Ocellated Synodontis, Large-spot Catfish making a splash on Animal-World

March 25, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Freshwater fish

Ocellated Synodontis, Synodontis ocellifer

Ocellated Synodontis, an upside-down catfish with very large spots!

The Ocellated Synodontis is not a clown, but it does have a very spotted coat!

Sometimes those spots can be very large, and in size it’s not too small either. Most seen in an aquarium will be less than 10 inches, but if you see this dude in the wild, it could be a whopping 20 inches in length!

A good-sized aquarium with lots of natural decor and a variety of community fish will create a very attractive showpiece. But even better than that, this is a great environment for housing a very cool large-spotted Synodontis catfish. Rocks, driftwood, and twisted roots all work great to make places of refuge, and wood is especially appreciated for it to will rasp on. And because it’s nocturnal, plants floating on the surface help keep the light subdued during the daytime.

This fish spends its evening and nighttime hours peacefully scavenging delicious morsels from the bottom of the tank, and its days resting in a cozy hiding place. It pretty much gets along with almost any other tankmate, even semi to aggressive cichlids. It does get pretty big though, so beware of keeping it with very small fish. When these little fellows fall to sleep near the bottom of the tank at night, they could easily become scrumptious snacks!

In the wild it schools with its own kind while young, but then becomes a solitary fellow as it matures. Consequently, adults can be somewhat aggressive towards other Synodontis catfish species, especially if the tank is too small and without enough hiding places for all.

This easy keeper is not fussy about food, and with its non-intrusive demeanor, it makes a great community fish for both beginners and advanced aquarists. It can live for up to 20 years, so as long as its watery home is at least 50 gallons in size and is well kept, you can have this interesting and attractive fellow for a good long time!

Learn more about this “Large-spot” catfish. Pictures and information for the Ocellated Synodontis Synodontis ocellifer, along with habitat and aquarium care!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Why I Hate Crabs

Emerald Crab or Green Clinging Crab, Mithraculus sculptusEmerald Crab or Green Clinging Crab Mithraculus sculptus is a dark green color and comes from the tropical waters of the Caribbean Sea

Crabs in the Saltwater Aquarium

No, I am not talking about our old aunts or other relatives, although they can probably fit loosely into this topic if I could throw them in my saltwater tank! For the sake of family peace, however, I have had to refrain myself during one visit. An odd circumstance arose that would have lent itself to the submergence of a crabby relative INTO my 150 gallon tank! Yet, I digress…

I am talking about crabs; all species, all genus, all colors, all shapes and all sizes. Be assured, that eventually these little hellion monsters, with evil intentions and back biting ways, will murder another creature in your tank, that you spent your hard earned money on! It’s just their nature, and they can’t be blamed. Even the ones with “small claws” have been known to cause problems, especially in a reef tank. I am sure there are a few well behaved crabs out there, but I am not risking my inhabitants on something that can be easily replaced with a less opportunistic murderer.

My first experience with the “little darlings,” was when I bought my first “clean up crew” for my 8 week old cycled 55 gallon saltwater tank. During this time, my research was quite focused on water quality, live rock, substrate, skimmers, heaters, and lighting. I did however, intend on doing research on the fish I was going to buy. After all, how can you screw up buying a “clean up crew?” …Everybody else is doing it!

Reef Hermit Crab, Clibanarius rhabdodactylusReef Hermit Crabs, Clibanarius species, are omnivorous marine crabs, but mostly prey on small animals and scavenge carrion

Hermit Crabs

My appreciation for hermit crabs were short lived. Over a period of about 4 months, the hermits, one by one, took out my snails, which of course COST more then THEY did. Yes, there was plenty of food and algae for both, perfect water parameters, and no predatory fish; so nothing else would have killed the snails. For me, the last straw was the loss of my prized Jumbo Nassarius Snail, who was one of five I had in my tank. The day I saw a hermit crab rockin’ that snail’s shell, was the day I pulled each and every one OUT of the tank and returned them to the store.

I actually have witnessed larger hermit crabs starting to attack a resting or sick fish! Then a friend of mine related a story of a puffer fish that was attacked at night, and dead by morning. She owned the puffer for a long time, and it was not sick. I remember once, when looking in someone else’s reef, I noticed a hermit crab sitting on top of a healthy SPS coral. As I observed this little beast, I noticed it was tearing the flesh off of the coral! Enough said!

If a fish dies, your nassarius snails will converge and consume, but they will never touch a live fish, only a rotting one. This will keep your water quality from deteriorating if a fish does die. This makes nassarius snails great inhabitants! Over time, I discovered that brittle starfish also do just as good of a job getting extra food that the fish missed.

Emerald Crabs

Back to the crabs! Well, against my better judgment I did buy an emerald crab down the line to take care of some green bubble algae. Once again, another little monster crab had to be extracted as it threatened my Halichoeres wrasses that were napping under the sand. I swear you could hear him say, “Where did those morsels go? The algae just ain’t cutting it!” My wrasses were unusually afraid of this emerald crab as it grew. So were we…

Reef Crabs

The worst experience I’d ever had was a reef crab that hitchhiked on some live rock. I bought the rock from a gentleman whose system crashed when the power went out. This is common during hot summer days in Las Vegas. I didn’t know there was a little monster stowed away in the rock and the way I found out was not cool! One morning, my fairy wrasses came up to be fed, and I noticed that my Scott’s Fairy Wrasse was no where around. This was odd, because he was usually the first in line for breakfast. I started looking for him and found this big, black, butt ugly, reef crab slowly scraping the now gutted sides of my most expensive wrasse! The Scott’s was NOT sick and I owed him long enough to rule out disease. Why is it ALWAYS the MOST expensive fish that is killed?

Thus started my long search for this monster in the bowels of my tank after he scampered away…. sideways… the LITTLE FREAK! I found him in a twisted and gnarled piece of live rock, which of course was UNDER a bunch of other live rock! So I had no choice but to remove the rock from the tank and chase him out of the middle. That was the WEIRDEST 30 minutes of my life up to that point. With saltwater tanks, these weird minutes start to accumulate over the years… just wait, you’ll see! So I got the little turd out and put him in a refugium as I decided what his fate would be. Let’s not go there.

Crabs Begone!

I started to search for fish that would not typically eat snails but WOULD eat crabs. Why? I had this suspicion he had a brother! Enter the Harlequin Tuskfish. I loved that fish! For as big and scary his teeth were, he was not even the dominant wrasse in my tank. One day, about a week after I bought him, I found remnants of yet ANOTHER reef crab on the substrate. So I blurted out, “WHO’S A GOOD BOY? WHO’S A GOOD BOY? WHOOOOOSE A GOOOOD BOY?!?!” Yes, another weird moment, as my family members looked at me perplexed; since, well, we DIDN’T have a dog!

Upon further research, the Internet supplied more and more horror stories of crabs wreaking havoc in tanks. Reef crabs include Mithrax Crabs (Mithraculus sp.) and Xanthid Crabs, and these are some of the worst culprits. The Mithraculus crabs belong to the Majidae family of “spider crabs”, which has around 200 species in 52 genera. The Xanthidae family is huge, with 133 genera and 572 known species.

Horseshoe Crab, Limulus PolyphemusHorseshoe Crab Limulus Polyphemus. This is a saltwater crab, yet it is more closely related to spiders, ticks, and scorpions than to crabs.
A wide variety of marine crabs can be seen here, at Dr. Jungle’s Animal-Image: Saltwater Crabs

Now I am sure there are crab lovers out there, and in certain set ups, hey, go right ahead!

Yes, they are very useful, but only in the ocean. There are many seasoned writers and hobbyists who have written books that will back me up on not keeping crabs in most closed systems. One may say that there are certain crabs like the tiny blue-legged hermits that don’t cause problems. Well, except if you happen to have those little nassarius snails! So YES, I did try those and they started to kill my little nassarius snails that, by the way, were perfectly fine up to that point.

Crabs are opportunistic scavengers, not pets. They are “cute” but the snails in your tank are thinking, “Well, I know one day I will be disemboweled by that heathen.” So the snails sulk away, out of the grip of the new resident… for now.

Carrie McBirney is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Pink Skunk Clownfish, Unique in pink on Animal-World

March 6, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Saltwater Fish

Pink Skunk Clownfish, Amphiprion perideraion

Pink Skunk Clownfish, a pink anemonefish with a white skunk stripe!

Beginners to advanced aquarists love this little dude. The Pink Skunk Clown is one of the most unique anemonefish. It stands out with its awesome pink hue topped with a skunk-like white stripe. But even better, it is one of the smallest clownfish with a personality to kill for. It works well in a reef tank, but is just as wonderful in a community setting.

It is a delicate clownfish with a shy and reclusive nature, happiest when it can call an anemone its home. Along with its color and friendly personality, its timid characteristics also add to its charm. For the aquarist who is willing to make sure the tank is pristine, this unusually decorated clownfish can provide a one-of-a-kind attraction for years. Beginners and advanced aquarists alike can marvel at its beauty and pleasant personality.

Keep it with other small fish that are peaceful and relatively calm and you can enjoy a lifetime of beauty and perfection in a smaller aquarium. Or conversely, add it to a reef with an anemone and have a supreme addition with interesting color and personality.

It can be kept singly without an anemone, but is also great as a pair with an anemone and a small group of like kind sub adult companions. Its diminutive size makes it great for a smaller aquarium, and beginners can have great success as long as they use due diligence in keeping the water in top condition.

Pink Anemonefish can be obtained as captive bred fish and are available as a single specimen or as a pair. Keep one in a smaller tank, or a pair and some little guys in a larger tank and you’ll have a great aquarium.

Check out more about this pink “skunk-striped” anemonefish. Pictures and information for Pink Skunk Clownfish, along with habitat and aquarium care!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Health Benefits of Owning an Aquarium

Fish keeping as a hobby has gained popularity all over the world!

Aquariums are a good alternative for people who desire to keep pets, aside from cats and dogs.

The Chinese people believe that aquariums bring good luck to homes and offices. The water it contains is one of the five elements of the earth. Water is said to generate positive energy and promote calm and harmony. Water is also believed to bring in good luck, wealth, and prosperity.

Keeping an aquarium filled with bright fish and lush vegetation in the office or in your home offers therapeutic benefits for your physical and mental health. The miniature aquatic ecosystem is a great way to bring nature indoors. Spending a few minutes following the swimming movements of the fish and listening to the sound of running water will certainly reduce your body’s reaction to stress while inducing calmness and enhancing positive feelings.

The beneficial effects that you can gain from observing the tranquility of the aquatic environment and its inhabitants have been shown to be similar to the results attained when petting a dog or cat. This simply shows that interaction with animals and nature can lower stress levels while offering a lot of other health benefits.

People that are constantly bombarded with stressors can suffer from hypertension. Studies have shown that those who had fish in their room or office experienced a reduction in blood pressure and a stable pulse rate. The graceful movements of the fish make them a great stress reducer.

Elderly People

Fish make a perfect pet of choice for the elderly since they don’t have the energy to meet the physical demands of keeping a dog or cat. Fish keeping also gives them the satisfaction of being able to care for another creature. It is also a great way to overcome their solitude.

Hyperactive Children

Children can also enjoy the multiple health benefits of watching fish in the aquarium. Hyperactive kids have been shown to relax and gain social benefits including developing a sense of responsibility and good nurturing abilities when caring for fish.

Alzheimer Patients

Patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease have been shown to reap several health benefits from spending time with aquariums. Several studies have shown a positive effect on the patients’ nutritional intake and weight gain. Consequently, these patients also required fewer nutritional supplements. Patients also tend to have lesser displays of physically aggressive behaviors.

Patients

Doctors and dentists often put an aquarium in their waiting rooms because of the calming effect it exerts on patients who are quite nervous while waiting for results of medical tests or waiting for the dentist.

No matter how old you are, owning an aquarium will certainly offer you a lot of health benefits. Today’s busy lifestyles will constantly bombard you with a lot of stressors. However, at the end of the day, you will find peace and tranquility as you spend time gazing at the enchanting aquascape of your fish tank.

AUTHOR CREDIT:

Peter Hartono is the online ambassador for Just Aquatic – a website dedicated in providing homegrown aquatic plants and aquarium supplies for fish and aquarium enthusiasts as well as aquascape hobbyists.

My Newbie Saltwater Aquarium Mistakes… and a Few Good Choices

Saltwater Aquarium Guide for the Beginner, Aquarium Setup and CareSee the Saltwater Aquarium Guide, Beginner Saltwater Aquarium Setup and Care

Good, bad, and best choices for the saltwater aquarium beginner.

As I sit here staring at my 75-gallon semi reef tank, with my Platinum and Picasso Percula Clownfish, Halichoeres Garnoti Wrasse, and Royal Gramma… yes, I’ve started over again after moving… I thought about how I got to this point. I thought that the things I’ve learned, a few good choices along with my newbie mistakes, which started in 2005, might be of use to someone. As I reflect, I realized it wasn’t all bad and I did learn a lot along the way.

My first saltwater tank was a 55-gallon in 2005. The first bit of advice I can give you is that you WILL want corals, so just buy a good light now! You can remove some of the bulbs if you think you are going to have a fish only tank, but you will have all the watts you need when you can’t help but buy that first coral!

Back to my first tank… I read what I could on the internet, and at the time, you could get live Fiji rock on eBay from a reputable dealer for $.99 a pound! Excited to find such a great buy, I did order the 50 lbs of live rock and eagerly awaited its arrival. The tank was set up with the proper salt level of 1.023, and this made sense to me since the ocean is about that or higher.

That was my first good choice. My first bad choice? Well that would be crushed coral. A guy at the LFS (live fish store) who seemed to be knowledgeable on the subject, we will call him Mr. Crushed Coral, told me that this was the best choice. I recall they were out of sand, yet he assured me this was better at keeping the pH up, and yes that made sense to me… at the time, and in certain applications it does have its uses.

One good choice was that a different guy at my LFS, who was actually quite knowledgeable in some areas, told me due to the hot summers here in Vegas, to wait and see what temperature my tank could maintain on its own. He said if 82°F was the lowest you could get it to in the summer, then keep it there! This was good advice due to the fact that keeping it at 78°F in the summer would be near impossible, and the fluctuations between 78°F at night and 82° during the day would cause Crypt and other stresses. I also found from this the best way to medicate your fish in the reef! Read on!

Crushed Coral, Crushed Heart

So I went home, rinsed and then dumped in my crushed coral per Mr. Crushed Coral’s instructions. I also observed where the temperature tended to hover and found that 82°F was the magic number, and set it there. In the meantime, the live rock had been delivered to my house, and it was amazing!

At the 4 week mark I did a 50% water change, as advised by Mr. Crushed Coral, and I saw emerge from the rock, a peanut worm! Coolest, freakiest thing I ever saw… well up to this point. The little dude kind of hung around the rock for the first week after that water change and then decided, “Hey, I need to burrow, because I am a WORM after all!” That did it. The crushed coral sliced and diced up Mr. Wormy in no time as I watched dumbfounded that I thought sand was not the better choice!

Upon further research on the internet, which we all tend to do after a mistake which we never even realized, I found it WAS a mistake. I found that good quality reef sand will also keep up your pH! So I bought this sand and replaced half of the crushed coral initially, then the other half 2 weeks later, to give the bacteria and other creatures a chance to migrate. I also read how crushed coral, especially when several inches deep can hold anaerobic pockets, which can cause issues if released. Lesson learned, note to self… only reef quality sand.

Starfish, Love/Hate Relationships

I was now ready for my clean up crew, which you guessed it, included hermit crabs, snails, and a sand-stirring starfish. Yeah, it was the Mr. Crushed Coral dude, again. Well, one out of 3 creatures in the cleanup crew were not too bad. Why do I say this? Well the hermits systematically hunted and killed all my snails for their shells, so yeah, THERE was money well spent! To this day, I will only add a hermit crab if I have a fish that likes to eat them! Yes I love Harlequin Tuskfish!

I also noticed over the next 12 months my tank seemed unstable. I was testing my saltwater tank daily, almost to an OCD level! Thus my parameters of calcium, magnesium, iodine, etc were all good, no ammonia or nitrites and only about 5 nitrates. I also slowly added fish, at the rate of one every 2 weeks. One day I noticed my sand-stirring starfish had crawled up on a rock, and later that same day, during a conversation with my seawater supplier, I was telling him how my tank just didn’t seem to want to stabilize.

He happened to look in the tank and see the starfish on the rock (at the time I didn’t know it was dead) and he said, “There is your problem! They eat all the good stuff in the sand, and then once it is gone, they starve to death! In a much larger tank they are fine, but not a 55 gallon.” I was like, “Oh great guru, please guide this newbie!” We took out the starfish, uh, okay Sea Star, and to this day I still have it… on my window sill… yeah, I know.

He then sold me some of his live rock from one of his established systems for $2.00 a pound and I got some GREAT stuff! He also gave me copepods, then after a few weeks, my tank was stable! To stir sand, I found the jumbo nassarius snails are best and their babies are adorable! At that point, my sand was being stirred, water was stable and I then had a new brittle starfish that was very cool, eating the extra food the others missed. I loved that starfish! Err, Sea Star. Note to self, don’t even bother with Linckia Starfish.

Temperature

One bit of information I stumbled upon while talking to an online website who sold fish bears repeating. They told me they purposely keep their tanks at 82°F to prevent the Cryptocaryon life cycle from completing, thus their fish rarely if ever had it! This would explain why I never had Crypt, and why any fish that I added who may have had a few spots never developed any more. I will say to this DAY, when my tank is at 82°F NO ONE gets sick!

To illustrate how harmless 82°F is, around the early part of 2006, my local UPS guy asked if I had a saltwater tank, noting the companies I was ordering from. I showed him my 55-gallon tank and on the spot he offered me, for FREE, a 150-gallon tank! He just finished with the hobby. This was oddly a foreshadowing of what I WOULD BE DOING with tanks over the next decade, but didn’t know it yet! So I continued with the temperature staying at 82°F, and I added more live rock and inhabitants to my 150-gallon reef over time. Eventually I had a Heteractis Magnifica (Magnificent or Ritteri Anemone), 2 Bubble Tips, various SPS (soft polyped stony corals), mushrooms (corallimorphs) zoanthids, one Kenya Tree, and LPS (large polyped stony corals), with all inhabitants, including fish, thriving. Of course, I never had cold-water fish! Note to self… no, you cannot have the Catalina Goby.

Medicine

One time, back in 2007, I ordered some black perculas… yeah they were HOT back then! One had Brook! Quinine Sulfate, pharmaceutical grade cured one as I treated it in a separate tank, but I lost the male. I bought it from Nationalfishfarm.com and these people are very knowledgeable! One morning I noticed, in my 150-gallon tank, a few of my fish had Crypt, and the temperature was only 77°F because of a failed heater. I had an extra one on hand, but I needed to figure out what to do.

After hours of researching, I settled on Seachem’s Metronidazole and Seachem’s Focus. The idea behind these products was awesome! The food and medication is bound together and will not affect the water chemistry or harm any inverts or bacteria! I used 3 parts Focus (binds the food and the other Seachem medication) to 1 part Metronidazole (used for Crypt and a few other illnesses) to 1 tablespoon of fish food, which can be dry or wet, then stored the leftover in the fridge. Upon following the instructions, my fish recovered very quickly! No need to bomb the tank, remove the fish, or relocate corals! To my horror, upon one of the feedings, my Magnificent Anemone accidentally ATE this mixture of food and medication, (thanks to the clownfish “feeding him”), but nothing ever happened! It is an amazing product! Note to self… check the expiration date on the Metro and Focus…

Next time I will talk about my “charge” mistakes. Fish, corals, or creatures I was talked into buying at the local fish store, and regretted it every day since… but learned a lot from!

Saltwater aquarium success can be yours! Learn how to set up your aquarium with our Saltwater Aquarium Guide, Beginner Saltwater Aquarium Setup and Care. Then select the best fish with our Beginner Saltwater Fish Guide, Hardy Marine Fish for the Beginner’s Saltwater Aquariums.

Carrie McBirney is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Cinnamon Clownfish, adding spice to Animal-World

Cinnamon Clownfish, Amphiprion melanopus

Cinnamon Clownfish makes a spicy splash on Animal-World!

The Cinnamon Clownfish looks like it’s bathed in your favorite spice. The amount of black can be a lot or a little, giving it a dusting of cinnamon color.

This is one of those “bullet-proof” clownfish that does really well in any saltwater aquarium or reef tank. It’s lively demeanor, sturdy build, and durable nature make it a delight for beginners, but it’s equally satisfying for any aquarist.

Most are a pretty red or reddish brown with a splash of black on the body and lower fins. And there is a bright stripe of white, or sometimes blue, across the head. All that is brightly contrasted with reddish orange fins on top and a pretty yellow tail.

This pretty anemonefish, however, does have an attitude! It is the boss of its home and gets even scrappier if it has an anemone. Usually it will get along with most other fish and won’t eat corals, but it is very quarrelsome with other clownfish. Second in aggression only to the Maroon Clownfish it won’t tolerate other anemonefish, other than a male/female pair.

Fortunately it can be kept singly, and it does just fine without an anemone as long as there is plenty of rockwork. It’s great for a smaller aquarium and for a new hobbyist that doesn’t want to jump into being a reef keeper. But Cinnamon Clowns want to dominate their keepers too! So be careful when you do maintenance because these guys are known to “bite the hand that feeds them.”

Cinnamon Clowns can be obtained as captive bred fish and are available as a single specimen or as a pair. Keep one in a smaller tank, or a pair in a larger tank with equally tenacious companions and you’ll have a great aquarium.

Check out more about this “cinnamon” colored anemonefish. Pictures and information for Cinnamon Clownfish, along with habitat and aquarium care!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Three Good Protein Skimmers for a Mini Reef

Protein Skimmers

Good hang-on skimmers for the lower to mid-range budgets!

There are some decent low-to-mid priced protein skimmers, though each has its own little flaws and pluses. Yet there is an aquarist for each one. Some aquarists are simply more willing to mess around with their skimmers, so as Stuart Smalley would say, “and… that’s okay!”

Dating back to my newbie days in 2005 to the present, 2014, there are 3 skimmers that I have the most experience with. These skimmers I can say I have used for well over 6 months to 3 years, which is long enough, I feel, to justify reviewing them. Has it been almost 10 years? Wow, so much has changed in the saltwater world! Today there are amazing thermometers with a computer chip to monitor water temperature, turning it on or off for the exact temperature you want, and now we have LED lighting too. I have tried VHO, T5s, and Metal Halide; various substrates and tank sizes; and I have mixed various fish and seen interesting results.

I think we are all waiting for the “AquaScum 2003″ that dentist P. Sherman bought for his saltwater tank in “Finding Nemo”! Since I don’t like to speak on subjects I am not sure about, or a product I have not experienced, these 3 skimmers are the 3 hang-on or HOB (hang-on-the-back) I have had experience with.

I would put these three skimmers in the low-to-mid budget range and I can tell you that all three did their job. The lowest priced skimmer I used is now $80, it originally cost me $60 in 2005. The mid-range skimmer is about $180 today, and higher priced one runs about $260.

Red Sea Prizm Skimmer

Red Sea Prizm Skimmer

I had a Prizm Skimmer for my first saltwater tank, which was a 55-gallon. Being new to the hobby I had spent quite a bit of money on so many things, including live rock. So of course I did what most newbies do, I bought a budget skimmer.

Mind you, I did do a lot of research on skimmers in the $50 to $100 range before I bought the Prizm Skimmer. I also read the “don’t skimp on the skimmer” suggestion along with countless other suggestions. So I went in knowing that someday I would have to upgrade. In my head, I had calculated that my 55-gallon tank, with 60+ pounds of live rock, would probably only hold about 40 gallons of water. So I decided this skimmer should do the job for now.

One thing I did right was to buy the cylinder shaped Pro Surface Skimmer Box along with the Prizm Pro. I will say, after about a month, the Prizm Pro did quite well for my needs. After weeks of tweaking and fiddling with it, I was able to have it product that dark nasty goo on a daily basis. Understandably, today most of us are very busy and don’t have time to “play” with our skimmers! A “plug and play skimmer,” the Prizm is not!

The surface skimmer box is what pulls in all the oils and goo from the water surface which saltwater fish and corals produce. The Prizm Pro Skimmer utilizes the adjustable height of the Skimmer box very well. Then an 18 blade turbo-Jet air injector sufficiently bubbles up the water to form skimmate for removal. Some nice touches with this skimmer are its slim, low profile and being available for about $100. That will include the surface skimmer box and a media chamber in which you can put carbon if desired.

Coralife Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer

Coralife Super Skimmer, Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer

By 2006 I was on to my 150-gallon reef tank. My UPS delivery guy kindly gave this huge tank to me. Yeah, that IS cool! He was delivering a package and saw my 55-gallon aquarium and asked if I would be interested in a 150-gallon tank. Of course I responded, “Why, YES I would, good sir!”

So my research for a new skimmer started up again. It needed to be another hang-on model because there were no drill holes in my new tank for a sump. Due to the location of the tank, size or bulk was not an issue. For inhabitants I had a Magnificent Anemone Heteractis Magnifica, which was about 5″ across when I bought it, and reaching 18″ across by the time it grew up. On top of that I had many other corals and lots of fish.

After a lot of research I settled on needle wheel technology, and purchased the Coralife Super Skimmer Needle Wheel 220, rated for 220 gallons. By now I had learned a few things about skimmers, so I knew that over sizing them slightly was not a bad idea. This skimmer pulled out some of the foulest smelling dark goo I had seen!

Yes, it works and it works well. On the downside, there was again, a lot of fiddling and tweaking. Inconveniently, you must turn the dial that is used for the bubble/skimming levels down all the way in order to clean the cup. This was a bit annoying, since it could take some time to find that exact “sweet spot” again for maximum goo removal! A simple fix that came to mind after the first few cleanings, was to mark the spot where the dial was set with a black magic marker, making it easy to find the original spot the red dial was set. The only time I had an issue with this skimmer was when I used products that caused mass skimmate production. And that is not the fault of the skimmer, but rather user error!

Even though the Coralife Needle Wheel Skimmer does not have a “surface” skimmer, it did quite well at producing that yuck we all want out of our tanks. By using the needle-wheel system with an aspirating Venturi, it caused tons of micro-bubbles and increased contact time, which is needed to be effective. Yes, initially there will be micro-bubbles in the tank, but don’t fret. Some adjustments, doing the hokey pokey, and making a few calls to Coralife will fix the problem. Their customer care is great.

Once you have it dialed in this is truly a great skimmer for the money. Currently the Coralife Needle Wheel Skimmer comes in a 65 gallon size for under $100, a 125 gallon size for about $150, and the 220 gallon size for about for $180.

AquaC Remora Series Protein Skimmer

AquaC Remora Protein Skimmer

Fast forwarding several years, I downsized my tank to a 60-gallon and again bought a Coralife. Due to limited space however, I needed to buy a new skimmer so the tank was not so far from the wall. This is when I bought the AquaC Remora Series Protein Skimmer. Currently, I have an AquaC Remora Pro Hang-On Skimmer rated for 50 to 120 gallons on my 75-gallon tank. I will say it gets out some nasty stuff, even with only 3 fish and 60 pounds of live rock!

What can I say… this is a great skimmer. This one IS “plug and play”, no muss no fuss! There is a break in period, as with all skimmers, but for the most part just adjust the collection cup for a darker or lighter skimmate (like you would the other two), and you’re done! The AquaC Remora uses a spray-injection. This is a powerful, high-pressure, air-induction spray that causes enormous amounts of goo removing bubbles.

I also purchased the skimmer box, which neatly hid the pump. This produced a lot of gooey icky skimmate and was easy to adjust by adding a thick round rubber band around the square cup. When it comes time to clean the skimmer cup you need to be careful not to move this band. However it isn’t a big deal if you do move it because the skimmer responds quickly to adjustments. The boxes are sized appropriately for the differently sized skimmers and pumps. You can also use the smaller pump and the smaller box with the larger skimmer, but that would just be silly. The square design does make it a little more challenging to clean, but hey, if that is the worst of it, I’ll take it. Plus this skimmer will not overflow!

The AquaC Remora Pro Hang-On also has a drain option for both sizes, which will drain into a 5-gallon container that is hidden under the tank. I recommend getting it, especially for those vacation days. But if you choose not to use the drain, you can just turn it upward and put a plug on it. The body of the skimmer has a special cut out area for the drain plug so this is not something you can do yourself.

I honestly struggled with my decision when it came to buying a skimmer for my present 75 gallon tank. Would I buy a Coralife or another AquaC Remora Pro Skimmer? Well, the flat, wide rectangular design of the AquaC won me over. After all, the tank is already intruding in a walkway of my house, and if I added the Coralife, I may have had to build a bridge over my tank! Okay, so it isn’t THAT bad! One thing I also like about the AquaC is there are just 2 small sections you have to cut out of that black strip in the back of your glass lid if you have a cover! I am planning to buy a Snake Eel, and I need a completely sealed top! Upon researching the AquaC Remora Pro Skimmer, I stumbled across an ad in my local Craigslist! I scored one that was only a few years old for LESS than 1/2 of the retail price!

Their customer service is second to none! The skimmer started to produce aa lot of excess, foamy skim production that was basically a clearish tan. Perplexed, I called their customer service number only to find out the culprit was a product called “Instant Ocean de-chlor” which is great, but has a “slime protection” for the fish. They said most skimmers over skim when this type of de-chlor is added, so avoid any that say “slime coat or slime protection.” Besides the fact, our saltwater fish don’t really need that like freshwater fish do! I had forgotten that little bit of information! You will typically speak to the inventor or one of his well-qualified employees! He was happy to help me, knowing full well I got this last AquaC on Craigslist! I told him that just to see what his reaction would be and he could care less where I got it, but just that I was happt with the product!

The AquaC Remora Hang-On for 20 to 75 gallons runs about $160 and the larger AquaC Remora Pro, for 50 to 120 gallons, runs about $250. An additional $10 buys the Pro Hang-On with the drain fitting. AquaC now has a “new and improved” Remora-S for 20 to 75 gallons. I have not used that one, so I cannot comment on it, but it is supposed to be even better.

Getting the best with your skimmer

Removing the goo from the aquarium is important. Yet too large of a skimmer on any tank can cause over skimming, which is not good for your tank. There are natural things found in the water that corals and other organisms need to thrive. Many suggest, especially in Europe, that you turn the skimmer off at night once the tank is well established. Some find their corals do better with this action. Yet if the skimmer is under powered, turning it off at night wouldn’t be necessary. So basically this suggestion needs to be tempered with the size of the skimmer, the contents or bioload of the aquarium, and the tank size.

Gladly, many companies are now stating the size of the skimmer based on the size of the tank and it’s bio-load, which is very responsible! This makes a skimmer purchase almost dummy proof, and that is great because no hobbyist wants to buy the wrong thing.

What are your protein skimmer experiences? We all should experiment to find a happy medium with skimming, and with discovery, share our new observations with others. This is how we all learn because no one knows everything! Happy skimming!

Carrie McBirney is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Brilliant New Soft Coral Species Discovered, Psammogorgia hookeri

February 17, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Aquariums, Corals Mini-Reef

Gorgonians, Sea Fans and Sea WhipsPhoto Courtesy Yuri Hooker Peru Underwater

A beautiful bright red coral species, described as Psammogorgia hookeri, has been found in the Peruvian region of the Eastern Pacific!

It was the brilliant reddish color of this soft coral that first caught the attention of Yuri Hooker in 2002, and he collect the first specimens at that time. Hooker came across it again in 2008 while he was researching marine sponges, and at that time he was able to collect new specimens.

Dr Yuri Hooker is a biologist and naturalist at the Cayetano Heredia Peruvian University in Lima, Peru. In an article published by El Comercio, A new species of coral inhabiting the waters of Paracas, he says that with the 2008 specimens he began to “start the scientific process of identification and description”. It was then validated as a new soft coral species in 2014 by Odalisca Breedy, a research specialist in Octocoral Taxonomy at the University of Costa Rica (CIMAR), and her associate Hector M. Guzman, a marine biologist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI).

Scientific description

This new coral species has been named Psammogorgia hookeri in honor of Dr Yuri Hooker. Breedy and Guzman describe this honor in their report, A new species of alcyonacean octocoral from the Peruvian zoogeographic region, published by Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2014, as bestowed “in recognition of his (Hooker) indefatigable and valuable contribution to the knowledge of the marine invertebrates and natural history of Peru.”

Breedy and Guzman, both experts in soft coral taxonomy and ecology, identified this new species based on colony characteristics and examinations using both light and scanning-electron microscopy. This species is described as a member of the Alcyonacea order of soft corals in the Holaxonia suborder of gorgonians. It belongs to the Plexauridae family, which are soft corals that form branching colonies and are often known as sea rods or sea fans. Within this family it is placed in the genus Psammogorgia, which now contains 14 described species, with Psammogorgia hookeri being the newest member.

Distribution

The discovery of this new soft coral has created quite a stir. The rich coral red coloring makes it an undeniable beauty, but it seems to have a very limited occurrence. It has only been found from Isla San Gallan, in the Paracas National Reserve. This reserve is located in Ica, Peru and contains the Paracas Peninsula, coastal areas, and extends inland into the tropical desert areas.

This vibrant coral is thought to possibly be endemic to the Paracas National Reserve. During his research, Hooker says he has traveled almost all of the Peruvian coasts, from Tumbes to Tacna, but has only found these soft corals in the Paracas region.

The waters of this region are cool in contrast to the more congenial waters of other eastern Pacific tropical regions, where temperatures can exceed 82.4° F (28° C). Breedy and Guzman say, “the diversity of Peruvian shallowwater octocorals may be low, but species and ecosystems have adapted to dramatic coastal oceanographic changes.” They suggest that both “seasonal and inter-annual upwellings” and El Nino impact the region, changing the surface temperatures of the water. That in turn creates a “turbid green-to-brown ecosystem”, and thus effects the bio-productivity.

Gorgonians, Sea Fans and Sea WhipsPhoto Courtesy Yuri Hooker

Description and habitat

Breedy and Guzman describe Psammogorgia hookeri colonies as small, bushy, and branching. They are about 3″(8 cm) wide with branches that reach about 7 3/4″ (12 cm) in length. They are a bright coral red color with translucent polyps.

The scientists described the coral’s colony habitation as clusters on rocky ledges and cliffs, and then spreading along the substrate. They say that areas they inhabit are generally “surrounded by other organisms such as sponges, worms, sea urchins and brachiopods among other sessile creatures.” However this coral is not a shallow water species. It has not been found at depths of less than 65′ (20 m).

Availability

Interestingly, this soft coral has been seen attached to mussel shells in local fish markets! However its availability for the reef aquarium is pretty slim right now, as finding Psammogorgia hookeri specimens in fish stores or online is difficult, if not impossible.

Learn more about the types of soft corals categorized as Gorgonians at Types of Gorgonians, Sea Fans and Sea Whips on Animal-World, which also includes coral guides for different species with pictures, background information, and the aquarium care needed for keeping them in a mini reef.

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Tomato Clownfish, making a classy rebirth on Animal-World

February 14, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Saltwater Fish

Tomato Clownfish, Amphiprion frenatus

The Tomato Clownfish, brightly colored with attitude!

The Tomato Clownfish is a rambunctious and tenacious anemonefish, but with a bright sunny guise, which makes it most endearing.

This spirited anemonefish is very durable and one of the very best first fish for the beginner starting into the saltwater hobby. Yet all marine aquarists equally enjoy this vibrant fellow.

True to its “tomato” name, colors ranges from burnt orange to tomato red. You may find it called a Red Clown, or perhaps a Onebar or Bridled Anemonefish due to the white bar accent on its head, reminiscent of a bridle. Sometimes it will even be labeled a Blackback Anemonefish because the larger females develop a deep brown coloring on their sides as they mature. But personally I just like to call it a red tomato!

It’s the flashy looks and fabulous “bullet proof” durability that make this fish popular, but it does have a bit of an attitude. This is a semi-aggressive fish that will quarrel with any other clownfish and will harass peaceful fish. Then it becomes even more belligerent if it has an anemone!

Fortunately it does just fine without an anemone as long as there is plenty of rockwork. That makes it great for a smaller aquarium. And without an anemonoe, a new hobbyist doesn’t have to jump into being a reef keeper!

It is best to keep only one Tomato Clown per tank, with tankmates that are equally tenacious, or a pair in a larger tank. They can be obtained as captive bred fish and are available as a single specimen or as a pair.

Check out more about this “tomato” colored anemonefish. Pictures and information for Tomato Clownfish, along with its habitat and aquarium care!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

PlanetXingu Project, A win for Catfish and the Xingu River

February 7, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Aquariums, Freshwater fish

Catfish Varieties: Royal Plecostomus, Panaque nigrolineatusRoyal Plecostomus or Black Lined Panaque, Panaque nigrolineatus. Color forms of this species are found in the Rio Xingu. Photo © Animal-World.com, Courtesy Ken Childs.

Two Thumbs Up! To Planet Catfish and the PlanetXingu Project

Planet Catfish and founder Julian Dignall truly deserve our praise and recognition for their successful fundraising project, PlanetXingu. Julian conceived PlanetXingu almost a year ago to help research into the Rio Xingu in Brazil.

PlanetXingu has been a great success. Big kudos to these guys in the UK for stepping up to the plate. Hundreds of aquarists and fish lovers became engaged and donated both money and time to the project. They not only reached, but exceeded their $11,000 goal!

Julian will be hosting an exciting event this coming Sunday, Feb 9th, 2014, where you can meet two of the major players on the project, Mark Sabaj Perez and Nathan Lujan. There will be two online sessions , one at 1900 GMT and the other at 1900 EST. Sign in at: http://tinychat.com/planetcatfish

The project evolved due to the plight of the endemic and migratory species of the Xingu River in Brazil. The Brazilian Government is currently constructing the Belo Monte Dam on one of the Amazon’s major tributaries, the Xingu River. It is estimated by Amazon Watch in their article, Brazil’s Belo Monte Dam, Sacrificing the Amazon and its Peoples for Dirty Energy, that this will be the world’s third largest hydroelectric dam.

This project brought to light many concerns over the impacts this will have on communities, rivers, and forests throughout the Xingu basin. Amazon Watch says it is designed to divert 80% of the river’s flow, “devastating an area of over 1,500 square kilometers of Brazilian rainforest”.

Dignall envisioned bringing together a communty of fish lovers and scientist to the aid of Rio Xingu. His inspiration was to help assist both researchers in the field as well as those that keep and breed Xingu basin species in captivity. Thus the launch of the PlanetXingu fundraising project in March 2013. The aim of the project was to raise $11,000 by January 1, 2014 to purchase equipment for studying the river before, during, and after the dam’s construction. You can learn more about PlanetXingu on Planet Catfish’s An Introduction to the project.

We are proud of the efforts of Julian Dignall and Planet Catfish, not only on the PlanetXingu project, but for their years of online information. Their website originated in 1997/98, at about the same time as Animal-World. With well over 2400 catfish varieties, it is a great resource for pictures and taxonomical information on catfish species, and one of our premium references. In fact one of our super team members, Ken Childs, who has over 2 decades of fish experience in the wholesale arena, provided numerous catfish pictures to their database.

Learn about the history and background of catfish on Animal-World, along with aquarium guides for the different kinds of catfish: Catfish Varieties, Fish Guides for All Types of Catfish

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

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