Marine Aquarium Equipment
In this section, we do not try to give a complete list of all the devices used in marine aquariums. Those interested can find everything they need in the specialized literature, here they give only a brief introductory overview of the main elements of which the life support system of a marine aquarium can consist.
The choice of lighting plays a key role in creating a microclimate in a marine aquarium. And if for fish the quantity and quality of light usually do not matter (with the exception of deep-sea or nocturnal species), then for attached invertebrates the presence of the “right” light becomes truly a matter of life and death. However, with the advent of special lamps with a carefully selected spectrum that can satisfy the needs of the most exotic inhabitants, lighting is no longer a problem. In addition to the spectrum, its power is also important: light scatters very quickly in water, so a single watt lamp will be preferable to four 25 W each. The most commonly used today are lamps and luminaires of three types:
T8 daylight lamps
These are fluorescent lamps familiar to everyone, which for many years have been the most popular solution for lighting an aquarium. The main plus is low cost. Minus - such lamps are quite large, which means that it is impossible to install a large amount under the aquarium cover. This option is suitable for small and small aquariums.
T5 fluorescent lamps
These lamps are much smaller than T8 lamps and have greater power with the same length. Accordingly, under the aquarium cover they can be installed much more, as a result, the total light power will be sufficient for most invertebrates. The main disadvantage of these lamps is their relatively high price, and availability only at specialized points of sale.
Metal halide lamps
The main difference between these lamps is their power reaching 250-500 W, which allows you to illuminate the aquarium with just one or two lamps. High power also contributes to the maximum passage of light without scattering in the water column to the bottom of the aquarium - this feature is very important in high (over 70 cm) containers. Another exclusive advantage of such lamps is sunbeams from the glare of water at the bottom, giving the aquarium enthusiasm and even greater attractiveness. In addition, some luminaires for these lamps have the function of night illumination imitating moonlight, while the most “advanced” imitate even the phases of the moon, which is very important for the life of some animals. Unfortunately, metal-halogen lamps also have disadvantages - the lamps are located at least 15 cm above the water, and, accordingly, do not fit under the lid of the aquarium.
Since attached invertebrates cannot move or do it extremely slowly, the movement of water around them is a very important factor in life and health. The needs for the intensity of the course of each animal species are different, which is especially necessary to consider when choosing a place. The current brings food and oxygen, and carries away toxic waste, therefore, sessile invertebrates will not live long in stagnant water. The latter applies both to large animals, artificially introduced into the aquarium, and to microscopic animals living on living stones. Thus, the constant movement of water in the aquarium should be at least three to four volumes per hour. It is formed by mixing pumps.
By complexity, three types of pumps can be distinguished: the so-called PowerHead with a constant flow of water; pumps with a control unit that allows you to program different strengths of the water flow (in this case, “turbulences” of water occur, the flow in the aquarium is unpredictable - thus, almost all surfaces are washed. In addition, the control unit allows you to reduce the flow of water at night when many aquarium inhabitants go to bed ); The “Wave System” imitates a real surf, it is vital for keeping some types of animals, and for the rest it’s just a great option for the course. This view also affects the visual perception of the aquarium: when its attached inhabitants move in time with the waves, the picture of the “sea in the house” becomes complete. It is also possible to connect to a computer, and then the power of the surf can be adjusted manually from complete calm to a tropical storm.
In nature, the water of the tropical seas is almost absolutely clean and transparent, and has remained so for millions of years. That is why corals and many other animal species are unable to live in water, which has even the smallest pollution environment. During life in nature, all the waste products of the reef inhabitants are carried away to the open sea, where they are processed. But in the aquarium, alas, such a cycle is impossible, which means that it is necessary to create complex filtration systems. In this section, we introduce the most common marine filters.
External (canister) filters
One of the most toxic poisons in an aquarium is the decomposition products of organic matter (uneaten feed, animal excrement, dead organisms, etc.), and a significant part of the aquarium’s efforts is aimed at eliminating them.
That is why it is important to understand where they actually come from: as a result of the decomposition of organics, the most toxic compound “ammonia-ammonium” is formed (depending on the acidity of the water) which is converted by bacteria into nitrites and then by other bacteria into relatively harmless nitrates. These stages pass with a significant consumption of oxygen. Such bacteria live on almost all surfaces in the aquarium, but this is not always enough, so biological filtration occurs on substrates with a large specific area (for example, for some filter media, the surface area is 420 square meters per cubic decimeter of volume).
For the treatment of these organic wastes, as a rule, they use external filters. The intake and return of water to the aquarium takes place through flexible hoses, while the filter itself is located under the aquarium. Filters can have a different shape and power, but, in any case, it is worth using filters only marked "for marine aquariums" - the mechanisms of conventional filters in sea water very quickly fail.
One of the options for an external filter - a clock filter - is filled with air alternately with water, and ammonia processing processes occur at a significantly higher speed. Also, external filters are often used for chemical treatment of water with activated carbon and other sorbents.
This device is attached to the hose of the canister filter and serves for sterilization - due to exposure to water passing through it with ultraviolet rays. As a result, many pathogens and unicellular algae die, causing water to bloom. The disadvantage is that the UV emitter destroys beneficial microorganisms and is by no means a panacea for all diseases. It is especially often used when starting an aquarium, when fish get sick most often.
Foaming column (skimmer, flotator)
A device that no “serious” marine aquarium can do without. The fact is that many organic molecules adhere to the surface of the water, and millions of bubbles are produced in the foam separator, which draw organic molecules from the water into a special tank. Thus, a significant amount of waste is removed from the aquarium even BEFORE they start to decompose. In addition, water is actively saturated with oxygen, which is very important in a marine aquarium: in nature, the saturation of water with oxygen is close to maximum, and the entire biosystem is “used” to this level. Foaming columns can be located inside the aquarium, behind the aquarium or in an external tank. There are several fundamentally different types of devices, but we will not dwell on them in more detail, noting only that the choice of a foam separator needs to be taken seriously - not all manufacturers work correctly.
So, nitrates are the final stage of organic decomposition in the presence of oxygen. And although they are much less toxic than ammonia, when they reach a certain concentration in water, nitrates begin to inhibit both fish and invertebrates, and in some cases lead to the death of animals. In addition, nitrates are an excellent fertilizer for plants, and when their concentration increases, the aquarium begins to “turn green” at an alarming rate. One of the solutions to the problem is a nitrate reducer. The fact is that there are bacteria that, in the absence of oxygen, convert nitrates into completely harmless atmospheric nitrogen. It is quite difficult to create the necessary conditions - in case of an error, we can get hydrogen sulfide, and even deadly ammonium. As a result, nitrate reducers have approximately the same number of both their loyal fans and ardent enemies. Professional aquarists try to use this equipment very carefully, and according to the circumstances.
It produces ozone and releases it into water (usually through a foam separator), resulting in active atomic oxygen in the water. The latter oxidizes many organically compounds:
- water is extremely saturated with oxygen;
- ammonia is oxidized to nitrates much faster;
- water disinfection occurs, free-floating pathogens and unicellular algae are destroyed, as well as beneficial microorganisms;
- acids that give water a yellow color are destroyed.
There are, of course, disadvantages: under the influence of ozone, some organic molecules turn into strong poisons, so all water treated with ozone must be passed through activated carbon.
Many inhabitants of the marine aquarium feed on microorganisms, some of which are constantly living in the aquarium, some are introduced in the form of frozen food. But for some inhabitants, this quantity is not enough, and then a plankton reactor is installed in the aquarium, which is a reservoir in which microscopic algae (phytoplankton) or microscopic animals (zooplankton) are grown. It is possible to automatically add plankton to the aquarium.
Auto Fill System
As you know, water constantly evaporates from the aquarium, especially in aquariums with metal-halogen lighting. In the latter, the volume of water evaporated per week can reach 30 - 40 liters. Accordingly, the concentration of salt in water increases, and not all inhabitants tolerate such changes well. The automatic topping system also replenishes the amount of water to a predetermined level.
Many marine organisms actively extract calcium dissolved in it from the water to build their skeleton or outer house. In the sea, the animal is washed by many thousands of tons of water, so the inhabitants draw calcium from the environment. In the aquarium, the situation is different: in a liter of sea water contains less than 0.5 grams of dissolved calcium. In the presence of inhabitants who consume calcium, this supply runs out very quickly, which can lead to oppression and death of animals. The calcium reactor is designed to correct this situation. For some inhabitants, a more or less regular application of calcium to the water is sufficient, for others (for example, acroporic corals) a constant maximum concentration. Depending on the need, calcium reactors of varying complexity are used.