This weekend I finally ordered the materials for building out a new turtle vivarium. The goal of this project is to match the aesthetic appeal of the original tank, while also increasing swimming room. The original construction consisted of a simple divider between the land and water area, resulting in an 8 inch deep land mass that was for the most part a waste of volume.
With this second design I'm intending to create a shelf, leaving the area under the land mass open for swimming and lurking. The intent is to use two artificial logs as columns for supporting the shelf. Here you can see a front and top rendering of what it will hopefully look like. The shelf and back wall will be covered with cork bark as in the previous tank.
On the right is a cut in the front panel. The water level will be even or slightly higher than this, to make it easy for the turtle to pull himself out on land. This area will also have a large flat rock, and light will be concentrated for basking. Think of it as the equivalent to a chaise lounge in the shallow areas of a swimming pool.
This project will need only three pieces of acrylic: a front, bottom and divider panel. These will be attached together with silicon, and then attached to the walls of the tank and the supporting pillars.
My shiny new Tunze nano skimmer arrived today. I'll share a few initial impressions, and write a more lengthy review once its been running for a week or so. Needless to say, I am thrilled to be getting rid of my finicky and flood-prone Coralife skimmer, and the tank already looks better.
Compare the giant, ugly hanging pump and return box:
To this small rectangle that practically disappears into my black background (right hand corner):
Some initial impressions:
Dead silent: my old skimmer made the living room sound like an aquaculture lab. Now all I can hear is the fans in my lighting fixture.
Easy installation: attach it to the side of the tank with a magnet, plug it in and adjust the air intake. Done.
Tiny footprint: I had to move my light fixture forward about an inch from where I normally keep it to accomodate the collection cup, but otherwise this unit is tiny and unobtrusive. Huge upgrade from what I had before.
I purposefully crafted the cheesy post title to avoid saying the word "blogosphere", but that is in fact what it is: a surprisingly tight knit (some might say slightly inbred, given the redundancy of post material) community of aquarium bloggers has been formed in the past year. I find it a refreshing alternative to cruising the popular aquarium forums, which are rife with repetitive question threads. There is much to be found and learned in the forums, but my patience for parsing through the rest of it has run a bit thin now that I've established a general basis of reef keeping knowledge.
Here is a run down of the blogs I'm currently subscribed to. Feel free to post more, or yours, in the comments and I'll add it in. Also, as my own little blog has finally established some staying power, I've begun work on a custom designed template for it (finally!). The visual is progressing well, but as usual I will get hung up on the code, so no promised ETA for now.
Aquarium blogs I'm currently subscribed to:
www.aquadaily.com Good general purpose aquarium blog, with information for fresh and saltwater enthusiasts.
www.pacificeastaquaculture.com Blog for a coral importer and retailer that I have not yet ordered from. Great behind the scenes posts about the retail facility and importing operations.
www.aquatic-eden.com Planted tank specific, featuring "aquascapes of the week" which are great eyecandy. Makes me miss having a planted tank!
www.glassbox-design.com A great blog, with both industry coverage and personal insight logging the progress of a very beautiful tank. The design and modernist slant is personally appealing as well.
www.advancedaquarist.com Excellent and professional articles updated monthly. Great source of information for the reefer.
designandreef.blogspot.com Similar to the Glass Box, great documentary blog of a design orientated reefer and his nano tank construction, along with various posts relating to design and aquariums.
blog.reefiris.com A blog from Keith updating the progress of his development for Reef Iris, a very promising website project that allows people to funnel their internet-capable controller information and other tank information into a community site. I think this will become a great alternative to forum build threads as it progresses.
When I created the initial equipment list for my reef aquarium, it was based entirely on research with zero real world experience. Parsing the forums and books, and with the previous knowledge from my planted tank days that buying the right equipment the first time was the most economical method, I put together a set of gadgets and equipment that I thought would be a good setup.
I got a few things right, primarily the lighting. My Coralife 65 skimmer however has always been a disappointment. It is finicky about water levels, prone to overflowing, and making me nervous to leave it running while out of the house. It is incredibly loud, aesthetically displeasing, and the performance is at best mediocre.
This evening while playing some video games, I heard a small dripping. For some reason, the vent in the output pipe was bubbling water instead of venting air, causing a slow drip down the side of the tank and onto the floor. Clutching a recently acquired Amazon gift card in my hand, I just placed an order for a Tunze Nanoskimmer which I hope will solve all these problems.
The Tunze Nanoskimmer is: - Reportedly quiet - A small, square footprint within the tank - A respect and well-known manufacturer - Entirely contained inside the tank, so that overflows would at worst return to the aquarium
I will report with setup and operation details when it arrives. In the meantime, if anyone wants to buy a very used Coralife 65 skimmer, I'll pay you to haul it away.
Live Aquaria is easily the best site for ordering aquatic life, with unmatched quality and shipping, as well as a stay-alive guarantee. I've been a big fan for quite some time, and the majority of my reef's inhabitants originated from them.
They've just added an RSS feed for their Diver's Den, which provides what-you-see-is-what-you-get specimens on a first come, first serve basis. The feed should let you keep tabs on their stock without having to remember to check the site.
Update: The only downside is that unlike browsing the actual site, with the RSS feed you get a view into things that have already sold! So waking up this morning, I discovered I was too late to get in on these beautiful Montipora color variations! So sad.
A little over a year ago, on my first trip to San Francisco, I stumbled into a temporary aquarium space for the California Academy of Sciences. They had an enormous, two-story coral reef setup, along with an aquaculture facility for propagating more corals. Talking with the staff informed me that the tank was a test to see if coral could be grown in captivity at extreme depths, and the propagation facility was for growing out colonies to populate a much larger tank that would be located in their permanent building, scheduled to open late in 2008.
Being out there for business this week, I took advantage of a few spare hours to get over and check out the finished tank. Unfortunately there wasn't much stocked in the form of corals yet. I'm not sure if they are adding species in slowly or what. There was an enormously large and diverse population of fish however, along with some other innovations. A large sand bed with a full grown mangrove tree was attached to the aquarium. A walled off section for sharks and rays, as well as a shallow lagoon area was also attached to the tank. The reef tank is impressive in size and ambition, but as all reef keepers know, it will take several years to reach it's true potential.
The california coast tank was also quite large, and featured an enormous wave box. From what was visible, it appeared to work on the same principal as the systems common to home aquarium. But check out the size of these waves:
My favorite section of the aquarium was the staff picks. Here small aquariums and terrariums were set into a wall, featuring a favorite species or biotope of each staff member. There was an incredible reef tank here, with a coral wall built along the left hand side leaving dramatic open space through most of the tank. Very cool.
Below are some photos I snapped, and there are a few more to be found on my Flickr account.
My favorite tank design:
Primary viewing window for the reef (there are several others):
Some of the reef lighting. There was another tier of lights above this, as well as natural sun lighting through the roof:
Note: I waited until returning from vacation before writing these steps up, just to confirm that they weren't disastrous. Fortunately everything went peachy.
Something I didn't know when I jumped headlong into this hobby a year ago was just how much daily care and worry is involved in keeping a reef aquarium. A seemingly endless list of variables related to inhabitants, equipment, feeding and parameters are available for the aquarist to worry and fuss over. Leaving for an extended vacation then requires the foresight and planning involved in moving a tank, and the ability to put faith in your caretaker. What follows are the issues I considered and how I prepared for them prior to our annual Dominican trip.
Evaporation and top offs With a nano tank lit by halides and cooled by a fan, evaporation is fast. I generally top off close to half a gallon of fresh RO/DI filtered water every two days in order to maintain stable salinity parameters and maintain an appropriate water level for my pump and skimmer. To streamline this process for the friend would be checking on the tank, I filtered five gallons of new water and left it next to the tank. We established a schedule for check ins around what I considered to be the maximum length between top offs, having him stop by every three days.
Skimming While I don't have the worry of an external sump and plumbing system that could conceivably fail and result in flooding, I do have an extremely finicking external protein skimmer. This unit is on my shortlist for replacement, due to its tendency to randomly begin skimming far too wet, resulting in a potential flood. I made the decision to run the tank without a skimmer during the duration of my vacation to negate any possibility of flood.
Feeding and parameters I demonstrated to my friend the appropriate amount of food and decided that a medium feeding once every three days would be enough to get the tank through the week. The lighter feeding schedule would also help offset any issue of excess nutrients building up while the tank is running without a skimmer. After experimenting with various supplements, I have since moved the tank to using only weekly water changes to maintain stable calcium, alkalinity, and mineral levels. As such, it wasn't necessary to establish instructions for maintaining a complicated two-part dosing schedule.
Keep it simple I left a bulleted list of the maintenance steps along with instructions for the rest of our apartment (getting the mail, feeding the cat, etc) taped in two places around the apartment. I returned from vacation to a perfectly healthy tank, looking as if I hadn't been gone at all. In fact, a few colonies that had been showing issues seemed to be on the rebound. Some simple planing and a good friend made leaving the tank for over a week an easy process.