Vocab & Jargon A-C
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40 Gallon Breeder Tank
A 40-gallon tank with the dimensions 36″ x 18″ x 16″. There are many tank options out there that are 40-gallons, but only the 40-gallon breeder has these exact dimensions. It is longer and shorter than a traditional aquarium, so it provides more horizontal space for breeding fish. I use a 40-gallon breeder for my quarantine tank.
If at all possible, don’t buy this online! Wait for Petco or Petsmart to have one of their aquarium sales, and you can buy this for around $50-$60, not $250!!
Actinic bulbs typically emit blue light which is considered beneficial for coral growth. These bulbs fit into flourescent fixtures
Stands for “All In One”, but is a bit of a misnomer. Most AIO systems come with a tank and filtration media, but that is about it. Most AIO tanks require additional equipment such as lights, pumps, and heaters. Below is the an example of an AIO tank from Waterbox Aquariums.
Used during power outages, when treating your tank with certain medications, or when additional oxygenation is necessary, an air pump is usually attached to an air stone to provide temporary or increased aeration to your system.
Usually attached to an air pump, an air stone is a porous piece of ceramic that creates a large amount of bubbles in your aquarium to increase aeration and oxygenation.
Airline tubing is any sort of flexible tubing, which in the saltwater aquarium hobby is usually clear plastic that comes in 3/16th of an inch. Especially useful with air pumps and drip acclimation. Called airline tubing because it is usually used for air, and not for water. In the aquarium we often use airline tubing to help drip acclimate our livestock.
A handheld device used for scraping algae off of your glass or acrylic tank. Usually comes with various attachments: stainless steel for glass, plastic for acrylic tanks, or just a sponge like material for easy to remove algae.
A form of chemical filtration, an algae scraper is any sort of device that uses light & water to grow algae. Typically a scrubber is some sort of self contained box that sits above the water line. Water from your tank is pumped through it and over some sort of mesh screen. Light is added to grow algae.
The thinking behind an algae scrubber is that by growing algae, you can help not only remove phosphates from your water, but you can also outcompete nuisance algae that may grow in your display tank.
Simply put, alkalinity is the “ability of water to resist changes in pH” (Wikipedia). Maintaining an alkalinity between 7-12 dKH is important to your aquarium for several reasons: It prevents pH swings and is crucial for your corals to form calcium carbonate skeletons. Alkalinity is added to your aquarium by means of water changes or through 2-part dosing.
Ammonia in your aquarium is the result of decomposing organic matter such as fish food or waste. Even small levels of ammonia can be toxic to your fish. Ammonia is a natural part of the nitrogen cycle, and once an adequate biological filter has been established, a saltwater aquarium can usually convert ammonia into nitrite and nitrate.
Shrimp like in form, amphipods are small crustaceans often used as a live-food source for various saltwater fish, expecially Mandarin Dragonettes. Usually signifianctly larger than copepods
This bacteria can be found in the saltwater aquarium either deep inside live rock or near the bottom of a deep sandbed. It is a special kind of bacteria that does not use oxygen. Rather, it takes the oxygen molecule directly from nitrate, turning it into nitrogen gas. So anaerobic bacteria is super helpful in reducing nitrate in your tank, as nitrogen gas can just bubble out of your system.
Also known as a Sea Anemone, anemones are marine predatory animals with stinging tentacles to help capture food. A primary difference between coral and anemones, is anemones are mobile and can move around, whereas corals are sessile, meaning fixed to one place. Hobbyists often refer to anemones as nems, condys, bta’s, or rbtas.
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Bare Bottom Tank
There are many, many types of beneficial bacteria, and hobbyists can be referring to a lot of different things. But usually, in the saltwater hobby, beneficial bacteria refers to nitrifying bacteria that helps convert toxic ammonia into a less toxic nitrate.
Beneficial bacteria will occur naturally by themselves, as long as there is ammonia present. How do you make ammonia present you might ask? Well, you can either add ammonia to your tank, or do what most of us do, add some sort of biological matter to your tank and let it decompose. This could be fish food or even a piece of frozen shrimp.
To learn more about how to cycle your tank, click HERE
Usually made of plastic or ceramic media, bio balls provide a large surface area for beneficial bacteria to colonize thus providing biological filtration. More common in the freshwater hobby as they are placed in canister filters.
The bioload, or biological load, is the toal amount of livestock waste in your tank. If your bioload is too high, that usually means that you have an insufficient amount of biological filtration. Your maximum bioload is equivalent to the maximum amount of livestock you can have that your live rock, live sand, and other biological filtration media can safely handle, meaning turning all of the ammonia into nitrite and nitrate. If you start detecting ammonia in your tank, your bioload is likely too high.
These are small pellets made of a biodegradable polymer that beneficial bacteria love. The biopellets are slowly consumed by the beneficial bacteria. Biopellets are helpful in removing nitrate from the water column.
An important element in saltwater aquariums because it is one of the building blocks for corals. Stony corals use calcium to form their calcium carbonate skeletons. Also important for the shells of invertebrates.
Do you want the scientific definition or the easy definition? Let’s do both. First the scientific:
“Calcium carbonate is a chemical compound with the formula CaCO3. It is a common substance found in rocks as the minerals calcite and aragonite (most notably as limestone, which is a type of sedimentary rock consisting mainly of calcite) and is the main component of pearls and the shells of marine organisms, snails, and eggs.” Wikipedia
Basically, calcium carbonate is Tums, those little things you chew when you have indigestion. It is an essential building block for the hard part of stony corals, as well as the shells of snails and the exoskeletons of crabs. In an aquarium, we have to replace calcium carbonate that is being used by our inverts by either performing water changes, or dosing it back into the tank manually.
Calcium reactors are used in the saltwater hobby as a means of efficiently adding calcium and alkalinity to the water column. A calcium reactor is comprised of the reaction chamber, a pump, media (aragonite), and CO2. The CO2 is fed into the reaction chamber, thus lowering the pH and making the water slightly acidic. The acidic water breaks down the aragonite, thus releasing calcium into the water column.
Most common in the saltwater hobby, a canister filter is a separate container that contains a pump and various types of filtration media. Water is pumped through the canister, thus interacting with the various filtration stages before being returned to the display tank.
A method of increasing the food supply (carbon) for beneficial bacteria in your tank. Vinegar, vodka, or specialized products are often added to the water column to provide “food” for beneficial bacteria.
You can most commonly find ceramic bio-media either in round balls, bricks, or plates.
Ceramic media is especially useful in saltwater aquariums with a high bioload, usually do to a high amount of fish.
Sometimes, especially for those of us who like to overstock our tanks, our live rock and substrate do not provide enough surface area for beneficial bacteria to keep up with the demands of converting ammonia to nitrate.
Caulerpa is a kind of seaweed often used in saltwater refugiums. As the caulerpa grows, it consumes phosphates, thus removing them from the water column. Then, when you remove the caulerpa, you are removing phosphates from the water column. Caulerpa is a popular type of macro algae used in refugiums to help control unwanted algae growth in the display tank.
Chaetomorpha, or chaeto for short, is a type of macro algae often used in saltwater refugiums. As the chaeto grows, it consumes phosphates, thus removing them from the water column. Then, when you remove the chaeto, you are removing phosphates from the water column. Chaeto is a popular type of macro algae used in refugiums to help control unwanted algae growth in the display tank. All macro algae can also provide a safe place for the breeding of amphipods and copepods.
Chemical filtration in the aquarium hobby comes in many forms, but is basically the use of chemicals to remove certain unwanted things from the water. The most common type of chemical filtration is the use of activated carbon and GFO (Granular Ferric Oxide). Activated carbon helps remove heavy metals and odors from the water, while GFO removes phosphates.
A chiller is an air conditioner for your aquarium. You plumb the chiller so that warm water from your tank enters, passes over the cooling element, and returns to your tank.
Chloramines are disinfectants commonly used to treat public drinking water. Chloramine is created by adding a small amount of ammonia to chlorine. Chloramine is often used because it is longer lasting and does not react with other contaminants in the water. Chloramines need to be removed from tap water because they are not safe for fish.
Chlorine is a chemical element most commonly used as a disinfectant for public drinking water. It is not healthy for livestock.
Clean Up Crew
A collection of livestock, often snails and crabs, that help keep your tank clean by consuming unwanted algae, leftover food, and even fish waste.
When speaking of a closed loop system in saltwater aquariums, we are basically referring method of water circulation where a pump (either submersed or external) is plumbed at both the intake and output. Water is then sucked out of either the display or sump, and then returned to the display or sump. For example, in an open loop system that uses a sump and submersible pump, when the pump is turned off, the siphon will stop and the water level will change in the sump and overflow. But in a closed loop system, when the pump is turned off nothing will happen, because there is no air involved.
A colorimeter is a type of testing device that uses a sensor to interpret a certain wavelength of light. Basically, it reads the color for you, giving you a more accurate reading that doing it yourself. With basic test kits, you hold up the vial to a color chart and do your best to match the two, thus giving you a reading. With colorimeters, the device does the reading for you, giving you a more accurate result.
A community tank is a saltwater aquarium full of non-aggressive fish that live together in a community. The opposite would be a predator tank designed around one specific livestock that attacks and consumes the other members.
Short for Condylactis Gigantea Anemone.
A piece of equipment used to help control certain parameters such as temperature, pH, ORP, etc. They range from a simple and inexpensive temperature controller which turns your heater on and off, up to an expensive controller with multiple controllable outlets and complicated programming software with various probes.
Small crustaceans that are often added to saltwater tanks to provide a food source for fish. Typically much smaller than amphipods.
A red encrusting algae often seen as desirable in saltwater aquariums.
Clean Up Crew. A collection of livestock, often snails and crabs, that help keep your tank clean by consuming unwanted algae, leftover food, and even fish waste.
Also called Cyano, a photosynthetic bacteria, also known as blue/green algae or red slime algae, is often considered undeseriable in an aquarium. While not dangerous to your livestock, it can completely cover your entire tank in no time and is unsightly. There are various madications you can use to get rid of it.
Short for the Nitrogen Cycle. In an aquarium, the nitrogen cycle refers to various stages involved with turning ammonia into nitrate. Hobbyists will often say “My tank is cycled”, which means that beneficial bacteria have colonized and decomposing waste is now successfully being transformed from toxic ammonia to nitrates. In a saltwater aquarium, this process usually takes several weeks.