Tip of the Week – Learn about the fish you are getting.

The lifespan pf many of the more popular fish we commonly keep in the hobby can surprise many people.  Clownfish for example can commonly live up 15 years in captivity and many tangs can live up to 25 years.




Conscientious Marine Aquarist, 2008, Bob Fenner

Planning a FOWLR Aquarium

Just a few ideas to think about when planning a FOWLR set-up.  This is not the only way to set-up a great FOWLR aquarium, but it is my preferred way based on my experiences

  • Start with the largest aquarium size that you can reasonably get.  The reason why I make this recommendation is that some of the most colorful and active fish best suited for FOWLR set-ups (such as triggers, lionfish, and angels), can get big.  You don’t want to limit yourself  latter on and have to buy another set-up.  Although you can have a very small FOWLR tank with a lot of the smaller fish commonly available in the trade, I would still suggest a 4 foot tank at least 120 gallons would be a good starting point.  A 6 foot long 180 gallon would be best. I always like to keep my options open for the future.
  • Although your live rock will supply very effective biological filtration, you will have to watch your parameters closely and consider adding additional filtration if you are having difficulties.  Starting off with a sump filled with live rock, a skimmer, and even some macro algae would help a lot here.
  • Choose your substrate based on the need of any fish you may want to keep.
  • Pick very good quality rock to use in the set-up.  You want to get the most out of your filtration so do not cut corners on your live rock
  • Pick a very good quality skimmer.  A good quality skimmer is the key to getting a keeping a very healthy set-up without adding any extra work.  You need the top of line skimmer, but don’t want to cut corner either
  • Don’t go overboard on lighting.  As there will be no corals, pick lower lighting levels and color tone that will allow the fish to look their best.  I would suggestion to use mostly acintic and Fuji purple in a FOWLR set-up with a little light ranging in the 20,000 to 22,000K spectrum .
  • Have a plan for adding your fish.  If the fish you want are very territorial or potentially very aggressive, add them all at once and when they are all the same size (preferably very small as well).  Keep a very close eye on your parameters as this approach can be risky. If your fish are not territorial and/or aggressive, add them one fish at a time waiting about 2 weeks in between each fish. Going as slow as practical here is the key when you have that option.

This acrylic aquarium manufacturer has over 50 years of combined experience in acrylic aquarium design, manufacturing, filtration and construction of individually designed projects

The below links might also be helpful:




Tip of the Week: Waterchanges

I’m the type of hobbyist that likes to keep things as simple as possible while maintaining the best possible water quality that I can.  One of the more important parts of this is completing weekly water changes.  I have found that completing a weekly water change of about 10% to 20% works well for maintaining trace element that will be consumed by corals and coralline algae while helping to prevent a buildup of nitrates and/or phosphates in the water.  Depending on the amount and type of corals combined with the bioload of your fish, you can adjust the amount of your water change to have the same effect.  I have found the less supplements you have to dose, the more stable your water will be.  Weekly water changes allow me to achieve that without having to put a lot of effort and expense into dosing and testing trace elements.


The below links can add a little more details for you






Tip of the Week: Choosing the right Substrate

Some people have asked me which substrate is best for their set-up.  Below are some random thought on the subject that always come up in these conversations

1 – Why do you even need substrate ?  You can go “bare bottom” saving yourself some money and a little extra work. Pros: less work, less expense.  Cons: waiting for coralline to grow on the bottom, doesn’t look as natural as you can have with substrate

2- What are you planning to stock?  If you are planning jaw fish or some of the sand sifting fish, then you need to have a substrate that meets the specific needs of those fish.

3 – What about Live Sand.  In my experience, it is not worth the extra expense.  As this product is placed in a sealed bag and potentially exposed to temperature extremes, you will get a very large die-off of the beneficial bacteria’s that will be there.

4 – What type of flow are you planning for your set-up.  If you are planning a high flow set-up, then stay away from finer particle sand.  The flow within the tank can move the substrate around if you are not careful

5 – Stay away from crushed coral or excessively large particle substrates.  It is very easy to have debris collect in the cracks and crevasses in these types of substrate were your cleanup crew cannot get to it.  Without a lot of extra substrate cleaning, this will lead to higher than normal nutrient levels over time.

6 – Do not use substrates meant for fresh water aquariums.  These fresh water substrates (especially sand) will contain higher amounts of silicates than what is normally found in marine substrates.  This will put higher levels of silicates in your water which in most cases will lead to a lot more diatoms and other algaes in your tank.


The below links can provide you with additional information



Tip of the Week: Get the Optimal Filtration for your Tank

Many hobbyist just entering the hobby will have “sticker shock” when they see the prices for good quality live rock.  Sometimes this will result in some people t trying to find the cheapest approach to filtration.  This is the wrong approach to take.  Cutting corners on your filtration will always result in long term difficulties.  The below links can better explain what I mean







Tip of the Week: Always Quarantine New Fish

This is one lesson I had to learn the hard way many years ago.  It can be very easy to get a fish that is carrying, or infected with, a disease in the very early stages making it very difficult (if not impossible) to visually see.  I used to lose many fish to ick before I started using a quarantine tank.  Many people skip this process and add new fish to their display tanks right away, using the agreement that quarantine new fish is too much work and expense.  In my experience,  the work and expense of dealing any type of disease in your main tank is just as costly and just as much effort as utilizing a quarantine set-up, however, it can prevent the loss of existing fish in your display tank.


The below link will provide you with some more detailed information


Some Basic Guidlines for LED Lighting in Aquariums

When looking at getting LED lighting for your aquarium, it can seam overwhelming when considering all the features and options that you will have to choose from. However, it doesn’t have to be all that difficult if you keep it simple.  I have learned that applying a few simple concepts, or rules of thumb, LED lighting become a whole lot easier to understand.  The below is what I have learned. This is not and all inclusive set of instructions, just something simple to get you started if you have no experience with LED lighting.  Most people do not pay attention to the angle of the lenses used or do not understand how different the wattage can be with a LED diode (as compared to a T5 or T8 bulb) and they end up with a fixture that really will not meet their long term needs.

I have included some simple guidelines for both fresh water and marine environments so you may also have a few other points of comparison.

  • For tanks that are 36 to 48 inches long and 12 to 24 inches tall, I would suggest a  fixture that is about 6 to 8 inches wide (or even a little wider) – For a 48 inch long fixture you should have around 30 to 40 1 watt LEDs, either Cree or Apollo manufactured LED diodes.
  • For a 36 inched tank, about 25 to 30 1 LED just as mentioned. This would give you the options for easy to keep and some of the moderately depending plants.
  • Get a fixture with about 20% more LEDs if you think (or are planning) that want more demanding plants in the future or corals for a marine set-up.
  • If you are putting this fixture on a freshwater set-up, then choose LEDs with a color temp of less than 7,000K. -If you are putting this fixture on a marine tank, then choose LEDs with a color temp of higher  than 12,000K, 18,000 to 20,000K is best.
  • For a fresh water set-up you can add a few red or Fugi pink colored LEDs if you want to help the colors in your tank “pop”
  • For a marine set-up you can add a few Fugi pink or actinic LEDs you want to help the colors in your tank “pop”.  You can also have a 50/50 mixture of 12,000 to 18,000K white and 22,000K or higher blue LEDs and still support coral growth (most corals) while helping to limit algae.
  • Add a controller to adjust the intensity of the light if you want.  Many different manufactures make the LED controllers differently with a lot of different options.  You should research this carefully so you know what you can and cannot control.
  • For lenses, I would suggest a mixture of about 50% of the lenses around 40 to 60 degrees, the rest around 60 to 80 degrees.  This will determine how much light intensity will be reaching the bottom of the tank and is just as important, if not more important, than the wattage of the LEDs themselves.  The below simple diagram (not to scale) can help you better understand what I am talking about

I hope you have found this information useful   You can also read through the below link for some additional information on reef aquarium lighting https://www.reefaquarium.com/2012/reef-lighting-2/


The below link also contains a lot very information as well




Flukes in Marine Fish

One of the growing trends that I have seen (and experienced) is that flukes are becoming more and more common in the hobby. It used to be that fluke were more common on only certain types of fish, but more and more it seems that all fish can easily get them, or at least that has been my experience.
Flukes are a type of parasite with the broad group of gyrodactylus parasites. There are two common types of flukes, the ones that infect the skin of the fish (dactylogyrus trematodes), and the second that will infect both the skin and gills of the fish (monogenenean trematodes).  Both can be very hard (if not almost impossible) to visually see on the fish until very advanced stages. While attached to the fish, they will feed on the tissues they are attached to. At some point they will start releasing eggs which will fall and lay dormant within the aquarium for about a week.  They will hatch , releasing a free floating / swimming larva. This larva will survive for two or three days without attaching to a host before dieing. Typically the larvae will attach itself to either the gills or skin of the fish. Once attached, the larva will develop into a worm and releasing eggs continuing the life cycle. This final stage can last for about a week, maybe a little longer

Common Symptoms to look for:

The below list is the most common symptoms that you will find.  You may notice one or many of the symptoms listed below:

1 Cloudy eyes
2 Rapid breathing
3 Fraid fins
4 Excessive slim coat production
5 Loss of appetite or even completely stopping to eat
6 twitching/shaking the head from side to side almost like it was trying to shake something off its head
7 discolored blotches on the fish which can even look a lot like velvet some times
8 Flashing against objects in the aquarium with periods of almost no activity
9 White to almost translucent spots on the fish that look almost like the ick virus, but are larger and not as close together.


Treatment Options:
1- Fresh water dips
While many hobbyists still successfully use freshwater dips, I do not like nor do I recommend fresh water dips. When completed incorrectly, they can cause more harm than good to an already sick fish. Additionally, with many of the new(er) medications available today that are a lot more effective and less harmful and less stressful to the fish, I feel fresh water dips are no longer required.
2- Treatment with medication in a QT set-up
This is my preferred method and is the one that I have obtained the most success with. I would recommend a treatment with Prazi-pro. This medication is safe to use in reef tanks with SPS corals and carpet anemones, and is also safe to be used in a QT set-up with copper based medications. However, they key to being able to successfully treating flukes is catching the symptoms early enough for the treatment to work. If the infection has spread to much through the gills, or the fish is no longer eating, you have a lower chance of successfully treating the fish.  You also have to keep in mind, is that by treating a infected fish in a QT step-up or in a medicated treatment dip, you are not dealing with any of the parasite’s eggs that could be in your main tank waiting to hatch and infect / re-enfect your fish.  You may have to consider treating  your whole system.
The only caution to using prazi-pro in a display tank is that it will have an effect on worms (like flat worms) as well as some of the more sensitive filter feeders like coco-worms.

Preventative Measures
I always QT any fish I get before adding them to my display tank. As fish can carry flukes without actually becoming infected, I always use a preventative treatment of prazi-pro while in QT. While there are many medications out there that work on flukes, I have found prazi-pro works the best and it has the least side effects. Copper based medications will not work on flukes.

How did flukes get into my aquarium?

In short, they will have to be brought into your set-up by you.  Typically they will get into your setup through:
1 An infected fish
2 On live rock from a infected set-up
3 On a coral form a infected set-up
4 In water added to your tank from an infected set-up
Poor water quality and / or environment stress will allow fluke to thrive and really take hold in your set-up.

Just a Word on Using Medications
1 Make sure your salinity is at least at 1.025 when using meds. All meds have a stronger than intended impact when used at lower levels of salinity
2 If treating with Praz-pro, remove your skimmer cup but leave the skimmer running. The use of praz-pro will make your skimmer go nuts. It will produce a truly amazing amount of bubbles like you have never seen before. You want to still have your skimmer running to keep the oxygen levels high in the water as some medications like praz-pro can lower the amount of oxygen in the water which is something you want to avoid.
3 Don’t forget to remove any type of carbon that you have running in your system
4 Fresh water dips will only remove the flukes from a infected fish, and not the flukes which are laying dormant within your set-up
5 Poor water quality and environmental stress will make most medications close to being useless

Converting a Freshwater Aquarium into a Saltwater Aquarium

So after keeping a freshwater aquarium, you now have decided to try out a marine aquarium.While there are many similarities between the two, there are also some differences.Marine is not any harder to set-up or maintain when compared to freshwater, but there is a little more to it. The amount of success you will get with your marine aquarium will be in direct proportion to the amount of research you complete beforehand. This article is meant guide you through that assuming you have only just started. There will be a lot of information contained in the below links so don’t feel overwhelmed.I would suggest reading through them, take your time, and take things one step at a time. There is nothing overly difficult here.

Once you have some basic and little more than basic information, you can now plan your set-up. These links can help with that part:

With some information and a plan in mind, you are now ready to start converting your freshwater aquarium into a marine aquarium. First step is to rehome your current fresh water fish. I would suggest seeing if you could return them to your local fish store. That would typically be one of the better options if you do not know someone who is will to take the fish from you. You could maybe even receive some store credit, but that would depend on the store’s policies for this.
Next step would be to empty the tank completely, and remove the décor and substrate, followed by giving the tank and all equipment a very good cleaning with some vinegar water. I would also suggest taking down your filtration and give it a thorough cleaning in tap water.  The beneficial bacteria that lives and thrives in your fresh water filters will not transfer over to a saltwater environment. Due to the different minerals and mineral concentrations between fresh water and salt water, practically all of the fresh water bacteria will be killed off due to osmotic shock if you were to place them in a marine water environment. You will also need to replace the substrate that was used in your fresh water tank with substrate that is meant for a marine environment.  A good marine substrate will leach out minerals like calcium which will help your pH to remain more stable in your marine set-up.
Next would be to add your substrate to the aquarium.  I would not recommend live sand.  I good quality marine substrate is all you need.
After that, fill your aquarium with premixed salt water with a salinity of between 1.025 to 1.026.  The below links may be of help:

Next step is to set-up your filtration and cycle your aquarium.  The below links will help with that:


 You can add your lighting at any point, but I would recommend adding it after your tank is cycled in order to help prevent algaes. In the past, I used the same T5HO light fixture but changed the bulbs to a more appropriate color temp and an actinic bulb. This approach give you more appropriate lighting to a marine set-up and will help avoid nasty algaes. Typical marine lighting will have a color temp of 12,000K to 22,000K. Keep in mind, there are different requirements for reef aquariums as compared to FOWLR. Some of the below links can help pick out marine bulbs or a new light fixture.

 Once your cycle has completed, you need to test your water for about a week or two to make sure everything is in line.  The below will help you identify what you need to test for and the ideal parameters to maintain.

 Once you have confirmed the parameters are stable, you can start to slowly add your fish.  The below information can help with deciding what fish to start with and the importance of using a quarantine tank.

 Now that your set-up is up and running with at least your first few tank inhabitants, you will now need to focus on ongoing routine maintenance.  The below link will help with that.


I hope this will be able to help you through the move from freshwater into saltwater

Invasive Xenia Corals Established in the Caribbean

Thriving populations of Indo-Pacific Xenia has been found on reefs in Venezuela. Xenia corals are very quick growing and might pose as serious treat to the native reefs and the species living on them. Continue reading