Category Archives: Invertebrates

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Fish Are What Fish Eat!

Aquarists have a wide variety of fish foods at their disposalWith so many fish foods on the market these days, it is really difficult to know exactly what your fish are eating. They will chow down with gusto pretty much anything you put in the tank, but do we really know what is in their foods? When we go to the market, I am sure the majority of us read the labels to see what we are ingesting. But is it the same for fish food? Usually not. Fish food labels provide a breakdown in protein and amino acids, etc., but we don’t know the exact ingredients since the FDA does not regulate fish food. Take dogs and cats for example

The French Angelfish: Pretty, Curious, and Well Worth the Tank Space!

Adult french angelfish (Pomacanthus paru)One of my more enduring memories of diving in the Florida Keys was coming across a pair of French angelfish (Pomacanthus paru) gliding in unison above the reef. Unlike so many other fishes that dashed into hiding as I approached, the angels actually swam right into touching distance and seemed to take an interest in my presence. Whether they were naturally curious, accustomed to being handfed, or just amused by the sight of such a big fellow squeezed into a wetsuit, I can’t say, but their beauty and boldness certainly impressed me. If you happen to have a system large enough to accommodate one of these angels, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed either. Let’s look at their characteristics:Physical traits Juvenile Pomacanthus paruFrench angels aren’t as spectacularly colored as some reef fishes are, yet they’re subtly beautiful nonetheless. Adults are bluish-black overall with golden-yellow scale margins. The face is slate blue, the mouth is white, and the eyes are rimmed with gold. As with many angelfish species, juvenile French angels differ considerably from the adults in coloration, being black overall with five vertical, curving yellow bars on their flanks

What Constitutes a Marine Biotope Aquarium?

A biotope can serve as inspiration for your aquarium, but what exactly is it?For today’s post, I’d like to take a slightly different tack than usual. By presenting my meandering thought process on the concept of marine biotope aquariums, I’m hoping to elicit some input from you, my fellow salties, on precisely how to define this term—or if we can even agree on a definition at all. The question, as I see it, is one of scope. If we assume a biotope tank is an attempt to replicate a specific natural marine habitat, then how narrowly should we define that? In other words, where does a generalized tank end and a biotope begin? Is it:A tank representing a particular ocean or sea? As regular salties know, all the livestock in “Caribbean Chris’s” tank is found only in the Caribbean Sea. In fact, Chris seems to regard the existence of other seas/oceans the same way one might the existence of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster—with skepticism

A Database for the Identification of Sponges

Photo by Twilight Zone Expedition Team 2007, NOAA-OE.

Photo by Twilight Zone Expedition Team 2007, NOAA-OE.


There is a huge number of sponge species in our world’s oceans. Some of them are bacterivores, some are carnivorous, some even harbor zooxanthellae. Yet, despite their great diversity of function, sponges are highly conserved in form. Often, differences between even distant relatives are so subtle that only trained experts with the right tools are capable of conclusively identifying them. Because there are so many different but similar species, traditional field guides (especially those in print form) are pretty much useless. The difficulty in identifying these primitive animals has been blamed for a general lack of attention to the group by biologists. That notwithstanding, comprehensive, well-illustrated and regularly updated catalogs of sponges are much needed; this is especially so if one considers the abundance and ecological importance of sponges in nature, and the fact that sponges are becoming even more ubiquitous as many coral species decline. The Sponge Guide, an online database devoted to sponge identification, has been notably filling this gap. Because it is electronic, it can be more extensive and be easily updated as needed. Work on the guide began in 2000, when sponge taxonomist Sven Zea was conducting research in the Bahamas under Joseph R. Pawlik. Over the next decade the pair was joined by Timothy P. Henkel, who was to contribute his knowledge of databases and computer programming. Though it was initially meant for use by researchers in the expedition, the photographic database (tSG, spongeguide.org) was eventually published online in 2009. And, then they just kept adding to it. Recently, the collaborators have launched the third edition of the database.… More:

5 Circumstances That Test Marine Aquarists’ Willpower

Resist the urge to bring home a fish you're not able to see feed in the LFS holding tankSeveral elements/traits are key to success in the marine aquarium hobby. Among them are a fundamental understanding of aquarium-keeping principles, the proper equipment for the type of system you plan to keep, diligent attention to maintenance and detail, willingness to research the needs of each and every organism acquired, and a good dose of patience. But at least one more element that’s seldom discussed should probably be added to that list: willpower. That’s right, the same self-discipline that helps us resist harmful habits or bad choices in other areas of life (like when CC says “No thanks!” to that eighth beer during our Saltwater Smarts Planning Sessions) will help you avoid making counterproductive decisions as an aquarist. And trust me, if you haven’t already, you will be tempted to make counterproductive decisions time and time again in this hobby!Here are five circumstances that try men’s and women’s souls…err, hobbyists’ willpower: 1) Delaying stocking until cycling is complete This is the first real test of every aquarist’s resolve. Like a brand-new pair of sneakers that you just can’t wait to get on your feet and take for a test walk (Royal Crown Cream-Sponge Para Litefoot Tennis Shoes, anyone?), that newly set up display tank is just begging for fish and invertebrates to be introduced. As you mark time through the seemingly endless succession of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, the urge to short-circuit the process and add “just a specimen or two” can be pretty powerful.

6 Steps to Stable pH in a Saltwater System

Like other water parameters in your marine aquarium, stability is also important with pHStability of water parameters is essential to success with marine aquariums, especially when it comes to keeping sensitive invertebrates. Among the various parameters that hobbyists often struggle to maintain at an appropriate level is pH, essentially a measure of how acidic/basic the water is. While the ideal target for pH in a marine aquarium is somewhere in the range of 8.2 to 8.4, it’s more important to maintain a stable pH, even if it’s slightly outside this range, than to constantly chase a particular value within the range. The challenge is, owing to various natural processes going on in the tank, the pH in a closed aquarium system usually drifts downward (there are exceptions, of course), so the hobbyist must take certain steps to counteract this trend. Here are six of them:1) Perform regular partial water changes Regular Saltwater Smarts visitors must be pretty tired of hearing this by now—as I recommend water changes for virtually anything that ails a saltwater system. But the truth is, nothing promotes stability of parameters, pH included, better than routine partial water changes. Every time you replace old salt water with new, you’re not only removing dissolved pollutants and replacing components vital to the health and growth of your livestock, but you’re also replacing compounds that buffer the water against shifting pH (carbonates and bicarbonates)

A Pint-Sized, Potentially Picky Lionfish: Dendrochirus biocellatus

Fu Manchu lionfish (Dendrochirus biocellatus)Yearn to keep a lionfish but don’t think you have the tank space to accommodate one? You might want to think again! While having a small to medium-sized tank might preclude keeping some of the popular Pterois species, there are several lionfish species in the genus Dendrochirus that are small and retiring enough to be kept successfully in fairly modest-sized quarters. Among these is the subject of today’s post: D. biocellatus, the Fu Manchu lionfish, also known as the twinspot lionfish, ocellated lionfish, or twospot turkeyfish. In terms of its ease of care, I would characterize D. biocellatus species as moderately difficult. So, it’s not a great choice for beginners, but if you have a few years of successful fishkeeping experience under your belt and are willing to give it the specialized care it requires, you won’t be disappointed!Physical traits D

Toledo Zoo Aquarium Renovation – Update 15: Grand Opening Today!

Mosaic walkway in the renovated Aquarium (Credit: Toledo Zoo/Andi Norman)Virtually since we launched Saltwater Smarts back in April of 2013, we’ve been bringing you regular updates on the progress of the $25.5 million renovation of the Toledo Zoo Aquarium. Today, we’re thrilled to announce that this ambitious project has finally come to fruition with the grand opening of the new Aquarium taking place. Congratulations to all who were involved in this ponderous undertaking—and special salty kudos to our friend and regular contributor Jay Hemdal, Curator of Fishes and Invertebrates for the Toledo Zoo and author of The Salt Smart Guide to Preventing, Diagnosing, and Treating Diseases of Marine Fishes.I’ve always had a special affinity for the Toledo Zoo. Not only was my first home as a child situated literally a stone’s throw from the Zoo (escaped peacocks, a common occurrence back in those days, would often land atop neighborhood houses, ours included), but I’m also proud to say that from May of 2002 to December of 2005, I had the privilege of working in the Zoo’s marketing department as Writer/Publication’s Coordinator. Panoramic shot of the new entrance (Credit: Toledo Zoo/Bruce Burkhart) The Toledo Zoo boasts many world-class exhibits, but, perhaps not surprisingly, the Aquarium has always been my favorite. If ever my workload got the better of me, I could step away from my computer, walk the short distance from my office in the Museum of Science to the Aquarium, immerse myself (figuratively) in the captivating exhibits, and let the stress just drain away. I’ll take a moon jelly tank over meditation any day

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