Saltwater Aquariums

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In recent years, these have been many product advances that make it a reality for the average hobbyist.

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Marine aquarium - Wikipedia

Before you get started The key is to do your homework before getting started. Talk to an expert Find a trusted retailer Establish a budget Buy a credible book on the subject The five types Then, decide what type of marine setup interests you. There are five basic types: This environment features only a variety of saltwater fish species with base rock not live rock , no corals.

This environment features only a variety of saltwater fish species with live rock. Live rock is fragmented pieces of coral reefs naturally colonized with marine life including invertebrates, sponges and millions of beneficial nitrifying bacteria that provide excellent supplemental filtration. Since coldwater coral reefs only occur at great depths, most hobbyists are largely confined to fish, sea anemones , crustaceans , echinoderms , mollusks and Feather duster worms.

A few corals can be found at low depths. Since there are very few commercially available coldwater fish and invertebrates, hobbyists usually have to physically acquire specimens, although recently more specimens have become commercially available from the west coast of the United States as well as Japan, Australia, and the UK. Unlike commercially available tropical fish, whose behavior patterns and tank compatibilities have been well documented in the last five or six decades, coldwater fish have been kept in public and private aquaria for over two centuries and much ichthyological knowledge has been gathered in order to maintain them.

Many temperate fish have specific local diet requirements, while others, will eat just about any crustacean or frozen foods. Some fish should not be kept with fish small enough to fit into its mouth, crabs or mollusks. Similarly some crabs can not be kept with some mollusks, while other fish, crabs, mollusks and echinoderms may be compatible with each other. It takes experience before one can successfully gauge the compatibility of the fish and invertebrates in one's area. Due to it being such a localized hobby in the United States, not many people go the route of local tanks which are far more popular in Europe.

Live rock is rock that has been in the ocean, composed of limestone and decomposing coral skeleton, usually around a coral reef such as those around Fiji , and is usually covered with beneficial algae, coralline and tiny invertebrates and bacteria that are desirable in the aquarium. Some examples of the microfauna commonly found on live rock are crabs , snails , feather dusters, brittle stars , starfish , limpets , abalones , and an occasional sea urchin , sea anemone, coral, and sea sponge.

The five types

Also, if the aquarist is unlucky, a mantis shrimp. Bristleworms are also common, most of which, while unattractive, are not harmful and are useful scavengers; some species can be pests, however. The addition of live rock is one of the best ways to ensure a healthy aquarium, as the rock provides a buffer to maintain high pH 8. Alkalinity is often known by a rather confusing term, " carbonate hardness ", or KH. The microfauna found on live rock are detrivores and herbivores as they eat algae and fish waste , and provide fish with a natural, attractive shelter. Live rock usually arrives from online dealers as "uncured", and must be quarantined in a separate tank while undergoing the curing process, which involves the inevitable die-off of some of the rock's inhabitants and the subsequent production of undesirable ammonia and nitrite.

Live rock that is already cured is available at most pet stores that cater to saltwater. Live sand is similar to live rock and is equally desirable. Sometimes hobbyists use so-called "dry rock", which is simply old live rock that has been allowed to dry out and to lose most of its live inhabitants, to keep unwanted pests out of their aquariums, and as an inexpensive alternative to live rock.

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In general, marine aquariums have more complex filtration requirements than most freshwater aquariums. The various components frequently include wet and dry filters and protein skimmers. Protein skimmers are devices that remove organic compounds prior to their degradation, and are very useful in marine aquariums. Protein skimming is also used in the popular Berlin method that relies on live rock and periodic partial water changes to degrade and remove waste products. The Berlin method requires large amounts of live rock in the aquarium.

Some marine aquariums include a sump, which is an external container connected to the main aquarium with a water pump. In most setups, the sump is located below the aquarium and is fed water from the main tank via an overflow. An overflow at its simplest is a round hole drilled towards the top of the tank, connected via tubing to an output below it. As the water level increases past the height of the overflow, the water "overflows" the tank and falls through to the sump below. The water circulation is powered by a water pump in the sump, which pushes the water back into the tank, thus causing more water to flow over and perpetuating the cycle.

There are many advantages to using a sump, both for the appearance and the health of the tank. The sump helps the appearance of the tank, because it allows filtration and maintenance equipment protein skimmer, heater, activated carbon to be kept out of sight of the main tank.

It also ensures that the water level of the main aquarium never changes, as the overflow sets the water level in the main tank. Some marine aquariums also include a refugium. Refugiums are small containers or aquariums that are hidden behind or beneath the main aquarium and connected to it via a water pump often in a similar manner to a sump. Fish-free refugiums host populations of copepods , amphipods , isopods , and other zooplankton. Regular cyclical lighting is used in aquariums to simulate day and night.

This is beneficial for fish and invertebrates since it establishes a routine, enables them to rest, and makes them feel more secure. Aside from establishing a routine, high output lighting is required for many invertebrates such as corals and anemones to survive. Lighting in marine tanks that contain only fish and live rock is not an important issue.

In aquariums containing invertebrates, however, where algal growth of both free-living and symbiotic algae is desired, more intense lighting is required. Various light sources include but are not limited to: Each type of lighting has its own advantages and disadvantages. They all vary in initial cost, maintenance cost, spectrum obtainable, longevity, efficiency, and power.

The most primitive lighting source is natural sunlight. This is only effective in areas near the equator because the intensity of sunlight is greatest there. Efficiently utilizing natural sunlight requires complex planning and, as such, this method is applied on only the largest reef systems.

Many times in the hobby natural sunlight is actually avoided due to the low spectrum of lighting it has. The yellow tint is often undesirable and is believed to encourage problem algae, though studies show it does not. Incandescent lamps have been phased out over the years. They are wasteful of energy, producing between 15 and 30 lumens per watt of power out of a possible lumens per watt for an ideal light source.

They can be found many times in older aquarium light hoods. They burn out frequently, put off a lot of heat, and normally do not have an appropriate spectrum associated with them. Most incandescent lamps can be replaced with commonly available and efficient screw in power compact bulbs. Standard fluorescent tubes are the common light bars you find in commercial ceilings. Fluorescent lighting has more color temperatures available which are more suited to aquariums than those of incandescent bulbs. They are also more efficient than incandescent lighting, averaging between 90 and 95 lumens per watt.

The downside to regular fluorescent lights is that they do not have the intensity to penetrate into deeper aquariums. There are several improved variations of fluorescent technology. VHO fluorescent lamps run at higher power levels, usually about three times the standard wattage for a given bulb length. They have the advantage of high light output, but the larger diameter bulbs limit the efficiency of reflectors and the number of bulbs that can be fit in an aquarium hood. PC lighting is also high-power fluorescent lighting, but the tubes are thinner and are often folded over one another to reduce size.

Most spiral-shaped energy-efficient light bulbs commercially available for house lighting are power compact fluorescent bulbs. PC bulbs are recommended to be replaced every six months to a year to keep the desired light spectrum. T-5 HO lights are the newest variation on fluorescent lights.

They are run at slightly higher power levels than standard fluorescent lamps, but are made significantly thinner than standard fluorescent bulbs, which allows for more efficient reflector designs that get more light into the aquarium. Higher quality T-5 systems often match or exceed the output of equivalent power compact fluorescent or VHO lighting fixtures.

On the downside, T-5 lighting is the most expensive type fluorescent lighting available. Many times it is much cheaper per watt, especially in the long run with the multiple T-5 bulbs being replaced, to use an equivalent metal halide light setup over a T-5 setup if such high light output is required. All types of fluorescent lighting offer the same efficiency in lumens per watt; it is the shape of the bulb and reflectors that makes their overall outputs different.

Metal halide lights are generally the highest output lighting commercially available. They produce about lumens per watt of power. This is roughly the same as fluorescent. The improvement with metal halides is that they concentrate this light output into a very small space, whereas fluorescent lights evenly illuminate the entire aquarium.

This is often referred to as point source lighting, and is what causes the rippling visual effect on many advanced aquarium setups. This concentration of light output increases the intensity, allowing metal halide lamps to penetrate light to even the very bottom levels of most aquariums. Metal halides are available in many color temperatures, from K up to 20, K, though bulbs as high as 50, K are occasionally found.

The downsides of metal halide lighting are the initial cost and the heat produced. Most metal halide fixtures are more expensive than fluorescent systems, but are required for some reef setups. Halide lamps concentrate heat as well as light output. The surface of an operating lamp becomes hot enough to cause second or third degree burns instantly, so this lighting technology must be used with caution.

The heat produced can also warm the aquarium to unacceptable levels, possibly necessitating the use of a chiller for certain aquarium setups. The most recent addition to the list of aquarium lighting technologies is LED lighting. These have the potential to be much more efficient than any other technology, but are not fully developed. LEDs have the advantage of point source lighting, but are also adjustable to most power levels. This allows for more advanced lighting schedules, the simulation of cloud cover, or even lightning storms.

So far, LEDs have found use mainly as lunar lighting in commercial products. Reef-keeping enthusiasts have begun to build their own LED light fixtures as well. Debate over their effectiveness towards coral is still inconclusive, particularly with respect to their ability to give off UV radiation, critical to obtaining a vibrant array of colors that most people interested in LED lighting are looking for.

LED lighting can be considered one of the most energy efficient and low impact options to lighting a reef tank as well, with a projected life expectancy of seven years. LED lighting also helps replicate the natural look of sunlight because most LED lights produce shimmer lines like the ones found on natural reefs.

Marine aquarium

The amount of emitters or LED fixtures can vary greatly based on these and other factors; photosynthetic specimens being kept, the input energy lost to heat, the PAR of light at a certain depth of aquarium water, and the light spectrum PUR used. Light spectrums that most closely duplicate nature are going to be most efficient.

Warm white emitters with the more yellow and green spectrums should be avoided. The results can be anywhere from.

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When considering lighting for an aquarium, there are generally two factors to consider: Depending on the type of lighting i. Wattage, while not indicative of color, is equivalent to power and essentially determines how brightly the light will shine. Due to the scattering of light in water, the deeper one's tank is, the more powerful the lighting required.

Color temperature, measured in kelvins albeit slightly unrepresentively refers to the color of light being emitted by the lamp and is based on the concept of blackbody radiation. Higher up on the spectrum there are 14, K and 20, K bulbs that produce a deep blue tint which mimic the lighting conditions underseas, creating an optimal ambience for invertebrates and livestock present.

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