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Mark Martin on Aquarium Insurance
Mark Martin is Director of Marine Ornamental Research at Blue Zoo

Tradewind Chiller
A Tradewind chiller is valuable insurance for your marine aquarium.

The dog days of summer are upon us, and, even in Southern California, we can experience days warm enough to push our tanks to the upper edge of their thermal limits. It just so happens that many people also go on vacation at this time of the year, and all marine aquarists know that nothing can spoil a vacation faster than worrying about if your tank is okay. This brings me to this week’s tip—something I’m calling “The Triad of Trouble Prevention” (a.k.a. Insurance for Your Aquarium). For this week’s tip, I am going to suggest that you seriously consider adding a chiller, a UV sterilizer and a quarantine/hospital tank to your system—experience talking with hundreds of customers who have experienced a tank disaster suggests that you’ll be glad you did.

Because it’s summer, heat is on many people’s minds, and, not surprisingly, so are chillers. A wildly fluctuating temperature within a 24-hour period is bad for your livestock. It creates stress, and stress makes animals more susceptible to disease and parasitic infestations. For optimal health of all your livestock, but especially for your coral, accept nothing greater than a two degree daily fluctuation in temperature. For most tropical reef tanks, this means keeping your tank somewhere around 78 degrees Fahrenheit with a range of 76-78, 77-79 or 78-80 between night and day. If you have a good reason to do so, keeping your tank somewhat warmer or cooler is okay so long as the temperature is stable—stability is the take-home point.

To maintain this level of stability, most aquarists (especially ones with smaller tanks, where stability is harder to achieve) will end up adding a chiller, redundant heaters and a controller to their system. While this may seem like a huge expense, the health of your livestock will more than make-up for the cost. While having a chiller is essential insurance against the freak “boiling incident” that might happen once or twice a year, the ability to keep the temperature stable every day will have a long term beneficial effect on all your livestock.

Adding an ultraviolet (UV) sterilizer to your system is another form of aquarium insurance that can make the difference between parasite-infested animals and consistently healthy livestock. An UV Sterilizer is an effective and efficient means to both reduce bacteria and obliterate disease-causing pathogens in your aquarium. While it may, like the chiller, seem like a lot of money to lay down for a piece of equipment that is “not essential,” when confronted with a fully infested reef tank, the price of a UV sterilizer will be nothing compared to the time and money you will spend eradicating the parasite. As you know, Blue Zoo started as a custom marine aquarium manufacturing and installation company, and we have always encouraged are clients to use UV sterilization as “essential” insurance. Beyond the insurance, UV sterilization provides daily benefits to water quality and the reduction of nuisance algae.

Finally, I want to make yet another plug for a dedicated quarantine/hospital tank. This is perhaps the least expensive and best form of insurance you can buy for your tank. In an upcoming article of Blue Zoo News, we will be discussing the specifics of different QT/hospital tank set-ups, but for now, please, please, please make sure you have a dedicated tank (10 or 20 gallons is fine) for quarantining new fishes and corals and for treating infected fishes and corals with medications that cannot be used in your display tank. A simple filter, inexpensive lighting, a heater, and a powerhead are really all you need, but the benefit is nearly incalculable. [Be on the lookout for Blue Zoo Aquatics QT Kit, a package including everything you need to set-up a QT/hospital tank at a price you won't believe! Coming late summer 2008. -ed]

So there you have—the “Triad of Trouble Prevention” (a.k.a. Insurance for Your Aquarium). Enjoy the rest of your summer knowing your aquarium can take care of itself.

If you have a question you would like answered in my weekly “Ask Mark” column, please e-mail me at mark@bluezooaquatics.com. To see all of the past “Ask Mark” tips, please visit the Blue Zoo Aquatics Resources page.

Published 4 August 2008. © Blue Zoo Aquatics

   
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