For What It's Worth

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  1. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    A SIMPLE MISTAKE THAT CAN WIPE OUT YOUR REEF

    By: Andy Morris

    I'm relatively new to the reefkeeping hobby, much as many of you are I imagine. I researched for months before I decided on a system. I read books, monitored lists on the internet, talked at length to many of the apparently more knowledgeable folks on those lists. Even though I had successfully kept salt water fish only tanks for a few years, it was quickly apparent that this was a "whole other ballgame."

    My approach has been, I think, a very cautious and well thought out one.When I set my system up, most of the water parameters came in-line quickly. The only struggle I experienced was with salinity. I had a heck of a time getting the salinity up to the desired level of 1.024. I didn't really think much of this since I had never worked with one hundred gallons of sea water before. In retrospect, this was the first indicator of something not right, and it blew right by me.

    At 6 months, my tank was progressing very well. I had experienced none of the usual nuisance algae or water chemistry problems. I had 8 fish and 15 corals all in excellent health. In fact, I had become the proud papa of a baby Goniopora and a baby Frogspawn! I tested my water parameters often and logged them each time. Everything was textbook perfect....so I thought. I was about to find out differently, and in a big way.

    I noticed a few small slime algae patches on a couple of rocks near the bottom. There was also a bit on the substrate in that area. I decided to get some Redox to get rid of them before they became a
    problem. About the time I started the Redox treatments, some of the corals started looking a bit distressed. This was especially true of the Goniopora and the Leather corals. A quick call to Ron Hunsicker confirmed that this sometimes happens initially with the Redox, and that the corals would be fine in a day or two. There was probably no cause to be alarmed. Most of the corals did look a bit better after a few days of the Redox but none really returned to their usual state. I simply attributed this to a temporary reaction to the Redox. But I know now that it wasn't, it was actually the second indication that something was not right.

    On a Thursday morning I went down to the basement to perform my daily maintenance. This was to empty the skimmer, add Iodine, VG, KSM, and visually check that all was working correctly. I turned on the RO/DI unit to generate some makeup water and noticed that the red light on the water quality meter was lit. Time to replace the DI cartridge. A call to Reefers and a new DI cartridge was on the way. I had gotten a bit more algae growth than normal over the last few days and this was most likely the reason.

    Because of this, I decided not to add any additional water until the DI cartridge came. This decision turned out to be the catalyst which would cost me dearly, but bring to light a problem which had existed for months undetected.

    The following Wednesday I had still not received the cartridge. Reefers had shipped it, but it had not made it to me. The water level in the sump had steadily dropped from lack of make-up addition and
    was now just barely above the return pump input. The salinity had been checked regularly and had only risen from 1.022 to 1.024. I had to add water now. The pump would be sucking air before the end of the day. So I added a gallon to hold me for the day until I could see if the DI cartridge came.

    I check the tank everyday at noon when I come home for lunch. On this day I got a surprise. I walked in the door to see every fish in the tank dead! No outward signs of distress, no disease,
    no parasites, their color wasn't even faded! There they all laid in full living color! It was as if they all had heart attacks while swimming about and just keeled over right there, on the spot.
    Yet, none of the inverts were dead. All the shrimp and starfish were fine. Corals looked like crap but were alive. My first thoughtswere oxygen deprivation or toxin, based on how they looked.
    But how? I started to search for an answer.

    It took 3 days to find the answer. We found it almost by accident. A casual question asked during a conversation with Ron Hunsicker led me to find out that salinity meters (the floating arm type..
    like the SeaChem units) should be replaced every 6 months or so. WHAT? I ran to the local Petco and picked up a new one. Home I ran to see if this might be it. Reaching, I thought, after all
    I had had no trouble with mine in 2 years! One dip in the tank and, to my horror, the new meter pegged! I double checked with my trusty old one....1.023. Oh my god! I diluted a sample from the tank 50% with fresh water. It still pegged! I did the same with my old one ....1.017. In the end, I wound up putting 50 gallons of straight RO water in a 120gal system to get the salinity back to 1.023. I had somewhere around TWICE the correct salinity level !!!!

    Keep in mind that I never read about this in any of the books I have read. I never have seen this discussed on any of the reef lists. I never have had this topic come up in conversation with any of the people I have sought advice from. In fact, I looked at the packaging for the new gage and even THAT doesn't tell you to replace the thing frequently!

    We should always learn from our mistakes. This situation was unfortunate and distressing, but a few lessons come out of this that I wanted to share. Especially for the newer among us in the hobby,
    I hope this might save someone from one of the mistakes I wound up making.

    1) Replace your salinity meter at least twice per year. In the future, I will always use two. Use one for regular testing and one for confirmation testing only. After 6 months, discard the everyday one , use the backup for everyday, and buy a new backup. This way you always have a new backup
    available.

    2) If something does not seem right, it most likely isn't. Corals don't change their behavior for no reason. Don't easily dismiss even small changes in your tank. Question them from every
    perspective until you are sure of the answer. Be careful about attributing multiple things happening at the same time to each other..this is not always the case.

    3) Do not allow yourself to get so comfortable with your system that you start to take more mundane things for granted. Check, Check, Check...Verify, Verify, Verify.
     
    jhnrb, Oct 5, 2005
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  2. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    Nitrate Reduction

    Nitrates: They Can Be Beaten Down Into Submission.

    Nitrates are a part of nature in the ocean, and correspondingly in our tanks. As waste breaks down in your aquarium, it cycles from ammonia to nitrite to nitrates. The first two are highly toxic to marine life, and we make it a point to make sure our tanks test zero for these. However, nitrates aren’t as bad, and sometimes are even a little beneficial.

    Specifically, few organisms need nitrates. Both micro and macro algae love the stuff, while fish tolerate it. Invertebrates suffer if the levels are too high, but a little is required to keep clams happy. In our goal to match NSW as closely as possible, we strive to keep nitrates down to a minimum at 10 ppm or less.

    First things first -- what is causing the nitrates in your tank? Bioballs, biowheels, filter pads, foam blocks & tubes, and under gravel filters all contribute to the production of nitrates. Overfeeding is another cause, and a lack of water changes will be another factor.

    Nitrates are in the water column, not your substrate or rockwork. Frequent large water changes will quickly reduce the amounts of nitrates present in your system. I battled with nitrates for years, even when using Nitrate Sponge on a weekly basis. I’d change 5 gallons in my 29 gallon tank and see the nitrates drop from 80 to 60ppm, only to rise again. I’d cringe when I’d run a new test and see the fluid bright red before the timer was even set!

    Once I removed the 3 year old under gravel filter & my Penguin Biowheel filter filled with bioballs, I was finally on track. I did three 10 gallon water changes in one week, or 33% at a time. Nitrates were down to 20ppm. I became more meticulous with my water changes, changing 7 - 10 gallons each time every two weeks.

    Later on that year, I added a sump & refugium to that tank. The saying “Dilution is the Solution to Pollution†proved to be absolutely true. The macro algae in the refugium as well as the small sandbed helped denitrify my tank, and nitrates are ranging from 0 - 2ppm with a water change only being done every other month.

    Last November I bought an existing 55 gallon tank filled with 7 fish, 120 lbs of live rock and crushed coral substrate. The previous owners never tested their water, and the nitrates were 200ppm or more. Through a series of major water changes in those first two weeks, nitrates were lowered without stressing the fish. The substrate was replaced with a DSB, and the canister filters with biowheels were removed as a sump was incorporated. Nitrates are down to 7ppm after three months, and only one fish was lost during that period (probably due to starvation… it never looked healthy).

    If your tank is suffering from high nitrate levels, the success of your reef will depend on your being able to get this under control. Changing 100% of the water would be the ideal, but it may shock your corals, fish and invertebrates in the process. A more gradual way is recommended.

    55 gal Reef Example: Make up 20 gals of fresh saltwater in a trashcan in front of your tank. Drain 10 gals of tank water into the 20 gals of new water, and let that mix. Pump 10 gals of that water back into your tank, and let the power heads mix that water up in your tank for a minute or so. Then repeat this three more times. Dispose of the now polluted 20 gals of water. Make up another 20 gals of fresh saltwater, and repeat this procedure. As long as your temperature and salinity match the tank, your inhabitants won’t be affected adversely, and with each rotation of water, the nitrates are being diluted and removed from your tank.

    Simply pulling out all of the water in one massive water change puts stress on your entire tank. Doing small water changes consistently won’t bring nitrate levels down. At best, it will maintain them at their current levels. Using the example above, a tank that was at 80ppm would be around 30ppm after a couple of hours work and your population will be happy and unaffected. Once your nitrate levels drop, they are easily kept low with regular water changes, as well as the use of a DSB and macro algae.

    Your tank will be healthier, your reef happier and the nitrate problem fixed!
     
    jhnrb, Dec 20, 2005
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  3. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    Too Much Light?!!!! (advanced Article)

    HERE IS THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN. YOU CAN MAKE UP YOUR OWN MINE WHICH CAMP YOU WILL BE WITH. NEVER TOO MUCH LIGHT OR TOO MUCH POSSIBLE.

    TOO MUCH LIGHT!!

    ARTICLE by: DANA RIDDLE

    Too Much Light!

    "Is it possible to have too much light over my reef aquarium?" is a simple - and legitimate - question. Opinions widely vary on just how much light is enough (or too much). While excessive light in a natural environment is known to cause problems for plants, algae and zooxanthellae, some debate remains if it is possible to provide too much light - especially for small-polyped stony corals - in an artificial setting. This brief article will present results of an experiment in which a coral was exposed to high intensity artificial light within a setting likely replicated by many reef aquaria. It will also discuss concepts well-established within the world of botanical research -those of the intimate and intricate world of photosynthesis, and provide insight of the dynamics of photosynthesis when a coral is exposed to sudden, intense artificial light.

    -Introduction
    Advances in instrumentation over the last two decades have made possible non-intrusive means of examining the kinetics of photosynthesis. A notable advance has been that of modulated pulse fluorometry. One of these instruments, a pulsed amplitude modulation (PAM) fluorometer, examines chlorophyll fluorescence and is able to determine how energy is used (and not used) by photochemical reactions. In essence, a PAM chlorophyll fluorometer is a 'photosynthesis meter,' and allows one to gain insights of photochemical and non-photochemical reactions.

    Chlorophylls are abundant photopigments and, along with accessory or antennae pigments, harvest light energy. By-products of molecular oxygen and organic carbon are ultimately produced through the process known as photosynthesis.

    If a form of chlorophyll - chlorophyll a - is exposed to strong light, it will absorb a portion of the light's energy and use it in photosynthesis. Chlorophyll a will also absorb and emit some of this light's energy at a lower energy level in a phenomenon known as fluorescence. Fluorescent emissions of chlorophyll a are generally considered red, and are known to range from ~660 nm to ~760 nm. Plants, marine algae, and corals with healthy symbiotic dinoflagellates will fluoresce when exposed to relatively high amounts of visible light. Chlorophyll fluorescence is proportional (to a point) to the amount of photosynthetically active radiation. If no light energy is available for, say, 20 minutes, chlorophyll fluorescence is, for all intents and purposes, at zero, so a very weak amount of light (< 1 µmol·m2·sec) is applied by a PAM meter to cause chlorophyll a to weakly fluoresce. This is measured and reported as Minimum Fluorescence (Fo). If a brief pulse of intense, photosynthetically saturating light is applied to a dark-adapted sample, the fluorescence will rise to a maximum level. This is called Maximum Fluorescence (Fm - See Figure 1). It is also possible to estimate 'variable' fluorescence (Fv) simply by subtracting Fo from Fm. Fluorescence of an illuminated sample during a saturating pulse of light when all PS II reaction centers are saturated with light ('closed'), is called Maximum Fluorescence (Fm' - the prime symbol indicates an illuminated sample). Fm' is generally less than Fm. If one were to subtract Fm' from Fm, the difference is due to 'non-photochemical reactions' (denoted as qN or NPQ, depending upon circumstances). Non-photochemical reactions compete with photochemical reactions in 'quenching' (suppressing) maximum fluorescence. Thus, results from measurements of 'minimum,' 'variable' and 'maximum' fluorescence can be manipulated mathematically to determine how light energy is used and/or dissipated.

    Note: This fluorometer uses a 'red' light-emitting diode (LED) as 'actinic' light. This light energy is absorbed by PS II's reaction center, containing Pigment 680 (P-680). Since P-680 (a specialized form of chlorophyll a) absorbs energy collected by chlorophylls a, c2 and accessory pigments such as peridinin, the red excitation bandwidth is appropriate for use with zooxanthellae. A light filter (cutoff λ <680 nm) prevents the PAM's internal photo-amplifier from confusing excitation wavelengths for those of chlorophyll fluorescence. There are some advantages (and disadvantages) of using a 'blue' LED as an actinic source, however, these do not dismiss the results gathered while using red wavelengths as an excitation source.

    These formulae are used to determine photochemical efficiencies:

    -Photochemical Quenching (qP): (Fm'-Ft)/ (Fm'-Fo). qP is the energy absorbed by PS II.

    Non-photochemical Quenching (qN): (Fm-Fm')/ (Fm-Fo). qN is generally associated with non-photochemical activity, such as dissipation of absorbed energy as heat, or as a thylakoid-energizing prelude to photosynthesis.

    Non-photochemical Quenching (NPQ): (Fm-Fm')/Fm'. NPQ is particularly associated with energy dissipation as non-radiant heat through the 'xanthophyll cycle.'

    -Yield of Photochemical Energy Conversion: (Fm'-Ft)/Fm' = ∆F/Fm'

    Light-harvesting Structures of Zooxanthellae
    Light-harvesting photopigments within zooxanthellae are found in thylakoid membranes contained within structures called chloroplasts. It is thought that one Photosystem I and one Photosystem II are arranged within a few microns of each other on the thylakoid, so that they may act effectively transfer energy. These photosystems combined are known as a Photosynthetic Unit, or PSU (Kirk, 2000).

    1. A moderate amount of light (or PAR - photosynthetically active radiation) falls upon one of the many thylakoid membranes containing a Photosynthetic Unit (consisting of one Photosystem II and one Photosystem I) within a healthy zoxanthella. Photosystem II (PS II) photopigments absorb PAR and transfer its energy to a 'Reaction Center' within PS II. Note that some variable chlorophyll a fluorescence occurs even at moderate light intensity, as Reaction Centers absorb light and begin to 'close.' One oxygen molecule is created for every two water molecules split.

    2. Light energy collected by PS II is transferred to PS I (specifically the PS I Reaction Center). PS I photopigments also collect PAR transfers energy to:

    3. The Calvin Cycle, where inorganic carbon is converted to simple sugar.

    4. Under conditions of high PAR intensity, 'safety valves' for excess light energy come into play. PS II reaction centers absorb as much energy as they can (photosynthesis is said to be 'saturated' when all reaction centers are 'closed'), and two safeties dump excess energy:

    5. Chlorophyll fluorescence, which depends upon the number of 'closed' reaction centers and:

    6. Transfer of energy to the 'Xanthophyll Cycle,' where energy absorbed by the antennae pigments is dissipated as non-radiant heat, and involves the reversible, light-mediated conversion of diadinoxanthin to diatoxanthin within zooxanthellae of corals.

    7. In darkness, PS II chlorophyll fluorescence is at a minimum, and no photochemistry occurs. However, the Xanthophyll Cycle continues with conversion of diatoxanthin back to diadinoxanthin.

    -Terminology of PAM Fluorometry and Definitions.

    1. In darkness, minimal fluorescence of PS II chlorophyll is found. In other words, no energy is available to the photosystem, and it is fully 'open' (oxidized) and ready to absorb light energy. A small amount of light energy is applied to the sample, and this induces chlorophyll fluorescence, known as Minimal Fluorescence Yield following dark adaptation, and noted as Fo. If a saturating pulse of light is applied to the dark-adapted sample, the Reaction Centers are 'closed' (reduced) and chlorophyll fluorescence will be at its highest value. Maximum Fluorescence of a dark-adapted sample is called Fm.

    2. When illuminated with non-saturating light intensity, the chlorophyll molecules of PS II begin to fluorescence as Reaction Centers are reduced (closed). This fluorescence is known as Variable Fluorescence (Fv, which is equal to Fm - Fo - or Fm' - Fo', see below).

    3. The Maximum Fluorescence of the sample is known as Fm'.

    4. Under conditions of proper illumination (and other environmental conditions), the Electron Transport Rate (ETR) will continue between Photosystems I and II. Photosynthesis is said to be 'saturated' when the amount of PAR available to the photosystems meets or exceeds the maximum rate absorbed by the photosystem, and increasing the amount of light will not increase the rate of photosynthesis. A method of energy dissipation - other than photochemical quenching (i.e., the absorption of energy used in photochemistry and called qP) - must then be used, and this is known as:

    5. 'Non-photochemical quenching' or NPQ. NPQ involves the 'Xanthophyll Cycle' where protective pigments dissipate excess harvested photons as non-radiant heat.

    (CONT)
     
    jhnrb, Feb 26, 2006
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  4. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    Too Much Light (cont)

    -Procedure
    A small "Rice Coral" (Montipora patula, see Figure 5) colony was selected from one of NELHA's (Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii) outdoor 75-gallon aquaria, which have a constant flow-through of seawater pumped from a depth of ~13 m. Even though shade cloth is used to attenuate natural sunlight, all animals housed within this tank receive a maximum light intensity of ~800 µmol·m2·sec.

    Montipora patula

    This coral colony was transported within a 19-liter plastic bucket, filled with seawater, to a darkened and air-conditioned laboratory. The coral was transferred to a round 4 liter chamber with a false bottom of plastic 'egg crate' material. The container was also filled with natural seawater.

    A magnetic stirrer and large stir bar provided relatively constant water motion within the chamber. After a 30-minute 'dark-adaptation' period (to allow PS II Reaction Centers to 'open'), the PAM 210 Chlorophyll Fluorometer (Heinz Walz GmbH, Effeltrich, Germany), equipped with a submersible fiber optic cord (approximately 1.5 mm diameter), assessed zooxanthellae Fo and Fm fluorescence, after correction for instrument signal noise (Zero Offset). The tip of the probe was positioned to monitor the tissue between the polyps - the coenosarc. A 400-watt, 6500K metal halide lamp* was then used to illuminate the coral sample and, when fully 'warmed', delivered a maximum of 645 µmol·m2·sec at the coral's surface. The lamp was approximately 20 cm from the water's surface. Lexan Solar™ acrylic material, placed atop the chamber, attenuated ultraviolet radiation (<390 nm) to just a few microwatts/cm, and also absorbed heat energy generated by the lamp. A small household fan (combined with the room's air conditioning) kept the container's water temperature fairly constant, though a slight rise in temperature from 26° to 27° C was noted over the course of the experiment (approximately 60 minutes). This temperature is not thought to harm at least some zooxanthellae and coral species (Jones et. al., 1998), and is certainly below the upper thermal limits of 32 - 36º C reported by Hoegh-Guldberg (1999) and Fitt and Warner (1995).

    The PAM meter's Saturation Light was set at the maximum setting and provided pulses of light through the fiber optic cable amounting to 791µmol·m2·sec (approximately the same as the maximum intensity normally experienced by this coral at noon). These parameters were monitored during the experiment: Minimal Fluorescence (dark-adapted, or Fo), Maximum Fluorescence (dark-adapted, or Fm), Variable Fluorescence (Fv), Fluorescence at a given time (Ft), Maximum Fluorescence (Fm'), qP (Photochemical Quenching), qN (Non-photochemical Quenching) and NPQ (Non-photochemical quenching).

    *I am reluctant to state the brand name of this lamp, but will say it is a staple in the aquarium trade, and has been for years. The purpose of the experiment was to examine the response of zooxanthellae to sudden, intense artificial lighting, and it is believed (but not proven) the results would have been the same with any other lamp.

    -Results
    Photosynthetic Yield and Photochemical Quenching decreased with increasing radiation, while Non-photochemical Quenching increased.

    The 400-watt lamp was turned on at 2:48, and turned off at 3:20, for an exposure time of 32 minutes. Maximum PAR reached 662 µmol·m2·sec.

    Photochemical Quenching (qP) collapsed after approx. 12 minutes exposure to the increasing amount of visible light (but filtered for ultraviolet radiation). Maximum qP was 0.398 just before exposure, and fell to zero. Since photochemistry was not dissipating absorbed light energy, Non-photochemical Quenching (NPQ) dumped it as non-radiant heat.

    -Discussion
    Strong illumination apparently caused drastic changes within the photochemical reactions, and seems to indicate a symbiotic relationship in distress. This suggests that photoinhibition can indeed occur at relatively low light intensity - we see the possibility of sharply reduced photosynthetic rates at only 260 µmol·m2·sec. Light intensity of this level is certainly within the potential of efficient lighting systems, including standard, VHO and PC fluorescent lamps, and metal halide bulbs of singular (or combined) wattages of about 200 and upwards. Significant non-photochemical quenching (NPQ, exceeding 0.5) is seem at lower light intensity - that of ~100 µmol·m2·sec.

    Montipora patula colonies are generally considered shallow-water corals, most often found high on reef slopes or in shallow bays that afford protection from strong wave action (Gulko, 1998). This colony was no exception, and was legally collected at a depth of about 8 m off the west shore of the big island of Hawaii. This particular colony was fully exposed to sunlight at depth (at a maximum PAR level estimated to be approximately 1,000 µmol·m2·sec at noon on a cloudless day).

    This Montipora patula specimen has been maintained for months in captivity, where natural sunlight delivers a maximum of about 800 µmol·m2·sec for several hours daily. This coral has likely photoacclimated to high intensity light as much as possible, yet signs of dynamic photoinhibition are seen at relatively low light intensity, with a collapse of photochemical quenching (qP) at ~32% of the normal maximum light intensity in captivity.

    Non-photochemical quenching (qN), was measured at about 0.4 during the first few minutes of the experiment, when the metal halide lamp was 'off' and the only available light energy originated from the low output from the LEDs of the PAM fluorometer. qN, at this low value, is associated with 'thylakoid membrane energization.' When qN values exceed 0.5, a different measurement of non-photochemical quenching is used - NPQ - which is sensitive to that portion of non-photochemical quenching which demonstrates dissipation of excessive PAR as non-radiant heat (Schreiber, 1997). Thus, qN is reported during the first few minutes of the experiment, followed by neither qN or NPQ being reported during the transitional phase just after the lamp was turned on, and, finally, NPQ as it exceeds a value of 0.5, and is therefore a convenient indicator of 'too much light.' Certainly, the existence of NPQ within this coral colony presents a strong case for the presence of dynamic photoinhibition by xanthophylls.

    One should include a 'lag factor' of several minutes when viewing the results. Since some photoreactions occur relatively slowly, Schreiber (1997) advises measurements of 'photochemical quenching' and 'non-photochemical quenching' should take place only after a photosynthetic sample has been illuminated for about 2 minutes to allow these 'slow' reactions of photosynthesis to occur.

    There is a possibility that the PAM meter's fiber optic cord, in close proximity to the coral (distance of ~2 mm), may have created a thickened boundary layer around the examined area, and potentially resulted in limitation in diffusion of nutrients (possibly nitrogen, iron, phosphorus, etc. - See Gorbunov et al., 2000; Atkinson et. al., 1994; Atkinson and Bilger, 1992). Ralph et al., 2002, recommend use of small fiber optic cables in order to differentiate between rates of photosynthesis within coenosarc and polyp tissues as well as to minimize the impact of the probe's presence upon the results. With that said, the magnetic stirrer was adjusted to provide flow velocities of ~15 cm/sec within the chamber (judged visually), and it is felt that adequate water motion to create turbulence across the coral colony was provided. There is an important point here - water motion within an aquarium takes on added importance if a small obstruction could indeed cause this sort of reaction within zooxanthellae. The speed of the current within the chamber (15 cm/sec) is close to maximum velocities measured on sheltered Hawaiian reefs during calm weather (Riddle, unpublished). Having used a digital water velocity meter to measure water motion in hundreds of aquaria, I can say with some justification that most cannot match, or even approach, 'natural' water movement.

    One should recall that this experiment was conducted with nutrient-poor natural seawater. Artificial seawater mixes are generally enriched with micro-nutrients in respect to oceanic waters (Atkinson and Bingman, 1999), and matured aquaria water tends to contain elevated concentrations of micro- and macro-nutrients (Atkinson et al., 1995). Interestingly, nutrient deficiency (specifically that of nitrogen) of symbiotic zooxanthellae is thought to cause the relatively low yield of photosynthesis (an Fv/Fm of only ~0.39, as opposed to 0.50 to 0.75 for seagrasses, and ~0.65 for many plankton species (Falkowski and Kolber, 1995; Gorbunov et. al., 2000), and about 0.80 for terrestrial green plants - personal observations). Photosynthetic yields ranged from 0.62 to 0.66 in zooxanthellae isolated from corals and grown in nutrient-rich conditions (Kolbert et. al., 1988). Compare this information with that of Bongiorni et.al, 2003, that reports relatively high growth rates of stony corals exposed to elevated nutrient levels generated by a nearby commercial fish farm. The notion that slight fertilization of symbiotic zooxanthellae can profoundly affect photosynthetic activity is certainly intriguing.

    (CONT)
     
    jhnrb, Feb 26, 2006
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    jhnrb

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    Too Much Light (cont)

    Photosynthetic Yield returned to 'normal' levels only minutes after the 400-watt lamp was extinguished, indicating exposure to the UV-filtered, but saturating, radiation for approximately 1 hour did not cause lasting (chronic) photoinhibition damage to the photosynthetic apparatus (as indicated during the last few minutes of the experiment by the rapid drop in NPQ and concurrent increases of both Yield and Photochemical Quenching).

    Calvin Cycle Inhibition is indicated by a noticeable drop in electron transport rate concurrent with strong enhancement of energy dependent non-photochemical quenching (Jones et al., 1998). The results of this experiment indicate a sharp drop in photosynthetic yield and rapid rise in non-photochemical fluorescence quenching. The electron transport rate rose, albeit slightly, only by virtue of very strong illumination combined with extremely low yields. Note that photochemical quenching practically collapsed within minutes after initiation of illumination. It is believed that the inability of the 'dark reactions' to absorb energy creates a traffic jam of electrons within PS II, which could create singlet oxygen within the tissues, potentially leading to permanent damage of photopigments and associated structures should these processes continue for a prolonged period.

    It is interesting to note that there is a casual relation between photochemical quenching and lower PAR levels during the 'lighted' portion of the experiment (Photosynthetic Yield and ETR increased when PAR dropped below 550 µmol·m2·sec.). The reason for this is unclear. Down-regulation of photosynthesis during periods of high light intensity should be expected (for instance, see Ralph et. al., 2002 for relative electron transport rates for six coral species).

    These results present a case for dynamic photoinhibition within the zooxanthellae of this captive coral, and suggest over-lighting is indeed a possibility in artificial conditions, even if a small-polyped stony coral is photoacclimated to high light intensity.

    Many questions are asked. How do nutrient levels and heavy metal concentrations affect photosynthetic yields? Can a balance of increased nutrients (as suggested by Sprung, Delbeek and others) and reduced lighting achieve maximal coral growth rates? If 'fertilized' zooxanthellae compete with the calcification process for carbon, how would an increase of alkalinity affect the rate of photosynthesis, and ultimately, coral growth? How would UV-A, UV-B and UV-C from unshielded double-ended metal halide lamps influence photosynthesis? Future projects will include examination of zooxanthellae photosynthetic capacities in nutrient-enriched aquarium water and examination of effects of artificially-produced UV energy.




    Acknowledgements
    Mahalo to Sara Peck, University of Hawaii SeaGrant, for her patience and support, Charles Delbeek for the heads up on the Bongiorni et al. reference and to Julian Sprung for thoughtful reflections on aquaria nutrients and reduced lighting.

    Glossary

    Fo = Minimal Fluorescent Yield after dark adaptation.

    Fo' = Minimal Fluorescent Yield of illuminated sample.

    Fm = Dark-adapted Maximal Fluorescent Yield reached with a saturating pulse of light.

    Fm' = Light-adapted Maximal Fluorescent Yield reached with a saturating pulse of light.

    Ft = Fluorescent Yield at a given time, generally just before a saturation pulse is applied to a sample.

    Fv = Variable Fluorescence (Fm - Fo or Fm'-Fo').

    Fv:m or Fv:Fm or dark-adapted yield = Maximal Quantum Yield of a dark adapted sample and equals (Fm-Fo/Fm).

    qP (photochemical quenching) = (Fm' - Ft)/ (Fm'-Fo). Photochemical fluorescence quenching is indicative of the proportion of PAR absorbed by the 'open' reaction centers of PS II and hence used in photochemistry. This coefficient may vary between 0 and 1.

    Chronic Photoinhibition = Photoinhibition is characterized by a type of non-photochemical quenching which recovers only slowly (if at all) in the dark.

    Dark Adaptation = A brief (usually 30 minute) acclimation time in darkness. During this time, photochemical reactions stop, and all reaction centers 'open' to receive light energy when it becomes available.

    Dynamic Photoinhibition = The same as NPQ: The quenching of fluorescence by dissipation of excess light energy as heat. Involves xanthophylls.

    Saturation - Maximum photosynthetic rate or photosynthetic capacity.

    Thylakoid - A lipid membrane within a chloroplast that contains photopigments comprising PSI and PSII.

    Yield (light adapted) = Quantum Yield of photochemistry PS II, measured on light adapted samples. (Fm'-Ft)/Fm' (or ΔF/Fm').

    Yield (dark adapted) = Quantum Yield of photochemistry in PS II, measured on dark adapted samples. (Fm - Fo/Fm).

    Zero Offset = This number represents a background signal found within the instrument. Abbreviated as 'Zoff', it is automatically subtracted from Ft, and all consequently determined fluorescent values.

    qN (non-photochemical quenching) = (Fm-Fm')/(Fm-Fo) or, alternately, (Fm-Fm')/Fm-Fo'). This coefficient may vary between 0 and 1. However, if qN exceeds ~0.4 there is also significant quenching of Fo, and NPQ should be examined.

    Hence, qN = (Fm-Fm')/ (Fm - Fo'). Note: This formula has also been used for qN (qN = 1 - (Fm' - Fo')/(Fm - Fo) = 1 - Fv' : Fv), and provides values very close to that immediately above. Useful only when photosynthesis is activated, usually after ~ 2 minutes of illumination.

    NPQ (Nonphotochemical quenching or Nonphotochemical exciton quenching - Kanazawa and Kramer, 2002). NPQ = (Fm-Fm')/Fm'. NPQ can vary between 0 and infinity, but, for practical purposes, is unlikely to exceed a value of 10. The choice between NPQ and qN depends upon the application - with NPQ, that part of photochemical quenching is emphasized that reflects heat-dissipation of excitation energy in the antennae system. (Hence, NPQ is a convenient indicator of 'excess light energy' - Schreiber, 1997). NPQ is relatively insensitive to that part of non-photochemical quenching which is associated with qN values between 0 and 0.5. Nonphotochemical quenching of excitation energy, which protects higher plant photosynthetic machinery from photodamage, is triggered by acidification of the thylakoid lumen as a result of light-induced proton pumping, which also drives the synthesis of ATP. In essence, excess absorbed light energy is dissipated as heat within the light-harvesting complexes. NPQ involves two processes activated by the acidification of the lumen, the interconversion of xanthophyll cycle carotenoids, and the protonation of residues on key LHC components. In absence of NPQ modulation, buildup of reduced electron carriers would block electron flow before the lumen could be significantly acidified. This over-reduction could result in the formation of a stable, doubly-reduced Qa species in PS II, allowing the formation of triplet chlorophyll species, which in turn can react with O2 to form singlet oxygen (1O2), an extremely toxic oxygen radical.

    ETR (electron transport rate) = Effective quantum yield (Fm' - Ft)/Fm' X PAR. Ralph, Gademann, Larkum and Kühl (2002) believe Beer et al. (1998) underestimated absorption coefficients of corals (measured as 0.023 - 0.036, as compared to 0.86 for terrestrial green leaves). Hence, Ralph et al. recommend reporting 'Relative ETR', as determined by the above formula, until a widely accepted method of determining absorption coefficients is established.

    Xanthophylls = Oxygenated carotenoid pigments produced by plants. Xanthophylls are anti-oxidants and may help detoxify oxygen radicals.

    END.

    THE ABOVE IS A PARTIAL EXERT FROM THE FULL ARTICLE (DIAGRAMS AND REF. HAVE BEEN OMMITED.
     
    jhnrb, Feb 26, 2006
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  6. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    MLS-MOVING LIGHT SYS. (primer)

    The Static on Static Lighting: BY Anthony Calfo

    Suggestions for Better Lighting Applications of Photosynthetic Reef Organisms -

    Moving Light Systems (MLS)

    As if the arena of reef aquarium lighting weren’t complex or daunting enough, let’s contemplate the way that we physically deliver light to symbiotic reef organisms. Beyond rudimentary considerations of lamp type, power and distance off the surface of the water, I mean to convey that for dedicated aquarists with the means and interest to experiment, there are some very interesting concepts for finessing luminary aspects with motion, which are remarkably inexpensive to install. Some advanced aquarists have really begun to experiment in earnest with ingenious notions for putting aquarium lamps in motion (with motorized planar and inclined tracks) to enhance the aesthetic effect, if not improve the health and vigor of captive reef life overall. This article is a simple primer with reminders for fixed lamp applications, suggested improvements for all systems, and an introduction to the featured moving light systems (MLS).

    The foundation of the premise for moving light systems is to illuminate photosynthetic organisms in a more natural manner that attempts to replicate the path of the sun in the sky, or to at least radiate subjects at changing and sometimes severe angles that are impossible to achieve otherwise with fixed lamps. One of the most significant practical benefits to such strategies is that fewer lamps are required to illuminate a given surface area (one moving 250 watt metal halide instead of 2 fixed 175 watt lamps over a 24†deep aquarium, for example). This is certainly very appealing news to aquarists eager to save money on the initial purchase and ensuing operational costs of expensive reef light fixtures. From the perspective of husbandry, organisms receive light from more natural and balanced dimensions (and of welcome, variable intensity with each pass), which may be reflected favorably in their growth rates and ultimate morphology.

    Admittedly, these applications are not going to improve the success of your display by a scale of considerable magnitude. Elementally, they are not even new concepts at all, as you will read below. But most require little effort or expense to employ, some clearly seem to improve the delivery of light, and all are likely to save money on operational costs. In a hobby full of passionate DIY participants, moving light systems are likely to be welcome candidates for home-engineered technologies that evolve to suit our needs and pursuit for stunning reef displays. Without harnessing the power of the sun (using natural sunlight under skylights, through windows and in greenhouses) we need to constantly review and explore new methodologies that improve artificial light applications for aquaria.

    Let’s review some suggestions for better traditional aquarium lighting (fixed) at large before we get into the heart of the matter with moving light systems. Most of the following recommendations presented are well covered in popular legend, if not trade literature or research. Although few of these can be written in stone, most can be taken at face value to serve the greater good, for newer aquarists in particular. Specialists can deviate with judicious experimentation.

    The first aspect of mention is simple enough to be obvious, yet is easily forgotten or overlooked. For all light fixtures, keeping the lamps free of dirt and debris is crucial and should be completed as a weekly chore at least. The slightest film of dust or salt creep/spray can markedly reduce the amount of light that actually makes it into the aquarium. Where lenses and glass or acrylic canopies are employed, the same holds true. Any obstruction between the lamp and the water’s surface can be an enormous impediment. It’s ironic to see struggling reef aquariums with magnificent luminary hardware that has simply been ignored (or poorly installed) serving merely as a repository for dust and salt creep. Keep all lamps and lenses squeaky clean and crystal clear for all lighting systems.

    The simplest of moving light systems: a single motorized track can be employed to move a suspended light on a programmed circuit of time and distance. The application reduces the number of lamps required to cover a given space and provides radiance in more natural dimensions (severe angles) akin to the path of the sun over a natural reef.

    Water clarity is another challenge that is pivotal to all lighting applications. System water that is not noticeably discolored to the naked eye may still be tinged enough to reduce the penetration of light measurably. Visibly discolored water is a serious impediment and can become a problem in just a few weeks without treatment or prevention. Aquarists are strongly encouraged to use chemical filtration like activated carbon - weekly, if not full-time. A less frequent or altogether neglected address of water clarity can lead to luminary shock with large water changes or sudden improvement of water clarity otherwise. Properly metered and dispensed ozone (using a redox controller, and carbon on air/water effluents) can also be a tremendous boon to water clarity, and has many other benefits to water quality including improved protein skimmer efficacy, higher oxygen saturation, increased redox, and reduced numbers of pathogenic organisms.

    Any general concern about chemical media taking out desirable elements (a common but misguided criticism of carbon and like media) can be dismissed in my opinion; even without it, desirable elements will be extracted by good and bad organisms alike. Should we exclude corals from our reef aquariums because they too take out desirable components from the water? Sarcasm aside, supplementation (via water changes and/or additives) is necessary with or without chemical filtration, and good media removes far more bad elements than desired ones, rest assured.

    The distance of lamps off the surface of the water is also of great importance and is the subject of some manipulation with MLSs, as you will read below. For most fixtures, it is important to mount lamps duly close to the water surface. The amount of light penetrating the water increases markedly with descent/approach. The dynamic is a ratio of intensity (closer) versus spread (higher), and we wish to strike a balance (always with a good reflector) to maximize this ratio. The ultimate position varies by situation. As you can imagine, an exaggerated tall and narrow tank will benefit from a closer lamp to deliver more intense light that can penetrate deeper. On the contrary, a low, wide and shallow aquarium will require a higher lamp position for a wider spread. For average home aquaria, however, that are less than 30†deep, the following applies:

    Fluorescent lamps generally should not be mounted any higher than 3†(7.5 cm) off the surface of the water.
    Metal halides are to be installed around 9†(22.5 cm) for 175 - 250 watt lamps over 24-30†of water (towards 6†off the surface instead for lower wattages, and as high as 18+†for higher wattages).
    These suggestions are very generic, to be sure, and need to be finessed by an aquarist on a case-by-case basis. By comparison, the recommendation on fluorescents is far less flexible due to the limitations of the technology. As guidelines, though, they will put most aquarists, too many with unfortunately popular mixed garden reef aquariums, in a reasonable to very good position on lamp distance.

    (CONT)
     
    jhnrb, Feb 26, 2006
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  7. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    Mls (cont)

    Some other important reminders for improved delivery of light: lamp age, cooling, and orientation. We have a fairly good idea of the useful lifespan of most lamp types. The technologically fixated can buy PAR meter to measure and monitor the quality of their lamp’s output over time (and all of their friends savvy enough can beg and borrow the meter). The rest of us can be assured that most fluorescents are only good for about 6-10 months. Metal Halides (MH) are rather variable with estimates ranging from 1 year to over 3 years (less commonly). It is true that halides are generally more effective (useful) over the span of their life than fluorescents, with some MH being near or in excess of 90% on par (close to mint) at the time they blink out. That is to say, the rendition of color stays true for a longer period of time with halides than most fluorescent lamps, which stray easily and quickly. Some estimates place popular fluorescent lamps at merely 70% effective near the end of their lifespan.

    Lamp cooling is an aspect that we do not have an abundance of practical data on in aquaristic literature. We do know that proper lamp temperature (not too much or too little) is necessary to optimize lamp life and color. The trueness of the lamp (resisting a stray towards a less usable spectrum) is very important for optimal photosynthetic activity. In layman’s terms, simply ventilate the hood or canopy vigorously, but be sure not to blow fans directly onto the lamps. It’s best, instead, to just exhaust air by sucking it out of or away from the fixtures rather than blowing into it.

    Lamp orientation is an important and often overlooked aspect of lighting applications. The exact orientation of some lamps is said or known to affect their performance. For some fluorescent tubes, there is a hash mark stamped into the metal end caps of the bulb indicating a recommended position (downward usually) after the pins are locked into place. For others it seems to make no difference. With metal halides, we look to the small emitter tube within the lamp. This little “tube within a tube†has a small nipple on it whose orientation can influence the performance of the bulb. Aquarists seem to feel that “nipples up†[keep the jokes to yourself at this point] is the best position. In some cases, it will visibly affect the color of light to a favorably blue/white range (from warm daylight). Note: you can pry the contact tab inside of the lamp socket (only with the power off and the unit unplugged) if needed to get your lamp to seat firmly in a specific position if desired. It also needs to be mentioned that the physical direction of the lamp on whole can make a significant difference in the spread and focus of light. Vertical (pendant) installations are reserved for deep and narrow coverage (like a spotlight). They focus intense light in a very small area and are arguably not “ideal†(value by coverage) for most home aquariums under 30†(75 cm), unless the application and effect is a deliberate preference. For horizontal installations, placement will be strongly influenced by the type and efficiency of the reflector used; many aquarists find that lamps mounted horizontal and perpendicular to the long sides of the display afford the best spread of light. At any rate, always consult the lamp and reflector manufacturers for special instructions on orientation and installation whenever possible.

    The orientation of lamps is an issue of great importance both efficient operation (value/efficacy) and reef health. Pendant installations (at left) produce light in a very focused and narrow range with limited spread. They are best suited to tall/deep and narrow displays or aesthetic effect. Horizontal placement of lamps (at right) works best for most aquarists with aquariums under 30†(<75 cm) as it delivers a wider spread of usable light.

    At last, we come to an address of moving light systems. With consideration of the above aspects (and their application of most here, just the same), we take reef lighting to another level… or rather, other dimensions in space literally as we depart from traditional fixed stations for lamps. For the sake of this primer, we’ll limit the detail of hardware simply to planar (illustration at top of article) and inclined light tracks (see below). Advanced aquarists have and will continue to experiment with numerous interpretations of the method.

    Indoor horticulture has long since employed suspended lights on motorized planar tracks. If you have never seen them in operation before, they are really as simple as they sound: a motorized track with gears/pulleys conveys a fastener (hook or chain) with the light fixture suspended. Organisms under the path of the track receive light of variable intensity and angle of delivery as the lamp passes by. Manipulations of the circuit (number of passes and stops if any) and photoperiod - for example, “double-time†with two cycles of light and dark each in a day, which can sometimes stimulate desirable behaviors such as forcing extra reproductive events. This is particularly helpful with species of commercial interest that only have one strict reproductive event annually. Equipment to produce this sort of carriage is relatively simple to construct for the handy DIY (do-it-yourself) aquarist. Ready manufactured products are available just the same from most any large horticultural or greenhouse supply company (and finally some aquarium suppliers).

    (CONT)
     
    jhnrb, Feb 26, 2006
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  8. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    Mls (cont)

    In the reef aquarium, with moving light emanating from a waxing and waning distance, the variable angles not only directly illuminate lower branches and regions that a fixed lamp could not, but they also refract light off of various substrates (particularly a light colored seafloor) which provides radiance in sometimes otherwise inaccessible areas as it occurs on the natural reef. Some aquarists like to credit this strategy with the reduced decline of health in corals and macroalgae on their lower regions (pale or receding/dying tissue), especially with maturing and overgrown specimens. It certainly seems like a believable argument to me, at least. This is not to say that there are no overgrown tabling Acroporids in the wild, for example, with pale tissue underside (there certainly are!). But, aquarists clearly seem to have a higher incidence of this phenomena with captive corals. A fixed light source is a very likely causative agent (if not the agent) for such ailments. Moving light systems are a possible solution and bring us closer to mirroring the all-encompassing radiance of the sun on a reef as it travels in a wide arc across the sky.

    We may fairly speculate that one of the more interesting benefits of a moving light source is the stimulation of symbionts by the distortion or oscillation of the dynamic between the intensity and spread of light from artificial lights in motion. The unwavering static intensity of a fixed lamp, besides being unnatural, is stressful to weak, sick or recovering cnidarians (by light deprivation in transit or zooxanthellae expulsion from duress, e.g.) as with freshly imported specimens. Aquarists have attempted to compensate for the shock of prolonged and sudden/intense exposure to a fixed lamp by starting compromised specimens on the bottom of the tank and working them up higher in the display slowly over a period of weeks (good). Another popular strategy is to place a new specimen in its proper place from the beginning, but with a stack of cut plastic screen the size of the coral’s footprint above it (better) to assist with acclimation. A dozen or more sheets sit on top of the canopy/cover (or a rig) to filter light and cast a focused shadow on the specimen; single sheets are to then be removed every day or every other day over the first couple weeks to facilitate a gradual acclimation to new or bright light. Better still, some aquarists have proposed exposing stressed coral to short durations (“burstsâ€) from a new lighting scheme that cumulatively amounts to the expected/proper continuous cycle. For example, a desired photoperiod of 8 hours would oscillate between 30 minutes on and 30 minutes off over a 16-hour period to reach the goal. This has been shown to be remarkably helpful for many struggling coral, yet is perhaps only practical for corals acclimated in isolation - away from the display full of established organisms, which are accustomed to a continuous photoperiod. It’s here that a moving light source might also excel for some new acquisitions with the described waxing and waning of light intensity and direction (sparing the need to adjust the system or canopy at the expense of established sun-soakers in the display).

    For long aquariums, inclined tracks can make a dramatic impression and afford a notable savings on the purchase and operation of light hardware. The effects of the application are excitingly variable beginning with the decision to have tracks follow the slope of the seascape, or not… thus denying or allowing a more exaggerated “high noon†point in time.

    At length, the integration of a planar track system will take up no more space than one already has dedicated for a fixed lamp system. It will reduce the number of lamps required on a given run and subsequently the cost of power to operate the system. Moving lights also make a handsome aesthetic impact if nothing else. There is concern for some manufactured units not engineered for a quiet living with noise from a continuous/charged motor. Short of finding or building a quieter model, bare in mind that the fixture does not have to be in constant motion. Some very inexpensive but “loud†units (typically ignored in a working greenhouse) have been employed in quiet living spaces by putting the motor on a staggered timer. It’s as simple as moving the fixture in brief intervals (seconds/minutes) at X inches per hour with a multi-event (on/off) household timer.

    There are in fact numerous variations on the vehicle for moving light systems that suit one’s varying preferences (noise of operation, electric efficiency, etc.). One of my favorite notions suggested to me was a small, economical motor that efficiently leveraged a weight and pulley to negotiate the rise and fall of a fixture on an incline each day. Whew! The possibilities are endless for putting our lights in motion. Aquarists that are also motorheads (automobile enthusiasts) are probably spinning wheels in their heads as we speak thinking of gear ratios for a motorized track. Aquarists that are engineers have perhaps begun to analyze articles and issues of resistance among possibilities. And I have worked myself up a frenzied hunger for chocolate chip cookies. Hmmm… well, we each get stimulated in different ways I suppose. The point is, do keep an open mind. Our entire hobby is still so very young. Theories and methodologies are evolving so fast that the anally retentive aquarists cannot finish their moot arguments on the last controversial topic before the next one comes along.

    In parting, I must say (again, as I often do) that the ideas presented here are not written in stone. I am not interested, competent or qualified to run a disciplined scientific investigation to qualify or quantify any theories herein. I am simply impassioned to share the notions, and hopeful that those folks who are qualified and interested will bring hard science to the mettle of reliable practical and anecdotal information, and report to us in time. Many of us look to the esteemed likes of Dana Riddle of Riddle Laboratories and Sanjay Yoshi, for example, for such science. I am but a dedicated hobbyist - privileged to sights and ideas in my travels that I feel obligated to share. I sincerely hope that folks with strict sensibilities and demands for hard science in our relaxed hobby will understand that there is great benefit in open speculation by the novice that incites thought and experimentation. Or at least, an indulgence would be nice.

    In shared admiration of the sea,

    Anthony Calfo

    END.
     
    jhnrb, Feb 27, 2006
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  9. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    Old Reef Tank

    Trial and Tribulations of an OLD Reef Tank (A 25+ year journey with a saltwater tank)

    by: Paul Baldassano

    Growing up on Long Island New York, I was always surrounded by water so the obvious thing to do was start a fish tank. My parents, owning a fish market probably helped. As a toddler, I would have to stay in the store all day. Of course other kids had toys, I played with dead fish.

    They were boring but the live lobsters and crabs were always fun. Anyway, as far as I can remember, I always had a fish tank. Every once in a while my father would bring me home some creature that was still alive from the Fulton Fish market in Manhattan. I would put it in fresh water (Who had salt water ?) Naturally, it would usually be dead by morning. Gradually, I learned that some animals required salt water.

    I had a 40 gallon fresh water tank for many years. After you've raised angels, betta's, zebras and mouth brooders you just have to progress to the next thing, which for me was brackish. The only problem was that I got drafted into the army. This is not going to be a war story, but I will say that I got to see red tail sharks in a small pond in the middle of the jungle in Cambodia. And on "R and R," I did some SCUBA diving in Australia. Anyway, when I got home, I found out that although my tank was still set up, the only fish that was left , a large catfish, had just died the week before. I don't think anyone fed it in the year that I was gone. After putting some cheap fish back in the tank, I started to add a little salt each day. After a while the tank had a tetrodon puffer, archer fish, mono and scat. At the time, that was all the brackish water fish on the market. Then one day in 1971 I was in an aquarium store in Manhattan, and I saw the most beautiful fish I have ever seen. It was a blue devil. There were also sergeant majors and dominos. That was the extent of salt water in those days.

    I knew that I wanted some of these fish, but I didn't know anything about them. So I bought some magazines. "The Marine Aquarist". It was printed in black and white and I still have about ten issues of it. I read everything I could about salt water fish. To save money, I figured I would go down to the beach and get some water. Then, I saw that my neighbor had some nice looking blue gravel in his driveway, so I collected some of that. I bought some bleached coral and put in the blue devils and the tetradon puffer. The blue devils lasted about a day. It must be the gravel, I thought. Out with the gravel and in with about three inches of beach sand. Ocean beach sand is very fine. I put in some dominoes (which were not real cheap then at the time). They lived a few weeks. But I noticed that the sand was turning black at the bottom. When I stirred the sand It stank up the entire house. That's when I learned about hydrogen sulphide. Out with the sand and in with some new stuff, dolomite. I also thought that my choice of water was not the best so I bought the only salt available--"Marine Magic", I also bought a new invention, a "Sanders Protein Skimmer."

    Now I was keeping fish alive at least for a few months. Invariably, the fish would get spots and I would lose almost everything overnight. I read somewhere about copper treatment for these parasites. The recommended course was to put in twenty pennies to a gallon of water. This definitely will kill parasites. It will kill everything else too if you leave them in too long. Copper test kit! What was that?

    After people got tired of the penny "cure", we went to copper scouring pads, the kind you clean pots with. It was a two inch pad for a gallon of water. This had the same effect as pennies. Eventually, someone invented test kits and liquid copper sulphate. Before this, saltwater fish were extremely difficult to keep. Most fish would die in the store.

    One day I saw that the puffer was laying on it's side and he had an obvious lump on one side. Since this fish had been with me since the fresh water days and he seemed to really thrive in the salt water I had to try to cure him. He was placed in some wet cotton and iodine was applied to the lump. With an Exacto knife, I made an incision and scraped out all of the tumor. I put more iodine on the incision and returned him to a small tank with Chlorimphenicol and Neomycin thinking to find him dead in the morning. To my surprise he was still alive. Every day would lift him out of the water and put some food in his mouth with a tooth pick. This is how I feed all puffers that will not eat. Being a puffer, they will try to inflate when removed from the water. This act of opening their mouth makes it easy to force feed them.

    After a few weeks of this he was back to his old self again. My wife, who has much more interest in clothes and exercising, (it could be worse) likes to buy me gadgets for Christmas, which is OK with me. She bought me an Ozonizer and I still use it and think it is a definite plus. That was the early years, but I still have not lost my obsession to try new ideas. My wife and I got SCUBA diving certifications and we would go to the Caribbean occasionally to do some diving. Of course, on our way home our luggage was a lot heavier than when we left. I would always fill up on dead coral and rock. It was legal in those days.

    Customs officers just looked at you funny. The coral was all white and when algae grew on it you took it out and bleached it. That was the only kind of salt water tank there was. It was always written that live coral could not be kept in a tank. A few people like Lee Chin Eng kept it, but he lived in Jakarta next to the ocean, he used natural water and the tanks were outside.

    (CONT)
     
    jhnrb, Apr 2, 2006
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  10. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    Then in about 1982, I upgraded to a one hundred gallon tank. Everything in the old 40 gallon tank was transferred to the larger quarters. To save money I used local natural water. I collect it in plastic garbage pails. When I get it home I diatom filter it and add regular "Chlorine bleach" at a rate of one teaspoon to five gallons of water. Then the water is aerated for a week and double the dosage of chlorine remover is added. After a few more days it is safe to use. It is safe to use unless you use fresh scent chlorine bleach which will kill almost everything in the tank within seconds. (don't ask)

    The tank always had hermit crabs, "local" green crabs and snails but now I was putting in anemones. (I stopped adding copper to the tank about three years before this) They were one of the first inverts that you could get. I built a lighting system with four flourescent lamps and a remote ballast. The lamps were hung about one inch above the water on cables. Since the tank was built into a wall you could not see this installation. When I wanted access into the tank, the lights would raise above the water on pulleys. I then installed a reverse flow under gravel filter. I had a five gallon tank behind the main tank, the water would siphon into the small tank then through the prefilter and into a plexiglass manifold where it would then be directed down three tubes all on one end of the tank. The tubes run under the gravel and connect to the undergravel filter in three locations. A homemade wet dry was also added. Since there was no sump, the wet dry was placed above the tank behind the wall. The water just drained out of the bio-ball chamber and into the tank. I know all this is overkill but why do something simple when you can make a career out of it. That's why they call this a hobby. Originally, there was a sheet of black plexiglass an inch from the back glass with holes in it. The purpose for this was to hide the tubes and also the back glass. After my prized purple fire fish got caught behind this plastic, I decided to hide the tubes with rock, and I installed a shield on the last lamp to shade the back glass. I had an old "Sanders" protein skimmer that I got about 1975 but it was much too small for this size tank so I built one. It was about three feet high and made out of a plexiglass tube. It worked well for many years until I built a venturi model five feet tall. After a few failed attempts I designed and built a venturi valve for about $2.00 that worked perfectly. This skimmer worked so well that I sold a few of them to stores and wholesalers to use on their tanks.

    On my tank the waste from the skimmer goes into a five gallon bucket under the tank. I made a float switch that hangs over the bucket and shuts off the water to the skimmer in the event of an overflow. I know that it's hard to imagine a skimmer putting out five gallons of waste all at once but if you have twenty purple sea urchins that all decide to spawn at the same moment it can happen, and although urchins are kind of small they spawn for a couple of hours. I don't know where they keep it all but it can be real messy and it does not smell real good on a carpet. Did I mention that my wife exercises? A lot!

    The corals looked good but not great. The nitrate was always high, usually in the thirties. I hesitated but then I removed the wet dry filter. No major catastrophe happened. The nitrates went down under ten and have stayed there ever since. Now I SCUBA dive in New York as well as the tropics and I have a boat. Not a ship, but a boat. One day while I was launching this boat at low tide I noticed that the rocks along the sides of the ramp were jet black and very porous looking. They were irregular shaped and when I picked one up I noticed dozens of amphipods scurrying about. One side of all these rocks was flat and I immediately realized that it was old asphalt. You guessed it, my reef is now about thirty percent asphalt. It looks much better than live rock.

    Coraline algae grows much quicker than it does on reef rock and it's free. Please do not rip up your street to get free rock. I would not use it if it were not underwater for many years. Being underwater a long time makes it very porous and any metals and toxins will be washed away. Now since I have too much rock I just collect the amphipods that are very abundant and dump them in my reef. While SCUBA diving in New York, I also collect purple sea urchins. I use these in my reef to be a constant water test kit. If the urchins are healthy so is the water. They also eat unbelievable amounts of algae.

    Recently, the urchins started dying. I did all the tests I could think of but found nothing. Then the corals started going. I did a one hundred percent water change and I was still losing corals. Some of them I had for eight years. I also lost a five inch Tridacna clam. I realized that my town just switched to a new water company. I called the company to ask if they were adding anything to the water that would affect the tank. They told me, "of course not!", just "zinc orthophosphate" to control corrosion in the pipes. I said, "WHAT!!? Do you know what zinc does to corals?" It's worse than the copper cleaning pads I used thirty years ago.

    Wintertime is no time to go to the beach to collect water. On the ocean beaches the surf is very rough, with waves over six feet and the water is about 40 degrees. I am a SCUBA diver but I am not crazy. On the bay side the water is calm but it is kind of questionable to use in a reef. The water is too rough now to launch the boat. I quickly went to the supermarket and bought bottled water. I put all the livestock in plastic tubs with new water. I could not get enough bottled water to fill the tank so I got a 2" PVC pipe 4' long and filled it with new carbon and poly filters. I dripped water through this twice to fill the tank. The remaining corals started to look a little better. I just received a reverse osmosis filter and since this model makes fifteen gallons a day, I am waiting until it cranks out one hundred gallons so I can change all of the water. In the spring I still go back to natural, but I will use RO water for topping up. Now I use VHO lighting (still homemade) but the reverse undergravel, the skimmer, the asphalt, the natural New York water, the urchins and the amphipods are still there. There was a pair of banded coral shrimp that spawned dozens of times, those blue devils lived seven years and hatched out many babies. A pair of seahorses also had many babies and there has not been a parasite seen for about fifteen years. Most of the leather corals have offspring all over the place. And remember that tetradon puffer? He lived twelve years.

    END.
     
    jhnrb, Apr 2, 2006
    #10
  11. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    pH CALIBRATION FULIDS

    pH CALIBRATION FLUIDS | SHELF LIFE

    Apparently, the pH calibration fluids sold in the United States are all derived from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standard pH solutions. (I believe this explains why we Yanks use calibration solutions which have pH values of 4.0, 7.0 and 10.0, instead of the 5.0, 7.0 and 9.0 solutions commonly used is Europe, where the use of pH meters for aquariums originated.)

    Assuming that bit about NIST solutions to be true, the big enemy of old calibration fluids would be CO2 absorbed from the air, which acts like an acid in the calibration fluid just as it does in out tanks.

    The pH 4.0 solution should hold its pH value very well over time, as it should be almost totally immune to absorbing CO2. Its pH is already close to the pH point at which all dissolved CO2 in the water is already either CO2 or H2CO3. So, absorbing more CO2 won't materially affect it.

    The pH 7.0 standard is somewhat more susceptible to absorbing CO2 from the surrounding air, since it really wants to be at pH 4.0, too.

    The real CO2-absorbance casualty among calibration fluids is the pH 10.0 standard solution. It's made from sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate, and it really wants to absorb CO2 and make acid out of it. Once it's been opened, its pH starts to fall immediately and it falls rapidly. (Don't breathe on it too much, either.) An open bottle that was right at 10.0 when opened will be 9.4 or even less in very short order -- a few days or weeks.

    Using old or previously opened pH 10.0 fluid to calibrate your pH electrodes will bias your meter high, by an amount proportional to how far below 10.0 the fluid was. (This probably explains the apparent jump up in the pH of your water, matthew.)

    If you want the best value for your buck and accurately-calibrated pH meters, buy the little one-time-use foil packs -- especially for the 10.0 fluid. Buy only what you will use in a year or so, and don't accept any that will be more than 2 years old for the 4.0 and 7.0, or more than 1 year old for the 10.0, at the time when you will get around to using them.

    Remember, the shelf-life starts when the stuff is made, not when you buy it.

    By the way, the best way to calibrate a meter is at two points on either side of the pH you plan to measure. That means 4.0 and 7.0 for you freshwater tank keepers, and 7.0 and 10.0 for us reefers and saltwater fish keepers. Some makes of meter reportedly require one or the other sets of fluids for calibration, regardless of what you plan to use it on.

    It figures that we poor reefers would get saddled with the short-shelf-life, mean-tempered pH 10.0 calibration fluid....

    END. (REPRINT)
     
    jhnrb, Apr 2, 2006
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  12. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    New Concept

    by: Sam Gamble

    keysmariculture@yahoo.com

    http://www.keysmariculture.com

    Aquariums. They are getting better all the time, but we still bog down trying to construct the totally in situ system. "In situ" meaning in the natural or normal position. We have become good students of the natural mechanisms concerning benthic ecology. New words have been invented to describe some of it, e.g., "bio-geochemical" pathways. Holistic approaches like energy has been applied to reductionism observations about cell metabolism to explain and develop our quest. We want a type of aquarium technology that controls itself more than our intervention as maintenance. Can we create practical aquarium maintenance based on academic natural science; can it be done?

    Over the past couple of years we have kept ourselves busy trying to learn what a "PLENUM" is and how it works. Bob Goemans is currently illustrating that with an in depth summary. However, we cannot get away from the fact there is trouble maintaining a large biomass load in a reduced nutrient environment , e.g., a large fish population in a reef tank. Attempts to do so have stretched all the superior traits of a plenum system to their limits.

    Our emphasis on nutrients has had good outcomes, even though the term is a little ambiguous. We can now better understand where nutrients come from and how to remove potential excesses. And we also understand the necessity of nutrients to maintain and promote the production of energy, growth, and reproduction. Our vocabulary has expanded to describe the living processes of benthic ecology, and how it defines natural equilibrium. Hence, we accept, understand, and enhance the essential energy cycles. We understand how stabilizing the microorganisms that form the inextricable foundation may conceivably produce in situ filtration. The bottom line is the equilibrium of shared energy has become a realization. After all it's part of life's balance.

    From the MACNA IX conference (which I attended), one conclusion could be drawn * we have learned more about corals and natural systems, but there wasn't much new going on about system equilibrium. Why is that since we do better understand how nutrients lead to our successes and failures. We also better understand how nutrients depend on balance between important constituents like carbon and nitrogen. And we better understand important ways to maintain important equilibrium factors for macro cultures. For example, in nature the natural balance between carbon and nitrogen is about 7:1. By some, this is called the Redfield Ratio. If we remove too much carbon or inversely create too many nitrogen compounds, then nitrogen has a tendency to shift toward storage. Storage takes forms like primary production, also known as nitrogen fixation or algae growth. It's a general flux from the water to the sand or benthic substrate. Often this will create a temporary shift or decrease in pH and alkalinity. The maintenance reaction is to supply buffers and/or calcium, which precipitate phosphorous at the same time. The result is stored nitrogen and phosphate. You have an algae problem, you say?

    The answer must lie in being able to treat excess nutrient flux contained by the water without changing/impairing energy metabolism in the sediments. And what about the high load that exceeds metabolic rates and capabilities? This kind of shoots down our hopes to achieve "in situ" filtration in aquarium science.

    We have a new concept that provides change to our pessimistic prospects.

    The concept hinges on two primary elements; light and water. Light is the most essential source of energy, and water is the containment medium through which it must travel. That in itself is not new and is pretty standard. However, to think of water as a liquid crystal, and light as a transformation energy source is perhaps new.

    Life has a balance in every event from microscopic to macroscopic. We observe balance as conducive to our way of life and the sustaining events of things or creatures we wish to preserve. If you are trying to maintain an aquarium, you must consider the main culture you wish to preserve and then understand that countless microscopic events must happen to maintain the macro cultures. The best way to understand the system is to understand the single cell and what it needs to promote its equilibrium. Understanding the elements of the containment medium is essential, such as water, carbon, and light. Each has many variables and when all three are associated, an exponential capability exists and the complexity of the results are usually taken for granted.

    A drop of water! What is it? Who cares, it is just a drop on my windshield or a bucket full of them for my aquarium. Actually, water is a solvent. Anything it comes in contact with regarding an organic nature, the water is either absorbed or it itself absorbs. Cationic, Anionic, or nonionic reactions occur. Individually or in combination. A unit of structure built up from polymeric molecules or ions is termed micelle. Micelles represent these phenomena. Most generally micelles are accredited to man's design, like rayon. However, nature is a series of interactive micelles. Micelles containing specific compounds create an association of polar bodies, and when the magnetic fields are associated with an appropriate ion array, photon emission takes place. Lightning Bugs are a demonstration of this phenomena, as well as bio-luminescence in algae. We are discussing liquid crystals, a specific type of micelle.

    As we look at an aquarium filled with water, this equates to a bunch of drops. Let's say that the water is pure, therefore with the absence of salts, no reaction can occur. At the same time the water droplet is a type of optic film. This film can pass specific light waves without dissipating them. The water evaporates because of the nutrients in the water. If some of the water evaporates, then the solvent action of that water is lost and the nutrient settles to the next lower layer of water. If the next layer is nutrient loaded, elemental and molecular stacking take place. The concept of liquid crystals has been around for a long time. If you are using a laptop computer to read this, you're probably looking at liquid crystals. Water has structure, but with random movement in the medium of micelles. Together the situation is a little chaotic. However, if the water molecule can somehow be given orders to line up with other molecules in the same orientation, then the structured liquid crystal condition becomes more formal. Also the intramolecular attraction to other neighboring molecules is abated. This alone would allow better light transmittance.

    (CONT)
     
    jhnrb, Apr 2, 2006
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  13. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    (cont)

    Turning water into a liquid crystal sounds like a neat trick, but how could that be done? This introduces an important contributing concept. Magnetic fields can be used to dictate water as a formal liquid crystal. By manipulating the characteristics of the magnetic field, variations to the water liquid crystal can be achieved. This includes its interaction with light.

    Magnetic technology has been around for years. The concept is commonly used for water treatment. It's general knowledge that it can be used to soften

    water for domestic use. The drawback has been that the condition of diamagnetic change to the water is short lived. This has now been revolutionized and the benefits are applicable to the marine aquarium environment. We can now use the word polarization.

    The importance of light is more than transmittance. It contributes favorably to magnetic field effects. Magnetic fields can be produced from electrons in motion, but they themselves do not emit electrons – energy without mass. Light is infinite (does not decompose) and has mass. When acting together you achieve energy without electrons, but having the benefits of mass that is infinite. Okay, so what?

    Applied to an aquarium this would first mean light would penetrate better through the nutrient stacking. This is particularly important if there is inhibition of PAR values for organisms like small polyped stony corals. Better penetration means less absorption of red band, which is bad for nuisance algae and good for light loving cnidarians.

    The liquid crystal can be programmed to use light to enhance some effects and limit others. By changing the polarization of the water molecule in the liquid crystal, target molecules can be effected. Ionic balance can be achieved while instantaneously changing troublesome molecules like nitrate. The important thing in this case is that it is done without adding electrons or removing molecules. Ionic balance shifts to equilibrium of the system. For example a steady pH and redox are maintained while nitrate disappears, and there is no change in conductivity (ion levels). Conductivity is the potential of charge whereas the Millivolt (redox) is the field charge exchange.

    To consider the aquarium as a multitude of water drops composing a medium of micelles, is perhaps new to conceive a vision or model. However, to reduce it to this level has produced a new concept and means to better obtain the "in situ" aquarium. This can be done in a place where nutrient stacking can be controlled for the benefit of total energy to the system that we wish to maintain, "in situ". The containment medium must obey the laws of physics, but we can now program desirable ones for our advantage.

    There has been found a way to take advantage of the micelle and the phenomena of liquid crystal concepts. Water drops are composed of molecules made by hydrogen and oxygen atoms. They create the situation that can be enhanced to change negative factors caused by high concentration of nutrients in a finite space. We just have to strong-arm them a little bit. It can be done! It can be done with very positive effects.

    First let's apply the thinking to the conditions we have in aquariums. The environment we create is by placing water in a container that is well illuminated. Before we can add the organisms we wish to observe, we have to provide for their waste products that result from taking care of their energy needs. We add a nutrient and waste removal system. By doing so we are also adding to the micelle of the water. With increasing amounts of compounds and elements the containment medium becomes denser. With heat and evaporation the interaction of constituents becomes even more complex. Elements begin to interact in ways that normally are not a first choice. But because of density and all the factors of increased contact and interaction other results evolve. This is where equilibrium and balance start to become forfeited. This will happen in spite of the fact that the filtering system is working at its maximum capacity to remove the compounds and elements they have produced in conjunction with metabolism.

    The containment medium of uncountable water drops of H-O-H (water) begins to change its relationship for balance to the organelles in the system. There is a shift in the way water, carbon, and light normally act, and some of the other exponential possibilities become evident. Nutrients become loaded with elemental and molecular stacking taking place. Light transmittance and PAR values decrease. Water becomes laden with nutrients that are available to the wrong users. The relationships between flux, storage, and utilization become unbalanced.

    Liquid crystal technology and magnetic field effect changes the unbalanced condition to again favor equilibrium. That's a fact. The characteristics of the water molecule can be changed to form a liquid crystal that allows better passage of photon energy and less absorption by nutrient effects. The nitrate molecule can be changed to other forms to facilitate construction of cell and genetic material without metabolism. Both of which strips nuisance algae of its competitive edge. This is not a dream. It is a reality. A new concept. We can create practical aquarium maintenance based on academic natural science. I think it's possible and am currently involved in bringing this technology forth.

    Sam Gamble

    END.
    Posted by jhnrb
     
    jhnrb, Apr 2, 2006
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  14. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    Test kits and Alkalinity Supplements

    (Excert of larger article)

    Alkalinity Supplements

    by:Julian Sprung

    There may be times when alkalinity needs to be given a boost while leaving the calcium level the same. There are several alkalinity supplements on the market, commonly called buffers, which contain a mixture of carbonates, bicarbonates and borates in various proportions. Caution is recommended against the use of buffers with large proportions of borate through. While these do act to raise alkalinity as well as pH and maintain it at a higher level, they play havoc with standard alkalinity test kits and require the use of a specialized kit that takes into consideration the higher borate level in the water. The same applies to salt mixes that have elevated borate levels.

    (The correct test kit, manufacturer, or source is beyond the parameters of this article. It is advised to conside the effects of borate and seek out a test kit that will compensate for it.)
     
    jhnrb, May 20, 2006
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  15. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    Worms (good or bad)

    The Scenario...

    Some few days or few weeks after setting up a coral reef aquarium, an aquarist sits down in a comfortable chair and with favored beverage in hand begins to contemplate the sheer beauty of their captive universe. Perhaps it is the gentle motion of the soft corals waving in the currents, perhaps the action of the colorful fishes; no matter, whatever the reason for delight, it is there. The measured joy and deep aesthetic pleasure of a well set-up and maintained reef system is truly an aesthetic boon and soothing balm to a frazzled soul. Our hero, newly home from a day of rat racing, takes a generous sip of aforementioned favored beverage.

    Then, out from behind the corner of a rock, or out of a burrow in the sand or, horrors of horrors, out from under a bazillion buck specimen of spitfire gold and electric blue Tridacna expensivus, appears the head of something so utterly loathsome that the mouthful of favored beverage is discharged in what a shotgun aficionado could only call a “full choke†pattern over the side of the tank, the living room and the previously recumbent, but now damply upright and indignant, specimen of man’s best friend. What our hero has just seen is the bane of all reef aquarists, his first large “bristle†worm. It won’t be his last...Nor should it be!

    Reef aquarium information is a hit or myth proposition. Having been an aquarist of one sort or another for some 45 years, and a marine aquarist as well as marine scientist for 30 of them, the state of aquarium lore both amuses and frustrates me. Probably due to the complexity of the natural systems that we get our animals from, and that we try in some regards to emulate, the amount of mythinformation that has accrued in the reef hobby is truly impressive. It seems, at times, that we are dealing with a Baron Munchausen’s “Guide To The Care Of Coral Reef Animals,†and that it is tangent upon reality only due to accident.

    Aquarium Myth #349:
    Bristle Worms Should Be Removed From Your Tank Because They Are: _________.
    1) Dangerous,
    2) Eat Corals,
    3) Eat Clams,
    4) Eat... Anything (as long as it is expensive or desirable), and
    5) They Are Ugly.
    This is multiple choice myth. Pick one, any combination of, or all of the above to complete it.

    Don’t Make The Common Mythtakes About Bristle Worms!

    The reality of the situation is considerably different from the myth. To start at the beginning we need to know just what exactly our hero in the scenario above was dealing with. Bristle worms are, well, worms with bristles. And, there are not a just a few of them either. Bristle worms are related to the common earthworms in their basic anatomy. That means they are segmented. In other words, their body is made of repeated units, or modules, called segments. In earthworms the segments look like rings, or “annuli,†of tissue. This appearance gives the worm’s animal group the name, Annelida. Most folks call them annelid worms.

    Bristle worms differ from earthworms by being mostly found in marine environments, whilst earthworms are mostly terrestrial. They also have appendages on their bodies, whereas the earthworms are smooth. Finally, all earthworms are hermaphrodites, having both sexes simultaneously active in the same body, whereas most bristle worms have but one gender per worm.

    Probably the most obvious difference between these types of annelids, though, is the presence of appendages all along the sides of the bristle worm’s body. These appendages, which often look like small legs, are tipped in many bristles. The common name for the group, “bristle worms†is relatively apt. Biologists who study these worms call them Polychaete Worms. Sounds rather pretentious until you realize that “Poly†means “many†and “Chaeta†means “bristle.†So, polychaete worm can be translated into the common vernacular as the “worm with many bristles.†Bristle worm will do. Unfortunately, the name is used much too carelessly to be useful. As it turns out there are well over 10,000 described species of bristle worms, and a truly sizeable number of those can make it into reef aquaria.

    (CONT. TO PART 2)
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2006
    jhnrb, May 26, 2006
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  16. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    Worms Part-2

    Narrow The Field

    Even though there are a lot of bristle worms, and even though a lot of them may be potentially found in reef aquaria, by far and away the most common kinds of bristle worms likely to be encountered by aquarists are fireworms. About now, the average aquarist may think, “Uh-oh, anything with fire in the name doesn’t sound too good to me.†And the average aquarist would be right, but only to a point. Fireworms have specialized outer defensive bristles made of calcium carbonate. These are hollow and venom-filled. If touched, the bristles stick into whatever touches them and break releasing the venom which causes a burning sensation. If a fish should bite a fire worm, it gets a mouth of small hypodermic needle-like bristles all injecting venom into its mouth. The net result is that after one or two attempts, the fish will typically not attempt to eat a fire worm even if it is starving. The moral of this tale to an aquarist is clear, first, don’t eat fireworms! In fact, leave the worms alone and you won’t be hurt. If you need to pick them up, wear gloves or use forceps, tweezers, or tongs to avoid injecting yourself with fire worm juice. So, dash myth number 1, they really aren’t dangerous as long as you don’t eat them and if they are handled properly.

    What About What They Eat?

    Within the realm of the thousands of bristle worm species, there are certainly varieties that will eat just about everything. Possibly the most impressive are the huge, so-called “bobbit,†worms in the genus Eunice. These awesome animals reportedly can reach about an inch (2.5 cm) in diameter, and be up to 50 feet (15 m) long. They reputedly can launch themselves upwards out of the sand and grab fish up to 4 inches (10 cm) long which they then pull down under the sand to consume. Shades of Dune…

    Occasionally, Eunice individuals or some related worms make their way into reef aquaria, probably in live rock, and they may cause problems. However, most bristle worms are not Eunicids! Not only do most worms not cause problems, they are, instead, positively beneficial. The myth that bristle worms are dangerous in reef tanks is a classic case of a little bit of knowledge being a dangerous thing. That kernel of knowledge is a classic. One species of fire worm, Hermodice carunculata, has been known for a long time to eat corals, particularly gorgonians. Unlike most worms, Hermodice is well-protected against predation and is commonly seen crawling around and eating its food. Somewhere in the dim dark pasts of the reef aquarium hobby, some less-than-astute individual made the leap of logic that went something like this: “If Hermodice is a fire worm, and Hermodice eats corals, then all fireworms must eat corals.†Unfortunately, this leap of logic ends with a resounding “splat†as the conclusion collides with reality. Most fireworms don’t eat corals; in fact, it appears that most fire worms, most especially the Eurythoe and Linopherus individuals most commonly found in reef tanks don’t eat anything that is living. These animals are scavengers, and very good ones, at that.

    The fire worms most commonly found in reef aquaria are probably the best members of the so-called “clean up crew†that most aquarists can have. They eat excess food, detritus, and the remains of dead or dying individuals. While they will not attack living and healthy animals, they definitely will attack and eat an animal that is damaged and releasing blood or other tissue fluids. Because they are very adept at following scent trails and very active in their search for food, they will often find a dead or dying animal and remove all traces of it in very short order. Their fantastic ability as scavengers is likely the cause of the myth that they eat living prey. Most marine invertebrates will appear to be healthy all the time they are, for example, starving to death. If the animal finally succumbs to malnutrition, the worms will start to clean it up. If an aquarist wanders in and sees this occurring in a tank, they don’t see some diligent janitors. They see their prize specimen being consumed by some “ugly†worms! And, gasp and gadzooks, they think the worms have killed and eaten it! Well, the latter part of that conclusion is true, but the animal that is now food died of something else. As these worms don’t attack and kill animals, neither do their bristles sting corals or sea anemones, and they definitely don’t crawl up into the cavities inside a tridacnid clam, and start eating it. All of these “definite facts†are truly fine examples of aquarium mythology.

    What fireworms do do, and do well, is clean up excess uneaten food and remove the recently deceased. Both of these tasks are of vital importance in reef tanks, as even a little time at reef temperatures is sufficient to turn a recently deed animal into a severely fouled aquarium. The beneficial fire worms are just about the most important animals that are available to aquarists for keeping their systems clean and functional. Perhaps, all an aquarist has to do to realize this is to contemplate the amount of “excess food†that it takes to grow a large population of the worms. Then, they can contemplate, what would happen to all that excessive nutrient if the fireworms were absent. In all likelihood, that food would have rotted and gone to foul the aquarium.

    The moral of this little tale is that many hard and fast aquarium beliefs are myths. In this case, in particular, many of the “horrible†worms in reef aquaria are not only highly beneficial, but in most cases, absolutely necessary for the systems.

    END.
     
    jhnrb, May 26, 2006
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  17. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    FEEDING FISH ONLY TANKS

    Fish-only aquariums typically do not have as much internal filtration and nutrient uptake as coral tanks. There may not be any live rock, or very little, and their may not be any live sand either.

    The lack of live sand and live rock especially, greatly reduces the amount of internal filtration such a tank is capable of and, thus, nutrient recycling is low. Remember live rock is generally porous and harbors many many bacteria and its outsides are covered with a multitude amount of animals and animalcules.

    Low recycling of nutrients results in a build-up of organic material and its breakdown products, leading to pollutant and nutrient rich water. We know these as nitrates, phosphates, silicates, dissolved organic material and dissovled organic carbon. There are others still but they do fit into the general categories listed.

    Such water will give your animals problems and will, more than likely, result in the hard to control growth of micro algae, diatoms, red slime or cyanobacteria, possibly too many macro algae and so on.

    In fish-only tanks you should be very careful when feeding. Less at a time is far better than larger quantities. You can always feed several times if you need to. It is in my experience better to feed small amounts more often. This gives the animals a chance to uptake or ingest the food stuffs you add and prevents them (or most of them) from ending up on the rocks and sand or bottom of the aquarium.

    Feces contain digested and undigested matter that can further break down and pollute the water. Remove it on a regular basis if you can. Your fish-only tank will do better. Anything you remove cannot decay and can, therefore, not pollute the water.

    Skimming removes pollution but, if the amount produced is greater than what the skimmer can remove, the nutrient and pollutant levels build up, with the ensuing problems associated with such.

    Ensuring your skimmer is up to the task is important lest D.O.C. will start to rise and problems appear. Dissolved organic carbon lowers the water quality and, more often than not, leads to the appearance of cyanobacteria or red slime algae.

    Do not overskim though as it may be detrimental to the animals. I wrote may, as no conclusive evidence regarding this is actually available. "I have often noticed though that if one skims too hard (especially in coral tanks as we shall see) that color loss and parasitic diseases may set in. Finding the right balance is the important thing and is hard to define". Quite a few hobbyists I have spoken to feel the same about overskimming especially when lots of corals are present in the tank. Seriously consider this as a growth limiting factor.

    Use dissolved oxygen levels as a yardstick. If it is at suturation, or above, you are skimming enough and need not increase it. As time goes by we will learn more about skimming yet, and probably be able to adjust skimming levels so they are not detrimental to tank inhabitants. Right now this cannot be done with a great amount of certainty and accuracy. DO is therefore a good measurement to use to gauge how the tank's water is doing.

    Skim and make sure that D.O. is high, that is the best we are able to do at this point.

    Feeding should be geared towards the type of fish and what they can consume in a short period of time, say 2 minutes. If not all the food you dispense is eaten in that timeframe, you should reduce the amount. It is fine to feed several times a day as long as all the food is eaten and none drops to the bottom to decay (unless you have a fair numbers of bottom feeders). Keep an eye on what settles and remove it if it does not get eaten rapidly (say within 15-30 minutes of sinking to the bottom).

    END.
     
    jhnrb, Oct 7, 2006
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  18. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    Bio-Balls Don't Go Bad, They Just Get Dirty!

    Why blame bio-balls for nitrate problems when it's not their fault?
    How often have you read postings or email from aquarists who complain about their bio-balls going bad? The quickest and most often suggested solution we see to this problem is to, get rid of the bio-balls, now!! This is ridiculous. It is NOT the bio-balls contained in a wet/dry trickle or other type of biological filter that have gone "bad", but just like with an undergravel filter, it is the "lack of proper maintenance" that turns them into a nitrate factory.

    It is only when bio-balls as well as other similar types of biological filtration mediums are allowed to become dirty and encrusted or embedded with broken down matter or dissolved organic compounds (DOCs) that they then start to contribute to the accumulation of nitrate in a saltwater aquarium or reef tank system.

    There is no need to immediately trash or remove them, which should NOT been done in the first place because it can cause your whole system to crash, you just need to clean them up. Once this has been accomplished, and as long as this is the "sole source" generating the nitrate in the aquarium, with some water changes and by keeping to a good regular maintenance routine after that, nitrate and bio-balls woes in all likelihood will decrease.

    How can you tell if the bio-balls are dirty?

    One way you can test to see if it's time for a cleaning is by ruffling or lightly stirring up the top layer of the bio-balls. When this is done you will see gunk break loose from them. The only problem is that in most all cases the mass of the organic matter settles in the bottom layer of the bio-chamber, because it gets pushed down by the water dispensed into the filter over time. You can stir the bio-balls up from the bottom to see how things look, but be careful doing this. If the filter is running and the output water goes directly back into the aquarium without being filtered first, it can shoot a bunch of the gunk right into the tank. To prevent this you can place a micron-mesh bag that is fine enough to catch the organic matter as the water is dispersed into the tank. To assist with cleaning up any possible organic matter that may get into the aquarium while you are testing for, as well as performing a cleaning, attach a simple hang-on-tank canister filter (read reviews & compare prices) for mechanical filtration and run it during and several hours afterwards.

    Before You Start Cleaning

    This is a procedure suggested to be performed only on aquariums that have been running for at least 4 months, because the nitrifying bacteria have had time to develop a strong population, and in all likelihood the bio-balls have begun to accumulate a substantial, but not overwhelming amount of DOCs.

    As far as how often a cleaning needs to be done, if your system has been running for some time, say longer than 6 months, with no bio-ball maintenance at all, it may take a little time to get them cleaned up first. After that you can determine when cleanings need to be performed based on how your individual system is set up and functions. After a while you will know when to do it.

    Even though periodic bio-ball cleanings are important, this procedure may weaken the nitrifying bacteria population that keeps the ammonia/nitrite in check in an aquarium. Therefore, it is vital that you do it properly to avoid stressing your system, and possibly causing new tank syndrome.

    How To Clean Dirty Bio-Balls

    It is NOT the bio-balls in a wet/dry trickle or other type of inert biological filter that go BAD! Just like with an undergravel filter, it is the "lack of proper maintenance" that turns them into a nitrate factory. If you periodically rinse them off and keep them clean, nitrate and bio-balls woes should decrease, as long as this is the sole source of the nitrate problem in the aquarium.

    *Difficulty: Easy
    *Time Required: 30 minutes or less

    Here's How:
    Place some new saltwater in a five gallon plastic bucket, or any other type of good sized deep plastic container. This is where you will rinse and clean the bio-balls off. If you are planning for a water change, water removed from the aquarium may be used for this as well.
    Turn off the filter.
    Remove about 1/4 of the bio-balls from the filter chamber and place them into the container with the saltwater.
    Stir and swish the bio-balls around in the saltwater to break all the gunk or organic matter loose that is stuck on them. If they are extremely dirty, you may have to repeat this step. DO NOT scrub the bio-balls! Just allow the saltwater to do the job, nothing more than that.

    Scoop the rinsed bio-balls out and place them back into the filter bio-chamber. A plastic kitchen colander works great for this, but any type of cup or small container with drain holes in it will do. The bio-balls come out, the yucky water stays behind.

    Restart the filter.

    Test for the appearance of ammonia every few days for a week, then every several days over another week after that. If the testss read near zero after this time, it is ok to repeat the process. If ammonia does appear, wait until readings drop back to zero, then wait another couple of weeks after that before repeating the process with the next batch of bio-balls.

    Tips:
    This procedure is suggested to be performed on aquariums that have been running for at least 4 months, because the nitrifying bacteria have had time to develop a strong population, and in all likelihood the bio-balls have begun to accumulate a substantial, but not overwhelming amount of DOCs (Dissolved Organic Compounds) on them.

    NEVER use freshwater to clean the bio-balls, and NEVER clean all the bio-balls at once, as this in all likelihood WILL cause your system to crash! Because this procedure strips away and weakens the nitrifying bacteria population present on the bio-balls that the aquarium relies on to keep ammonia and nitrite in check, only clean about 1/4 of the bio-balls during any one cleaning session.
    If your system has been running for sometime, say longer than 6 months, with no bio-ball maintenance at all, it may take a little time to get them cleaned up first. After that you can determine when periodic cleanings need to be performed based on how your individual system is set up and functions. You'll learn to know when it needs to be done.

    Test for cleaning by lightly stirring up the top layer of the bio-balls. You will see gunk break loose. The only problem here is that in most all cases the mass of the organic matter settles in the bottom layer. You can stir the bio-balls up from the bottom, but be careful doing this because you may get a bunch of gunk shot into the tank if the filter output goes directly into the tank.
    This procedure can be used to clean not only bio-balls, but other types of biological filtration mediums as well.

    What You Need:
    5 gallon plastic bucket
    new or used saltwater
    plastic kitchen colander
    ammonia test kit

    END
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2006
    jhnrb, Oct 12, 2006
    #18
  19. jhnrb

    jhnrb

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    Stocking rates primer.
    From Marine Depot articles
    Clears up some but not all of the inch per gal issue for fish.

    Inches to gallons, and creating a midget fish? The full explanation...

    When asking about proper stocking rates for both fresh and salt water aquariums, the most often offered yet most misunderstood advice is the phrase "one inch of fish to a gallon of water" (or, in salt water circles, one inch of fish to three to five gallons of water). This mini-article will properly explain the basis behind the phrase and how it translates into deciding upon stocking rates for your aquarium (from a biological load and water quality perspective only - behavioral issues are not discussed but may have to come into play, such as territory requirements of the particular species). This is not scientifically exact, but it is a very good guideline/rate calculating system to use to ensure that the starting hobbyist won't crash their tank by stocking it with a load greater than the tank environment can easily handle and process.

    Definition of an inch

    This refers to a freshwater fish that at one inch long has the same body mass as a livebearer, like a molly, or a tetra, meaning a fish that is about 1/2 inch thick, and 1/2-3/4 inches tall. The saltwater equivalent would be a small damselfish, like the blue devil damsel, that is about 3/4" tall, and 1/2" (app) thick.

    Meaning of a gallon

    The gallon is the amount of water needed to sufficiently dilute the waste level the fish creates, to enable it to be comfortable, until the filtration can break the wastes down into less poisonous substances. So, a 1" long molly will need a gallon of water to dilute it's urine, CO2, and fecal matter to a level it can "deal with" until the wastes get carried to the filtering process (whatever that may be). A 1" damsel will need 3-5 gallons of water for the same "comfort level".

    What does all this mean?

    NOW, keep in mind the whole body mass issue mentioned above. If we take a different type of fresh water fish, like an Oscar, for example, we can see that the load factor, or biomass, per running inch, is not the same as a molly. The Oscar is both thicker and taller than the molly is, and represents a far higher load factor. (Think of how many mollies can fit into the space occupied by the Oscar's body - it will take at least 20-30 mollies, to equal the body mass of a 5" long Oscar, if they were fit next to and stacked upon one another like sardines). Every running inch of Oscar is at least twice as thick as a molly and quite a few times (15-20 times the height for an adult Oscar) taller. A 5" long Oscar would require a 20-30 gallon tank, ALL BY ITSELF, for proper comfort and life support-with filtration. A full grown Oscar can completely fill a 75-100 aquarium by itself, from a carrying capacity standpoint.

    Metabolism also plays a role for the determination - a sedate fish will place less load factor on a system than an active fish will, per the same amount of biomass, as the more active fish needs to eat more, and will produce more waste, to support the same amount of actual biomass.

    The same rules apply for a saltwater tank, though the ratios are a bit different, and the metabolism factor also needs to be considered. For example, a Tang requires far more space and swimming room than it's body mass alone would lead one to figure - they require very large amounts of oxygen, and release larger amounts of CO2, per unit of body mass, than a lionfish does, for example, and their behavior demands lots of swimming room.

    Can a cube create a midget? (The "tank size affecting fish size" myth exposed and explained)

    Many years ago, before the underlying concepts of waste management in closed systems and how they affect growth rates in fish were understood, people who kept aquaria didn't really understand the need for performing water changes. They also noticed that fish tended to stop growing at an earlier age in smaller tanks, than they did in larger tanks. This lead to the erroneous assumption that the physical size (dimensions) of the tank determined the physical size of the fish. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Here's why:

    All animals will reach the size they grow to as a function of their genetic potential and their ability to take advantage of that potential. To illustrate, let's look at people - even siblings grow up to be different heights because the genes that determine growth rate and final size are different for everyone. As long as one receives proper nutrition and exercise, and is kept in good health, one will reach the maximum height that one's genes will allow for. Raising a child in a bathroom, will not turn them into a midget, as long as they get proper diet and perform calisthenics/exercise, have access to good fresh air and water to breathe and drink, (though they may go mental from boredom ;p ), and aren't subject to re-breathing their own CO2, or re-consuming their own waste. Also to illustrate, if you try to keep an elephant in a 6'x6' cube from birth, it will not become a cube shaped elephant measuring 6'x6' as an adult. You will end up with a busted cube. ;p

    If an Oscar is kept in a 20 gallon tank, that is then plumbed/piped into a 1000 reservoir system, it will reach a foot long in spite of the physical size of the tank-since it's wastes are not building up in the system to the point of interfering biologically with it's growth potential. Alternatively, you can achieve the same result by performing daily water changes. One of the main waste products that fish produce is an anti-growth hormone, the function of which is most likely to ensure that the largest fish from a group of offspring, get a better survival chance than their slower growing siblings, to help increase the percentage of faster growing (and therefore better suited for survival) offspring in successive generations. This is often observed in closed systems.

    When rearing fry:

    Out of any group of fry, a small percentage will always start to grow faster than the rest of the group, and that smaller percentage will ALWAYS remain the largest. If the larger fry are then removed, another amount of fry will then "spurt" in growth, while the remainder does not, and so on. This is due to the presence of that anti-growth hormone. Again, water changes, or a corresponding increase of waste dilution ability due to an increase in water volume, will mitigate the effects and concentration of the levels of that hormone in the water.

    The bottom line is that the physical dimensions of any aquarium have nothing to do with the end size of a fish, the management and water quality do. :)
     
    jhnrb, Feb 9, 2007
    #19
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