From Reefs Magazine

By Richard Ross


 
In reefkeeping, there are a million products and techniques, each claiming to be a necessary ingredient for a successful reef tank. The problem is that many of these claims have little, if any, evidence to support them – so how are we supposed to know which ingredient, product or method is useful and which is bunk? Well, we can bellyache that someone else should figure it out and let us know, or we can get up off our collective butts and start producing evidence ourselves by doing some simple experiments. 

“Joe Yaiullo’s Magic Juice”, if it existed, would do whatever Joe said it would do because he would test it. He rolls like that. Photo by Rich Ross.

If “Joe Yaiullo’s Magic Juice” existed, it would do whatever Joe said it would because Joe would test it. Joe rolls like that. Photo by Rich Ross.

In previous installments, we discussed how real science takes time, resources and money. Real science is a pain in the butt to do. More »

A Conversation Between Nathan Hill and Rich Ross 

From Reefs Magazine

For American readers unfamiliar with Nathan Hill, he might considered my analogue in the UK – he is a regular contributor to Practical Fishkeeping where he often tackles hobby issues from the stance of ethical, critical, and consistent thinking, while trying to get the hobby to look at itself in the mirror – he also has a degree in philosophy, which makes him super cool in my book. Nathan and I have been aware of each other for several years, briefly communicating from time to time with notes like, “Great piece, but I think I have a few disagreements – let’s talk,” but we have never found the time to be able to really dig in… until now. I have wanted to revisit morals in the Skeptical Reefkeeping series for some time now, and convinced Nathan to participate in a written discussion with me on a topic of his choosing, which turned out to be, “Is the hobby morally justifiable?” We wrote back and forth to each other in email, and then assembled the discussion below, doing some editing to make things more clear. It is important to point out that this is a conversation, not a debate. The point of a debate is to win, the point of a conversation is to hear each side and shift ones views based on good information presented from a perspective one may not have entertained previously. The point is for all of us to learn and grow together, not to try to ”win.” We hope you enjoy this philosophical conversation, and look forward to any feedback you might have (please post any feedback in this shiny new discussion forum:https://www.reefs.com/forum/skeptical-reefkeeping/ ) 

Most people think this fish is happy because it looks like it is smiling. However, this fish always looks like it is smiling, so how can we possibly tell when it is not happy? Photo by Google Search.
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From ReefsMagazine

By Rich Ross and Dr. Chris Maupin

At MACNA 25 in Denver, the potential for the new ICP-OES aquarium water testing by Triton Lab in Germany made many saltwater hobbyists swoon. The possibility of getting a real good look at what is going on chemically with the water in our glass boxes for an affordable price is incredibly appealing, since traditional ICP-OES testing is expensive and time consuming. In this installment of Skeptical Reefkeeping, we explain how ICP-OES testing works, explore the challenges of testing saltwater with ICP-OES, develop an understanding of the methods used to address those challenges, and discuss the results from the testing of a certified artificial saltwater standard that was sent to Triton Lab. 

rossmaupin01

A partial look at some of the Triton Lab results taken from the available downloadable PDF. A discussion of the “Triton Method”, the “setpoints” used by Triton Lab, or what levels of which elements require action on the part of the aquarist is beyond the scope of this article.

 A Brief Reminder to Set the Scene Skepticism is a method, not a position. It can be defined as a method of intellectual caution and suspended judgment. As a Skeptical Reefkeeper, you decide what is best for you, your animals, and your wallet, based upon critical thinking, not just because you heard someone else say it. The goal of this series of articles is not to provide you with reef recipes or to tell you which ideas are flat out wrong or which products really do what they say they do or which claims or which expert to believe. The goal is to help you make those kinds of determinations for yourself, while developing your saltwater expertise in the face of sometimes overwhelming or conflicting advice. Introduction: Why We Don’t all use ICP Testing Already When reefkeepers daydream about water testing, they tend to imagine testing their aquarium water with a university or research institution’s complicated and expensive inductively coupled plasma (ICP) mass spectrometer or optical emission spectrometer, because, when properly calibrated and used, these instruments can produce incredibly accurate and precise results. However, a request to test tank water often is met with the response “Get that the hell out of my lab” from the lab technician, or by a seemingly outrageous price from a commercial lab. Saltwater presents ICP testing with special problems. Most notably, it can be detrimental to the instrument’s components, and the saltwater itself can help produce unreliable results. Compensating for these issues makes the testing expensive and time consuming. Sometimes months are required to get results, and at considerable financial cost: sometimes hundreds if not thousands of dollars per analysis of each individual element. However, Triton Lab is now offering ICP OES testing of 321 elements in a saltwater sample for a reasonable cost and a fast turnaround2 – a service that no other ICP-OES lab seems willing to provide. In the Skeptical Reefkeeping series, we often quote They Might Be Giants – “Are you sure that that thing is true, or did someone just tell it to you”3, and in that spirit we looked at some of the Triton Lab claims and are sharing our results. It is important to note that that being skeptical is not the same as being cynical, and that nothing would please us more than an inexpensive, accurate and precise water test providing values for 32 elements in a single report at a relatively inexpensive cost; however, understanding traditional ICP-OES and the numbers from our experiment tell a more complicated story. How ICP-OES Works In chemistry class, many of us became familiar with a flame test, where you put some stuff in a Bunsen burner and watch what color the flame burns, indicating what elements are in the stuff you burned. Table salt, for example, turns the flame yellow/orange (fun fact – both authors suffer from poor color perception) due to the presence of sodium in the salt. This test is the beginning of many a mad scientist – Muhahaha! Colored flame! An ICP-OES, when distilled to its most bare fundamentals, is a sensitive, quantitative means of performing a flame test. Instead of a natural gas flame in a Bunsen burner, it uses an argon plasma torch to burn the ions and record the colors they produce, and how brightly, which tells us what elements in what amounts, are in the sample. Muhahaha plasma! The ICP in ICP-OES is the inductively coupled plasma, while the OES stands for optical emission spectrometer.  More »

rtlogo-sq

From http://www.reefthreads.com/?p=2827

In our second Reef Threads Plus podcast we welcome Richard Ross and Kathy Leahy to address the difficult question: Is the hobby cruel to animals? We hope you enjoy the discussion and that it gets you to think and share with your fellow hobbyists. As always, you can download the podcast here, or subscribe to our podcasts at iTunes. Also, follow us on Twitter @reefthreads. We hope you enjoy our new series, find it thought provoking, and will share it with others.—Gary and Christine
A local copy of the podcast is available here: 

rtheader

From Reefthreads

“It’s a new week and time for a new podcast. This week we talk about Sanjay’s notification trick, Reefs.com, blogs, the MACNA banquet, Archerfish skill, and skeptical animal selection. Download the podcast here, or subscribe to our podcasts at iTunes. Also, follow us on Twitter at reefthreads.—Gary and Christine”

From Advanced Aquarist

The answer to the struggle of what to feed marine predators that require live foods is right under our noses. Fish might be friends, but in the real world the may also be food.
Richard Ross' pair of Dr. Seuss fish, Belonoperca pylei

Richard Ross’ pair of Dr. Seuss fish, Belonoperca pylei

Back in March, I wrote about Chad Vossen feeding a platinum clownfish that was to be culled to juvenile Dwarf Cuttlefish, Sepia bandnesis, and talked about how clownfish destined to be culled might be a great source of marine feeders for predatory marine animals. As a follow up I present to you the below video: Dr. Seuss eats Nemo. In the video I feed my pair of Dr. Seuss Fish, Belonoperca pylei, some captive bred designer clownfish that were raised in quarantine conditions, and were destined for the culling block. These clownfish were provided to me by Bay Area Reefers President, Steinhart Aquarium Volunteer (Thanks David!) and clownfish breeder extraordinaire, David Sheh.

https://vimeo.com/104619466

Feeding marine predatory animals can be difficult because finding appropriate live foods can come with all kinds of problems. Availability can be challenging, as finding the right size prey items, in the quantity you need them, when you need them can be problematic. Disease and parasites from wild caught prey items can infect your predatory fish, and quarantine of such animals is and added expense, as well as taking up time and resources.  Worse, the ethical issues surrounding wild caught feeder animals are significant; using animals flown halfway around the world as feeders seems exceedingly wasteful.  Furthermore, with some aquarium fish potentially to be listed as threatened or endangered in the endangered species act, the practice of feeding out wild caught animals can become even more inflammatory. Cultured freshwater prey items don’t offer a great alternative as they can have a different nutritional profile from saltwater prey items, and can present sub optimal results – for example, in my experience Dwarf Cuttles fed solely freshwater ghost shrimp tend to lay much fewer eggs, and fewer viable eggs than cuttles fed saltwater shrimp.

If only there were a whole bunch of captive bred, saltwater animals that nobody wanted, weren’t sellable, and were often culled as a matter of course. Oh wait. There are.

More »

In our hobby, there tends to be mostly a super market approach to purchasing animals – you go to a store and select the animal you want from an array of holding tanks containing animals waiting for a new home. While such a selection seems great, it also creates an environment that may engender impulse buys rather than considered choices, makes us feel that instant gratification is the norm, as well as making us feel that somehow, for various reasons, any animal is worth a try in any tank. As people who say we love the reefs, and the animals that live on them, perhaps we should spend more time considering, and getting others to consider, which animals are appropriate for which tanks and which reefers. In Skeptical Reefkeeping 7 we took a general look at ethics and how they relate to our hobby. In this installment, we’ll look at some of the “how”s and “why”s we choose animals for our tanks, why we might think all aquarists are on the same page, and some ideas about how we might make more informed choices regarding the creatures that we put in our glass boxes.

New fish are always exciting, but are more exciting when forethought is put into the fish before purchase. Photo by Rich Ross.

A Brief Reminder to Set the Scene

Skepticism is a method, not a position. It can be defined as a method of intellectual caution and suspended judgment. As a Skeptical Reefkeeper, you decide what is best for you, your animals, and your wallet based upon critical thinking, not just because you heard someone else say it. The goal of this series of articles is not to provide you with reef recipes or to tell you which ideas are flat out wrong or which products really do what they say they do or which claims or which expert to believe. The goal is to help you make those kinds of determinations for yourself while developing your saltwater expertise in the face of sometimes overwhelming, conflicting advice.

Who Should Get What, When?

Everyone seems to agree that a brand new hobbyist shouldn’t purchase deep water fish, cephalopods, or non photosynthetic corals for their first tank, or that someone with a 50 gallon tank shouldn’t get a Blacktip reef shark, Giant Pacific Octopus or a Goliath Grouper. Besides obvious examples like those above (1), there is a huge grey area around what animals keepers should purchase and in which conditions it is appropriate to keep them in. Is it ok to keep a small tang in a small tank with the intention to transfer it to a larger tank when it gets bigger? How many fish is too many fish for a certain sized tank? No one has ever seen this fish before I better buy it before anyone else does! This situation is further complicated by the idea that there is a steep learning curve to keeping animals in glass boxes during that learning curve mistakes are made, and animals are lost. As a keeper’s experience goes up, they often start trying to keep more and more ”difficult” animals, and still there is a learning curve, and animals are lost – even to the best aquarist on the planet with the most resources. How do we cope with that idea? More »

By Rich Ross and Ret Talbot
From Reefs Magazine

Most marine aquarium hobbyists purchase animals for their tanks without much thought to those animals’ origins. This is understandable since most local fish stores and online retailers don’t make that kind of information easily available to customers. Point-of-origin does matter, however, because not all animals are collected sustainably and not all fishers are treated equitably.

Local divers in Solomon Islands harvest aquarium fishes and corals in what is generally considered a sustainable fishery. In part, sustainability is insured through limited cargo space for exports and long-standing traditions of resource ownership/rights. Photo by Ret Talbot.

The marine aquarium hobby and its practices are increasingly scrutinized by anti-aquarium trade activists and environmental advocacy groups, wildlife managers concerned about invasive species introductions and legislators interested in pleasing constituents. A sustainable and equitable trade is a defensible trade; the status quo is not. More important than defense, however, we argue that purchasers of wild animals have a responsibility to know where their animals originate, how they are collected and handled, and what the trade’s effects are on reefs and reef-side communities. It seems that aquarists have a responsibility to treat the animals collected from the wild as the precious commodities they are instead of curios traded for pennies on the dollar.

If you know where your animals originate, you often have a better idea of howthey were collected and treated through the chain of custody. This should be important to every aquarist because a poorly treated animal is less likely to live or thrive.  More »

From ReefsMagazine

by Richard Ross

In the last nine installments of Skeptical Reefkeeping we have looked at varied topics from phosphate to marketing to fallacious lines of reasoning to communication. One of the through lines all along has been the idea of anecdote, and generally, why it isn’t to be trusted. In this installment of Skeptical Reefkeeping, we are going to take another look at anecdote, try to understand why we are dependent upon anecdote in our hobby, and discuss some of its power and how to make it more useful. 

A Brief Reminder to Set the Scene

Skepticism is a method, not a position. It can be defined as a method of intellectual caution and suspended judgment. As a Skeptical Reefkeeper, you decide what is best for you, your animals, and your wallet based upon critical thinking, not just because you heard someone else say it. The goal of this series of articles is not to provide you with reef recipes or to tell you which ideas are flat out wrong or which products really do what they say they do or which claims or which expert to believe. The goal is to help you make those kinds of determinations for yourself while developing your saltwater expertise in the face of sometimes overwhelming, conflicting advice.

These two Dr. Seuss fish have not yet jumped out of their tank, but that doesn’t seem like a reason to jump to the conclusion that these fish aren’t jumpers.


What is Anecdote Anyway?

From Skeptical Reefkeeping – Are you sure that that thing is true, or did someone just tell it to you? (1) Merriam-Webster defines anecdote as “a usually short narrative of an interesting, amusing, or biographical incident.” More hardcore, Ron Shimek says, “Anecdote is unsubstantiated or unverified observation generally made by an unqualified observer who often really doesn’t know what they are looking at.” Essentially, an anecdote is someone telling you what they think happened. The problem with most anecdotes, besides the observation and conclusion being suspect, is how quickly, with no real support, they can be converted to facts. This conversion can have a real and detrimental cost in both animal’s lives and your money.

More »

From Reefs Magazine

by Rich Ross and Chris Jury

The Editors Note: In Skeptical Reefkeeping IX, Rich Ross is joined by our old friend Chris Jury as they try to come to terms with the “impossible” yet confirmed PO4 readings in Rich’s gorgeous reef. The analysis is thorough, thought- provoking, grounded in science and suggestive of a far more complex picture regarding PO4 and its role in our aquariums.

There are many standard parameters in the reefkeeping world that aquarists strive to match in their home reefs – water quality, light spectrum and intensity, and water flow, just to name a few. Rarely do we stop to think where these standard parameters come from, and even more rarely do we consider calling into question the utility of these parameters. This can lead to aquarists ‘chasing numbers’; tweaking water parameters to hit a standard goal. Often times, people think that hitting a magic number will inherently result in a better, healthier tank. In the past few years, dealing with phosphate in saltwater aquariums has become one of the most talked about ‘must control at all costs’ parameter, and in this installment of Skeptical Reefkeeping, we will look at some evidence which calls into question the reliability of testing, the generally accepted target phosphate concentration, and general control of phosphate in reef aquariums.


Rich’s 150 gallon display, on a 300 gallon system, is running a phosphate level of 1.24 ppm, a level at 24.8 times higher than the often recommended .05 ppm. Photo by Richard Ross.

More »

From Reefs Magazine
Richard Ross and Kevin Erickson

here are many terms in the marine aquarium hobby that are used in multiple ways by different people, which can cause a great deal of confusion. This is especially true as it pertains to the origins and sustainability of animals – it is possible to purchase an animal thinking you know its background, lineage, where it comes from and how it was raised/collected, only to find out that you and the person you bought it from have a different understanding of what certain terms actually mean. Normally, as discussed in Skeptical Reefkeeping III, we would advise people to be aware of the different ways various people and businesses use or misuse terms, and to ask clarifying questions before you risk animals lives or your hard earned money. However, during the February 2012 MASNA Live panel discussion regarding, “Tank Bred vs Captive Raised” (Erickson, 2012), it became clear that there exist a suite of terms concerning the background and origin of marine aquarium organisms that are ambiguous. Even worse, there has yet to be any real effort to try to standardize these terms. If this situation is allowed to continue, the confusion and misuse, whether intentional or not, will continue, and skeptical reefkeepers will continue to shake their heads and say ‘I wish someone would do something about this.’ So, what follows is our attempt to take action. 

Designer clownfish are nearly all captive bred and as such are good for beginning hobbyists because wild reefs are not impacted by the learning curve. Photo by Sanjay Joshi.

Designer clownfish are nearly all captive bred and as such are good for beginning hobbyists because wild reefs are not impacted by the learning curve. Photo by Sanjay Joshi.

We have touched on this topic in the past, but in this installment of Skeptical Reefkeeping, we are going to explore some of these definitions as well as offer streamlined versions of terms which we think will help get everyone on the same page, avoid confusion, and help the hobby and industry communicate more easily and accurately about the animals in our care. 

A Brief Reminder to Set the Scene Skepticism is a method, not a position. Officially, it can be defined as a method of intellectual caution and suspended judgment. As a Skeptical Reefkeeper, you decide what is best for you, your animals, and your wallet based upon critical thinking: not just because you heard someone else say it. The goal of this series of articles is not to provide you with reef recipes or to tell you which ideas are flat out wrong or which products really do what they say they do or which claims or which expert to believe – the goal is to help you make those kinds of determinations for yourself while developing your saltwater expertise in the face of sometimes overwhelming conflicting advice. 

Our Goal and Process One thing that became clear during the MASNA Live panel discussion is that people have different ideas of how these terms should be defined, and trying to get a group of reefkeepers to agree on this kind of terminology is a bit like wanting people to agree on the best way to run a reef tank. We hope that the definitions offered below will at least reflect the underlying ideas of many different people. Our goal in this endeavor is to keep the definitions of terms simple and free of jargon, so that they are meaningful and easy to understand. Our hope is that anyone involved in any level of reefkeeping (or for that matter anyone not involved in reefkeeping) can easily understand what the terms actually and practically mean. Long, involved definitions are not only cumbersome, but seem to foster misuse and loopholes – which is exactly what we want to get away from. 

Captive bred Crested Oyster Gobies at home aquarium size, bred at the University of Florida. Photo by Matt Wittenrich.

Captive bred Crested Oyster Gobies at home aquarium size, bred at the University of Florida. Photo by Matt Wittenrich.

That said, in some cases it is important to have some ambiguity. Words like ‘grown’, ‘visible’, and ‘recently’ are useful because they avoid any kind of restrictive timeline which might be impossible or impractical to track or enforce. The term ‘captive-conditioned’ is a good example of this. In an effort to make the terms more consistent, we use the term ‘organism’ instead of a specific like ‘fish’ or ‘coral’ or ‘plant’ which allows for one set of terms instead of several for each class of creature. T

he Definitions:Wild Collected / Caught / Harvested

Organisms collected from the wild.

  This is one of the most straightforward terms, and there doesn’t seem to be any contention regarding its definition or use. The organism is taken directly from the wild and put in an aquarium. Such organisms may need conditioning to aquarium life and aquarium feeds, and should be quarantined, observed, and treated, if necessary, before being added to any existing population to avoid spreading infection and parasites. This currently seems to refer to the bulk of the animals in our hobby (Rhyne et al., 2012). 

A fish collector in Kwajalein prepares to wild harvest some fish for the aquarium trade. Such collectors work hard and dive deep so that we can have a steady supply of quality animals for our aquariums. Photo by Richard Ross.

A fish collector in Kwajalein prepares to wild harvest some fish for the aquarium trade. Such collectors work hard and dive deep so that we can have a steady supply of quality animals for our aquariums. Photo by Richard Ross.

Tank Raised / Captive Raised

Eggs or pre-settlement larvae collected in the wild, then grown or raised in tanks in facilities on land.

  This term refers to life stages of wild collected organisms that are generally not yet ready for aquarium life due to difficulty keeping them through the early, fragile stages of development. These organisms may be collected before they would normally settle (recruitment) out of the water column and become more like adult organisms. Some estimate that there is almost 55% mortality of new recruits; so removing organisms from the wild before this life stage to raise them in tanks may not impact wild populations in any meaningful way (Almany GR, Webster, 2005). Organisms removed after recruitment have a greater impact on wild populations; such animals, though they may be considered juveniles, should be considered Wild Collected / caught / harvested. Benefits of tank raised organisms include conditioning to aquarium life and foods, as well as having little or no impact on wild, adult breeding populations. Even though these animals have spent some time in captivity, they should be quarantined, observed, and treated, if necessary, before being added to any existing population to avoid spreading infection and parasites. Tank

Conditioned / Captive Conditioned

Wild collected organisms kept in tanks, conditioned to eat commercial aquarium foods, and accustomed to tank conditions.

  This appears to be the most easily misused of our terms. Often, organisms are labeled as being tank / captive conditioned when they still haven’t acclimated to captivity, or when they have only been in aquaria for a limited amount of time, which doesn’t provide the benefits of captive conditioning. Organisms that have been properly captive conditioned provide a host of benefits over wild caught animals. Besides being accustomed to aquarium life and foods, these animals have often gone through a quarantine and treatment regimen resulting in healthy animals with good body weight. Still, it is recommended that these animals be quarantined by their owners to further staunch any possible spread of disease. 

This baby H. zosterae is captive bred. It was born after its parents were observed spawning after months of being captive conditioned. Had it been born just after the adults were wild collected, it would be tank raised instead of captive bred. Photo by Richard Ross.

This baby H. zosterae is captive bred. It was born after its parents were observed spawning after months of being captive conditioned. Had it been born just after the adults were wild collected, it would be tank raised instead of captive bred. Photo by Richard Ross.

It is important to note that a tank raised organism is a tank conditioned organism but a tank conditioned organism is not necessarily a tank raised organism. This distinction can be confusing and could be used to mislead consumers. 

Tank Bred / Captive Bred

Organisms that were spawned and raised in tanks / captivity in facilities on land.

  These organisms were not born in the wild, but instead were born in aquaria, or emerged from their parents in aquaria. They are accustomed to commercial food, are well acclimated to life in artificial environments, and typically are well suited for life in your tank simply because they have never lived in any other environment. It is recommended that these animals be quarantined by to further stop any possible spread of disease. 

Developmental progress of Crested Oyster Gobies captive bred at the University of Florida. Research like this really highlights the difference between what goes into a true captive bred animal. Photo by Matt Wittenrich.

Developmental progress of Crested Oyster Gobies captive bred at the University of Florida. Research like this really highlights the difference between what goes into a true captive bred animal. Photo by Matt Wittenrich.

Tank Bred / Captive Bred organisms are often thought to be the holy grail of animal acquisition as they have virtually no direct impact on wild populations. However, it is important to realize that in the bigger picture, wild collected organisms serve an important role in preserving wild habitats by giving local peoples an economic incentive to care for those environments. 

February 2012 MASNA Live episode: LSMAC, New BOD, "Tank Bred" panel, & Ret Talbot. Image care of MASNA.

February 2012 MASNA Live episode: LSMAC, New BOD, “Tank Bred” panel, & Ret Talbot. Image care of MASNA.

Maricultured / Aquacultured / Farmed / Cultured / Pen Raised / Net Raised

Catch-all phrases for organisms ‘grown on purpose.’

  We have lumped all these together because the differences between the terms don’t seem to matter practically. Sure there may be technical differences between the terms, but the overarching similarity they all share is that the organisms were grown on purpose. All of these organisms should be quarantined and treated if necessary before introduction to captive populations to prevent the transmission of disease or parasites. 

A technician at a Tongan Coral Farm places coral in concrete troughs for the long process of grow out. Such systems use pumped, unfiltered ocean water which is one of the factors that leads us to lump Maricultured / Aquacultured / Farmed / Cultured / Pen Raised / Net Raised organisms together in one category. Photo by Richard Ross.

A technician at a Tongan Coral Farm places coral in concrete troughs for the long process of grow out. Such systems use pumped, unfiltered ocean water which is one of the factors that leads us to lump Maricultured / Aquacultured / Farmed / Cultured / Pen Raised / Net Raised organisms together in one category. Photo by Richard Ross.

Coral-centric Terms:Freshly Fragged

Recently cut fragments of organisms.

  Freshly Fragged organisms can be either wild collected or Captive grown. Freshly Fragged organisms may not do well due to stress from fragmentation and gluing. This practice has sometimes been referred to derogatorily as ‘chop shopping’ – wild colonies are chopped up, glued down and sold to customers who often believe that the corals have been in captivity for a significant amount of time. Both wild and captive grown freshly fragged organisms may suffer from the stress of fragmentation and gluing, while wild collected freshly fragged organisms have that stress compounded by the move from wild conditions to captive conditions. It is recommended that these organisms be quarantined and treated if necessary before being added to established systems. It is often possible to tell if a fragment has been freshly fragged by looking for exposed skeleton from where the coral was cut, or by the lack of encrustation onto the substrate to which the coral is glued. 

Freshly fragging of a wild collected coral with a hammer and large flathead screw driver. Photo by Kevin Erickson.

Freshly fragging of a wild collected coral with a hammer and large flathead screw driver. Photo by Kevin Erickson.

Healed Frags

Wild fragments of organisms that are fully healed prior to sale.

  These organisms, wild collected or not, are fragmented, but are allowed to stabilize, recover and grow resulting in corals that seem to adapt better to having their environment changed when they are moved to a new system. Though these organisms appear healthy, it is still important to quarantine and treat if necessary to prevent the spread of any coral diseases or parasites. 

Are these corals freshly fragged or healed? Only careful inspection of their attachment points for encrusting new growth will reveal the truth. Photo by Richard Ross.

Are these corals freshly fragged or healed? Only careful inspection of their attachment points for encrusting new growth will reveal the truth. Photo by Richard Ross.

Captive Grown

Organisms which contain no tissue / skeleton that was collected from the wild.

  These are typically frags of new growth from captive colonies (frags of frags) whose original origin was from the wild. These corals typically do very well as they have been conditioned to tank life for a long time. And, as with every other definition in this article, these organisms should be quarantined and treated if necessary before being added to an established system. 

Quarantined (QT) 

You might also notice that the idea of quarantine is discussed in many of the definitions above. We could have had one general paragraph about quarantine, but we feel the issue is important enough to mention it over and over again. A common thought in the hobby is that captive bred or tank raised organisms are somehow disease or parasite free, but this is a dangerous viewpoint to embrace, and, like most ‘easy’ and erroneous beliefs in this complicated hobby, it can cost lives and money. It is possible for animals kept en masse even in the cleanest of holding facilities to harbor unseen diseases and parasites despite the best efforts to eradicate them…and shipping stress caused by even the gentlest and most thoughtful shipping practices negatively impacts the organism’s immune system which makes it susceptible to diseases and pests. Even dormant and previously unseen pests and diseases carried by healthy-seeming organisms can manifest as a result of shipping stress. The short version of all of this: Regardless of where your animals come from, quarantine, and treatment if necessary, is mandatory before releasing organisms into their new home. 

Quarantine is important. This QT system at the Steinhart Aquarium is used for larger shipments of reef fish where all incoming fish are given a 30 day minimum QT regardless of their source. The rock island helps calm fish quickly and induces naturalistic behaviors making observation to determine if any treatment is needed much easier. QT set ups need not be this involved. Photo by Richard Ross.

Quarantine is important. This QT system at the Steinhart Aquarium is used for larger shipments of reef fish where all incoming fish are given a 30 day minimum QT regardless of their source. The rock island helps calm fish quickly and induces naturalistic behaviors making observation to determine if any treatment is needed much easier. QT set ups need not be this involved. Photo by Richard Ross.

When are these Definitions Useful? 

These definitions come into play when obtaining, selling or trading organisms, whether in person or online. Standardized terminology helps ensures that you are buying what you are truly after and that you will be as successful as possible. Keep the skeptical method of thinking in mind when observing and inspecting the organisms and do not be afraid to ask questions. Ask yourself, “What would Scooby-Doo ask?” Are the organisms really tank conditioned? What evidence supports that idea? If so, what types of food does it eat and is your tank appropriate for that particular organism at that stage in its acclimation to life in captivity? I

n Conclusion Remember, the goal of these articles is to help you make the useful decisions for yourself while developing your saltwater expertise in the face of sometimes overwhelmingly conflicting advice. By understanding these definitions yourself and confirming common definitions when speaking about organisms in captivity, we can work towards a set of universally accepted definitions. Remember, your animal’s lives and your money are at stake, be as informed as possible. It is important to note that we are not so full of ourselves as to think that we have nailed these definitions, and that everyone will agree on them. We will be happy if this discussion moves all of us towards universal definitions, whichever those end up being. Special Thanks to Ret Talbot, Tal Sweet, Andrew Rhyne, Jim Adelberg, Dale Pritchard, Matt Carberry, Chris Turnier, Matt Pedersen, Dan Navin, and Adam Youngblood for the discussion, both MASNA Live and personal communication, that inspired this article.

References Erickson, KP. 2012. LSMAC, New BOD, “Tank Bred” panel, & Ret Talbot. MASNA Live, February 29 (audio recording: MP3).

 Rhyne AL, Tlusty MF, Schofield PJ, Kaufman L, Morris JA Jr, Bruckner AW. (2012) Revealing the appetite of the marine aquarium fish trade: the volume and biodiversity of fish imported into the United States.

PLoS ONE 7:e35808–e35808. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035808 Almany GR, Webster MS (2005) The predation gauntlet: early post-settlement mortality in reef fishes.

Coral Reefs 25:19–22. doi: 10.1007/s00338-005-0044-y Coral Reefs
March 2006, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 19-22 

Possible Continued Reading 

Snyder, Noel F.R.; Derrickson, Scott R., Beissinger, Steven R., Wiley, James W., Smith, Thomas B., Toone, William D., Miller, Brian (1 April 1996). “Limitations of Captive Breeding in Endangered Species Recovery”. Conservation Biology 10 (2): 338–348. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.1996.10020338.x 

 

http://www.reefs.com/blog/2012/02/24…f-tank-raised/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex-situ_conservation

http://www.reefs.org/forums/topic140891.html

http://reefbuilders.com/2012/03/14/c…moorish-idols/

http://www.bluezooaquatics.com/resources.asp?show=431

From Reefs Magazine

By Richard Ross

Ethical discussion about almost every area of reefkeeping has been a part of the hobby for as long as the hobby has existed – What size tank do I need to meet my animals’ needs? Are some animals better left in the ocean? Do I really need a separate tank to treat a sick fish? Can we justify the resources we use for our aquariums?The discussion of ethics in our hobby is both comprehensive and esoteric, having the potential to evoke extreme emotion as people argue for what they feel is some sort of moral high ground. Lately, some parts of the ethical discussion have heated up due to anti-aquarium groups working to curtail or even shut down wild collection for the hobby. As always, some of the anti-hobby positions are valid, andshould make us examine and change our husbandry practices, while others are based on emotional, poorly constructed arguments. But, ethics are not as simple as people who want you to support their position often make them out to be. We need to be prepared to counter such ethical misstatements, both in others and ourselves. This starts with understanding and refining our own ethical stances s, since the better we will be able to understand and communicate our positions to others, the better the hobby can move forward.

There is lots and lots of life on wild reefs. Is it ethical to collect it and ship it halfway around to put in peoples living rooms? Perhaps the answer depends on how much suffering is caused to the creatures in the process. (Photo by Richard Ross.)

There is lots and lots of life on wild reefs. Is it ethical to collect it and ship it halfway around the world to put in peoples living rooms? Perhaps the answer depends on how much suffering is caused to the creatures in the process. (Photo by Richard Ross.)

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The Internet makes information instantly available for Reefkeepers all around the world, but that information can be clouded in inaccurate fog, anecdote, baseless opinion and unsubstantiated arguments from authority. To keep the inaccurate fog at a minimum in an effort to save money and save animals lives, you need to be able to get the information you want as well as share information that others want by communicating well with people and enticing others to communicate well in return. Since communication is one of the keystones of Skeptical Methodology and critical to success in reefkeeping, in this installment of Skeptical Reefkeeping Lives and Money, we will look at strategies for getting and sharing useful information about our boxes of live animals.

A brief reminder to set the scene

Skepticism is a method, not a position. Officially, it can be defined as a method of intellectual caution and suspended judgment. A skeptic is not closed minded to new ideas, but is cautious of ideas that are presented without much, or any, supporting evidence or presented with weak supporting evidence. Being a skeptical reefer essentially boils down to taking advice/products/new ideas with a bucket of salt. Being a skeptical reefkeeper requires that you investigate why, how and if the suggested ideas actually work. As a Skeptical Reefkeeper, you decide what is best for you, your animals, and your wallet based upon critical thinking: not just because you heard someone else say it. The goal of this series of articles is not to provide you with reef recipes or to tell you which ideas are flat out wrong or which products really do what they say they do or which claims or which expert to believe – the goal is to help you make those kinds of determinations for yourself while developing your saltwater thumb in the face of sometimes overwhelming conflicting advice. Communication as a Skeptical Reefkeeper is critical, because it is through communication that we refine our saltwater thumbs.

image from smcyberzone.com

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From Advanced Aquarist

The ongoing discussions about and with anti aquarium trade groups have been hopping on Facebook. Sadly they have taken a turn that makes me feel engaging with the anti trade side is often useless and should possibly be avoided.

What these groups are doing is deleting comments that respectfully disagree with them, and then pretending to be generous by replying…while at the same time blocking the people they say they are replying to. They are also assuming that everyone that disagrees with them disagrees with everything they have to say and that everyone disagrees about the same thing in the same way both of which are of course, not true. Because blocking people shuts down all real discussion, these misconceptions cannot be addressed or cleared up in an effort to find common ground and move everyone forward. More »

 

From Reefbuilders

For the last week or so, the popular science press has been gushing over the announcement that a giant Triassic Kraken not only killed and ate giant ichthyosaurs, not only arranged their bones, but even arranged their bones in what may be the very first ‘self portrait’. How exciting! A huge, intelligent, self aware cephalopod lived in the Triassic and actively hunted and ate 45 foot long ichthyosaurs – its a ceph lovers fantasy come true! There is of course, one small catch – there is no evidence that this Triassic Kraken actually existed.

The story in a nutshell: at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in Nevada the remains of nine 45-foot ichthyosaurs, Shonisaurus popularis have been confusing researchers since at least the 1950’s, partially due to the close proximity of the nine ichtyosaurs to each other and the odd arrangement of their fossilized vertebrae. Recently, Mark McMenamin spent some time at the site and came up with the idea that press has been running with this week – a giant, ichthyosaur eating cephalopod that arranges bones of its meals in self portraits. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to back up this idea. More »

From Reefbuilders

This is a video of a big aquarium – doesn’t a little information about how its run and how the animals are cared for make it more exciting?

Like many of us, I have been thinking about the new television show TANKED. The great discussion so far about the show has been really illuminating and taken the reefkeeping community beyond issues like ‘This coral is cool’ or ‘what’s the newest product’ or ‘where do I get the cheapest…’. I think this kind of big picture discussion has been relegated to dusty, quasi philosophical forums with low readership and I think getting some of this discussion out in the open can do nothing but  befefit the hobby in the long run by forcing more of us to think about issues on the broader stage. The critical thinker in me (ah the Philosophy degree is worth something – see mom and dad!) is also thrilled that hardly any of the discussion I have seen has not degenerated into ad hominem attacks, and that people have been genuinely  playing with the ideas rather than trying to score points. In these respects, I think TANKED has been great for the hobby.

In other respects, I am on the fence about the show. More »

From Reefs.com blog

Now, that’s reefkeeping education!

Some reefkeepers feel the need to justify their aquariums, they seem to feel the need to make their home tank more than a hobby. I can understand that feeling, especially in the face of those who characterize the way we get the animals for our boxes of coral as ‘raping the reef’ and the massive amount of resources that often go into keeping a home tank. However, if that justification is really empty, if it isn’t a real justification, it can serve to make the justifier and the hobby in general look worse.

The most popular justification that people seem to use when trying to justify keeping exotic fish and coral in their living rooms is that their home reef tank  somehow serves the wider community because it is educational. ‘All of the people who come through my home ask questions about the reef’ they say, but does that really count as education? I don’t think it does, in the same way that showing visitors to my home photographs of my trip to Komodo doesn’t count as education about that area of the world. Its nice, they may glean something form the interaction, but is it really educational in the same way Public Aquariums, workshops, conferences, reef club meetings or science classes count as education? More »

From Reefs Magazine

In the previous installments we talked about skeptical methodology and how it can be used to sort through the overwhelming amount of reefkeeping information that is now at the virtual fingertips of reef hobbyists. We also discussed how skeptical thinking has impacted the idea of sustainable reefkeeping, scientific terminology, magic products and more. In this installment we’ll take a look how to decide which expert to listen to and the most important tool in the skeptical reefkeepers toolbox.

A brief reminder to set the scene

Skepticism is a method, not a position. Officially, it’s defined as a method of intellectual caution and suspended judgment. A skeptic is not closed minded to new ideas, but is cautious of ideas that are presented without much, or any, supporting evidence. In our hobby there are tons of ideas presented without much, or any, supporting evidence. Being a skeptical reefer essentially boils down to taking advice/products/new ideas with a bucket of salt. Being a skeptical reefkeeper requires that you investigate why, how and if the suggested ideas actually work. As a skeptical reefkeeper, you decide what is best for you, your animals, and your wallet based upon critical thinking: not just because you heard someone else say it. The goal of this series of articles is not to provide you with reef recipes or to tell you which ideas are flat out wrong or which products really do what they say they do or which claims or which expert to believe – the goal is to help you make those kinds of determinations for yourself while developing your saltwater thumb in the face of sometimes overwhelming conflicting advice.

Experts

In any endeavor, it is always great to be able to consult with someone who has more experience than you do. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, and avoiding avoidable mistakes can save you time and money, as well as lives of animals. However, there are ‘experts’ everywhere you turn, and it can be difficult to know who’s expert advice is worth listening to and who is just spouting opinion or perpetuating something they heard somewhere under the guise of being an expert. More »

In the previous installments we talked about skeptical methodology and how it can be used to sort through the overwhelming amount of reefkeeping information and products available. We also discussed how skeptical thinking has impacted the idea of sustainable reefkeeping. In this installment we’ll take a look at some of the terminology that is used in reefkeeping and see if the terms make sense or are misleading (potentially, accidentally, or purposefully).
A brief reminder to set the scene

Skepticism is a method, not a position. Officially, it’s defined as a method of intellectual caution and suspended judgment. A skeptic is not closed minded to new ideas, but is cautious of ideas that are presented without much, or any, supporting evidence. In our hobby there are tons of ideas presented without much, or any, supporting evidence. Being a skeptical reefer essentially boils down to taking advice/products/new ideas with a bucket of salt. Being a skeptical reefkeeper requires that you investigate why, how and if the suggested ideas actually work. As a skeptical reefkeeper, you decide what is best for you, your animals, and your wallet based upon critical thinking: not just because you heard someone else say it. The goal of this series of articles is not to provide you with reef recipes or to tell you which ideas are flat out wrong or which products really do what they say they do or which claims or which expert to believe – the goal is to help you make those kinds of determinations for yourself in the face of sometimes overwhelming conflicting advice.

Words words words

This is a photo of and elephant seal and has nothing to do with this article.

Our hobby is constantly evolving, and the terms we use to communicate ideas to one another change and morph over time and these changes can lead to confusion. For instance, the term refugium initially referred to an area of a system that small animals could use as a refuge from predation, but now refugium also refers to an area of the system used to grow algae for nutrient export or simply a small tank plumbed into a larger system. The ideas can overlap, but they don’t necessarily, so when someone asks for information on setting up a ‘fuge, it becomes important to know what the term means to them in order to help them with information relevant to their needs. More »

In the previous two installments of Skeptical Reefkeeping, we talked about how applying skeptical thinking to reefkeeping can help you make decisions about what methodology to follow or which products to use. In this installment, we’ll spend less time exploring the skeptical method, and instead examine how skeptical reefkeeping has impacted, and continues to impact one particular aspect of our hobby: making our hobby more environmentally sustainable.

A brief reminder
Skepticism is a method, not a position. Officially, it’s defined as “a method of intellectual caution and suspended judgment.” A skeptic is not closed minded to new ideas, but is cautious of ideas that are presented without much, or any, supporting evidence. In our hobby there are tons of ideas presented without much, or any, supporting evidence. Being a skeptical reefer essentially boils down to taking advice/products/new ideas with a bucket of salt. Being a skeptical reefkeeper requires that you investigate why, how and if the suggested ideas actually work. As a skeptical reefkeeper, you decide what is best for you, your animals, and your wallet based upon critical thinking.
That sounds like work! Just tell me what to do!

Sorry, I can’t just tell you what to do. I wish I could, but there is that whole Biblical quote “Tell someone what to do and their fish and corals die, get them to understand the bigger complex picture and their fish and corals live”. This hobby is not simple and there are as many opinions about how to keep our glass boxes thriving as there are people with glass boxes. The goal of this series of articles is not to necessarily provide you with reef recipes or to tell you which ideas are flat out wrong or which products really do what they say they do or which claims or which expert to believe – the goal is to help you make those kinds of determinations for yourself in the face of conflicting advice.

The drama of ‘juicing’ fish

The early 80’s was a time of glam rock, hardy elegance corals, and DIY sumps filled with hair curlers for bio media. Back then, rocks covered with hair algae were lovely, panther groupers were the hot fish, and aiptasia were considered fabu. Hardly anyone stopped to think about where animals for our reef tanks were coming from…we were all too busy just trying to keep them alive for more than a month. Fish would come into the LFS; some would make it, and some would slowly waste away despite eating well. Most of us figured we were making some husbandry mistake that resulted in the death of the fish. However, some began to apply skeptical methodology to the problem and hypothesized that the issue might have something to do with the way the fish were being handled somewhere along the way to the LFS.

Cyanide fishing kills fish and corals – which hardly seems to justify the lower prices the practice can create.

It turned out that they were right. Investigation revealed that cyanide, often called ‘juice’ was used to ‘knock out’ fish to make them easier to collect. Sounds good right? Easier to collect means cheaper, cooler animals, and everyone wants cheaper animals. However, the monkey wrench here is that cyanide is a poison that doesn’t necessarily kill the fish outright. Often, the fish seems to recover from the initial shock. It can make it all the way through the chain of custody from the collector to the exporter to the importer to the LFS to the hobbyist tank before it begins to go down hill. We now know that the cyanide can damage the fish’s ability to adsorb food; it can eat like a pig, but get little of the nutrition it needs to live. Eventually, the animal can starve to death. More »

…or this?

In the last installment we talked about the role anecdotal evidence and logical misunderstandings play in how we make decisions about reefkeeping. In this installment, we’ll look at how and why manufacturers make claims about their products, why you might want to be skeptical about them, as well as some practical advice for determining the validity of those claims.It seems you can’t turn around in the reefkeeping world without bumping into another new product that you must have to keep your reef healthy. The claims are usually the same, always some version of one of these:-This product will unlock your reefs potential.
-Cure any and all disease in a reef environment.
-This will change the way you keep your reef.
-You’ll see colors and animal health that you have never before experienced.
And my personal favorite:-YOU’LL NEVER HAVE TO DO REGULAR MAINTENANCE ON YOUR TANK AGAIN!The ads are very clear in a roundabout way; Without THIS product your reef sucks.

Honestly, sometimes a new product does work. A lot of them don’t.
Even widely used products occasionally don’t do what they claim but in spite of this, somehow they’ve caught on.

I’m going to tell you the one thing you can learn to do for your reef that will improve it’s condition, and your sanity, from day one: Skeptical Thinking.

What is Skeptical Thinking, Rich?

I’m glad you asked. First, it’s not being a grump. For some people the idea of being a “skeptic” has a negative connotation, but do Shaggy and Scooby Do seem like grumps? They’re skeptics. Think about their show. At the end there never is a monster or a ghost, it’s always, as Tim Minchin would say, “the dude who runs the water slide.” More »

 From Reefs Magazine

 “Are you sure that that thing is true, or did someone just tell it to you?” – They Might Be Giants

Is this the tank of your dreams? A healthy dose of skepticism might help you get there. Photo by Sanjay Joshi

Reefkeeping is as much an art as it is a science. There is so much that we don’t understand about what actually goes on inside our boxes of water that we must rely on cultivating a ‘saltwater thumb’ for success over time. Building that saltwater thumb, however, can be a daunting task. There are a million opinions on every aspect of reef keeping, and the modern reefkeeper can access those opinions thru websites, online forums, or those big heavy things on the shelves at home (Books? I think that’s what they’re called). Essentially, you can find support for every aspect of the hobby regardless of how ‘fringe’ it may be – the question is, how do you sift through all those opinions to make decisions about what to do with your reef tank? My answer – be a skeptic. In the next few issues of Reefs Magazine, we’ll look at critical and skeptical thinking, how they relate to reefkeeping, and how they can help you wade through the flood of good and bad information available to the modern reefkeeper.

Be a Skeptic

The idea of being a skeptic seems to have a negative connotation, as if somehow being skeptical means saying no for the sake of saying no. That’s not quite right. Skepticism is a method, not a position. Officially, it’s defined as “a method of intellectual caution and suspended judgment.” A skeptic is not closed minded to new ideas, but is cautious of ideas that are presented without much, or any, supporting evidence. In our hobby there are tons of ideas presented without much supporting evidence. Being a skeptical reefer essentially boils down to taking advice/products/new ideas with a bucket of salt, and following up to get a handle on why, how and if the suggested ideas actually work. This boils down to the one adage about reefkeeping that almost every experienced reefer agrees with, namely, be patient. Taking your time in your decision making is just as important as taking your time stocking your reef because, as they say, “nothing good happens quickly in a reef tank”. So, when that shiny new idea about reefkeeping shows up, with many people being very excited – slow down and think. More »