I want to set up a saltwater tank!

These are Red Spot Glass Cardinal fish (not freshwater fish!)

You're ready to take the plunge into saltwater at last.  No doubt you've already heard a number of opinions by now, but have decided to forge ahead and do this. Good, this is a wonderful hobby and the experience of watching your hard work turn into something stunning is what this is all about. Let me be honest though, there are times when your frustration level may peak, which is the exact opposite of the 'relaxing hobby' you were hoping for.  That's just part of the experience, and remember that period is temporary.

Get a Clean Up Crew (CUC) for your reef

Astrea snails stacked tall

When you set up a saltwater system, within mere months you will encounter nuisance algae.  What is that?  It's stuff that grows and annoys you to no end.  While a few people may like seeing green hair algae swaying back and forth displaying movement, the majority of hobbyists abhor it. The main reason we don't want algae in our aquariums is because it grows so quickly and will choke out our precious corals. Assuming you don't want an algae tank, this article will feature why a clean up crew is critical to success.  If your tank has been running for a few months, it needs a clean up crew by now.

How to cycle an aquarium

Decades ago, hobbyists would cycle their new tank with a sacrificial fish, like a blue damsel. While this method may still be used by some, it's not a good plan for two reasons: 1) as the ammonia rises in the water, the fish's gills are burned by the rising ammonia levels which is unkind, and 2) most people don't want the damsel in their aquarium later because it's deemed too aggressive to other livestock.  

Radion schedule described in detail

Radion Gen2 Xr30 hangs over a 60g rimless cube.

Explaining the Radion schedule isn't that simple, unless there's some trick I'm not aware of. I've had quite a few people ask me for the schedule I use over the 60g Anemone Cube. For the past 25 months (as of December 2015), I've had a Radion Xr30 Gen2 over that tank. If you want to download that file, here it is: 

MelevsSavedRadionSchedule2015-12-08.etg  (right click, save as to your harddrive)

My light is set 8" from the surface of the water, hanging from ceiling with the adjustable hanging kit.

You can start with a brand new schedule. In EcoSmart Live, find your Radion fixture.  Then on the right side of the screen, click on Schedule Options, and then "Load from template".  I like Radiant Color - my favorite. Set the starting time, ending time and intensity, and click Set.

Using extension tubes for close-ups

For a long time now, I've followed discussion of extension tubes for macro photography. And a few years ago, I looked up what they cost and quickly dismissed them. However, in the back of my mind, I kept thinking "what if those are really what I need to get these stellar macro shots?

How to silicone baffles in a glass aquarium

A video is coming in Spring 2015, but for the time being here are the guidelines:

I sell acrylic baffles cut to fit your aquarium via my shop:  Once arrived, this is how to install them.

If you mimic the layout of the Model F on my site, you will be creating three zones.  The layout is Skimmer zone on the left, Refugium zone on the right, Return zone in the middle. 

Shipping a sump

People ask if I'll build and ship a sump to their location, and I always forewarn them that is is very expensive. Here's why.

You've got this large acrylic vessel that has to get from Point A (Ft. Worth, Texas) to Point B (somewhere else in the U.S.)...

Don't chase the pH

A question that has been popping up a lot recently has been in regards to pH levels.  Articles, books and even additives list recommended pH levels so it is only natural to be concerned if our tank isn't sitting at that particular number.  pH rises in oxygen rich environments, and where O2 is lacking or excessive CO2 builds up, pH will drop.  In addition, pH rises daily during the lighting period, and drops during the night.  Here's a graph from the past week's data stored in my Apex controller. Note how it rises and falls consistently day after day.

An inexpensive Refugium Bulb

For over a year, I'd been using a small spiral compact fluorescent bulb that only cost $7, with an output that was 75w of 6500K lighting. Under this 'daylight' color, my macro algae grew steadily. While shopping at Home Depot, I came across a new sealed-floodlight bulb that caught my interest. This new bulb costs $10, and also uses 19w. The one thing the package didn't mention was what Kelvin (color temperature) the bulb was. Please read this entire article, as a better bulb became apparent during 2005.

Bringing home corals via plane

Bringing home livestock on a flight can be challenging, but it sure is nice to get your newest acquisitions into your quarantine system as soon as you get home rather than having someone ship them to you a day later and worry about the transit times. Plus it costs extra to ship overnight when you are already taking a plane home!

Normally, all coral frags are packed in a styrofoam cooler and checked as luggage.  I've done this several times successfully. I've also used collapsible coolers that fit inside my suitcase,