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Next Weekend, There’s More to Omaha than just Corn and Tornadoes

12020146_997645473591861_20586593_oNext Saturday, September 26th, marks the fourth anniversary of the much-loved aquarium store, Nebraska Aquatic Supply, which means that quite the party is in the works for patrons and devoted reefers alike! If you think that this is like any other anniversary sale, with a select few price cuts and coupons, you’re grossly mistaken. Owner and wrasse-hoarder Jim Gryczanowski has been organizing these anniversary fests since he opened his store in 2010, and each year is packed with raffles, VIP speakers, some really showstopping befinned guests, and a guaranteed good time.  MORE

Reef Threads Podcast #245


How much do you know about the salt in your reef tank?


It’s salty guest week! Wait, that didn’t come out right. Let’s try again… Craig Bingman is our returning guest this week and our subject is salt. If you have questions about the salt you’re using, the salt you’d like to use, or how you’re handling your salt, listen to this information-packed hour about our favorite powder. Download the podcast here, or subscribe to our podcasts at iTunes. Also, follow us on Twitter at reefthreads.—Gary and Christine

The Identification and Evolution of Closed Brain Corals: Part 3

Astrea curta - reefs

Astrea curta, note the circular, extracalicularly-budded polyps. Credit: Blue World Aquariums

 Merulinidae: Astrea Four extant species (and two extinct) species make up this newly recognized genus. The species are mostly former Montastraea (plus one Plesiastrea) that are identifiable by their symmetrically-round polyps and intracalicular growth. It should come as no surprise that they are similar to the Indo-Pacific “Montastraea” (now placed in Favites) but differ in having smaller polyps (~5mm vs ~10mm) that are mostly round (vs irregularly oval). A. rotulosa is known only from the holotype specimen (which lacks a collection locality), and it is nearly identical to the West Indian Ocean endemic A. devantieri. Dr. Danwei Huang (pers. comm.) has intimated that they are quite likely synonymous, but it may be a while before this is sorted out. Astrea curta and annuligera are far more common and well-documented species. In particular, curta is reported as being one of the more common merulinids on reefs, and it does occasionally find itself collected for aquariums, often in the traditional colors of the “X-mas favia”. These two species of Astrea are easy to tell apart, as annuligera has highly exsert septa. MORE


Palythoa grandis

 Many of us are inspired to keep marine life for its exotic beauty or interesting behavior. But if we’re being perfectly honest, we have to admit there’s also something intriguing about keeping—and displaying to our friends and family—marine organisms that have dangerous or potentially deadly defense mechanisms, such as venomous spines, potent toxins, or razor-sharp teeth.  For those hobbyists who like to flirt with danger, the marine aquarium trade certainly offers its share of prickly and poisonous characters—from venomous fishes to deadly cephalopods to noxious sessile invertebrates. There are even organisms we can buy that offer stunning beauty and potency in equal measure. Among these best-of-both-worlds critters are many of the zoanthids we’re so fond of keeping in our reef systems. These polyps (most of the ones we keep being from the Zoanthus and Palythoa genera) have much to recommend them, being very hardy and often stunningly beautiful. But some of them also contain a potent neurotoxin, called palytoxin, in their tissues and mucus that can make people very sick or even cause death if they’re not handled properly. MORE

The Identification and Evolution of Closed Brain Corals: Part 2

merulindae favites - reefs

Favites (complanata?). Credit: unknown

 Merulinidae: Favites With twenty species, this is the second most speciose genus of merulinid coral. As discussed above, Favites shares most of its morphological characters with Dipsastraea, differing most visibly in the nature of the corallite arrangement (typically ceriod vs plocoid), though this too is variable and often unreliable. A good example is the placement of the former “Favia rotundata” within Favites based on molecular study. Confusing matters is the placement of several Indo-Pacific species formerly included in Montastraea, which stretches the definition of the genus beyond a tidy, easy-to-understand description. Also note that there are microstructural differences between Favites and Dipsatraea related to skeletal calcification that can provide a more authoritative means to identify these corals, but this is beyond the means of any sane aquarist. 
favia valenciennesi - reefs

F. valenciennesi, note the extracalicular budding and uneven septa. Credit Franchi Cichlids

 Favites is also strikingly similar to several other genera that possess cerioid polyps: Goniastrea, Paragoniastrea, Platygyra and Coelastrea. MORE

Identification and Evolution of Closed Brain Corals: Part 1

closed brain 1 correct- reefs
Coral identification is a challenge for every aquarist, and few groups pose as many difficulties as the “closed brain corals”. Well known aquarium references (Sprung 1999, Borneman 2001) are rife with erroneous generalizations and outdated taxonomy. Retailers and wholesalers are often unreliable, and it’s generally best to ignore any of their identifications entirely. Quality field guides for the Indo-Pacific are almost nonexistent. Even the familiar scientific literature (Veron, 2000) can’t be relied on, as molecular studies have thrown these old, morphology-based classifications out the window. In sum, this is a confusing group with few reliable resources. The term “closed brain coral” is used by aquarists with little thought as to what it precisely refers to. As commonly interpreted, the name signifies a couple things: 1) the coral in question is typically encrusting or massive 2) the coral in question has relatively large polyps, which may or may not chain together into meanders that resemble the folds of a brain. For decades, taxonomists agreed with this scheme and placed these species together in the family Faviidae. And so “closed brain” became a convenient term which obviated the need for aquarists to learn how to identify the bewildering diversity of morphologically similar corals that occupied the family. But in the last decade a series of molecular studies have consistently shown that our traditional classification for these corals was enormously incorrect. MORE

Don’t Neglect These 5 Critical Marine Aquarium Maintenance Tasks!

Skimmer maintenance and light bulb or tube replacement are both important aspects of marine aquarium maintenanceKeeping a marine aquarium healthy and thriving requires a significant level of maintenance. For the most part, we hobbyists are pretty good at tackling chores in a timely manner, but in some cases we’re a little more prone to procrastination—usually in situations where “out of sight means out of mind.” Here are 5 critical marine aquarium maintenance chores that are all too easily overlooked but can have a dramatic impact on the health of your livestock, the functional life of your equipment, and/or the enjoyment you derive from your system:1. Cleaning the neck of your protein skimmer No one likes to touch that grimy, slimy, stinky coating that accumulates around the neck of a protein skimmer, but don’t postpone this important task! That nasty buildup of gunk is not only unsightly, but it also greatly impedes your skimmer’s foam production, which, in turn, greatly reduces the collection of skimmate. Simply wiping the neck clean as often as needed—at the very least, once a week—is the best thing you can do to keep your skimmer functioning at peak efficiency. 2. Cleaning pumps and powerheads Pumps and powerheads are essential elements of a marine aquarium’s “circulatory system” that quietly (or sometimes not so quietly) go about the business of creating currents and moving water wherever it’s needed. But over time, these pumps can become clogged with coralline algae, sponges, vermetid snails, etc MORE

SWS Seneye Web Server

2014_11_seneye_sws_seneye_web_server_001 After testing the Seneye Web Server for several months, I must tell you that I am impressed! As you already know, each Seneye sensor (review) needs to be connected to a computer in order to function. This can be a problem at times – the computer could be too far from the tank, and keeping the computer on at all times can be a big drain on energy.  MORE 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.