Tag Archives: science

Latest Posts

Visit at the Bellevue H.S. Marine Science Lab

David Bowers, science teacher at Bellevue High SchoolWhen I think back to my high school days, I remember a 29-gallon freshwater aquarium in science class. Coincidentally, I donated most of the specimens in that tank to my teacher from my home aquariums. It served as more of a stereotypical science classroom fixture than a teaching tool. So I guess you could say the hands-on aquatic learning experience was rather limited. The same certainly can’t be said of the Marine Science Lab at Bellevue High School in landlocked Ohio, USA. David Bowers’ classroom lab is an oceanic oasis amongst the fields of the Midwest (see the video below). Every time I visit Dave and his classroom, I’m struck by what a surprise it is to have thousands of gallons of salty learning opportunities at this small, rural school
Posted in Equipment, Fish, Industry, Science | Leave a comment

AlgaGen’s Live Feeds Program – An In Depth Look

Written by Erik Stenn AlgaGen’s Life Feeds Program (LFP): The use of live feeds in reef keeping is not a new concept. Aquarists have been collecting, culturing live feed organisms for years as a means to keep their reef happy and healthy. The issue is that live feeds are NOT readily accessible to all. Live feeds take some level of work and space to culture or collect which can discourage many from using them. In an attempt to make live cultures readily available AlgaGen has developed a Live Feeds Program (LFP). The concept is to provide participating stores with clean, hi-quality cultures each week. This way the store does not have to spend its time culturing but maintaining and selling the cultures. The aquarist community on the other hand now has wide access to fresh, quality cultures to experiment with in their feeding and breeding efforts. This can be a game changer for the way things are done. Having access to fresh cultures can provide the hobby with the tools to move feeding and breeding into new territory.What do you mean by Live Feeds? What are Plankton? What are they important?There are many types of Live Feeds; worms, shrimp, barnacle nauplii (babies), crab zoea, mysids, larval fish, amphipods, plankton, to name a few. In aquaculture Live Feeds tend to refer to planktonic organisms such as phytoplankton, rotifers, copepods, brine; items that can be mass cultured to feed production organisms. These planktonic, production organisms are what we referring to as Live Feeds.By definition plankton are aquatic organisms that wander “aimlessly” in the waters. They do not have the mechanisms to fight currents and so drift with them. Plankton include both plants and animals, and are an essential part of the marine ecosystem. Planktonic organisms are involved with the cycling of nutrients and are a cornerstone of the aquatic food chain. In the oceans the phytoplankton (single celled plants) are responsible for the uptake of nitrates, phosphates, iron, trace elements (heavy metals), carbon dioxide and together with sunlight create essential fatty acids (EFAs), which are very important for the aquatic food chain. The zooplankton (animals) that inhabit the planktos are either there for a finite period of time such as a phase of larval development (e.g. crab larvae) or as a full-fledged member, such as copepods.  As mentioned previously phytoplankton utilize nitrates and phosphates, heavy metals, carbon dioxide and form essential fatty acids, again, critical to the marine food chain. Without these fatty acids numerous marine organisms would not survive. A number of organisms eat phytoplankton, copepods specifically, consume phytoplankton, store and convert the EFAs to other important fatty acids. The copepods in turn are consumed by everything from corals to amphipods to fish and then some. This is roughly how the EFAs produced by algae get into the food chain. Then of course it is a free-for-all of one thing eating or being eaten by another. Getting the proper nutrition to our animals is important. It has been proven that when these essential fatty acids (EFAs) are presented in specific ratios, larval development and animal health are substantially increased. In nature there is a diversity of prey and many of the prey items have these EFA ratios occurring naturally. In captive environments we try to mimic the nutrition found in nature. Aquaculture operations raise their own live feeds They have rooms for microalgae production, rooms for rotifer production, rooms for brine production and in some cases rooms for copepod production. In aquaculture however, the most common live feed is the rotifer. In the past copepod starter cultures were not readily available and had been considered difficult to work with, so an “easier-to-culture” replacement organism was identified/utilized called a rotifer. A rotifer is a convenient way to deliver nutrition to small organisms such as fish larvae and corals; larval and young animals with small mouths. This organism swims through the water eating virtually anything that is in its path as long as it is the correct particle size. It can also be raised in substantial numbers (up to 3000/mL). Typically rotifers are fed an enrichment diet, harvested and fed directly to the target larvae. This is standard aquaculture procedure. It also holds great promise as a planktonic feed for the captive reef. People talk about collecting wild plankton in years past, which led to having successes in maintaining captive reefs. Since then the science of feed development has advanced substantially and over the years has provided many quality dry, frozen, and shelf stable feeds for reef organisms. If our goal as aquarists is to mimic the natural reef ecosystem then the presence, or lack of plankton, needs to be addressed. If we use artificial seawater, where is our plankton coming from? By introducing properly produced and assembled plankton, we create the basis for the natural ecosystem and inoculate our system with a sort of probiotic that can hopefully displace “bad” plankton. The use of plankton in maintaining a reef tank is a relatively new area that needs to be pioneered further. Daily feedings of live, fresh phytoplankton have created positive changes in reef tank health and appearance. For many aquarists, fresh phytoplankton has been attributed to the reduction of persistent nitrate and phosphate levels even with macroalgae stocked refugiums. So, phytoplankton uptake nitrates, phosphates, heavy metals, CO2, in order to grow. They get eaten by rotifers, copepods, and other filterfeeders. The rotifers and copepods will then get eaten by fish and corals, which take the problem of hi-nutrients and transfers that into positive tissue growth of corals and fish. Rotifers are a great daily or weekly feed to the reef. If used in conjunction with fresh phytoplankton, they will grow and be enriched as a food source, perfect for corals and smaller mouthed organisms. The availability of healthy rotifer cultures are also an asset to breeders whose rotifer cultures tend to crash the night before they are needed. Copepods are one of the natural foods for a reef. Copepods exist in nature as benthic dwellers where they eat detritus, phytoplankton, left over fish food, etc. They also exist as free-swimming organisms, feeding primarily on phytoplankton. There are other families that have combined lifestyles and some other families of copepods that can be parasitic to fish. The parasitic copepods are NOT sold in our hobby. The AlgaGen LFP provides a mixed culture of copepods, benthic as well as pelagic, that serve a critical eco-function in a reef tank as well as a broad source of food for numerous reef inhabitants. The copepods should be used in conjunction with the phytoplankton because this serves as a food source. How do we use Live Feeds?The use of Live Feeds as with anything can be equated to exercising; “do not try running a marathon on day one, but build up to it.” In this case start off slowly adding small quantities of live feeds so that the tank can adjust to this new input. If using the live feeds consistently one should be able to add larger volumes on a daily or every-other day basis. Of course the amount recommended depends on the size of the tank and how heavily it is stocked. The real advantage to using live feeds is that they are used shortly after purchase, hyper-fresh. The real advantage of using Live Feeds is the freshness, it was not designed to be a “stored-in-the-refrigerator” product. To get the full benefit it should be consumed as soon after harvest as possible. The use of Live Feeds is not THE way to maintain a captive reef, there are many ways. It is another tool, another approach that can lead to great successes. When asked how much to use, we recommend starting off slowly. Honestly, plankton quantity varies in the natural environment from sparse to abundant. So it is up to the aquarist to experiment and determine what works best for the ecosystem they are creating.www.algagen.com/ Thomas Brown and AlgaGen President Erik Stenn at the AlgaGen Orlando Campus/Facility Check out the TVR Road Trip where I visit several locations including the AlgaGen facility. SUBSCRIBE TO OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL
Posted in Corals, Events, Fish, Science | Leave a comment

Who is PIJAC and How Are They Helping Us?

Last week I told you about the recent Endangered Species Act (ESA) coral listings and how they could mean the end of our hobby. This week I wanted to take a closer look at Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) and what they’ve been doing to fight for our interests from this and future legislation. Let’s see how PIJAC fits into the picture by first taking a look at their mission: PROMOTE responsible pet ownership and animal welfare FOSTER environmental stewardship & ENSURE the availability of pets PIJAC has been an advocate of the pet industry for more than 35 years. Their accomplishments include helping raise the standards of animal care, developing information and resources for pet owners and stores, creating programs and campaigns to promote protection of the natural environment, and working to protect the right to own a pet. In light of recent ESA coral listings, the last part is of particular importance to us as hobbyists. This is because PIJAC functions as a national watchdog organization that addresses legislation which can cause hurt our ability to own and keep pets. They do this by monitoring legislation at all levels of government, providing testimony and comments on legislation, empowering members with the tools they need to respond to legislative issues, and by building relationships and networks with government agencies, industry groups, and other organizations
Posted in Corals, Fish, Industry, MACNA, Science | Leave a comment

Reef Threads Podcast #197

Zoanthids growing in Marc Levenson’s tank.It’s a new week and time for a new podcast. This week we talk about Sanjay’s notification trick, Reefs.com, blogs, the MACNA banquet, Archerfish skill, and skeptical animal selection. Download the podcast here, or subscribe to our podcasts at iTunes. Also, follow us on Twitter at reefthreads.—Gary and Christine Get the app Fish shooting bugs Being skeptical
Posted in Corals, Equipment, Fish, MACNA, Opinion, Photography, Podcast, Science, Tanks, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Endangered Bumphead Gets Much Needed Attention

Ever wonder where that vividly white sand on the beach comes from? Underwater giants produce the sand themselves through biological methods of metabolism. Yep thats right its technically fish poop. One of the largest producers of sand is the Parrotfish which ingests calcium carbonate skeletons of coral (sometimes with living polyps) and excretes them back out in the form of tiny sand grains that wash up onto beaches. These fish are the topic of a recent study highlighting how the both the positive and negative influences of such endangered species can be key factors in the success of an ecosystem. Bumphead Stiefel Endangered Bumphead Gets Much Needed Attention

Douglas McCauly of the University at Santa Barbara explains his time in the field for this study: “We actually swam alongside Bumphead Parrotfish for close to six hours at a time, taking detailed data on what they ate and where they went. These large parrotfish crunch off entire pieces of reef and audibly grind them up into sand in their pharyngeal mill — specialized teeth in the back of their throat. You know Bumpheads are near when you begin noticing branches lopped off stony corals and golf-like divot scars marking the reef.

bite ENH Endangered Bumphead Gets Much Needed Attention“Most species do things to ecosystems that we would construe as both positive and negative. This viewpoint is ecologically misleading,” he states. “Endangered species are no different from their more abundant counterparts.” This dichotomy of influence is why McCauly and his team are pushing for a higher level of protection for endangered and threatened species adding: “We can, in fact, strengthen the integrity of the field of conservation biology by being rigidly objective about the observations we make in nature — even if this means reporting occasionally that rare species can damage ecosystems,” he added. “If anything, better understanding the full complement of ways that at-risk species use and affect their environment empowers us to more effectively protect them.” Read more here.… More:

Posted in Conservation, Corals, Fish, Science, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Survival of the Fattest and Most Flexible Corals Amidst Climate Change

O faveolata polyps.3624d4b5 Survival of the Fattest and Most Flexible Corals Amidst Climate Change
Coral reefs are theorized to annual undergo a “bleaching” event in where corals die off as a result of ecological changes. As climate change rears its ugly head those impacts are slowly becoming a human issue. Researchers from Ohio State University have found that while some corals are whipped clean in a bleaching event others are adapting, along with their symbiotic partners, to the changes and becoming less susceptible to environmental extremes. “We found that some coral are able to acclimatize to annual bleaching, while others actually become more susceptible to it over time,” said 
Andréa Grottoli, professor in the School of Earth Sciences at Ohio State. She and her team found that by keeping a large fat/energy reserve in the cells of zooxanthellae, corals can acclimatize, and thus recover, from a bleaching even much more easily than those that do not.

Grottoli concludes stating: “We found that the research on single bleaching events is misleading. Species that we think are resilient to temperature stress are actually susceptible and vice versa when stressed annually. We’re actually a bit optimistic, because we showed that there’s acclimation in a one-year window, that it’s possible. In two of our three coral species, we have recovery in six weeks. The paths they took to recovery are different, but they both got there.” Read more here!… More:

Posted in Conservation, Corals, Opinion, Science, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Boat Noise a Culprit for Decline of Sea Hare

Scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter and the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE) CRIOBE in France have long understood that artificial marine noise can affect the ecology of marine life, but they now understand that propeller noise from boats can also affect change in the life cycle of one of the most important reef inhabitants. Lead author Sophie Nedelec, a PhD researcher at the University of Bristol and EPHE had this to offer: “Traffic noise is now one of the most widespread global pollutants. If the reproductive output of vulnerable species is reduced, we could be changing communities and losing vital ecological functions. This species is particularly important because it eats a toxic alga that affects recruitment of fish to coral reefs.” 

seahare article Boat Noise a Culprit for Decline of Sea Hare

Researchers found that when exposed to anthropogenic noises throughout gestation, some of the Stylocheilus striates eggs studied for this experiment were found to be underdeveloped and in some cases actually perished as a result. Co-author, Dr Steve Simpson, a marine biologist and senior lecturer at the University of Exeter, said: “Boat noise may cause stress or physically disrupt cells during development, affecting chances of survival. Since one in five people in the world rely on marine animals as a major source of protein, regulating traffic noise in important fisheries areas could help marine communities and the people that depend on them.” Read more here.More:

Posted in Conservation, Invertebrates, Science, Too Cute, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

And This, Ladies and Gents, Is Why You Must Properly Chew Your Sea Lion Snacks

BsxvLA4IUAE pza 300x225 And This, Ladies and Gents, Is Why You Must Properly Chew Your Sea Lion SnacksA hungry, hungry Great White off the coast of Australia had the (last) meal of a lifetime when he failed to fully chew his catch and instead attempted to swallow the large aquatic mammal. Stunned beachgoers watched in horror as the 13-foot apex predator washed ashore after hours of struggling trying to dislodge the obstruction. Well, I’m adding this to my list of “Ways I Hope I Never Die”. I suggest you all do the same – and CHEW, people! Article via NBC News can be found here.… More:

Posted in Science | Leave a comment

Reefs.com 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.