the owner of Coldwater Marine Aquatics in Oregon, USA.In the first half of our chat we speak about temperate and coldwater marine aquariums. We dig into equipment and maintenance requirements and how they differ from tropical systems. In addition, Stu introduces us to some of the interesting fish and invertebrate species that are available to coldwater hobbyists. Then we change gears to focus on his business, Coldwater Marine Aquatics, including how they got started (hint: a hand-written note started it all!). CMA is permitted through Oregon for commercial collection and they also use self-imposed restrictions to lessen their impact on the natural environment. Since coldwater systems aren’t as mainstream, we spend time at the end of our chat to focus on a variety of resources available to hobbyists interested in learning more

Marine Aquarium Decorations: Tacky, Tasteful, or Somewhere In-Between?

Large coral insert tank decoration at a big box pet storeI’ve always favored very naturalistic aquariums, so when an acquaintance recently asked me what I think about using decorations in saltwater systems, my immediate response (more or less) was that I find them tacky and cringe-worthy and that corals and fish should be decoration enough. But I have to admit, when pressed to explain why I think this way, I couldn’t really come up with a satisfactory answer. My contention that I prefer to keep things natural doesn’t really hold up, since, let’s face it, I’m using artificial means to provide everything from water currents to sunlight to waste removal in my tank. Not to mention, there aren’t a lot of fish and corals out there in the natural world living in rectangular glass houses (and if there are, they probably shouldn’t throw stones!). Nor could I honestly argue that aquarium decorations are just plain ugly because, as the old saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”So this challenge to my long-held viewpoint sort of got me thinking. Can I really support the assertion that ornaments have no place in marine tanks? Tasteful tank décor I’ve seen My mind goes back to a photo of an aquarium I saw in some book many, many years ago. A focal point of this tank was a spot-lit, half-buried amphora (similar to these ancient vase replicas) with bubbles created by a hidden airstone rising from its mouth.

Reef Threads Podcast #229


One of the animals in Marius Schudel’s Irish rockpool aquarium.

Postmodern Jukebox support for Gary leads off a podcast packed with reef information including clown triggerfish mariculture, Quality Marine’s fish-information QR codes, lionfish eating, Marius Schudel’s (he’s a guy!) Irish rockpool aquarium, and anti-aging nematocysts. Download the podcast here, or subscribe to our podcasts at iTunes. Also, follow us on Twitter at reefthreads.—Gary and Christine

Sponsor: Rod’s Food
Rod’s Food website

Prepping lionfish
Three videos about how to prepare lionfish for eating:
Video 1
Video 2
Video 3

Irish rockpool aquarium
Marius Schudel’s rockpool aquarium
Video of Marius Schudel’s Irish rockpool aquarium

Anti-aging nematocysts
Sea Anemone Delivery of Collagen and γ-PGA for Anti-Aging Benefits, Tal, Danon, Toren, Khaiat, Cosmetics and Toiletries magazine.

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Reefing from Afar, Part 1: The Six “Ps”

There comes a time in every reef fanatic’s life where little things like work and vacation travel get in the way of enjoying the hobby. While being away for just a week, I have gone through everything from little disasters, such as algae blooms, to the horror of losing a whole system. Rather than accept problems as inevitable every time I travel, I’ve set out to automate as much of my system as possible.Allow me to introduce myself! I am by no means a professional aquarist, nor do I make my living in this industry, but as a professional systems engineer, I have applied many of my engineering practices to my reef aquarium, which in my mind feels like a multimillion-dollar system. I have been in the saltwater aquarium hobby for over 25 years. I worked at a local pet store chain growing up and ran its first saltwater system when the base technology encompassed only undergravel filters, wet-dry systems, and air-driven skimmers with wooden air diffusers. Today, technology has advanced quite a bit with respect to filtering methods, lighting, and water chemistry

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