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Early Success with a Halichoeres Wrasse!

Figure 1. Halichoeres melanurus egg on a 1 mm SedgewickRafter cell. Here at the Tropical Aquaculture Lab we’re very fortunate to have the opportunity to work in a field we’re truly passionate about. That passion inspires me to not only work on captive breeding of marine species here at work, but to also explore other fish by working from home. I’m pleased to announce that the first project I’ve taken on as an at-home aquaculturist resulted in the successful captive rearing of the melanurus wrasse, Halichoeres melanurus, using only cultured prey items. Although only a few fish were brought through metamorphosis, survival should be higher when larvae are raised in the controlled environment of a dedicated facility as opposed to the chaos of a household living room. I strongly believe this fish, and others in this genus, will have significant commercial potential. We now have broodstock at the Tropical Aquaculture Lab because of this early success. The work done so far will stand as strong supportive evidence to move forward with other wrasses as well.

Venomous Marine Fish: It’s Hard to Define the Effects of Their Stings

Stonefish are some of the most venomous fish in the worldPeople are naturally fascinated by venomous animals and often very curious about the effects their venom might have on people they bite or sting. Any marine aquarium hobbyist who’s kept a lionfish, rabbitfish, saltwater catfish, or other fish species equipped with venomous spines, can attest to this curiosity, as they’ve probably been asked time and again by people observing their tank to describe how painful the fish’s sting might be or whether its venom is potentially deadly. The trouble with these questions is that there isn’t always a straightforward answer to them. Besides, it’s generally not a good idea to make assumptions about how someone’s body might react to being envenomated by a given species. Let’s explore why this is true a bit further:The pain comparison How painful is a lionfish sting? Is it the same as a bee sting? Which sting hurts more: a foxface’s or a leaf scorpionfish’s?

Beware Marine Aquarium Complacency!

A funny thing sometimes happens to marine aquarium hobbyists who have a few years’ experience under their briny belts—they have a tendency to become complacent in their methods and attitudes. Once they’ve mastered the basics of aquarium keeping, it can become all too tempting for some to kick back, switch to “autopilot,” and say, “Hey, I got this!”But this mentality can be detrimental on the road to long-term aquarium success. At the very least, it can lead to some unnecessary—and very avoidable—bumps in that road. Here are a few common symptoms of marine aquarium complacency to watch for: Signs of benign neglect Complacent hobbyists aren’t typically guilty of gross negligence when it comes to their tanks, but they often lapse into a somewhat lackadaisical approach that could best be described as “benign neglect.” That is, they get so comfortable and absentminded in their methods that problems sometimes arise very slowly and almost imperceptibly. For instance, they may perform water changes of the same frequency and volume for many years without accounting for the increasing bioload in the tank as fish and invertebrates grow. As a result, nitrate and phosphate levels can gradually rise, leading to “unexplained” algae outbreaks and other issues related to declining water quality.

5 Signs of Inadequate Water Movement in Reef Aquariums

Proper water circulation is one of many elements that are key to maintaining a healthy reef system. While there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all water-flow scheme (you really have to tailor the flow to the unique needs of the invertebrates you keep), there are certain signs that will tip you off to inadequate circulation. Among them: 1) Detritus buildup in “dead spots” Some settling of detritus is unavoidable in a reef system, but excessive buildup tends to occur in tanks with inadequate water movement or “dead spots”—specific areas in the tank with poor to nonexistent flow. A good level of water movement will keep most particulate matter in suspension long enough to be captured by mechanical filtration media (socks, sponges, etc.), so this is a sign that you need to either boost the overall flow in the tank, by adding more or stronger sources (e.g. powerheads), or redirect existing water-flow sources to greater effect. 2) Corals fail to expand When coral specimens remain in a prolonged contracted state—with their tissues/polyps withdrawn—one possible explanation is inadequate water movement. Now, many different environmental factors can cause this behavior, so failure to expand is by no means diagnostic, but that symptom coupled with others listed here may be a good indicator that better circulation is in order. 3) Leather corals have trouble shedding Along very similar lines, if your livestock includes leather corals (e.g., Sarcophyton and Sinularia spp.), which occasionally go through a natural process of contracting their polyps, developing a waxy coating over their surface, and then eventually sloughing off this layer, inadequate water flow may make it difficult for them to shed.

Checkin’ Out Will’s Mixed Reef Tank

Checkin' Out Will's Mixed Reef Tank I haven't done a tank video in a long time, mostly because I'm a hermit, but I did manage to get out of my pajamas and visit my friend Will. Will is a long-time customer of Tidal Gardens... From: tidalgardens Views: 0 0 ratingsTime: 07:16 More in Pets & Animals

4 Marine Aquarium Problems That Sneak up on You

There’s an old saying that only bad things happen quickly in a marine aquarium. That’s certainly true enough, but it’s also important to keep in mind that some problems that can affect the health and wellbeing of livestock tend to develop very gradually and almost imperceptibly over time. Here’s a quick (but by no means exhaustive) list of some of the sneaky marine aquarium problems that we must be vigilant against: 1) Downward drift in pH Maintaining a stable pH in the desired range of 8.2 to 8.4 demands careful monitoring, conscientious livestock husbandry, and diligent maintenance. Neglect in any of these areas can cause your pH to drift off course, and the trend is usually (though not always) downward as a result of the natural biological processes going on in the tank. In addition to regular water testing, your best hedges against drifting pH are: Performing regular partial water changes Maintaining an appropriate alkalinity level (between 8 and 12 dKH) Providing turbulent water movement at the surface to drive off carbon dioxide Avoiding overstocking and overfeeding 2) Loss of light intensity The gradual loss of intensity in aging aquarium lamps isn’t necessarily a big deal for fish-only and FOWLR tanks, but it can lead to significant problems in a reef system. Not only will the inadequate light level stress your photosynthetic invertebrates, but if you’re not careful, they can also be shocked a second time by the sudden increase in light intensity when you finally replace the lamps. Don’t assume you’ll notice the difference in the output of your aquarium lighting because you won’t until it has grossly decreased. It’s best to replace your bulbs/tubes regularly according to the schedule recommended by the manufacturer.

Sand-sifting Starfish: A Job (too) Well Done!

Sand-sifting starfish (Astropecten polycanthus)If you’ve ever shopped for a marine aquarium cleanup crew, you’ve probably noticed that these packages often include so-called sand-sifting starfish—rather bland-colored, burrowing stars of the genus Astropecten that can reach about a foot in diameter. As their common name implies, these stars are sold to hobbyists for the purpose of consuming detritus and uneaten food and turning over the sand bed. However, what’s often left out of the language used to market these stars as utility organisms is the fact that they tend to do their job too well. Eating themselves out of house and home What do I mean by this? As sand-sifting starfish move through a sand bed, they consume any edible item they come across—and that’s not limited to uneaten fish food that you don’t want to decompose and foul your tank. In the process, they also gobble up all the microfauna they encounter, such as worms, snails, tiny brittlestars and sea cucumbers, “pods,” etc. This very efficient eating behavior has two undesirable outcomes: Very commonly, the starfish very rapidly consumes all the available microfauna and then starves to death (potentially unobserved in the sand bed, where it can decompose to the detriment of water quality). You’re left with a sand bed that’s now essentially devoid of all the life that was keeping it healthy to begin with—and that you more or less paid good money for when you purchased your live rock and/or live sand.

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

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