Cryptocaryon irritans (a.k.a. Marine or Saltwater Ich, Crypto, or just plain Ich) is one of the most common infestations which plague saltwater fish. It's easily identified by white spots which are about the size of a grain of salt (unlike Marine Velvet, which is notably smaller). In addition, the fish might be seen rubbing against objects, have a lack of appetite, or exhibit heavy breathing, possibly even progressing to frayed fins and cloudy eyes.
Watanabei Angelfish with Ich parasites, photo by seabass.
Ich is a parasite that will feed on its host fish for several days before heading to the substrate. After several hours on the rock or sand, it will encyst and divide into hundreds of potential new parasites. This noninfectious stage can last anywhere between 3 and 28 days. Afterward, they hatch and become free swimming parasites, looking for a fish to infect.
In the wild, this mass reproduction helps ensure the survival of the parasite. But an occasional parasite is typically easily endured by fish in the wild. However, in the confines of our tanks, where the fish cannot escape from the eventual hundreds, or even thousands, of free swimming parasites, an outbreak can lead to the death of the host fish. In addition, the infected fish will likely infect any other fish being held in their shared system (like retail fish tanks).
How To Treat Marine Ich
The two most common and effective remedies for curing fish of Ich are Seachem Cupramine™ and hyposalinity treatments. Cupramine is widely considered the most effective method, while hyposalinity may be the easiest on the fish. There are other medications which might also be effective, like Seachem ParaGuard™; however Cupramine is considered to be the gold standard when it comes to Ich medications.
Seachem Cupramine is a copper treatment, and is ONLY to be used in a hospital tank without calcium rock or substrate. This is because copper is especially toxic to corals and inverts. It also binds to calcium, which reduces its effectiveness, and makes the rock or sand unusable in tanks that will eventually contain invertebrates. And while Cupramine is a relatively safe form of copper for fish, it is still important to ensure you are treating with proper levels via testing (you should not to exceed 0.6 mg/L of copper). In addition, you must remove any chemical filter media from the treatment tank, and carefully follow the instructions on the label.
Hyposalinity, a procedure to reduce the level of salt in the water (hypo), is also highly effective, and is my favorite option for treating Ich. In fact, hyposalinity helps the fish conserve energy during osmoregulation and can even reduce stress. During hypo treatments, specific gravity is usually lowered to 1.009. This is easily endured by most bony fish, with the exception of seahorses, and reportedly some clownfish (which should be treated at a specific gravity of 1.011). It's safe to lower the specific gravity quite quickly, but it must be raised back to normal very slowly.
You must use a refractometer calibrated with RO/DI water to a specific gravity of 1.000 (versus using typical calibration fluid). Swing arm hydrometers are not accurate enough to ensure proper levels. Also note that hyposalinity cannot be used in tanks with live rock or sand containing worms, pods, or other crustaceans, as this will kill them, resulting in die off and an ammonia spike. However, hypo treatments can still be used if the live rock and sand is otherwise devoid of non-bacterial life. It can also be used in conjunction with other meds, such as Seachem ParaGuard.
Once all of the fish are visibly clear of Ich (which usually takes less than 7 days), you should maintain hyposalinity for an additional month, as the treatment is most effective during the parasite's free swimming stage. Afterward, the specific gravity should be slowly increased by no more than 0.002 per day.
There are numerous less effective remedies which range from UV sterilizers, to “reef-safe” anti-parasitic medications, all which may yield different degrees of effectiveness. In addition, there are even some ineffective remedies, like garlic. While I don't want to dispute the claims of these other marketed treatments, I tend to remain skeptical of their ability to completely wipe out Cryptocaryon, and personally recommend the use of either Cupramine or hyposalinity when treating your fish for Ich.
Wait It Out
While your fish are in their hospital tank, the display tank should remain fallow (without fish) for a period of six weeks. This is usually long enough for the parasite to encyst, hatch, and die without finding a host. If using hyposalinity in a hospital tank, it's possible to periodically introduce some water from your treatment tank into your fallow display tank; this might encourage the parasite to look for a host, not find one, and eventually die. However, you don't want to introduce any water containing copper into your display system.
Now that your tank is free of Ich, you will want to keep it that way by quarantining all new livestock. To avoid ammonia spikes in your quarantine tank (QT), you should transfer an established bio-filter from your main tank into the QT. In addition, adequate flow and lighting are required for your quarantine system. Live rock, coral, and other inverts can be quarantined for five weeks without a fish in the tank (which will provide ample time for the parasite's cysts to hatch and die). New fish can be observed in quarantine for five weeks as well, and treated with hyposalinity or Cupramine (and additional quarantine) if it becomes necessary.
Pro, Steven (2003) Marine Ich/Cryptocaryon irritans - A Discussion of this Parasite and the Treatment Options Available, Part I [Online] http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-08/sp/index.php [Accessed 03/08/2017].
Giwojna, Pete (2007) Hyposalinity or Osmotic Shock Therapy (OST) [Online] http://wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_4/V4I4/hyposalinity/OST.htm [Accessed 03/09/2017].
Bartelme, Terry D. (2007) Aquarium Fish: Applications for Hyposalinity Therapy: The Benefits of Salinity Manipulation for Marine Fish [Online] http://www.advancedaquarist.com/2007/6/fish [Accessed 03/08/2017].
Pro, Steven (2005) Garlic: What has been Studied Versus What has been Claimed [Online] http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2005-10/sp/index.php [Accessed 03/08/2017].
Pro, Steven (2003) Marine Ich/Cryptocaryon irritans - A Discussion of this Parasite and the Treatment Options Available, Part II [Online] http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-10/sp/feature/index.php [Accessed 03/08/2017].
Pro, Steven (2004) An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure: A Quarantine Tank for Everything [Online] http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2004-10/sp/feature/ [Accessed 03/08/2017].
While a photo with a dramatic blur can often be artistic, it can also render a subject incomprehensible. Here are some ways to add clarity to your digital photographs.
Tip 1: Reduce shutter lag. The time between pressing the trigger and the camera taking the picture is called shutter lag, and it can cause blurry pictures. Avoid it by pressing the trigger halfway down until you’re ready to shoot. When the right moment comes, press the rest of the way. This strategy is great when you’re taking pictures of people (especially kids) or animals.
Tip 2: Minimize camera shake. Even the slightest camera movement can cause unclear photos. Use a tripod or brace yourself against a stationary object to hold the camera still. Some digital cameras come with image stabilization, another way to help get clear images of moving subjects.
Tip 3: Use your digital camera’s Action shooting mode for taking photos of fish. It automatically optimizes your shutter speed to help capture motion. Or manually increase your camera’s shutter speed to achieve the same effect.
What to Avoid
While some hermit crab species, like the scarlet variety, tend to be less murderous than others, all will eventually need larger shells to use as homes, and snails are the best target for them. Those same snails are for more efficient at algae and detritus cleanup than the crabs will ever be, so why even bother? Other crabs are often included in crews as well — sally light foots and arrow crabs, in particular, are opportunistic and will often eat whatever they can get their claws on. Even the much beloved emerald crabs (Mithrax sp.) have been known to turn carnivorous for no apparent reason. I would recommend emerald crabs as a last resort in an algae battle, not as a preventative measure.
Ok, so you’ve been converted away from using hermit crabs. In your search for a clean-up crew you come across a crab-less package, which should be perfect, right? The problem is, many crab-less packages contain sand sifting organisms, namely starfish and sea cucumbers. These animals rely on microscopic fauna in the sandbed as their sole food source, and once that food is exhausted the animal most often dies. Unless you have a very large tank, on the order of a couple of square feet of sandbed for each cucumber or starfish, these are best left alone.
Coral banded shrimp and peppermint shrimp are sometimes included as part of the clean-up crew, but often they will turn opportunistic, eating coral polyps, other shrimp and sometimes even small fish. All shrimp need to be well-fed or they will make their own meals, often out of your corals.
While most snail species are harmless algae or detritus eaters, there are a few varieties unsuitable for reef tanks. Murex snails are predatory, feeding on other snails and bivalves. Margarita snails pop up from time to time in shops, but are harvested from temperate locales, making them unsuitable for tropical tanks. Flamingo tongue snails are beautiful and harmless to most motile inverts, but feed solely on gorgonians and so require specialized care. Most conch species are effective algae eaters and scavengers, but grow much too large for most reef systems.
Getting the Crew Together
So what’s the alternative? A snail-only crew is the best way to go. Other than the species mentioned above and a few others, most snail species are small and harmless, unless you happen to be a bit of algae or a scrap of food. Let’s take a look at the specific problems you’ll be trying to address with your clean-up crew, and which species are best suited to solving those problems.
Diatoms on Sand and Rocks:
Diatoms look like abrown dust coating the hard surfaces in your tank. While most diatom blooms run their coarse, they can still be unsightly. Cerith snails and limpets are great choices for eating diatoms.
Green Film Algae:
This is the de facto standard as far as algae goes in reef tanks. It exists in all systems to some degree, and can range from barely noticeable to embarrassing. Astrea snails are amazing film algae eaters (the larger ‘turbo’ varieties are best for larger tanks, as they will knock over small frags in their search for food), along with Ceriths and chitons.
There are a couple types of hair algae. The standard type is non-branching and grows in clumps. Many snails munch on this type of hair algae, including turbo snails and chitons. For larger tanks, non-snail animals like urchins and sea hairs can be the solution to a hair algae problem. The other type of hair algae is Bryopsis. The strands of this type of algae branch off and look like tiny feathers. Most algae-eating animals stay away from this stuff; your best bet here is to solve the issues that are causing the Bryopsis rather than trying to find something that will consume it. Some people have had luck with turbo snails, sea hares and a couple other creatures however. Your results may vary.
This slimy, stringy ‘algae’ can often reach plague proportions in tanks with high nutrient inputs. While the best remedy here is prevention, Ceriths and Nerites are both good choices to help with the cleanup.
If you have a heavy hand when feeding your tank, you’ll want to take advantage of various creatures that will mop up the excess food your fish may miss. Nassarius snails are experts in sifting through the sandbed waiting for a meal, and will pop to the surface at the first whiff of feeding time. For getting into the nooks and crannies of your live rock, it is best to rely on the organisms that hitched in, namely pods and bristleworms. An occasional blast with a turkey baster will also help to keep thinks clean.
Stocking Your Tank
Now that you know which types of organisms to avoid and which to use, let’s go over how you should stock your tank with regards to a clean-up crew. You’ll often see so-called rules saying one snail per gallon; these sorts of rules are far too generic to be of any use, and often result in tanks that are overstocked with snails and crabs. Not all reef systems are created equal, and while one 20g may need fifteen snails, another may not need any.
A much better approach would be more organic. If your tank develops an algae bloom, find out which snails or other organisms have the best track record of handling it, then pick up a few of those. Then, wait a couple weeks to give them a chance to do some work. If the problem does not resolve or gets worse, get a few more and wait another couple weeks.
Most new tanks start off with heavy algae growth that dwindles over time. If you end up with a large clean-up crew toward the beginning, be prepared to whittle it down as time goes on and algae supplies decrease. Mature tanks with effective nutrient export and a low bioload often require very few if any snails to control nuisance algae.
To conclude, hermit crabs do have a place in reef tanks, as interesting additions whose antics never cease to amuse. But for a dedicated clean-up crew, the downsides that hermits bring with them far outweigh their benefits. Look instead for a snail-only crew, and stock your tank according to its needs and not according to an arbitrary estimation based on gallonage.
I recently sold my DSLR system to fund a new camera (but ended up putting that money toward a new car — long story). In its place I picked up a cheap little point and shoot from Canon, and I’ve been discovering it’s versatility ever since. Here’s a few tips to keep you from feeling hindered by your point and shoot:
Select Macro Mode This is a fairly obvious first step but I’m always surprised by how many digital camera owners haven’t explored the shooting modes that their camera has. Macro mode is generally symbolized with a little flower and when selected it will tell your camera that you want to focus on a subject closer to your lens than normal (the minimum distance allowed will vary from camera to camera – consult your instruction manual to find yours). Macro mode will also usually tell your camera to choose a large aperture so that your subject is in focus but the background is not.
Learn To Prefocus
The best-composed photographs don’t usually have their subject dead center. However, that’s where the focusing sensor on a P&S camera is. Since the best photographs usually do have their subject in sharp focus, what you want to do is point the center sensor at your main subject, hold the shutter release halfway down, then move the camera until you like the composition. Virtually all P&S cameras work this way but not everyone knows it because not everyone is willing to read the owner’s manual.
Turn The Lights Off
Not the tank light, but the ambient light in the room. A source of light coming from behind the camera will often reflect in the front pane of the tank, basically turning it into a mirror. The object is to photograph your tank, not to photograph a reflection of yourself. Also, if there is a window directly opposite the tank, try shooting at night to avoid reflections. The darker the room the tank is in, the better off you are.
Avoid Digital Zoom
If you are using a digital point and shoot camera you probably have something called “digital zoom”. In order to preserve maximum image quality you should avoid digital zoom whenever possible. If it is your only option, use it — some manufacturers have modes that will only allow digital zoom, like Canon’s Super Macro Mode. If you have the option of optical zoom, use that instead. If you feel you need to get closer, you can always crop the image later on your computer.
Turn Off The Flash
Your eye needs shadows to make out shapes. When the light source comes from the same spot as the lens, your tank will look flat and dimensionless — not to mention on-camera flashes tend to throw an ugly yellow cast over everything. Virtually all point and shoot cameras allow you to control the on-camera flash. What you want to do most of the time is press the tiny lightning bolt button until the “no flash” symbol is displayed. The “no flash” symbol is usually a lightning bolt with a circle around it and line through it. Now the camera will never strobe the flash and will leave the shutter open long enough to capture enough ambient light to make an exposure.
Support The Camera
Generally the easiest way to do this is with a tripod, although lately I’ve taken to resting the lens of my little camera directly against the glass. This accomplishes two things: it steadies the camera, and it ensures the lens is parallel to the tank glass, which minimizes distortions.
If a memory card is lasting for months without filling up, something is wrong. You aren’t experimenting enough. An ideal memory card has 50 pictures of the same subject, all of them bad. These prove that you’re not afraid to experiment. And then one good picture. This proves that you’re not completely incompetent. No one ever gets it right on the first shot, so keep shooting till it’s perfect.
Follow those simple steps and your photos are guaranteed to improve!
Nothing can be more frustrating than spending all that time and money on your beautiful reef, but not being able to get quality photos to email to your family or to show your friends online. Hopefully with the help of this guide you’ll be able to show the rest of the world what it is you get to enjoy every day!
Most of this primer is written for DSLR and advanced point and shoot (P&S) users. If you use a basic P&S, keep in mind that a firm grasp of the following concepts will improve photography from even the most automated of cameras.
First and foremost, READ YOUR MANUAL (cameras, lenses, and all other equipment you’ll be using). You cannot possibly hope to take great photos if you do not understand the features available to you. Also, understand the basics of your camera’s settings and how they interact with each other. Here’s a quick rundown of the basics:
The shutter speed is kind of the stopwatch of the camera. It sets how long the camera stays open. On most cameras, all the shutter speed numbers indicate fractions of a second; that is, the setting “500” means the camera will stay open for 1/500th of a second. Commonly available shutter speeds are 1000, 500, 250, 125, 60, 30, 15, 8, 4, 2, 1 and “B”. Note that each speed is half or twice as much as the speed next to it. 1000 lets in the least amount of light (camera is open for a very short time) and is called a “fast” speed, while 1 lets in the most amount of light (camera is open for a relatively long time) and is called a “slow” speed.
What shutter speed you choose can have a big impact on your photos. If you’re taking pictures of things that move like active fish, you can decide to “freeze the action” and shoot at 1000. This will stop all but the very fastest fin twitch. On the other hand, somea little blur can help to convey a sense of movement, like in a swaying coral. Experience and practice will help you decide what you’re trying to do, and which shutter speed you should use. When in doubt, try the same photo a few different ways. Taking notes helps you learn, too.
The aperture is like the pupil in your eye. It’s a mechanical “iris” inside of the lens that opens and closes to varying degrees to control the amount of light that passes through the lens. When an aperture is “wide open”, it’s gathering all the light the lens is capable of. When the aperture is “stopped down”, or closed down to a pin-hole, it’s letting pass the smallest amount of light possible. This is just like your eye: in a dark room, your pupil opens wide to gather light; in bright daylight, your pupil closes down to cut back on the amount of light entering your eye.
In addition to controlling the amount of light that passes through the lens, the aperture controls something called “depth of field”. In technical terms, depth of field is the expansion of the plane of focus into a zone of acceptable sharpness. A wide open aperture like f/2.8 has very narrow depth of field, while a “slow” aperture like f/22 has very broad depth of field.
Take a look at the photo of the Fungia sp to the right. Notice how only part of the coral is in sharp focus? Selecting a large aperture (small number) lets you choose what part of the photo you want the audience to focus in on by isolating it and blurring the background or foreground. The best way to ensure the correct exposure is to set your camera to Aperture Priority mode. This will let you choose the aperture setting you want, and the camera will automatically select a shutter speed for you. This takes half the guesswork out of the equation and lets you focus on the other aspects of getting a good shot.
The “correct” exposure for a given scene is a function of at least 3 things: shutter speed, aperture and film speed. A basic rule of thumb is to start with a given aperture, say f16, and choose the shutter speed closest to the ISO setting of the camera. Once you have this basic starting point, you can adjust the shutter speed or aperture for effect and modify the settings to get a good exposure.
All exposure meters, including the one in your camera, are basically stupid. They’re calibrated against some standard, and if your photos aren’t standard, then they might tell you the wrong exposure. Let’s say you want to photograph a coral under metal halide lighting. If you point the camera at the top of the coral where it gets the most light, the camera will adjust the exposure for that reading the the parts of the coral in shadow will be rendered an unrecognizable black. In contrast, if you direct the camera at the shaded parts of the coral, the camera will expose correctly for the shadows and the brighter parts of your image will ‘blow out’ to a flat white. You, as a photographer, are charged with getting around this by composing a tighter shot with less contrast, or by adjusting your angle (or the coral’s angle) to the light. Experiment!
Ok, so that was a lot to digest. Here’s a quick run-down of the most basic tips, plus a few specifically designed to get great aquarium shots:
Turn off all pumps and powerheads that provide water movement in your tank.
Put your camera on a tripod or other sturdy support.
Clean your tank, inside and out.
Shoot parallel to the front glass (point the camera perfectly straight into the tank). Shooting at an angle will cause distortions.
Shoot at the highest, finest, largest setting possible. For P&S cameras, that means the largest JPG set to Fine. For DSLRs and advanced P&S cameras, shoot in RAW.
Start with auto white balance, it will often yield acceptable results. When you gain skill (and if your camera is capable) you can use a custom white balance setting.
Shoot on the lowest ISO setting available on your camera.
Turn off your flash, as all it will do is create a flat, dimensionless, yellow-tinged photo.
Use either a remote shutter release or your camera’s timer function when taking photos. This will help to eliminate camera shake caused by pressing the shutter button.
Most images will need some adjustment after you take the photo. This can include contrast, brightness, sharpening, color saturation and white balance adjustments, as well as other more advanced adjustments. The basics can be done with the software included with your camera or a program like Google’s Picasa; the more advanced adjustments will require a more advanced program like Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Pixelmator, or GIMP.
Step 1: Equipment
Since I literally lived on the coast, I had additional equipment that most hobbyists would probably consider unnecessary, but could find helpful should they ever experience an outage. Common items that you should have, or may already have:
Battery Operated Air Pumps
Available from most hardware stores, sporting goods stores, or online from various pet vendors. I purchased a waterproof version that ran for 36 hours on 2 D cell batteries. Don't forget extra batteries, or even better and more environmentally friendly, rechargeable batteries and a charger. A battery operated air pump shouldn't set you back more than about $15, although there are some that will automatically turn on in the event of a power failure that cost more. A battery operated air pump is invaluable, both for oxygenation and water movement, and they're very efficient.
Uninterruptible Power Supplies
Often used to prevent computer data loss during a power outage, a UPS will provide AC power via a battery for a limited amount of time. Very handy for periodically running pumps, filters, heaters, or running low wattage air pumps for days or weeks. They usually run $50 to $200 depending on the size of the battery in the unit. A UPS will be useful every day for protecting your computer or other sensitive electronics. Keeping your aquarium pumps on UPS battery backup can also help prevent brief power outages from disrupting your system or overflow siphon.
Less common items that will help in the event of a long term power outage:
Gasoline or butane powered, a generator (depending upon the size and wattage) will run anything from a small aquarium system to your entire house. Their downfall is they are expensive to run (especially with gas prices these days), require fuel (something that was in such short supply I usually couldn't run one), are usually quite expensive ($400+), and have to be run outside to prevent dangerous carbon monoxide buildup. For me, it turned out that it simply wasn't practical or possible to keep my nanos powered by a generator due to fuel shortages and other necessities. Generators can be purchased at hardware stores or through online vendors.
Portable Power Supply
These nifty items are usually sold for cars, and often have a built in jump-start capability, tire inflator, emergency radio, or some combination thereof. However, many also have AC plugs and function identically to a UPS. I discovered their usefulness to aquatic hobbyists during the hurricane outage by using one to power two small water pumps in our nano reef aquariums, and it could be recharged via our solar charger. I bought my portable power supply from Wal-Mart for $100 for auto emergencies, and have seen them for sale in other warehouse departments and at hardware stores.
Solar Trickle Charger
A small solar panel that trickle charges up to 12 volt batteries. I used this to charge the portable power supply, and an extra car battery I had. Best $20 purchase I've ever made, and they can be found from specialty battery and electronics vendors online.
Many of the above items, or combination thereof, can be used to charge D-Cell batteries for your air pumps, which is generally the most efficient use of your limited power.
Step 2: Prepare
Forewarned is forearmed, so they say, and this is no exception. If you know a power outage could be immanent, it's time to prepare! Our goal is to minimize waste buildup, keep oxygen levels high, prevent temperature swings, and in the case of marine invertebrates, provide at least some water movement.
Prepare your nano for a power outage if you know it's likely to occur (storm, blizzard, hurricane, etc.):
Clean all filters thoroughly and vacuum detritus if you can. Perform a large (50%+) water change with water of the same pH, temperature, and salinity. Set aside freshly mixed saltwater in case you need it.
Most healthy aquatic animals can go a week or more without eating with no ill effects, and usually longer. Less food means less pollution, more oxygen for your animals, and less fish waste.
If possible, insulate your aquarium with household insulation available at hardware stores before the outage. Blankets work well too, especially during an unexpected outage. You may not be able to prevent temperature changes, but you should be able to prevent rapid temperature changes, which is essential if you want your animals to survive. Depending on how the temperature will shift, prepare with ice or frozen water bottles, battery or gas heaters, oil lamps, or fans if you have a generator.
Step 3: Outage
During the outage there are a few things to watch for, and steps you can take (besides nail biting) to prevent loss of life. Consider the following:
The amount of dissolved oxygen will depend on a number of factors, including surface area of the aquarium, stocking level, temperature, dissolved organics, and activity of the inhabitants. One battery operated air pump should be more than enough for all but larger or more heavily stocked systems. If your fish are 'gasping' at the surface, oxygen levels are critically low.
Water movement is very important in a reef aquarium. The simplest way to accomplish this, and the least power hungry, is to use battery operated air pumps. In a nano, you should be able to provide enough water movement to keep the inhabitants alive with an air pump or two. A little elbow grease and a pitcher should work on corals that are overly 'sliming'. If you have any of the nifty power supplies listed above, turning on a circulation pump or powerhead for a few minutes every hour will help greatly. Small pumps could possibly be run for the entire outage, depending upon the duration.
Ammonia neutralizers like Seachem's Prime or Kordon's Amquel will go a long way towards keeping your fish and inverts alive, especially if an evacuation is necessary. I managed to keep large marine and freshwater pufferfish alive in 5 gallon buckets by dosing Prime every day, and feeding very little. If your fish are still in the aquarium, refrain from feeding, and perform water changes frequently if necessary. Remember, these additives will drop oxygen levels, so be careful!
Not necessary for fish, but eventually necessary for photosynthetic animals. If your outage lasts less than a week, you have nothing to worry about. If you're without power longer than a week, try for opening a window (even indirect sunlight carries a lot of energy) or plugging in fluorescent lights into a battery backup for a few minutes to an hour a day. This is when a small solar charger and portable power pack can save your corals, as I found out.
Step 4: Recovery
Let's hear it for power! I'm sure you're ready to bask in the newly restored air conditioning, or heat if you're up north, but take a few minutes for your aquariums first. You should clean out the filters again and perform another large water change. After that you should be good to go! Hopefully all your animals survived, maybe in part from the information you learned here.
Gather your materials for this project. You will need the following:
Super glue gel, I prefer Loctite brand to any others, but it must be the gel kind and have Cyanoacrylate as the active ingredient.
AquaMend putty, or any other kind of underwater stick putty. Sold at Home Depot for around $3.00 a tube.
Your coral frag!
Find the correct location in your tank for this frag. Take into account the flow and lighting the area provides, match that with the requirements of the coral frag. The area I chose for this frag has a large divot, so I will be using more AquaMend putty than would be needed for a more smooth surface of rock. The putty is used to fill any holes between the live rock and coral frag. The glue is what actually does most of the bonding.
Trim your frag plug if necessary. For this plug I cut off most that I could without compromising the coral. Frags are also sold on live rock pieces or on their own. You will only need to trim to match the type of aquascape you are looking for.
Mix up a small ball of AquaMend putty. This can be done before you bring the frag out of the water, but it is a quick process, and most coral will be fine out of the water for a short time. Make just enough to fill in any holes or areas that are on the live rock you are attaching to. Using too much here can make your frag look ugly in the tank, since you will see the white putty.
Apply the super glue gel to the frag or plug. I generally dab dry the coral with a paper towel, or blow off water with my super strong lungs. Use the correct amount to make a secure bond for the next step, but try not to add to much that it will ooze onto the coral itself.
Apply the putty ball to the super glue on the frag. You don't need to push very hard, just secure it to the glue.
Apply another layer of super glue gel to the top of the putty. You can dab dry or blow again. Super glue gel will cure to a wet surface.
Stick it in! Dunk the frag and all the glue and putty in the water. Secure it to the placement point you picked out earlier. Give it a firm push, turning the frag plug slightly to get the putty and glue in all holes and divots. Be careful to position it to best hide the white putty.
Enjoy! You now have a coral that is secure on your live rock. The putty and glue will both cure and harden under the water. Some applications will require you to turn off the pumps, but for this demonstration I had all my pumps on. If gluing a polyp with glue only, it is recommended to turn off all flow and allow the gel to cure.
Bubble Algae (Valonia)
Bubble algae are a fairly harmless reef tank pest in small quantities. It's not uncommon to see bubble algae in nano reefs with good water quality. It becomes a problem, however, when it spreads. It can grow over corals in the tank and snuff them out. Bubble algae are able to spread fast because each bubble releases algae spores when broken. It's seen either as one large bubble or a small cluster of little bubbles.
When removing bubble algae Be careful not to pop any bubbles. If the bubbles are large (about the size of a marble) you should be able to gently pull them from the rock. If possible, remove the rock the bubble is on and pull it off outside of the aquarium. If your bubble algae is a small cluster, concider adding an emerald crab [Minthrax] to the tank. They are nano reef safe and great for controlling bubble algae.
Mantis Shrimp (Stomatopods)
Mantis shrimp can enter into a nano reef when it is first setup, or new liverock is added. They come as hitch hikers within the rock, from both the Atlantic and Pacific. Not all batches of liverock will contain a mantis shrimp though. Mantis shrimp are predators, feeding on crustaceans and fish by smashing or spearing them. Signs that one is in you nano reef are: loud clicking sounds, missing fish, killed snails/crabs, or broken shells. They hide in small crevices within rocks or corals.
Removing a mantis shrimp is not a simple task. It would be wise to wear heavy gloves before handling a mantis shrimp. Most mantis shrimp that make it into aquariums are small, but larger ones have been known to break fingers. Fortunately nano reefs are not very large, so it should be easy to find. With this in mind, the following are methods that have been know to work:
If you know which rock the mantis is hiding in, remove it from the aquarium and place it in a bucket with water from your tank. If there is no life on the rock that needs to be preserved, place the rock in a bucket of carbonated water. If the rock has other life on it, you can use a turkey baster to squirt carbonated water [club soda] into the hole the shrimp is in. Either way the shrimp should evacuate the rock in time.
Buy or make a trap specifically for mantis shrimp. There are quite a few traps available at fish stores or online catalogs. DIY plans can also be found online. You may also want to research a trap before you buy it, to make sure it has been effective for others.
If the rock cannot be removed from the aquarium, the shrimp can be taken out with a net. This is, however, not easy. At night time, with the tank's lights off, simply wait and watch for the shrimp to come out and feed. Try using live bait to lure it out as well. If you can move quickly, it's possible to net it while it is away from its burrow.
Not every method will bring success for everyone. Remember that it takes patience to win the battle. If one method doesn't work out, try another. Once caught, consider creating a separate habitat for your mantis shrimp in another tank, as they are fascinating and beautiful predators with a lot of personality.
As you begin to plan out your nano reef, the first decision you will have to make is what aquarium to use. If you have been to any large aquarium shop lately, or just browsed through the member's nano reef area, you have probably noticed there's a vast amount of different aquariums in use. Between the standard cut and dry glass rectangle and the custom bow front with integrated filtration, you might get a little lost. So which aquarium will work best for you, and last in the long run? The following discusses a few factors which should be considered before making your decision. Factor 1: Size
The old rule used to be, "Buy the largest aquarium you can afford to maintain," but clearly this doesn't apply very well to nano reefs. Ideally before you pick an aquarium, you should have a place set aside where you intend to place the aquarium. Take careful measurements and decide your target aquarium size. If you've not chosen a place yet, most tanks larger than 5 gallons will typically need about 16 to 24 inches length by 10 to 14 inches width. If you're going to place your aquarium underneath something, cabinets for example, you need to make sure that the aquarium you choose will leave you with at least 12 inches of room above the tank for easy access. Also keep in mind that the larger the aquarium, the more livestock options you will have. If you're not looking for the challenge of a very small nano reef, then a good beginner size is 12-20 gallons. Factor 2: Material
Aquariums are made of one of two things; glass or acrylic. The point of this article is not to fight out the age old battle between aquarists of acrylic vs. glass; it's only to state the facts behind both. Depending on your location, your choice may or may not be very important. If you're located in an area prone to earthquakes, then it's probably going to be in your best interest to get an acrylic aquarium. Acrylic is more forgiving when it comes to stress from slight twisting or bending. The other details about acrylic are:
Acrylic is prone to scratching easily (external scratches can be buffed out with special kits)
Acrylic can be drilled with typical household wood drill bits (good for you avid DIY'ers)
Acrylic is 4% clearer than standard glass, and weighs less too.
Acrylic insulates better than glass (good for unusually cold rooms)
Acrylic is available in opaque colors (for colored backing)
Acrylic costs more than glass, in small aquarium applications
Acrylic can discolor if non acrylic safe chemical cleaners are used
Glass's details are:
Glass typically costs less than acrylic
Glass is difficult to scratch, thus easier to work in and clean
Glass scratches can never be removed
Glass aquariums are more widely available in most areas
Glass requires special drill bits to drill it
Glass must be painted if colored panels are desired
Factor 3: Aesthetics
Aquariums are available is more shapes and styles than ever before. Some styles that are available in small aquariums are bow fronts, curved 90 degree corners, cubes, internal filtration, internal overflows for sumps, and flat back hexagons. Some aquariums even come with options of color backings or different colored trim/rims. It's best to stay away from tanks that come with integrated lighting systems, as they are almost always inadequate for nano reefs. Most importantly, choose which one you will like best. Factor 4: Dimensions
An aquarium's dimensions are another thing that can save you from, or cause, a lot of problems. For the sake of aquascaping, a wide aquarium is ideal. Many people with narrow aquariums find it very difficult to fit liverock in the tank, let alone shape it into anything appealing. Having a wider aquarium will also allow for a larger sand bed, as well as be easier to work in. You should also stay away from excessively tall aquariums. If an aquarium is too tall, it will not have enough surface water to allow for proper oxygen exchange.
Over the past two years as more and more people have started nano reef keeping, there have been some aquariums that just didn't stand up to the test. There are others that just plain won't work for a nano reef unless modified. The one system that comes to mind is the Eclipse System. Please understand that I'm not saying that these aquariums cannot be used, or will cause failure; I only bring them up because there are some issues with them that are not always evident. Eclipse systems look quite nice and are seemingly the perfect nano reef aquariums. However, the eclipse system 3, 6, and 12 tanks do not come with stock lighting that will be sufficient for keeping more than low light corals. Their built in filtration systems were designed for freshwater aquariums, and are not very useful for anything more than water circulation. These tanks will require modifications to the hood to install new lighting, and you may even choose to ditch the over-tank filter just to make room for new lights. While people have done this, and it is possible to keep a nano reef in a modified system, it just ends up costing more than building your own customized setup.
If you come across any aquarium that you like, but just aren't certain that it will work out, search the message board for the aquarium's name or manufacturer name. Chances are someone is using one, or has used one in the past. Good luck and happy hunting!
Keeping your nano reef's tempterature under control can be challenging in warm climates. The most common reasons for needing to cool a nano are to offset heat from intense lighting or offset heat from the room itself. There are two methods used to chill a nano reef that are reliable. The best method is to use a micro chiller. This is a new product that uses heat exchange to cool the water, and can cool the water 5-10 degrees. It is mounted somewhere on your aquarium, either in a hang-on-back filter or directly mounted to a bulkhead in your tank or sump. They are a bit expensive, usually around $120, but much less expensive than a regular aquarium chiller. More information on these can be found at Marine Depot.
The other option is to use a small fan. A fan provides a cheap way, usually $15, to cool a nano reef. To do so, position it so cool air is blown across the surface of the tank. You will notice a temperature change of about 3-5 degrees. Remember that this method will cause a lot of evaporation, so you will need to be sure to compensate with top off water.
If the heat is coming from your lights, and you don't already have one, install a fan to blow air into to canopy, or reverse so it pulls the hot air out. Be sure to leave another hole opposite the fan for air to leave/enter. If you have a large enough fan, this may stop heat transfer to your nano altogether.