Do you want copepods in your reef tank?  Considered the Super Food of the Ocean

Do you want copepods in your reef tank? Considered the Super Food of the Ocean

Copepods: the largest biomass on earth, the fastest organism and having one of the highest nutrient dense biological makeups,

The mighty Copepod is the Super food of the Ocean.

This subclass of Crustecean, Copepoda, make up the largest biomass on earth.; this fact alone is indicative of the critical role copepods play in the health of the earths water sources.  Much to many peoples surprise, Copepods are not limited to oceans.  Copepoda live swimmingly well – in both freshwater as well brackish water.

Copepod varieties are well over 10,000 with these small yet durable creatures boasting one of the must robust adaptation abilities known to man.  Not only are they the largest single component of the food web, but they are also the fastest animal on the planet relative to their size.  Comparatively – if a person could jump 1/2 of a mile in 2 seconds, humans would earn the coveted title of fastest creature.  Copepods have all of us beat, hands down.  As they are a highly sought after food source, their ability to out maneuver predators has marked their success in the game of cat vs mouse.

Copepods also commonly referred to as Pods, need only a small quantity of moisture to sustain life.  They have been found in moist moss as well as polar regions.  In 2004, the New York Times wrote about a small crustacean found in the drinking water in NY City.  Our forever friend, the copepod, caused quit a ruckus as many orthodox Jews were concerned about the small crustacean and the “Kosher-ness” of their kitchens.  Water Filters were installed at such an alarming rate the wait time was several weeks as the plumbers in the NY City area struggled to keep up with demand.

 

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Copepods are also Environmentally friendly.  Scientists estimate that copepods are the largest absorber of carbon, valued at 1-2 billion tons of carbon each year.  Since they release less carbon waste then they absorb, this gives the humble Pod the well earned nickname carbon sink, defined by Wikipedia as a reservoir which accumulates more carbon from the environment then it excretes.

As a key component in the nutritional well being of many animals, the amazing aspect of pods is their sheer percentage of protein they bring to the dinner table.  Pods are one of the most nutrient dense organisms on the planet at an average of 50% Protein.  Animals, such as, seabirds, invertebrates, both freshwater and saltwater, as well as whales & many other fish, survive primarily on a diet of pods.  .

When considering what these small but mighty creatures will do for your reef tank, consider this:  Uptake of waste, super food of protein value, and a natural super organism.  Why would you not wan them in your tank?

Considering all that they do and are responsible for, it is easy to say that copepods are the most important creature we can own.

Copepod

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Banggai Cardinalfish – Is this the Fabulous Reef Safe Fish you have been looking for in your reef tank?

Banggai Cardinalfish – Is this the Fabulous Reef Safe Fish you have been looking for in your reef tank?

Today I was watching our Banggai Cardinalfish which are a fabulous reef safe fish.  I suddenly realized – everyone with a reef aquarium should have 3-5 of these fish.  If you want an elegant reef safe schooling fish that looks super cool, this is the fish for you.  You may have heard this fish called by a few other names.  They are often referred to as a Banner Cardinal, Kaudems Cardinal or a Longfin Cardinal Fish.   Banggai Cardinals are typically around 2 inches at max size.  The coloration of the Banggai Cardinalfish is quite impressive.  The silver tan body is punctuated with black stripes, containing white polka dots like markings.  My group of Banggai Cardinalfish are extremely docile, making this one of my favorite schooling fish.

banghai-cardinal,reef-fish

Banggai Cardinalfish are limited to the Banggai Islands of Indonesia.  With such a small geographic habitat, it is critical that aquacultured specimens be your first consideration.  Without a concerted effort by the aquarium industry to demand sustainable options, over-harvesting & ultimate extinction is a real threat.  Fortunately, these beauties breed easily in captivity, and multiple aquafarm facilities have started breed programs for Banggai Cardinals for the aquarium trade in large, consistent quantities.

One of the most amazing sites to see is a group of young Banggai Cardinals hiding within the spines of long spine urchins.  These fish are commonly found in shallow pool of 500+ animals grouped together hiding from predators among the long spikes of the urchins.

At a recent trip to one of our wholesalers, I noticed several very small Banggai Cardinals which had recently been born swimming among the selection of leather toadstools.  They were as small as a standard pencil eraser on the end of a yellow #2 pencil.  Grabbing my Nikon fitted with a 105 Macro Lens & Underwater housing, I quickly began shooting their pictures but to no avail.  I will attempt another photo shoot shoot so you can experience this wonderful birthing event.

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Not feeding your Corals ?  We break it down so you can fatten them up!  A fat coral is a happy coral!

Not feeding your Corals ? We break it down so you can fatten them up! A fat coral is a happy coral!

Coral Food: Easy recipe & guide – how the pros do it every day.

Coral Food – What they need, what they like & how to make it!

Coral Food:  We know that corals eat in the wild and yet some forget that corals eating in captivity is the job of the caretakers.  We must take responsibility for directly providing coral food daily.  Target feeding or supplying a large amount of free swimming foods are your best options.

Target feeding coral food requires patience, dedication and preparation of the food source. You can buy premixed frozen foods or you can make your own by following the recipe at the bottom of the post. Typically it is best when targeting feeding to turn of the pumps so that the animals have the best possible chance of catching their dinner as it goes by, but it is critical to remember to turn the pumps back on within an hour. Unless proper, well functioning skimmers and clean up crews are in place, any leftover food will quickly breakdown into waste and cause excess algae growth.

Supplying a buffet of coral food will frustrate the perfectionist as this approach almost insures excess algae growth etc. It is an easier approach by simply adding phytoplankton, pods, rotifers etc to the system on a daily/weekly basis but the excess load can encourage excess algae growth. Once again – proper well performing skimmer and clean up crew do go a long way in nutrient export and will assist in keeping the algae growth to a minimum in most cases.

There are issues with both options as with anything. Remember – we are attempting to house a closed eco system within our living room, replicating nature will increase our success substantially.

 

Step 1:

Typically I examine the oral area of the coral. If it looks big, chances are strong it will eat BIG food particles. You can start with smaller food and work up!

 

         LARGE MOUTHS:    ie  ANEMONES, OPEN BRAINS

APPROPRIATE CORAL FOOD SOURCE: THAWED SILVER SIDE FISH, KRILL, MYSIS SHRIMP

 

         MEDIUM MOUTHS:   ie: HAMMER, TORCH, FROG SPAWN, CANDY CANE, SUN CORALS, SHROOMS

APPROPRIATE CORAL FOOD SOURCE: MYSIS SHRIMP, BLENDED MIXTURE (RECIPE BELOW)

 

         SMALL MOUTHS:   ie: ZOANTHIDS, PALYTHOA

APPROPRIATE CORAL FOOD SOURCE: BLENDED MIXTURE (RECIPE BELOW), ZOPLANKTON

 

         MICRO MOUTHS:   ie: ACROS, GORGONIAN

APPROPRIATE CORAL FOOD SOURCE: PHYTOPLANKTON

 

Step 2:

Prepare your food based upon what they need.

         BLENDED FOOD SOURCE:

In kitchen blender, add thawed mysis shrimp, krill, blood shrimp, cyclopeze, vitamins, HUFA. This mixture can be stored by freezing in slabs or kept in refrigerator in a airtight               container turkey baste it on to them with the pumps OFF. I usually leave the pumps off for about 1-1.5 hours.

 

         PHYTOPLANKTON/ZOOPLANKTON/ COPEPODS:

I like the ZoPlan and PhytoPlan by Two Little Fishies. Other people swear by DT’s Phytoplankton- Find a source for phytoplankton and your filter feeders will be forever grateful!  Many large mouths corals love Copepods.   Below is a photo I took several years ago of my dendrophyllia eating amphipods & copepods.  It doubled in size in less than a month by enjoying these yummy treats!  I have also fed Live Pods to Anemones, Blastomussa, Scolys, Chalices & Lord Acans just to name a few.

 

Dendrophyllia eating pods

Dendrophyllia eating pods

 

I have included a handy guide for preparing coral food below.  Enjoy!

 

A Helpful Guide to feeding Corals

A Helpful Guide to feeding Corals

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Sun Coral Tubastrea: well trained & beautiful

Sun Coral Tubastrea: well trained & beautiful

Sun Corals are NON photosynthetic – meaning that they do not need sunshine for life – but they must have meaty foods & flow.

Sun Corals are some of the coolest corals available within the coral market because they will eat and eat, and once they are in the habit of eating at an exact time, they will extend their “fingers” at the exact time EVERY day!!  It is easier to train a sun coral than some children!!

My sun coral is pretty accustomed to eating every day around 9:30pm. However it will extend whenever you put any food in the tank. I blend up some mysis shrimp, krill, blood shrimp, cyclopeze, vitamins, HUFA and turkey baste it on to them with the pumps OFF. I usually leave the pumps for about 1-1.5 hours. Just don’t forget to turn them back on!  🙂

You can also feed them defrosted mysis shrimp with the turkey baster or pieces of silver sides. They LOVE to eat.

Please remember when you are feeding sun corals, anything that is not eaten will break down into YUCK – which if left in your tank will raise your nitrates, phosphates and cause issues.  So… make sure you have a good protein skimmer and plenty of clean up crew to remove leftover food & waste.

Here are the easy steps to follow:

1. Tempt the coral with a VERY diluted mixture of mysis shrimp (just the liquid from the shrimp) no actual shrimp.  Defrost the mysis shrimp in saltwater and then using a turkey baster gently blow the liquid around the sun coral.  Do not remove the coral from its place in the tank – which is why I say dilute the liquid mysis very heavily.  Do this every day at the same time for 2-3 days.

2. By the third day, you should see the coral beginning to extend it “fingers” – they are sticky and will catch meaty substance for eating.  You can begin to add some pieces of mysis into the water mixture – I generally slow the current down so that the coral has ample opportunity to catch the food.

3. Feed daily at the same time – if you want the coral to be active and pretty in the day time – make it a noon feeding time.

 

Position in the tank: they like moderate flow (to catch stuff as it goes by) and LOW light. On the reef they are under ledges, etc….

 

Check Out this Neat Guide we put together:

 

SunCoral Care Sheet

Love Your Sun Corals – Feed Them

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Saltwater Aquarium Tips for the New Hobbyist

Saltwater Aquarium Tips for the New Hobbyist

Just got your new saltwater aquarium?

Here are 6 tips to getting your new saltwater aquarium off to the right start:

 

1. Choose your poison very carefully. What I mean is – with your saltwater aquarium do you want a friendly nice communal tank or do you want an aggressive tank.

Beautiful Saltwater Aquarium Fish

Beautiful Saltwater Aquarium Fish

No matter what size saltwater aquarium you have – you can do either if planned well. So think about the main fish & animals you like then make a list. Classify each animal by the following characteristics: Mature size potential, Food Choice, Schooling or Solitary, territorial or friendly,   Cold water species or warm water species, etc.

Many people simply combine the items in such a way that the animals are doomed right from the start – this is heartbreaking for everyone and unfair for the animals. So think ahead when planning your saltwater aquarium.

 

2. Choose your substrate – deep fine sand bed or shallow crushed coral. Either works fine – but a combo of both or a variation of either can cause problems. Here is a quick explanation: Deep fine sand bed houses Anaerobic bacteria (meaning in the presence of oxygen the bacteria will die). Therefore a deep sand bed (3-4″ deep) consisting of fine sand will allow the bacteria a large surface area to grow and thrive yet also keeping water from flowing around the particles of sand located under the first inch of sand bed. Shallow crushed coral beds house AErobic bacteria – these bacteria must have water to live as they are like fish in need of oxygen. The importance in this bacteria is that they eat nitrates – so by simply setting up the aquarium with this bacteria in mind at the beginning of the journey can automatically eliminate the issue with nitrates. ** remember – unlike a freshwater tank – if you have a deep sand bed – please do not siphon the sand – remember ANaerobic bacteria will die in the presence of water so siphoning the sand is a big NO-NO!!

3. Many people claim that a saltwater aquarium is harder than a freshwater aquarium. This is completely untrue. The main difference between saltwater and freshwater is the set up and equipment. If a saltwater tank is set up correctly from the start, it is far easier to care for long term. Getting the substrate correct, having live rock which also houses many different types of good bacteria and investing in a good protein skimmer are the 3 easiest things to do to be on the right path for a successful saltwater tank.

4. Once you start adding animals – plan you approach carefully. Since you have a list of animals you want to add to your saltwater aquarium – classify them as territorial or friendly. A great resource I use frequently is WetWebMedia.com – add the territorial fish LAST.

 

5. When thinking about saltwater corals – making your choices in the beginning can help avoid problems in the future. For example, acropora prefer pristine water and mushrooms prefer water with more nutrients. You can successfully keep both in the saltwater aquarium however it will require more attention to water changes, feeding and excess algae growth. When adding corals – think about your tank as real-estate. If your tank is 4′ long then you basically have 12′ of space to work with if we divide the space in sections from top to bottom as follows – high light, medium light and low light. By making a list of the corals you want and then classifying them as follows- you can determine before you make the first purchase a plan to follow and avoid the heartache of a new piece of coral failing to thrive. Here are some suggestions: Lighting: low, medium, high. Flow requirements: low, medium, high. Food choices, stinging – aggressive coral. Photosynthetic or non-photosynthetic.

 

6. Be aware: Some corals can overtake a tank. This may not be a problem if you never want to keep hard sensitive, slow growing corals. It may be a blessing to get a soft coral that you can encourage to grow on the back of the glass like a shag carpet – this makes everything easier if you never plan to add high dollar, slow growing corals. Remember, just like in real estate, location, location, location. So if you have a slow growing coral that needs high light in your saltwater aquarium and you add a fast growing coral that likes high light – guess who wins. You can keep both in the same saltwater tank – but this will require committed approach to harvesting the fast growing coral weekly to avoid it growing over the slow growing corals.

 

Below is a helpful guide to make this a bit easier!

Tips For Saltwater Aquarium

Handy Tips to Start Your First Saltwater Aquarium

 

 

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Saltwater Aquarium Snails … Algae Eaters vs Detritus Eaters

Saltwater Aquarium Snails … Algae Eaters vs Detritus Eaters

Saltwater Aquarium Snails can be classified a few different ways but for the use of snails in aquariums, it is most helpful to think about what they eat.

First consider this, unlike crabs, saltwater aquarium snails consist of a large meaty body… so if they die they will produce a LOT of waste.

Waste becomes Ammonia which becomes Nitrites which becomes Nitrates which then feeds the Nasty Algae.

The Nitrification Process explained via a Simple Infographic

Simple Infographic displaying the Nitrification Cycle in an Aquarium.

So if you buy the wrong snails or to many snails you will actually increase your algae instead of reducing the algae.

Lets look at the 2 main food substances consumed by saltwater aquarium snails.

1. Algae – algae eaters get a lot of attention because everyone thinks they are the god send for the aquarium.  This is partially true.  They are great for eating algae … However to much of a good thing is a bad thing when it comes to algae eating snails.  To many snails .. not enough food … Snails die …. algae is fed from the death of snails so you end of with more algae.   YIKES!!!


2. Detritus eaters / waste eating snails.  Now these are your TRUE friends.  They keep the house clean in ways you may never know or think about.

A safe recommendation for snail stocking is:

Algae Eating Snails: 1 per 5 gallons of tank water
Detritus Eating Snails: 1 per gallon of tank water

The other consideration is the type of snails.  As with people, all snail palates are not created equal.   So variation is KEY.

Some snails like green algae (ie: Turbo Snails) on the glass, while Cerith Snails prefer brown algae on the rocks.

My favorite detritus eating snail are Nassarius Vibex.

 

Main Point:
Snail biodiversity is key to eliminating
nuisance algae issues.

 

 

Saltwater Turo Snail Grazing on Algae

OOOOOO Yummy Algae … Me Like!!

 

 

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Saltwater Hermit Crabs …. Eating Cyano & Waste …. Best Crab Ever!

Saltwater Hermit Crabs …. Eating Cyano & Waste …. Best Crab Ever!

I noticed several saltwater hermit crabs piled up at the front fighting for food, as I watched my saltwater aquarium after feeding time.   Their antennae raised and lowered in a warning communication call.  It was fascinating to watch them duck and dive for the food pieces, maintaining their distance from each other yet still attempting to steal the morsels.

 

Blue Leg Hermit Crabs Fight

Hey, That’s Mine!! Get your Own!

One of the best uses for Saltwater Blue Leg Hermit Crabs is the reduction of Cyano Bacteria aka Blue Green Algae aka Red Slime Algae.  I conducted an experiment with a patch of slime algae and 100 Blue Leg Hermit Crabs.   The pictures speak for themselves!

Red Slime Algae Before Hermit Crab Addition

Red Slime Algae Before Hermit Crab Addition

After Blue Legs Hermits ate all the Red Slime Algae

After Blue Legs Hermits ate all the Red Slime Algae

The diversity of saltwater hermit crabs is amazing, from blue legs, green legs, brown, red, scarlet, white and black.  Additionally there are many that have some type of patterned design; ie:  halloween, blue knuckle, etc.  Some grow very large while other stay small.   The diets are very different as well, from carnivores to strict herbivores.  Blue Leg Hermits typically will utilize a shell from a whelk, turbo or cerith.  I have seen some pretty inventive hermits who took up house in pieces of sponge, dragging it around on their back.

 

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