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WHO'S WHO of WAMAS

Welcome to the "Who's Who of WAMAS"! Each issue of WAMAS Waves introduces you to the more personal side of some of our members. Please help to keep this column alive by answering our call for submissions CLICK HERE.CHAD, Newsletter Committee Organizer

treesprite

treesprite

 

The Watched Pot (sometimes boils over) - Mark (armydoc)

My worst aquarium hobby purchase was an aquarium controller. Contrary to its promise, it made my tank more unreliable, less stable, and led to several near disasters.I started out in marine aquaria about a year and a half ago. I purchased a running 26 gallon FOWLR from craigslist. Nothing complicated; everything was HOB. It was easy to take care of. The previous owner gave me a test kit I used for pH and nitrate without any issues. I topped off the water the old fashioned way and ran my tests weekly. Everything was five by five.I met a fellow enthusiast through my daughter's scout troop and he mentioned aquarium controllers. My eyes became wide with talk of instant notifications and automation galore. I admit I am a gadget freak and have been DIY'ing since I was a kid. All of a sudden my sweet, innocent, low maintenance aquarium had the potential of a RadioShack 300-in-one project box. I picked up the next controller I could find on WAMAS and then the great decline began.Automate top off? No problem.Automate lights? Same deal!Feed cycles? Who wouldn't?But wait, my pH is not as "good" as I had hoped. No big deal, I'll just control the pH by dosing kalk... dissolves in RO... that will fix my pH "problem."Well. I think we all see where this is heading. In a few days I ended up with a near salinity crash , but wow, was my pH spot on. This was followed by another near miss when I mis-calibrated the probe. I got so wrapped up in the parameters that I neglected basic principles. Mainly, if the tank looks healthy, don't mess with it. Controllers give you data but you are not legally compelled to act on it. Also, your best time to add a controller is when your tank is doing well so you know the data it is generating reflects a healthy tank. Then you can observe the trends rather than absolute values. Finally, if you go with a Neptune Systems product, make sure and read the "Best Practices" thread on reef central and have someone check your program before you start.Have I learned my lesson? Kind of. I still tinker way too much with the tank, but for the most part I let the controller do its thing and I err on the side of less is more. I feel controllers are a valuable tool for the novice but just remember to resist the tendency to over-intervene.I leave for Afghanistan in a few weeks and my wife will be taking over the tank with some help for the next six months. I will not be surprised to return to a flourishing tank that was happy to have some relief from my constant attempts at "improvements."

Chad

Chad

 

DIY Automatic Feeder for Aquacontroller

Eheim 3581 Automatic Feeder   DIY Automatic Feeder for Aquacontroller One of my goals in designing my aquarium was to make things as automated a possible so that I could spend less time working to maintain the tank, and more time enjoying it. I use an Aquacontroller to control the lighting, temperature, cooling, and alarms, but feeding still requires manual intervention. I enjoy feeding my fish whenever I can, and believe that fish benefit greatly from a diet that includes more than just flake food, but there are some good reasons for having an automatic feeder to supplement their diet. Many fish benefit from multiple small feedings throughout the day, rather a single heavy feeding, and an auto feeder can help with this. Also, I travel for work from time to time, and I don't always want to rely on a tank-sitter to keep my fish fed. Plus, I didn't want to have to hand feed every day, and become a slave to the tank. So an automatic feeder was on my list of necessities. But while there are many automatic fish food feeders on the market, almost none of them are easily integrated into a system with an Aquacontroller, so a DIY was required.   I chose the Eheim 3581 Automatic Feeder for this project based on its strong reputation and ease of modification. The stock Eheim feeder is programmable to drop food up to four different times a day, and also has a pushbutton which dispenses food when you push it. The DIY modification I'll describe below will take advantage of the manual pushbutton feature and use a signal from the Aquacontroller to trick the Eheim into thinking that the manual feed button has been pushed. The system design is simple. The Aquacontroller will tell one of our DC-8 outlets to turn on when we want to feed. A power supply is plugged in to the DC-8, providing safe 12 volt DC power to a relay circuit. The relay circuit will momentarily close when power is applied, then open and remain open. This ensures that food is only dispensed once even if it takes a minute for the Aquacontroller program to turn the DC-8 outlet back off. The heart of our DIY Eheim controller is a standard 12V automotive relay. When the relay is energized by the DC-8, it closes the internal switch connected to the Eheim. The Eheim thinks the manual feed button was pushed, and dispenses food. Meanwhile a charge is building up in the capacitor until it breaks the circuit, and the relay opens. The Eheim interprets this as you taking your finger off the manual feed button. The resistor slowly bleeds the charge off the capacitor, and in several minutes the relay will be ready to work again. Before that happens though, the Aquacontroller program turns the DC-8 outlet back off.   Modify the Eheim feeder The first task is to attach wires to both sides of the Eheim's manual feed pushbutton. Remove the food hopper, battery cover, and AA batteries. Unscrew the 4 phillips screws on the bottom of the unit and separate the two halves of the feeder. Examine the circuit board where the LCD display and manual feed button are soldered in place. Drill two 1/16" holes in the circuit board near the switch, as shown in the photo below. Run a few inches of light gauge wire through the holes and solder one to each of the contacts of the mounted switch. If you were to replace the batteries and connect the bare ends of the two new wires, the electrical circuit will be completed just as if you had pushed the manual feed button, and the unit will rotate to dispense food.   Holes drilled in circuit board, and wires soldered to pushbutton terminals.   Next, drill a 1/4" hole and install a 2-contact, normally open (NO) audio jack. Solder the ends of the wires to the two jack terminals; it does not matter which wire goes to which terminal. But it is important to position the jack carefully so that it does not block the feeder's fan from moving. Reassemble the feeder and replace the batteries.   Rear view of the assembled feeder with audio jack     Create the relay assembly Assemble the relay, capacitor, and resistor according to the diagram below and secure in a small plastic project box. The project box and its contents can be kept close to the 12V power supply, but I recommend using longer wires for the connection between the project box and the Eheim feeder's new audio jack. This keeps the relay further away from the heat and humidity of your aquarium. If you use a polarized capacitor like I did, you have to make sure the negative side is connected to the negative lead from the power supply. Also, check that the switched side of the relay (the side not connected to the 12VDC power supply) is an open circuit when there's no power flowing. If the feeder runs non-stop, you may have connected the relay to be normally closed.   Relay assembly schematic     Program the Aquacontroller I like to turn off my return pump a couple of minutes before feeding to keep the food out of the overflow and give the fish first dibs. Anything they don't get to during the feed cycle is fair game for the refugium and frag tanks, which are further downstream. I use the following program to feed.   If Time > 14:00 Then PM1 OFF; return pump off If Time > 14:02 Then FUD ON; dispenses food If Time > 14:03 Then FUD OFF; ensures food does not continue to dispense If Time > 14:15 Then PM1 ON; return pump on   Don't forget to test your new Eheim before you fill it up with food and stick it on your tank!   Parts List Eheim 3581 Automatic Feeder 1/8" Mono Panel-Mount Audio Jack (3-Pack) (Radioshack.com #274-251) 1/8" Mono Phone Plug (2-Pack) (Radioshack.com #274-286) 1000uF capacitor (Radioshack.com #272-1019) 10kOhm resistor (Radioshack.com #271-1126) Project Enclosure (3"x2"x1") (Radioshack.com #270-1801) 12V automotive relay (Typical) 12VDC power supply   Conclusion I've been using the Eheim automatic feeder for years now and have been very happy with the results. The modification detailed above is inexpensive and relatively easy for the DIYer, and I think it provides a significant upgrade in the device's capability.   Do ensure the Eheim is attached securely the tank rim or something sturdy to prevent it from falling into your tank. A WAMAS member suffered a tank crash when his auto feeder fell into his aquarium and the batteries rapidly dissolved in the saltwater, releasing whatever heavy metals they contain. It may also be worth noting that if you use X10 modules with your Aquacontroller, an Alarm/Relay module can be used to replace the relay circuit and power supply described in this project. I know the reef aquarist community opinion on X10 is mixed, but I've been using X10 modules with my display tank since 1997 and have found them to be flexible and reliable.   Finally, add a note below if you have any questions or comments. Enjoy!

Jon Lazar

Jon Lazar

 

A Closer Look: Mysids

Mysid Shrimp - are they in your tank?Often confused with larval offspring of many popular ornamental shrimp, some of the more interesting creatures that populate marine aquariums are from the order Mysidacea, the mysid shrimp. Much like other beneficial microfauna in our aquariums, they seem to spring up out of nowhere and represent a valuable natural food source for fish and invertebrates in our systems as well as occupying the important niche of helping to keep our systems clean.Without venturing into the debate of feeding freshwater food sources to marine animals, mysids are not as well known as their freshwater counterparts, mysis shrimp. Many companies harvest freshwater mysis shrimp and freeze them for sale to aquarists. They are a protein rich food and will help many finicky eaters to begin eating, hence their popularity. Mysids, however, are not typically sold as a frozen food and are available typically only through some of the larger mariculture facilities as live food. The ones that are typically available through these suppliers are larger than the ones commonly found in our aquariums, typically reaching sizes of up to an inch.On the other hand, the ones that we typically find in our aquariums seldom reach a size of more than 1/4" and are typically no larger than 1/8" or smaller. Often what we see are tiny silver streaks that dart back and forth in the dark recesses of our aquascaping, in tiny caves within our rock, in sumps, refugiums, and overflows, and wherever there are either no predators to eat them or there is sufficient cover to allow them to survive. While relatively transparent, they can be readily identified by the presence of two fairly sizable black eyes located at the tips of eye stalks that don't extend far past the carapace. Since the eyes are black and body is typically silver or clear, the eyes really stand out and are a telltale sign that you've got mysids.The compound eyes of the mysid shrimp are clearly visible here. Notice they do not protrude out far from the carapace and have relatively short eye stalks.Mysids are a typical shrimp in that they have a head and thorax that are fused together into one piece and then have a segmented abdomen or tail. Their body structure is the same as most shrimp that lack any prominent claws. Their telson (tail spike) is not especially long and in the ones typically found in our tanks the uropods (fan-like "fins" on the tip of the tail) are often longer than the telson.This picture shows the lack of any prominent claws used for predation or as a deterrent to predators.The head and thorax of the mysid shrimp are fused together into a single body part to which are attached the legs.Mysids have two body parts, a fused head and thorax and then the abdomen, or tail, seen here. The tip of the tail is where the telson and uropods are located. Notice the telson is shorter than the uropods.Where they tend to differ from the ornamental shrimp we put in our tanks is that they have an elongated body and their tails tend to be straight or sometimes even curve upwards instead of curving down in my experience. The typical ornamental shrimp is a benthic organism that spends much of its time walking around on its feet, scooting backwards to avoid predation and conflict. Mysid shrimp, though, are more similar to pelagic shrimp like krill except that they don't jet backwards but scoot forward to escape. They are constantly on the move and rarely settle down to the bottom for more than a few moments. Despite this resemblance, the ones we have in our tanks are in fact benthic although there are also pelagic species out there.The tail of this mysid curves up towards the telson, different from the typical downward curve of the tails of typical benthic ornamental shrimp.Notice the legs that are swept forward - in some species they use these abundant legs to collect detritus or other food particles which are then swept from the legs to the mouth.This female mysid shrimp is carrying embryos in its brood pouch, or marsupium, hence the common name opossum shrimp. When mature, the juveniles will be released and then new eggs will take their place.Mysids consume a wide variety of foods and typically the varieties we see in our systems are consuming algae, detritus, and capturing microfauna smaller than them. As omnivores and detrivores, they help to keep our tanks healthy and maintain a good balance in our closed systems. Typically, once established, they are present in far greater numbers than are seen. The young are as small as many of the pods we often see (or don't see!) in our systems and hide as they are often eaten by their parents.So, next time you see a tiny silvery flash darting back and forth as you sit in front of your tank shining a flashlight into cracks and crevices in the rockwork (and you know we all do that!), chances are you've spotted a mysid shrimp!Click on the thumbnail to see the full body of the mysid shrimp from above.Click on the thumbnail above to see how the mysid moves forward instead of curling its tail to escape backwards.Click on the thumbnail above to see how the mysid's legs help it to swim forward instead of walking around or scuttling backwards as typical ornamental shrimp do.

davelin315

davelin315

 

Marine Aquarium Disasters and How to Prevent Them (Part 3) - Scott L. Moore

The Great Tank BurstPoorly constructed homemade tanks or tanks not placed on a level surface, when filled with water, will put undue stress on the joints and seals causing a burst. Also, the seals in some very old tanks can weaken. More than one aquarist has had to deal with a hundred gallons of salt water in their living room. Consider that one gallon of water weighs 8.5 pounds (2.2 liters weigh 1 kilogram).Prevention: Buy from quality tank manufacturers! There are too many cheaply made tanks on the market. Test used tanks by filling them with tap water, drying the outside and let them sit for several days. If possible weigh all live rock, sand and equipment before putting it in the tank. Know the total weight and ensure your stand will support it. Do the math! Make sure your tank is level and sitting on a completely flat surface! Do not trust standard manufacturer stands in an earthquake zone. Thick steel stands or stacked cinder blocks will be quite sturdy. Attach a nice piece of panel or wood to the front and sides if the cinder block looks too unsightly.AvalanchesRock is often stacked in dangerous ways in a tank. What many aquarists don't realize is that sand slowly dissolves causing even the most carefully stacked rock to come tumbling down and crack or bust the glass. Long before sand dissolves, livestock can burrow in the sand under the rock and cause an avalanche. Some livestock, such as octopuses, are very strong and can easily shift rock around causing an avalanche. True Tale of horror: One aquarist heard a loud crash followed by a wave of water as he lay in bed at 3am in the morning. A large rock had tumbled down and smashed through the front glass of the tank. The tank emptied in only a few seconds. The salt water hit electrical cords and surge protectors and destroyed his TV and other electrical appliances. His living room had substantial damage mostly to carpets and furniture. All this caused by 80 gallons of salt water.Prevention: Place rock gently on the bottom of the tank

Chad

Chad

 

Mixed Reef - Failure as a Design Consideration

We have all heard the stories. We at WAMAS Waves have told them in our last three issues of the Marine Disasters series. Tank catastrophes caused by a myriad of problems that led to the loss of thousands of dollars livestock, damage to equipment, damage to our homes, hits to our pride, and hasty exits from the hobby. It is a risk that we accept in order to have these serene creatures, vivid colors, and part of the ocean in our homes. Right? Wrong.Errors are a part of every human endeavor. We all make them every day. However, when you anticipate the consequences of those errors and make considerations regarding the outcome, you can greatly reduce or eliminate problems resulting from those errors and associated heartache. This quarter in the Mixed Reef, I am going to share my system design philosophy that has been forged by 23+ years of marine experience and tempered by my work as a nuclear safety and reliability engineer. This philosophy is a concept that I like to call the "dual failure reliability criterion." What does that mean? It means the system is protected after any one failure and it would take two failures before a problem becomes an issue.Protecting your reef and all you have put into it requires a little time, effort, and sometimes money. But with all of the time, effort, and sometimes a lot of money you have put into it. The expense is worthwhile.Now, how do you go about applying the dual failure reliability criterion to your reef? By asking questions: "What can fail?" "How can it fail?" "What happens if it fails?" "How likely is it to fail?" "What can prevent its failure?" and "What can prevent or mitigate the consequences of its failure?" Do this for each part you add to your system and you will surely identify things you can do that will make big improvements to your system resilience.With that, let's talk through a few examples.Starting simple: What can fail? The heater. When asking "What can fail?" the answer is always an object, rather than an action. Thinking about glass breaking, seals leaking, or overflows clogging focuses your actions more than addressing the end result of water on the floor.How can it fail? On. Off. Leaches chemicals into the water. Adds a voltage to the water. Start by avoiding the cause of the failure (case breaks and then leaches chemicals into the water) and focus on the failure itself. Once you are satisfied that you have identified how the part can fail, add paths to reach that failure. On

Chad

Chad

 

Reef Photography - Part 3

Leafy dragon seahorse from the Florida Aquarium, Tampa.So now you've finished snapping pics of all your favorite corals and fish, and you're ready to begin posting them to WAMAS. You've read through Part 1 on taking focused pictures, and Part 2 on composing an attractive photo, and you're ready to start uploading. Not so fast! If cameras worked as well as the human eye, your pictures would appear true to life in color, brightness, composition, and focus, and you'd have a bunch of wonderful memories of the beauty of your reef. In reality though, your pictures almost certainly don't look exactly like what you saw when you were shooting, so you need to spend a few minutes tweaking the pictures on your computer. Adobe Photoshop is probably the most widely known post-processing application, but you don't need to buy something that expensive to get good results. I use Picasa's picture editing software for most of my post-processing, and that's what I'll refer to in this article. It's relatively easy to use, it's lightweight, and it's free.We spent a lot of time in Part 2 talking about how to frame your subject to make it look its best, using techniques like the rule of thirds, making sure the fish's eye is in sharp focus, leaving lead room in front of a fish, and avoiding distracting backgrounds. But sometimes, despite your best efforts, another fish wanders into view and messes up an otherwise great shot. Or the picture comes out a little bit too bright, or too dark, or the colors in your picture are just a bit off from real life. This is where post-processing, or photo editing, can come to the rescue.Photo editing software. As mentioned earlier, I've found the freeware Picasa program does fine for most of my simple photo editing. I don't use it to store or share photos online; I just use it for cropping and adjusting brightness, and sometimes to tweak colors or remove bubbles. There are plenty of other programs out these that work just as well or better, and if you already have a favorite it probably has very similar tools. The main Picasa tabs are "Basic Fixes", "Tuning", and "Effects", and are located on the left side of the screen.The Basic Fixes tab displayed here contains key functions like the Crop tool and the Retouch tool. The Lighting and Color buttons can be found on the Tuning tab. You can also call up the details of the photograph to determine what settings you used for shutter speed, aperture, etc. This can help you identify what camera setting are getting you good pics, and which ones aren't. I do the following steps with my photos, and will discuss each step in detail below: 1. Crop photo 2. Adjust brightness 3. Adjust color 4. Retouch photoCropping. Cropping, or reframing, is simply zooming in on a picture after you've already taken the shot. You can use this to make the subject appear closer and fill more of the frame, and bring out the details that you can't see on screen when the subject is so small. For this to be successful you need to set your camera to shoot pictures as large as possible. Most cameras will call this setting "image quality" or "file size", and you want something like "jpg fine" or "large". This is the original photo, and this is as close as I could zoom in. The subject of the photo is the male anthia with his friend, but you can't see him clearly because he's a small fish in a big photo. I want to be able to see more of the anthia and less of the background.Here's the same photo recropped. Now the anthia is clearly the center of attention, and you can make out the details of his face and markings much better.I've recropped the photo again to make all the tiny details visible.If you zoom in too much you can end up with a picture that's too grainy. I wouldn't crop much further than this.Cropping is also useful to recompose your photo to screen out those things that snuck into your photo and are distracting. Things like other fish, powerheads and plumbing, the waterline of the tank, and light reflections can all be cut from your picture by cropping.I turned off the pumps before taking this picture, causing the waterline to drop and the lights to become visible. A single crop removed the distracting horizontal splash of light.In this example the main subject is small, there's a powerhead and an extra fish in the picture, as well as lines from the opposite corner of the tank. A simple crop makes the subject more visible and literally cuts out all the distractions.Another example of using cropping to bring out the details of a tiny subject and make the background less noticeable.Brightness, Color, and Retouching. Adjusting the brightness levels in Picasa is usually as easy as clicking a single "magic wand" button and letting the software do the work for you. Sometimes I'll increase the shadows, the highlights, or both to make the subject stand out better. The fill light doesn't seem to work well, and makes pictures grainy if you use more than a tiny bit. The color tool here can help sometimes, but it's not the best feature. I get much better results by shooting with the camera in fluorescent lighting mode in the first place.Once I've corrected for brightness and color, if needed, I'll retouch the photo to eliminate bubbles or other specks in the picture. Again, a light touch is best and it's tough to try to fix a picture that's full of microbubbles. It's much better to turn the pumps off in the first place. I asked the staff at the Florida Aquarium to turn off their pumps, and they just stared at me for a really long time. So I ended up using the Retouch tool for a bunch of these pics.Here's an example of the whole process:- Start out with a well focused, well composed picture. - Crop the picture to make the fish take up more of the frame so it's easier to see.- Adjust the highlight and shadow levels.- Adjust the color, if necessary.- Touch up any spots.Original pictureCroppedHighlights and shadows both increased. This makes the subject brighter and the background darker.Removed a few bubbles on the right side of the picture with the Retouch tool.Saturation. A word or two of warning about adjusting saturation levels. It can be tempting to increase saturation levels during post-processing in order to get colors closer to what your eye sees. Almost everyone who tries this overdoes it, and ends up with pics that glow eerily and look completely unnatural. If you must tweak the saturation, restrain yourself to raising it only the tiniest amount. Conclusion. You don't need a fancy digital SLR and a bag full of lenses to take really nice reef pictures. The key to successful reef photography is taking lots of pictures and figuring out which settings work best. Apply the few basic techniques we've discussed in these articles, like getting a focused picture, some basic photo composition, and how to crop and balance your pictures. Good luck, and I hope to see your entries in the Picture of the Month contest!About the author. Jon Lazar is not a professional photographer. However, he has taken thousands of reef tank pictures and a couple of them turned out pretty good, so he's agreed to present a few pointers in a way that requires almost no understanding of photography at all.

Jon Lazar

Jon Lazar

 

Homemade Fish Food - Scott711

I have done a lot of reading on what food/ingredients are beneficial for both fish and coral. After gathering all of the information about quantity and quality of foods I came up with the following list of ingredients for my food:shrimpclamsscallopsoysterssquidmusselsmackerelaloe Verabloodwormsbrine shrimpbaby brinerotifers frozen/freeze driedPE mysis shrimpmysisprawn Roecyclopeezeoyster eggsspectrum small pelletsdecapsulated brine shrimpfreeze dried copepodsGolden Pearls 5-800 microns 6 different typesred gracilariabroccoliZoeZoecongarlic extractChromamax(super concentrated phytoplankton)3 different types of Noriseveral different types of aminos/omega fatty acids and vitamins

Chad

Chad

 

Marine Aquarium Disasters and How to Prevent Them (Part 2) - Scott L. Moore

THE ARTICLE: Major Pest InfestationsAsterina Starfish, Aiptasia, and FlatwormsMarine pests are numerous and some can cause a tank disaster. Coral eating nudibranches can wipe out corals very quickly.Mantis shrimp may eat small fish. Live rock often contains many interesting and beneficial hitchhikers but it can also import dangerous pests into a tank. The Asterina species with a bluish spot in the center will eat coralline algae. Acropora Red Bugs will kill expensive acropora corals. Flatworms and aptasia can also slowly kill many livestock. Some pest treatments, such as flatworm killers, will kill many flatworms thus causing a die off and ammonia spike. If the directions call for water changes after treatment then do them.Prevention: Quarantine of all livestock is the best way to prevent pests from entering a tank. For new tanks that have just been filled with live rock and have finished cycling, introduce livestock slowly into the tank, one fish at a time to see if they are susceptible to pests that arrived on your new live rock. Consider dipping corals to kill pests on them. Study potential pests ahead of time and be ready to react quickly if they appear. Pests, like blue spotted Asterina, can be eliminated by picking them out with tweezers before they become numerous. Predators of pests are usually not one hundred percent effective in a tank environment.Heaters Gone WildAquarium heaters generally do not have very sophisticated thermostats. On some heaters, the thermostat may malfunction causing the heater to cook the tank. Many tanks have had die-offs for this reason. There have also been cases where heaters with too low wattage were used and during the colder winter months the tanks got too cold causing a die off.Prevention: Choose quality heaters by getting good recommendations from experienced aquarists. Titanium heaters tend to be superior. Replace heaters at least every two years. Consider using 2 heaters in case one stops working. Heaters can be attached to more precise temperature controllers for greater safety. Chillers can also prevent malfunctioning heaters from cooking your tank. Choose heaters with adequate wattage. Five watts per gallon is plenty. Audible temperature alarms are relatively inexpensive.Glass Heater BreaksGlass heaters should never be removed from water when plugged in. Removing them for only a couple seconds can cause them to break and possibly electrocute you and everything in you tank. You may try this and notice that you can remove them without them breaking

Chad

Chad

 

The "Who's Who" of WAMAS

Welcome to the "Who's Who of WAMAS"! The purpose of this column is to promote the social aspect of WAMAS. In this issue we have the pleasure of highlighting the personal sides of two of our fantastic sponsors!

treesprite

treesprite

 

Mixed Reef - Expanding Your DIY Horizons

A picture of an Arduino (mega 2560) card. Reefers seem to be almost any age, come from diverse backgrounds, and you might find one in any given professional field. One thing that we all seem to have in common is occasionally finding ourselves in a position where the ideal solution we are looking for cannot be found on store shelves. Of course, there also seems to be a desire to "just tinker with it" that we also seem to share.About six months ago I was researching do-it-yourself LED options to supplement and perhaps eventually replace my existing metal halide setups. I also figured as long I was going to use LEDs, it would be nice if I could simulate dusk and dawn. It was about this time that I ran across the mention of a little object called an Arduino. Now if you are like I was at the time, you are thinking "what the heck is that?" Well, it is a small electronic device that can use to accomplish just about anything you want using a combination of physically connecting things together and basic commands.Since I wanted something that I could use to more closely simulate a day, I set off on a quest to make an LED lighting controller.For full disclosure, when I started working with Arduinos, the concept and idea was beyond anything that I had attempted in my DIY career before, but by attacking it a little at a time, I found that it was not terribly difficult. If you are looking to expand your DIY repertoire, understand the basics of electrical components, then the potential for what you can accomplish is virtually unlimited.So with that, here are the basics:For my project, I chose to use an Arduino Mega, which has a lot of outputs and will cover just about any project you would ever want to do. There are smaller cards, from just the arduino bootloader uploaded onto a chip that you can integrate into your own integrated circuit card (a few dollars each, but lots of effort on your part) to some smaller, standalone chips like the Arduino Uno and Arduino Pro. The Arduino Uno (or older, but equivalent Duemilanove) is a good starting point and will run most things you will want to do.The little card may look intimidating, but really it breaks down to four main things: 1) either sensing or changing the position of a switch (digital inputs or outputs - the pins on the right) 2) measurement of sensors, such as temperature (analog inputs - the pins on the bottom) and 3) outputting a varied signal, like that used to dim an LED (PWM, outputs - the pins on the top left) and 4) some communication stuff that we won't use for this project (useful for running multiple devices).Setting the Arduino up to do the things that you want is accomplished by connecting it to your computer via a USB cable (the connector is under my index finger in the above picture). Free software provides a development environment for you to provide commands to the Arduino. For me, considering the programming part was the most intimidating part of the project, but if you break it down to the basics, it really is very simple. You just have to remember, it does EXACTLY what you tell it to. Nothing less. Nothing more.With that, let's talk about an example of how I would tell the Arduino to light an LED when a button is pressed.First, we need to set up the circuit (as an aside, I find that using a breadboard to set up a circuit is easiest to start). For this circuit, we need some wire, a button, a resistor, and we will use an LED that is already mounted on the Arduino board (at pin 13).The circuit:The resistor is just there to prevent a short directly from a voltage to ground and can be of any high value. I used 10 k ohm resisters I found at Radio Shack. OK, if you look at the circuit, you will see that normally, digital pin 22 is connected to ground (through the resistor), which means that normally, the Arduino will sense a low. However, if the switch is closed, then the pin will sense a high which will be used to turn the LED on. Notice how I said that: IF normal condition is true, LED is off. THEN... condition is true, LED is on.Lets look at how that would look in "Arduino language" (for the techies, Arudino language is loosely based on the programming language C). And don't worry... most of the text is my explanations.// Anytime the double slash (//) is used, // it means the stuff after it and on this line // will not read by the computer.// It is very useful for making notes to myself // about what my code does.// (so I can remember later!)// The first thing we need to do is some basic setup.// It is useful to use noun names for the pins we use.// If we name a pin, it is a constant that will not change.const int buttonPin = 22; // We just defined a variable (an integer or int in Arduino-ese)// the term const means we cannot change it later// the semi-colon needs to end most lines.// now, let's do it again for the LED pin const int LEDPin = 13;// Now we need a variable that will change, something// where we store the state of the button when we check it.// I initially stored it as a LOW since that is the normal // state for the LEDint buttonState = LOW;// OK, now we need to do some setup to tell the Arduino// what everything in the circuit is using the stardard // terminology. Everything inside the squiggly brackets {}// is run once when the arduino turns on.void setup(){ // First initialize the LEDpin as an output pinMode (LEDPin, OUTPUT); // Next initialize the buttonPin as an input pinMode (buttonPin, INPUT);}// Next we define the loop, or what the Arduino will do, // line by line, while it is onvoid loop(){ // First find out the state of the switch and assign it // to the variable we created for that purpose buttonState = digitalRead(buttonPin); // Now, based on the input, do something (note the // double equals (==) means "is it equal to" as opposed // to the single equals (=) which means "assign as" // if you accidentally use = in place of ==, the condition will // ALWAYS be true, because you just told it to be if (buttonPin == HIGH) { // this means the switch is closed, so the LED should be on digitalWrite (LEDPin, HIGH); } // And finally, we need to tell the Arduino what to do // with the LED if the switch is not closed. else { digitalWrite (LEDPin, LOW); }} See, that wasn't that bad, right?With just a few more commands you can connect a clock, a digital display and dim your LEDs however you see fit. Or if you want to get really fancy, you can add weather, seasonal day lengths, temperature based fan controllers or really anything else you want.Testing a six channel LED controller using a breadboard to simulate the LED array.A picture of the Arduino board and circuit soldered underneath a prototyping board that plugs directly into the Arduino and can be used to set up any type of circuit you can imagine.Intimidated, but a little intrigued, like I was? Read more, you can do it. Before you know it you will be using Arduino controllers for all kinds of household projects! Some reef projects that the arduino would be good for are: A DIY doser, light controller, reef controller, automatic feeder, and many more. If your mind isn't thinking about all the fun things that you can do with this, the website Hack N Mod has a list of 40 popular (non-reef) Arduino projects.Further information on Arduino can be found on their website www.arduino.cc, which contains a lot of tutorial, hardware, basic information, and forums that can be very useful in making your next project a reality! Also, don't be shy with asking me, I have completed a few of these projects now.

Chad

Chad

 

Reef Photography - Part 2

Jellyfish picture taken with my circa 2002 Nikon 4500 camera at the Monterey Aquarium. Point and shoots can take great pictures if you do it right.   If we're going to approach reef photography as an easy recipe to follow, you have to be prepared to add more to the mixing bowl than just technical capability. A focused, properly exposed photo is important, and you can pick up some tips on snapping better photos here in the last edition of WAMAS Waves. But to get your pictures from a lukewarm, kind, and encouraging "nice" to a more enthusiastic and genuine "NICE!", you have to throw at least a tablespoon of art into the mix as well by optimizing the composition of the picture. That's what we'll discuss here.   Taking a focused picture. Ok; yes, this was covered in Part 1, but it's so important it bears repeating. The most common problem with reef photos is that they're blurry, and a blurry picture looks poor no matter how well it's composed. Remember to (a)set your shutter speed to something fast enough to freeze the fastest thing in your picture (try 1/250 sec or faster, or the Action/Sports setting on a Point and Shoot), and (b)keep the camera level so the lens is parallel to the aquarium wall you're shooting through. (Don't angle the camera up, down, left, or right.)     Prepping for the shot. There are several things you can and should do to make your pictures nicer, before you even turn your camera on.   Clean your tank up. Remember how your mom would make you wear a nice shirt and comb your hair on school picture day? Didn't you learn anything? Clean up your tank before you start shooting, and pay particular attention to any areas you're going to be zooming in on. Cleaning up the inside and outside of the aquarium walls should be a no-brainer, but also vacuum up some of that cyano and move all those loose frags out of sight or put in a bucket or something. Your coral may be beautiful, but when it's sitting on a mat of cyano it looks like a supermodel posing at a Jersey landfill. Not the worst photo ever, but all the algae and the old frag disc distract from the zoanthids. Reefers will think "Ugh-nutrients are too high." Non-reefers will see all the pretty purple and wonder if that's what the picture is supposed to be of.     Pose your coral. Sometimes the coral you really want to take nice pictures of is in a place where it's difficult to take a good picture. Maybe there's another coral in the way, or there's a big ugly powerhead right behind it. Don't be afraid to reposition a coral to a different part of the tank to get a better picture, and allow time for the coral to recover so that it has good polyp extension and looks natural.     Lighting conditions around the tank. It's intuitive that having the right lighting inside the tank is important to taking a good picture. What's not so obvious is that the lighting conditions outside the tank are important too because they can detract from an otherwise excellent shot. When the light from table lamps, televisions, and windows reflects off the outside of the tank and into the camera, it messes up your carefully focused and composed picture. This is doubly true when the back wall of the tank is clear and the tank is not up against a wall. Follow these steps to reduce unwanted lighting:   - When taking a FTS, turn off the nearby TV and close the drapes, or wait until after dark. - Avoid using the camera's onboard flash. A remote flash is much better if you need to use a flash at all. - If your tank has a clear back wall, consider hanging a black screen behind the tank to hide plumbing, wires, and other equipment. I've temporarily taped a black plastic trash bag to the back of my tank before to accomplish this. - Wear a dark colored shirt to minimize reflections. This FTS would be much better without the two-toned background. The photographer could have hung a dark backdrop behind the tank to make the reef stand out better, and the powerheads and overflows would have disappeared. White can look good too, but not white and blue.     Composing and taking the shot. So by now you know the steps to getting a good focus, and you've prepped the room so that you can take some "NICE!" shots. Next is to compose the pictures you want and actually take the pictures. You can often improve the composition of a picture after you've taken it by making fixes with a post processing program, and we'll talk about cropping and other ways to tweak your pictures in Part 3. But if you really blow the composition from the start you may not be able to recover later.   The rule of thirds. A basic photography composition technique is to divide your picture into 9 equal parts, like a tic-tac-toe grid, and try to line up parts of your picture along one or more of those lines. There are all kinds of theory on why this makes your pictures look better. Don't worry about why it works; just follow the rule when you can. Try to align horizontal or vertical lines that occur in your photos along the imaginary lines that make up the "thirds". If nothing else, avoid always taking perfectly centered pictures and try to place things slightly off-center. The mushroom picture on the left uses the rules by aligning along the top horizontal and right vertical lines. The anemone picture on the right implements the rule of thirds by leaving the left third of the photo blank   Background. Choose your background carefully so it complements the subject of your photo. For example, if you're taking a picture of your yellow tang, see if you can snap it against the black background of the tank wall or a dark cave area. Also, avoid backgrounds that are very busy with other fish and corals unless you can make them blurry while keeping your target focused. A distracting background will draw attention away from the main subject. In the left picture, the lionfish's friend has ruined the shot. You have to think for a moment to see where one fish starts and the other stops, plus the picture is not sharply focused. The picture on the right still contains the second fish, but in a way that does not detract from the main subject.   Not every background has to be black. Here the Fiji leather makes a nice background for the neon goby to pose against.     Fish eye. The human eye is naturally drawn towards the eye of the subject, so fish pictures look most natural when the fish is somewhere between facing towards the camera and a full profile. Avoid fish pictures where the fish is facing away from the camera. Also, ensure the fish's eye is in focus. This one gets deleted. The anthia is turned too far away from the lens.   Lead room. When taking a picture of a fish, leave space in front of the fish's head. The idea is to make it look like the fish has some space left in the photograph to keep moving, before he hits the edge of the picture. This is referred to as lead room, and makes the picture look more natural. The blank space on the left makes the picture feel more balanced. Also note that the eye is sharply focused, and the dark background puts the viewer's attention solely on the fish. NICE!   Pick a good subject. Finally, unless you're documenting an illness or case of STN, choose healthy fish and corals to take pictures of. Fish with ich, tattered fins, and emaciated bodies do not make appealing subjects. Acropora with algae growing on the tips of branches where the tissue has died, corals with brown jelly disease, and zoanthid colonies with zoa pox just plain look bad. Take pics of something else in your tank until those critters recover. Not an attractive subject unless you're documenting the effects of ich. On the good side though, note that the "horizon" between the green brain and the background falls along the top third of the picture, and the goby is in pretty sharp focus.   Conclusion. This may seem like a lot of work just to get some artsy photos. But for me, much like a proud dad, much of the pleasure of the reef aquarium hobby is expressing and sharing the beauty of the creatures in my tank with others. My camera and I will never truly capture this beauty, but I want to get as close as possible so that others can see what I see. I think a lot of others in the reef community, especially those in WAMAS, have similar motivations for their hobby and I hope they're able to better showcase their animals by following some of these steps. Happy reefing!

Jon Lazar

Jon Lazar

 

The Regal Angelfish - Dave Lin

The Regal AngelfishPygoplites diacanthusDistributionBlue Belly VariantIndo-Pacific OceanYellow/Orange Belly VariantRed Sea, Indian OceanOften called the "Holy Grail" of angelfish for the reef enthusiast, not many angels garner the same attention as the Regal Angelfish. Rarely does a fish that is not an aberrant or a hybrid merit the same attention this fish does naturally. This gem of the sea is rare enough to be prized among aquarists but common enough to also be within the budget of most enthusiasts. While in years past the problem was finding a fish like this, recent availability has made the problem one of longevity rather than availability.I have been lucky enough to be 2 for 2 with these fish and have a pair in my reef. One is an Indo-Pacific blue belly while the other is an Indian Ocean yellow belly. These fish have been the centerpieces of my aquarium for about 2 years and the success I have enjoyed so far has been predicated on the fact that I did extensive research on these fish including talking to our resident marine angelfish expert, John Coppolino. So, how are you going to find your own success and add this centerpiece to your aquarium? The secret lies in proper acclimation.When acquiring one of these, it is important to get a smaller individual. Reports vary, but most agree that the Regal can reach a maximum size of about 10". That said, that is far from being an ideal size to acclimate to aquarium life. You will want to find a fish that is less than 4"-5". It's difficult to gauge what a good specimen is based solely on size, though, as smaller fish are less likely to have stored fat reserves and will be more affected by shipping trauma and lack of food. If you find a smaller fish that is already too emaciated, you may be too late to save it. Even if it is eating in the store, this does not guarantee that it will eat with you, so be prepared to help it as much as possible.Finding a smaller fish is preferential because an adult fish has already established feeding patterns that may be difficult to duplicate in the aquarium. In the wild Regals mostly eat sponges and tunicates, a diet which most, if not all, aquarists are ill prepared to handle. The key, therefore, lies in acclimating the fish to what you will actually feed on a long term basis. When they are younger and are forming their feeding habits, they are more likely to adapt to a captive diet than when they are larger. Getting a Regal to eat will be the hardest task you will face in terms of survival.In the wild, juvenile Regals often will hang out in and around caves where they can graze in relative security. Duplicating this environment is the best bet to getting one to eat what you are offering. Prior to getting my first Regal, I plumbed a 50 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank with some sand and rock into my main system. I decided to placed it directly into my system without putting it through a separate quarantine first. I did this to ensure that I had as much stability during its acclimation as possible. Although most will not want to do this, for such a delicate fish it was the route I chose. It did have some medicated baths before I introduced it into my system, both in the store and in my home, but other than a freshwater dip every couple of days to ensure that there were no flukes, I didn't take any other preemptive measures to ensure that it was disease and parasite free.On a daily basis I offered clams, mussels, scallops, small chunks of fish, shrimp, mysis, cyclopeeze, flakes, pellets, nori, random martinis and snifters of brandy or whisky, and anything else I could find in the house that might be appealing to a fish. I pretty much left most of this in the system until it wasn't even appealing to the detrivores so that the Regal had as much of an opportunity to pick it over as it could. It took a little while for it to show signs of eating what I was introducing and I slowly pared down what I offered until it would eat whatever it was given rather than be picky about what it wanted. Based on my conversations with Copps, getting it to eat was the most important thing, it didn't really matter what it ate as long as it ate. For me, the key to this system was that it was dark, offered live food and rock for it to pick over, and the sides of the system were opaque so that it could feel more secure rather than having to face the world and see me enter the room every day. Once it was eating, I kept it separated for about another month until I got another Regal. My intention was to keep it on its own but when I got the new one, a yellow belly, I decided that it was time to make the move and let the smaller one acclimate into the main system before stressing it out with a larger one. I followed the same regimen with the second Regal and introduced it into the system prior to adding my Imperator to the acclimation? tank. So, I'm now going on 2

Chad

Chad

 

Marine Aquarium Disasters and How to Prevent Them - Scott L. Moore

Tank disasters cause people to leave the marine aquarium hobby more than any other reason. All of the following, emotionally draining and expensive disasters have actually happened to aquarium tank owners. Some disasters destroyed not only the tanks but aquarist's homes as well. Read carefully and learn from someone else's mistake instead of your own.One disaster can wipe it all out. Read on.Moving Too Fast:Although in and of itself this may not cause a disaster, it is the root cause of many of the following disaster scenarios. Patience is the absolute number one rule in this hobby.Prevention: Take the time to educate yourself on all aspects of your tank. Plan as much of your tank setup as possible. Make absolutely sure you are buying the equipment, fish and other livestock that is right for your tank. Confer with fellow aquarists before moving forward.Not Understanding Tank CyclingTank cycling, also referred to as the nitrogen cycle or new tank syndromeAll aquarists must understand what tank cycling is or risk a mass die off. A tank cycle is necessary to establish beneficial bacteria that will eat toxic ammonia, nitrites and nitrates, but a cycle can also kill livestock. One needs to also understand the various reasons why more tank cycles can happen long after the tank has been established.Prevention: Do not add livestock during a cycle. Do not add too much livestock at one time as it will cause a new cycle. Remove dead fish quickly! Understand why tanks can cycle more than once. Read up on tank cycles! Learn the causes of 'mini-cycles'. Excellent article: What is the Nitrogen Cycling Process? http://saltaquarium..../a/aa073199.htmPump Gets BlockedFlow is perhaps the most important tank parameter. If the intake to a pump, sump, refugium or other system becomes blocked, flow may be interrupted. Without flow, water quality will degrade quickly and temperature may drop suddenly. With this type of disaster, some aquarists have lost most of their tank livestock overnight. Cucumbers, anemones and other creatures can block intakes. Filters can become saturated with detritus, seaweed (macro-algae) or detritus and cause blockage in the filtration system. Pumps may burn out if they are blocked or if they run dry.Prevention: Examine your filtration system and sequentially list each and every item that water flows through. Determine if anything can become clogged and clean it on a regular basis. Consider pushing a bulbous shaped piece of screen into an intake. Most pumps come with a small vent-like attachment that goes over the intake and prevents blockage. Disassemble and clean pumps often. Soak them in vinegar to release salt build up in them. (Rinse out all vinegar). Replace pumps and pump impellers before they break. Keep spare pumps or pump impellers on hand.Floods and SpillsWater on the floor is caused by pumps or attached hoses that get out of control. Floods can also be caused by poorly designed plumbing usually between the main tank and a sump or refugium. Almost every tank owner has let heir change out container overflow when filling it with filtered water.Prevention: Use plumbing designs that cannot flood even if a pump fails. For instance, pump water from the top of the main display upward towards the sump and let gravity bring water back through a pipe near the top of the sump. The return pipe should be several times larger than the uptake and very difficult to block or clog. Flexible, curved tubes are less likely to clog than PVC pipe with 90 degree turns. When filling large containers with filtered water use loud, audible timers to remind you when they are full. A wrist watch with a countdown timer is ideal.Failure to Properly Clean Filter MediaThis applies especially to bioballs but also to mechanical filtration and large carbon packs. If bioballs are filled with beneficial bacteria and you clean them with bacteria-killing tap water, then a sudden ammonia spike could result. The sudden lack of ammonia eating bacteria will cause an ammonia spike that can quickly kill everything in a tank. Also, if you have lots of bioballs and you remove them all from the tank at once, an ammonia spike could result.Prevention: Clean bioballs and other filtration media with a soap-free brush in used tank water from a water change. Remove bioballs gradually, perhaps 25% at a time.Electrical DisasterThere are a substantial number of aquarists who have failed to read equipment safety instructions and had electrical disasters some of which resulted in their homes catching fire. Unventilated chillers or equipment, failure to use drip loops, faulty wiring, lack of GFCI outlets and other electrical problems have all resulted in serious problems that can destroy a tank and your home.Prevention: Use drip loops! Allow power cords and any cable to hang down in a loop so that when water spills it doesn't run along the cable down to the equipment. Please don't say 'water spills won't happen to me.' Aquarium equipment can produce a lot of heat therefore make sure that all electrical equipment has adequate ventilation. One tank owner put a chiller in a closed cabinet. Because there was inadequate heat dissipation the chiller overheated and caused a major house fire. Ground all electrical devices. Old and faulty equipment often lets electrical current leak into the water. Consider putting a titanium ground in your tank water to prevent stray voltage from killing you and your fish. After a water change out, use a flashlight to check for water spills before restoring power.Putting Contaminates in the TankSeveral common scenarios:* You wash your hands with soap and don't quite rinse all the soap off and then you put them in the tank. Soap may have phosphates.* Your maid or a well meaning friend sprays Windex all over the tank glass to clean it. Windex has a lot of ammonia and thus will cause a cycle. This scenario has caused many fish kills!* You put your hands in the tank after you touched some other contaminant such as lotion or your dog's anti-flea and tick medication.* You worked on your lawn mower engine then put your hands in your tank

Chad

Chad

 

The Borneman Anemone

Some of the most interesting inhabitants in my tanks are my Borneman anemones (Phymanthus buitendijki). Unlike our favorite bubble-tips they are not frequently available, although I did get my first from a WAMAS vendor and a second from another member (thanks, Jan!).These anemones are known to be hardy and to tolerate a wide range of conditions. One of mine has attached itself to rockwork in the sand at the bottom of a 90 gallon tank that has both 150w metal halide and T5 lighting. Two more are in a 3 gallon pico with CF lighting. These two have moved directly under the lights and often are stretched to close to the surface of the tank. Neither tank has high flow in the areas inhabited by the anemones. None are direct-fed, and while the anemone in the larger tank benefits from daily generous tank-wide feedings of frozen food the pico inhabitants only receive a pinch of granulated food every morning. All appear happy and healthy. While the anemone in the larger tank has yet to reproduce, the one in the pico created a clone via natural pedal laceration. The Borneman is not known as a host anemone

Hilary

Hilary

 

Mixed Reef - Sun Corals

Tubastrea sp. under actinic lighiting dining on cyclopezeThese beautiful species are arguably most recognized denizens of corals. Their bright colors adorn many coffee table reef and diving books. We, as keepers of the reef, cannot help but be awe inspired by them and think how great they would look in our own aquariums. Remarkably, these beautiful corals are not that difficult to keep and by providing them with a few key necessities, they will thrive and grow in your aquarium.Placement: The single largest thing that sets Tubastrea apart from most other corals in the hobby is they do not have symbiotic zooxanthellae in their tissue to supplement their carbon needs (i.e., they need to be fed). Since they will need to be fed, you should place them in your aquarium in a location that is easily accessible. Also, just because they are not photosynthetic does NOT mean they should be placed in a cave at the bottom of your aquarium! Tubastrea need a flow rate high enough to keep detritus from settling in between their individual coenosarcs. On the reef, they can be found alongside sps in near full sun, finding a place in your aquarium with good flow and accessibility for feeding is very important.Feeding: Tubastrea will generally extend its feeding tentacles anytime there is food in the water column. Also, in my experience, once acclimated Tubastrea is not picky and will accept all kinds of food from fresh seafood to pelleted fish food. Feeding should be no less then 3-4 times per week for growth and propagation, although feeding daily will reward you with growth rates to rival some zoanthid species. A note on initiating feeding: Occasionally Tubastrea arrives in poor condition with receded and thin coenosarcs, when in this condition, careful coaxing is needed to initiate feeding. Feeding can usually be initiated by removing the coral from the aquarium and placing it in a smaller container on the counter (ensure it is on a stable surface that will not be easily bumped). Once in the container, add some mysis or brine "juice" to the water and wait 30-45 minutes. After this time, the coral may extend some feeding tentacles (even the tiniest extension is enough) and open the individual polyp mouths. Carefully, (using too much force will cause the coral to close) place some small pieces of meaty foods in the mouths and tentacles of the coral; with some practice, you will find the necessary finesse to this method. Return the coral to the aquarium after an hour whether any extension has been noted or not. Some particularly stubborn corals may take a week or two of this nightly treatment to begin fully extending in the aquarium, but this method almost always works. Once the Tubastrea begins to open, feed it daily and it will usually make a full recovery.Tubastrea species are hardy corals that are not difficult to keep as long as just a couple of needs are met. The bottom line is: place them in a location with good flow, lighting is unimportant, feed your sun corals several times a week, and watch them grow!Sun corals can be purchased locally through our sponsors. If you have any questions of further care, please contact Chad.

Chad

Chad

 

Reaching Out - Kudos to WAMAS Members

WAMAS members after working hard to provide a local high school Oceanography class with a reefRecently, WAMAS member Dave Sun was asked to help save Joanna Kulczak's tanks, an avid aquarist who recently passed away. Arrangements were made for one of the tanks to be donated to a local school. On February 26, a team of WAMAS volunteers consisting of Dave Frederick, Brain Ward, Steve Repp, Hilary Foster, Chip Frederick and Dave Sun dismantled the tank and brought it to a staging area.Former Chantilly student and WAMAS member, Josh Langland heard about a tank needing a new home connected his teacher and Doug Arthur, WAMAS President. Mr. Arthur, an electrical engineer, immediately contacted Ms. Gerbasi, a date was set, and the donation moved forward quickly. Then on Saturday, March 19th, Chantilly Oceanography teacher, Ms. Susan Gerbasi greeted additional WAMAS volunteers Dan & Dean Castro, Rob Gillette, Dave Lin, and Eric Wendling at the school to accept the tank and assisted in the set-up process. "It was a very long and complicated process," Gerbasi said, "It only took an hour or so to break-down the tank, but nearly 4 hours to set it back up again. Still, the results are fantastic!"The WAMAS mission statement in part states: "To further our understanding of the oceans and ocean life by providing education on the current status of the world's coral reefs and ongoing research in the scientific community regarding coral reefs." Toward that end, many of the organization's outreach efforts include assisting local educators with a variety of resources to further understanding of the world's oceans and the husbandry of the marine life therein."Including the tank and all the necessary equipment to operate it, WAMAS also provided a host of live coral and fish. Thank you WAMAS, again for this extraordinary gift, for years it will provide hundreds of students with a window into our beloved world of coral reefs."

Chad

Chad

 

Reef Photography (part 1)

"Sorry for the bad pics-my fish wouldn't stand still for me.""These pics don't do my tank justice.""Corals look much better in person."How many times have we read posts like this while viewing a fellow reefer's attempts to faithfully capture a view of their favorite fish or coral? Why is it so difficult to take good reef pictures? It's not for lack of information. There's no shortage of reef photography articles available throughout the hobby, and a quick search on Advanced Aquarist or ReefKeeping turns up many well-written, thorough articles on marine photography. But despite all this information, people still struggle to take good pictures of their critters.Photography is a full hobby on it's own, and a detailed discussion of optics, exposure compensation, and other "basics" will quickly overwhelm the reef hobbyist who just wants to take better pictures. This guide will take a different approach. Instead, we'll view basic reef photography as a recipe to follow, and look at a simpler way to approach improving the pictures you take of your tank. I'm not a professional photographer, or even an advanced amateur. But I've learned some techniques and tips over the years that can help other photographers take better reef pictures, whether they're newbies or old salts.Taking a focused imageOne of the most noticeable problems with reef photography is blurry pictures. No matter how beautiful your tank is in person, you'll be posting "sorry for the lousy pics" if your photo is blurred. This is usually a much bigger problem when taking pictures of fish than corals, because fish tend to move more, especially when you're dancing back in forth in front of your tank trying to take their picture. Start by switching to Shutter Priority or Sports mode, and set your camera's shutter speed to something fast enough to stop the motion: Why can't you make things simple and always shoot at 1/500 or even faster? Because those faster shutter speeds don't always give you time to collect enough light, and the picture turns out too dark. You can compensate by opening the aperture wider (which lets in more light but restricts the depth of focus), or increasing the ISO (which effectively lets in more light but makes the picture grainy). The photographer has to balance the combination of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO to create an appealing photo where the subject is sharply focused and not too dark or too light. Fig 3: Note that f/2 is a larger diameter aperture, and f/22 is a smaller diameter aperature. It's a math thing. The aperture setting controls the depth of field, or the amount of your picture that can be in focus if everything else is correct. Large diameter apertures let in a lot of light, but the background will be out of focus. You may want the background out of focus to make a fish stand out nicely from a cluttered background, but too large an aperture setting and much of the fish will be out of focus. The bottom line is that you have to have at least one of the speed/aperture/ISO trio be in the "Provides more light" column to avoid a crummy picture.f/1.8, 1/80sec. The large aperture lets in more light, but only a small range of distance is in focus. Everything outside of this narrow band is blurredf/10, 1/60sec. The smaller f/10 aperture limits incoming light, but more of the picture can be in focus.Here's some example pictures and how I prepared to take them. My copperband butterfly is constantly moving, so I needed a relatively fast shutter speed to keep her from being blurred. I set the camera to shutter priority, speed 1/160sec, which locks in the shutter speed and lets the camera decide on how to adjust aperture and ISO. I knew it was ok for the camera to pick a larger aperture, because I wanted the background to be blurry to make the fish stand out more. Plus I was taking a profile shot, so the whole fish was at the same distance from the lens and could all be in focus. If I had been using a point and shoot camera, I would have selected Action, Sports, or Kid mode because they typically have a fast shutter speed preselected. f/1.8, 1/160sec, ISO 200 with Nikon D40 w/ 50mm f1.8 lensAn f/1.8 is a pretty large aperture setting, and not all lenses are able to get that large. If that's the case, the camera will likely make the aperture as large as possible, and then raise the ISO (making the picture grainy) until it gets enough light to take the picture. If you run into this problem, try slowing the shutter speed a little bit and see if you can still get a sharp picture. You may be able to slow down to 1/125 or even 1/60, so that your camera doesn't have to raise the ISO. If the fish had been a blennie, goby, or something else that stays still, I could have used a much slower shutter speed and the camera would have been able to use a smaller aperture, making more of the fish in focus without raising the ISO and making the picture grainy. If your camera doesn't have Aperture priority mode, see if there's a Portrait mode available as it is likely preset to a large aperature.Taking a closeup of the gorgonian required a different strategy. Because the coral is almost completely stationary, I could use a much slower shutter speed, giving me the freedom to select a much larger aperture setting. In this case I used aperture mode and set f/22, which lets in very little light but gives a larger depth of field. This allows me to have more of the coral in focus, while still nicely blurring the background coral and not having to increase ISO much and get grainy. On a point and shoot camera you can try using macro mode, or landscape mode if you don't have macro. f/22 1/2sec ISO 400, Nikon D40 w/ 50mm f/1.8 lensDon't have a fancy digital SLR camera and a bag full of lenses you say? Fear not, because these days most point and shoot cameras give you at least some control over the camera. I've taken some very satisfying shots with my old Nikon 4500 4MP camera. Most cameras now have preset modes or "scenes" like Action/Sports, Landscape, and Portrait. You'll have even more control if your camera has Aperture priority, Shutter priority, and Macro modes. Other important factors affecting focusNow you have a basic recipe that allows the camera to take a focused picture

Jon Lazar

Jon Lazar

 

Saltwater Fish Keeping Was an Adventure - Paul Baldassano

Saltwater fish keeping in the seventies and eighties was an adventure. It all started in 1971 when Peter Wilkens published his book in Germany titled "Saltwater Aquarium for Tropical Marine Invertebrates" (unfortunately it was not translated to English until the mid 80s). Very few stores sold saltwater fish and if they did, it was just Blue Devils, Dominoes and Sergeant Majors. The places that did offer salt water had just one small tank of saltwater fish and a huge sign outside that read "We have Salt Water". If you had never seen saltwater tropical fish before, the sight of a blue devil was awe inspiring.The animals came out before any of the devices to keep them alive arrived. Powerheads were mainly for fresh water and none of them were submersible. They were designed to sit on top of under gravel lift tubes, and the first ones were made out of aluminum. That is not something you want to see in a freshwater tank, much less saltwater. There were also no GFCIs so we would have to unplug the powerheads before we put our hands in the water. The lighting was not much better. You had a choice of those long skinny incandescent lamps or fluorescent lamps which you had to push in the button and hold it until it lit. The first canopies to hold these lamps were metal, so after a few nasty shocks we learned to turn the lights on with a stick.By the eighties we had plastic powerheads but most of them were not yet submersible.Sanders sold a skimmer in the seventies but it was only about 12" high and was a counter current skimmer, meaning it worked with an air stone. The only air pump available to push enough air into it was a piston pump. The piston pumps cost more than the skimmers and they used a leather piston which had to be oiled about once a week. Some of the oil always managed to find its way into the water and the motors for these pumps were made very badly causing them to overheat. I always fitted them with a fan. Of course, I always managed to stick my hand into the fan blades. The pumps were also noisy and had to be placed in a closet or insulated box which made them even hotter.The fish were amazing. A person was looking at my tank once and asked me how I got the paint to stick on the fish. He was referring to a percula clownfish, and he was serious! One big problem was getting a healthy fish because there was no such thing. All of the fish had ich. If it were not for copper, there would be no saltwater fish hobby. The fish were shipped, sold and kept in copper treated water. We bought copper like we buy artificial saltwater today. We thought ich was just a part of life.Another bane of hobbyists was cyanide collected fish. Cyanide is a poison that was very commonly used to collect fish. The cyanide procedure called "blue stoning" was accomplished by squirting the chemical around a coral head causing the stunned fish to leave their hiding places and become lethargic so that they could just be hand caught and put into containers. Many of these fish lived for a long enough time to be shipped to retailers to be sold - the rest died. Unfortunately, even the ones that lived for a few weeks died soon after for no outward reasons. There was an article written about it in a 1974 issue of TFH (Tropical Fish Hobbyist) magazine. The chemical was banned in the Philippines in 1980 although it is still being used in some areas. Things stayed like that into the eighties when something drastic happened in the hobby which changed everything. The German government banned the importation of all butterflies and angelfish to appease environmentalists in that country. With those beautiful animals banned, people started to try to keep corals, which were legal to import. The Berlin Aquarium Society was instrumental in introducing high intensity lighting and the discovery of what supplements were needed to keep these unusual creatures alive.Also created by the Germans was the first HQI bulb which was 6,000K - it could keep corals alive but its color left much to be desired. Luckily they also came out with an actinic o3 lamp in the 420 nm range which offset the awful color of the high intensity lamps available. Actinic lamps were borrowed from hospitals, where they were used to cure infants of jaundice.In the US we still had no live or even dead rock. All tanks were decorated with dead coral skeletons, which were not cheap. When the nice white dead coral would get a little green tinge, we would remove them to soak overnight in Clorox. The tanks were filtered with under gravel filters and maybe a canister filter filled with floss and maybe some carbon. Now we all know that anemones can't survive in a tank with copper so we had a rough time there for a while. We had to get the copper out of the water along with the ich so we could keep anemones. It was not easy and we lost loads of fish. A blue devil was about $7.00 then, which is about $30.00 today. We eventually learned that if we fed the fish something besides flakes and we cultivated some bacteria while letting some algae grow, we could get the fish into a state of health where we could eliminate the copper.Of course any new fish had to be quarantined in copper treated water for a month or so.You have to remember this was way before internets or even computers. Very, very few people kept saltwater fish and the stores that did stock them had no knowledge of them whatsoever. The only magazine available was "The Marine Aquarist", and it was hard to come by and had limited information. Most of the foods available were designed for freshwater and even artificial saltwater was scarce. I first used "Lampert Kay's Marine Magic". It came in a small green box and was also not real cheap. Luckily for me, I lived near the sea and could at least collect water.Gradually more animals became available - coral banded shrimp and arrow crabs were starting to be common, as were yellow tangs. There were many fish for sale that even now we have a hard time keeping - fish like Moorish Idols (I had a few of them in the eighties), shrimpfish, clingfish and orange spotted filefish. Tanks then were fish only and many of those animals had a tough time in a reef - they had almost no chance in a fish only especially with the foods we had available.Corals were also frequently offered for sale. Going to an aquarium store was always a great day as you never knew what new animal they would have that you never saw before. By the nineties we had submersible powerheads, larger skimmers, powerful air pumps and other means to purify the water. Wet dry filters were state of the art and a variety of systems were replacing under gravel filters. We had the natural system which was invented by Lee Chin Eng in the sixties, the Jaubert system, and then we had plenums, pushed by Bob Goemans, the sterile system and then deep sand beds used by many people today.To me reefing was much more challenging in the seventies and eighties, although it was also more nerve wracking. You had to really take your time with any new animals you purchased because of the lack of information or just wrong information. We even considered ourselves lucky if we could get aiptasia anemones to live. Today I feel we have too much information, most of it conflicting. Much of the information in this hobby was created in Germany. Eventually it got translated to English but by the time that happened, a lot of the information was already outdated. Today millions of people enjoy this wonderful and educational hobby. The animals are easier to keep now but I feel there is a lot more that we don't know. -written by Paul Baldassano (Paul B)

Chad

Chad

 

Adam's Algae 1: Overview

Algae Overview and ClassificationThe term "algae" seems like a relatively scientific name for a group of organisms. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Algae are not plants at all. Most species of algae used to be part of kingdom Protista, which has since been broken up into separate kingdom. The word "algae" refers to a group of organisms that spans across different kingdoms and can range from being microscopic to being over 60 feet tall, such as kelp. Only a fraction of these species are found in our tanks, and those are the types that I will focus on first.There are two basic types of algae: microalgae and macroalgae. Microalgae are planktonic organisms, meaning that the spores of algae generally float freely and then eventually settle onto a surface. Some types of microalgae include diatoms, cyanobacteria, and dinoflagellates. Macroalgae, on the other hand, are able to anchor themselves to a rock or substrate and grow from there, like a seaweed. Diatoms are a type of microalgae that are formed of silicon shells. Since they are a microalga, they spend the majority of their time in the ocean floating around resting on sediments. Diatoms are usually brown and are generally one of the earlier types of algae to appear in the aquarium.Cyanobacteria are technically not algae at all, but as the name would imply, a type of bacteria that can produce its own food through photosynthesis. Cyanobacteria can range in many colors, but perhaps the most well known example of it is in the red slime that can cover the aquarium if water chemistry is not up to par.Dinoflagellates are a group of organisms that includes an alga-like group and other species of dinoflagellates that range from parasites to the dinoflagellates that can cause red tides. Dinoflagellate algae in the aquarium are usually photosynthetic and can attach to almost anything in the aquarium, forming a brown, snot-like scourge.The green algae, once called Chlorophyta, have now been separated into many different groups. These algae are green due to the chlorophyll pigments in their cells, such as that found in many plants. Chlorophyta algae are the most diverse, ranging from unwanted hair algae to desirable Chaetomorpha.Rhodophyta refers to a group of algae called the red algae, though not all of the algae in this group are red. This group of algae is generally found in more established tanks. Rhodophyta includes the group of desirable algae known as coralline algae, which secretes a hard calcareous shell, similar to some coral. The final group of algae I will be covering is Phaeophyta, the brown algae. Generally, brown algae are found in the ocean as seaweed, such as kelp. However, brown algae can also appear in the aquarium, generally in newer tanks. All these types of algae and more will be discussed in the newsletter. As always, if you wish to contact me, you may either PM me or comment on this post.

WaterDog

WaterDog

 

A Closer Look: Amphipods

Probably the most common and most visible microfauna of the reef aquarium are the amphipods of the Gammarus genus. There are over 200 different types of Gammarus amphipods and, although I have never looked into which species are the most prevalent in our aquariums, I can certainly recognize one when I see it. The amphipod is one of three members of the group that most marine aquarists refer to as simply "pods", the other two being isopods and copepods. All three of these are crustaceans and are imported into our systems in live rock, live sand, marine macroalgae, and on corals and their mounts. These can even be imported simply through adding water from an existing system. As probably the most commonly seen as well as easiest to see of the group, the amphipod is also an important food source and scavenger in the closed system.The rear segments of the thorax and the front segments of the abdomen. Notice the large walking legs which are hiding the much smaller pleopods.An amphipod has its body divided into three main segments, the head, thorax, and abdomen. The head itself contains the eyes and antennae and is a single part. The thorax is divided into seven different thoracic sections, each of which has a pair of walking legs attached to it. The abdomen has six different segments, the first three having pleopods (often referred to as swimmerettes) and the last three having uropods (basically rigid rods sticking out of them). The first two pairs of walking legs have been modified into pincer like legs which allow the amphipods to grab and hold food. They have a flattened body shape which is laterally compressed, meaning it is flat from side to side as are most of the fish that we keep. All of the anatomy aside, what you'll most likely see is a creature that is perhaps 1/4" at most in your aquarium that scoots back and forth on its walking legs or swims in a sideways fashion for cover when rooted out of its hiding place.The head of the amphipod has a somewhat large eye. The eyes are said to bulge out more when the animal is mature enough to reproduce.Amphipods have a variety of different feeding habits which range from scraping algae or bacteria off of surfaces to embedding themselves into the sides of whales and feeding on the skin of the whales, but the ones we commonly see are detrivores/detritivores, which essentially means they eat detritus and are part of a healthy clean up crew or scrape up algae and bacteria. At the same time they are cleaning up our tanks, however, they are also feeding the other inhabitants as well. They are a favorite food of most fish, but this is also why they stay predominantly hidden during the day and are more nocturnal.So, all of the science aside, do we want these in our tanks? Yes, of course you do! Just like any other creature in our reefs, a healthy population of amphipods will help keep your system balanced. As a valuable member of the microfauna of our closed systems, they help to balance things out and are an integral part of maintaining a healthy marine aquarium through natural means.

davelin315

davelin315

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