Vocab & Jargon R-Z
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Rose Bubble Tip Anemone
There are three primary ways saltwater aquariums filter water: By using a “hang on the back“, by use of a sump, or by use of a rear filtration chamber. A rear filtration chamber is merely a rectangular section of your display tank that is partitioned off into an overflow where you can place various types of filters.
Usually a term used with medications, the term “reef safe” means that it will not have a negative effect on your invertebrates such as corals, shrimp, snails, and crabs.
Many medications on the market are not tolerated by inverts, so if you plan on treating a sick fish in your display tank, it is important to make sure the medication is reef safe.
A refugium is literally means ” refuge”. In the saltwater aquarium hobby, a refugium is either a hang-on-the-back or a separate compartment in a sump where macro algae is grown to reduce phosphates in the water column, but also to allow the safe breeding of various types of pods (copepods, amphipods, tiger pods), which act as live food for various fish.
Any type of AC or DC pump that is used to return water from your filtration chamber to your display tank.
A rimless style tank is any aquarium that does not have anything holding it together except the silicone seams. For example, a lot of inexpensive tanks that you find at a big box pet store carry simple glass aquariums with a black plastic rim around the edge.
Or, larger systems sometimes have a “Euro Brace”, which is an interior glass frame that is siliconed to the tank to help provide extra support against the force of the water pushing out against the glass.
Reverse Osmosis Water. Commonly found in home water purifying systems, RO water is filtered by use of a RO membrane. Pressurized water is forced through the semi-permeable membrane, allowing water through and flushing away contaminants. In the saltwater aquarium hobby, RO water by itself is usually not pure enough, which is we RO water is then passed through DI resin to achieve ultimate purity. But beware, while RO water is safe to drink, RO/DI water may actually be too pure and could suck nutrients out of your body.
Reverse Osmosis / De-Ionization Filter. RO/DI filters use various stages and types of filtration to achieve 0 TDS water. Water first passes through a sediment filter, then a carbon filter, then the RO membrane, and finally through de-ionization resin. Considered the gold standard for creating clean water for your saltwater aquarium, the various types of media do have to be replaced depending on the amount of water you make and the makeup of your local water supply.
RO/DI water is water that has passed through both a RO (reverse osmosis) membrane and DI (deionization) resin. The result is ultra-clean water with 0 tds (total dissolved solids).
Warning: Some studies have shown that drinking RO/DI water may actually be bad for you. The water is so clean that it can dehydrate you and suck necessary nutrients from your body. I’m no scientist, so do you research.
RO/DI water is the preferred water for use in replacing evaporated water and mixing fresh saltwater for your marine aquarium.
The measure of the amount of salt dissolved in water. The salinity of natural seawater is 3.5%, or 35 parts per thousand.
Schedule 40/80 PVC Pipe
Schedule 40 refers to the thickness of PVC pipe. The higher the schedule the thicker the pipe. Schedule 40 is the most common schedule, and is easily found at any local hardware store. Schedule 40 is almost always white, and works well for home aquariums.
Schedule 80 is a dark grey color, more difficult to find, and more expensive. Hobbyists will often use schedule 80 PVC, merely because the dark grey color is more pleasing to took at that the white schedule 40.
Any sort of mesh screen lid that attaches or sits on top of your display tank to protect your livestock from crawling or jumping out. Many species of fish jump, so having a screen top or glass lid is important.
Some sort of overflow is the preferred filtration method, because the surface of any aquarium can become clogged with various oils and fats, as well as household dust and floating fish food.
An overflow uses gravity to push the top surface of water over the edge and into the filtration chamber. That way all of the oils and debris that are floating on the surface can cascade over and be filtered out.
But, as we all know, when water overflows (think waterfall), it can be noisy for two reasons. First is the distance between the display tank water height and the height of the water in the overflow box. There can be a constant loud crashing sound just like a waterfall.
A silent overflow solves both of these problems by a) minimizing the distance between the height of the water in the display tank and the filtration chamber and b) using either the Herbie method, Durso Standpipe method, or Bean Animal method to silence the sucking sound made by the siphon.
Phew, that was a long one. Click on the pictures below to learn more about each style!
Skimmate is the end product of a protein skimmer. It is usually dark brown in color, and smells terrible! Skimmate can vary in color depending on whether you run your protein skimmer more on the wet side or dry side.
A “wet” skimmate would be a lighter brown color because the protein skimmer is tuned to allow more bubbles to overflow into the collection cup.
A “dry” skimmate would be more highly concentrated protein because your protein skimmer was tuned to allow fewer bubbles to overflow into the collection cup.
In essence, skimmate is protein (fish poop, decaying matter, food) that is filtered out of your water column.
As opposed to hard coral, soft coral is any coral that does not secrete a calcium carbonate skeleton.
Hobbyist lingo for soft corals. Soft corals do not secrete a calcium carbonate shell.
In the saltwater aquarium hobby, we use specific gravity interchangeably with salinity, since both are telling us how much salt is in our water. Whereas salinity is the measurement of salt in water, specific gravity “is the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a reference substance” (Wikipedia).
A brand name for a type of low-iron glass, often considered to be the benchmark glass for clarity. Starphire glass is noticeably clearer than regular glass. Starphire uses low-iron silica which drastically reduces the blue/green tint in most glass.
Any type of AC or DC pump that can be submersed in water. Most often these are return pumps, utility pumps, and wavemakers.
Usually sand, rock, or crushed coral that sits at the bottom of your aquarium. Substrates are important for various kinds of livestock that need it for survival.
In saltwater aquariums, a sump is an acrylic or glass container with partitions and baffles, usually located directly below the display tank, suited for hiding equipment and filtering water.
A small device used to measure the concentration of total dissolved solids in water. Used when making RO/DI water.
Slightly larger than your standard copepod, these pods are popular live foods for your fish and corals.
Trace elements are the components of saltwater that make up less than .01%. They make up a very small percentage of your saltwater, but may be important for coral health and growth. Most hobbyists rely on water changes to replenish trace elements, but you can also dose trace elements.
Uncommon in the saltwater hobby, a trickle filter uses gravity to allow water to “trickle” through various stages of filtration before being returned to the display tank. Often called a Wet/Dry Trickle Filter
Two Part Dosing
You dose the calcium and alkalinity in equal parts since they are usually consumed at the same rate by corals and invertebrates. Magnesium is usually added in much smaller quantities. In a fish only system, or a lightly stocked reef tank, weekly water changes will usually be enough to replace the calcium and alkalinity. But if you have a system with lots of corals, two part dosing becomes necessary for coral growth.
The exact definition in the aquarium hobby is sort of a moving target, but basically it is this:
Basically, a utility pump is used for maintenance tasks and is usually not turned on all the time.
A type of filter that utilizes ultraviolet lights to kill free floating microorganisms that can cause fish disease and unwanted algae growth. Water is pumped into a PVC pipe which contains the uv light, and then passes through and returns to the tank. Only free floating microorganisms are effected as they need to be pulled into the filter in order to pass by the uv light.
Simply put, the water column consists of all the water between your substrate and the surface.
Scuba divers use the term “water column” to refer to the water in which they dive, and scientists break up the water column of the ocean by depth.
Usually a DC powerhead that creates varied flow inside of your tank to mimic the water movement in the ocean. Can be a simple AC pump that turns on and off by use of a controller, or a fancy DC pump with virtual unlimited programability.
A dam that sits in the back of your tank that separates the filtration/plumbing from your display.
Not common in the saltwater hobby, a wet/dry filter usually uses bioballs that sit above the water line. Water is passed over and through the bioballs before entering the sump and returning to the display tank. The thought is that by keeping the bio media above the water line, the amount of oxygen is increased thus aiding the density and amount of healthy bacteria to filter your water.
White Spot Disease
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.