Crack!It is pretty easy to determine if your pistol shrimp is alive and well, even if you never see it. Do you occasionally hear that pistol crack, and think that something important in your tank just broke? Does your sand bed keep shifting around the bottom of your tank? If so, your pistol shrimp is doing fine.Pistol shrimp with their goby partners exhibit one of the most interesting relationships that can be observed in an aquarium setting. Known as 'mutualism', each partner benefits from the relationship. Take the time to watch the pair. The shrimp spends most of the day cleaning their burrow, bulldozing out the sand that threatens to fill in their home, stacking small shells around the entrance, and generally playing housekeeper. The goby benefits from the clean, safe home, and in return stands guard and warns the shrimp of danger. Watch your shrimp
Welcome to the "Who's Who of WAMAS"! The purpose of this column is to promote the social aspect of WAMAS. We asked members to answer 5 questions, to provide us with information they felt would help other members get to know them better (some people answered more than 5 of them, but we had to set a limit). We present you below with a few of the members who responded (with more to come in the next newsletter!).
Unless you have been living in your own cryptic refugium, it is unlikely that you have missed the impact that LEDs and other electronic DIY projects have made upon the hobby. Perhaps you have considered trying one of these projects, but are a little intimidated by soldering? Well, I am here to say that soldering is easily accomplished by a few simple techniques and inexpensive equipment. You can do it!To achieve a great solder joint you need to know a few things about what solder is... so, what is solder? Solder is a low melting point metal that is used to metalurgically bond metallic surfaces. In order to achieve proper bonding, the joint must be made on clean and un-oxidized metal surfaces. This is where flux comes into the picture. Flux removes the layer of oxidation that occurs on most metals so the liquid solder can adequately flow into the joint and make a good metal to metal connection.What do you need?The picture below shows everything that you need to make great solder joints on your projects:Soldering iron: For the joints that I made in this article, I used a variable wattage soldering iron. The variable wattage feature is nice, but not necessary. In general, any handheld soldering iron (not the "gun" type) around 25-50 watts will work for smaller electronics projects. However, if you are going to be doing a lot of soldering (especially if you will be working with sensitive semiconductor components), I recommend getting a soldering iron with a temperature controlled tip. In most single-wattage soldering irons, the tip temperature continues to rise until a loss/input equalibrium is reached (sometimes >1300F); this is fine for most work with wires and electrical components, but can damage semiconductor based components very quickly. For most projects, a small, bladed tip like the one shown below will work well; however, if you are doing fine electronic work on a printed circiut (PC) board, switching to a pointed tip will better suit your needs. Finally, ensure that the soldering iron comes with a stand and USE IT! The tip is 650F+ which can very easily burn you, your counter top or the floor; using a stand will minimize the chance of burning you or your stuff. These range in price from $15-150 and can be found many places. Desk clamp: Having an extra hand is usually the most difficult part of soldering, these help a great deal. I found this one for $15 at Radio Shack.Isopropyl alcohol: Cleanliness is THE most important thing to getting a good solder joint, clean everything before and after you solder. Skin oils from your fingers can interfere with getting a good solder joint and flux is corrosive which can degrade your solder joints over time. Rubbing alcohol >90% isopropyl is ok, just check the ingredients to verify the rest is water and it does not contain oil since some rubbing alcohol does.Solder: There are two main choices here: 60/40 or 63/37. This is the lead/tin ratio of the solder mix. Without getting too technical I recommend that you get the 63/37 because the transition from a liquid to a solid occurs at a single point meaning there is less of a chance that a crack will occur while the solder is cooling and transitions from liquid to solid. Also, the 0.032 thickness (the smaller one) is more than adequate for most small project needs. Silver and lead-free solders are safer (from a hazardous material point of view), but are more difficult to work with. Silver solders melt at a higher temperature which presents a higher risk of heat damage to components and lead-free solders have a larger plastic region between the liquid and solid state which results in higher risk of cracks. If you have a specific reason to use one of these alternative solders (perhaps you are soldering on something that you may want to lick?), understand the weaknesses and use it. But otherwise, go with a flux core 63/37 lead based solder.Flux: Make your life easier and get flux cored solder. It works well and is the least messy type. Keep in mind, though, flux is corrosive, clean it off when you are done. That being said using a separate flux almost guarantees great wetting action, but it will make a big mess to clean up.Misc stuff: Alligator clips for heat sinks, de-soldering braid for poor joint repair, rolled up and taped paper towel to replace the useless sponge that comes with most soldering irons that is used to wipe oxidation from the tip of your soldering iron (I find that using the paper towel you do not need to moisten it since it becomes a disposable tool), hair dryer or heat gun to shrink the heat shrink, masking tape to hold things in place, hobby brushes with the bristles cut short for cleaning and applying isopropyl alcohol.Preparing the soldering iron:The tip of the soldering iron needs to be clean, covered with solder, and shiny. To accomplish this, plug in the soldering iron to get it hot. Once hot, cover it with solder and wipe it off with your rolled up paper towel (throw away that useless sponge that come with the soldering iron!!!). Immediately prior to using the soldering iron, wipe the end with your rolled up paper towl so that it looks like this each time you use it:Tinning:Tinning adds a small amount of solder to the lead that you plan on connecting prior to connecting it. This does three things, it keeps individual strands of a wire together so you can easily wrap the leads, it makes it "sticky" when you solder and it minimizes both the heat input and the solder that you need to use when you are on the component (which is likely to be more heat sensitive than the wire). To tin, wrap some solder around the index finger on the hand that you will hold the lead with, apply heat to the lead for 1-3 seconds (time depends on the wattage of your soldering iron, but NEVER apply heat for longer than about 10 seconds to a wire or 6 seconds to a electronic component). Then apply solder, the solder should not wick underneath the insulation on the wire. You should apply enough solder to cover all of the bare wire, but not enough to prevent you from being able to pick out individual wire strands beneath the solder. To help prevent wicking of solder below the insulation, you can clamp an alligator clip to the bare wire up next to the insulation. Wire to wire connection:Once both leads are tinned, make a hook on both wires and thread a piece of heat shrink onto one of the wires then clamp one of the leads into your desk clamp. Apply heat to BOTH wires at the same time, apply solder, remove the solder, remove the heat (work in a well ventilated area and use a face mask or hold your breath so you do not inhale the smoke because it contains lead oxide and can result in lead poisoning, more info on the hazards of lead poisoning can be found here). You should apply enough solder to make a solid joint, but the shape of the wires should be visible beneath the solder:Clean the joint with isopropyl alcohol. Cleaning can be performed by covering the joint with a paper towl and applying isopropyl alcohol to the paper towl, then blot at the joint through the paper towel using the hobby brush. Visually inspect the joint to ensure it is clean and shiny. Finally, move the heat shrink over the joint and apply heated air from a hair dryer or heat gun to cover the joint:And there it is! Easy, right?PC board or starboard:Soldering to a PC board or starboard is very similar, but the risk of heat damage to components is much more. Use an alligator clip whenever you can as a heat sink (it is under the board and not visible in this picture). Solid leads from electronic components do not need to be tinned and should be restrained such that the lead protrudes through the center of the board. Using masking take to hold components in place before soldering them (just don't forget to clean the residue off when finished!) helps with this. Note: many preprinted PC boards similar to that shown in the picture below are heavily oxidized when procured, using a fine grade steel wool (e.g., 0000) to lightly sand the board will help significantly to achieve proper wetting action. Here is a sample picture (it doesn't take very much solder on a board!):The bad, and ugly:This a picture shows some poor solder joints:The joint on the left uses too much solder, is cracked, dull in appearance and shows heat damage on the board. The joint on the right does not have enough solder and shows poor wetting action (dirty joint).In review:Prepare the soldering iron, clean everything, apply heat, add solder, remove solder, remove heat, clean, done. This cycle should always take less than 10 seconds for wires and 6 seconds for PC boards (or LEDs), but will usually take 1-3 seconds. Clean the flux off and the joint should be shiny, show good wetting action and the outline of the components should be visible underneath the solder. Did I mention you need to clean it? A great solder joint is achieved 95% by cleaning and preparation and 5% by actually laying solder down.A poor solder is dull, cracked or shows poor wetting action. If you do get a poor solder, don't fret too much, you just need to remember a couple of things: minimize heat input by allowing the parts to completely cool before attempting repair, remove the solder by applying heat through the de-soldering braid (wicking action will draw most of the solder into the braid), and remove the component. Clean everything, ensure it is completely cooled and try again. Any Questions?
Hey fellow WAMASers! I would like to take this opportunity to share with you the premier edition of WAMAS Waves, your local source for hobby news, education, and a bit of fun. Contributors to WAMAS Waves are fellow club members who have donated their time to creating something that we hope will you enjoy and look forward to. One of the things that I love about reefing is that there are so many different aspects to the hobby and each of them is unique and different. Most of us have one or two particular things that brought us into the hobby and keep us intrigued. Some love the animals, or behaviors, or the equipment, the problem solving, the inventions or do it yourself, the chemistry, and the reasons go on and on. We each have something and in this issue of WAMAS Waves, we would like to share our story and introduce you to what aspect of the hobby really gets us going. For me, the thing that I really enjoy is the challenge. It keeps me watching, it keeps me on my toes, and it keeps me in a continual state of learning (one of my other lifelong loves). I have been in the hobby for around 22 years now, and rarely does a week go by where I don't learn something new about one of the many facets of our hobby. Reef keeping has remained one of the few constants in my life and one that I can always count on for a challenge. Sure, sometimes the challenge can be frustrating, but always fulfilling when met and a learning opportunity when not met. As a result, the thing I enjoy most about the hobby is a win for me through both successes and failures.As you read through the other columns you will probably relate to at least one of authors, please let them know. We can all be reached by PM through the boards or by leaving a comment on this page.So with that, read on! Enjoy! And see you next time!Happy reefing!Chad
Welcome, WAMAS, to our first issue of WAMAS Waves! Our hope is to make this fun and informative, and that you'll come back often to check things out.One of the things I love about this club is that while we're all interested in reefkeeping, different aspects of the hobby appeal to different people. A primary attraction for me is critter behavior. One of my major passions is scuba diving, and I've always been fascinated by the behaviors I see on the reef - critters that are always found together, territorial displays, hunting techniques, etc. Imagine my delight when I set up my first reef tank three years ago (wow, was it only three years ago?!) and found that the inhabitants of my own little reef were just as interesting. Confess - who here hasn't checked out their tank at night with a flashlight to see what sleeps, what continues to buzz around, and what creeps out from behind the rockwork? Or wondered what on EARTH those two fish are doing - fighting or courting? I look forward to exploring these interesting behaviors with you in future editions of WAMAS Waves!Hilary
Welcome to WAMAS! Like you I was a Newbie too, not once, but twice! I started in this hobby 20 years ago when there were no online forums or clubs. I muddled my way though it all and had 3 tanks set up for about 3 years. A tank disaster caused me to break everything down, sell it off and give it up. My 55 gallon tank had sprung a leak while I was at work and that was it for me. Twenty later, while watching a show about marine life with my family, I started talking about my tanks. I was able to identify most of the Marine life we saw. After everyone went to bed I searched the internet to see what was out there and, wow, was I not only surprised, I was delighted! There is a ton of information out there. Keeping a salt water aquarium had gotten easier and simpler. I found a 24 gallon nano cube on craigslist for under $100.00 and took it home. Within a week I had the tank set up. Within 3 months it was stocked to the gills. I then sold everything off and I was able to purchase a 75 gallon set up which I made into a mixed reef and also a 3 gallon pico. Then I set up a 10 gallon non photosynthetic tank and a 5 gallon macro tank. I've since knocked the 10, 3 and 5 gallon tanks down and split everything up and my most recent adventure in marine aquaria is a 35 gallon hexagon which is filled with gorgonians (sea fans), corallimorphs (little communal anemones commonly referred to as mushrooms or shrooms), a couple of non photosynthetic corals (sun coral, chilli coral, etc.) invertebrates (snails, shrimp, etc.), 2 black and white Erectus H seahorses and one Doryrhamphus excisus commonly known as a blue stripe pipe fish. Who knows what I will do next? Tag along and let me show you how easy it can be.I will be writing about the challenges newbies often face in this hobby. My writings will include topics like how to choose the right set up for you, essential equipment, how to cycle a tank, how to choose compatible livestock, what test kits, dips and medications you should have on hand at all times, how to prevent from getting those pesky pests in your system, how to identify pests and how to properly quarantine and treat livestock, how to put together a small system for under $100.00 and much more. I'm very passionate about this hobby. I welcome the challenges I've faced as well as the ones I've not encountered. It's an opportunity to learn more. There's never a dull moment or a day that goes by that I don't learn something new. I'm a newbie to everything I've not encountered. This is what keeps me in it. I want to share what I've learned with all of you. I would also very much appreciate you sharing your new discoveries with me. Don't be shy. I'm here to help. Comment here, post your questions in the forums, or PM me whatever questions you have.Janice (Jan)Jan's 24 gallon Nano cube
Greetings fellow Fish Nerds! Or Reef Geeks, if you prefer.Although I'm relatively new to the hobby (my tank is only a year old), I've already plunged in and am expanding! I am in the process of transferring from my 46 Gallon Bowfront to a 65 Gallon Red Sea Max, and can't wait to see everything grow. Even in our busy schedules, it's always nice to be able to sit back, relax, and do whatever it is we love about this hobby, whether it is messing with the equipment, reaquascaping, feeding the livestock, taking pictures, or just watching our critters go about their daily lives. For me, it's getting my hands wet and seeing what comes out while I'm sifting through some gracilaria.This brings me to what my column is going to be addressing: algae. While the first thought many people think of when they hear the word algae is that disgusting slimy stuff that we work so hard to scrub off the walls, there's more to algae than that. Beyond the nuisance algae, that we have all had experiences with, there are many more kinds of beneficial algae that we put in our refugiums for nutrient control, or just for decoration. Algae take up a large portion of the biological spectrum, and can be extremely interesting to learn about, or even to cultivate. In my column, I'll be talking about all kinds of algae, both the nuisance species and some of the more obscure, yet enthralling species of algae. As Chad has already mentioned, I can be reached through PM or by commenting on this post.Happy Reefing!Adam (WaterDog)