Systems for Maintaining Corals and Clams

What Type of Aquarium Do You Want?

Before you can begin planning an aquarium, its location, filtration, lighting, size etc., you must have some idea of what it is you will be keeping. Will you be keeping hard corals, soft corals or a mixture of these? Will the aquarium be invertebrates only or fish and invertebrates; will macroalgae also be included? The decision you make here affects not only the types of organisms you will keep, but also the filtration system used, the amount and type of lighting, the size of the aquarium, and the amount of substrate and type required.

In an invertebrate aquarium, the diets of the various inhabitants must be taken into consideration as well as their need for light; both intensity and spectrum. Compatibility between species is important too (see Chapters 3 and 10).

When you mix fish and invertebrates, you must be very familiar with the habits of the fish yoti wish to keep. It would make little sense to keep coral eating fish in an aquarium filled with live coral You would very quickly end up with fat fish swimming among the coral skeletons!

A Flamehawk, Neocirrhites armatus, perches on a Tridacna derasa, next to a T. crocea, J.C. Delbeek.

Macroalgae have several requirements of their own including, but not limited to, lighting, vitamins, minerals, temperature, salinity and water quality. Of course, the type of fish that you can keep with macroalgae is restricted to those that do not feed on algae. It would make little sense to put algae eating Tangs or Surgeonfish into an aquarium filled with macroalgae that you intended to cultivate.

Aquariums with lush algae growth are attractive and natural looking, and make wonderful displays. However, we do not recommend large growths of macroalgae for coral reef aquariums, unless the algae can be confined to small areas of the tank where they can be harvested or managed by herbivores. The rapid growth of macroalgae oi the genus Caulerpa, commonly kept in aquariums, can smother corals and damage them due to the penetration of holdfasts into their tissue. Other, slower growing macroalgae such as the various red and brown seaweeds, and some varieties of the green alga, Halimeda spp. (e.g. Halimeda discoidea), are more desirable. Early photos of Dutch reef aquariums revealed a heavy

emphasis on macroalgae (Smit, 1986). Yet, during a recent trip to the Netherlands in October of 1991, no reef tanks were observed with

Caulerpa growths (Delbeek, 1992). Apparently many Dutch aquarists no longer keep lush growths of macroalgae in their reef tanks, and haven't done so for years.

There is much to learn about your inhabitants before you even set up the aquarium. The importance of researching your aquarium inhabitants before you buy them cannot be stressed enough. Read everything you can find on the subject, talk to other aquarists, don't be afraid to ask even the most trivial questions; remember everyone was a beginner once.

You must realize also that beginning a marine reef aquarium is a major commitment. You will be keeping animals that come to you directly from the wild. Therefore, you must be prepared to do what ever it takes to keep them in the best possible health. A reef aquarium is not something you can just set up and walk away from. Really good reef aquariums require time and nurturing to reach their full potential two or three years down the road. As a good friend of ours once wrrote, only bad things happen quickly in a reef aquarium; good things happen slowly (Paletta, 1989). If you are not prepared to make this type of commitment, this branch of the hobby is not for you.

After you have decided what type of aquarium you want to have, you must then decide on the size of aquarium, the filtration and lighting systems you will need to handle it and, last but not least, where you are going to put the whole thing! Planning your aquarium will probably be the most difficult task you will have to face, but if you take the time to properly lay out your aquarium before you start, you will be rewarded with a successful setup that will save you a lot of fuaire headaches.

Aquarium Location

Too often people go out, buy an aquarium and then try and figure out what to do with it. If you have followed the advice presented above, then you already know what kind of aquarium you want; now comes the time to purchase the tank to hold that idea.

First of all, you must decide wThere you are going to put the thing. Keep in mind that saltwater weighs more per unit volume than freshwater does. That stand you used for your guppy tank may not be strong enough to hold a marine setup. One gallon of saltwater

weighs approximately 3.9 kg (8.5 lbs), therefore a standard 250 L (65 gal.) aquarium will weigh at least 251 kg (553 lbs.). Remember, the filter and the decorations that go in the tank add even more weight! Also be sure that the floor on which all of this will be placed can handle the load. Large aquariums crashing through apartment floors are not unheard of (but sound awful)!

Keep the aquarium away from drafty areas such as windows and doors. Direct sunlight for a few hours a day is not harmful (corals and anemones love it) but it can heat the water, especially in summer. The belief that natural sunlight will cause algae outbreaks is nonsense. This does not happen in a properly run reef tank. Unwanted microalgae blooms can occur with or without natural sunlight in an unbalanced aquarium (see chapter 9).

It is a good idea to place a piece of styrofoam under the tank to smooth out any irregularities in the stand. Make sure the tank on the stand is level in all directions. Failure to level the stand can result in leaks, cracks and one very wet room! It may be necessary to insert wood shims beneath one or more of the legs to level the stand. Finally, be sure to leave room for the filtration equipment and any wiring and/or plumbing that you might be installing. Other factors to consider are the availability of electrical outlets, proximity to sinks and plumbing, the size of the aquarium, and how it will fit into the room.

Tank Dimensions

There are many opinions about the minimum size aquarium for the saltwater hobby. We have seen home aquariums as small as a fewr gallons and as large as 16000 L (4000 gallons). Our advice is to buy an aquarium as large as you can afford. It is certain that once you begin adding things to your tank, the day will soon come when you run out of room and you will wish you had bought a bigger tank. Buy it now. There are many sound reasons for starting with large tanks, especially if you are new to the hobby. First of all, the larger the body of water the less rapid the fluctuations in water quality. A large tank is more forgiving of neglect/abuse than a small one. Sure you can run a small 20-40 L (5-10 gal.) aquarium, and it can be quite spectacular, but you will have to keep a closer eye on the temperature, salinity, pH etc. to make sure they don't change quickly. Yes, a large tank will change too, but not as rapidly, and if you neglect it for a while, it is unlikely that these parameters will have changed as drastically as they would in a smaller volume of water. We recommend that you start with a tank of at least 200 L (50 gallons) capacity. What is the the maximum limit? Well the sky, your pocket book and the strength of your floor are probably the only limiting factors. Remember that the larger the tank, the more salt-mix, rock and animals, equipment and electricity you will need; these are the so called "hidden costs" of owning a large tank. When considering what size of tank you wish to have, you must consider what kind of aquarium you want to setup. If you plan to stick with sessile invertebrates and small fish, a smaller tank may suit you just fine. Remember though that many corals grow and expand to large proportions, so provisions should be made for this too.

Whatever size you decide upon, be sure you choose a tank with a wide dimension, instead of a tall, thin tank. The majority of the so called "standard-sized" aquariums in North America are not well designed with respect to their dimensions. An aquarium is a living, breathing organism. It must interact with its environment in order to absorb and release gases. In order to best achieve this, we must have a favourable ratio of surface area to volume. Simple math tells us that as the volume of an object increases, it does so as the cube, while the surface area increases only as a square of itself. Therefore, as an object gets larger, its volume increases much faster than its surface area. Since the ratio between area and volume decreases as an object gets larger, it becomes harder for that object to absorb or release gases. One way to alleviate this in an aquarium is to ensure that the height of an aquarium does not exceed its front to back depth. This is the problem with commercial aquariums: the height of the aquarium is usually greater than its front to back depth. This decreases the amount of surface area available for gas exchange. In addition, taller tanks are more difficult to reach into to clean, and require stronger lighting to reach the bottom. This is especially important when keeping corals and tridacnid clams. There are standard commercial aquariums with wide dimension, and of course one can also build a custom sized aquarium.

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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