Archive | May, 2012

SCUBA Diving Dry Rocks Coral Reef and Christ of the Abyss

Every once in a while we here at Aquarium Tip Tank get the chance to take some vacation, get out into nature, and do the things that got us interested and excited about nature and the underwater world. I had aquariums before I started SCUBA diving, but really got interested in keeping an underwater ecosystem in my home when I strapped on a tank and dove for the first time in St. John, USVI. We had a little bit of a long weekend for Memorial Day this past weekend and were able to jump on a buddy’s sailboat out of South Florida for 4 days. Dry Rocks Coral Reef and the Christ of the Abyss in John Pennekamp State Park off the East coast of Key Largo is one of the places that we had the opportunity to SCUBA dive.

It was our second day of sailing and we were on our way to Key Largo Sound in John Pennekamp State Park to grab a mooring ball for the night. On our way we decided that we may as well stop at Dry Rocks coral reef. When we arrived it was late afternoon and there were several boats with snorkelers that had already grabbed the mooring balls closest to the statue. We grabbed the mooring ball on what I believe was the South West side of Dry Rocks coral reef. Of course, this was the one farthest from the buoy marking the Christ of the Abyss statue. No worries though. We had the gear to allow everybody to swim on over and plenty of air for those that were certified and wanted to strap on a tank.

We got all geared up, I grabbed some coordinates to swim to on my compass that I was diving with, we performed all of  our checks, jumped in, and started swimming to the Christ of the Abyss statue!

Divers Swimming to Dry Rocks Reef and Christ of the Abyss

This reef is quite spectacular! Honestly, I was delightfully surprised by the health and beauty of this coral reef! I’ve been on a few dive trips with SCUBA dive charters in the Key Largo, FL area before and I seem to remember them saying something like, “Well, its nothing special.” or, “It’s only in 20 feet of water, so its better for snorkelers.” I disagree.

First, the reef is something special. There was an abundance of thriving coral and fish swimming happily through the reef. Some of the brain corals were gigantic! I saw schools of blue tang, grunts, a spotted box-fish, golden trevally, lobster, conch, and many more! What I didn’t see was any lionfish, and that is also a delightful surprise.

Large Brain Coral at Dry Rocks Coral Reef off Key Largo, FL

Second, so what if it is a shallow site? Okay, I’ll agree that when you’re paying for a dive operator to supply you with tanks, take you out to nice coral reefs, and you’re paying to rent SCUBA gear that maybe you want to go someplace deeper than 20 ft. so that you can feel as if it was necessary to pay all of that money. I’ll also admit that we have all of our own tanks and gear so we weren’t paying for any of that anyway. However, I’ll let you SCUBA divers in on a little secret, corals like sunlight, and a lot of the beautiful reefs with lots of colorful corals and fish are going to be found in shallow waters where they get maximum mid-day tropical sun. I was also bringing my underwater camera with me. I knew that I was going to want to be at the bottom of the Christ of the Abyss statue at 20 feet deep taking pictures of people with the statue. I wanted to hand my camera to somebody so that they could take a picture of me. This is a lot easier to do if you don’t have to hold your breath.

Christ of the Abyss Statue in John Pennekamp State Park

In the end, it ended up being a fantastic dive for the people with tanks on their backs and the people without! Then, I was able to use the pictures that I had taken to educate some of the less informed on the boat about what they saw, how the organisms live, and the beauty of the underwater ecosystem!

Christmas Tree Worms on Coral at Dry Rocks Reef John Pennekamp State Park

Have any fun SCUBA or snorkel stories? Leave a comment below!

TJ

 

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Aquarium Tips of the Day | Perform Water Change as close to Departure Date for Holiday Travel as Possible

Going on a trip? Maybe a nice vacation to the beach to do some snorkeling and some SCUBA diving? Today’s Aquarium Tip Tank tip of the day will help you keep a little calmer about the health of your fish tank while your out of town. You don’t really want the caretaker of your fish to have to do too much or deal with too many emergencies while you’re out of town. Why not make sure its as clean and as waste free as possible for the fish sitter right? All you should do is perform a 20% water change about a week before departure and another 20% water change as close to actual departure time as possible.

Personally, if I’m going out of town for a long weekend and I’m heading out on a Thursday night, then I try to make sure that I have a couple minutes to perform a water change early Thursday afternoon. My job is a little bit weird with times, and this works for me. It probably wouldn’t work for somebody that has a normal 9-5 job who’s leaving straight from work to catch their 7pm flight. In that case, just make sure you get that last water change done on Wednesday evening.

Normally scheduled water changes are about every 2 weeks anyway right? Well, doing it this way when traveling will add another water change, but your fish and your pet sitter will love you for it. You can never underestimate the importance of good water quality. Performing these simple water changes will keep your mind at ease. It will also allow your pet sitter to just stop by, feed the fish, check the water temperature, and make sure all of the equipment is still on and running. Also, this good water quality can help your livestock survive even if all else fails (can you say power outage?) and you’re not home to fix it!

Heading out on vacation soon? Got a good fish sitter and maintenance crew? Leave a comment below!

TJ

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Beluga Calf at Georgia Aquarium!

Yes, Maris has given birth to the first Beluga whale calf to be born to parents who were both born in captivity. The calf was born in the Georgia Aquarium on Friday May 18, 2012 shortly after 10:30pm. We knew about it a little bit earlier, but at the Georgia Aquarium we like to allow our benefactor, Bernie Marcus, to make the important announcements to the media when the time is appropriate. It has been released, and we can discuss! Below is what I know, and a link to the official press release .

Currently, the calf is actually in critical condition receiving first class care around the clock by the best veterinary staff and aquarium experts. First-time pregnancies are very often unsuccessful with beluga whales no matter if the first-born calf is born in the wild or in a zoological setting.

When the calf was born it took its first breath, but needed the assistance of divers that were immediately on hand and in the water to help. The calf then tried to swim with her mother, Maris, and it was immediately apparent that the calf was just too weak to navigate the waters. The Aquarium staff took over and placed the calf in critical care and performed a physical exam. It was then that they found the flukes had not hardened on the calf and that it weighed only 82 pounds, much less than an average beluga calf.

The mother, Maris, is doing well, and the calf is getting the best 24-hour care that it can possibly receive. You can read the official press release and get updates via Georgia Aquarium’s blog. Until further notice,  the beluga exhibit will be temporarily closed to the public to allow for the veterinary and animal care staff at the Georgia Aquarium to completely focus on the comfort of Maris and her new beluga calf.

TJ

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Aquarium Tips of the Day | Stop Feeding before Moving your Fish

Today’s Aquarium Tip Tank tip of the day is another easy little piece of advice to help you keep your fish a little bit healthier during transportation from one fish tank to another. Maybe you’re moving and its time to take all of the fish with you. For whatever reason you have to take your fish out of the tank and put it in a bag for a little while. In order to keep from fouling the water in the bag during transport, just stop feeding your livestock about 36 hours prior to the big move.

Hopefully, you’ve been performing regular water changes and your fish and other livestock have been enjoying clean, ammonia free water, with little to zero nitrates and nitrites. Well, your now about to put your fish in a bag with no live rock, no live sand, and no helpful bacterial population. There isn’t anything in that bag to keep the waste from that fish from fouling the water. So, it would be nice if the fish didn’t make any waste in that water. The only way to stop this from happening is to not feed your fish for a little while before putting it in the transport bag. Allow your fish tank to “fast” for about 36 hours prior to placing them in plastic bags and your livestock should’ve had a chance to digest just about everything they’ve eaten. Then, they won’t have anything to make waste out of!

Moving your fish soon? Ever had any trouble with fish transport? Leave a comment below.

TJ

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Coral Time-Lapse Video

I recently got a new toy. My new Canon 60D takes amazing pictures (actually I guess I’m the one taking the pictures, but I use the 60D to do it), and one of the first things I did was make a time lapse of my green star polyps. Head on over to my new Google+ page and check it out! While you’re there, go ahead and give me a +1!

This is actually a very rough video. I figured out how to set up the camera, put it on a tripod, read a little bit of the manual about taking some macro pictures and started taking some pictures of my small reef tank! I made sure the aperture, shutter speed, and focus were all set up the way I wanted, turned on the small metal halide lamp that lights this nano tank and set the timer to take a picture every 5 seconds for an hour and 15 minutes!

I ended up with 900 photos. I did absolutely nothing to them as far as post-processing goes. Each picture is a frame and the movie was set to 24 frames per second. Export as an avi file to keep the size down a little bit, and this is what I ended up with for my first time-lapse. Enjoy!

Take some cool pictures and videos of your home aquarium? Share and comment below!

TJ

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Choosing a Fish Store

Maybe you’ve seen some of our aquarium tips about selecting fish. All of that applies and we will definitely get into that here, but choosing a fish store is also about personal preference. Do you like the sales force? Are they knowledgeable? Do they give you the time of day even when it is crowded on a Saturday afternoon? Are they fun people to chat with?

You may not even spend a lot of money at the local fish store of your choice. You may end up buying some small things like fish food, or your saltwater, but your local fish store may end up just being a place where you like to check out the new fish, look at their tank set-ups, and have some good fish talk. From my own experience I’ve found that I can find a lot of the actual equipment for an aquarium much cheaper on the internet. However, there are still some important factors that we should all take into consideration when choosing our local fish store.

Check the Fish Tanks

As your walking around the store make sure that you not only look at all of the wonderful fish that they have, but do a little inspection of the tanks and ask yourself a few questions.

  • Are most of the tanks clean or are the tops and sides encrusted with residue?
  • Is the water in the tanks clear or is most of the water in the tanks discolored?
  • Are there any dead fish in the tanks?
  • Are there any sick fish?

If you notice any of these unsightly conditions that make it look like the fish store does not do a very good job caring for its livestock, then you’ll probably want to find a different fish store. This isn’t to say that you should abandon the store all together if there is a little salt creep on one of their tanks, but if there is more than one dead fish floating around and all of the tanks look dirty with residue, then its definitely time to walk out and never look back.

Choose an Eco-Friendly Dealer

No, I’m not talking about a fish store owner that drives a Prius. I’m talking about a fish store that encourages conservation of fish, coral reefs, plants, rivers, oceans, and all of Earth’s environments. They can do this in several ways.

  • Offer captive-bred fish
  • Offer aquacultured invertebrates
  • They have a live fish guarantee
  • Participate in sustainability efforts and Foundations
  • They know their collectors, harvesters, and distributors and know that they use responsible and sustainable methods.

The fish store you use should either have these items posted, and advertised in plain site, or if you ask them, they should be able to answer without hesitation. Selecting captive-bred fish and aquacultured invertebrates keeps organisms from being taken off the reef and out of their natural environment. If the fish store has a live fish guarantee, they are confident in their fish keeping skills. Keeping fish alive keeps more fish in the stock, and less fish from being pulled off the reefs. All you have to do to make sure that you’re purchasing items for your fish tank from an Eco-friendly dealer is ask a few simple questions.

Looking for a fish store? Leave a comment below!

TJ

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Aquarium Tips of the Day | Go One Size Larger for your Aquarium Filter

Today’s Aquarium Tip Tank tip of the day will help you keep your water clean and your feet propped up when the thought of your aquarium filter pops into your head. You ever buy that filter that was recommended for 20 – 30 gallons for your 30 gallon tank? Then, you were constantly scrubbing, cleaning, buying and changing filter media? Save yourself the hassle, and possibly the expense of buying a whole brand new aquarium filter and size up! Purchase the aquarium filter that is one size larger and rated for tanks that are larger than yours.

It may cost $10 extra to get that hanging power filter that is rated for 55 gallons instead of 30, but that is much better than the stress and added work that may come along with buying the filter rated for 30 gallons. If you end up purchasing a filter that is too small, you may even end up throwing it out and just buying the larger filter in the end. Instead of learning your lesson the hard way, just pay the extra $10 for the larger filter and relax while having the confidence that your aquarium filter is going to keep your water clear!

Purchasing an aquarium filter? Ever have a filter problem in your tank? Leave your comments below!

TJ

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Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 006 | Lighting the Aquarium Part 2

Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 006

In this episode of Aquarium Tip Tank we finish off our discussion about lighting your home aquarium. We had talked about fluorescent and metal halide lighting systems in the first part of this lighting system and we had to get to LED aquarium lighting systems. In this episode we make sure that we discuss all of the criteria and specifications that you should look for when selecting LEDs for your aquarium. I also tell the story of how I went about choosing the lighting system that I will use for my new 30 gallon marine reef aquarium.

Aquarium Lighting Mentioned in this Podcast:

What lights do you use with your aquarium? Leave a comment below!

TJ

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Aquarium Tips of the Day | No Copper in Reef Tank!

Today’s Aquarium Tip Tank tip of the day will save lives…of your invertebrates in your reef aquarium that is. Maybe you’ve kept a fish-only tank in the past and your fish caught a case of the ich. Fish are a little more resiliant to copper based treatments and when you went to your local fish store to find a cure for the Ich disease the medicine they sold you was copper based. You took the treatment home, followed all of the directions, monitored everything very carefully, and in a little while all of your fish were cured and your aquarium was back to normal! This won’t be the same story you tell if you decide to use the same copper based treatments in a reef aquarium with invertebrates. So, don’t use copper based treatments in your reef tank that contains many beautiful and thriving invertebrates!

Copper is toxic to invertebrates, and if copper based treatments are used directly in your main reef aquarium you will end up killing all of your corals. Then, you will be dealing with much bigger issues than the Ich. You will have an overload of dead organisms and waste in your tank, creating too many nitrites and too much ammonia in the tank for the beneficial bacteria to handle. You then run the risk of complete aquarium meltdown!

Instead, set up a quarantine tank if you haven’t already and move all of your fish into quarantine. There, you can treat your fish without having to worry about taking out all of your inertebrates. I’m not saying that you should just go ahead and dump copper based treatments into your quarantine tank. After all, fish are hardier than corals, but copper can still be toxic to fish if not used correctly. You may want to try the Hypo-Salinity method of curing the Ich in the quarantine tank, but that’s an entirely different topic. For now, just don’t use anything copper based in any tank that you keep corals and invertebrates in, nor in any tank that you think you may keep them in in the future (the copper could get stuck on the sides).

Comments? Leave them below!

TJ

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Fish

After all, fish are the reason you’re here right? I’m assuming you found this site because you’re interested in starting an aquarium, or maybe you already have an aquarium and just want some aquarium tips to help you out. I’m also guessing that the majority of people out there with an aquarium are trying to keep at least one species of fish. More detailed posts on different species of fish will be published here in the future, but for now..the basics without regurgitating everything from Wikipedia.

The Whale Shark is the biggest fish in the world. I don’t think any home aquarium hobbyist is going to be able to keep one of those any time soon, but realize that I said biggest FISH in the world. It is not a whale, a mammal, but a cartilaginous shark with gills and fins for limbs. In general, this is the type of animal we’re concerned with when talking about fish. They have skeletons made of either bone or cartilage, gills, and fins.

Cuttlefish, jellyfish, starfish, and crayfish can be kept in your home aquarium, but are not actually considered to be “fish”. Cuttlefish are cephalopods or molluscs, starfish are echinoderms, and jellyfish are cnidarians. Is that enough of the scientific names for you?

What we’re mainly going to deal with here are the smaller tropical fish that are able to be kept in the freshwater and saltwater tanks that you typically have in your home. These are fish like angelfish, tangs, clownfish/anenmonefish, discus, goldfish, koi, anthias, damsels, boxfish, and the list goes on. We may deal with some smaller sharks and rays, but we’re going to start with the fish anatomy diagram below.

Fish Anatomy:

Different species of fish have different traits and uses for many of their fins and parts of their anatomy. Some, like groupers, have a thick, muscular caudal peduncle with a large caudal fin that they use to ambush their prey. Some, like the crevalle jack, are very sleek with a thinner caudal peduncle and are made for speed. Some, like the boxfish, use their fluttering pectoral fins to swim instead of moving their caudal fins back and forth. There are more than 30,000 species of fish. With such diversity, each fish species has developed many different shapes, sizes, and uses for their fins, eyes, mouth, and all of their anatomy so that they can adapt to their environment and survive for the last 500 million years. Take a look at your fish. What fins do they propel themselves with? How big are there eyes and where are they located? How big is the mouth and how is it oriented? What are the teeth like? Can they crush coral and shells like a triggerfish?

Most fish also have extraordinary sense organs. Their vision is usually just as good, if not better, than human vision. So yes, they can see you, and most daylight fish even see colors. They also use their chemoreceptors for extraordinary senses of taste and smell. As far as hearing goes, they do have ears, but their hearing may not really be that good. I guess that depends on what you call hearing. After all, hearing for humans is actually the translation and interpretation of vibrations at different wavelengths. For this, fish have sensitive receptors along both sides of their body called the lateral line that detects the most subtle of vibrations, currents, and the motion of other fish, predators and prey.

The great thing about some of these fish that we like to keep in our aquariums is that they come in so many exotic shapes, sizes, and colors. Those colors usually serve a purpose in their natural environment. Like anglerfish, that use their color, unique anatomy, and unusual appearance to camouflage itself from predators and prey. Its predators don’t know its there so it doesn’t hunt it, but neither does its prey, allowing the anglerfish to wait until its prey unknowingly swims right in front of it. It will even use its angler like a piece of bait. There’s also the square-spot anthias. If it has a square, it is male, and that male will even change color when in nuptial display.

Finally, we want to collect and keep these fish because of their vast diversity and beautiful colors, but please do so with conservation, learning, and teaching in mind. Many marine are harvested from the ocean reefs, and this impacts the ocean reefs that they came from. We just ask that you first check to see if you can purchase a tank bred version of the type of fish that you want to keep. Tank bred fish used to be very expensive, but recent advancements in marineculture and fish farming, it is now possible to breed and rear many species of fish such as the clownfish, dottybacks, gobies, and angelfish. These days majority of freshwater fish that are available for the home aquarium are bred in tanks. Tank bred fish are also hardier and easier to keep. They haven’t been stressed by being taken from their reef home in Indonesia and transported half way around the world. They adjust more quickly to the conditions and are fully accustomed to aquarium life. After all, that is where they were born, and the only conditions that they have ever known. This will greatly reduce the chances of infection and disease.

We’re not saying that you shouldn’t keep a marine aquarium because or that you must always purchase tank bred fish, but do a little homework about the fish store that you are buying from. Make sure that they sell fish that are sustainably collected and/or aquacultured. Make sure that the store has some sort of sustainability mandate, have a guarantee policy for their fish, and are involved in ocean conservation. Ask them where their fish are from, how they are collected, and if they are tank-bred. The salesperson at your fish store should be knowledgeable to answer all of these questions, and if not, then find another place to buy your fish. A great place that I have found to purchase fish is Saltwaterfish.com.  They have a sustainable mandate and a 15 day Live Guarantee.

One last thing about fish conservation and that’s just to keep your fish alive. If you have the patience, take your time, and keep your fish alive and happy, then you won’t constantly be heading to the fish store to buy another one. You will be keeping more fish in the store for other aquarium hobbyists to enjoy or on the reef where they belong.

TJ

 

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