Periclimenes Yucatanicus

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Shallow Marine Aquarium Reef Aquarium Images

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Microhabitat Aquariums

There are three major features of my approach to keeping "microhabitat displays" of tropical shallow-water invertebrate species. The first of these I will call "less technology, more biology." The husbandry of marine life must be performed in light of the specific ecological needs of the species of interest. Granted, system design cannot be overlooked, but one must begin the thinking process about any aquarium by asking questions about the needs of the species that will occupy it. This principle is easily illustrated. An understanding that most tropical cnidarians (formerly known as coelenterates) require intense, wide-spectrum lighting as an energy source for their symbiotic zooxanthellae made it possible to keep these species alive in aquariums. In the past, hobbyists were told that anemones, for example, needed everything from carbon filtration to trace element supplements to survive, when what they actually were missing in the aquarium environment was appropriate light.

One of my favorite analogies is the comparison between a tankful of marine invertebrates and a flower box full of terrestrial plants. I am an avid gardener. Those familiar with gardening literature know that when one opens the pages of Horticulture or National Gardening one is not likely to see articles about the latest advances in the design of ro-totillers or greenhouse heaters. What one finds is articles about plants. The priority in gardening is responsiveness to the needs of the plants, not the needs of the gardener. More of this kind of thinking would benefit the aquarium hobby.

Reef tanks established by the "natural" methods outlined in this book are the most successful, easiest to maintain, and most likely to provide what species need to complete their life cycles. The common features of such aquariums are: 1) ample quantities of "live rock" and "live sand"; 2) high-intensity, broad-spectrum lighting; 3) filtration

A thriving reef aquarium: bringing us face-to-face with the living beauty of tropical marine fishes, corals, and invertebrates.

equipment that focuses on removal of organic wastes rather than mineralization of them; 4) husbandry efforts focused upon limiting quantities of inorganic nutrient ions, while insuring a supply of other inorganic ions in concentrations that match or exceed those found in the ocean; 5) replication of the physical characteristics of the microhabitat, in terms of substrate type, current patterns, diel cycles, and temperature; and 6) attention to the specific community relationships of the species housed together in the same aquarium. In other words, one must try to copy Mother Nature.

Not all technology is undesirable, of course. One would be foolish to reject it entirely. The challenge is to learn to apply the required technology with finesse. One of the best new advances is in the area of more accurate measurements of the aquariums physical and chemical parameters. Electronic meters have begun to supplant color-change test kits for the measurement of pH, for example, because such instruments are faster, more accurate, and easier to read. This is an example of an appropriate application of technology to aquarium management.

On the other hand, one cannot reduce the dynamics of an ecosystem, even the small and relatively uncomplicated ecosystem of an aquarium, to a table of numerical parameters. The aquarist who nods in satisfaction at a correct pH reading or a high redox potential, yet fails to heed the message conveyed by a disintegrating gorgonian or a Xenia that has stopped its rhythmic pulsations, is missing the point altogether. The natural approach requires you to become an observer of nature, not of digital readouts.

The result will be an aquarium that is realistic, with healthier, more colorful animals that survive better than their counterparts in traditional tanks. In addition, the abandonment of technical props that were once thought to be essential components of the "filtration system" can result in significant cost savings. By following the natural approach, one can dispense with wet/dry filters, ultraviolet sterilizers,

Floridapink Anemone

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Fascinating interspecies relationships, such as this Spotted Cleaning Shrimp (Periclimenes yucatanicus) living with a Florida Pink-tipped Anemone (Condylactis gigantea), can be observed in a well-planned and properly stocked natural reef aquarium.

ozonizers and redox controllers, reaction chambers, artificial media to remove nitrate, phosphate, silicate, and other ions, denitrators, and a host of other expensive paraphernalia. The equipment one does require — lighting, pumps, protein skimmers — is uncomplicated in design and straightforward to operate. The essential biological elements — live rock and live sand — are interesting in their own right and add to the aquarium a touch of realism that artificial decorations or the skeletons of dead corals cannot convey.

The second maior f eature of the natural approach is reliance upon an understanding of biology. The ecological relationships among species and between individuals and their habitats are most easily expressed in the terminology of biology. The language of science lends great precision to discussions and helps to make sense of the bewildering diversity of marine life and marine habitats. I was educated as a scientist, and I will use many scientific terms in the pages that follow. I have attempted to explain unfamiliar terms where appropriate.

Having said all this, I nevertheless agree with Stephen Spotte's assertion (1992): "Science alone has little practical application, and works dealing strictly with technology omit information necessary to foster understanding." Maintaining reef aquarium displays owes much to the application of science. However, we must not ignore the importance of circumstantial or anecdotal information concerning organisms and their behavior in the aquarium. Most of these observations will have been made by nonscientists, but this does not imply that the information is not useful to those who desire to own a reef aquarium and who hope to profit from the experience of others. One should never be too quick to accept the testimony of observers as gospel. On the other hand, these observations, if carefully made and offered up with an honest intent to convey helpful information, are every bit as useful as those of professional scientists.

I feel strongly that amateur aquarists have important contributions to make concerning mankind's knowledge of the intricacies of coral reef ecology, and that the efforts of dedicated hobbyists should be encouraged by professional marine biologists. Aquarists who share this view must make an effort to learn the lingo, however. The reward for this effort is freedom from the depredations of gimmick promoters and snake-oil salesmen who sometimes enrich themselves at the expense of the hobbyist. Access to information is the surest defense against useless products and false claims.

The last feature of my approach is perhaps the most important one to the future of our hobby. The development of techniques for keeping an ever-widening variety of marine life in home aquariums has fostered an awareness of the marvelous richness, diversity, and beauty of the marine realm, even among those who are not themselves aquarium owners. Reef tanks are often displayed prominently, in the living room, for instance, in their owner's homes. As a result, large numbers of "ordinary" people — friends and relatives of the aquarist, primarily — have the opportunity to examine, say, a Tridacna maxima giant clam face-to-face.

Without aquariums, the vast majority of people would never see coral reefs up close, except on television. In their quest for large audiences, television producers spend a lot of time and videotape on sharks and other large, spectacular sea creatures. Rarely does television present us with the delicate beauty of an anemone or allow us to glimpse the daily life of the cleaning shrimp that lives among the anemone's tentacles. Naturally, being able to experience reef creatures in a way that not even the best television doc-

The COMPLETE guide to Aquariums

The COMPLETE guide to Aquariums

The word aquarium originates from the ancient Latin language, aqua meaning water and the suffix rium meaning place or building. Aquariums are beautiful and look good anywhere! Home aquariums are becoming more and more popular, it is a hobby that many people are flocking too and fish shops are on the rise. Fish are generally easy to keep although do they need quite a bit of attention. Puppies and kittens were the typical pet but now fish are becoming more and more frequent in house holds. In recent years fish shops have noticed a great increase in the rise of people wanting to purchase aquariums and fish, the boom has been great for local shops as the fish industry hasnt been such a great industry before now.

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