Nov 1, 2017

LFS Spotlight: Allquatics in Hamilton, NJ

The first time I visited Allquatics in Hamilton, NJ with my Friend Harvey Fell, I was surprised by the hidden treasures there. Allquatics is like an onion, you have to peel back the layers to get to the amazing species inside. Don't walk out without searching closely for that Zebra Pleco or talking to an employee to find out what rarities are in stock. The fish are well cared for, and they easily overlooked because they are kept in appropriate environments instead of showcasing them in small tanks with no cover. The owner, Dave Tilton, is known for his artistic eye and incredible pond and aquarium builds.

Oct 1, 2017

LFS Spotlight: House of Fins in Greenwich, CT

House of Fins in Greenwich, CT is one of the oldest and most highly reputable aquarium stores in the world. The rarest, most sought after fish on the planet have passed through their doors. Full article:

Sep 1, 2017

LFS Spotlight: Fintastic in Raleigh, NC

We took a trip to North Carolina over Memorial Day weekend to visit my sister who is also a reefer. Naturally, we had to stop at Fintastic, the local aquarium shop. This saltwater aquarium store opened just a little over a year ago, in March 2016, so this was my first time in Fintastic. The owner, David Jones, opened the store in his hometown of Cary, NC, to serve the Raleigh/Durham area and Wake Forest county. This moderately-sized store is clean and has a modern design. The aquariums are sectioned into separate systems so fish with parasites or diseases can be quarantined (but that doesn’t mean you can skip home quarantine!) They conveniently sell fresh, salt water, and live foods like phytoplankton and copepods. Their livestock is hand selected and shipped from a partner store in South Florida; Jones says this is the reason he can offer inexpensive, quality livestock.

full article:

my sister Christie and me

Jul 1, 2017

Murdering Bryopsis hair algae with drugs

When I set up my Unicorn Reef Bowl, I used some live rock from a tank that I fed heavily for a Clingfish pet, I experienced a heavy hair algae infestation. Instead of starting over with all new rock, I decided to use a drug called Fluconazole to take care of my problem. Here is my experience.

Jun 1, 2017

Unicorn Mini Reef Bowl

Pico reef vases and mini reef bowls are gaining popularity right now, for some great reasons. If you crave a reef aquarium, but lack the time and money for a full fledged, large reef, but you still want something unique and eye catching, opt for a tiny reef in a bowl or a vase. Read more on

my first reef vase

Reef Bowls have been around for a while, but they’re still considered to be unconventional and experimental. Brandon Mason started a 1 gallon reef jar in 2006, and Mary Arroyo’s 1.5 gallon Maritza vase just celebrated its 5th birthday. There has been some criticism of tiny reef picos with naysayers claiming they would always ultimately fail and are too difficult to keep clean. Sure, they’d be impossible if you treated them like a full sized reef tank, overstocking with fish and doing only monthly maintenance. All successful reef bowls have one thing in common: simplicity. Most use a simple air pump for filtration, a heater, and a small light. That’s it. Weekly water changes maintain water quality and replenish calcium and other elements. Wiping algae in a tiny tank every day is as easy as wiping the kitchen counter every day if you make it part of your routine.

I have maintained some really amazing reef tanks, but the minimalist in me is obsessed with this little reef bowl. Every coral in my reef bowl is the star of the show; there are no fillers. Everything is chosen with much thought and planning, placed with precision. It is the reefing version of the literary advice to “kill your darlings.” Pare down, edit, streamline your work. Give purpose to every stroke of your brush.

happy toddler, happy fish, corals covered in algae

My journey into vase reefing began when my mom bought me a stunning antique pedestal foot vase a couple years ago. I planned on using it for dwarf seahorses, but at the time I had a 6 gallon cube with some corals and one hungry clingfish I let my toddler overfeed every day. The tank was overrun with algae. The corals were a few orphan frags I brought with me when I moved from another state, and I just never got around to setting up a better tank for them. One day in Spring 2016, it dawned on me that I should put my poor, sad corals in the vase.

I moved some live rock and the corals from the 6 gallon into the vase. I put it on a rickety end table in my upstairs bathroom. We have a double sink in this bathroom, so I put the vase right next to the sink, which would become the vase’s own dedicated sink. The light was an ABI 12 watt 50/50 LED. Instead of an air pump, I used an old Koralia nano I had packed away for water movement. I hid the Koralia and a small heater behind a rock. I did weekly 90% water changes and topped off every few days with RO water. I had a few inverts like a blue tuxedo urchin, scarlet and blue leg hermits, an emerald crab, and a banded coral shrimp who enjoyed eating bristleworms. The corals thrived in this tiny bowl. I added some new corals, and they grew from tiny 4 polyp frags into small colonies.

This reef vase ran without a hitch until April 2017 when the top electrical outlets in the bathroom failed. My Koralia turned off, and I didn’t notice right away. At first I noticed my 1.5 year old urchin dead. In total, all of my inverts and one new coral perished. I did a full water change and found a power strip to plug my equipment into. If I’d had the powerhead plugged into a different outlet, my urchin would be alive today. The majority of the corals were fine, but I was crushed. “Urchin” was one of my son’s first words when he was almost a year old, and the urchin was a gift to him. Overall, it wasn’t a major disaster, but I hate losing any animals, even hermit crabs.

My step-dad, a hobby wood worker, built a new stand for my vase since my old end table was cracked down the center and very unstable. I wanted an oversized stand, so we decided to make it an 18” cube with a door on the front for storage. I asked for a simple box, but he got creative with it and carved a unicorn for the front, which is why we started referring to it as “the unicorn bowl.” When I brought the stand home, I realized my vase would be dwarfed by it and decided to upgrade to a new bowl. I also decided to move it to the kitchen with my other saltwater tank to make maintenance easier. I found an 8.5 gallon bowl that fit perfectly on the stand. I got some more live rock and moved the corals in mid April.

I upgraded the equipment in the new, bigger bowl. The new powerhead is 600 gph, and I bought the ABI Tuna blue LED, per Mary Arroyo’s suggestion. The color of the new Tuna Blue light took some getting used to, but it really makes the corals fluoresce. I still do weekly water changes, but I only replace about half the water. I have cautiously added some new hermit crabs, an emerald crab, and some peppermint shrimp to eat the Aiptasia that came with the new live rock I bought. The corals I brought with me from Connecticut are the M. danae, and M. setosa. I brought frags to my LFS Ricky Fin’s and he gave me frags back when I was ready for them. The other corals are all from his shop, except the Gorgonia my sister gave me from her tank.

I’m very happy with the new bowl so far, even though I was disappointed I couldn’t find one with a pedestal foot. I have had issues with hair algae since overfeeding the tank the live rock came from, but more on that later. My Montiporas and Zoas needed this extra space, and the bowl is visually stunning with the extreme magnification of the curved glass. Once the corals grow in more, this bowl has the potential to be one of my favorite tanks ever.

my son Lachlan with our 8 gallon reef bowl

one year of growth on M. setosa

Feb 3, 2017

Train Live Food Eaters to Eat Frozen Food

Some of the most beautiful fish in the aquarium hobby have live food diets and refuse to eat frozen food right away. With all the distractions and stress of the display tank, live food eaters usually starve without food training.Quarantining new fish isn’t only for disease prevention. Finicky eaters should be conditioned and trained to eat frozen foods in a quarantine tank. A bare bottom tank is easier to keep clean, and makes it easier for the fish to find food. Fill an appropriately-sized tupperware container with sand for burrowers. Keep lighting low and use a PVC pipe to give your fish somewhere to hide. Take a few minutes to siphon the bottom of the tank before and after each feeding. Keep the quarantine tank free from feces, uneaten food, detritus, and ammonia.

Live food eaters simply don’t recognize frozen foods as possible food items; it’s up to you to teach them. Research the fish’s natural diet and provide similar live foods until the fish has gained weight. Buy live foods before your fish arrives. HUFA-enriched live adult or newly hatched Artemia are an easy, cheap alternative to natural foods for most finicky eaters and can be substituted for live shrimp or copepods, though some copepods are easy to culture at home. Obligate Corallivores may need live coral sacrifices. Try pasting frozen mysis onto a skeleton or live coral to entice them. Attach frozen food with a rubber band to a clam shell or live clams from the grocery store for angelfish. Larger ambush predators like lionfish and anglers prefer live ghost shrimp or small fish like damsels (never goldfish). Use water movement from a pipette or a feeding stick to make frozen food “look alive.”
Make sure frozen food is as fresh as possible! Live food eaters are more likely to refuse food with an “off” taste or smell, even when it looks fine to us. HUFA and omega 3s degrade quickly in frozen food. Never use food that has been thawed and refrozen. Discoloration or freezerburn is a sure sign of bad food, like brown mysis. Don’t rely on the expiration date when feeding finicky live food eaters, as the food’s flavor and HUFA profile will change well before the expiration date. Ideally, use food that has been in your home freezer for no more than a few months. Your LFS should use a commercial freezer which keeps the food at -30C or -22F.

Garlic in the diet of marine fish is controversial, but many aquarists report an increase in appetite with garlic use. It may also help condition fish to recognize new foods when they are trained to associate garlic smell with food. Soak the fish’s preferred live foods in garlic. Once they’re accustomed to that, freeze the garlic soaked live foods and introduce that along with live food. Mix in garlic soaked store bought foods until the fish eat frozen food well. Garlic can be slowly removed from the diet once training is complete.

Be persistent. It can take months for a stubborn fish to learn to eat frozen food. Keep in mind that some fish, like dwarf seahorses, will never eat frozen foods, and some species, like mandarins and sponge eaters, may not thrive on a strictly frozen food diet.

Full Article: