Jump to content
  • Reef Aquarium Articles


      Introduction to Pico Jar Maintenance: Water Changes
      Pico jar reefs seem to be gaining popularity with reef hobbyists. Maybe it’s a fascination with small things, or perhaps it’s the idea of “less work” that is appealing to some. For me personally, it’s a combination of the two. I love miniature versions of things, and I love the challenge of creating a miniature reef system, which just so happens to translate into less time spent maintaining the system and more time spent looking at and enjoying the system.
      For a basic pico setup with only a light source, heater, and circulation pump, the weekly water change is of utmost importance. It is the way you will remove the organics from the water and replenish lost minerals and trace elements. It is recommended to do a 100% water change removal and replacement. It is easy and safe to do, as well as cost effective, on such a small system.
      Standard Water Change Rules Apply
      Whether you are working with a 250 gallon system or a 2 gallon system, the standard water change rules apply. You will want to use RO/DI water (or distilled water) to help avoid nuisance algae. You will need to match your clean water salinity and water temperature to the pico system you are maintaining. You can use any salt mix that you like, but it is best to stick with one brand of salt as not all are created equally and switching salt frequently can be stressful to your tank inhabitants.
      Tools Needed

      Items I have found useful during a water change include: Towels, tubing or hose lines, algae scraper, tongs, scissors, turkey baster, 2 buckets.
      Since you need to work fairly quickly when doing a 100% water change on a pico reef system, it’s best to have everything ready before you get started.
      Let’s Get Started
      You want to have your corals exposed to air for the least amount of time as possible. While most coral can survive extended periods of time exposed to air, I still like to work as quickly as I can, while also being careful and thorough, with the task at hand. I start with scraping the glass for algae. This gets the algae suspended in the water column before water removal. Now that your glass is clean (let’s hope it wasn’t THAT dirty), you can observe any problem areas. You can use your tongs to pull out any hair algae/nuisance algae. This is also the time to look for any coral warfare that you may need to intervene in. Coral scissors/clippers may be needed for trimming or removing coral over-growth. In such a tiny space, coral growth will be even more obvious. Typically coral cutting makes the corals slime up. You want to do any cutting prior to water removal so that you can remove the slime with the water change.

      Now is the time to put that turkey baster to work! Blast the rocks and in between the coral to get any detritus suspended in the water column. You’d be amazed at the amount of detritus produced by the coral alone. 

      It’s almost time to drain your pico, but first, don’t forget to shut down your heater and circulation pump. You do not want to damage these items during the 100% water change.

      I find it best to have two buckets. One for waste water, and one for clean saltwater. Use your clear tubing and siphon the water out of the pico tank and into the waste bucket. I find it useful to do another basting of the rocks just prior to siphoning. You want to get as much detritus suspended and out as possible. Pay attention to the sand as a lot of detritus will settle in that area.

      Once all of the water is removed, all that's left is to replace the old water with the new saltwater that is temperature and salinity matched. Don’t forget to turn your air circulation and heater back on at the end. You can use your towels to clean up any spills.

      Final Thoughts
      While no system comes without work, I have found that maintaining a pico reef is easy, fast, and enjoyable. My main goal is to work as quickly as I can so that my coral is not exposed to air for an extended period of time. I find that planning ahead is very helpful to accomplish this goal. Have all of your supplies ready before you begin. It may sound scary to remove all of the water from your aquarium, but it is completely safe and successfully done by many hobbyists, including myself. You may find that it is so easy, and that you enjoy it so much, that you end up doing more than one water change per week. Quite frankly, it’s been known to happen.
      Happy pico reef maintenance, to all!
      An Introduction To Reef Jars
      When I first became interested in saltwater aquariums, I was always attracted to the smaller systems. I have been fascinated with miniature ecosystems as long as I can remember, so much so that I started PJ Reefs, a company dedicated to reef jars and vases! At first many people said that it would be difficult to maintain a small "pico aquarium", especially if it was the size of a jar. Also there were concerns that the size would limit the amount of possible combinations, and could not possibly be entertaining to create. Four years ago I started my first reef jar right here at Nano-Reef.com. I shared my journey, a simple jar that would follow me for four years. The following is a write-up on how to create your own container reef (e.g. jar, bowl, vase).

      "Simplicity is Key"
      Many steps are similar to starting a nano or pico aquarium. One main difference to note, is the simplicity on which these systems are based.
      Choosing Your Container
      The most important component to build a container reef is the container itself! The shapes and sizes of containers are virtually endless: jars, bowls, vases, candle holders, terrariums, etc. You can find a huge selection of suitable containers at all sorts of local shops, craft and hobby stores like Michaels or Joann, the home goods area of your nearest Target or Walmart, or check your local thrift stores for some truly unique finds! If you can't find something around the house or around town, there's always Amazon.

      I prefer curved shapes, as this will create a magnifying distortion which attracts the eye to key focal points in the container reef. For less distortion one can choose a vase that has fewer curves. Something unique about jars are their lids; lids that don’t have rubber gaskets will allow for gas exchange, as gases easily diffuse across small gaps. It is highly suggested to have a lid, as this will help limit the amount of evaporated water from the container.
      Glass containers are best suited for keeping a reef because of their durability and overall scratch resistance. Always consider the long term durability of your selected container, anything too fragile could lead to difficult maintenance or disaster.
      Selecting Your Light
      The light source you choose is important as this is the main source of nutrients and energy for the corals. Small reef spectrum LED lights and compact fluorescent bulbs are ideal choices because they emit the least amount of heat. Options include PAR30 or PAR38 LED bulbs that can be purchased at Bulk Reef Supply and Coral Compulsion, or the JBJ Picotope 9W Powercompact fluorescent light that can be purchased at Marine Depot. I started my original reef jar with a JBJ Picotope light in fact!

      PAR LED bulbs utilize a common household E27 lamp socket, allowing for the use of common household fixtures like desk lamps to hold the light over your pico container. Similar screw type compact fluorescent bulbs can also be found in reef aquarium 50/50 spectrums from Coralife.
      Getting the Right Flow
      Traditional tanks use large return pumps and powerheads to create the water circulation that allows corals to receive the necessary nutrients. For larger pico containers, a mini powerhead pump can provide necessary water movement, as long as space is available. In the limited space of a pico reef jar however, one usually needs to minimize the footprint of a powerhead. To overcome the space limitations, an air pump with an air stone placed at the bottom of the jar or vase is recommended to create the necessary flow. Typically smaller air bubbles are preferred as this will create the smooth flow necessary for the corals to thrive. Large bubbles typically create a non-laminar flow that is not adequate for the corals to thrive.
      Put a Lid On It
      To minimize water evaporation, it is recommended to have a lid or cover for your container reef. If your container doesn't have a matching clear lid already, a basic cover can be crafted from clear acrylic. When covering your pico container, ensure that the seal is not air tight, it is vital to allow for some gas exchange with the surface of the water.
      If a lid or cover is not used, an auto-top off system should be used to replace evaporated freshwater and keep the salinity stable. Monitor your container closely as evaporation rates can change with the seasons.
      Preparing the Live Rock and Sand
      Due to the small size of the aquarium, aquascaping will typically depend on the shape and characteristics of just one or two pieces of live rock. You want to choose a live rock that is nice and porous as well. Also remember that corals and inhabitants will need space to grow, leave extra room for them to fill in the space over time, and don't be tempted to add too much rock.
      Sand sand can be added at the bottom of the jar to give it a more natural look if you would like, or your container can be left without sand to allow for easier cleaning. Don't make your sand bed too deep though or it may become too difficult to remove detritus.
      How About the Nitrogen Cycle?
      Reef jars go through the nitrogen cycle just like any other reef, but due to the small amount of water volume and complete 100% water changes, you might not detect any changes in nitrogen. This is known as a soft cycle. The best practice is to add live rock and let the rock cycle for a few days, up to two weeks, depending on the handling of the live rock. To make certain the cycle has completed the aquarium water can be tested using a test kit for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.
      Choosing Appropriate Livestock
      Just as with a large reef aquarium, livestock should be carefully researched before being added to confined the ecosystem. All life should added one piece at a time, making sure that stability is maintained. Some livestock are better suited for small pico reef jars than others. Here is a short list of some suggested livestock:
      Zoanthids are extremely hardy corals that will tolerate a wide range of parameters. Also, some zoanthid species in nature tolerate low and hide tides which exposes them to air and wind for an extended period of time. They are also appealing due to the wide variety of colors available.
      This genus typically is larger than their zoanthus counterpart, but they are similar in that they are extremely hardy and also come in a wide array of colors. Because of their larger nature and polyp expansion, you can add a few at a time and allow them to grow and establish a spot in the reef vase.
      Mushrooms are flat discs that range from tiny to very large. Because of their flat nature and ability to contort to fill the smallest places, you can place these corals easily on the live rock and they will typically move to find the correct place for them to thrive. They come in a variety of colors and shapes, and are very hardy soft corals.
        Green Star Polyps
      Green star polyps are hardy and typically have a fast growth rate. Because of their fluorescent green colored polyps and resemblance to grass, these corals add movement and color to a reef container. They are soft corals that are very hardy and are easy to maintain.
      Acan corals are easily propagated and be fragged into single polyps that will grow into colonies over time.  They are a favorite in reef vases because they can easily be spot fed and no excess food will remain in the water column. Care must be taken with placement of these corals though, because they have sweeper tentacles that can sting nearby corals. It is best to leave a bit of space between acans and other nearby corals.
        Other Corals
      Almost any coral that is of an appropriate size can be maintained in the reef vase aquaria. The needs of each type of coral, including lighting and flow, must be taken into consideration. It is important to note that the same principles and concepts apply from larger tanks. Water parameters and maintenance are still important to allow your reef to thrive and flourish.
      Macroalgaes can also be added to reef jars. They come in a variety of colors and textures and have the added benefit of assisting with nutrient export. Typically, species of red pigmentation are desirable as they are hardy and add a nice pop of color to the reef. Gracillaria and red grape are common varieties of red macroalgae that do well in these aquariums. Suitable Fish and Invertebrates
      Depending on the size of the aquarium, fish species that are suitable for container reefs are few and hard to come by. For larger containers, certain small gobies can be kept if their feeding needs can be met. However, most container reefs do no contain any fish, and instead focus only on corals and small invertebrates. Mainly shrimp, snails, and small crabs can be maintained in container reefs. Some of the invertebrates commonly kept in container reefs are sexy shrimp, pom pom crabs, anemone shrimp, small hermit crabs, and small snails. Research is key, as some species have very specific needs that must be met to successfully keep them, never assume!
      Maintaining Your Reef Container
      Keep your newly created ecosystem under your light source (you can use a digital outlet timer to control your lighting cycle) and you are ready to enjoy your reef. With the proper maintenance you will be on your way to seeing your reef grow and thrive!
      There are five simple maintenance requirements to keep a successful reef jar:
      Complete a weekly 100% water change. This will replenish any lost ions and reset the water parameters. One of the benefits of owning a reef jar is that it is easy and affordable to do a complete water change. Maintain the temperature between 76° and 82° Fahrenheit. The most important part is to keep a stable temperature with no drastic fluctuations (e.g. 4-5 degrees within an hour). Add a low wattage aquarium heater to your container if needed. Top-off with of RO/DI freshwater as water evaporates from the reef container. Adding a lid to your container will help to minimize evaporation, just make sure it's not an air tight seal! Maintain sufficient water movement and circulation. Add an air pump and air stone to aid in water movement and gas exchange. Alternatively, small powerheads can also be used for water movement. Do not overstock corals and animals. Have patience as drastic additions can quickly have a negative outcome. Enjoy Your Pico Reef
      Now you know the fundamentals of how to build and maintain your own small container reef. It is simple and fun to do! When properly maintained your container reef can be enjoyed for years to come. I have successfully maintained a reef jar for four years, others have had theirs for over 10 years now!
      Living in an apartment with a reef aquarium can present some unique challenges, it's often a difficult to find enough space to store RO/DI filters, water storage containers, and saltwater mixing buckets. I went about a year and a half mixing up a 5 gallon bucket of salt water in the kitchen every Tuesday night with a powerhead and heater in it until the next day when I’d do a water change. I kept it clean and as out of the way as I could so my wife didn't get annoyed with this whole reef tank thing. We have a small patio space that we really don’t use much aside from some storage and a BBQ, so I used that as an excuse to get my water change system out of the kitchen. My wife was more than happy to move the bucket for me!
      I know this may not be an option for everyone with a small space, but all the water change station guides I had found were written by guys with 120 gallon tubs in a garage with no worry of running out of space or it being in the way. Even though those systems were large, it occurred to me that I could fully scale the whole thing down to 2 x 5 gallon tubs, and build it the same otherwise, and it could work great for my needs. Maybe hide it in a closet? I didn’t know for sure, but I’d try it!
      RO/DI Unit
      SpectraPure 90 GPD Dual Probe Inline TDS Meter Float Valve Membrane Flush Kit  

      The Original Build: Version 1.0

      2 x 15 Gallon Rubbermaid Roughneck Hi-top tubs Mag Drive 500 water pump Aqueon Pro 150 watt submersible Heater Sicce Silent 3.5 water pump ½” PVC plumbing (Various T’s, elbows, 45 degrees) 3 x Ball Valves 3 x ½” Uniseals Lots of Unions Lifegard digital thermometer Mastercraft 4-outlet GFCI power bar  
      This setup was certainly overkill for what it was, but I really wanted to get some good flow in both storage tanks so that even the clean ATO water didn’t just sit stagnant. I built out some fittings for each of the pumps to direct the flow but also slow it down a bit since they were each hugely overrated for what I was using them for. This setup I also ran off an outdoor light timer so it would turn on and mix the salt water twice a day for about an hour just so it wasn’t sitting for too long.
      The RO/DI runs up into the top tub and is controlled by a float switch so I could let it run whenever and not worry about it overflowing. The pump inside kept the water churning and oxygenated.

      When I needed freshwater for my ATO top up, I would fill up a jug by keeping the center ball valve closed and opening the ball valve to the right with the spout. I put the ATO spout above the mixing pipe just to ensure there was no back splash or salt contamination in my clean water reserve.

      When I needed salt water, I would crank open the center valve and let gravity feed the lower tub with fresh water. Turn on the pump and add the salt. Let it mix and heat up to the current tank’s needs and it’s good to go! For this setup I just had a valve spout coming out from the lower end of the salt tub and I would fill a bucket for water changes and carry that to and from the tank.

      This system was very compact and helped streamline my water change process, but after spending about a year with the original design, I knew I could make some further improvements.
      The Current Build: Version 2.0


      2 x 20 Gallon Rubbermaid Brutes Sicce Silent 3.5 water pump Lots more unions ½” PVC plumbing (Various T’s, elbows, 45 degrees, barbs) A few ¾” plumbing because of the Sicce intake 4 x ½” Uniseals 15’ ½” hose 3 x Ball Valves ½” Two Little Fishies ball valve Silicon dish pad Aqueon Pro 150 watt submersible heater Lifegard digital thermometer Mastercraft 4-outlet GFCI power bar Air pump Airline and airstone  
      I had been planning out this upgrade over a few months after having used the original system for about a year, I knew how I used it and what I wanted it to do going forward. I knew I wanted it to feed out to an external pump so I could control the heat inside the Brute better. It still gets a bit hot as it passes through the pump, but the entire pump isn’t sitting inside the water heating it all up anymore. I didn’t include any pump or flow for the freshwater tank in this setup because of the heat and power, but I am using a run of the mill airstone just to give it a little aeration and oxygen when it’s on. I put the pump on a brick and slid a sliced up piece of silicon dish mat underneath it to absorb any other vibration. It’s pretty much dead silent as a whole. Even though it’s twice as big as the previous setup it’s 10 times quieter because there's no vibration anymore.



      When I need freshwater ATO top up, it’s the same basic principle on a slightly larger scale. The RO/DI feeds into the top Brute through the float valve. On the bottom right I have the ATO top off spout.

      When I need saltwater, below the ATO spout is another valve to fill the bottom Brute with fresh water. From there it cycles out the bottom of the Brute, through the pump and up to the top and back in. I squeezed a smaller tube onto the end of the pipe so it creates a faster flow as it exits for better mixing. I do have a small powerhead inside as well but I don’t usually have it on, I find there's enough flow without it. When I am ready to fill up the aquarium with new water I can take the hose, switch the two valves (one on, one off), and then take it directly over to the tank and control the flow from there with the Two Little Fishies ball valve.






      What I Learned
      Every build thread you will read will always talk about unions. Use as many unions as you can. Seriously. Unions. They are more pricey but it’ll be worth it when you have to take out a dead pump or pipe and replace/clean it. They will make it easy to unhook everything as well so you can take it down for cleaning or a move! Unions. Just do it.
      Eventually when I do a full, proper final build I will order parts and pipe from a reef supply shop just so it all looks cleaner. The Home Depot stock pipe has all the red writing on it that makes it look budget. I know that sounds silly... but it'll look cooler and really that's all that matters. 
      Having a hose that goes directly to the tank to refill and not having to carry buckets through the house is amazing! I know it’s not an option for most of us but if you can do it, do it! It’s truly amazing!
      Meet Ich
      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.[1]

      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.[1] 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.
      Copper Treatment
      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 Treatment
      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.[3] During hypo treatments, specific gravity is usually lowered to 1.009.[1] 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).[2] 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.[1]
      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.[5] In addition, there are even some ineffective remedies, like garlic.[4] 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.[6] 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.
      Hair Algae:
      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.
      Leftover Food:
      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.
      Most of the earth’s reefs are centered in the tropics, a narrow band on either side of the equator. Conditions in this band are relatively constant: long days filled with sun and predictably warm water temperatures have led corals and their relatives to evolve into light worshipers. But the further north or south of the equator you get, the more the oceans change. Days become shorter, water temperatures drop, and water clarity decreases. Benthic animals along temperate shorelines evolved to meet their needs without the sun, mainly by capturing foods that float by.

      A temperate seahorse hitching to Zostera marina, a seagrass.
      This difference in behavior is the main factor separating tropical biotopes from temperate biotopes. But even though their setup, feeding and maintenance requirements differ, both still rely on the Elements of Reefing.
      Almost all of the water parameters of temperate tanks are the same as for tropical tanks. The main thing that sets temperate tanks apart is the water temperature. The temperature range in the wild can be astounding – from close to freezing at areas of arctic upwelling, to isolated pools approaching tropical temperatures while waiting for the tides to return. The average temperature along most temperate shorelines is 50–60°F. Shooting for a temperature in this range is ideal; which end of the range is right for you depends on livestock, which we’ll discuss later.
      In order to cool the water to the desired temperature, you’ll need (appropriately) a chiller. The name may be a misnomer however. A chiller does not create cold, but actually removes heat. The ability of a chiller to remove heat is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units). One BTU will raise one pound of water (approximately one pint) 1°F. A unit with a higher BTU is more efficient and will remove heat faster than one with a lower BTU. A chiller operates similar to a refrigerator or air conditioner. The refrigerant gas picks up heat from the aquarium water and then delivers it to the radiator as the gas pressure is dropped. A fan then dispels heat from the radiator.
      In order to choose a chiller, you will first need to calculate the amount of “pull-down” you will need. To do this, subtract the temperature at which you want your aquarium to be from the maximum temperature you think will be produced in the aquarium. Here is an example on how to determine pull-down:
      (Est. max temp) – (desired temp) = (req. pull-down)
      So, let’s say you have a 20g tank that normally sits at 75°F. For your temperate tank you need the temperature to be at 55°F:
      75°F – 55°F = 20°F
      Now that you know you have a required pull-down of 20°F, you can work on finding the correct chiller size. Remember earlier when I mentioned that chillers were rated in BTUs? Well, that rating will help determine which chiller you need. One BTU will raise the temperature of a pound of water by one degree. A gallon of salt water weighs roughly 8.5lbs., so for our example, 20g of salt water weighs in at 170lbs. Since you need to pull the water temperature down by 20°F:
      170lbs x 20°F = 3400BTUs
      There you have it, you now know that you need a chiller rated at least 3400BTUs to get your tank to the required temperature and keep it there. Now, you will most likely have to settle for a chiller with a BTU rating slightly above or below your measurement. If that’s the case, always go for the more powerful unit. The less the chiller has to work, the less electricity it will consume, and the less often you will hear it running.
      Since water temperature is so critical to the health and success of a temperate reef tank, this is an area in which you should not skimp. A quality chiller is necessary to bring the temperature down and keep it there. Chillers are generally expensive, but since other costs associated with temperate tanks are much lower than their tropical counterparts, it all evens out.
      In tropical tanks, the majority of the filtration duties generally fall on live rock and on water changes, with supplemental filtration systems such as protein skimmers and refugiums added as needed. A temperate system has to be approached a little differently, however.
      The rock found in temperate zones is smooth and incredibly dense, like large pebbles or river stones. Unlike tropical rock with its porous surface, temperate rock has no nooks and crevices in which beneficial bacteria can reside. Add to that with the slower metabolic processes caused by lower temperatures and the heavy feedings that are required with the largely non-photosynthetic livestock, and you’re left with a biological filtration system that just can’t cope.
      For this reason, temperate tanks must rely heavily on mechanical filtration to maintain water quality. No matter how small the system, a quality protein skimmer is a must for a heavily stocked and heavily fed tank. While most temperate livestock is incredibly hardy and can tolerate excess nutrients in the water column, without strong filtration nuisance algaes will begin to capitalize on the higher nitrate and phosphate levels. A well-skimmed tank is a happy tank.
      In the wild, anemones and other intertidal temperate species are subjected to the constant pounding of waves and tidal surges. While they are more than capable of withstanding the same unrelenting flow in a home aquarium, they will not open to their fullest. Random and chaotic flow is still important in a temperate system, but a medium flow level suitable for tropical soft corals and LPS is about what should be aimed for. With this medium flow level, anemones will expand and become more full.
      There are two approaches to take when lighting a temperate aquarium. If the system is just to house corals, most anemones, fish and other non-photosynthetic livestock, then simple low-wattage lighting is sufficient, say a single PC bulb.
      If, however, the system will contain macro algae,  Anthopleura sp. anemones and other photosynthetic livestock, then more traditional reef-type lighting is appropriate. The sky is the limit here depending on your preferences, although high levels of light (such as from metal halide or T5HO fixtures) are generally unnecessary.

      Corynactus californica.
      Corals – Temperate corals are not only hard to find, but can be very challenging to keep alive. Be aware that by having these on your wish list you’re committing yourself to a high current environment and to providing an ongoing supply of zooplankton. One notable exception to this is the so-called strawberry anemone, Corynactus californica. This corallimorph is beautiful, relatively hardy and has been known to reproduce in aquaria.
      Anemones — You should avoid getting “lots of anemones”. Generally speaking, anemones get poor grades in ‘gets along well with others’ and, depending on species, may employ a number of means to discourage competition. In some cases anemones sting each other as a way to prevent encroachment. That’s probably no big deal so long as you keep them sufficiently separated and take advantage of their individual lifestyles to avoid having two species migrating into each other. I’ve personally witnessed that various Urticina sp seem to go into decline if put into a crowded situation, this in spite of the fact that the facility uses a flow through system that changes the water a the rate of several hundred percent per day.

      Anthopleura elegantissima in the shallows.
      Your best bet with anemones, and other cnidarians as well, is to start small and add animals very slowly. Pick one or two species and resist the urge to expand until you’re sure that they are thriving. Keep in mind that many anemones are incredibly long lived; Urticina sp are thought to live for 500 years or more, and Anthopleura elegantissima is essentially immortal!
      Macroalgae — The main consideration here is probably one of scale and that the species of macro which will stay small enough for a home aquarium are generally found in surging intertidal areas. Keep these requirements in mind when choosing from available species.
      Fish — Temperate fish occasionally come into the trade unawares – Catalina gobies (Lathrypnus dalii) are one notorious example. Australian boxfish are also occasionally available, but are costly, sensitive and large. Another option would be to catch your own fish, if you are close to a temperate shore and your local laws allow it. I highly recommend adding FishBase.org to your favorites/bookmarks. Once you get used to it, FishBase can give you all sorts of information about a given species. Another good resource is the book Coastal Fishes of the Pacific Northwest by Andy Lamb & Phil Edgell, if you can find it.
      Nudibranchs — Most people recommend against nudibranchs for several reasons. First, they tend to have very specialized diets and if you can’t supply exactly the right thing they will starve. This is complicated by the fact that in many cases “exactly the right thing” is either unknown or is misreported. For example, if you look at most books on Pacific Northwest marine life you’ll be told that the White Lined Nudibranch (Dirona albolineata) eats small snails in addition to other things. Yet according to Dave Behrens, D. alolineata exclusively eats Bryozoans. Second, they’re pretty short lived even if you can feed them correctly; most nudibranchs seem to have a life expectancy of about a year. Finally, visibility can be a problem. For all their beauty most nudibranchs are quite cryptic on their preferred prey. It’s entirely possible that the only sign that you have a nudibranch will be that its food item is being munched.
      There are a couple of exceptions though. The Opalescent nudibranch (Hermissenda crassicornis) has quite a wide diet including hydroids, anemones, and even carrion (if the books are to be believed). Another possibility would be to consider the sacoglossan sea slugs Placida dendritica or Elysia hedgpethi. Strictly speaking, these aren’t nudibranchs but herbivorous slugs that specialize on Codium fragile and Bryopsis corticulans algae. Elysia is especially interesting since some of the chloroplasts that it eats continue to photosynthesize and provide the animal with nutrition. These are sometimes referred to as “solar powered sea slugs”.
      Sponges — Sometimes sponges do well in aquaria but, since they’re filter feeders on very small phytoplankton and bacteria, I wouldn’t try collecting any until your tank has been operating for quite a while and the sand bed is well established. When you reach that point you’ll need to be careful in your collecting technique. Many species of sponge are extremely sensitive to being exposed to air; even a brief exposure can start a chain reaction that is ultimately fatal to the entire colony. An exception to this is the Purple Encrusting Sponge (Haliclona permollis) which is intertidal and seems able to handle exposure with impunity. If your aquarium turns out to be sponge friendly there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll find out by seeing sponges ‘magically’ appear in the tank — I suspect that it’s virtually impossible to collect other stuff without also collecting some sponge or sponge larvae.
      Tropical reefkeepers generally recommend that an aquarium be developed slowly. For a coldwater reef you should probably go even more slowly just because the lower temps tend to make most other processes slower. Besides, by going slowly you can wait to find the best possible specimen of a given animal.
      The Tank
      Lastly, we come to the tank itself. In humid environments, standard glass tanks will tend to ‘sweat’ and form condensation when holding water at lower temperatures. The simplest solution to avoid condensation is to use an acrylic tank, the thicker the better. Acrylic insulates better than glass does, which helps to cut back on condensation. The extra insulation also means your chiller doesn’t have to work quite as hard to keep the water temperature stable.
      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. Keep Shooting
      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:
      Shutter Speed
      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!
      The Fundamentals
      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. Settings
      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. Post-processing
      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.
      Christopher Marks
      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.
        Stop Feeding
      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.
        Temperature Control
      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
      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.
        Water Quality
      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.
      - Mike Maddox