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SALTWATER CORNER VOLUME 3 by Kirk Masters


I received a call from a fellow member who was concerned about the various biological filters he sees in the market place. Getting a proper biological filter operating in your Reef is very important. To recap, protein is converted by heterotrophic bacteria to ammonia and then converted to nitrite by nitrosomonas bacteria and then to nitrate by nitrobacter bacteria and to nitrogen gas by anaerobic and aerobic heterotrophic bacteria. This is all done in you Jaubert gravel bed (also called NNR system) in the bottom of your tank. Everyone can analyzed any type of filter. Bacteria need the following:
1.They like the darkness.-filters should be black
2.They like a particular pore size to hid in (carbon, bio-chem stars, live rock, and gravel offer the best medium for bacteria to grow. Plastic media are one of the poorest surfaces because the bacteria can not penetrate the surface.)
3.They like warmth(90 F is great).
4.They like a moderate flow of nutrient water
5.They live in gravel beds with out flow and exchange nitrate ions by diffusion process quite readily
6.They need time to become activated and to develop sufficient numbers. They can double their populations in hours.
7.They can cause infections in cuts of Hobbyists hands. Therefore, wash your hands after you put them in your tanks.
8. They rule the world. They are everywhere.
With the pore sites of filters you can get a handle for which filters to use. You can see that you should NOT change all of your carbon at once as it will disrupt your bacteria populations.

I repeat, for a Reef systems all you need is good quality cured live rock for your biological filter. Plus a good size protein skimmer and a two tier lighting system. You do not need a wet dry filter. As a special note, I recently had to move my two 90 gal Reef tanks to Bramalea. The second tank was moved about 4 days after the first one. I lost no corals, saw no ammonia in the tanks, and recorded a peak nitrite level of less than 50 PPB all because the live rock was cured and remained so plus I installed a used 8" diameter by 6 and a half foot Sander protein skimmer. I set up the de-nitrification filter which may take several week to establish fully. I lost one fish which to my surprise hid in one of the rocks (3" Trigger). We are very saddened by the loss as it was a beautiful fish. Since using or finding Stop Parasite, we have not had any fish losses in our tanks. Even the short lived cleaner fish are doing well. As a note, many marine fish can live for over 10 years and most items do not have a limiting life span as we know it. Also, I did not get any white spots on our fish during the move. The fish were caught in bags, not nets. I will speak on fish life and other life forms in another article.
Reef Lighting Systems:
What do you need for your lighting system? The information on what works and what you need has changed a lot in the past 5 years.
LIGHTING IN THE REEF AQUARIUM :
The intensity and color of the sun light is different all over the world. In the area where tropical Reefs are the intensity at noon can reach 120,000 lumens with a total lighting period of 12h per day and a change in intensity as per the right curve. From this we can see that we will need a variable lighting system or two separate lighting systems. High intense light is only required for 4 to 6 hours per day. This can be either VHO (very high output ) fluorescence or metal halides. The type of lighting is also dependent on the type of corals you wish to keep and the depth of water that you wish to emulate. Shallow water, surface to one meter also has a lot of UV radiation which will be covered under the Metal Halide section. You can see how the spectral frequency of light changes as you go deep eliminating the red light. Lines 0m, 3m, 6m, 20m
VHO or very high output tube lighting was developed to compete with metal halide lighting and to reduce the number of tubes you needed over an aquarium. The electronic ballasts are the best as they have a soft start feature and operate at very high cycles per second (up to 60,000 Hz). They also greatly extend bulb life (up to 6 times!) and reduce the electrical demand from 110W per 4’ bulb to about 60 W. Bulbs come in various output spectrums. Light is composed of various colors from the deep purple (400nm) to red portion (650+nm). Algae have two absorption peaks, one at 425 nm and 670 nm. It is the 670 nm peak in the red light area that the green hair algae love.
Get rid of the red spectrum, lower your nitrates with the NNR filter bed and precipitate your phosphate with Kalkwasser and all the things that hair algae love are gone. You then can put super high watts over your tank without causing the hair algae to go wild or even grow. Sounds like a lot. It isn’t. These are the secrets to operating a trouble free Reef tank. Add a protein skimmer (air and water in a tall tube) and bingo. This is what makes a Reef tank easier to operate than a fresh water tank. We are putting nature to work for us. We have created a more balance ego system that even uses live sand from the ocean along with the live rocks.
Now, which lights have little red in their spectrums? The ones by URI from the USA. They even come with internal reflectors. They also have pure blue 03 actinic bulbs for your secondary lighting system. You can also use the new 6500K or 10,000K metal halide bulbs to do the same thing. We want lots of light below the 600 nm level with a good peak in the 425 nm like the corals want and need. HOW TO SELECT YOUR REEF LIGHTING:
You have to be the one to choose which type of lighting you want to use on your Reef Tank. The fully mature system be it VHO or Metal Halide most likely will consist of a two tiered system: High intensity lights for 4-7 h/day and standard viewing florescent for 12h/day (low light systems). You first must decide what type or group of animals that you wish to look after. A Reef tank should not exceed 85 F max. and 75 F is best. A small fan will cool the tank a lot.
Metal Halides are best suited for intense light output. VHO’s use less power and produce less heat. What we are trying to do is duplicate the light spectrum at different depths in our tanks. The big advantage that VHO’s and 6.5K/10K MH’s offer is that you can eliminate the red light spectrum. Light spectrum is UV(<400nm) to blue to green(400-520) to yellow to orange(550-620), red(>650). All of this spectrum is used by the different pigments in the various animals. If you want for example to keep Tridacna clams and hard Acropora corals then metal halides are your first choice but VHO’s could be used. Sunlight has a temperature rating of about 5500K. Temperature rating is BADLY misused by some product manufacturers to get people to buy their product by stating that they have a much higher temperature rating than they actually do. By looking at the spectral curve of the light source we get a better idea of what is going on. All one has to do is to study the spectral drop off curve and pick the type of bulbs to meet this demand. At this time we recommend that you use a combination of VHO"S of 2-4 bulbs, with actinic and green/orange intensity similar to the sun but without red light (it can accelerate algae growth). Metal Halides should be 6500K. to the German 10,000K . see curves. Spectral Curves for 6500K Metal Halide and 10,000K MH True German with IceCap Electronic Ballasts. Your can As we want lots of light in the 400-600 nm range, the 6500 K Metal Halide bulb has one of the best spectrums. The 10,000K bulbs work great also but miss the middle spectrum. By adding VHO actinics as your secondary lighting system (12-14 h/day) you change your total spectral curve for the best. I use both VHO and 6500K bulbs in one tank and VHO bulbs and HO actinics in the other tank. Both systems work but the added ultraviolet radiation of the metal halides caused my green star polyps to expand tremendously and to take on a shiny color. By adding bulbs with UV the VHO can do the same thing. I have also seen a 10,000K system with VHO actinics working just great. IceCap have just released a new series of all electronic ballasts for metal halides. These are being used on my tank. The reason I mention this to you is simply money. The bulb manufacturer tested the bulbs and found that the ballast more than doubled the MH bulb life (each bulb can cost $120-160 each). This means $$ in our pockets. The ballasts also used up to 40% less electricity. If you run two- 250 Watt bulbs for 4-8 hours per day plus your 03 actinics the saving help to pay for the ballasts in under 1.5 years. The choice is yours.

Note: All spectral curves in this article can be found in our lighting section.

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