|The popularity of marine plants in the aquarium is no more evident today than in the addition of a “refugium”. The use of a refugium is a natural, beneficial way to balance and promote a healthier marine aquarium. A refugium can be defined as any separate system that is connected to another tank for the purpose of creating a protected environment for beneficial marine flora and fauna to grow without predation by fish and invertebrates. They typically contain small amounts of live rock, various macro algae, and a deep sand or mud bed. These systems can not only improve the water quality of marine aquariums by removing nitrates, phosphates, carbon dioxide and some metals, but in time can provide a live food source for many marine species by hosting different larvae and invertebrates. A typical system is illustrated to the right.|
|There are many commercially manufactured refugiums available today, in a wide array of styles and sizes to suit almost any desire or need. Many of these add-on systems are getting larger and more advanced so that hobbyists with large aquariums can enjoy the benefits of a refugium with reduced maintenance and care. The most popular style of refugium is one that is placed directly under the main tank as part of a continuously flowing system that allows the tank water to move through the sump and then back into the main system via a return pump. This style often includes a pre-filter sock or other media that traps large debris before entering a separate lighted chamber where marine macro algae and/or plants are grown. Most models also have separate chambers for a return pump and/or a protein skimmer. For those wanting a larger surface area or a more custom design, a simple system can be made out of almost any container or aquarium sturdy enough to hold sand, rock, water, etc. Dividers can be made of cut sheets of glass, acrylic or screens to separate the mechanical and biological components.|
For aquariums that lack the space below the main display, there are several options. First, a separate tank can be placed beside, behind or above the main display tank and plumbed with an overflow box and/or bulkheads. This style can present some challenges, but allows for the most visibility and enjoyment of the refugium. Another option is a small hang-on-the-back refugium as illustrated to the right. These smaller versions can be added to systems that lack the appropriate space to include under the main display tank or for aquarists that don’t want it in direct view. These most often include a small circulation pump that draws aquarium water from one end of an acrylic box and out the other end. Although small in size, they can be effective in smaller aquariums up to 30 gallons.
Flow rates can vary greatly in these systems, but most favor a high turnover ratio, as much as 10x the water volume per hour. Larger display tanks featuring corals and invertebrates can benefit from even higher flow rates. In their natural environment, most marine flora and fauna live in a dynamic place, with strong currents and constantly changing tidal surge, so they are quite accustomed to adapt to varied levels of water movement.
Most available refugiums include a light, usually a 9w to 18w compact fluorescent bulb. While the amount of light may be fine for some macro algae, such as Chaetomorpha, Ulva and possibly a few varieties of Caulerpa, it is often more desirable if space is available, to upgrade to a higher output light source, such as t-5 fluorescents or for outstanding growth a 70 watt DE metal halide fixture. Overall, it depends on the size of the refugium and what the purpose of it will be. For most, the concept of a refugium is to export nutrients quickly and efficiently, so why deprive the algae of what it needs to thrive with a low light environment? On the other hand, if the purpose of the refugium is to provide an area for the reproduction of invertebrates to feed the main tank then strong lighting to provide optimal growth is not necessary.
Used by permission of Russ from Gulf Coast Ecosystems (http://live-plants.com/index.htm)
Seagrass - The primary producers With four families, twelve genera and about sixty species (Sullivan 1994) the seagrasses have been able to colonize all relatively warm locations providing a unique and very diverse habitat regardless of the species or mixture of species found. Although there are many seagrass beds comprised of single species found elsewhere in the world, here in the Philippines there is high diversity of speices (seven to nineteen according to various sources) and the grassbeds are most always of mixed species.
Locally the most common species are the very large bladed slow growing and long lived (10 years) Enhalus acoroides, the short wide bladed Thalassia hemprichii, the short very thin bladed Syringodium isoetifolium and the short, paddle shapedHalophila ovalis. Each of the four species plays a role in the formation of the grassbed's climax canopy. With nearby open sandbeds, the Halophila acts as the pioneering species, being the first to establish itself in uncolonized sand acting to anchor the sand and preparing it for the Thalassia and Syringodium species to follow through rhizome growth. It is only when sufficient growth by the previous species has stabilized and enriched the sandbed through their leaf litter that the large Enhalus species establishes itself, which it appears to do more frequently through seed dispersal than by rhizome growth. I have only observed this large species being located in the central regions of the grassbeds indicating to me that it or its seeds were late arrivals onto the scene, giving the shorter lived, faster growing species time to prepare for its arrival while having spread far beyond their point of origin. The paddle shaped Halophila ovalis having pioneered open sand substrate allowing Thalassia hemprichii to follow. A young seagrass bed having been fully colonized by Thalassia hemprichii and Syringodium isoetifolium thus overgrowing and pushing out the pioneer Halophila ovalis. The thick layer of leaf litter has yet to accumulate as found in mature beds. A mature seagrass bed containing multiple species of seagrass and having developed a thick layer of leaf litter. The fully developed canopy also provides yet another habitat utilized by many fish and invertebrate species, some being full time residents while others follow the tide in from the deeper reef to hunt for food within these very rich hunting grounds. What seems most important for the associated species is the provision of shelter and food supply resulting from their extraordinarily high rate of primary production. The formation of coastal seagrass beds also help to provide the required conditions for the fringing coral reefs by slowing the flow of water and allowing sedimentation to occur before such particulates can become a hazard to the corals. Seagrasses also provide coastal zones with a number of other benefits including wave protection, oxygen production and protection against coastal erosion by anchoring the sediments in place and preventing their drift. The nursery habitat that is created and sustained by the seagrasses is an important contribution to the fisheries, greatly adding to the number of fish that reach adult size having been afforded the protection and food provided by the seagrass ecosystem. Seagrasses are monocotyledonous vascular flowering plants. They are unique in that they are submerged in the seawater, possess a rhizome/root system with stems buried in a soft substrate, have vegetative and sexual reproduction and have flowers fertilized by water-borne pollen. Seagrasses are the only true marine plants as all other "vegetation" found in the ocean are algae. While not a true grass, they are called grasses simply because their long, green leaves superficially look like the terrestrial grasses from which they evolved from.
I feel it is noteworthy to point out that other studies done in locations outside of the Indo-Pacific region have come to different conclusions concerning the nutrient dynamics of seagrass sediments. This may be due to differing sediment compositions as well as the different seagrass genera found in those locations. Not all seagrasses have the same requirements nor the same abilities in nutrient extraction/transportation. Since this article is examining a Philippine (Indo-Pacific) seagrass habitat, I have tried to use only the reference material that pertains to these locations. This should not pose a problem for the aquarium hobby as the majority of our aquarium systems are based on the Indo-Pacific regions and their calcium carbonate sediments.
I also want to stress the fact that the nutrient dynamics involved in any seagrass ecosystem is extremely complex and not something I can or am willing to fully explore in a single hobby article. I will however do my best to touch upon the most obvious of the actions involved as they do pertain to our keeping of marine aquaria. As with any plant, light and nutrients are the primary requirements for growth. With the surrounding sea water often having undetectable amounts of dissolved nutrients, the seagrasses derive the majority of their nutrients directly from the substrate by way of their root. Although the leaves can also uptake nutrients from the water their primary purpose appears to be conducting photosynthesis and storing nutrients transported by the roots. The nutrient concentrations within the water are usually so low that uptake by the leaves is considered insignificant relative to root uptake of nutrients from the sediment (Erftemeijer 1993). As with any plant or algae that utilizes both phosphorous and nitrogen, they can be limited by not enough of one or the other. How much of one or the other is available is determined by numerous factors, most of which involve the geochemistry of the sediments that the seagrass finds itself growing along with the availability of organic matter that is broken down through decomposition, the primary source of both nitrogen and phosphorus regardless of the sediment's composition. Any good farmer knows that phosphorous and nitrogen within the soil is the key to a good crop in nutrient poor soils, hence the heavy use of fertilizers in farming operations. This holds true for seagrass as well. The ability of a substrate to provide the essential dissolved nutrients has been shown to be determined by the composition of the sediment (Short 1987) in of its composition, either terrigenous (land-based eroded rock) or calcium carbonate. The grain sizes also determine the nutrient dynamics involved. It has been shown (Erftemeijer 1993) that Indo-Pacific, near-shore sediments comprised of terrigenous material has a significantly higher pore water concentration of nitrogen compounds than the calcium carbonate-based sediments while the reverse is true of phosphorous compounds. This can be explained by the geochemistry found to occur within the various sediments and at varying depths within those sediments.
The two sedimentary environments investigated by Erftemeijer showed considerable differences in sediment composition and nutrient availability. Total P and N were much higher in the terrigenous sediment in comparison to the nearly 100% calcium carbonate sediment The difference was attributed to the terrigenous study area being near a river inlet causing an increase of organic matter from terrestrial sources. However, the exchangeable phosphate was considerably higher in the calcium carbonate sediment and was attributed to the much stronger adsorption affinity of the carbonate matrix to phosphate in comparison to the terrigenous sediment.
Additionally, the apparently high levels of phosphate within the upper few centimeters of the carbonate sediment can be attributed to the carbon dioxide and acids produced as a result of aerobic decomposition of organic material and oxidation of reduced sulfur compounds. These acids may cause the dissolution of calcium carbonate and the phosphate that had been adsorbed onto the calcium carbonate, resulting in a net enrichment of porewater phosphate. Within the upper few centimeters of calcium carbonate sediments, bacterial fixation of N2 (Capone 1992) accounts for a large fraction of the NH4 produced within or released from the upper layers of the sediments, having a turn over rate of less than twenty four hours. Capone has found that denitrification can be detected, even in apparently oxygen rich sediment, possibly accounting for the lowered nitrogen content in relation to phosphate content and thus limiting seagrass growth to being more dependant upon phosphate when growing in calcium carbonate sediment. Again, the reverse is true when the sediment is comprised of terrigenous materials. The relatively high availability of phosphate in porewaters from coarse-grained carbonate sediments in seagrass beds found within the study (Erftemeijer 1993) is in contrast to the general assumption that seagrass growth on carbonate sediments is phosphorus limited (Short 1987). But that study was working in fine-grained sedimentary environments (carbonate mud and silt) while another study (McGlathery 1992) found evidence of nitrogen limitation. Given the apparent discrepancies between nitrogen and phosphate limitations on seagrasses within the various studies done to date, Erftemeijer concludes that the grain size of the sediment is one of the primary factors determining the availability of phosphorus in a tropical carbonate sediment. This is something to keep in mind when constructing a live deep sand bed for an aquarium. Life within the sediment - The Recyclers A few members of the sandbed infauna : Foraminiferans and their remains are clearly the most abundant of the visible life forms found within the sediment. Not surprising given that Dr. Ron Shimek has sampled foraminiferans with a density of over 70,000 per square yard of ocean bottom.
Polychaete worms and nematodes are also found in great abundance. Most are microscopic containing both predator and prey species. By just their sheer numbers and relative mobility, they account for a great deal of the nutrient processing and recycling within the sediment and by their movements through the sediment help to turnover the sediment's layers.
A barnacle cyprid Microscopic Gastropod A Gastropod veliger
Epiphytic Organisms - Important producers within seagrass habitats. The high productivity of seagrass beds is the product of not only the seagrasses but also a variety of epiphytic organisms that use the vast amount of surface area provided by the seagrass leaves on which to grow. The most abundant of the epiphytic organisms are the microalgae, providing as much as 46% of the autotrophic production of seagrass beds. Since seagrasses are not known to produce any toxins or have any mechanisms to control the attachment and growth of epiphytes, epiphytes can be found on all exposed parts of the seagrass.
Though the presence of epiphytes on the leaves of seagrasses is a natural phenomenon and contributes to the productivity of a seagrass ecosystem, eutrophication can cause abnormally high rates of epiphytic macroalgae and microalgae growth leading to the complete shading of the seagrasses and their subsequent loss.
Benthic microalgae (microphytobenthos) while very important in other shallow ecosystems do not contribute to the biomass and productivity in any significant amount within a mature seagrass bed. The lack of benthic microalgal activity is attributed to the sediment being shaded by the seagrass leaves, its leaf litter and the thick layer of detritus that blocks the sunlight and prevents photosynthesis from occurring. In a developing seagrass bed the benthic microalgae would play a larger role in nitrogen fixation within the sediment since it is unlikely that a sun blocking layer of leaf litter and detritus would accumulate for quite some time. This microalgal layer may account for the added nutrient enrichment that the pioneering seagrass species need to gain new territory.
Epiphytic & Off Shore Drift MacroAlgae - Damaging intruders or contributors? A tropical seagrass meadow will also likely contain macroalgae species (Bell 1997) that have either grown as epiphytes on any of the available surfaces or having been carried into the area by water currents and snagged on the seagrass blades. In mature seagrass meadows, the unstable leaf litter does not present many substrates on which to attach other than the seagrass leaves or the larger exposed rock fragments.
I have noted marked seasonal variations in the abundance of macroalgae within the seagrass meadows. During the monsoon season there is an obvious increase in the amount of macroalgae present due to frequent storms that create enough force that detach epiphytic or benthic macroalgae and drive them into the seagrass areas. During the relatively dry season, storms are rare allowing the epiphytic macroalgae to remain where they have attached or settled.
The storm driven macroalgae that finds itself stranded within the seagrass meadows at the end of the monsoon season is most often left undisturbed during the dry season allowing the algae to stabilize and grow only to be torn away at the start of the next monsoon season. The macroalgae, having grown larger, now presents more surface area to the water currents. I believe this and the lack of a stable substrate ensures that the macroalgae do not dominate or destroy the seagrasses and the result is that they are mostly transitory.
During the relatively brief stay within the seagrass meadow, the macroalgae will continue to remove nutrients as they would anywhere else that they can grow. They take from the local nutrient pool only to transport the nutrients elsewhere when the season changes and the macroalgae is set adrift once again. Eventually the macroalgae's luck will run out and they will be washed up onshore, snagged on the coral reef eaten by herbivores or sink into the abyss. Either way the macroalgae has transported a fraction of the seagrasses productivity elsewhere. Being seasonal and dependant upon the severity of the monsoonal storms, how much nutrient transportation takes place can be highly variable from year to year.
I have not observed any detrimental affects of any significance by the epiphytic or drift macroalgae as they are transitory in nature. Any damage done is restricted to small localized areas and is temporary (i.e. the macroalgae can shade/smother an individual seagrass plant and cause its demise). If the macroalgae is an epiphyte upon the seagrass leaves, the loss of the seagrass can also mean the loss of the macroalgae as it is dropped into the leaf litter. If the macroalgae is adrift, the loss of the seagrass leaves will most likely allow the macroalgae to drop down onto the leaf litter and find itself becoming shaded and smothered, as well as possibly being consumed by the local herbivores.
This all points to transient macroalgae having their nutrients either transported into the seagrass ecosystem by drift, or having their nutrients and any additionally gained nutrients through growth being transported out of the seagrass ecosystem or simply being recycled back into the seagrass ecosystem through herbivorous action and decay. Near-Shore Ulva spp. - Now you see it, now you don't. Ulva spp. are another drift macroalgae that can also affect the seagrass community. Where the drift macroalgae mentioned previously originate from further offshore in relation to the seagrasses locale, the Ulva sp. originate near the shoreline prior to the seagrass meadow.
Following the seasonal cycle of the tropics, of which there are only two, a wet monsoon season and a dry season both of equal duration, limits the impact that these algae may have on the seagrass to a few months of the year when heavy rains wash the land and create eutrophic conditions near shore.
I have often wondered at how such a loosely attached and often free floating algae could seem to completely disappear for many months only to make a rapid reappearance seemingly out of no where, hence the title of this section. The answer lies within its life cycle and within the local seasonal variations.
Bacteria / Fungus - The workhorses of all environments. Other than the much larger fish and animal grazers, most other animals can not directly consume seagrass due to its fibrous composition. The bacteria and fungi are the dominant consumers of seagrass primary production once such production has been added to the leaf litter and begins decomposition. By their actions upon the cast off leaves they break down the fibrous material making it available to the majority of animals that otherwise would not be able to utilize seagrass production. Bacteria not only use organic matter supplied by the seagrasses, but also any organics that have been recycled from animals and previous bacterial activities. While the bacteria and fungus first make the cast off seagrass blades available to most other animals through decomposition, they also process the waste from the animals that benefited from their originally breaking down the seagrass production. They also utilize the byproducts of their own decomposition which results in a net gain of nutrients available to the seagrasses, and the bacteria and fungus themselves are food for many other animals in the form of detritus. The nutrient net gain is further enhanced by the geochemistry that occurs within the sediment as briefly discussed above concerning nutrient availability per sediment composition and grain size.
The microbial mats found on the surfaces of both the sediment and the leaves of the seagrasses are composed primarily of cyanobacteria that have a dual role related to productivity by fixing carbon dioxide and atmospheric nitrogen which often limits primary production in many other ecosystems (Hamisi 2004). The cyanobacteria found in such mats also provide food to the heterotrophs. The inorganic nitrogen released by the heterotrophs utilizing the cyanobacteria, supports continued primary production by seagrasses in another cycle. As the seagrass leaves are decomposed they release both particulate and dissolved carbon and organic matter, which the bacteria and fungus assimilate and transform into detritus (also known as marine snow), a nutritionally important food source for detritivores. With a wide range of animals that consume detritus in all habitats throughout the oceans, it is of no surprise that given the massive production found within seagrass meadows the diversity of detritivores is equally as massive. Examples of some common detritivores both below and above the sediment.
Nematode sp. Cirratulid sp. Polychaete sp.
Foraminiferan sp. Synaptid sp. Holothuridea sp.
Copepod sp. Amphipod sp. Isopod sp. As each animal consumes and then digests the detritus, a fraction of the digested food, mostly the amino acids and protein fragments will be used by the organism to build or repair tissues. Some of this will eventually be recycled and eliminated from the organism's body as ammonium in urine. The rest of the digested foods, primarily the carbohydrates and most of the lipids will be utilized in cellular respiration, oxidized to produce energy. Eventually they get eliminated from the organism as carbon dioxide and water (Shimek, 2002).
The Grazers - Of seagrasses and epiphytic algae In a previous study (Thayer 1984) done on the effects of large herbivores feeding upon seagrass productivity, the large herbivores were found capable of exerting an influence on the seagrass nutrient web and the stimulation of seagrass growth. Fish, sea turtles, sea urchins and dugongs that graze directly upon the seagrasses, representing at least 10% of their diet, can significantly alter the nutrient and detrital pathways by exporting the nutrients out of the seagrass meadows by swimming away and defecating elsewhere. Their grazing can also have both a stimulatory and negative impact on plant production affecting community structure and function.
I have observed that the once much more abundant local large herbivores no longer have a significant effect on the seagrass community, the numbers of such grazers have been greatly reduced or eliminated by human activities within the relatively shallow areas that lack any enforcement of management regulations. With the uncontrolled harvesting, the local seagrass nutrient web has lost an important nutrient export link through the elimination of their primary herbivores. This is a pandemic problem.
In areas where grazing by large herbivores still occurs, the seagrasses have a below ground reserve of available nutrients which allows the seagrasses to recover rapidly to levels that equal or exceed those in nearby ungrazed beds. In areas of intense grazing, these reserves have a stabilizing influence by allowing the seagrass to persist as their rhizomes and roots are largely left intact and able to quickly produce more leaves (Valentine 1999). Such grazing contributes much more to the transportation and disturbance of seagrass nutrients elsewhere than is found to occur locally in this study area.
With the loss or significant reduction of all local large herbivores due to human predation, the only remaining major herbivore with any significant population is the inedible (to humans) Diadema sea urchin. During my translocation study of this species I was able to determine that adult sea urchins restricted themselves to the immediate area surrounding their shelter, only venturing out during darkness to graze within a meter or two of their daytime shelter. Such self-restriction limits their impact on seagrass to only those sea urchins that have found suitable shelter on the edges of the seagrass meadows or in the deeper depressions within the seagrass meadows that contain a suitable rocky substrate in which to gain shelter from. Those depressions that do contain sea urchins graze most macroalgae from the hard substrate as well as the seagrasses that extend into the depression. This constant clearing of all algae and plant growth creates suitable conditions for the settlement and growth of a number of coral species, that in their growth provide more substantial shelter for the sea urchins. Is this the birth of a shallow inshore reef?
During the first two months after the end of the monsoon season, large numbers of Diadema setosum gather together and roam across the seagrass meadows grazing upon the epiphytic macroalgae species clearing their path of such growth while releasing some of the macroalgae nutrients back into the seagrass ecosystem as waste and detritus. Such congregations are what I believe to be the sea urchin's strategy to ensure a mate is always nearby while also having an abundant and readily available food source to gain or regain the energy and nutrients expended by sperm/egg production.
Astralium okamotoi is the most abundant of the gastropods within the local seagrass meadows, not selective in its feeding, leaving only the encrusting species behind. Other commonly found snails include the Euplica sp., Trochoidea sp. and the Cerithidae sp. Phanerophthalmus smaragdinus is one of many herbivorous slugs, possibly a detritivore as I only find them amongst the leaf litter where they can avoid predation.
The only large gastropod found, feeding upon the epiphytic and drift macroalgae that it can reach as it is restricted to the floor of the meadow due to its size. Its movement on and in the leaf, detritus litter and sediment helps to distribute nutrients through disturbance. Human collection for food has greatly reduced their numbers. Salarias fasciatus also known as the lawnmower blenny is the most numerous of the herbivorous fish with small juveniles found amongst the leaf litter making forays up to the seagrass blades to forage the epiphyte algae growth. During periods of high tide, schools of both adult and juvenile rabbitfish species enter the seagrass meadows to graze upon drift Ulva spp. and seagrass epiphyte growth. The herbivores shown above are only a sample of the most commonly found species, there are of course far to many others for me to include.
The Larger Predators - Some are transitory, others are full time residents.Both fish and invertebrate species find the seagrass meadows to be rich hunting grounds. Many fish species, especially larger predators, are transient residents as the seagrass beds become too shallow for them during low tides.
Invertebrate predators such as this Archaster sp. (sand sifting starfish) are permanent residents of the seagrass beds as they consume the infauna of the sediment. Other large invertebrate predators include most other starfish species, hermit crabs, the swimming crabs and many other crustaceans.
Fish Predators such as this pipefish are also abundant given the high productivity of the seagrass ecosystem. As shown above, fish such as this pipefish species are clearly full time residents, evident by their coloration and markings allowing them to blend in with the seagrass. File fish species also take the same colorations and markings while the flamboyantly colored fish species make themselves obvious as to their having come into the seagrass meadows from the coral reefs and are thus transitory opportunists. Schools of both juveniles and subadult Plotosus lineatus (striped sea catfish) are a common sight as they leap frog over each other sifting detritus and sediment infauna.
Local Seagrass Distribution - The various hues of green in the below photograph are not entirely due to seagrass growth. The healthy seagrass meadows are found between the shoreline out to the 2 meter depth range, beyond that depth the frondose macroalgae dominate with an outer band of kelp growth prior to the coral reef. The seagrasses found at depth prior to the coral reefs are at their toleration limits having shorter and fewer leaves with individual plants widely spaced in comparison to those plants found in the shallows.
As shown below the vast flat expanse greatly reduces the wind driven waves and slows the effect of tidal flows providing a shallow, sheltered and near calm environment critical to the formation of composting leaf and detritus mats that are responsible in large part for the high productivity of seagrass meadows.
Disturbances - Weather, water movement and fauna As mentioned throughout this article, the feeding activities and movements through the seagrass, detritus and sediment as well as climatic and tidal events cause disturbances. These disturbances of the nutrients are yet another important factor in the seagrass nutrient web. During periods of storm activity the larger than normal wind driven waves can uplift and suspend the leaf and detritus litter, moving large amounts of organic matter either towards shore or far out to sea with the tides and making the nutrients available to a large number of other animals outside of the seagrass habitat. After periods of unusually strong winds and high waves, the shoreline can accumulate large mounds of wind and wave driven leaf litter that decomposes on shore releasing nutrients that wash back into the ocean through rainfall runoff spurring the growth of shoreline filamentous algae and thereby transporting the seagrass productivity elsewhere.
Such transportation also occurs when the prevailing tide and winds carry the leaf litter and detritus out to sea and deposits it onto the coral reef. Carried far enough, the organic material can find its way to the deep ocean and drift downwards thousands of feet, being consumed and broken down further by pelagic plankton and fish and microbial action in the deep benthos, only to be carried back to the surface again in areas of ocean upwelling. Upwellings then fuel the production of plankton, contributing once again to the recycling of nutrients made available to the coral reef inhabitants.
Complex. The only single word that best describes the diversity and nutrient webs that the seagrass meadows provide. Doing the research for this article has made me much more aware of what used to be a little thought of habitat, giving me a greater appreciation and a sense of gratitude that the seagrass meadows are where they are. Without such meadows, the coral reefs that we tend to focus on would be less for it.
Conclusion : With what I have learned and observed of a tropical seagrass meadow it became obvious that a suitably sized refugium containing a live, deep sand bed constructed with calcium carbonate sediment of the correct grain sizes and stocked with seagrasses in a specific species sequence, will provide a diverse and functional habitat allowing a reef aquarium system an enhanced capability. Related Reading : A Philippine Fringing Reef & The Reef Aquarium Part One An Online Philippine Reef Tour The Reef Aquarium Clean Up Crew Acknowledgments : I would like to thank my wife Linda for her loving support and understanding of my interests in all things marine. A special thank you goes out to Eric Borneman for his generosity in providing assistance with this article and in helping me to make sense of tropical reefs. To Dr. Ron Shimek and Leslie Harris, thank you for the many identifications made as well as teaching me a great deal about marine biology and zoology. References: Bell S.S. et al. (1997), Drift Macroalgal Abundance in Seagrass beds, Mar Ecol Prog Series, Vol. 147:277-283Borneman E.H. (2008), Sensational Seagrasses, Marine Fish and Reef publication, Vol. 10Calfo A. (2005), Beautiful Seagrasses - Keeping True Flowering Plants in Your Marine Aquarium, http://www.reefland.com/rho/0305/main3.phpCapone D.G. et al. (1992) Microbial nitrogen transformations in unconsolidated coral reef sediments, Mar Ecol Prog Series, Vol. 80: 75-88. Eckman, J. E., Nowell, A. R. M. and Jumars, P. A. 1981. Sediment destabilization by animal tubes. Journal of Marine Research. 39: 361-374.Erftemeijer P.L. (1993), Sediment-Nutrient interactions in tropical seagrass beds. Mar Ecol Prog Series, Vol. 102: 187-198.Fitzpatrick J. et al. (1995), Effects of prolonged shading stress on growth and survival of seagrass Posidonia australis, Mar Ecol Prog Series, Vol. 127: 279-289Hamisi, M.I. et al. (2004), Cyanobacterial occurrence and diversity in seagrass meadows. Western Indian Ocean J. Mar. Sci. Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 113–122, 2004Hansen O.G. et al. (1992), Growth rates and photon yield of growth in natural populations of a marine macroalga Ulva lactuca. Mar Ecol Prog Series, Vol.81: 179-183Kenworthy, W.J. et al. (1996), Light Requirements of Seagrasses Halo&de wrightii and Syringodium filiforme Derived From the Relationship Between Diffuse Light Attenuation and Maximum Depth Distribution. Estuaries Vol. 19, No. 3, p. 740-750
Lardizabal S. (2006), Beyond the Refugium: Seagrass Aquaria, http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2006-04/sl/index.php McGlathery, K. J., Howarth, R. W., Marino, R. (1992). Nutrient Limitation of the macroalga, Penicillus capitatus, associated with subtropical seagrass meadows in Bermuda. Estuaries 15: 18-25Moriarty, D.J. et al. (1990), Primary and bacterial productivity of tropical seagrass communities. Mar Ecol Prog Series, Vol. 61: 145-157Shimek R.L. (2003), How Sandbeds Really Work, http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-06/rs/feature/index.phpShimek R.L. (2001), The Importance of Deep Sand, http://www.ronshimek.com/Deep%20Sand%20Beds.htmShimek R.L. (2002), The Infamous Detritivores, http://www.reefkeeping.com/issues/2002-03/rs/index.phpShort F. T. (1987). Effects of sediment nutrients on seagrasses: literature review and mesocosm experiment Aquat. Bot. 27: 41-57Stapel J. et al. (1996), Nutrient uptake by leaves and roots of the seagrass Thalassia hemprichii, Mar Ecol Prog Series, Vol. 134: 195-206Sullivan M. 1994. The taxonomy of seagrasses surveyed from higher taxa down through the family level. Florida Int. Univ. http://www.fiu.edu/~seagrass/class/bot5647/maureen.htm.Tanaka Y. et al. (2007) Interspecific variation in photosynthesis and respiration balance of three seagrasses in relation to light availability. Mar Ecol Prog Series, Vol. 350: 63–70.Thayer G.W. et al. (1984), Role of Larger Herbivores in Seagrass Communities, Estuaries vol.7, #4, 351-376.Thomas F.M. (2003), Ammonium uptake by seagrass communities: effects of oscillatory versus unidirectional flow, Mar Ecol Prog Series, Vol. 247: 51–57Valentine, J.F. et al. (1999), Seagrass Herbivory: Evidence for the Continued Grazing of Marine Grass. Mar Ecol Prog Series, Vol.176: 291-302
Vermaat J.E. et al. (1995) Meadow maintenace, growth and productivity of a mixed Philippine seagrass bed. Mar Ecol Prog Series, Vol.124: 215-225.
There is nothing that will catch a visitors eye faster than an anemone with a clownfish snuggled in it. I have had the fortune of having had a few different species, all of which did very well for me, but not for my reef aquarium. In that they easily out compete corals for space and have killed a few of my corals when they either grew large enough to reach and sting the corals or when they decided to up and move, which of course means that during their travels, they can do a lot of damage to corals that can not get out of their way. I highly recommend that anemone be kept in a species specific tank all to their own.
While most hobbyists first encounters with algae is in dealing with how to control or erradicate them from their aquariums, there are also many of us who are now keeping many of the macro (large) algae species as part of their system's landscape, of which only increases the biodiversity of such systems and is a great help in maintaining the balance between nutrient imports and exports.
Since it would be of higher interest to those trying to deal with problems in algae control, I will try to provide the information and links that I have found to be of use in this area first.
A check list of what you can do to deny problem algae and cyano bacteria the conditions they need to thrive.
1. First, understand that algae and cyano bacterias will always be a part of your system, there is no way you will ever eradicate it totaly. Having to clean an algae film from your aquarium's glass every few days and keeping a few herbivores such as snails, is just part of keeping any type of aquarium. But when algae dominates your system and threatens to outcompete and smother your corals, action must be taken.
(A) We must also realize that a new setup is going to take time for its biology to get established and for any controls to take effect. Six months to a year is not an unreasonable amount of time for a system to balance out. Remember, this is a hobby that demands patience.
(B) The entire battle that is fought with any algae or bacterial problems can be traced back to being an issue of nutrients.
2. Your freshwater sources : Starting out with and continuing to use as pure a freshwater source as possible is probably the single best thing that you can do to tip the odds in your favor. Tap water is usualy loaded with impurities and nutrients that will fuel excessive algae growth. As such, I believe that one of the first peices of equipment that you should purchase is an RO/DI water filtration system, if that is not possible right away, then at least use distilled water when making up your saltwater.
3. Water changes : As an old saying goes within this hobby, " the solution to pollution is dillution". Doing frequent large water changes is, in my opinion, THE single best thing you can do for your entire system. Not only are you removing (dilluting) out nutrients, you are also removing a host of other elements that will build up in an enclosed system while at the same time, bringing other much needed and used elements back up to proper levels without having to become a chemistry major and doing what I feel is the single biggest mistake made in this hobby, which is adding additives and supplements.
4. Limit the nutrients you add to the tank : Everything you feed the tank wether its "bad" water, supplements or fish/coral food will add to the importation of nutrients, which will then be used by algae.
(A) Limit or stop using flake or pelleted foods which contain high levels of phosphates and other excessive nutrients. Frozen prepared foods or fresh seafoods are a much better choice.
(B) Do not add Iodine supplementation. The only "fact" that has been proven is that algae consumes and holds a great quantity of this element. All of the claims of invertebrates or corals needing amounts greater than found in natural sea water are ancedotal and have yet to be proven. If you want alot of algae, add Iodine.
5. Examine your stocking levels of fish. Quite often an aquarium will be overstocked with fish that the system's biology can not deal with. Fish being the greatest source of nutrient importation by their just being alive and our having to feed them.
6. If you can not beat them, then join them : Using algae itself to uptake and lock up nutrients is a highly effective and much more natural method of nutrient control. Having a sump compartment or another tank used to cultivate algae which can then be trimmed and thrown away will help to deny those algae in the show tank the nutrients they need to grow.
7. Use herbivores such as snails to consume that algae which will grow within the show tank.
The following links will be of use and interest regarding algae and cyanobacteria control.
Reef Aquria as Ecosystems - "Discussing marine reef aquaria as ecosystems and how we should manage them using an ecosystem or holistic approach, as opposed to the micromanagement philosophy that seems inherent in most reef aquarium husbandry."
The types of algae in marine aquria - "Pond scum, kelp, red tides, seaweed and "that film on the glass". These are but a few of the many names that are used to describe the algae. These are the plants of the sea. It is a huge assemblage of organisms with species numbering in the tens of thousands."
Algae Control Tips - "A selection of useful tidbits of information and tricks for the marine aquarist submitted by Advanced Aquarist's readership"
Nuisance Algae in the Reef Aquarium - "In this series of articles I will explain the different types of fuel that allow these unsightly algae to take over an aquarium."
Clean up Crews - "What I intend for this article is to give some general ideas to the various "clean-up crew" participants that are available and their usefulness to the marine aquarium."
Use of Mangroves - "Mangroves have become increasingly familiar additions to marine displays and refugia"
Dinoflagellates - "Many dinoflagellates are photosynthetic and are among the major primary producers of the phytoplankton along with diatoms."
Diatoms & Silica - "Silica is a chemical that is feared by many reef keepers. Visions of a reef tank covered with diatoms so thick that you can not see through the glass come to mind."
Cyanobacteria webserver - "Cyanosite is dedicated to the information transfer within the cyanobacterial research community"
In our battle with the micro or nuisance algae, you will find many references to using macro (large) algae as a means to export nutrients that fuel the algae types that we need to control. What is usualy over looked is the fact that many of the larger algae are quite pleasant to look at and provide a much more natural landscape, such can be said of the sea grasses as well. The following links will relate to their identification and care tips.
Caulerpa Algae - It is quite common within the hobby to use any number of Caulerpa algae species as a means to control nutrient levels within our reef aquariums. Given that this group of algae only do well with higher nutrient levels than what we strive to maintain within our systems, I would only recommend their use for those aquariums that constantly struggle with higher than normal nutrient levels. There are a few dangers or concerns to be aware of if this algae group is kept.
- Caulerpa species are fast growers, and do so with strong holdfasts that anchor the algae to the substrates making them difficult to remove. Even with their removal, any remaining holdfasts on the substrate can regenerate and make these species difficult to be rid of once established. If you do wish to keep these alage, I would do so outside of the main display aquarium within a refugium.
- With the fast growth, comes faster nutrient uptake, which is what we would want when struggling with water quality issues brought on by excessive nutrients. The problem with the use of these species is that they are found in the wild only in near shore areas that contain higher nutrient levels than that found out on the coral reef. When the nutrient levels fall, the algae will suffer and most likely go into sporalation (method of reproduction), This is characterized by the algae becoming translucent and disintegrating, this can happen very quickly. When it does happen, if enough of the algae is present it can foul the water and result in mass die off. As such, I would only use these species temporarily to get excessive nutrients under control (water changes would be more effective) and then switch to other macro algae species of which the majority of them require lower nutrient levels to live in than the caulerpa species.
- Caulerpa species also contains a toxin called caulerpenyne which makes it undesireable to most herbivores, the toxin is also released anytime the algae is broken and possibly just leached from the algae as it grows. The toxin can over long term exposure or with high amounts have deleterious effects on inverts and fish. The toxin can be removed with the use of activated carbon, and I would suggest if you intend to keep the caulerpa then you should use activated carbon somewhere in the system.
As you can see, the use of any of the Caulerpa algae would most likely not be a good idea as there are better and safer alternatives to bringing high nutrient levels under control in my opinion. If you do keep these algae, I would be aware that as your aquarium's nutrient levels start to fall, you risk having it suddenely die off. Not a good thing to have happen. Algae in the coral reef envrionment - "Competition for space with other attached organisms is one of the main factors controlling growth of the marine flora."
Beyond the Refugium, A macroalgae primer - "This series will focus on algal marine plants and attempt to highlight their more desirable and beautiful attributes."
A Planted Aquarium - "Seagrasses, until recently, had earned only an obscure place in marine aquaria as occasional, short lived accents in full blown reef tanks or as nutrient export plants in refugiums."
Macroalgae for landscaping - "A very well put together guide"
The SeaPlants Handbook - A very comprehensive site and a great resource for algae identification.
Algae Identification - "This is basically a "visual" page where photos of different forms of algae and possible biological control critters can be seen."
Calurpa Sporulation - "I'm sure most hobbyists that have kept Caulerpa in their refugium or display tank know about or have experienced this algae's reproductive activity."
Since life on this planet would not be possible without them, including within our aquariums, I feel that we should take some time to get to know at least a few of the bacterial families that are of concern to our aquarium's biology. Knowing what certain strains need provides us with the knowledge on how to either control them, or promote them.
Bacterial Diversity Study Guide - Get to know our friends and our enemies.
Bacteria - Wikipedia's very informative article and the source of the following information.
CyanoBacteria Link #2 Link #3 - "Though cyanobacteria do not have a great diversity of form, and though they are microscopic, they are rich in chemical diversity."
A note on the "red slime removers" - Being that the cyanobacteria are just that, bacteria. Such products use an antibacterial medication to kill off the cyanobacteria. To me, this should only be done as a last resort and not something to rely upon on a regular basis. If the problem is so great that all your efforts to be rid of it fails, then I would consider killing it not with any of the products available, but by simply using the main ingredient those products contain, which is listed below. Of course such treatment should only be done when the cyanobacteria's food source(s) are limited and controlled.
Such products usualy contain either Erythormycin (white in coloration) or Tetracycline (yellow in coloration). Also note that the product "ChemiClean" contains Erythromycin.
Most bacteria may be placed into one of three groups based on their response to gaseous oxygen. Aerobic bacteria thrive in the presence of oxygen and require it for their continued growth and existence. Other bacteria are anaerobic, and cannot tolerate gaseous oxygen, such as those bacteria which live in deep underwater sediments. The third group are the facultative anaerobes, which prefer growing in the presence of oxygen, but can continue to grow without it.
Bacteria may also be classified both by the mode by which they obtain their energy. Classified by the source of their energy, bacteria fall into two categories: heterotrophs and autotrophs. Heterotrophs derive energy from breaking down complex organic compounds that they must take in from the environment -- this includes saprobic bacteria found in decaying material, as well as those that rely on fermentation or respiration.
The other group, the autotrophs, fix carbon dioxide to make their own food source; this may be fueled by light energy (photoautotrophic), or by oxidation of nitrogen, sulfur, or other elements (chemoautotrophic). While chemoautotrophs are uncommon, photoautotrophs are common and quite diverse. They include the cyanobacteria, green sulfur bacteria, purple sulfur bacteria, and purple nonsulfur bacteria. The sulfur bacteria are particularly interesting, since they use hydrogen sulfide as hydrogen donor, instead of water like most other photosynthetic organisms, including cyanobacteria.
How Bacteria Eat: Like all living organisms bacteria need to eat in order to live, grow and reproduce. However, bacteria are far too small to have a mouth. Instead they have special channels in their cell walls and cell membranes which allow, or even assist some molecules to cross. Once the molecules are inside the cell they can be broken down into their componant parts before being rebuilt into the macromoloecules the bacteria needs in order to build and repair itself, or generate energy.
Unfortunately for the bacteria the surrounding environment is not always full of free-floating molecules of the correct sort. Instead, the molecules may be all bound together. To solve this problem bacteria have evolved the habit of leaking enzymes out into the environment around them. These enzymes then do what ever it is they do, attack specific tissues and molecules (proteases attack proteins, cellulases attack cellulose etc) and break them up into smaller units. Eventually molecules of a size that the bacteria can take into itself are made that the cell can then absorb through the channels mentioned above.
Bacterial metabolism is classified on the basis of three major criteria: the kind of energy used for growth, the source of carbon, and the electron donors used for growth. An additional criterion of respiratory microorganisms are the electron acceptors used for aerobic or anaerobic respiration.
Cellular respiration describes the metabolism reactions and processes that take place in a cell to obtain biochemical energy from fuel molecules and the release of the cells' waste products. Energy is released by the oxidation of fuel molecules and is stored as "high-energy" carriers. The reactions involved in respiration are catabolic reactions in metabolism.
Fuel molecules commonly used by cells in respiration include glucose, amino acids and fatty acids, and a common oxidizing agent (electron acceptor) is molecular oxygen (O2). There are organisms, however, that can respire using other organic molecules as electron acceptors instead of oxygen. Organisms that use oxygen as a final electron acceptor in respiration are described as aerobic, while those that do not are referred to as anaerobic.
The energy released in respiration is used to synthesize molecules that act as a chemical storage of this energy. One of the most widely used compounds in a cell is adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and its stored chemical energy can be used for many processes requiring energy, including biosynthesis, locomotion or transportation of molecules across cell membranes. Because of its ubiquitous nature, ATP is also known as the "universal energy currency", since the amount of it in a cell indicates how much energy is available for energy-consuming processes.
Nitrification is the biological oxidation of ammonia with oxygen into nitrite followed by the oxidation of these nitrites into nitrates. Nitrification is an important step in the nitrogen cycle in water. The oxidation of ammonia into nitrite, and the subsequent oxidation to nitrate is performed by two different bacteria (nitrifying bacteria). The first step is done by bacteria of the genus Nitrosomonas and Nitrosococcus. The second step (oxidation of nitrite into nitrate) is done by bacteria of the genus Nitrobacter, with both steps producing energy to be coupled to ATP synthesis.
Denitrification is the process of reducing nitrate and nitrite, highly oxidised forms of nitrogen available for consumption by many groups of organisms, into gaseous nitrogen, which is far less accessible to life forms. Denitrification takes place under special conditions in marine ecosystems. In general, it occurs when oxygen (which is a more favourable electron acceptor) is depleted, and bacteria turn to nitrate in order to respire organic matter. Because our water is rich with oxygen, denitrification only takes place in areas such as our sandbeds where oxygen is very limited.
Denitrification proceeds through some combination of the following steps:
nitrate → nitrite → nitric oxide → nitrous oxide → dinitrogen gas
Used by permission. Many thanks to Charlies and Linda Raabe for their support. www.chucksaddiction.com
Stocking the Reef Aquarium: Coral Compatibility
Used by permission. Many thanks to Charlies and Linda Raabe for their support. www.chucksaddiction.com
A compilation of available information concerning the parasitic protozoa brooklynella hostilis. While trying to help a fellow hobbyist find information on how to treat for this parasite, it became quickly apparent that detailed information was not to be found within a singleonline search, many hours were spent to find answers to what should be considered basic questions. As such, I have done my best to compile what known facts that there are into a single page. I would like to thank Heather Ortega for her help in doing so and in providing the fish photographs shown within this page.
WHAT IS IT - It is a parasitic ciliated protozoan - The ciliated protozoa are the most conspicuous and easily recognized groups of protists. They are conspicuous because they are usually motile and quite large, ranging from an average of about 50 micrometers up to 4 mm in size. They are easily recognized because they are propelled through the water by hundreds to thousands of cilia (hair like structures) that cover their bodies, aligned in long files or kineties.
METHOD OF REPRODUCTION - Reproduction occurs by simple binary fission, in a process called conjugation where genetic material is passed between two individuals, much like some bacteria are able to do, The two partners usually have to be from complementary mating types and once they have fused they exchange gametic nuclei, which are equivalent to the nuclei of our sperm and eggs. After this exchange, the two partners separate. The gametic nuclei fuse and the zygotic nucleus divides. The nuclei produced develop into a new macronucleus and a new micronucleus. This process of reproduction occurs very rapidly and explains why an infected fish can easily succumb to this protozoa within a matter of hours or days. It does not have typical life cycles as other more well known parasites, which take much longer to accomplish the same damaging effects as seen with this one.
LIFE CYCLE - Once reproduction has taken place, the newly formed protozoa is able to freely swim by the use of its ciliates and able to find a new host or more usually, attach to the same fish its "parents" are on, which is why you will note such a rapid progression of this parasite. Attachment usually occurs at the gills of the fish first and spreads outwards as they multiply, as this parasite feeds upon the fish, it also releases toxins that can prove fatal to the fish very quickly. Free swimming protozoa can persist for quite some time without a host to feed upon. As such, any aquarium that has had this parasite introduced to it, must remain fallow (fishless) for no less than four weeks in order for the remaining free swimming parasites to die off without a host to feed upon. As such, all fish within the aquarium must be put into a quarantine tank and treated, while being kept out of the main aquarium during that four week period.
INFECTION INDICATORS - The usual first indication would show itself as rapid breathing and loss of coloration in the head area of the fish, followed by obvious excessive mucous sloughing off of the fish, Excessive mucous may not be confined to the head area, it may show up anywhere upon the fish. Scraping itself against other objects in the tank may also be seen as the fish trys to dislodge the parasite, you may also notice the fish has lost its appetite and remains listless or hides constantly. Cloudy eyes may also become apparent.
Note body mucous on all fish
Onset - Note face coloration Next day - Note mucous First Treatment - Note Skin Lesion
QUARANTINE TIPS - Using a quarantine procedure not only prevents the transmission of diseases and parasites, it is also the fish's first chance to receive a break in its epic journey from the other side of the planet to being in your care. Such a journey is very stressful , which weakens the fishes natural immunity and resistance to infections and infestations, as well as most likely having been subjected to a variety of pathogens along the way. To allow the fish to recover and give itself a fighting chance, I offer the following tips:
Removing Stress - Do not place the quarantine tank in a high traffic area of your home, having an audience hovering over the tank is only going to frighten the fish and increase its stress levels. Wrapping the back and sides of the tank in a dark paper will give the fish a greater sense of security and increase its confidence. When approaching the tank, do so slowly so as not to spook the fish with fast movement, if done slowly, the fish will most likely seek cover in a more relaxed manner and not slam into any objects within the tank if rushed to hide.
Water Quality - Poor living conditions are probably the biggest cause of stress. Within a quarantine tank, it is extremely important to monitor ammonia levels daily if not more frequently. An ammonia alert badge is an inexpensive way to be able to do so at a glance. Ensure all other parameters such as temperature, PH and salinity remain within normal ranges. Be prepared to do partial water changes if and when the need arises.
Nutrition - It is very important to get the fish to eat as soon as possible. All food offered to the fish should be enhanced with beta glucan and vitamins to strengthen the fish and its immune system.
Preventive Treatment - The addition of Maracyn 2 should be standard practice as it will help prevent opportunistic infections from gaining ground on an already stress weakened fish. Maracyn 2 also adds vitamins B and C to the water which may increase appetite and aid the immune system.
In tank Structures - You should only use non-porous material to provide hiding and sleeping areas. PVC pipe and fittings work good for this purpose. Do not use rock or sand within a quarantine tank. It may absorb any medications / chemicals used thus reducing the effectiveness of any treatment. The use of plastic also ensures they can be sterilized for future use.
TREATMENT METHODS: Formalin is the only treatment that is effective against this parasite and it can be used with scaleless fish also, but at half the recommended dosage.
NOTE: Ensure you understand how to set up a quarantine tank and have it ready prior to getting a new fish, remember that ALL fish should be placed into a quarantine tank for no less than 6 weeks, never added straight to your show tank. The same can be said of anything that is "wet".
MEDICATED DIP :
Formalin 3 or a 37% formaldehyde solution : By far the most effective, and in my opinion, the only truly effective measure that will act quick enough to defeat this parasitic protozoa.
DO NOT add this to your show tank, this chemical will kill your biological filter as well as any and all inverts and corals within your tank as well as rapidly depleting the oxygen levels.
- Remove the infected fish to a quarantine tank, ensuring that the tank is well airated as the fish may be experiencing reduced gill efficiency.
- Treat the quarantine tank's water with Maracyn or any other trustworthy anti-bacterial medication as a safeguard against secondary bacterial infections as this parasite is known to cause open skin wounds.
- Have two, one gallon clean containers filled with water from the quarantine tank that the fish has been in.
- The first one gallon container will be used for the actual dip
- The second one gallon container will be used as a rinse to remove any of the formalin from the fish before being returned to the quarantine tank.
- Add one or two teaspoons of Formalin 3 to one of the filled gallon containers, this will provide a dosage of either 100ppm or 200ppm, using the lower dosage for fish species that can be considered delicate, such as the Tangs and Butterflys.
- An airstone MUST be used within the treatment container with vigorous air flow as formalin will deplete oxygen levels.
- The temperature of the treatment container must not be above 80 degrees.
- Place the fish into the dip container for a period of between 30 to 60 minutes, of course the longer it can remain in the dip, the better, but you MUST monitor the fish at all times, if the fish shows any signs of trouble, remove the fish right away, put it into the rinse container for a few minutes and return the fish to the quarantine tank to recover. Do not attempt to dip the fish again until the next day.
- The fish should be dipped once a day for a five day period. If you feel the fish is being harmed or not handling the treatment, lower the formalin dosage used and if need be, skip a day before repeating the dip. Do not use this as an excuse just because you feel sorry for the fish though. The dosage and length of time within the dip, are all things that you will have to make judgment calls on.
- While the fish is in its treatment dip, replace the two gallons of saltwater that you removed from the quarantine tank, ensuring that the replacement water is of the same salinity, PH and temperature as that of the quarantine tank.
- Once the fish has been treated, remove it from the dip and place it into the rinse container for an additional five minutes, this will allow any medication and loosened parasites to be rinsed off of the fish.
- After each use, both containers should be emptied into a drain , rinsed well with freshwater and allowed to dry until needed again.
- I would also be concerned with the quarantine tank having free swimming parasites able to infect the fish again as it returns from its dip, as such, I would have the quarantine tank set at hypo saline levels ( 1.009 sg ) prior to the fish being moved to the quarantine tank, while it is usually recommended that the salinity be lowered gradually, I feel in this circumstance, the immediate transfer to lowered salinity levels will have a two fold benefit, in that it may knock off alot of the parasites right away and may also kill off those that remain free swimming in the tank between dips. A fish is much better able to handle sudden lowered salinity than going into higher salinity. Any "shock" concerns would be minimum. Most large wholesalers and public aquariums place their new arrivals directly into hypo saline conditions upon arrival with little, if any, losses.
Two Tank Method to prevent reinfestation :
- Since there is a concern about returning a newly dipped fish back into the quarantine tank's water, which may allow the reinfection of the fish, having two tanks in use could avoid such a chance. One of the two tanks would be drained and sterilized after the removal of the fish and filled again with new saltwater, rotating between the two tanks and sterilizing each as the fish are removed for treatment.
LONG TERM BATH :
- If you feel that you have caught this parasite in its earliest stages, or are not sure of which parasite may be infesting the fish, a long term treatment bath can be used also, this treatment plan should be used if you feel the fish is so weakened or has an unusual risk involved with the dip method. This method may also be more effective when having to treat all of your fish at one time due to the main tank being infested.
- A quarantine tank has to be used also for this treatment method, formalin should never be used within the main aquarium.
- The salinity of the quarantine tank does not have to be lowered to hypo saline conditions.
- Aeration should be vigorous within the quarantine tank.
- The fish will have to remain within this quarantine tank for no less than eight weeks if they have been in the main tank to allow the main tank to remain fishless for that time period to ensure any remaining parasites die off from the lack of a host fish.
- With the quarantine tank set up as suggested / linked to, Add one to two teaspoons of Formalin 3 to each 10 gallons of water. Using the lower or higher dosage depending on the sensitivity and / or the condition of the fish to be treated.
- Every 24 hours, change 25 percent of the quarantine tank's water and add another dose of formalin 3.
- Continue the treatment for a five day period. Continue to do daily water changes after the four day treatment to control the inevitable ammonia issues.
Note : Amquel plus can be used in conjunction with Formalin 3 to control or lock up ammonia.
- Formaldehyde persists for only a few hours in aquariums and does not accumulate in the water
Notes / Concerns : Formalin is a poison , as such it should be treated and handled as you would any dangerous chemical. Please follow closely any directions by the manufacturer for its proper handling, storage and disposal.
Alternative Formalin use : If you feel the infested fish may not be able to handle long term dip methods, you may want to consider using a combination of both dip and long term bath methods, in that, give the fish a one time dip treatment to knock down and remove the infestation and then place the fish into a long term bath treatment to kill any remaining parasites. I would only do this with a heavily infested fish that could be considered a sensitive species or one that is already weakened by the parasite.
Hypo salinity - This is not an effective treatment, while lowered salinity may allow the protozoa to drop off of the fish, it is no guarantee that all will do so and you risk losing the fish if any remain and are able to rapidly multiply again. The speed at which this protozoa can multiply requires fast, effective treatment. At which hypo salinity methods may take too long to become effective before the possible loss of the fish.
Copper based treatments - Not found to be effective against this particular parasite.
Freshwater Dips - Not found to be effective, although it may provide temporary relief or used as a method to knock off as many of the parasites as possible before the fish is placed into a long term bathtreatment.
Used by permission. Many thanks to Charlies and Linda Raabe for their support. www.chucksaddiction.com
Species Listing - A listing of Seahorse species in which you can use to research which species of Seahorse you would like to keep as a pet pertaining to its adult size and any special needs.
As noted above, there are concerns specific to Seahorses that you must become aware of through the study of how to properly care for them. If you have already maintained a reef aquarium, then half the battle is already won, as Seahorses are found in reef habitats and require the same water quality as other reef animals do. To further aid you in your research, I have listed what I have found to be very informative articles concering the care and feeding of Seahorses.
SeaHorse Facts and Information for New Keepers - An extremely well thought out and informative article, a great place to get started.
Seahorse Care : A basic guide to starting your first herd - Another good article on their care and common problems encountered.
With the vast variety and just sheer beauty of tropical marine fish available, it can be overwhelming on making a decision as to what species are to be kept. In a fish only system, the options are truly staggering which sadly, leads to many fish mortalitys when we do not understand the needs and compatablity of the various fish familys available to us. As such, I have found it best to go ahead and get your favorite species and then work out from there according to what your aquarium is suited for. Of course, the "favorite" fish should be given the consideration of its needs first. Any other additions will have to have the determination made of compatability with the favored fish and any other additions already made or to be made.
With coral reef aquariums, it becomes even more interesting to say the least. Not only must we take a fishes needs into account as well as compatability with other fish, we must also determine if a fish species is considered "reef safe" as well, meaning that any fish species that feed on corals or other sessile inverts would not make a good addition to such an aquarium.
Please do not go into a store or visit an online source and make a purchase without first taking the effort to fully understand a desired species needs. Far to often I hear of horror storys involving deaths of fish due to improper housing and tank mates. I for one enjoy viewing an aquarium that is peacefull and healthy, sitting in front of an aquarium watching a damsel reign terror unto all other tank mates is not my idea of a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend my time. Hopefully the links I am providing will help you in making such decisions a bit easier. I also believe it is important that once a species is decided upon, learning its life style and habitat in nature will better prepare you in understanding its habits and needs.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN PURCHASING A FISH - Great tips on how to purchase a healthy fish.
REEF SAFE FISH LIST - A good listing to give you options for your coral reef aquarium
FISH SELECTION TIPS - A listing of hobbyists tips
FISH ACCLIMATION - How to acclimate your new pet to its quarantine tank and why.
FISH COMPATABILITY CHART - Find out easily which species will get along with other species.
CLOWNFISH AND THEIR HOST ANEMONES - Excellent article which matches clownfish species to their host anemone, Please take the time to check out this information.
COWFISH CARE AND IDENTIFICATION - An great place to get the information needed when keeping this unique family of fish.
Feeding : It is still very common to be told that any of our fish should be fed a single meal each day with enough food put into the tank that the fish can consume within a few minutes. I believe this is yet another carry over from the keeping of freshwater fish, strange as it may sound, but marine fish and freshwater fish are very different in almost every aspect other than the basic fish shape. One very important difference is that marine fish move food through their digestive tracts much faster. This is due to the fact that marine fish spend their entire day picking away at extremely small food items, mostly zooplankton that drifts by in the currents, while some species will also pick off small food prey from the substrates as well. Regardless of wether the food is stationary or drifting by, it is all very small amounts. As such, their digestive systems have evolved to match how much the fish normaly consumes at one time, and being very small amounts, it allows the digestive system to move the food through much faster than their freshwater counterparts. So when we feed the fish one large meal, the majority of that food ends up shooting right out their butts as partialy digested food, meaning that a good deal of that food is not only wasted, since the fish gained nothing from it, but it also adds a significant source of nutrients to fuel algae growth and degrade our waters quality. Since the fish only recieved that one meal, and could only gain a fraction of the nutrition out of it, they are in effect, slowly starving. Knowing this, I feed my fish very small amounts at one time, and at frequent intervals throughout the day (at least three times) to ensure I am providing their digestive systems with a better suited feeding regime.
Fish Size : How many of us have bought a tang or large angelfish species as juveniles and put them into our 40 or 50 gallon aquarium? I know I have, and it was not long before I wished I had not. I of course told myself just as many of you did, that I will get a larger aquarium before the fish gets too large for the aquarium it is in now. Yeah, like that ever happened. Which means I ended up having to either trade the fish in, (always at a loss also) or give it away to someone who had the proper environment for it. While stressing out the fish the entire time. Thankfully, for me, I learned that lesson a long time ago and do not find it hard now to restrain myself from impulse "gotta have that!" purchases or captures. Although I could get away with it now since its only a matter of driving down to the ocean and releasing the fish, I would still rather not have to tear my aquarium's landscape apart just to catch one fish. But the one only real good reason to not do this, is that it simply is not fair to the fish. Yes, I know, they are just "fish", but once we designate something as a pet and not a food item, that designation brings responsibility with it, or at least it should.
Since it seems that a good many of us do not fully understand the actual differences between saltwater and freshwater fish, and why saltwater fish need to be acclimated to our aquarium's salinity, yet can go right into either hyposaline (lowered salinity) or a freshwater dip, the below should clarify that there is indeed a great difference between the freshwater and saltwater world.
THE USE OF QUARANTINE TANKS - This should be one of your first purchases and used for everything.
FISH CARE GUIDES - Basic care information of some of the more popular fish families kept.
FISH PROFILES - Detalied care and feeding information on a great number of fish families.
WHAT FISH EAT - A good article explaining the dietary needs of fish.
HOW TO CATCH / REMOVE A FISH - There will come a time when you will have to do this.
Still not sure of what a specific species needs ? Ask Dr. Frank Marini within his forum which is dedicated to the care and husbandry of marine fish.
Photo Thumbnail pages per common names, click on any photo for more details.
( The numbers represent how many thumbnail photos there are per page )
Goby - 1,508 Tangs - 290 Damsels, Clownfish - 1,110 CardinalFish - 665 Dottybacks - 163
AngelFish - 364 ButterflyFish - 456 Dragonets - 134 FileFish - 183 FrogFish - 104 GoatFish - 214
HawkFish - 112 JawFish - 35 LizardFish - 163 Moorish Idols - 9 Moray Eels - 381 ParrotFish - 556
PipeFish and Seahorses - 259 PorcupineFish - 71 Boxfish / Cowfish - 110 PufferFish - 353
RabbitFish - 101 ScorpionFish / LionFish - 411 Fairy Basslets / Groupers - 1264 ToadFish - 66
TriggerFish - 150 Wrasses - 1,872
GOBY RESEARCH INSTITUTE - From identification, collection and care to breeding information
CLOWNFISH AND THEIR HOST SEA ANEMONES - Best resource for such information.
PICTORIAL GUIDE TO FISH DISEASES - Finding out what troubles your fish is half the battle, this link also includes treatment plans.
SPECIES SPECIFIC FORUM TOPICS - Kelly Jedlicki's forum discussions concerning a wide range of problems specific to certain species.
Still having trouble identifying a disease or need more information ? Ask Kelly Jedlicki within her forum, which is dedicated to the Disease, Heath and Wellness of marine fish.
PHYTOPLANKTON CULTURING - An extremely good "how to" article.
ROTIFERS AND HOME CULTURE - A great article on a common fish frys first food item.
THE CULTURE OF CILIATES - A very well thought out article.
THE CULTURE OF BRINE SHRIMP - A step by step guide and one of the best overall articles I have found.
Additional Brine Shrimp Links - Hatching Brine Shrimp DIY Brine Shrimp Hatchery Growing out Brine Shrimp
THE CULTURE OF COPEPODS - A good how to article.
BREEDING CLOWNFISH - An indepth guide to breeding and rearing clownfish.
RARECLOWNFISH.com - A forum dedicated to the breeding of clownfish species.
Photographic Time Line of Clownfish Egg and Larvae Development - Get a close up look at the changes each day brings, a movie is also included.
BREEDING THE BANGGAI CARDINAL FISH - A great article on this species care and breeding.
BREEDING THE GREEN WOLF EEL BLENNY - While neither an eel nor a blenny, this fish is a very interesting species.
BREEDING THE NEON GOBIES - Great article that can be applied to a great many goby speices.
LARVAL BASE - An online guide used to indentify fish larvae (fry).
A LOOK AT FISH-SAFE EELS - A great article which will help in making your species selection.
EEL CARE PROFILES - Species specific pages concerning their care.
The majority of the shrimp we keep are of the decorative and cleaner types, all of which I feel can have a place within our reef tanks, besides being functional in providing fish and tank cleaning services along with pest removal, they are very interesting to watch and add a nice splash of color to the reef.
Shrimp Profiles - Resources where you can learn all about the identification, care of and breeding of marine shrimp species.
Mantis Shrimp - From identifications to aquarium suitability, a very indepth site.
The Production and Use of Live Food - A very indepth online book on how to culture your own live foods.
Breeding the Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp - Has to be one of the hardest species to attempt.
Breeding the Peppermint Shrimp - Great information on a fairly easy species.
Breeding the Fire Shrimp - A very well done article on this difficult shrimp species.
An Additional Fire Shrimp Article - Includes a larval rearing system and other important information.
Breeding Mysid Shrimp - A great way to culture your own live food stock.
The Care & Breeding of the Harlequin Shrimp - My own article and attempts at breeding this species.
Breeding the Harlequin Shrimp - A nice short little article.
Although the majority of "bugs" first noticed within a new tank are one or another of the "pods" there are actualy many types of "bugs" that somehow find their way into our tanks. Most of them are a benefit to our tanks and usualy only get our attention when we see them for the first time and wonder what they are, or we get a mandarin fish and are told they need pods to survive.
Trying to indentify a specific species is very hard to do unless you have a microscope and very good reference materials. These links and photos only serve to give you an idea of what could be in our tanks and a general view of why they should be encouraged to populate our tanks. Of course as with all species, there are always the one or two family members that dont belong in our tanks due to their parasitic or predatory natures. And we usualy dont know it untill we see our favorite fish swim by with some kind of alien stuck to the side of its head.
Phytoplankton Cultivation - Teakie goes one step further and shows you how to grow the food that copepods need.
Frequently Asked Questions about Copepods - Very informative site dealing with all aspects of copepods.
Amphipod Article - A great online resource which goes into great detail about this family of crustaceons.
With a little knowledge and care taken, a sea cucumber can and will be very helpfull in keeping your sandbed looking clean and fresh. Most everyone has heard of the horror storys of a cucumber "nuking" their tanks, I have never had this happen and know of no one that has. Now Sea Apples are a different story, I would never have one in my tank since they are the most likely to nuke a tank and when they do, its right up there with small nuclear devices.
With roughly 6000 known species of Echinoderms alive today, and approximately 900 of those described species are sea cucumbers, it would of course be impossible to describe each one as for its suitability within our aquariums. Within the Echinoderm family, The Sea Cucumbers belong to the Class Holothuroidea, which is further divided into three main groups, although only the first two are commonly sold in the pet trade: the Dendrochirotacea (or filter-feeding sea cucumbers), the Aspidochirotiacea (or deposit feeding sea cucumbers), and the apodacea (or medusa worms). It is the Aspidochirotiacea (deposit feeders) that we would be interested in as the filter feeding sea cucumbers are not suitable for our aquariums. The above photographs show a good example of what the business end (feeding) of a deposit feeding sea cucumber looks like.
When purchasing a cucumber, as with everything, you should research that specific species, if possible, I say if possible, because there is very little known as this group of animals is very little studied. Thankfully most deposit feeding sea cucumbers that I am familiar with are very similiar and only differ in their adult size. When choosing from the few varieties of sea cucumber species normaly available to the hobby, I would first ensure that the sea cucumber will not become a very large specimen as it will most likely not find enough to eat within our aquariums.
The majority of the species of deposit-feeding sea cucumbers that are offered for sale are usualy members of the genus Holothuria. The most commonly offered is the tiger-tai, H. hilla from the Red Sea and Indo-Pacific, and H. impatiens orH. thomasi from the Caribbean. Other species include H. floridana (a mottled and highly variable-colored Caribbean cucumber that is common along the Gulf shores southward along the coast of Central America as far as Colombia), H. atra (a black cucumber from the Read Sea and Indo-Pacific), and H. edulis (the edible sea cucumber which is black along the upper surface, and bright pink along the belly, also from the Red Sea and Indo-Pacific). Each of these species consume organic detritus and ingest fine-grained sands to digest off the bacteria, microalgae and diatoms that cover the surface of each sand particle, thus cleaning the surface layer of our sandbeds.
If purchasing from a local store, I would ensure the fish store has had the cuke in their care for at least a month (if possible), I say this because during shipment they can be stressed and may have expelled their "guts", which they do as a defensive measure and it may not survive. Although this is becoming less of a concern as shipping methods have improved greatly.
Since the most common cause for the demise of a sea cucumber within our aquariums is from starvation, I would not get more than one at first and give it a few months to determine if the single sea cucumber is able to fully process the surface layer of your sandbed. Again, I would not purchase a large species as not only will they most likely slowly starve to death, but due to their size, they very frequently only extend half of their length out of the rock work onto the sandbed, which over due time, means that as they gather sand grains, it all gets expelled back behind your landscape causing those areas to eventualy get a very deep sandbed while the depth of your sandbed at the front of your tank gets shallower by the day.
While not a complicted animal to care for, there are a few concerns to take into consideration when adding a sea cucumber to your aquarium. Not being the quickest or brightest of creatures, any pump inlet that is not covered or protected will pose a very real danger to your sea cucumber. Keeping the inlet guards that should have come with your pump when you purchased it, in place, will prevent any such accidents from happening.
You will also want to ensure that you do not have any species of fish that are known to be predators of sea cucumbers. Most Trigger fish, some Wrasses and Butterfly fish will nip at the tube feet of sea cucumbers. Although sea cucumbers are nocturnal, our rock landscaping usualy does not provide enough protection to hide in and be completely safe from predatory fish.
Other than those few simple precautions, a sea cucumber's only real danger within our aquariums is from starving to death. If you notice that your sea cucumber is slowly shriking (getting smaller), then it would be a good idea to try and find it another home that can provide the amount of detritus and organics it needs to thrive.
A note on Sea Apples : Please do not purchase them. While being very colorfull and a temptation to add one to our aquariums, these animals are not suitable for keeping within our aquariums. Being filter feeders and not deposit feeders as the other sea cucumbers are, they are almost guaranteed to slowly starve to death. Once stressed or having died, a Sea Apple is one of the most toxic of their family and will kill a great many of your other aquarium pets quickly. The risk is far too great to take a chance on trying to keep an animal that is all but impossible for us to feed properly.
The most important feature distinguishing the sea cucumbers is a calcareous ring that encircles the pharynx or throat. This ring serves as an attachment point for muscles operating the oral tentacles and for the anterior ends of other muscles that contract the body longitudinally. Sea cucumbers are also distinct as echinoderms in having a circlet of oral tentacles. These may be simple, digitate (with finger-like projections), pinnate (feather-like), or peltate (flattened and shield-like). A third key feature, found in 90% of living species, is the reduction of the skeleton to microscopic ossicles. In some species, the ossicles may be enlarged and plate-like.
The holothurian water vascular system consists of an anterior ring canal from which arise long canals running posteriorly. Despite their similarity to the radial canals of other echinoderms, these latter structures arise embryologically in a quite different manner. For this reason these canals in holothurians have been recently renamed longitudinal canals. In holothurians, the larval structures that would form the radial canals in other echinoderms instead become the five primary tentacles. Also, holothurians with the exception of members in Elasipodida have a madrepore that opens into the coelom (body cavity). In contrast, elasipodans and nearly all other echinoderms have a madrepore that opens externally.
Some sea cucumbers possess organs not found in other invertebrates. In some Aspidochirotida, the respiratory trees display Cuvierian tubules. In most species, these are apparently defensive structures. They can be expelled through the anus, whereupon they dramatically expand in length and become sticky, entangling or deterring would-be predators, such as crabs and gastropods. Many forms, with the exception of members of Elasipodida and Apodida, possess respiratory trees used in gas exchange. These are paired, heavily branched tubes attached to the intestine near the anus. This type of breathing ("cloacal breathing") is also present in an unrelated group, the echiuran worms.
The Orders of Holothuroidea (sea cucumbers)
Sea Cucumbers - A great article about selecting one, providing their needs and many other concerns dealing with their care.
More Sea Cucumbers - Another great article detailing their needs as well as providing some identifcations.
THE APODIDA : Contains about 269 species in 32 genera and three families. Tentacles are digitate, pinnate or, in some small species, simple. Respiratory trees are absent. Tube feet are completely absent. The calcareous ring is without posterior projections. The body wall is very thin and often transparent. Found in both shallow and deep water.
Sand Dwelling Species : While searching through the near shore sand beds for various worm species, I came across the species shown in the below photos. I remembered how the surface dwelling species are very efficient at collecting organic particles and thought that might the sand dwelling types be as equally efficient.
Being that our aquarium's deep sand beds are the only truly organic loaded environment we have, and strive to maintain the sand infauna that keeps our deep sand beds functional, I thought with these synaptids, I might be able to avoid the possible problems that an organic laden sand bed might cause to my aquarium system and collected three of them for my deep sand bed. Having had them for quite a length of time now, I can say that they are indeed a great benefit to my deep sand bed. They spend their entire time moving slowly through entire depth of the sand bed injesting the sand and cleaning it of any organics. Their movement through the sand bed also ensures that there are no pockets of stagnant water and sand while at the same time, slowly shifting the sand between the upper and lower levels, preventing any formations of clumps.
I believe this single species will eventually become popular with reef keeping hobbyists as a means to maintain deep sand beds with little to no effort while enjoying not having to repopulate the normal microscopic sand infauna, it appears that these synaptids easily take over such roles. In due time, it is my hope to introduce these synaptids to the hobby and make our keeping of marine systems a bit easier and much more natural. Might then the deep sand bed critics be forced to find a different dead horse to beat upon.
If you have ever had the fortune to dive with an octopus, cuttlefish, or squid, or have kept one as a pet, you learned quickly that for a so called "Invert", they are very smart and full of character. Which makes keeping one as a pet very challenging.
I have had the fortune of keeping octopus and cuttlefish over the years and if there is one thing you learn quickly is that an octopus is a master escape artist and a very efficient hunter. There is only one way to keep an octopus, and that is in a species specific tank, dedicated to just the one octopus.
The tank and filtration systems have to take into account that Octopus have no skeleton and can squeeze through the smallest of openings. There are many instances where a hobbyist has stepped on their octopus in the morning a few rooms away from where the tank is.
If you are willing to take the time and effort to keep one as a pet, they can be extremely interesting and will even learn to be friendly, that is, if you have food in your hand. One word of warning though, from time to time you may see the small blue ring octopus for sale, DO NOT buy it, they are very venomous and can kill you. There are alot of other species available that pose no danger to you or unsuspecting children or guests. And please do not buy any cephlapod on impulse, most species only have a year or two life span and need specific tank requirements to keep one, which takes planning and forethought. The same concerns and care needed by Cuttlefish and Squid are very similar as the Octopus.
Below are the egg mass that my cuttlefish laid a month after capture, appearing as small black spheres which is due to a coating of the mother's ink but clears as the eggs swell, after which you can see the baby cuttlefish swimming around in its enclosed aquatic little world. Also shown is a newly hatched baby at one day old. For very detailed information on the care, breed and raising of this species, please see this extermely informative website.
I'm always amazed at how the cephlapods are able to be extremely rapid quick change artists, able to instantly chance their colorations and even the texture of their skin to not only act as camoflauge, but to communicate their moods to members of their own species. It is very easy to become intriqued by these intellegent invertebrates.
CEPHBASE - A database driven website on all living Cephlapods.
THE CEPHLAPOD PAGE - A personal website of Dr. James Wood.
THE CEPHLAPOD WEBSITE - Information and forums concerning all areas of cephlapod care and identification.
KEEPING CUTTLEFISH - A very good article concering the keeping and care of cuttlefish.