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Unboxed: AquaIllumination (AI) Hydra 26

As one of the leading suppliers of LED lighting solutions for aquaria, AI have built a fantastic reputation for both quality and innovation and can call an army of reef-keepers committed ‘converts’ to their products. It is their proficiency in this innovation which particularly draws our attention to their latest offering, the Hydra 26, which packs one almighty LED punch into the smallest of packages. In this unboxing review we take a preliminary look at the unit before we install it on our test system in the near future for a full operational review. So, first things first, yes this is a small unit.
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Review: AquaMedic EcoRunner 6000

The ‘beating heart’ of numerous designs, a return pump is without doubt a key component of many modern reef systems. It can be a fairly thankless task though and, due the fact that this kind of kit is often out of sight, it can be tempting to try to save money and skip the research when it comes to selection. However, when we expect such an item to perform flawlessly 24/7 with little intervention, it seems crazy to even consider cutting costs. Also, given the fact that a pump is a constant energy drain, it makes sense to look for an efficient unit that won’t make our energy metre spin like a fruit machine! For this review we take a look at AquaMedic’s EcoRunner 6000 which is part of a range that promises energy-saving, silent operation with high efficiency and long-term maintenance free design… just the ticket… or is it?! Launched back in 2012, and with 5 models spanning 2700 to 12000lph output, this range has a pump for most applications (actually certain models are fitted with needle-wheels and used in AquaMedic’s aCone skimmers). Taking the mid-range 6000 unit ‘for a spin’, the first thing that strikes us about the pump is its rugged design. Incorporating a small handle to facilitate retrieval during maintenance, this pump is very solid indeed. It took some effort to disassemble for our product shots actually, such was the tight fit of the components. This bodes well for durability but it’s worth maybe loosening it up a little before you install it on a system. Inspecting each component in turn reinforced our conclusion that this is a precision made pump and take note that it comes with pre-filter basket and hose connections included to allow it to be used in a variety of situations… internal/external, hard or soft plumbed. This pump doesn’t have any flow adjustment but frankly we aren’t worried as such devices typically exert back pressure on the pump. It would be nice to have a few other diameter connections included though. Peel back the outer shell and at the heart of this IPX8-rated pump is an electronically controlled synchronous motor which promises to deliver high flow while consuming little electricity. Actually, this pump is slated to draw just 70watts which is less on paper than our Eheim 5000 compact (which outputs 1000 litres less per hour). Checking the EcoRunner 6000 with our plug-in metre reveals an average wattage consumption of around 80 watts though, so perhaps the UK supply means our pump is drawing more power… if so take note that the output is likely increased a little also). With a polished ceramic shaft and bearing this is a very quiet pump also and barely registers on the noise app we’ve used on our previous pump and skimmer reviews. Heat output is minimal as one would expect. Although we haven’t measured the actual flow rate from this pump we can see it is noticeable more powerful than the Eheim so frankly that’s good enough for us. Obviously head pressure is going to reduce this output – take note the maximum is 3.5m. Available online from Swell UK at a price of £175.95 (at the time of writing), this pump, and others is the range, compare well against competitors with the combination of superb build quality and efficient, quiet operation most notable.
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Review: Cubic Orbit 20 Jellyfish Aquarium

Frequently on show in specialist exhibits like public aquaria, it seems a common perception that keeping jellyfish is beyond the average individual, perhaps even if they are already marine hobbyists maintaining complex reef aquaria. Maybe it’s due to the delicate appearance of the organisms themselves, or maybe it’s the almost clinical appearance of their holding systems that makes people often think it just isn’t possible in a home setting. Over the last few years though, technology and understanding has improved and now it is entirely feasible to maintain these fascinating and mesmerising creatures in your own home as easily as any small aquarium. In this review we take a look at one such system, the Cubic Orbit 20 which is distributed in the UK by London-based specialist Glass Ocean. Having already seen positive reviews on this product we were keen to try it for ourselves and, after we contacted Glass Ocean, a few days later our system was delivered. We must commend Glass Ocean here for some superb service…. both the delivery of the systems and the packaging were top notch. The manufacturers, Cubic, are a UK-based company founded in 2010 and their personnel includes those from a public aquarium background as well as a marine biologist. The Cubic Orbit 20 itself is the smallest offering in their line-up, being  23litre system based on the Kriesel design. It is made from acrylic and measures 15” in diameter, and 8” front to back. Quality seems excellent and all parts were present and fitted well. The LED light and Pump seem of good quality but only long term use would prove this. We are certain that replacement parts won’t be hard to find and overall the unit comes with a 12 month guarantee. Out of the box, instructions are clear and this system is very simple to put together. In terms of operation, the system hinges on the circular flow pattern which keeps the jellyfish in suspension. There is an inner chamber which is used for the display, while the outer chamber serves for filtration. Supplied with some media and a filter sponge it is recommended that the media is seeded with live rock (we’d suggest that any local fish store worth their salt should be able to give you enough live rock rubble for a few pounds). Sitting in the outer chamber, the tiny pump pulls in water and then vents it through a spray bar in the display chamber. This outflow blows out across a network of holes where water leaves the display compartment. As well as generating the circular flow, this prevents jellyfish from becoming stuck to the outlet. The lighting system is also simple, consisting of 1 colour changing LED light. Supplied with an IR remote control, this offers plenty of different colours, 3 different brightness levels, and a number of modes, such as flashing or fading, the speed of which can also be adjusted. Initially we thought we’d only use the deep blue colour but we really love the slow fading mode also. All in all the unit consumes just a few watts so is very cheap to run (15 watts claimed). No heater is required as the jellyfish species suitable are not too finicky. If the tank gets hot in the summer though, this may cause issues. Generally, the tank should be put in a cool, shaded location ideally to keep temperature under control and prevent excessive algae growth. We’d suggest that it should be sited so it can’t be knocked also. All-in-all the package is well put together. In our system the hose did come off the pump or spray bar attachment a few times meaning that the flow ceased. Tightening it with a small cable-tie on each end did the trick. Other than that we’ve no comments on the design… it is certainly very clever and looks modern and attractive. The colour changing light adds a little interest and proved a big hit with the kids. The slow fade mode doesn’t look too gimmicky and of course you could always just have it on white, or the nice deep blue. The magnetic fascia ‘disks’ can also be changed to different colours to fit in with your room décor. After a test fill and quick run through to make sure it didn’t leak and that we understood the exact operation of the system, we placed it in its final location and filled it with water from our test tank. If you don’t already have a reef system this isn’t a problem… most good marine stores sell ready-made full strength sea water (just make sure it is made with good quality RO water and has a Salinity of 35ppt). The hydrometer supplied should be fine (and did give a fairly accurate reading) but we chose to use our seawater refractometer. At this stage we also added our live rock rubble and a few amphipods into the outer chamber. We did manage to get some detritus in the display compartment and had to use a rigid length of airline connected to some flexible airline to siphon this out. It would be useful for this to be included in the package actually as it would be highly useful for regular maintenance and water changes. Anyway, once the water is in, just plug in the unit (single plug) and this will start the pump running. The system is silent in operation and generates virtually no heat. Initially, it may seem that the flow is quite weak but it turned out to be fine once we added livestock. Talking of which, we received our 4 moon jellies around a week after we had set-up the system, giving it time to mature a little and for us to get used to its operation. Again well-packaged, our jellies were in fine-fettle when we unpacked them, despite their journey (they are quite resilient in terms of shipment surprisingly). Take note here that these jellyfish are cultured rather than being wild caught so they have a low environmental impact. A few different species are available but it isn’t really recommended to mix species for various reasons. Anyway, in our shipment we had 2 ‘medium’ sized jellies which were about 2” in diameter, and 2 smaller ones about half that size. After floating them for around 20 minutes as directed we released them into their new home. This was a little fiddly given the small access point of the cubic  and we did have to remove a couple of litres of water to allow for displacement. Also we had to take great care not to crush the jellies, or slice them as we finally decided to snip the corners off the two bags to allow the jellies to gently exit their bags under water. Despite this, the jellies entered their new home and we immediately noticed how, even with the pump at reduced flow, the circulation was plenty to keep them gently moving around their new home. It was fascinating to see them actively swimming around with a pulsating motion. After several hours we added a small amount of the dried food that was also supplied and again found ourselves mesmerised by the way the jellies gathered the particles and transported it to their stomachs. It’s nice to see that both glass ocean and cubic offer detailed online resources by the way. After running for around a week now, our system appears to have settled well and continues to operate without issue. Our jellies seem fine and we are feeding a couple of times a day. We will perform a small water change quite soon and we are looking forward to raising some baby brine shrimp to feed them as a special treat, and experiment with other foods. While initially we thought the system may be a little gimmicky, its proving to be much more than just ‘living décor’… infact given the interest it has generated from visitors and other family members, it has even eclipsed the reef system at least for the time being. The Cubic Orbit retails for around £249.99 and is available from Glass Ocean. For more information click the banner below.
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Fish of MACNA (and free reefs.com wallpaper!)

featured10 Fish of MACNA (and free reefs.com wallpaper!)Marine Aquarium Conference of North America (or MACNA as we called) in Dallas welcomed some exciting new announcements from leading aquarium industry companies, but as you may suspect, MACNA is not only about new equipment. There were many beautiful tanks teeming with reef life on display and this two part photo article  aim to show you some of the most remarkable fish and invertebrates I managed to capture at the show. Plus, there’s a little freebie for reefs.com blog readers at the end of this article. Enjoy! … More:

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Reefs.com Wallpapers Polyp Extension

vermiculata 600px Reefs.com Wallpapers Polyp Extension
There is an ongoing debate about SPS corals polyp extension and how to make your corals show their shear beauty during the photo period time. While in the wild corals usually extend their polyps at night, it’s not rare to see SPS kept in captivity extending their polyps to feed in artificial sunlight we provide them.  … More:

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Reef Threads Podcast #67

Tweet Matt Pedersen's Lightning clownfish.
Posted in Corals, DIY, Events, Fish, Opinion, Photography, Podcast, Science, Tanks, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reef Threads Podcast #64

Tweet We return from our holiday hiatus with our first podcast of 2012. We kick off the year with talk about upcoming events, a new way to handle cords, the latest from Papua New Guinea, heaters, thinking about coral sources, and our Noteworthy Tank. Download the podcast here , or subscribe to our podcasts at iTunes .
Posted in Corals, Events, Fish, Opinion, Photography, Podcast, Science, Tanks, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reef Threads Podcast #62

Apolemichthys arcuatus Charge up your iPod battery. It’s time for another Reef Threads podcast. In podcast #62 we talk about a Reef Science Fair, newfound Lionfish poison, protected Australian waters, our holiday wishes, carbon dosing, and our Noteworthy Tank of the week.
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