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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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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

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

Reef Threads Podcast #228


Make every effort to attend the MBI Workshop, July 25.

It’s a new week and we have a new podcast for reef-aquarium junkies. This week’s topics are the MBI workshop, MASNA scholarships, lionfish, and the definition of a biotope. 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

MBI Workshop
MBI Workshop, July 25, Cranbrook Institute, Bloomfield Hills, MI

MASNA Scholarships
MASNA Scholarship applications due June 19

Lionfish overwhelm
A recap of what we’ve learned about invasive Lionfish this month (none of it good), Leonard Ho, Advanced Aquarist.

Biotopes
What Constitutes a Marine Biotope Aquarium?, Jeff Kurtz, Saltwater Smarts,

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Reef Threads Podcast #227


Look for Momma.

This week we play What’s on the Home Page, in which we visit a bunch of websites and see what they have to offer. 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

What’s on the Home Page links
Live Aquaria’s Reef Care resource

WikiHow’s Reduce Aquarium Maintenance

Bulk Reef Supply

Marine Depot

Salty Supply

Foster & Smith Pet Education

Premium Aquatics

ORA

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Reef Threads Podcast #226


Quality Marine is offering commercially raised clown triggerfish from Biota Marine Life Nursery in Palau.

We’re back with more marine/reef/aquarium chit chat. This week’s topics include Rod’s Food, Reefapalooza, the MBI workshop, MASNA scholarships, captive breeding, and parenting. 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

MBI Workshop
MBI Workshop, July 25, Cranbrook Institute, Bloomfield Hills, MI

MASNA Scholarships
MASNA Scholarship applications due June 19

Clown triggerfish
Commercially Raised Clown Triggerfish available now, Leonard Ho, Advanced Aquarist

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Write-Up Wednesday: The Recirculating Protein Skimmer

A protein skimmer provides mechanical filtration by removing organic molecules from your saltwater aquarium’s water. And a  recirculating protein skimmer differs from other protein skimmers in 2 main areas:

– the water depth required for the skimmer to operate

– the number of pumps that run the skimmer

Water Depth

Non-recirculating protein skimmers have to be run inside of your sump or tank and they all require a specific water depth to operate. (The exception is hang-on back protein skimmers which hang on the back of your tank or sump). Usually there is an acceptable range between 7-9″ (18-22 cm). Recirculating protein skimmers, however, do not require a certain water depth to operate and can be run external to the sump if need be.

Operating Pumps

A Hydor 2005 protein skimmer

On a recirculating skimmer, one or more pumps recirculate water inside the protein skimmer body while mixing the recirculated water with air. A separate pump feeds the protein skimmer body water. Contrast this with a non-recirculating protein skimmer where one pump feeds the skimmer water, mixes the air with the water and pushes water throughout the protein skimmer body.

Since the recirculating pumps only jobs are to recirculate water throughout the skimmer body as well as mix air into this water, the idea is that a recirculating protein skimmer is better at removing waste. Having owned both recirculating and non-recirculating skimmer, my experience is that the difference is negligible. Both my recirculating and non-recirculating skimmer performed well and the performance differences between them would be hard to attribute to the fact that one was or wasn’t a recirculating skimmer.

If you go the recirculating protein skimmer route, a quality recirculating skimmer will work well for your tank.

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