Coral Magazine, once a quality and sought after publication from Germany, has returned! Published now in the good 'ol US of A by the same publishers bringing you Aquarium Explorer, I'm excited that about the return of Coral Magazine. The January/February issue is now available, and I wanted to offer my thoughts.
From the front cover to the last page, the new Coral Magazine is a work of art. Well bound and printed on heavyweight paper, Coral Magazine's issues are obviously designed to be collected, read, and re-read. Beautiful macro photography splashes every page, and panoramas of wild and captive reefs abound. Aesthetically, Coral Magazine is the best looking publication I've seen to date, as was its predecessor from Germany. The artwork team did an outstanding job on this month's issue!
Of course, a magazine is for reading as well as looking, and Coral Magazine is no exception. While this month's issue focused on Triggerfish, I especially liked the articles detailing wild reefs from Madegascar. It is my firm belief that reef aquarists can learn a lot from visiting wild reefs, but quality articles that take you there from the comfort of your home are almost as good. You'll also find excellent articles by known authors, such as Bob Fenner and Anthony Calfo. Anthony's article in this month's issue about reef aquarium lighting echoes my own sentiments, and is an outstanding and informative read.
All and all, I very much enjoyed this month's issue of Coral Magazine. It is the best magazine on the subject of reef aquariums, and from the looks of it, will continue to be. Kudos to Coral Magazine team for their quality work! To subscribe, visit: www.coralmagazineus.com. To participate in Coral Magazine's new online prescence, visit www.coralmagazine-us.com for forums, contests, polls, blogs, and more.
Great success has been had with the captive breeding of clownfish, so brooklynellosis isn't very common, and should never be seen in captive bred fish. However, brooklynellosis is much more prevalent in wild caught fish, so it's good to know what to look for. Remember, always quarantine everything, captive bred or not!
While not exactly on the topic of aquariums, most of us use aquariums every day (and you're probably using one right now!). I thought I would take it upon myself to write a small piece about computer security and privacy.
After working in IT and network security for a decade, I have seen hundreds of security issues, problems, breaches, and hacks. However, home users are often unaware of the security threats they face on their own PCs. I decided to write this short piece in an effort for to inform the home user how to increase the security on their PC cheaply and effectively.
Spyware is single greatest threat to the
home user’s security. What is "spyware"? Spyware can lead
to ‘popups’, identity theft, and more, and is incredibly prevalent, and easily
infects the home PC. Spyware comes in a
few forms. Most are small BHO's (browser
helper objects, pieces of code that install themselves into your browser's
framework), illegitimate registry keys (hiding in windows registry, the
'database' of all the settings the Windows operating system uses) or as
standalone programs that seem legit but contain malicious code. All spyware has only a few reasons to exist:
to deliver advertisements (‘popups’ or others) to learn more about you (either
in an attempt to delivery targeted advertisements or to steal your information
some form of profit or identity theft), to have your PC perform work that you
are unaware of or to commit malicious acts remotely (and often without your
knowledge), or to install even more spyware.
What can you do? There are many things you can do to protect yourself from spyware and other malicious software, and I advise all of you to follow at least some (preferably all) of these steps in order to keep yourself secure.
Have good basic security habits. Change your passwords regularly (never use the same password for more than 3 months), don’t use the same password for everything, avoid easy to guess passwords such as a password containing names, dates, phone numbers. Instead, try to use a combination of capital and lowercase letters, as well as numbers. Don't write your password down or give it to anyone!
email fraud. Delete suspicious emails, do not believe or
respond to ANY email request for personal data, even if email seems to be from
a legitimate source such as eBay, PayPal, or your bank. These (and other) financial institutions will
not request your personal information via email. Also, delete any email from people offering
you money, or wanting any information about your finances.
Use a well known, secure browser, and keep it that way. I recommend Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome. Both are updated frequently, are known to be well written, and do not have the many security holes that Internet Explorer does (I recommend not using Internet Explorer). No matter what browser you use, you should turn off "Accept third party cookies". "Cookies" are small pieces of text that monitor your online actions and report to a designated server. When you check "remember me" on this site, that site "remembers" you because a cookie reports your information to that site every time you visit it. Cookies can also track every site you visit, and can be used to delivery targeted advertisements and are invaluable marketing tools (both legit and illegitimate). By disabling third party cookies, you at least are reasonably certain the cookies your browser will be storing will only be from websites you intentionally visit, and not from ads or embedded feeds. To do this in Firefox, go to Tools -> Options, click the Privacy tab, and uncheck "Accept third party cookies". In IE, go to Tools -> Internet Options, click the Privacy tab, click Advanced button, check "Override automatic cookie handling" and click the "Block" radio button under "Third Party Cookies".
No matter what browser you use, ensure that
you are actually visiting the site you think you are. It is very easy to make duplicates of
websites, but they will have different HTTP web addresses in the toolbar, and
may not display the lock icon and an associated legitimate security
certificate. When in doubt (or just to
be on the safe side) look for the correct web address in the toolbar (for
example, https://www.paypal.com is the actual web address for PayPal’s secure
website, http://paypall.com is not), and examine the website’s security
certificate by double clicking on the lock icon in the lower right hand of the
browser’s status bar. When visiting any website where security is an issue,
ensure your login information is being encrypted. You will see an
"https://www.mybank.com" URL, rather than an http://www.mybank.com URL (the added S means secure socket layer
encryption is being used). You will also see a lock icon in your browser’s’
status window. Ensure you see these two security indicators and the actual,
correct URL before entering in your information. I've seen paypal and ebay
duplicates that looked EXACTLY liked the real thing, but unless their web
servers are compromised (very rare and unlikely) the URL in the address bar
will not be the same on an illegitimate website.
Use at least one well know, quality anti-spyware and anti-virus program and a firewall. Here is the software I recommend, in order of prevention:
Firewalls: a firewall is either a piece of
software (on the user level) or a piece of hardware, that, to put it simply,
blocks incoming traffic from the internet. If you're using any type of router
or wireless router, you probably already have a simple but effective hardware
firewall built in to that router, although it probably isn't doing you a whole
lot of good when in terms of spyware prevention. This is because (by necessity) your router
allows all HTTP (web) traffic to your computer. In order to be more selective
about this traffic and (hopefully) prevent illicit material(s) from your
machine, I recommend a software firewall such as Zone Alarm or Comodo Firewall
Pro (both free from download.com). They're going to be a little annoying at
first, prompting you basically every time you do anything for a few days, but
after "learning" (aka you checking "always allow" and
"OK" when performing a known safe action) they'll sit in the
background and you usually won't notice them. Select "Deny" on
anything that seems suspicious, but if you accidentally deny yourself out of
your browser or online game, just go into the program settings and select
"allow" for that program (or with Zone Alarm, just open the window,
run the program again, and it will re-prompt you). A firewall is a must-have
first line of defense.
Use known effective anti-spyware programs. The simple fact is that if you aren't using an anti-spyware program, you have spyware on your machine. To avoid acquiring spyware while downloading anti-spyware programs, only download directly from the software manufacture’s official website, or a known secure and spyware free website (I recommend download.com). Also, remember to regularly update and scan if the software doesn't do this for you automatically. For the first scan, I recommend scanning in safe mode. To do this, restart your computer and press the F8 key (you may have to F8 a few times) after your machine posts, then select safe mode with the arrow keys and hit enter. Run the scan if the program is capable of scanning in safe mode, some aren't, then simply restart your computer as you normally would. Here is a list of excellent programs that are all free or have a free version available:
1. Spybot Search & Destroy by
2. Malwarebyte's Anti-Malware
4. Spyware Terminator
6. AVG antivirus/anti-spyware
An anti-spyware program with a real time shield is the preferred first line of defense, and a second anti-spyware software should be used for weekly scanning. Make certain you are actually downloading the real versions of this software (download.com has them, but download.com also has ads that link to software with the same name, but are actually spyware!) and not spyware infested versions with similar names. An anti-spyware program, plus common sense, will drastically reduce your chances of infections and data theft. If you do find spyware, remove it, restart into safe mode, scan again, then restart in normal mode, and change the passwords on all of the important websites you visit (banking, insurance, etc) and make certain they are all different from each other in a difficult to guess way.
Antivirus software is numerous: AVG, Norton, and Mcafee are the most common. Most of the commercial antivirus software is about the same in terms of quality, so pick one and keep it updated.
As data theft and spyware infections become more and more common, it becomes more necessary to be knowledgeable about how to prevent and remove spyware from your home computer. Surf sensibly and with caution, use the appropriate protective software, follow good security and password habits, and your chances of infection and/or data theft will be drastically diminished.
I like the name of this website, because I think it's accurate. While to most people the word "microcosm" (microcosm means "a world in miniature") doesn't spring to mind when thinking of a coral reef, maybe it should.
When most marine aquarists are asked "where did that (insert fish or invertebrate here) come from?" the common answer is "a coral reef". However, most marine aquarists have never seen a reef first hand. While this isn't a bad thing, the knowledge to be gained from observing a reef could benefit the animals in their care. Garden reef aquariums are an all-too-common occurrence, as well as misnomers such as "this lighting will work for all corals" or "this amount of water flow will let you keep anything you want" (often heard advice on aquarium forums!). People spreading advice such as this (and following it) are doing the hobby a huge disfavor.
The truth is, a coral reef is a habitat, or a mAcrocosm. Coral reefs expand hundreds or thousands of miles, and range in depth from one to tens of meters. The areas on the outside of the reef receive much more water flow, and the shallow parts receive much more light than the deeper parts. While aforementioned hobbyist is correct in saying their animals are from a coral reef, they are not correct in assuming just because animals come from a coral reef means they all have the exact same requirements. A reef system is made up of thousands of mIcrocosms, with no two given areas of a reef being exactly the same. Diving or snorkeling on a reef will reveal microcosms that vary wildly: one section could be all large scleractinian colonies reaching to within inches of the surface, and just a few meters away will be a patch of sandy bottom with manatee grass growing and a slight turbidity to the now-ten-meter-deep water. Not even the same coral species (and tens of other invertebrate species) are found in these two microcosms, even though they may be separated by only a few meters. If a picture was taken of both, they would look completely different. Obviously, an aquarium couldn't be designed ideally for species from both areas!
The point I'm trying to make is that species have unique requirements, even species from the same reef. These species should not be housed in the same aquarium, because their needs are different. Time and time again I preach on aquarium forums "decide what you want to keep, and design the aquarium around that animal(s), not vice versa!". It is not responsible or ethical to attempt to keep species with different requirements in the same aquarium. Can it be done? Yes. Can it be done long term (remember, corals can live hundreds of years, "success" in the home aquarium is not something to be measured in a few months to a few years)? Maybe, maybe not, and certainly not with optimum health. Please take it upon yourself as an aquarist to provide the proper conditions for your animals. There are many excellent books about coral care, and articles online. Also keep in mind that forums are rarely a good place to go for accurate information. The amount of misinformation I see followed and repeated on forums is just sickening! Bottom line: educate yourself, don't take someone else's word for it.
Aquarists would also do well to remember that virtually each and every marine animal is physically collected from the wild, and not always in an environmentally low impact manner. Purchasing animals, or housing animals together inappropriately without first educating yourself regarding their habitat requirements is irresponsible, unethical, and causes lawmakers to further restrict the importation of marine species. Aquacultured and maricultured animals are becoming more and more commonly available, alleviating somewhat the impact on coral reefs. While collecting isn't an all bad, black and white issue (the marine hobby often provides incentive to native peoples to keep the reefs mostly intact, and food for their children) aquaculture is almost always a good thing.
Images: Pictures I took of the Belize Barrier Reef. The last three images were taken only meters apart from each other. © Mike Maddox
I'd like to write a short piece about "fad
corals", and the price inflation it causes in the reefkeeping hobby.
In recent years, (mostly due to the popularity explosion of reefkeeping, and subsequently the large numbers of online coral vendors) various coral species have become the "in" coral and the prices of these corals have skyrocketed. Law of supply and demand you say? Higher prices benefit the reef, conservation efforts, and the poverty-stricken collectors, you say? Nay. Prices are driven up artificially by a combination of the consumer's "must have" attitude towards that species and vendors purposefully restricting the amount of corals they sell in a given amount of time.
If you've been reefkeeping for five years or so, I'm sure you remember the "acan craze" (and if you don't, read on). Various species of the Acanthastrea genus (most notable A. lordhowensis) became so popular that they were selling for $50+ per polyp. Before this species became a "fad coral" it had been selling for $50 per colony. People became obsessed with having "acan lords" in all colors, and collected them as if they were a rare, valuable commodity. The odd thing was, they weren't (and aren't). This species is very easily collected (I've literally walked out into the surf and picked up colonies) and is very commonly imported. In fact, it became more commonly imported! Why was the price so high, you ask? Vendors began restricting sales because the consumers were willing to pay outrageous prices! In fact, Acananthastrea spp. sold much more at $50/polyp than it ever did at $50/colony! Why? It was advertised as "Rare! Hard to find! Unique color morph!" and more by the vendors, and the consumers ate it up, excited to own a "one of a kind coral" (there's no such thing, as those of us who have been on a reef know) and gladly paid through the nose. The “acan craze” is just one example, although I could list a half dozen species/color variations that experienced the same artificial price inflation.
Why is this artificial inflation a bad thing? Firstly, because it means vendors are lying to their customers. There isn't a shortage of A. lordhowensis, there never was, and they're not rare or hard to get. However, in response to unreasonable consumer obsession, vendors were able to command a premium price for an incredibly common species! Secondly, avoid buying fad corals because artificial price inflation doesn't benefit the hobby whatsoever. The only person benefiting is the middleman/vendor, who has no real effect on the import/export/legislation of our hobby and basically only cares about his profit margin (with a few exceptions, of course). The wholesaler doesn't benefit by making an increased profit, which means the collecting station doesn't receive more profits, which means the collectors aren't making any more money to take home to their families. Keep in mind that corals are collected from third world countries, and the collectors are paid in the area of a few dollars a day. If the profits from greedy aquarists wanting the latest "rare corals because they're rare!" were filtering all of the way down to the collector trying to feed his family, I wouldn't be writing this.
Don't buy "fad" corals. I don't care what the advertising says, it's not "unique" or "one of a kind" and I seriously doubt it's "rare". In fact, don’t even buy from vendors that are artificially pricing their corals at outrageous sums. Why pay $700 for a colony that the vendor payed $10 for? Believe me, it'll cost $70 next year, when a new species has replaced its status as the "unique, one of a kind, ultra rare" fad coral.
Image: the author's S. haddoni © Mike Maddox
Q: Thanks for your invitation to send questions. Hope you don't mind one from a rank beginner. I am itching to start my first saltwater tank, but need to do it on a student budget. Can I start with a 10 gallon desktop tank, or do I really need to wait until I have enough for a 40 or 55-gallon tank that some people say is the minimum starter size for a first marine aquarium?
A: This is an excellent question Craig, and something I happen to have a lot of personal experience with, as I started a keeping small marine systems fourteen years ago. Let me share with you some knowledge I’ve acquired in my experiences with nano (twelve gallons or less) aquariums. Generally speaking, it’s better to decide what you want to keep in your aquarium, and then proceed from there. However, because of your space and budget limitations, let me give you an overview on maintaining nano aquariums. Consider this a three step guide to a successful nano aquarium!
1. Plan accordingly
I recommend starting out with one of the commercially available nano aquariums on the market. These systems come complete with the tank, hood, lighting and filtration – all you’ll need to do is add sand, live rock, water, and a heater. I really like the Oceanic Biocube series, although I’ll be posting a review of the Nano Wave 9 here soon.
Next, you’re going to want live rock as the basis of your filtration. In my opinion, no marine aquarium should be without live rock, due to its superb biological filtration abilities and biodiversity. In a nano aquarium, live rock combined with water movement will be all the filtration you’ll need. A pound of rock per gallon of water is the general rule of thumb, though more can be used if you’d prefer. Water movement is just as important – plan on needing a 10x volume turnover per hour, preferably in a random, turbulent flow. Break up laminar (stream) currents by directing them on rocks or the tank walls.
Stocking options for a nano aquarium are very limited, and you should plan your purchases! Small fish such as some clownfish, damsels, dottybacks, basslets, and gobies will work well, but you won’t be able to keep very many. Pick one or two small fish to enjoy, but resist overstocking. If you want to keep larger fish, a nano aquarium isn’t for you.
Another benefit of an all-in-one tank is the built in lighting, if you’re interested in keeping corals. Many species of corals also make excellent candidates for the nano aquarium, such as zooanthids, ricordia, leather corals, mushrooms, and more. Be sure to research potential tankmates to make certain you can provide a suitable home.
3. Water Quality
At one point, I was having a lot of trouble maintaining proper water quality. I was using various additives, which would cause my water chemistry to go out of whack because of the small water volume, which would lead to more water chemistry problems, causing a never ending cycle of problems. I finally realized something so simple it should have occurred to me sooner: stop using additives, and just stick to water changes! Weekly water changes of 50-75% are highly recommended to remove wastes and replace trace elements and calcium, especially if you plan on turning your nano aquarium into a nano reef. Just make sure your mix water is the same pH, temperature, and salinity as your tank water!
This “Nano in a Nutshell” guide should get you on your way
to your first successful setup. Further
reading is always recommended – be sure to visit the rest of Microcosm for valuable information.
Image: The author's nano reef © Mike Maddox
I'm new to Microcosm Aquarium Explorer, and I'd like to get to know you, the reader! To help me get an idea of what you're interested in reading about, I want you to email your questions (or suggestions!) to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Once a week I will post a Q&A section, answering the questions I've received. I'll also use the questions & suggestions I receive to help gauge interest - expect future articles related to your feedback!
Know a friend who could use some advice? By all means link them to my blog. I'm always glad to help a fellow aquarist whenever and wherever I can. I'm looking forward to your input!
Image: A small scleractinian colony on the outskirts of the Belize Barrier Reef. © Mike Maddox
Young golden Map Puffer being raised by the author.
Who doesn’t love pufferfish? They’re my favorite marine family, and I’d like to share some information that has allowed me to be successful with this fascinating, intelligent group of fishes.
Marine puffers are cute when small, engaging when large (who can resist those big puffer eyes), interactive, and BIG! The vast majority of commonly (and not so commonly) available pufferfish attain lengths of 12 inches (30 cm) at the very least.
Add to this their active nature and messy feeding habits and you have yourself a handful. Of course, these hurdles have never deterred me, and I’d like to share with you a few tidbits that have worked in my ten years of experience caring for marine pufferfish.
Your first hurdle will be housing your potential eating machine, as well as maintaining good water quality.
This is easier said than done; you’re going to need a big tank with a big filter. In my opinion, 125 gallons (473 L) is the minimum for any Arothron or Diodon species you may want, and you’ll need even bigger tank for some of the rarer (but beautiful) giants like the Map Puffer (A. mappa) or Starry Puffer (A. stellatus).
Obviously, the larger the aquarium, the better – I house my marine puffers in a 175 gallon (662 L) system. If you are on a tight budget, ask your local aquarium shop if they have any used large tanks lurking in the back room.
Got the puffer tank? Now you’ll have to filter it. A large protein skimmer is a must, as well as an oversized biological filter.
Wet/dry and fluidized wet/dry filters are recommended, though creativity with canister filters is also possible. A deep sand bed will help control the copious amount of nitrates produced and keep the nuisance algae from taking over your tank, though other denitrating options are always possible (coil, chemical ad/absorption).
I personally have a 60-gallon (227 L) sump with a built-in wet/dry filter, and two protein skimmers to handle my messy eaters.
Don’t forget the most important aspect to keeping your water in tip-top shape: water changes. Weekly or bi-weekly water changes of at least 25% are highly recommended, and will be necessary for nutrient control. Make sure the temp/pH and salinity of the freshly mixed water are matched to those of your aquarium water.
Once your system (and it will be quite a system once you’re adequately prepared for long-term marine puffer care) is ready, you’ll probably want to consider suitable tankmates.
Remember, pufferfish consume mollusks and crustaceans in the wild, and are definitely not reef safe! Large marine puffers are ideal candidates for fish-only aquariums, and should only be kept with fish of similar temperaments.
Puffers can definitely be described as “obnoxious” and shouldn’t be kept with anything that has tempting appendages, or they will likely be happily chomped upon by puffer beaks.
Puffers can make suitable tankmate finding challenging, but likely your puffers will be the stars of the show anyway. To their credit, puffers are not piscivores and will not chase down and eat small fishes.
Faster-moving schooling species such as Bluegreen Chromis, Silver Monos, or a group of Golden Wrasse can coexist with a puffer or puffers, and larger, rugged angelfishes such as the Yellowbar or Maculosus Angelfish are also a possibility if good water-quality is maintained.
Other tough fishes that can share space with puffers are groupers, hawkfishes, triggerfishes, and larger wrasses. Always be wary of overloading the filtration capacity of the tank, however.
In my experience, feeding is a grossly neglected topic when discussing captive pufferfish.
First of all, it helps to have some information on how puffers feed in the wild: in nature pufferfish are opportunistic predators, hanging out around rock shelves searching for snails, or actively searching the seafloor for anything buried (usually crabs, shrimp, or worms).
They usually do not consume fish of any type, and often do not even get a meal every day. Keep this, and the following in mind when feeding your pufferfish: they need fresh, meaty seafoods in the shell (shrimp, prawns, crab legs, oysters, mussels, crayfish – all available at your local grocery) as a staple and to keep your puffer’s teeth worn down.
I offer freeze-dried foods (krill, plankton, prepared carnivore foods) a few times a week or when in a hurry. At least once a week, don’t feed your puffer at all (don’t fall for the begging!) as it is not good to feed big carnivorous fish every day.
Many puffers die from improper diets, and although this can take a few years, it will happen if they are not fed a variety of foods, and if fresh seafood is not a staple.
As a final note, do not feed your puffer freshwater "feeder" fish – ever. This is a completely inappropriate food source for any marine animal, and can cause intestinal blockage leading to demise.
Posted at 06:36 AM in marine fish, marine aquariums, saltwater fish, saltwater aquariums, pufferfish | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)