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Jamie @ Vertex

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  1. When choosing your skimmer, consider what you require volume-wise and tank type (FOWLR is not the same as a reef). Then start looking at skimmers for their construction and ease of cleaning. Many skimmers are very difficult to properly clean (if you cannot completely disassemble it, don't bother with it), some are built of materials that easily crack and break. Small items can be important, such as nylon screws versus titanium. Nylon strips very easily, then try to get them out! As there are a few different types of skimmers, one may have developed a preference. I prefer venturi-types skimmers with an adjustable volute and standpipe. Very easy to tune and maintain. Tuning skimmers is a bit of an art form. The final setting will depend on how you wish to skim. Dry or wet. A wet skim requires a higher water level in the skimmer and finer bubbles pushing out. For a dryer skim, the level should be lower and the bubbles a bit larger. Too large bubbles and the skimm action will be too weak. In a volute-type venturi (such as the Vertex Alpha and Omega series) one needs to find the correct air/water mix by screwing the inner piece out. If it is completely closed, this will pull too much air in most cases and the skimmer may overflow or even cavitate (pulsing of the engine due to too much air going in). This is where useres often get confused and desperate. A good starting point is to open the volute about 2 full turns and then adjust the standpipe of the skimmer and get a good water height (typically in the neck window). The water height is important as this defines the general pressure inside the skimmer blody, as well as the water flow rate. The third factor in setting-up a skimmer is the water depth in the sump. Normally one is recommended, but this is not written in stone! If a skimmer tends to overflow in your situation, raising it a centimeter may well solve the problem. To summarise, we have three factors which we can easily adjust; water depth, flow-though rate and air/water mix. If we start with the last first by setting the volute, while the stand pipe is fully open, we can get the correct bubble size. Next we adjust the standpipe to play with the pressure/flow rate. Once this is set, we simply wait and see how it runs. It it overflows after a while and is otherwise showing the kind of foam we prefer, one may adjust the water level by raising the skimmer. Normally, this is not required, but it is a possibility. often one can get the same result by opening the stand pipe a bit to reduce the flow rate/pressure. Something to remember is, changes in skimmer settings need about 15-60 mins to become obvious. The reason is the relatively slow flow through a skimmer. Changing the bubblesize, changes the foam density, which changes its ability to rise. For this chain of events to become clear takes time. Patience is a must. A skimmer is one of the most important (and usefull!) parts of the modern reef aquarium. Getting to know how one functions is always a good idea. The more you understand your particular skimmer, the more work you can get out of it. Most of the questions I receive concerning our skimmers are based on a lack of understanding as to what happens in a skimmer and why they are different on different systems. At Vertex Aquaristik we pride ourselve on our skimmers, which are the result of decades of use and research. Foam-fractionation is a science of its own. Using the priciple of foam on a beach to clean an aquarium was quite a jump in thought. If you have questions, just let me know. Jamie
  2. My Chaetodon lunula keeps the reef Aiptasia and Majano.free, also tube-worm free! So there is a trade off. A. tormentosa file fish can be very effective, as well, but I have found them difficult to get feeding once the anemonies are gone. The C. lunula will eat pellets like a pig! Doesn't go for corals in my experience, but each fish is different (generally depends where it was caught). J.
  3. Was it new or just freshly laundered? I take it you are seeing rather large bubbles suddenly and the overflow is very wet, open foam. Typical from detergents in the sock. I always give my sox a good rinse in clear water before using them. This minimises the effect or removes it completely. Jamie
  4. There are a variety or reasons a skimmer may overflow. The first is simply because it is new! They need a week or two to break in. We recommend one let our skimmers actaully overflow without the cup for a day or two to break them in. Then, the water depth in which the skimmer stands is a factor, as well as the air/water mix being pumped through the skimmer and its flow rate. Depending on the skimmer, there are a variety of methods to adjust these parameters and they will need occaisional re-adjusting. As an example, the Vertex Omega skimmers have a volute at the pump head to fine tune the water-air mix, which creates finer or coarser foam. Bigger bubbles create a dryer skim, while finer tend to create a wet skim. Too much air draw and the pump will cavitate. This is when the air amount is so large that the pump starts to pulse due to lack of water flow! Adjusting the flow-rate through the skimmer is done from the stand pipe. This gives the basic flow rate of water and is the first item to adjust when setting up a new skimmer. Assuming a skimmer is properly adjusted, the next variable is the organic load. In new tanks it is typical for the skimmer to foam very little. This is due to there being little to skim! On the other hand, sudden loads of cleaning agents will cause large bubbles that overflow the skimmer. This often happens when one changes out the filter sock or accidentally gets a bit of window cleaner into the system. The resulting overflow is sudden and strong, with large bubbles. If the bubbles are fine, instead of coarse, then this is a sign of something protein-like, such as foods. Dry foods are often suspect, but any oily food may cause this. Fish eggs, etc. are very oily. That said, frozen foods are really low on the list of overflow- causing culprits. Most of the time it is a case of adjusting the skimmer properly, or simply having the correct skimmer for the tank. Hope this helps you find a solution, Jamie
  5. Tony, there is a method using Resochin (chloroquine), a malaria medication, which can be found in the internet. Essentially, the medication is mixed with the food and fed directly to the fish. It is potentially harmfull for corals and large amounts will cause damage, but it will save the fish. In Germany this is a perscription medication and must be obtained from a doctor or veterinarian. here is a recent article about the medication http://www.advancedaquarist.com/2013/2/fish I have used this and it is very effective. I fed the fish heavily one day and then repeated it 2 days later, twice, to get any dormant trophonts. Jamie
  6. Are you thinking of a tank without fish? Only corals? I wouldn't advise this, as the corals do need nutrients and the fish (and other higher marine life) provide this. The trick is the balance, which will change as the fish grow. In theory, all is possible, but may actually involve more work/maintenance than creating a balanced community. In short, I would always have a few fish, even if the tank is to be coral oriented. They do not need to be large. And i would use some kind of biological filtering, along with the skimmer. It may be possible to do this without the addition of organic carbon (pellets) If one has a tank with only a skimmer, which I have done many years ago, you will need water changes,to help replenish trace elements, etc. and may/will still require some type of coral feeding. There are many degrees of filtration that work in specific incidences. Creating a STABILE balance is the key to any successful marine system. I hope this helps, Jamie
  7. Hard to tell from the foto, but it may be a type of Caulerpa, a macro alga. Keep an eye on it. It may be fun to watch it grow, but you do not want it to get out of hand. In the end, if it is Caulerpa, you will want to remove it completely. They can give off toxin when they die. Jamie
  8. Good list. A few of the items are not really up to date, at this point and we can add more. Here are some comments to help clarify. Water flow is probably the single most under used parameter. Absolutely as you read, Excellent flow is a must to maintain the gas exchange at the tissue/water interface of the corallum. Calcium/Carbonate essentially as stated, except the dKH of 9 is a bit high. The more carbonate, the more reactive the water. This can become detrimental. NSW is between about 6-7 dKH. At high point of 8 dKH is probably the most usefull. Running a bit higher won't hurt anything short term, but over 8 is over-kill. Calcium between 410-440 is a good range. Lower is quickly noted in slowed coral growth. When doing water changes using a salt with higher Alk is generally not a problem, as the small amount (10%) will not have a strong impact. One should note, the levels of calcium, magnesium, carbonate, etc. are in relation to salinity, as well. A higher salinity will create a higher level. If you find your readings are suddenly strange, check the salinity! It could be that simple. Aim for 1.025-1.026 SG (@ 26°C) or 3.5% salt (35ppt). Specific gravity is temeprature dependant, while procent is not. Although we tend to think of the Alk/Carbonate to represent a buffering capacity, what we have is an ionic balance using the carbonate ion to balance the Ca+, Mg+ and other positive ions and keep them available to the organisms. This is particular to saltwater. If we raise the carbonate molecule level, then we need a positive ion to balance it. If there is no other partner, molecules, such as phosphates, will start to take part in the equation. As we cannot really do a full analysis of our aquarium water, we are often in the dark as to what may be happening. This makes imitating NSW levels a good idea. Marine water has evolved to these parameters and playing with them simply creates more variable, instead of the stability we seek. Fortunately, sea water wants to reach this natural stability and will try to correct our mistakes, but there is a limit to what it is capable of, especially when we keep throwing in variables. Phosphate/Nitrate is not quite so simple. It can be a real issue, but some PO4 and NO3 needs to be available for proper growth. A range of 0.01 to 0.05 is fine and will assure that the Redfield Ratios can function. This is in relationship to available carbon and nitrogen. If one is using a purely mechanical filtration, with PO4 adsorbers and nitrate filter, then aiming for the lowest level is the easiest way to maintain. However, you will find yourself requiring more feeding of the corals for good health. Biological bacterial driven filtration requires NO3 and PO4, as well as an organic carbon source to assimilate the PO4 (and NO3). This is where it can get complex and we find that maintaining undetectable nutrient levels simply stagnate the tank long term. From years of experience I have found an NO3 of about 2ppm down to 0.5ppm good, with a PO4 around 0.02 to 0.05. You should have good colour and growth. The trick here is to keep these potential problem waste products moving through the system, which is also why too high of an Alk is not good. It can react with the PO4 and create depostits that may be released at a later time. Just some thoughts.......
  9. Tony, most bacteria adapt quickly to varied salinity. I wouldn't worry. With Ick (cryptocaryon), you may find catching the fish and giving him a bath in a medication the better method. cheers, Jamie
  10. I think we can call this a half-truth. ;Bacteria will be killed off by the UV, which means you are constantly removing a small % of the bacterial effect (actuial amount depends on flow rate through the UV). ;As the dead bacteria will quickly decompose and re-release the NO3/PO4 from which they are made, it is a bit counter productive.  Excellent skimming right after the UV treatment would help minimise this. In the end, the two are not really compatable, as there will be a negative impact on the bacteria, however, this may not be a big issue, if the flow-rate by the UV is not predominant. I think i would worry more about killed-off bacteria releasing their nutrients back into the water column, before they can be skimmed out. Personally, as I use bio-pellets, I do not use UV, although I have a unit for emergencies.  The same may be said of ozone, which kills bacteria, as well. Jamie
  11. Very good questions! As I mentioned, the Redfield Ratios are not a firm formula in all instances. They reflect the general building blocks of marine plankton, which are pretty universal in the oceans. There are other processes involved in the consumption of nitrogen, but fewer processes that require large amounts of phosphoros (many are anaerobic, as well). This is why we often see an imbalance in a closed system (an aquarium). If we did not constantly add an imbalance to the closed system, generally as food, then the system would remain more stabile.. But we don't maintain our system in such a balanced manner. We over feed or maintain animals with a preference for, for a better word 'dirty' foods, we over crowd, often favouring specific animal types and we change our minds! Always looking for something new. Fine, so are aquarists and this is one of the reasons why larger systems are easier to keep stabile. there are simply more players involved. Corals, although they come from nutrient poor environments, we shouldn't consider these environments sterile. They are simply so full of players that the available nutrients will always remain scarce in comparison to the takers. Corals DO use large amounts of nitrates and phosphates, as well as calcium, magnesium and other trace minerals. In a tank these tend to be abundant to the point of becoming a hinderance. There is a point where the measurable amounts may seem high, but they are in constant circulation going from raw material to complex tissues and back to raw material in a nice balanced cycle. Admittedly, such tanks are rare, as we do fiddle with our systems too much. Still, they are the proof that the Redfield principle functions. There are many factors involved in a succesfull marine system. Water circulation, along with proper lighting are at the top of the list. Along with nutrient management (filtration), they build the golden triangle of reefing. Reefs are highly oxygenated, quick-moving environments. The metabolism is high. Most tanks do not reach this level, but we still manage to create workable environments where animals thrive for long, possibly indefinite periods. As you probably have noted, there are many well-proven methods of maintaining a healthy marine reef environment. The current trend is to better understand and manage the available nutrients, instead of removing them toatlly, only to replace them with addatives. This has made pellets popular as a general bacterial food source. We are still collecting data and learning, but this is a fascinating method, which, although may well go over the head of many aquarists at the moment, will set a new basis in the near future. It never gets boring with marines. cheers, Jamie
  12. This is a recurring subject, as many bio-pellet users have trouble maintaining a low PO4. Others have no troubles keeping both at almost undetactable levels with the pellets alone. The big questions is why? From a purley scientific point of view, we simply have more PO4 to assimilate in proportion to the NO3. The assimilation of these waste products is largely governed by the Redfield Ratios, which state for every atom of P(phosphoros) assimilated, one requires 16 atoms of N (nitrogen) and 106 atoms of C (carbon): 106C:16N:1P. This is not always the exact case, but the principle does apply. It is the basis of carbon dosing technique. One can add a PO4 adsorber to bring the PO4 down, but this may lead to a rise in the NO3 levels. A balance is possible, but may be difficult to create. Another approach is to add nitrogen to the system in the form of ammonia or a nitrate. This supports the Redfield Ration and both waste products can be kept under control. I use this method in one of my larger tanks, where I feed lots of PO4 rich foods. Keeping the NO3 between 1-2ppm seems to work well. Once the PO4 is is at the desired level, it may remain so without additional nitrate, or it may require regular nitrate dosing. In any case, one should be monitoring for these two waste products regularly. Pellets must be kept in an aerobic state for the best function. This means in constant movement with O2 rich water. A skimmer is required for such system to harvest the excess bacteria, which tends to assure a high O2 level. here is a guide ot bio-pellets: Jamie
  13. I don't want to get into a discussion about marketing and product developement, this is not what I see as the topic of this thread. Maybe this is part of your original motivation. We could both carry on forever, as it is a fascinating and complex subject. You ask if companies take heed of what individuals, such as Henning, write. To be honest, I do not know. I can tell you that Vertex did have a lamp in his original tests (year ago) and his results didn't come even close to our lab results. Why? He wasn't taking proper readings. The information he was providing was incorrect in the context of the lamps design. As an example, the Illumina is designed to be hung 15cm over the water surface. He was hanging it at different heights. The lamp was not designed to be used in this manner. In the end, you have apples and oranges. He was attempting to fit everything into the same mold. Bulk Reef Supply did a great video review of the Illumina, on a real tank, with PAR readings and they tell a very different story. They were even higher than our lab results! Why? Well, there are many factors, but one that is not considered is the reflection from glass, which we took advantage of in the Illumina design. In our lab readings and calculations it played a role and in a tank, with its decor, it can play an even stronger role. Most users do not even realise this can change light intensity by 10%. As in his latest readings, he is concentrating on a specific item and taking it out of relationship to the lamps. He may be showing an important degradation in the end product....or not. From the method and data, one cannot take this seriously. If the data was correct, I think we would have heard a lot more from users on the various forums. When I read peoples complaints, it typically involves an inexpensive copy-lamp and/or incorrect use. Again, we come back to design and purpose. I don't want you to think I am jumping on you, but I think you are looking for more than is presented in this data, as well as not comparing it to other data already out there. cheers, Jamie
  14. One cannot ignore that Henning's opinions are his. We cannot dispute his right to express them. Likewise, one does not need to agree with him and certainly has the right to find the results questionable. To extrapolate from what he has published, that LEDs are not what you expect, is a personal opinion. I think one should leave it at that, instead of trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole. There is a big difference between designing and copying a design. At Vertex we use a light laboratory to test the lamp parameters during the design process. This testing is to prove or disprove our own theories and calculations in LED lighting. Do other companies do similar tests? Some certainly do, while others (with the number of copy-cat fixtures, we could say most) simply offer the public that which they want in an untested fixture. In other words, they copy that which is already available, at least visibly. Other than components integrated into a fixture and their subsequent programming and driving, there are many factors involved in good lighting. I would have to disagree with your statement: " all the product pamphlets from the manufactures are showing the charts of the same parameters being tested. " You may be finding similar info in lamps that are copies, of course. What would you expect, if one simply copied? Such statements are gross generalisations and do not support your argument. You are not considering why a product is sold using particular parameters. It is telling the customer what he/she has asked to know about. These infos are a reflection of current interests and understandings amongst the buying public. Blinding your public with abstract science is not going to sell you many fixtures. With so much written about PAR, Kelvin, Watts, Lumens, etc., of course we will find these statistics used. Are they actually of interest to the aquarist is the question. Most are not, in the context of modern LEDs. What was usefull with static light sources, such as halides and T-5s, are now only relative qualities that need to be taken into context or not used at all. Still, these catch words will remain until the general public is re-educated to understanding the new technology. We have a true paradigm shift in aquarium lighting. Even spectrum, which is really at the core of proper lighting, has become an abstract, as we can now change the spectrum at will with the better fixtures. It is a new world for lighting. cheers, Jamie
  15. Consider what a filter sock should be doing. Removing finer particles from the water before they enter the main filtering system. This would suggest that a sock that is requiring more often change-out is certainly doing the better job. After all, we have not changed the amount of dirt in the water, only the efficiency of its removal! We offer both kinds of filter sox and, interestingly enough, the nylons are always more popular. Why? They require less maintainance, as they are not as efficient. Hmmm. I guess we are a lazy lot. The polyesther (not cotton, but one understands the analogy) felt sox are much more efficient at fine particle removal. I have to change mine every 3 days on average. I keep at least 3 at hand running them through the hot whites wash (90°C), with bleach, on the weekend. They are subsequently further rinsed in clean water to remove any detergent residues. (you'll know if you did this enough, when your skimmer goes crazy for a few minutes! Keep your eyes on it after the change out). If the idea is to remove as much suspended material as possible, before it can break down, then replacing and cleaning the sox regularly is paramount. Filter sox can be used in filter systems to remove micro-bubbles, as well. The draw-string version Vertex offers in polyesther felt is great for putting around skimmer exhausts. cheers, Jamie
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