Vocab & Jargon L-Q
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Light Emitting Diode, these lights are popular in the saltwater aquarium hobby for several reasons. They consume a relatively low amount of energy, produce little heat, run quietly, and are often programmable.
Local Fish Store
Live rock, either human-made, mined, or pulled from the ocean, that is is shipped to you either “wet” or “dry”. It is called live rock, not because it necessarily comes with live bacteria, but because it will be colonized during the cycling process.
Live sand comes in various types and grain sizes, and is usually shipped “wet” and full of healthy bacteria to help cycle your tank.
The brand name of a modular hose system often used provide directional flexibility in the return plumbing.
High clarity glass made from silica with a low iron content. Offers a more “clear” viewing experience as it removes the grean/blue tint found in regular glass. Sold under the brand name Starphire Glass.
Large Polyp Stony Corals
Macro Algae such as chaetomorpha and caulerpa are used in saltwater aquariums to help remove phosphate from the water column, as well as to provide a safe place for amphipods and copepods to breed. Macro algae is usually grown in a refugium section of a sump with its own separate light, and trimmed back from time to time as it grows.
Magnetic Algae Scraper
Any type of algae scraper that uses a magnet to connect the dry and wet side.
Also called Marine Ich, Ick, or White Spot Disease, it is a common saltwater fish disease. Ich can cause high mortality rates in your fish if not caught early. The most common treatment for Ich is copper.
Also known as velvet or gold-dust disease, Marine Velvet is highly contagious and often fatal. Caused by photosynthetic dinoflagellates, treatment usually involves dosing Cupramine in a hospital tank and leaving the lights off for the course of treatment. Oftentimes with Marine Velvet, once you notice it is often too late to save your fish.
Any form of filtration that physically removes particles from the water. The most common types of mechanical filtration in the saltwater aquarium hobby are filter socks and sponges.
Mechanical media would be things like sponges, poly-filters, and filter socks.
Chemical media consists of items such as GFO (Granular Ferric Oxide), activated carbon, and purigen.
The easiest way to think about media is to add the word “filtration” in front of it. Filtration media is really anything that helps filter the water in your tank. Media is often added to a sump, placed in mesh bags, or added to a reactor.
A mesh bag that can be filled with various types of filtration media and placed into your tank to help filter the water. Less effective than using a reactor.
Metal Halide Light
The old lighting standard in the hobby, metal hallide lights are high output bulbs that produce a lot of PAR. Popular in the hobby because of their proven track record for coral growth, there are downsides. Metal Halide bulbs require bulky fixtures to reflect the light, they consume comparably high amounts of electricity, and they run quite hot.
Mixed Reef Tank
A small saltwater aquarium. While there is no technical definition, some hobbyists consider anything under 20-40 gallons a nano tank. Although some of these tanks can be less than a gallon!
Nitrite is the byproduct of ammonia oxidation (huh?). In the saltwater aquarium, we test for nitrite while our tanks are cycling. During the cycle, ammonia will spike first, followed by nitrite, and then finally nitrate.
Also called “the 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.
Any type of algae that tends to take over a tank, covering rock-work and corals, and being difficult to remove.
For example, diatoms could be considered nuisance algae because they are unsightly, but then again they are somewhat easy to remove and usually show up as a part of your tank cycling.
Two clear examples of nuisance algae in the marine aquarium would be hair algae and bubble algae. Both these types grow quickly, are not readily eaten by average cleanup crews, and can easily take over an entire aquascape.
There is no hard and fast list of what makes up nuisance algae, but if it’s an algae that’s a pain in your side, you can rightly call it a nuisance!
Nuisance algae can be removed manually, by using certain livestock, by using certain chemical treatments, by reducing phosphates, by installing a refugium, etc. You get the idea!
The best cure for nuisance algae is prevention. Properly quarantining your livestock can help you spot problem algae before reaching your display tank.
Oxidation-Reduction Potential. Hobbyists used to think that ORP measured the cleanliness of water, but the understanding now is closer to this: ORP measures the oxidizing power of the water, meaning the capacity of the water to clean itself. That’s the best I can do, because I really don’t understand ORP!
Either internal or external, are basically a dam inside your tank. They maintain a constant water height in your aquarium, and are usually controlled by gravity. Water “overflows” into the overflow box, and is then transported to your sump for filtration. Overflows are great for removing oils and debris from the water’s surface.
Photosynthetically Active Radiation. PAR is the light range that corals and anemones can use for photosynthesis. Certain corals have certain PAR requirements, and understanding the PAR outputs of your lights is crucial for their health. For example, soft corals require low PAR levels (100ish) and small polyp stony (SPS) corals require high PAR levels of 250-350.
When hobbyists refer to “water parameters”, we are referring to various measurements such as pH, temperature, salinity, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphate, calcium, alkalinity, etc. Often when trying to get to the root of a problem, the first question a fellow hobbyist will ask is “what are your parameters?”
Any sort of granular fish food. Can be floating or sinking, pellet food is usually concentrated food that comes in various recipes for various types of livestock.
A peristaltic pump is any pump that uses peristaltic movement to transfer liquid. Peristalsis is the “radially symmetrical contraction and relaxation of muscles that propagates in a wave down a tube” (Wikipedia).
Basically, think of your esophagus, intestines, or colon. Peristaltic movement is what moves food through your body. In a pump, this is accomplished by a couple rollers that push liquid through the tubing.
Peristaltic pumps are most commonly found as doing pumps, as they are capable of dispensing highly accurate amounts of liquid in small doses.
Stands for “potential of hydrogen”, pH is the measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution, with 7 being neutral. Most hobbyists shoot for a range of 8.0-8.4 in their aquariums, but slight variations either higher or lower can be acceptable. It is more important to avoid large swings in pH, rather than a certain number.
“A Phosphate is a chemical derivative of phosphoric acid” (Wikipedia). In the saltwater aquarium hobby, phosphate is important because it is food for algae. Oftentimes if your tank has a nuisance algae problem, it is because there are elevated levels of phosphate in your tank.
The photo period of your tank is the amount of time each day that your lights produce PAR (photosynthetically active radiation). So while your lights may be on for eight hours in a day, your photo period may only be four hours.
A powerhead a small pump that is usually used to create water movement in either your tank, or as a utility pump to mix saltwater. A powerhead can be something simple like a fixed rate ac pump, or it can be a controllable dc wavemaker.
Brand name of praziquantel, it is an anti-worm medication used to treat flukes, tapeworms, flatworms, and turbellarians. Commonly used in the saltwater aquarium hobby.
Quarantine Tank. A quarantine tank is a separate tank from your main display tank used for quarantining fish and other livestock. A quarantine tank can be any size, but is generally a simple set up with a heater, HOB filter, simple light, and pieces of to allow hiding places for your fish. A quarantine tank is best practice anytime you purchase livestock, as you can add medications into the water and closely monitor your livestock for signs of disease.
A quarantine tank is a separate tank from your main display tank used for quarantining fish and other livestock. A quarantine tank can be any size, but is generally a simple set up with a heater, HOB filter, simple light, and pieces of to allow hiding places for your fish. A quarantine tank is best practice anytime you purchase livestock, as you can add medications into the water and closely monitor your livestock for signs of disease.