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That perfect lighting schedule – what you need to know

You set up your tank, buy some shiny new lights, plug them into timers and then wait... how long should they be on? What will match your routine? What about the health of your reef? Fish and corals in nature are very aware of the daily cycle, so much so that if you purchase a wrasse from another part of the earth, it will still be on that schedule. I've purchased wrasses in the past that stayed in the sandbed way longer than expected, emerging hours after the lights came on because their internal clock was still calibrated to the previous time zone. After a couple of weeks, it would reset so precisely that it would circle and hover over the perfect spot mere seconds before the lights shut off. Pretty fascinating to watch, I have to tell you.If you have a simple system with T5 bulbs, your options may be limited to how many bulbs you can turn on at a time

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.

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: 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.

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

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. 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: 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: 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.

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 ( 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:ápagos_Islands

My "Reef Friendly" Quarantine System

I haven’t been involved in this hobby very long compared to other folks but learned very quickly how much of a pain it can be to eradicate, or try to eradicate pests such as Aiptasia, Majanos, Bubble Algae, zoa eating asterinas, and Marine Ich. When I started, I did what I’m sure all of us have done at one time or another: just drop things in the tank and hope for the best. I recently upgraded from a 70g to a 260g tank and decided never again! Unfortunately, everything I found online regarding QT setups mainly dealt with fish only setups, bare bones systems, or that were more of a temporary solution. I’ve had to treat fish in smaller systems I had setup twice for Marine Ich and went through the hyposalinity treatments using a bare bottom tank, HOB filter, and a couple of pieces of PVC

SCUBA Certification – Open Water Dives 3 & 4

The final part of my PADI Open Water diver certification was Dives 3 & 4. Yesterday, Dives 1 & 2 were done in Terrell, Texas . Today's took place in Glen Rose, Texas. The purpose of this documentation is to provide information to consider so your experience will go smoothly, and that is why I opt to share a number of details, including minor ones: I awoke at 8 a.m. so I'd have an hour to get myself going before my drive to Glen Rose. As soon as the alarm sounded, I jumped up but wow did I feel like heck. I could see through the closed blinds that it wasn't 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.