Kessil LED

Company Profile: Kessil LED Lighting

Kessil is best known in the reef aquarium hobby for their unique LED fixtures. The company started out as a San Francisco start-up that eventually became a member of the technology-based DiCon group. DiCon specializes in fiber optics and specialty lighting that includes film making, microscopy, indoor-growing and aquarium lighting (Kessil). While there are many LED aquarium fixtures to choose from, Kessil stands out for several reasons. LED lighting was introduced in 1962. While LED technology has improved, most LED assembles are made in the same configuration. One LED die is placed in a reflective cavity, bonded to two electrical contacts, and then sealed with a plastic lens. Kessil took a completely different approach in designing their LED system. $30 million in R&D resulted in several innovations. Instead of individually spaced LEDs, Kessil densely packed many LEDS together. The special reflector controls the light spread, focusing it it straight down into the aquarium. This reduced the size of the fixture without sacrificing power. Normally the tightly packed LEDS would over-heat. Kessil discovered a new way to silently dissipate the heat without a large, unsightly heat sink or noisy fan.  These innovations resulted in the development of compact, highly powerful pendant light fixtures. Kessil then added manual controls to fine-tune the amount of blue light.  Kessil Logic is their proprietary system that maintains constant light output throughout the spectrum. For example, if you want to boost the blue level, the light intensity remains at the same output. Kessil engineers took things one step further. They created a variety of innovative mounting systems so you’ll be able to hang or mount Kessil fixtures over or on any type of aquarium. Want more control? Customization of light color and intensity throughout the day can be programmed with the A-Series Spectral Controller. The controller is easy to use. Just touch the settings you want to change and the fixture responds.


 Kessil H80 Tuna Blue LED fixture features easy to use adjustment knobs

Advanced LED lighting options

Kessil offers a variety of pendant LED fixtures. The A160WE measures only 4″ x 2.5″ yet will illuminate up to 24″ in diameter. Perfect for a nano reef aquarium. Multiple lights can be mounted over larger aquariums.


A160WE uses only 40 watts


For larger aquariums the  A350W (wide angle ) will create a wider 70-dgree illumination pattern below the fixture.

The A350W Kessil fixture casts a wide beam

The newest Kessil LED fixture

The AP700 is Kissel’s first flat panel LED fixture. It uses two of the updated Dense Matrix LED system featuring full spectrum lighting output. It uses hybrid optics which create outstanding spread and coverage while not losing its penetrating power, and giving the closest look to metal halide lights from almost any other LED unit. The AP700 features wireless control through an iPad.


AP700 Flat Panel LED Fixture

We’ve been recommending and selling Kessil lighting and accessories for many years. The fixtures are top-performers constructed with the highest quality materials. They’re great for growing LPS and SPS corals in nano and full-sized reef aquariums. If you need help selecting the right lighting for your reef tank, just give us a call. We’re here to help!

reef octopus

Company Profile: Reef Octopus

Reef Octopus (Honya Corporation) is well-known for high-quality protein skimmers. The company was founded in 2004 with the goal of manufacturing high quality aquarium products at a reasonable price. By using cost effective production and assembly in China, Reef Octopus could build high-performing, reliable reef equipment and offer it at a reasonable price. About 90% of the materials used in Reef Octopus products come from Japan, Germany and the United States. Reef Octopus continues to introduce innovative protein skimmer products for the reef aquarist. Let’s take a look at a few of the many Reef Octopus innovations.

Reef Octopus manufactures four levels of protein skimmers. Each level has its own features and applications ranging from nano tanks for extra-large and professional aquarium use.

  • Classic: Features high-quality cast acrylic body construction, easy disassembly for maintenance and includes an “air shredding” Aquatrance pump. A feed pump is not required as water is drawn directly from the sump.
  • Regal: Designed with a hybrid conical body which helps to stabilize and concentrate the organic- rich foam. Powered by a controllable VarioS skimmer pump that has a pinwheel impeller, detachable controller, high quality ceramic shaft and bearing, and the latest variable speed flow technology for refined control, enhanced performance, energy-efficiency and safer operations.
  • Elite: An in-sump protein skimmer with a “twist and lift” collection cup, vented valve output with adjustment dial for precision control, wine bottle shaped body and professional open volute for enhanced performance.
  • Super Reef: For larger aquariums of up to 2,600 US Gal. Has advanced features like a bubble diffusing chamber and Hybrid Cone Body that has less turbulence in the neck area, and increases the contact time, oversized Air Silencer for quiet operation, and a larger collection cup. Powered by a powerful Bubble Blaster Pump.

Reef Octopus set out to create a highly efficient and affordable protein skimmer for any size reef aquarium. Here are just a few of the protein skimmers we carry. The BH 1000 HOB skimmer is perfect for hanging on a small reef tank.

Protein skimmer

                                          Reef Octopus BH 1000

For in-sump use the Regal 150-INT protein skimmer efficiently filters tanks of up to 210 gallons. For aquariums up to 400 gallons, check out the Elite 200 INT DC Super Cone Protein Skimmer. It is specially designed with a smaller spout to reduce turbulence in the neck area, causing foam bubbles get concentrated as they rise up the skimmer. The skimmers powered by a 24V VarioS-4S Controllable Pinwheel Pump with integrated memory controller. For big reefs, the SRO 6000 Recirc External Protein Skimmer has a bubble diffusing chamber that stabilizes foam production and a large collection cup with flow guide, drain, and venting making cleaning less frequent. The SRO 6000 is powered by the heavy-duty Bubble Blaster HY-5000s pinwheel pump.

                                      Super Reef Octopus

Reef Octopus makes retrofit automated skimmer neck cleaners. Twin squeegees automatically wipe the inside of the skimmer every 4-6 hours so the skimmer always operates efficiently.

reef octopus

You can add an automatic cleaner to your Reef Octopus protein skimmer

BioChurn Media Reactors fluidize biopellets (food for bacteria). The reactors come with an Aquatrance pump to feed the reactor and suspend the biopellets. The “churn motion” allow pellets to have longer contact time with the nutrient-rich aquarium water for better nutrient removal.


                      Reef Octopus BioChurn media reactor

Reef Octopus also manufactures their own water circulation pumps. The Water Blaster recirculation pump uses a rare earth neodymium magnet and wear-resistant silicon nitride components. A digital circuit board monitors and controls the flow rate and status of the pump.

water pump

              Reef Octopus Water Blaster recirculation pump

We carry a full line of Reef Octopus products. They are reliable and top performers. If you need assistance selecting a  protein skimmer, water pump or accessory, please contact us. All of the TB Aquatics staff are seasoned reef keepers. We use Reef Octopus products on our own tanks and can provide real-world answers to all of your questions!



Company Profile: EcoTech Marine

EcoTech Marine has been developing cutting-edge marine and reef hardware since 2003. The company started out as three reef enthusiasts that fabricated and sold their own high-tech gear on a small scale. Today EcoTech Marine is known internationally for innovative LED lighting, water pumps and wireless control and automation systems for reef aquariums.  EcoTech Marine designs and builds their products right here in the USA.

VorTech Quietdrive Water Pumps

vortechVorTech QuietDrive circulation pumps are designed to provide water movement in aquariums from 2.5 to over 1000 gallons. QuietDrive circulation pumps mimic the natural water flow and wave cycles that form on a tropical reef. The pump motor or “driver” mounts on the outside of the aquarium glass and is coupled to the impeller inside the tank, through magnetic forces. Because the electric motor is outside of the tank, heat is radiated to the room, not the aquarium water. The pumps have three programmed modes: Wave Auto Tune, Feed Mode & Night Mode. The Vortech pumps have 10 specialized reef modes including EcoSmart Tidal Swell Mode, Reef Crest Random Mode and Feed Mode.

  • Moves massive amounts of water with no abrasive hot spots
  • Cool-running motors
  • Easily programmed and controlled with smart devices, computer and hardwire
  • Compatible with EcoSmart Live

Vectra DC Water Pumps

vectraEcotech marine also manufactures the Vectra line of DC centrifugal pumps. The Vectra pumps can be used in-line or submerged in a sump. Vectra pumps are designed for use in closed loop and return modes. A return configuration would use the pump to return water to the aquarium from a sump. While the pump speed can be precisely controlled by the control dial, EcoTech has incorporated a Speed Lock mode that locks in the water flow and disables accidental speed adjustments. There is also a Feeding Mode that temporarily idles the pump. The Closed Loop mode turns the pump into a fully controllable wave and current-maker. Pre-programmed modes include:

  • Lagoonal Mode – Slow currents
  • Reef Crest Mode – High energy water movement
  • Gyre – reversing water movements

Radion LED Lighting

RadionThe Radion family of LED lighting covers reef and freshwater applications. EcoTech lights go way beyond simple LEDs in an enclosure. The Radion fixtures incorporate the latest LED arrays into sleek, attractive fixtures. But that’s not all. The LED arrays feature lenses that evenly blend the LEDs for consistent color. The Radion lens system also provides even light distribution throughout the tank. No more hotspots. You’ll have full control of the light color and behavior of the fixture through on-light controls. Even better, the lights can be managed with a smart device or computer. Radion LED lights can be hung above the aquarium or mounted on the tank.

EcoTech ReefLink  and EcoSmart system


EcoTech’s ReefLink serves as a hub, wirelessly integrating all EcoTech water pumps and lights. You control your equipment through the EcoSmart Live software running on the computer or smart device.


EcoSmart Live allows you to adjust any setting form your sofa or anywhere around the globe. EcoSmart Live gives you control of every function and preset plus you can even customize your own settings.

Battery Backup

ecotech battery

EcoTech has developed a purpose-built battery back-up system especially for VorTec QuietDrive water pumps. The EcoTech Battery Backup will supply enough power to run a VorTech pump for 30 hours. That’s enough power to keep your reef alive even with a prolonged power failure. Two battery backup units can be connected to run more pumps or keep a single pump running longer. Unlike computer UPS units, the Battery Backup is designed specifically for efficiently powering the VorTech water pumps.

AT TB Aquatics we carefully test and evaluate every brand we offer to our customers. EcoTech Marine has proven to be a reliable company dedicated to providing high-quality products for the reef hobby.

protein skimmers

Protein Skimming 101: Understanding Protein Skimmers

Anyone with a marine or reef aquarium has or is thinking about protein skimmers. Whether you look on-line or in your local fish shop, every good-looking aquarium uses a skimmer. Maybe you have one on your aquarium. But do you know why skimmers are important or how they work?  Protein skimmers are a special type of filter designed to remove dissolved organic compounds and tiny particulate matter from aquarium water. Protein skimming physically removes the organics and particulates from the water. It’s important to understand protein skimmers to keep them functioning properly at their best performance.

Protein skimmers

                        The Aquamaxx HOB-1

How do protein skimmers work?

While there are many different designs, all protein skimmers work on the same basic principal. Aquarium water is pumped into a reaction chamber (the skimmer body) and mixed with air bubbles. The bubbles are forced into the water and allowed to rise to the surface of the reaction chamber. Dissolved organics and particulates stick to the surface of the rising bubbles. The bubbles drag the organics to the surface of the chamber where they collect as a concentrated foam called skimmate. The skimmate is collected in a separate cup. The cup is periodically emptied. Protein skimming physically extracts organics from the aquarium water.  All modern protein skimmers rely on a water pump to push water through the skimmer and create the fine bubbles necessary to form skimmate.

protein skimmers

Dissolved and particulate organics are captured as foam or “skimmate.”

All aquarium life releases dissolved organic compounds (DOC) into the water. Hard and soft corals shed organic mucus. Fish and invertebrate wastes, fish slime, proteins from food and even algae contribute to the organic load in the aquarium. A protein skimmer concentrates the organics inside the body of the skimmer as a foamy mass of skimmate. Eventually the foam rises and overflows into a collection cup. At this point the organic “pollution” is completely removed from the aquarium and has no effect on the tank’s water chemistry.

Do protein skimmers need a lot of adjusting?

Poorly designed protein skimmers are unreliable and cause nothing but headaches! At TB Aquatics we only sell protein skimmers that we have tested and found to be reliable and functional. The main adjustment goal is to make the skimmer produce a dry skimmate. Wet skimmate will quickly fill the collection cup with water.  Minor adjustments may be needed when first “dialing in” your skimmer. Keep in mind that even the most basic nano protein skimmer requires an initial adjustment of the skimmer collection chamber height to get the best skimmate production. New skimmers require a break-in period of a few days. Once the plastic surfaces are conditioned, foam production will be more consistent.  Check out our protein skimmer buying guide. One of the best sources of skimmer adjustment tips is the manual. If you need help fine tuning your protein skimmer, just give us a call!

I have a protein skimmer but I can’t get it to work properly

We hear this a lot! It could be that the water pump is not matched to the skimmer. Maybe the protein skimmer just needs a minor adjustment.  There’s also a chance the skimmer is just a poor design and will never work properly. Give us a call and we will do our best to make it work. If the skimmer is…junk…we’ll be honest and let you know. We speak with hundreds of reef aquarists every year. They rely on us for honest information and product recommendations. We you talk with someone at TB Aquatics you’re speaking with a person who works with protein skimmers everyday…not an order-taker trying to make a sales quota. Give us a call today!

Protein Skimmers

An Introduction to Protein Skimmers

Every seasoned reef-keeper knows that a protein skimmer is a critical piece of equipment for maintaining water quality in a saltwater aquarium. If you’re new to reef aquariums and wonder what protein skimmers do, this article is for you! We’ll explain what protein skimming does and take a look at the many benefits it brings to your fish, FOWLR and reef tank.

Dissolved organics in the reef aquarium

Unlike a natural reef, a marine aquarium is a closed aquatic ecosystem. Aquarium research has demonstrated that many nutrients and organic compounds in aquarium water are hundreds or thousands of times more concentrated compared to reef environments. One of the most important areas of concern are particulate and dissolved organic matter. The substances include proteins, carbohydrates, oils and even fragments of plankton. Maine life release solid and dissolved organic compounds (DOC) into the aquarium water. Algae cells leak internal organic fluids. Soft, LPS and SPS corals release organic waste and mucus. Even saltwater fish shed their old slime coat. Although you can’t see them, millions of heterotrophic bacteria add to the organic load in the water. It should be no surprise that particulate and dissolved organics accumulate in the aquarium water.

What’s so bad about organics?

In nature organic substances are recycled or flushed into deeper water. Since we can’t continually flush our reef tanks with fresh saltwater the organics tend to build up. Here is a list of the negative effects of organic build-up in a reef tank:

  • Yellow or tan coloration of the aquarium water
  • Reduced light penetration and poor illumination of the reef
  • Blue light is absorbed by the dissolved organics
  • Increased algae growth caused by nutrient build-up
  • Poor coral growth
  • Increase in disease-causing organisms

What does a protein skimmer do?

Protein skimming physically removes particulate and dissolved organics from the aquarium water. There are many different styles of skimmers but all work on the principal of foam fractionation. Inside the protein skimmer millions of microbubbles are injected into the water. As the microbubbles rise in the skimmer, dissolved organics stick to the bubbles and rise to the top of the protein skimmer. The microbubbles burst and release the organics as a foam. The organic foam continues to build up and rise inside the skimmer. The concentrated organic waste (skimmate) is collected in the skimmer cup. Skimmate is a combination of tiny particles of organic matter, algae and dissolved organic wastes. Skimmate can appear tan, brown or greenish. It smells bad too! A protein skimmer can only remove substances that are organic and form a foam. Nitrate and phosphate, for example, are non-foaming inorganic substances. They can’t be removed by a protein skimmer. The idea behind protein skimming is to strip out the organics before they can break down in the tank, forming harmful nitrate, phosphate and other pollutants.


Skimmate is collected in the skimmer cup

What changes will protein skimming cause in my reef aquarium?

Adding a protein skimmer or upgrading to a more efficient model can result in measurable benefits in your reef tank. Running a protein skimmer on your aquarium will provide:

  • Vivid coral coloration from improved photosynthesis
  • Sparkling clear water with no yellow discoloration
  • Better light penetration throughout the aquarium
  • Improved coral growth
  • Faster recovery from fragging
  • Aquarium glass stays cleaner – less algae growth
  • Reduced red slime (cyanobacteria)
  • Less nitrate and phosphate in the water
  • Healthier fish

What kind of protein skimmer do I need?

TB Aquatics offers only high-quality, reliable protein skimmers. We sell only what we have tested and use on our own aquariums. We carry internal skimmers for nano aquariums that fit inside the in-tank filter or attach to the glass.

Hydor protein skimmer

The Hydor SlimSkim nano skimmer fits into your aquarium.

Hang On Back (HOB) style skimmers  hang on the back of the tank. No plumbing is needed. They’re great when you don’t have a sump or don’t need a large protein skimmer.


The Reef Octopus HOB skimmer is very powerful and efficient.

Check out or in-sump protein skimmers. These simply drop into your sump. They come with their own water pump so you don’t have to do any plumbing. Plug and play!

TB skimmer

TB Aquatics Simplicity 240 DC protein skimmer drops right into your sump. Plug and play!

Looking for a large external protein skimmer? We have the “big guns” in stock and know how to use them. TB Aquatics can help you tackle any size reef set-up!

External protein skimmer

Super Reef Octopus series features external protein skimmer designs for larger tanks

It is unfortunate that many aquarists have to buy and try several protein skimmers until they find one that works. Don’t let that happen to you! Our aquatic experts can help you select the right protein skimmer the first time. TB Aquatics is a family-owned specialty aquatics supplier since 2005. Let us help you with all of your aquarium needs!

protein skimmer

What’s a protein skimmer and why do I need one?

A protein skimmer is one of the most important components of a saltwater aquarium filter system. Your aquarium filter is actually a life-support system designed to remove pollutants and help keep fish and corals alive in captivity. Without aquarium water free of pollutants  your marine fish, corals and other invertebrates cannot survive.  If you’re new to reef-keeping or thought your marine fish-only aquarium does not need a protein skimmer, this article is for you! We’ll explain in easy to understand terms what a protein is and why you need one on your saltwater aquarium.

What is a protein skimmer?

A protein skimmer performs a type of filtration called foam fractionation. Originally designed for industrial applications, foam fractionation separates surface active (foamy) proteins from water by churning it into foam and skimming it off the surface. Aquarium protein skimmers work the same way but are designed specifically for saltwater aquariums. Water from the aquarium is pumped into the protein skimmer and heavily aerated. The aeration creates tiny bubbles that rise inside the skimmer. Naturally occurring organic substances attach to the bubble’s surface and rise to the top of the skimmer. The concentrated organics “foam up” in the protein skimmer and are captured in a collection cup or drained away into a container. Manufacturers have designed protein skimmers for any size marine aquarium.

What does a protein skimmer remove?

Protein skimmers only remove surface active or “foamy” substances. Inorganic non-foaming substances like nitrate cannot be removed by a skimmer.  Your aquarium contains many naturally occurring organic compounds and tiny suspended organic particulates. These organics, if left in the aquarium, will decompose and then cause an increase in phosphate, ammonia and nitrate. The idea is to remove the organics before they can be broken down and cause problems in the aquarium.

skimmer cup

Dissolved and particulate organics are captured as foam or “skimmate.”

What are the benefits of adding a protein skimmer to my aquarium?

A build-up or organics has been linked to disease problems in aquariums. Disease-causing organisms thrive in dirty, organic-rich aquariums. A protein skimmer will physically remove these substances from the aquarium water and reduce the chances of disease outbreaks. Removing dissolved and particulate organic matter improves the transparency of the aquarium water. The water will be clear and clean, but that’s not all. Organics in aquarium water absorb some of the key light wavelengths necessary for coral growth. Protein skimmers improve coral growth by making it easier for light to penetrate the water and reach the corals. Algae-promoting nutrients tend to build up in aquarium water. Skimmers remove complex organics before they break down into phosphate and nitrate. There are many benefits to adding a protein skimmer to your saltwater fish or reef aquarium.

  • Cleaner water with better light transmission
  • Improved fish and coral health
  • Reduced algae growth
  • Less algae scraping
  • Better coral growth

Which protein skimmer is right for my aquarium?

In-Tank Protein Skimmers

Internal protein skimmers are great for nano tanks and aquariums with “all-in-one” filter designs. The skimmer’s slim design makes it easy to place inside the aquarium. Just attach it to the glass and plug it in! The Hydor Slim Skim Nano Protein Skimmer is perfect for nano tanks up to 65 gallons. It’s only 12” tall and 3“ wide.

Hydor protein skimmer

 Hang-On-Back Protein Skimmers

Hang on the back designs are quick easy to install. Just hang the skimmer on the back of your aquarium and plug it in. This simple design does not require a lot of adjustment. The Aquamaxx HOB-1 Hang On Back Protein Skimmer has a slim design but offers power skimming capability for aquariums up to 75 gallons.

HOB skimmer

The Aquamaxx HOB-1 fits behind the aquarium.

In-Sump Protein Skimmers

The filter sump is an ideal location for your protein skimmer. The skimmer and pump sit in the water. The skimmer’s water pump pulls water from the sump so no plumbing is involved. After the aquarium water passes through the skimmer it is released back into the sump. Organics are collected in the skimmer cup for easy disposal. Our TB Aquatics Simplicity 240 DC Protein Skimmer is simple, effective, and affordable high quality protein skimmer.  We use a controllable DC (direct current) pump and needle wheel for efficiency and low power consumption. The air intake adjustment and controllable pump allow you to achieve the best performance for your aquarium.

TB skimmer

TB Aquatics Simplicity 240 DC protein skimmer

External Protein Skimmers

If you have a larger saltwater aquarium, over 100 gallons, you’ll probably want a free-standing external protein skimmer.  External skimmers sit outside of the sump and require simple plumbing work to connect it to the aquarium. The Super Reef Octopus Recirc External Protein Skimmer has the latest skimmer innovations, making it one of the most powerful protein skimmers available.

External protein skimmer

Super Reef Octopus 2000

Need help selecting a protein skimmer?

At TB Aquatics we use the same protein skimmers we offer our customers. We know how they work because we use them on our own aquariums. Every year our staff helps hundreds of saltwater and reef aquarists choose the right skimmer for their aquarium. We can help you pick the right protein skimmer the first time. No disappointments or wasted time and money! Just give us a call or chat online.

Controlling Algae in Your Saltwater and Reef Aquarium

Anyone who keeps saltwater fish or a reef aquariums has wrestled with excess algae growth. Saltwater algae may appear as a green film on the glass, gravel and rock. A golden or brownish film is caused by diatom algae. Red or green sheets of “slime algae” are really a type of photosynthetic bacteria called Cyanobacteria. Filamentous or “hair algae” form tufts of growth on live rock, corals and even powerheads and other hardware. A little bit of algae is normal and to be expected in a saltwater aquarium. Explosive algae growth makes the aquarium look bad. Hair algae can clog filters, overflows and circulation pumps. Hair and slime algae can even smother corals. If you feel you are in a battle with saltwater algae, keep reading and we’ll show you how to win the war against algae problems!

Stop adding algae-promoting nutrients to your aquarium

Algae thrive when there are plenty of nutrients in the aquarium water. However, when nutrients are in short supply algae growth slows down. Nitrate and phosphate are the two nutrients that we can easily limit in saltwater aquariums. Nutrients enter the aquarium in tap water and through fish and invertebrate foods. If your tap water contains nitrate or phosphate, every water change or top-off feeds the algae! A reverse osmosis (RO) filter system will remove phosphates, nitrates and other unnecessary nutrients from the water supply and keep them out of your aquarium. Fish and invertebrate food contains the essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids necessary to sustain corals, fish, and other marine life. It is also a source of nutrients that stimulate algae growth. Feed small amounts of food so none gets sucked into the filter or trapped behind the rocks. Many aquarists have found that fish don’t need a lot of food to remain healthy and colorful. The same goes for corals. Any food that is not needed simply adds nutrients to the water. Try feeding less food and watch the algae disappear!

A reverse osmosis filter system

A reverse osmosis system removes algae promoting nutrients from tap water

Starve the algae in your aquarium

Fish, crustaceans, corals and even algae release “waste” materials into the water. These substances contain un-needed nutrients in the form of organic compounds, inorganic nutrients and suspended organic matter. Since all marine life “gotta eat” they also have to produce  wastes. There are several ways to remove these substances before they can trigger an algae bloom. Phosphate-removing filter media, like granular ferric oxide (GFO), adsorbs inorganic phosphate from aquarium water. Be sure to replace the GFO every 2-3 months to keep the phosphate level low. Protein skimmers remove dissolved organic compounds and particles from the aquarium water. A protein skimmer physically removes nutrient-rich substances before they decompose and feed the algae. Check out our protein skimmer article. If you need help selecting the right protein skimmer, just give us a call.

If you have a sump, consider using a filter sock. A filter sock is designed to capture tiny particles of organic debris that settle in the aquarium. A powerhead in the aquarium will keep the debris suspended so it enters the overflow and is captured by the filter sock. Rinse out the filter sock every week to remove the debris.

Aquarium filter sock

A filter sock removes very fine organic particulate matter

Use a stick-on refugium for saltwater algae control

Macro algae, like Chaetomorpha, extract nutrients from aquarium water. Refugiums help reduce algae by using nitrate and phosphate to build leafy tissue. Periodic harvesting of the macro algae removes nutrients from the marine aquarium and stunts hair algae. A NextReef stick-on refugium is designed to contain macro algae in a clear flow-through box. Simply press the refugium to the rear or side of the glass!

Water changes help control algae

The old saying Dilution is the solution to pollution applies to marine aquariums too. Making water changes, using reverse osmosis water, removes nitrate, phosphate and organics. Be sure to siphon out debris that accumulates at the base of live rock. For saltwater fish tanks, use a gravel siphon to keep the crushed coral clean. It’s an easy and effective way to keep algae under control and your saltwater tank looking great!

Keep the aquarium water temperature under control

Algae growth speeds up in warm water. If your saltwater aquarium is overheating there is a good chance an algae bloom is coming your way. If your aquarium water is too warm you may need to switch over to cooler LED light fixtures. LED aquarium lights produce less heat, consume less energy and last for years. High water temperatures can also be caused by water pumps transferring heat to the water. No matter the cause overheated water can be controlled with an aquarium chiller. Reducing the water temperature to a safe level will also eliminate heat stress on corals and fish.

LED aquarium light

LED aquarium lighting runs cooler and uses less energy than conventional aquarium light fixtures

Hire an algae clean-up crew

Don’t forget to bring in an algae “clean-up crew” to keep the aquarium glass clean and hair algae trimmed. Emerald crabs eat bubble algae and hair algae. Blue leg hermit crabs specialize in mowing down hair algae. Cerith snails will clean up slime algae, diatoms and more on rock and aquarium glass. There are a variety of algae-eating invertebrates to choose from. Consult your local fish shop for help selecting a clean-up crew.


Saltwater Aquarium Basics – Six Important Tips


If you’re thinking about setting up your first saltwater aquarium, the flood of information about saltwater tanks can be overwhelming. You may have even been told that saltwater aquariums are “too hard” or they require a lot of work. The truth is saltwater aquariums are not difficult to care for and enjoy. It really makes things easier, however, if you understand a few saltwater aquarium basics. We’ll take a look at six simple saltwater aquarium tips that have proven to   help in the start-up of a saltwater aquarium. If you already have a saltwater tank, try implementing these six recommendations. We guarantee you’ll like the results!

Always use purified water in your saltwater aquarium

Tap water is the lifeblood of our marine aquariums. We blend high quality sea salt mix with tap water in order to duplicate the water conditions found in natural reefs. Our “home-made” seawater is the basic building block of the marine ecosystem in our aquariums. Marine life depends on high-quality water not only to survive but grow and reproduce. Most tap water sources contain algae-promoting nutrients like phosphate and nitrate. Your tap water probably contains harmful heavy metals like copper, which leaches from pipes. Chlorinated water is also toxic to marine fish and invertebrates. Using poor quality tap water with high quality marine salt defeats the goal of recreating clean, safe seawater for our marine tanks. We recommend using a reverse osmosis filtration system to purify all the water that is used in the saltwater aquarium. An “RO” filtration system removes heavy metals, algae-promoting nutrients, nitrate, minerals and more.  The bottom line is reverse osmosis water will improve the health and stability of the tank and give you peace of mind knowing you are using the best possible water in your aquarium. Check out our Reverse Osmosis Filter Guide. Need help selecting the right reverse osmosis filter system? Just contact one of our reef experts and we’ll answer all your questions!

A reverse osmosis filtration system is recommended for all saltwater aquariums

A reverse osmosis filtration system is recommended for all saltwater aquariums

Purchase high quality aquarium equipment

Your aquarium will need a filter, light and a heater as part of the “life support” system. There are countless low-cost LED aquarium lights, filters, and heaters on-line. Be aware that they may have an appealing price tag but chances are very good that the equipment won’t last beyond the warranty period. Low-grade no-name equipment will cause nothing but leaks, problems and frustration. Always select equipment from reputable manufacturers. You’ll pay a little more but the gear will last for many years. At TB Aquatics we test and use every product we sell. We offer our customers only what we use on our own aquariums. We can help you properly size the filter, heater and light to any aquarium. Selecting the right equipment at the beginning of the set-up will save you time, money and frustration. We have helped thousands of aquarists set up (or RE-set-up) their saltwater aquariums. Let us help you do it right the first time!

Be patient and add saltwater fish slowly!

There are no shortcuts to having a beautiful saltwater aquarium. It can take months for a new saltwater aquarium to become biologically stable. As the aquarium matures, microscopic life colonizes the tank. Bacteria, plankton and other life forms act as a natural filter and ecosystem stabilizer. Stability is the key to success with a saltwater aquarium. The best way to short-circuit the maturation process is by adding too many fish and invertebrates too quickly. This leads to a surge in harmful ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. These poor water quality conditions stress the marine life and often lead to disease outbreaks or worse. The solution is to add fish and invertebrates slowly while monitoring water quality with aquarium test kits. Testing the water is very helpful in learning how biological filtration works. When you first start the aquarium, look for the ammonia and nitrite to rise and fall to zero. Only after this occurs can you add another more marine life. Even if you’ve had your aquarium for a long time it is wise to periodically test the water to make sure everything is as it should be.

Testing the aquarium ensures your tank will always have good water quality

Testing the aquarium ensures your tank will always have good water quality

Make periodic water changes in the saltwater aquarium

Unlike a natural reef, your saltwater aquarium is a closed system. Excess nutrients and solid wastes are removed through partial water changes. Changing water on a regular basis dilutes algae-promoting nutrients, reduces maintenance, replenishes trace elements and prevents disease problems. Diseases thrive in a dirty aquarium. Research shows that a clean aquarium is a healthier aquarium. Fish and invertebrates live longer and thrive when the aquarium water is low in nutrients and organic waste. Monthly partial water changes (15-20%) are recommended for most saltwater aquariums.

Properly feed marine fish and invertebrates

Feeding is fun and the main way we interact with our fish and inverts. Using high-quality foods will provide essential vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats for the fish, corals and other invertebrates. Over-feeding results in uneaten, decaying foods that raises the nutrient level in the tank, stimulating algae growth. Over-feeding also causes dissolved organics in accumulate. This tilts the natural balance away from “health” and toward sickness, instability and higher maintenance. Feed fish only what they will consume in a few minutes. If uneaten food is getting captured in the filtration system or sitting on the bottom of the aquarium you’re adding too much. Try feeding smaller amounts twice a day. Feed corals with a target feeder to direct the food to the polyps, not throughout the aquarium.

High-Quality prepared fish foods will keep your fish healthy

High-Quality prepared fish foods will keep your fish healthy

Scheduled maintenance ensures saltwater aquarium success

While saltwater aquariums are not difficult to keep, regular maintenance will keep your aquarium looking good as well as ensuring fish and invertebrates stay healthy. Change your filter often. A dirty filter is inefficient and if left unattended can actually release organics, algae-promoting nutrients and hydrogen sulfide into the water.  If you have a protein skimmer, maintain it so it operates correctly. Siphon out debris as it collects on the bottom of the tank. This is the ideal time to make a partial water change. No one likes to scrape the aquarium glass but algae growth is natural and unavoidable. A good algae scraper makes cleaning the glass easier. If you keep up with maintenance tasks your tank will always look great!

A well-made algae scraper makes cleaning the glass quick and easy

A well-made algae scraper makes cleaning the glass quick and easy

Common Saltwater Fish Diseases


Whether you have a fish aquarium or reef tank, saltwater fish provide constant entertainment with their interesting personalities, behavior and beautiful coloration. Despite the best of care, marine fish can become sick when aquarium conditions stress fish and favor disease-causing organisms. Common saltwater fish diseases are present in every aquarium. If you’ve been reading our TB Aquatics blog posts you know how much we emphasize keeping the aquarium water clean in order to reduce stress on corals and other invertebrates. The same advice goes for reducing saltwater fish diseases in your marine fish aquarium and reef tank. Poor water quality creates conditions that increase fish stress and promote the proliferation of disease-causing organisms in your marine aquarium. Many disease-causing organisms thrive in dirty, organic-rich saltwater tanks. Likewise, fish rarely get sick in well-kept, clean  aquariums. This article will highlight the most common saltwater fish diseases and how to avoid them.

Bacterial diseases of saltwater fish

common saltwater fish diseases

Bacterial diseases of marine fish have similar symptoms

It is important to understand that in most cases of bacterial infections we can only visually identify generalized symptoms and not the actual bacterial strain that is causing the illness. Specialized diagnostic testing is required to isolate the specific bacteria. These tests require tissue samples of skin, fins, gills and internal organs. Aquarists can only rely on visual symptoms since these invasive tests would kill the fish. Many of the common bacteria pathogens cause the same outward symptoms. These include fin and tail rot, ulcers and open sores, loss of color, loss of appetite, low energy and heavy breathing. Bacterial infections occur when a fish is stressed and has a weak immune system. Fin and skin damage can open up tissue for attack by bacterial infections. Some infections can be treatable if discovered early. In some cases the bacterial infection is internal and has no outward signs. The fish can behave normally, eat well and have normal coloration and suddenly die for no reason. A dissection almost always reveals internal organ damage from bacteria.

Treating bacterial infections in saltwater fish

Ideally you’ll notice the symptoms of bacterial infection before it progresses too far. If possible, place the fish in a recovery aquarium during treatment. This will isolate the fish from its tank-mates and make it easier to dose with medications. Bath treatments with antibacterial medications can help if the bacteria strain is susceptible to the medication. If your fish is hiding in a reef aquarium the choices for treatment are limited. Many reef aquarists do not want to risk harming their corals while treating the entire aquarium with chemical treatments. Some natural botanical antibacterial medications won’t harm invertebrates but cause heavy, wet foaming in protein skimmers. This is due to a natural emulsifying ingredient that makes the botanical oil water-soluble. It can take several weeks for the emulsifier to break down in the aquarium and the foaming to dissipate. Medicated fish foods are modeled after commercial aquaculture practices. The idea is to put the medication directly inside the fish, not the aquarium water. If your fish will eat the food it may be the best option when treating bacterial fish diseases in marine and reef aquariums. Antibacterial medications are available for treating fish-only and quarantine aquariums.

Viral infections of marine fish

Lymphocystis is a common viral disease in marine fish

Lymphocystis is a common viral disease in marine fish

Marine fish are subject to iridovirus infections.  Viruses are small infectious particles that replicate themselves inside the fish’s cells. The virus particles contain genetic DNA covered by a protective layer of protein. A typical virus is a hundred times smaller than the average bacterial cell and can’t be seen through a regular microscope. Angelfish, butterflyfish and clownfish are susceptible to Lymphocystis. This common saltwater fish disease looks like tiny grape-like clusters of virus-laden cells. The clusters often appear light in color. Fortunately Lymphocystis is non-life threatening and usually clears up over time. Megalocytiviruses have also been found to infect tropical marine fish. Symptoms include loss of appetite, darkening, abnormal swimming (including spinning), heavy breathing, bloating, ulcers, and death. Internal organs can be enlarged or partially dissolved.  Viruses spread through direct contact, water, eating an infected fish, or even in feces.

Treating marine fish viruses

There are no anti-viral treatments for marine aquarium fish. The good news is that proper care and feeding will keep the fish’s immune system in top shape and prevent viral infections. Prevention through good aquarium maintenance is the best defense against viral outbreaks. This includes testing the water, protein skimming and water changes.

Fungal infections of saltwater fish

Ichthyophonus hoferi is a parasitic fungus that attacks marine fish. The fungus can enter the fish through open wounds, eating other sick fish or through damaged gills. The fungus causes damage to internal organs including the swim bladder, brain, spleen and liver. There are no outward symptoms in the early stages of the disease. In more advanced cases the fish’s skin can appear rough and bumpy. Fusarium solani is a fungal disease associated with low water temperature. Angelfish and parrot fish appear to be the two most susceptible types of marine fish to Fusarium. Advanced symptoms include internal muscle and organ damage and bloating.

Treatment of saltwatermarine fungal infections

There are no medications for treating marine fungal diseases in marine fish. The best approach is prevention based on maintaining a stable water temperature, proper water chemistry and good diet. Keeping the aquarium clean and free of debris can also help reduce the chances of infection.

Parasitic infestations in marine fish

common saltwater fish diseases

Saltwater ich is caused by an external ciliated parasite

There are several common parasites that infest saltwater fish.  Ciliated protozoan parasites are the most common external parasite. Ciliates can swim in the aquarium water, attach to the fish’s fins and skin, or burrow just under the skin. Saltwater ich (Cryptocaryon irritans, one of the most common saltwater fish diseases, infests the fins, skin and gills of marine fish. The parasites can weaken the fish, suffocate the fish through gill damage and even create tiny wounds that invite bacterial infections. Fish develop distinct white spots accompanied by scratching and heavy breathing.

Brooklynella is another ciliate parasite that infests marine fish. The parasite is microscopic and cannot be seen with with the eye. Infested fish suffer from heavy breathing, coughing and scratching. The parasites irritate the skin, causing patchy slime on the skin. Clownfish appear to be very susceptible to Brooklynella parasites.

Brooklynella on a clownfish

Brooklynella on a clownfish

Parasitic worms are also attack marine fish. Benedenia and Neobenedinia infest the skin and eyes of saltwater fish. Sick fish will lose weight and scratch. Open lesions can form due to tissue damage and secondary bacterial infections. Infested fish may sit on the bottom of the tank or hang near the water surface.

Trichodina are disc-shaped ciliated parasites. The parasites move around the surface of the fish, feeding on skin cells and fluids. This irritation causes the fish to dart and scratch. Trichodina infestations weaken the fish, allowing for other diseases to take advantage of the fish.

Treatment of marine parasites in saltwater fish

Identifying saltwater fish parasites requires a microscope and diagnostics skills. Hobbyists can only see symptoms of the disease in most cases. Common saltwater fish diseases, including parasites, can be spread from fish to fish and tank to tank through water, nets and even wet hands. Fish-only tanks can make use of over-the-counter anti-parasitic treatments like copper, formalin and malachite green. Anti-worm treatments containing praziquantel have successfully treated worms in marine fish.  The safety of anti-parasitic treatments in reef aquariums remains questionable. Most reef aquarists choose to not to add common saltwater fish disease medications to their reef because corals and other invertebrates are sensitive to chemical treatments. The good news is that if the water quality is maintained, marine fish in reef tanks will often recover without medication.

new reef

New Reef Aquarium Set-Up: A Step By Step Guide

If you are new to reef-keeping the thought of setting up your first reef aquarium can be exciting and daunting at the same time. There are so many opinions, products and theories on how to start a reef tank that it is easy to get confused. At TB Aquatics we’ve kept hundreds of reef aquariums and helped thousands of people set up their own new reef tanks. We know there is no one size fits all approach to setting up a reef aquarium. There are, however, certain time-tested step by step basics that always work when first starting up your aquarium. You’ll avoid many of the reef aquarium set-up frustrations by following the principles outlined in this aquarium set-up guide. Just follow along and your reef aquarium will be up and running in no time!

Determine the size of your reef aquarium

The first step is to figure out what size reef tank you are going to set up. The size of your tank will be determined by the available space for the aquarium and the amount of time and money you have to invest on the project. A tiny 3-gallon reef aquarium fits in just about anywhere due to its size and minimal weight. The larger the tank the more space it will require. Think about the human traffic flow through the area. You don’t want people bumping into the tank every time groceries are carried inside the house. Larger reef aquariums hold more water and livestock and will require a more extensive filtration and lighting system. It is OK to start your reef adventure with a small aquarium but just about everyone agrees it is better to begin with the largest tank possible. You’ll be able to keep more corals and fish and as a beginner, it will be easier for you to maintain a stable ecosystem.

Purchase high-quality lighting & filtration equipment for your reef aquarium

There are many options when it comes to selecting pumps, protein skimmers, lighting and other essential hardware for your new reef aquarium. The idea is to select gear that is reliable and will last for years. It is unfortunate that many new reef-keepers fall prey to hype or simply are not sure which equipment is right for their reef aquarium. Unreliable bargain equipment will fail at the worst moment, like when you are away from home or in the middle of the night. Everyone at TB Aquatics has real hand-on reef experience. We can guide you in the proper selection of all your lighting and filtration equipment so you’ll have what you need the first time. We will save you time and money-guaranteed!

Set up the filtration and lighting system

Once the aquarium is positioned in the room, it is time to assemble the filtration and lighting system. Take time to become familiar with each component of your reef’s “life support system.” Read the manuals and carefully assemble the filtration system, protein skimmer and lights. Make sure pipe and hose connections are tight. Install the lighting system on the aquarium and check to make sure the fixture is stable and mounted securely. It is important to understand how your equipment functions before you add marine fish and corals to the aquarium. Position electrical cords and connections away from areas that could get splashed during aquarium maintenance. Use drip loops where appropriate. If you have curious children or pets, make sure they cannot “explore” electrical connections.

Fill the reef aquarium with water

Before mixing up saltwater or purchasing marine life, take your new reef tank on a test run. Fill the aquarium with freshwater and turn on the filtration system and check for leaks. Turn on the aquarium heater/chiller and learn how to set up the temperature controls. Familiarize yourself with the lighting system. It is best to know that everything is hooked up and working properly before bringing home live rock. Now you can add salt to your tank. Once the salinity and temperature you can move on to the next step.

Add live rock to the reef tank

The next step is to position live rock in the aquarium. Be sure the rock is stable and won’t tumble down later. Take your time and arrange each piece of live rock in a secure and attractive manner. You will have to remove some of the water as you add the live rock.  Make sure the filtration system, protein skimmer and heater is working properly. Do not turn on the light as it will encourage algae growth during the break-in period. It will take several weeks for the live rock to cure and the ecosystem to stabilize.Test the water once a week for ammonia, nitrite and pH. Making a 50% water change once a week will remove excess organics, nitrate and phosphate. The protein skimmer will begin to collect foam. Use this time to fine-tune the skimmer. The ammonia and nitrite levels should rise and fall to zero over the next few weeks. Once the reef aquarium has stabilized you can make another water change to eliminate the nitrate that has built up during the break-in period. The lighting system can now be turned on. Do not rush this step! Do not add fish or corals until the tank is biologically stable.

Adding corals, saltwater fish and invertebrates to your new reef tank

Don’t be tempted to add a lot of marine life to your new reef tank all at once. Patience is the key to long-term success in keeping a reef aquarium. Learn which corals are best for beginners and avoid the more sensitive species until you have more experience. Not all saltwater fish are suitable for a reef tank. Select only reef-safe fish species that are compatible with your other fish. Slowly build your reef, step by step, by adding only a few specimens at a time. Nearly all new reef tank problems are caused by trying to rush the reef-building process.

Maintain the water quality in your new reef aquarium

Corals, fish and other inverts depend on good water quality to stay healthy. Tap water is often contaminated with algae-promoting phosphate, excess nitrate, chlorine, heavy metals and other substances that make reef keeping difficult. The best solution is to use reverse osmosis water when mixing saltwater and topping off for evaporation. New reef aquarists skip this step until they start having algae problems in their aquarium. Read more about the benefits of RO water filtration systems here. You’ll also want to monitor the calcium level along with pH and alkalinity. Corals thrive when they are provided with proper calcium, magnesium and trace elements like strontium. Check out our additives section. No hype, just products that keep your corals thriving.

The final step in setting up a reef aquarium

Many new reef aquarists have wasted hundreds or thousands of dollars by chasing the latest fad or advice they read on line. TB Aquatics is a family-owned business whose strength is reef aquarium experience and personal commitment to your success. Our step by step guide to setting up a reef aquarium is meant to provide a basic foundation and does not cover every aspect of reef keeping.  We are happy to share our extensive reef aquarium expertise. Our knowledgeable staff is ready to help with all of your reef aquarium questions!