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The Yellow Tail Damsel

Blog post written by Andy | 22 June 2017 | Category: Marine fish
(964 views)

As with all things in fishkeeping you are going to hear lots of different opinions on the same subject. It’s a minefield. Fish compatibility is one such area.

People in marine fishkeeping either love or hate Damsel fish. If it's the latter, it's usually because of one bad experience, but I think they are a fantastic family of fish and this is one of my favourites.

The Yellow tail blue Damselfish (Chrysiptera parasema) or YTB as it's commonly called, is an absolutely stunning fish. It grows to a maximum of three inches and is a shoaling fish. I tend to recommend groups of six or more, ideally added at the same time to avoid aggression. They are a rich blue colour with a bright yellow tail (the clue was in the name wasn’t it!) and are reef safe. They add an instant splash of colour to any marine setup. A group of these darting in and out of a coral setup look spectacular. They are a very robust fish and are often recommended as the first fish into a system.

They can be aggressive, but I have found that tends to be with fish kept on their own. They very rarely cause any damage to other fish. Males will tend to find an area of the tank they like and chase away anything that comes near. We have a shoal of eight in our main display aquarium and they cause no trouble with any of their tank mates. They enjoy decent flow in an aquarium and are often seen 'playing' in front of power heads. A varied diet of brine shrimp and Mysis will keep this fish happy. They have been known to breed in a home aquarium given a big enough tank and the right ratio of males and females.

I think the YTB is one of the most peaceful Damsels available and certainly one of the most attractive. They are robust, inexpensive, like being kept in groups and reef safe. A great addition to any marine aquarium.

 

The Yellow Tail Damsel
The Yellow Tail Damsel (Chrysiptera parasema)
By Carl Malamud [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The blue cheek goby (Valenciennea Strigata)

Blog post written by Andy | 08 March 2017 | Category: Marine fish
(2306 views)

A marine aquarium can at times be a bit more effort to keep clean and, as with everything, the more help we can have the better.

The term "clean-up crew" is often used for all of those invertebrates and fish that help by either eating algae, turning the sand over or cleaning the parasites off of fish.

One of my favourite in this crew is the Blue cheek goby (Valenciennea Strigata) and its talent for turning over the sand.

It is a lovely fish that attains a maximum size of about 7" but usually stays much smaller. They are white-bodied with a pale yellow jaw line and surprisingly as the name suggests, bright blue cheek lines which seem to almost glow as they scoot over the sand. As they feed, they take in sand and sift out anything edible before dumping the sand back onto the bottom. The major advantage of this behaviour is that they keep the sand turned to prevent algae build up. It is important that they have a deep substrate in the aquarium as they do not only rely on this for their food but they also create burrows in which they live. That said, it is important that any rock work is secure in case a goby tries to burrow underneath it.

They benefit from a mature reef system so there is plenty of food for them to sift for. The biggest problem people have is with them getting skinny so I like to recommend a good quality sinking pellet (we use a combination of Ocean Nutrition Formula  1 and 2) to keep them nice and chunky.

They are an incredibly interesting fish which provide a really useful service. They are reef safe and lovely to look at... win, win, win!

 

Blue cheek goby
The blue cheek goby

Our new Nano Seahorse setup

Blog post written by Andy | 21 July 2016 | Category: Marine fish
(1391 views)

I try as often as possible to change around the display aquariums in the shop, it’s always good to give people new ideas for a fish tank. We have had our Nano reef aquarium running really successfully now for about two years so we thought it was time for a change.

Jack had the great idea of turning it into a seahorse setup and he was right big time! 

As the Nano reef has gentle flow and less intense lighting, it’s perfect for seahorses and will easily grow and support an assortment of soft corals. Many of you who have visited the shop will have seen how well this system operated and how successful the corals and shrimp were.

We removed the majority of rock work to allow more swimming space and Jack added some plastic plants to give the seahorses plenty of places to grip with that amazing tail.

We removed the fish and replaced them with some very gentle occupants. Along with our two seahorses we have a mandarin dragonet and a tiny shrimp goby so nothing to compete for the food of these lethargic feeders. A cleaner shrimp and a couple of sexy shrimp nestled in the soft coral complete the livestock quota.

The setup has already proven incredibly popular and it’s great watching children's faces when they see these fascinating creatures up close.

On my next post I will go into more detail on these amazing creatures and how to care for them. I am now going to measure up at home to see if I can fit a seahorse aquarium in my living room! 

 

One of the seahorses in our new nano setup
One of the seahorses in our new nano setup

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The Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus)

Blog post written by Andy | 28 April 2016 | Category: Marine fish
(1470 views)

Customers often come into the shop saying their fish have real characters and personalities and one great example of this in the marine aquarium is the Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus).

It is a really attractive fish with an unusual body shape and elongated mouth giving it a ‘long nose’. They are a creamy colour with red or pink lines all over the body creating squares and rectangles. Their behaviour is unusual as they don’t really swim in open water unless it’s to feed. Instead they perch on corals or on overhanging rocks seemingly taking life easy.

I will however warn you that when these fish want to move, they really go for it so an open top aquarium is not a great idea. They get to a size of about 4-5 inches so not a huge fish but not a small one either, not suitable for a Nano tank. They are a relatively peaceful fish but have been known to bully smaller, slower fish if they try and take a preferred perch or cave.

They are also very greedy when it comes to feeding so any slow feeders may struggle to get anything. A wide variety of shrimp is recommended (Brine / Mysis and Krill seem to be preferred) and I wouldn't mix these with any small ornamental shrimps or small gobies as adult individuals have been known on rare occasions to go for small cleaner shrimp so that’s something to be aware of.

They are a very robust fish with a great personality, sitting on a coral or hiding between the fronds of a sea fan almost watching you as you go about your business. A really great and enjoyable fish to keep. 

 

The Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus)
The Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus)

The Royal Gramma

Blog post written by Andy | 19 February 2016 | Category: Marine fish
(1450 views)

As I am sure all of you know, I love a show tank. I usually have a certain group of fish I always put into our display aquariums, well, because I just love them.

One specific marine fish which goes in every reef tank I ever set up is possibly one of the most amazingly coloured fish you will ever come across, and probably one of the most popular fish in the shop - the Royal Gramma.

The Royal Gramma or Fairy Basslet (Gramma Loreto) is a fantastic fish to keep in a reef system. It grows to a size of around 3" but on some very rare occasions slightly larger. They are without doubt one of the most striking fish you can have in your aquarium. They have a bright purple head which continues down the body and fades via a series of defined spots to a bright yellow portion of the body continuing to the tail. To be honest when you see the fish it doesn't seem real. They are a peaceful species which require plenty of rock work and caves to retreat into at night.

On first introduction into a system they can be quite shy but given time will cruise around your aquarium hugging the rockwork and corals with their tummies. Eventually they will find a preferred cave and can get a bit territorial if any other small fish try and muscle their way in,but I have very rarely seen any problems other than a bit of "mouth gaping" to scare away any would be squatters!

As with all marine fish they require a varied diet of frozen foods such as Brine shrimp and Mysis shrimp, but I have also found giving them sinking pellets will keep their stomachs nice and round. They are not fussy feeders so a general varied diet is not hard to achieve. I usually recommend just single individuals to a system, however you can keep a small group as long as you can reliably get a single male to several females and introduce them at the same time. Females are generally smaller than the males and having multiple males can cause problems. They are one of the easiest fish to spawn in a reef system provided there are plenty of hiding places and some relatively peaceful tank mates.

When we have a shop full of customers, you can sometimes always hear people saying "that fish isn't real" or "did you see that flash of purple go into that hole" and before long there is a small crowd around the aquarium with people trying to catch a sight of the fish in question - The Royal Gramma - show stopper and crowd pleaser!

 

Royal Gramma
The beautifully coloured Royal Gramma

 


The stunning Flame Angelfish

Blog post written by Andy | 16 October 2015 | Category: Marine fish
(1472 views)

If there is one fish for the marine aquarium that I think is a "must have" it's this little cracker.

The Flame Angel (Centropyge Loricula) is a dwarf Angelfish found in various locations in the Pacific. It is in my opinion one of the most stunning fish to keep. Every individual is unique with a slightly different pattern depending on the area in which they are found. They have vertical dark bars on top of a bright red or orange body.

One of the most appealing aspects to this fish is its adult size of only 4" which is tiny compared to the majority of Angelfish. They are very shy when first introduced into an aquarium but after a few days they grow in confidence and will start picking at the live rock searching for food. They enjoy a mixed diet of foods including brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, Spirulina-based foods and marine algaes. They have been known to nip at some stony corals and clams but usually with a well-rounded diet this can be avoided.

They need to go into a fairly mature system with lots of live rock and hiding places, I usually recommend them to be one of the last fish to go into a system but they are well worth the wait. You still need to be careful when selecting tank mates, as a fish of too similar colour can cause friction but this is more on the rare side.

It's a fish that ticks almost all of the boxes and in my opinion one hard to beat in terms of colour and personality. It's why I have put one in our show aquarium and I love him!

 

Flame Anglefish
The stunning Flame Angelfish. Come in and see one in our show tank.

Another marine show tank is on its way

Blog post written by Andy | 28 May 2014 | Category: Marine fish
(2886 views)

As most of you know by now, my favourite part of this job is setting up new aquariums. We already have eight show tanks in the shop and 100 in total if you include the display aquariums we sell our fish from (and that's not including the pond units).

I think the shop looks great and customers are amazed at how we have managed to fit so many aquariums in. So let's get another one in there!

I set up a small marine nano tank, plus a big 200 litre marine, so I think it's time we set one up somewhere in between.

Over the next few weeks I will be setting up an Aquael Reefmaster with a volume of 105 litres. Now this is a complete set up for marines and comes with some brilliant pieces of kit. It comes with a heater, protein skimmer, 3 x 24 watt T5 light tubes, a separate set of LEDs all on a programmable timer, separate cooling system for both the aquarium and equipment both with built-in fans, and the filter system which houses mechanical, biological and chemical filter media is partitioned behind the aquarium so you don't see any equipment . It also houses a set of pre filters to protect all of the equipment from any air bubbles which may work their way into the system via a protein skimmer (some thing a lot of manufacturers don't think about).

It's a huge amount of kit for such a small tank and one I cannot wait to get stuck into - so watch this space.

I'm going to use something slightly different in the set up this time. It's a new product that replicates live rock. It is called "Life Rock" and it's produced by a company called CaribSea. It has all the benefits of traditional live rock but with none of the negatives. The rock comes seeded with a spore bacteria ready to act as your base filtration. The shapes and colours have been produced to replicate that of live rock and allow corals to attach and grow easily. The main benefits are there is no long curing time and no chance of unwanted algae or hitch-hiking pests such as bristle worms, crabs and mantis shrimp finding their way into your system. It is also considerably cheaper than regular live rock which is a massive help considering how much some aquariums need.

I am really looking forward to setting up this new tank so I would love to hear any suggestions anyone has with what to put in it. It should look great - not bad for tank 101!

 

All we can show you at the moment is an empty box and the aquarium on its cabinet ready to be worked on. If you've got any suggestion about what we should do with it, get in touch!

The Picasso Trigger fish

Blog post written by Andy | 13 March 2014 | Category: Marine fish
(3343 views)

Some of the most amazing looking fish for a marine system are unfortunately not always safe and compatible with corals and other invertebrates, I suppose if they all were it would be too easy! Invertebrates are usually the hardest things to maintain in a marine system so more and more people are starting marine aquariums without them to get into the swing of things.

We have a lot of customers that keep "fish only systems" or "predator Tanks" containing some truly amazing fish: Lionfish, Puffer fish, Eels, Trigger fish, Tusk fish, Sharks... the list is endless. One of my personal favourites is the Picasso Trigger fish. It's an amazing looking fish that's constantly active and has a real personality.

The Picasso Trigger (Rhinecanthus aculeatus) is found on reefs in the Indo-Pacific and usually frequents the shallow  sandy areas around the coral reef. They are constantly cruising around looking for food and eat just about anything, so shrimps and crabs are a massive no. They are fantastic looking fish with a creamy body and what seems like multi coloured war paint on their faces.

They will generally get to a decent size of between 6"-10" so they need to be housed in a suitably large aquarium with decent sized, robust tank mates. The aquarium needs plenty of rock work to allow the fish places to hide and also pieces to graze on to try and keep their beaks trim, so again corals and invertebrates are not recommended.

They have real personalities and we have many customers say they feed the fish by hand, dangling pieces of fish and prawns in the water. I wouldn't recommend this as they do have fairly powerful beaks and an accidental "nip" would be an unwelcome surprise.

Out of all the fish we keep in the shop, the Picasso trigger tends to get a lot of attention as they constantly cruise the front of the display tanks looking for their next meal. We have a great specimen in the shop at the moment so why not pop in and see him.

 

Picasso Trigger
The Picasso Trigger fish

Our new marine nano show tank

Blog post written by Andy | 13 November 2013 | Category: Marine fish
(3765 views)

I have set up an impressive small 30 litre Nano tank.

The Aquael nano reef is a "plug and play" marine system. It comes with a hang-on external filter with a pump that turns over 1200 litres an hour, a 50 watt nano heater with built-in thermostat, and twin 11-watt marine bulbs (one white and one blue) that have their own switches. This allows you to simulate a night time setting by just running the blue bulb.

I have never set up a small marine system as they can be overly complicated and notoriously difficult to maintain, but I must say that so far I am really impressed.

The equipment goes together very simply and I had the tank up and running in around 20 minutes. I am really impressed with the power of the filter pump, not only for keeping the water clean but also the amount of water circulation it provides. This is important when keeping corals.

I have added a lot of "Live Rock", not only to decorate the aquariumm and provide places for the fish to hide and corals to grow, but also to act as a 'living filter' and I think this is essential for a stable marine system.

I have used salted RO water in the aquarium (which we now sell) and fitted a small external thermometer to make sure I can keep an eye on the temperature.

The tank has been running for several weeks now as it begins to mature. The water quality is incredibly stable and the aquarium is getting a 25% water change every week.

This tank is perfect for small fish, shrimps, crabs and soft corals. I have already put in a pair of small yellow gobies and an algae blenny which are all doing really well. I have begun to put in some very small pieces of coral such as Xenia, Pulse coral, Organ pipe, mushrooms and Daisy coral. They are all doing really well and spreading faster than I expected; this light unit exceeded all our expectations!

I will continue to put corals in over the next few weeks as I think a system like this is better suited to lots of small soft corals and shrimp than fish, although I may pop a couple more in.

This really is a simple set up targeted at the beginner when it comes to marine keeping. The only way I can see people going wrong is by putting too many fish in because let's face it, there are so many amazing fish to choose from. But there is always a bigger aquarium!

If you have any questions you can always send us an email or better still, come in and have a look for yourself. In about 6 months time this little tank will be a knock out!
 
See you soon.

 

Nano reef aquarium
Our small but perfectly-formed marine nano aquarium

The Marines are coming...honestly!!

Blog post written by Andy | 06 June 2013 | Category: Marine fish
(1897 views)

It has taken a little longer than expected but the marine systems are on their way. I know there have been a few of you coming in every week to check on our progress so thank you for your patience and support.

After a few weeks of planning and many discussions, I can happily say that Gary and I have finally drawn out our designs and sent them off to our tank manufacturers for construction so there really is no going back now.

It's been really encouraging to see how many people are genuinely excited at not only seeing all the different types of fish and corals but at the thought of keeping them as well. We have actually had a couple of customers order aquariums weeks ago, waiting for us to set them up as marine systems when our aquariums are in place - so no pressure on us then!

Keeping marine aquariums happy and healthy is a little more involved than other aquariums. They require more time and dedication if you are going to be successful but they are worth it... and then some.

Once you have seen a decent marine aquarium there really is no competition, it's the ultimate in fishkeeping.

The basic principles are the same: water changes, water testing, filter cleaning and correct equipment, but they are more in depth and the routines need to be carried out more frequently.

I could write a hundred pages on keeping marines, the various equipment and other people's opinions on how to keep them and I would still have only scratched the surface. I will write regular pieces to try and help guide you through this amazing hobby.

Jon wrote a good blog post a while ago as a basic introduction to marine keeping so feel free to have a look to get you started. 

The best thing to do is to come in and have a chat with one of us. I have been itching to get some display aquariums going since we left our old shop and as customers would travel from miles to see them, I hope you will enjoy them too.

 

Marine fish
Marine fish
You can see more of our great marine pictures on our Facebook page.