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Article Three : Components Overview

Article three :

Filtration :

From the out look filtration can be broken down into three catergaries , mechanical , biological and chemical . Mechanical filtration refers to the removal of large waste particles , chemical , to the use of certain compounds like activated carbons and phosphate removers to reduce the quantity of dissolved compounds in the water and biological would refer to bacterial activity that reduces harmful substances into less toxic forms.

But what comes to mind when we consider the responsibility of cleaning our tanks water ? What do we think actually constitutes ” pristine water conditions ” ?

With aquariums the nitrogen cycle is often cited , we know that all forms of fish waste , uneatern foods etc ultimately end up as Ammonium , Ammonia then Nitrite , Nitrate and finaly Nitrogen gas which would re-enter the atmosphere by ‘ bubbling ‘ out of the aquarium. However the reduction of nitrate to nitrogen gas is more complex to the former procecess and during the cycle phosphate would also start to build up in the system , so the accumulation of nitrates and phosphates are more of an issue to manage . Therefore to many , an aquarium with no visible particles in the water , free of ammonium , ammonia , nitrite , nitrate and phosphate would be considered to be clean , excellent water conditions . Well , if you consider that most things with reef tanks are complex and never straight forward , well then why should such a majour component of reef keeping be so simple ? The answer to that is , because it’s not that simple ! The way the biological chain of waist reduction is explained is always over simplified , indeed far more complex chains exist and the inter mechanics of the biological cycle is vast with many other compounds forming and accumulating in the water .

With reef ecology all things are connected and therefore within our aquariums we must see the fish , the coral , the rock , the foods we add etc as an extension of the water column . Add to this that different types of coral require different types of water you realize that basic testing of parameters is in no way the be all and end all of reef aquarium water management . With reef tanks the addition of food to escalates the difficultly of trying to establish a simple theoretical plan to direct the systems management . Corals ( sum more than others ) and fish need food , but foods poisons the water . So how do we get around this ? Well firstly avoid any fish or coral with complex diatetic requirements . Secondly ensure the system you install is capable of effectively removing , reducing and re cycling waist material .Many aquarist run high nitrate and phosphate levels , this still remains the greatest challenge to many new and established aquarist . I suspect in most cases it’s simply because they feed the aquarium way to much . If the nitrate value is is over 20 ppm and the phosphate value over 0.5ppm there is something fundementaly wrong with your aquarium and you ! Levels should never reach that high even with the most basic of life suport systems in place . The aquarium is simply being over fed . Eat less and run more …

The maintenance of healthy water then should be preceded by a healthy perceptive by a healthy aquarist. The laws of thermo dynamics are constant . Energy input must equal energy out put . We must try and under stand what brings energy into our aquariums and what removes or rather reduces it . What we ideally want is that all input energy goes into the vitality and growth of our aquariums inhabitants but a surplus always remains behind and it’s managing this surplus energy that converts a traditional marine and coral fish tank to a super reef aquarium .

Filtration components required :

•Reverse Osmosis Machine

•Protein Skimmer

•Carbon Reactor

•Phosphate Reactor

•Nitrate Reactor

•Kalk Reactor ( also as chemistry management )


•Ultra Violet Sterilizer

•Filter Sock Filters

Other systems also commonly used :

•Deep Sand Beds


•Algae Turf Scrubbers

•Zeolitic Reactors

•Bio Pellet / Cube Reactors

•Carbon Souce Dosing ( vodka , sugar etc )

I find one of the greatest challengers in helping fellow aquarist is their reluctance to accept technology based systems . People assume because they building a natural piece of the ocean ( well that’s what they hope to achieve ) it should be done using ‘ natural methods . Julian Sprung once commented regarding a similar topic by saying once its placed inside five panels of glass there is nothing natural about it ! In addition to that I feel we need to constantly remind ourselves of the super massive nature of a natural coral reef . I think if less time was spent trying to ” simplify ” things and more time was spent using systems that are known to work the general standard of aquarium will be much higher . Again if you want to keep a fish or two and the odd coral then yes a very simple system can do that , even without a protein skimmer . However if you hoping to engineer a captive portion of living reef , then that is exactly what is required , an engineering feet . As an aquarium ages , as more animals are added and grow , as more food is required to feed those specimens it is inevitable that all the good stuff gets used up and bad stuff start to accumulate . The bad stuff then start to react with more bad stuff to form things that are even more dangerous to the inhabitants of the aquarium . ( That sounds like a well written sentence by Goerge Bush ) . Water changes alone can not compensate for this . Waste materials collect in the substsrate , between and within the rock work and the chemical reactions that they fuel in turn need to be processed . I believe firmly that the systems we employ and advocate are holistic and capable of sustaining an aquarium until such time that the water Coloumn is completely engulfed in coral grow, to the point that the display needs to be dismantled as even with regular pruning the corals physically out grow the system .

A new aquarium will always seem to work , when you have cut corners and not taken important advise the tank will always lead you to believe that you were lucky and that you have ” gotten away with it ” … You will later awaken to the natural laws of physics that govern the universe ! Forget what you think , forget what your friends or even the local dealers have told you , hand yourself over in complete submission to nature . Nature will run its cause and it will destroy all your pittifull assumptions , tweaks , half hearted attempts and the foolish misconceptions you so dearly hold on to . Nature , held in suspension by its laws , has crafted the planet , me and you , the solar system including our sun that sets off billions of tons of energy every second and the billions of trillions of stars in the known universe !

Your captive eco system will cycle , it will move and attempt to move from one biological time space presence to another but being disconnected from the trillions of liters of water it is meant to be within and the trillions of forces maintaining that water in a state of balance you must take all the nessesary precautions and ensure that the system can ‘ synapse ‘ . Protein skimmers , mechanical filters , nitrate , phosphate and Kalk reactors , uv filters and ozone gas are the pathways to allow for this movement . With out them it’s like sending an F1 car and it’s driver at 310km / hour off the track and onto a gravel road . When all those components are brought together , it is not only what they do in a stand alone postion but what they do as a complemnted suit . This is an extremely important point to take in . As a basic example : complex long chained non skimmable organic compunds build up within the aqurium over time , ozone can reduce it into smaller short chained molecules this inturn converts to simple sugars which later fuel nitrate reactor reactions , the harder working nitrate reactor more effectively then filters the initial input nitrate fields . Through this example we see how a nitrate filter is doing way more than just reducing present nitrates but acting as a buffer against the build up of large water born populations of heterotrophic bacteria that would otherwise feed and grow off those simple sugars , also this a micro positive feed back loop that when amplified over the hundreds of tweeded reactions that are occurring form an almost carbon fibre mesh work of structural competence running through the system .

Rather face the challengers of caring for a life suport system than justify unnecessary live stock lossers . Rather sit and tweak equipment requiring maintenance and after care but be able to sit back and watch a spectacular aquarium develope . Take the greatest precautions you can afford to and be extremly paitent . Forget about the most unlikely posabilaties and focus on preventing dangerous probabilaties . Egnore your assumptions and let logic and science prevail . Work with what is known to work and dont try and reduce something majestic to incompetent simplicity . I intended to cover chemistry management and live stock over views in this article too but some how ended having more to say than what I thought ! Till the next addition then .Bottom of Form

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