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Marine Aquarium Decorations: Tacky, Tasteful, or Somewhere In-Between?

Large coral insert tank decoration at a big box pet storeI’ve always favored very naturalistic aquariums, so when an acquaintance recently asked me what I think about using decorations in saltwater systems, my immediate response (more or less) was that I find them tacky and cringe-worthy and that corals and fish should be decoration enough. But I have to admit, when pressed to explain why I think this way, I couldn’t really come up with a satisfactory answer. My contention that I prefer to keep things natural doesn’t really hold up, since, let’s face it, I’m using artificial means to provide everything from water currents to sunlight to waste removal in my tank. Not to mention, there aren’t a lot of fish and corals out there in the natural world living in rectangular glass houses (and if there are, they probably shouldn’t throw stones!). Nor could I honestly argue that aquarium decorations are just plain ugly because, as the old saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”So this challenge to my long-held viewpoint sort of got me thinking. Can I really support the assertion that ornaments have no place in marine tanks? Tasteful tank décor I’ve seen My mind goes back to a photo of an aquarium I saw in some book many, many years ago. A focal point of this tank was a spot-lit, half-buried amphora (similar to these ancient vase replicas) with bubbles created by a hidden airstone rising from its mouth.

Why Kids Shouldn’t Keep Nemo with a Host Anemone

A curious clownfish peers through the tentacles of an anemoneAsk any group of young children to name their favorite saltwater fish, and chances are nearly all of them will reply “the clownfish.” Of course, to most kids, “clownfish” is synonymous with “Nemo,” so the species they have in mind is Amphiprion ocellaris, not one of the other 28 Amphiprion species or the single species in the genus Premnas. In any case, owing to Nemo’s iconic nature, many kids are taken with the idea of keeping him in a home aquarium. And naturally, if they’re going to keep Nemo, then his host anemone needs to be part of the package, as well. Trouble is, as every experienced hobbyist knows, while A. ocellaris can be a good choice for kids’ tanks (with appropriate adult supervision and assistance, of course), anemones most decidedly are not kid-tank-friendly. Heck, most aren’t even adult-tank-friendly.So how can parents persuade eager kids that keeping Nemo and his anemone together is a bad idea? Here are some talking points that might help make the case: Nemo will be perfectly happy without an anemone Kids, more so than adults, tend to anthropomorphize animals—which, in this case, is perfectly understandable since Nemo actually talks and exhibits other human-like attributes in the cartoon. So, it’s only normal for them to assume a clownfish will be “lonely” or “afraid” without a host anemone in the tank

5 Maddening Things Marine Fish Do

Who knew a royal gramma would draw the ire of an Atlantic blue tang in a tank full of other fish?!I love marine fish. I really do. They’ve been part of my life for decades, and observing their beauty and behavior both in the wild and in aquaria seems to fulfill some primal need in me that’s, frankly, impossible to characterize. But then again, sometimes those scaly little creatures do things that absolutely drive me to distraction. Here are five of them that might sound familiar to my fellow salties: 1. Irritating repetitive behaviorThis refers to some type of aggravating perseverative activity exhibited by a fish, such as swimming up and down one corner of the tank or around the same object in the tank over and over again—instead of exploring the entire system available to them. Sometimes you can make sense of this behavior, for example if the specimen is nervous after just being introduced, attempting to evade a bullying tankmate or other stressful stimulus, trying to spar with its own reflection, or, in the case of naturally active species, just burning off energy. But other times, I can discern no particular rhyme or reason to it.

6 Steps to Stable pH in a Saltwater System

Like other water parameters in your marine aquarium, stability is also important with pHStability of water parameters is essential to success with marine aquariums, especially when it comes to keeping sensitive invertebrates. Among the various parameters that hobbyists often struggle to maintain at an appropriate level is pH, essentially a measure of how acidic/basic the water is. While the ideal target for pH in a marine aquarium is somewhere in the range of 8.2 to 8.4, it’s more important to maintain a stable pH, even if it’s slightly outside this range, than to constantly chase a particular value within the range. The challenge is, owing to various natural processes going on in the tank, the pH in a closed aquarium system usually drifts downward (there are exceptions, of course), so the hobbyist must take certain steps to counteract this trend. Here are six of them:1) Perform regular partial water changes Regular Saltwater Smarts visitors must be pretty tired of hearing this by now—as I recommend water changes for virtually anything that ails a saltwater system. But the truth is, nothing promotes stability of parameters, pH included, better than routine partial water changes. Every time you replace old salt water with new, you’re not only removing dissolved pollutants and replacing components vital to the health and growth of your livestock, but you’re also replacing compounds that buffer the water against shifting pH (carbonates and bicarbonates)

Bubble-Tip Anemone Safety Tips

Nippy tankmates are one reason a bubble-tip anemone may start to roamThe bubble-tip anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor), or BTA, is justifiably popular in the marine aquarium hobby, being relatively hardy and easy to keep as anemones go as well as being a suitable host anemone for many clownfish species. But to horribly misquote legendary singer Dion DiMucci, “it’s the type of nem that likes to roam around”—particularly when it’s getting settled into a new system or decides it’s unhappy with its placement in an established one. The problem with an anemone going parading around its aquarium is that anytime it does so, it has the potential of blundering into equipment or other sessile invertebrates with potentially injurious (or even fatal) consequences. Thus, any system housing a BTA must be designed or modified to reduce the risk of accidental injury or harmful interspecific encounters.Here are several important factors to consider when BTA-proofing your tank: Crowded reef tanks aren’t ideal for BTAs People do keep BTAs in reef systems among various corals and other sessile invertebrates. However, as alluded above, this can prove problematic if the anemone goes roaming, as it may sting or be stung by any inverts it encounters in its travels (though not all corals are equally sensitive to the sting of a BTA and vice versa). Not to mention, problems with allelopathy (chemical warfare) among inverts tend to be much greater in mixed reefs. The best housing for a BTA is a good-sized system dedicated specifically to its needs. (If you’ve had long-term success keeping a BTA in a mixed reef, we’d love to hear how you managed it in the comment section below.) Pumps and powerheads are problematic Submersible pumps and powerheads are among the biggest offenders when it comes to injuring/killing wandering nems, so the intakes of these devices must be screened off with sponge, foam, or a similar material

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.

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