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Balling Method for Calcium, pH Explained for Reef Aquariums

Revised 2/24/16

The Balling Method is a dosing regiment to sustain optimal parameters of calcium, sodium bicarbonate (alkalinity), and other trace elements in a marine reef aquarium for calcium building corals, coralline algaes, and other invertebrates. The main idea is to maintain consent parameters, but also make these elements biologically available for a balanced environment. The largest benefit of the method is control, which helps for a thriving aquarium.

This article specially overviews the popular Tropic Marin Bio-Calcium Original Balling Method, which is the original Balling method.

Salt, dosing, Marine

The method creates a major benefit of not having a calcium reactor. This is because the addition of the balling mix provides all the depletion of elements.

By not using a calcium reactor, this creates some benefits.
The pH of the whole tank can be maintained at a higher level, because no acidic calcium reactor effluent are added to the tank anymore.
The reactor effluent can also contain traces of phosphates, dissolving out of the reactor media. So, another benefit is that no phosphates are added to the tank anymore, other than what is added via foods/feeding.

Quality Source- 3 Stage Bio-Calcium Original Balling

The Balling Method sustains the parameters shown below:

  • Calcium: 380 – 420 mg/Liter
  • Magnesium: 1200 – 1350 mg/Liter
  • Alkalinity: 6,5 – 8 dkH
  • Salinity: 33 – 35 Promille

The Balling Method uses three canisters of different solutions:

  • Calcium Chloride Dehydrate
  • Sodium/Natrium Bicarbonate
  • NaCl-Free Sea Salt with ALL required minor and trace elements


When used correctly, all levels of major elements remain constant, with calcium levels at 420 mg/l, magnesium at about 1300 mg/l and carbonate alkalinity at 7 dKH.
80% of Germans use this method and aquarists who have been using the method have accounted for a doubling in size of small polyp stony (SPS) corals within about 100 days.

Leonardos Reef; Guide to the Balling Method
Balling Method Award Winning
Reef Aquarium Chemistry Maintenance (Highly Recommended Read)
Tropic Marin; Balling Method (Recommended Product Source).

The procedure was published by Hans-Werner Balling in 1994 in the technical journal on aquaristics DATZ (Die Aquarien und Terrarien Zeitung): Balling, H.-W. (1994)

The Balling Method explained by Hans-Werner Balling

“Why two part dosing (calcium and sodium Bi-carbonate), three part systems (calcium and sodium Bi-carbonate, with just magnesium), or “balling light” is not the same as the Hans-Werner Balling system made by Tropic Marin.

The important part is learning about the relationship between the ions of calcium chloride and sodium Bi-carbonate. It’s important when dosing minerals into a delicate system and learning especially how the coral polyp takes in the calcium ion from the calcium chloride element, and the carbonate ion from the sodium element, and what’s left behind is “UNBALANCED SODIUM CHLORIDE”. In the balling light or two/three part system THIS is where your imbalance comes from.

Left behind is sodium from the Bi-carbonate and chloride from the calcium, these two together of course make sodium chloride, and here lies the imbalance in two part, all of a sudden there’s extra sodium chloride with no other elements attached to it floating around in your tank. AND by doing a water change, you are only removing the percentage of that water change of the imbalance.

So, if you are dosing two/three or light systems and rely on water changes alone to address the imbalance, and say only removing 10% of the water, only 10% of the imbalance is removed.

(May 30, 2011)

(Dec 30, 2011)

Advanced Aquarist- Featured Aquarium

Now, by adding into the mix part C of the Balling Method, the remaining sodium chloride has something to balance it, which includes the 70 trace elements.

Of course, there’s an argument which this system too raises the sodium chloride level, and yes this is correct, BUT here’s the defining factor. It’s doing it in a balanced format in the same way like just adding more sea salt to the system. It’s balanced, so there’s no ionic risks. Even the most minimal water change would cater to any salinity rise. However, due to sodium chloride being in balance and at such a very low level, this is not an issue. Oppose to as an unbalanced system with just sodium chloride floating about is.

What’s an issue, are two part or light systems allow for free amounts of sodium chloride in the system with nothing to balance it, allowing for a complete imbalance, which cannot be addressed fully by water changes. A % water change only removes a % of the imbalance.

There’s only one way to keep a system in balance when dosing calcium and sodium Bi-carbonate and that’s to add in proportion NACL free salt. (Part C)

To make the point more clear, the very first original Sea Salt mix from Tropic marin, which still to this day forms the basis of all their salts, is a 100% mixture of A B and C of the Tropic Marin Balling system together!

Product Resource:
Premium Tropic Marin Pro Reef Sea Salt from Germany

Premium Tropic Marin Pro Reef Sea Salt from Germany
There is simply NO BETTER Reef Sea Salt (marine fish too)

So there’s no argument the chemistry in itself proves it. If dosing a system with nothing to balance the excess NACL, it create an imbalance. This is where part C of Balling comes in, which makes up everything found in a sea salt mix, including all trace elements without adding additional NACL. Hence the term for part C as NACL-FREE sea salt. Lets be clear part C is not just magnesium as in every other other 3 part system, it is the whole bells and whistles found in sea salt as stated before WITHOUT any NACL component.”

References:; Balling Method explained
Balling Method- Practical Fishkeeping
Reef Aquarium Chemistry Maintenance

How to dose:
The three (salts) parts of the method are all mixes and dissolved separately in Reverse Osmosis (RO) water. The three parts can be added to the display aquarium via dosing pump in a well circulated area. The three can also be added in three sperate locations of the aquarium to help prevent precipitation.



Tropic Marin Tips and Tricks

Salinity in the aquarium will rise slightly due to the salts. The increase will easily be adjusted when doing water changes or adding additional water.

This method created by Dr. Balling is a easy to-do, which addresses some chemistry concerns of a saltwater reef aquarium. It has benefits over the traditional Calcium Reactor or Kalkwasser in the way it maintains high levels of Calcium, alkalinity, a stable pH, without the added acids or phosphates, and without the excess of sodium chloride to the tank. As a result, corals respond by doubling in size. The method has shown better results than traditional reef keeping with two part systems, or three parts systems with added mag. with simple water changes to remove extra sodium chloride. The method is simple to use, which is why it’s becoming more and more popular around the world and not just in Europe.



Acropora Coral Information and Care; Lighting, Amino Acids, more

Last Updated 2-24-16


Acropora Coral is one of the most vast coral groups. They are a member of the Acroporidae family, Subclass Zoantharia and the Order Scleractinia.
Their group makes up one third of the ‘reef building coral’.

Out in the Indo-Pacific and the Atlantic, these coral are the largest group to make up corals with usually first being on the building scene of a reef. Once this hard coral is in place, other softer corals start their placement.
In the ocean, the Acropora are also one of the most tolerant when it comes to water temperature, current movement, salinity, and lighting.
Even with their ability to adapt in the wild, they still often prove to be difficult to keep in captive.


Acropora come in a massive verity of sizes, shapes, growth formations, and colors. It is all depending on their species, which there are over 400 of.
They are a small polyp stony coral (SPS) that have a very thin flesh covering their calcium base bodies.
They also are referred to as table coral, elkhorn coral, or a staghorn coral. This is because of their appearance and because the form a table top like structure when growing with other corals.


On the branches, the small polyps have mouths surrounded by small tentacles for feeding. These branches form a great habitat for other reef creatures to live such as crabs and fish.

The shape of Acropora is depending on its location.

The coral that is closer to turbulate waters will be thicker, while the coral that is out in calmer water will be longer and thinner.
[1] Picture Source

Other shapes can be things like plates, columns, ridges, bushes, fingers, or clusters.

When it comes to aquariums, the table tops species of Acropora is highly sought after, but also one of the most difficult of these species to keep. Because of these common characteristics, they are the easiest coral species to identify. They have a distinctive skeletal texture which is referred to as Reticulate Coenosteum.


All most all of the species of Acropora come from the Pacific, with just three species that come from the Atlantic. Despite their delicate looking shape, they are mostly found on the upper reef slope were the wave action is strong. When these corals are broken, they will form a new coral asexually from the fragment.

Colors of Acropora come in about any color that you can image. The color is depending on the location of the coral, but how they form the color is all the same. They all have a zooxanthellae marine algae which resides in the corals skin. These zooanthellae range in a wide variety of fluorescent pigments.

Acropora do have similarities to a few other coral species. They are sometime confused with Cyphastrea, Anacropora and Isopora.



Acropora species in general reach sexual maturity with three to five years and have a life span of four to seven years. They can reach an average height of 20 inches, with a branch diameter of 4-7 cm. (1.5″ to 2.75″).
Depending on the species of the coral, they can reach upwards to 10 feet.
They are actually considered a fast growing coral due to their high metabolism. If fed properly along with correct maintenance, these coral will grow just as fast in captivity.

As these coral grow upward towards the light, the branches and all polyps also point upward making a tree like structure. If any of the individual branches break off and land in an undisturbed place, a base may form and new branches will appear.

The same principles apply to captivity and propagation.
Reef keepers can clip off a branch and apply it to something sturdy like a frag plug or rock. A new coral will form.

In young colonies of branching forms of Acropora that form tables or plates; if they are located in a place with a higher current or wave action, the coral may be encrusted because the base will form before the branches.

Keeping Acroporia Coral

Keeping Acroporia Coral can be a big endeavor. The aquarium keeper should have experience in marine aquarium keeping before starting out with these hard corals.
Even better would to already have some reef keeping skills. Having these skills will be invaluable for keeping hard corals alive.

Even though many people keep these corals and in the wild they are generally tolerate, these corals are still sensitive to temperature changes, low lighting, and water movement. Even just moving them around the tank can cause them to die.

Here are the best requirements for keeping these corals.
In general they like water movement, medium to high lighting, and need to be maintained correct levels of Calcium, Magnesium, and other trace elements.
Pristine water quality is important for this coral to thrive.

Water Movement
Move movement needs to be lighter as the Acropora first start out.

As they start to grow, flow can increase.

As the coral grows denser, the water flow will slow greatly. More flow will be needed so it is a great idea to have a variable flow pump. Something that can be adjusted higher and higher. It needs to be a surge like water movement.
Acroporia prefer strong random, mixed water current. A rotating power head or wave maker are also recommended.
The Seio line or Hydor Koralia are excellent pumps for this application.
Merchandise Link: Seio Propeller Pumps

Without a stronger flow, corals tend to develop infections caused by waste built up on the coral. This becomes a breeding ground for bad bacteria leading to problems.

Calcium and Alkalinity
It’s imperative to keep adequate levels of both Calcium and Alkalinity.
Calcium needs to be kept at 400-420ppm and Alkalinity needs to be kept at 8-9dkh.
Some people who keep SPS corals suggest keeping the corals at higher KH will increase the color.
Having a balance around 450ppm for Calcium and KH at 10 are the suggested levels. This will provide high amounts of what is needed for Calcium and Carbonates to growth.
If the Acro does not have enough calcium, it will not grow. There will be no tissue recession, but the polyps will be extended. If there is a low amount of Calcium, raising the levels will almost always cause a rapid spurt of growth if all other parameters are good.

Magnesium needs to be around 1350-1500. Magnesium makes calcium available, so if your calcium is low, check your magnesium levels before adding any more calcium.

Phosphates need to be kept as low to zero as possible. Elevated levels will cause the new growth to come to a stop. Many reef keepers use and recommend to run a Phosphate remover. These include products such as Rena Phos-Zorb or NPX Bio Plastics (in FSB Filter or reactor chamber)

Merchandise Links:
Rena Phos-Zorb
NPX BioPlastics Phosphate/Nitrate Remover

Of course the Nitrate levels need to be kept as low as possible as well. Any amount that can be detected on a standard aquarium test kit will cause a browning of the coral due to a rapid reproduction of Zooxanthellaes.

Good lighting IS KEY for coral growth. 6500K -20K lamps are the most effective for sustaining coral life, depending upon species, depth, & light source PUR/PAS.
The blues provided in these higher kelvin provides the useful light energy (PUR) needed for symbiotic Zooxanthellae found in the coral.
Bluer color lighting is required for deeper waters. Blue light penetrates waters deeper. Anything light that used that’s not at the optimum levels needed will cause additional Zooxanthellae to compensate for the loss nutrition.

With quality LEDs now more of a commonplace than as recently as 2010, finding a good/adequate LED should not be a problem. However many of even the better LED fixtures still compensate with cool white and many other less than optimum emitters in combinations and quantities to make up for poor PAS/PUR resulting in higher wattages and PAR readings being used than would be necessary with the few LED fixtures optimizing output using licensed/patented emitters, PWM, and more for more efficient fixtures for the same results. Often the need for cooling fans is a telltale sign of this problem, which also is a part that fails and thus severely shortens the life of the LED fixture.

Specimen placement according to lighting depth penetration, as well as water movement is also important.

PUR/PAS vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting
Aquarium Lighting; Complete Information

With poor levels of light, the coral will almost stop growing completely and will most likely die. The market standard for reef lighting are Metal Halide and “high end” LED (not the mass market brands).

Recommended Merchandise Link: AAP AquaRay Super Premium LED Aquarium Lighting

Below is a picture of a reef aquarium containing acropora corals that has been running for 6 months as of the time of this picture with AquaRay/ AquaBeam NP 1500 and 2000 LED tiles ONLY!


Saltwater strength should be around 10.25/26 with good filtration and water quality.

Temperature and pH
Two things that will destroy any aquarium before you know it is temperature and pH swings. These are very stress for fish, plants, and corals all alike. Keeping a constant temperature and pH is essential for optimal growth. The best pH is 8.3. Temperature needs to be in the range of 72-83 F (22.2 to 28 C)

Aquarium Type
Acropora does best in an aquarium 100 gallons or larger, with other fish to generate organic matter. The aquarium needs to be as stable as possible, so it is even recommended that the aquarium be matured to a year before placing coral. It is also recommended to start by placing all the coral you would like in the tank all at once, so that if another coral is introduced into an established aquarium, a disease in the new coral wont wide up the whole tank.

If the aquarium is started from new coral frags, which most are, it can take up to six weeks before new growth of a nobe are seen. It takes five to six months for Acropora to regain their normal growth rate.

Water Changes
Doing water changes of 10% every 2 weeks is needed, although it is suggested that doing 5% water changes once a week will bring about amazing results. Keep the nitrate levels low.

Acropora corals have a symbiotic relationship with light sensitive marine algae known as Zooxanthellae. Much of their nutrients are from these Zooxanthellae.

While Acropora have been shown to extract nitrogenous compounds from the water column for their amino acid needs, supplementation has also been shown to be highly beneficial for growth, vibrancy and over all health in a closed aquarium system

Reference: Amino Acids

Recommended Merchandise Link: AcroPower Amino Acid Supplement for Coral

Feeding of these corals is done at night. This is why the tentacles come out and feed on the ocean debris from the ocean floor.
In captivity, it is recommend to feed about once a week.

Special Requirements
The Acropora corals are peaceful, but watch out for crabs.
Many experienced aquarists do not believe any crab should be kept in a closed system with Acros. Crabs are opportunistic predators, with the exception some of the symbiotic crabs like commensal crabs, and gall crabs.

SPS Coral Ailments

There are various ailments that small polyp stony (SPS) corals fall victim to. Several ailments are often named for what they look like, such as white plague or yellow-blotch.

Here are a few SPS coral ailments and some treatments that may help:
Source:; Keeping Acropora Corals

  • Rapid Tissue Necrosis (RTD)
    Sps corals have been know to have rapid tissue necrosis (RTD).
    This is a peeling of the tissue from the skeleton. The causes can be pretty much anything, such as any change in temperature, salinity, or lighting. RTD is easy to spot, if your coral starts to slough off flesh from the bottom up, it has RTD.

    Something that can help is to frag the coral. Break it well ahead of the deteriorating coral, thus possibly saving the tips or branches.

  • Black Band Disease
    Black Band Disease is a dark band moving across the surface of coral colonies, leaving behind exposed white skeleton. To fight black band disease, and prevent necrosis, the corals can be treated with Tetracycline at 10 mg per quart/liter according to one author.
  • Product Reference: API Tetracycline

  • Brown Jelly
    Cyanobacteria and brown jelly infections can be treated with Neomycin sulphite, Kanamycin and other broad-spectrum antibiotics.
    The powder can be mixed with sea water to make a paste, and then applied to the wound, or affected site of the coral with a simple artists brush.
  • Bleaching
    Bleaching is the rapid growth of zooxanthellaea. Anything can trigger it and it generally will take the aquarist by surprise. The coral is still alive but with pigmented tissue.
    To prevent bleaching if your tank experiences a temperature hike, turn down your lights. This is so the zooxanthellae does not expel out of control. Otherwise once bleaching occurs, it has a 50/50 chance of complete healing. The coral will be prone to illness at this time.
  • Acropora Mucus
    Acropora corals tend to produce mucous nets that can be a way to eliminate their waste or capture prey. Unless it looks unhealthily, leave the coral alone.


References and Picture Sources:


Fountain, Aquarium, Pond Water Pumps

Pump-MontageIn a market flooded with many water pumps now, it is very difficult to choose which pump is right for you.
There are sellers from Amazon, to Home Depot, to eBay, and so on.

As well, with one of the leaders in small to medium size water pumps now out of business (Via Aqua), this opens the door to many new entries into the market.

Many can be pricey, yet deliver very little for the price.
Examples include the Pond Master, Tetra, Laguna, & Smart Pond

Many sold by Home Depot, Lowes, Amazon have very little professional use and backing behind them, rather these are often sold as pumps that can generate the most benefit at the lowest price.
Examples here include the low end, Sunterra, Koolscapes, Becket, among MANY, MANY others.

I am certainly not “knocking” the Tetra and Pondmaster, as I have used them both with generally good results; however their “value” is questionable.

Then there are the Sunterra & Becket in particular which have had high failure rates and not a pump I would ever suggest to any of my friends or aquarium, pond maintenance customers over the years. Frankly, even the more expensive Laguna has not faired all that well from my extensive use.

Even then, from my contacts in the aquarium maintenance business, even brands that make some excellent products in pumps/filters such as SunSun, have an extensive line of similar pumps and filters to appeal to a broad market as varying price points.
This can leave many shoppers depending on highly questionable “Amazon Reviews” for similar products that are actually different in important ways such as missing an important pre-filter that the upgraded version has.
Amazon in particular is notorious for selling SunSun and other brands lower price point pumps & filters missing key modifications, thus resulting in a vastly inferior pump, filter, or UV sterilizer than if purchased from a knowledgeable seller that is actually in the business and not cutting corners so as to sell at the lowest price point.

With Via Aqua exiting the aquarium and water garden scene, this leaves their sister company; Taam/Rio with their line of Rio Plus pumps for light to medium duty water gardens applications and the Rio HF (High Flow) for medium to moderately heavy duty water gardens (& aquarium systems) applications.

Merchandise Links:
*Rio Plus Pumps; Models 90, 200, 600, 1000, 1100, & 1700
*Rio HF Pumps; Models, 20 HF, 26 HF, 32 HF, 1290 to 1920 GPH

Besides the Rio/Taam line of water circulation pumps for aquariums, water gardens, desk fountains, there is also the lesser known SunSun brand.
SunSun has taken over many of Via Aqua’s excellent designs (which were originally from Atmans), and added more of their own, such as the ultra high efficiency JTP-12000 High Output/Efficiency Pond Pump for heavy duty pond or aquarium system applications where high flow with low energy draw is critical.

Merchandise Link: SunSun JTP-12000; 3170 GPH, Water Gardens Circulation Pump

Here are a few more options I can vouch for their value/quality, including those that were once a part of the Atmans/Via Aqua line of fountain, pond, or aquarium pumps:

jp33tn*SunSun JP-033; Aquarium, Small Fountain, Water Pump
160 GPH

At only about $11 to $15 depending upon where purchased, this is an excellent pump for desk top fountains where a bit more flow is needed.
As well it is excellent for small aquarium, vivarium, or terrarium circulation, but it is NOT meant for pond environment.
This is basically the same pump as the Via Aqua 30, with improvements to flow, head pressure, & durability.
AVOID the other knock off sold as a “NP-302”, this is not of the same quality

hj411-TN2*SunSun HJ-411; Desk Fountain, Aquarium Water Pump
79 GPH

This is an excellent pump for desk top fountains where a reliable but small flow is needed.
As with the JP-033, it is excellent for small aquarium, vivarium, or terrarium circulation, but it is NOT meant for pond environment.
This is the same pump as the Via Aqua 80

SunSunJP065tn*SunSun JP-065; Fountain, Aquarium, Deck Pond Pump
317 GPH
This pump replaces the old Via Aqua/Atmans 305, however unlike the two previously mentioned, this pump is totally new with more head pressure and frankly an over all better pump. In fact with the 300 gph water pump range, there is no better for light duty aquarium, fountain, or deck pond use.

hj1542tn2*SunSun HJ-1542; Fountain, Aquarium, Patio Pond Pump
370 GPH
This pump replaces the old Via Aqua 1300 pump, and unlike the JP-065, this one includes a sponge prefilter and is a bit more versatile for aquarium or light duty deck/patio pond applications.

However for fountain applications it is more large and cumbersome (not as compact), so the JP-065 would be your better choice for such applications.
Also consider the similar SunSun JP-066 with a flow rate of 475 gph or for a similar compact, but rugged design the SunSun JP-054 with a flow rate of 238 gph)


Zoanthid Reef Aquarium Care & Lighting

Last Updated 11-4-17

Zoanthids are quite popular due to the wide variety, general easy to moderate care requirements, and the fact many are captive raised (fragged/aquacultured).


First let me provide some basics of these popular reef aquarium inhabitants.

  • What is a Zoanthid? This is the common term for all members of the Zoanthidae family, including Zoanthus, Palythoa, and Protopalythoa.
  • Zoanthids are Colonial, in other words, each coral is a colony of separate polyps living together.
  • While Zoanthids are photosynthetic, many of these colonial corals will tolerate low to medium light levels.
    Since these corals are not as light demanding as some reef aquarium specimens, Zoanthids area good choice to place between larger specimens
  • They prefer low to moderate water motion and do well within a temperature range of 76º to 84º F (24º to 29º C).
  • Since Zoanthids are photosynthetic, they survive with no feeding, but occasional feeding of the soupy “upper broth” of prepared or homemade reef diets.
  • Easily propagated by cutting (fragging) of individual polyps from the main colonies, pieces can be placed/glued on a gravel/sand bed or rocks/plugs with low water flow and will attach themselves via coenenchymes to pieces of gravel or rocks
  • Palythoa (aka palys), grow in a mat of coenenchyme with their polyps embedded, just like their cousins the Zoanthus. However, Palythoa use sediment to help reinforce their tissue. In closer inspection, you will see sand, crushed coral, etc. in their tissue.
    The coenenchyme is thicker for Palythoa than it is for Zoanthus, which is generally observable to touch and to sight.
  • Zoanthus have a distinct sphincter muscle around their oral opening forming a more round “mouth”, while Palythoa have a slit “mouth”



FijiBluetn2As noted earlier, lighting requirements are generally not high.
However this does not mean the good lighting and placement of Zoanthids is not important for thriving colonies.

Blue /actinic lighting is also important if only for viewing these beautiful reef inhabitants in all their glory. The TMC Fiji Blue is an excellent choice for this (see the picture/link to the left).

See this merchandise link: AAP/TMC Fiji Blue; Enhances the Fluorescence of Corals

An even newer light is the NUV Blue (Near UV Blue). This light provides less useful PUR than the Fiji Blue or similar quality NM LED lights, but has light energy in spectrums not before available in a single LED that can really bring out some colours.
This light should only be a part of your lighting scheme due to the very low near UV irradiation.
Here is a review of this LED: AAP/TMC AquaRay NUV 410nm LED Review

With modern technology, the best lighting choice for Zoanthids are T5, T2 (with T5 or LED blues), or high output LED Aquarium Lights.
Please reference:
Aquarium Lighting; T5 Information
& Aquarium Lighting; T2 Information

The LED would be your best choice for this specimen.
Among LEDs there are many decorative LED aquarium lights such as the “Ecoxotic Stunner” that are NOT reef capable and should not be considered other than for highlights with already good T5 or other lighting.

Among the higher end, most LED’s will work fine for Zoanthids. Although even here the use of the best emitter & driver technology will yield the best results for the least amount of energy consumed & carbon footprint.

Examples on each extreme of Zoanthid capable LED lights:
The Taotronics are on the low end of capable and consume more power. The high end would be the AquaRay LED Aquarium Lights with constantly updated and new AND patented CRee emitters. These use very little power for the light spectrum they provide.

Zooanthid-LED-LightProbably the best over all light period, LED or otherwise is the Ocean Blue NP Ultima.
This new as of 2013 LED Fixture has an excellent mixture of proprietary Cree and Osram Olson emitters to produce an overall 20k color temperature.
What has really impressed me most about this particular LED fixture is the Osram Olson NP Blue which is the first specific emitter designed for full spectrum reef aquarium lighting, rather than adapting current emitter bins to the lighting application at hand.

A similar newer yet light is the AAP AquaBeam Coral Colour Plus. This is similar to the Ocean Blue, except it also has Semi NUV and Cree Red emitters. A better LED for color, but a slightly lower PAR & PUR than the Ocean Blue or Reef 2000.

Merchandise Link: AAP Ocean Blue/ Coral Colour Plus NP 1500 Ultimas

Now for a little sales pitch (based on professional aquarium maintenance and design use); The American Aquarium AquaRays latest offering now include the latest generation of PROPRIETARY Cree XR-E, XP-E, XP-G, XT-E, XB-D, & ML-E, as well as the Reef Aquarium specific Osram Olsam NP Blue emitters.
This means any buyer of these LEDs will be getting the most bang for their buck without the wasted energy of Taotronics shotgun approach to lighting or the lower efficiency of the Kessil, AI, or EcoTech.
As per efficiency, no other LED beats these American Aquarium AquaRays, with an input energy in wattage measured in PAR mml output of as low as .08 watt per PAR mml compared to even other premium lights such as the Kessil & EcoTech as which measure about .30 watt per mml of PAR!

See: American Aquarium AquaRay AquaBeam, LEDs

Below is a composite picture of an aquarium with Zoas utilizing a VERY early LED aquarium lighting build. These are 2009, first generation AquaRay AquaBeam LED strips (versus now 4th generation as of 2016).


Placement in Aquarium;

Blue-Hornet-ZoasAs a generalization, using Blue Hornet Zoas as an example; about 6 inches from the sand bed, and about 16-20 inches from the LEDs with moderate water flow.

Other Zoas such as the “Blow Pop” Zoa (aka “Neon Eyes” & more) are reported to do better closer to their light source such as only 4 inches from the surface with relatively strong lighting.

From my research many, if not most, Zoanthids seem to grow better and exhibit longer stalks in deeper placements.
Too much light results in the metallic brightness or other colors fading away.
Some Zoas do quite well with mid level placement and some shade from an aquarium live rock reef.

The bottom line is any keeper of Zoas needs to experiment with placement, then observing color, stalk growth or stretching and over all health.

I will also point out that wearing gloves (such as surgical gloves) is best when handling any Zoanthid, but especially Palythoa as these can excrete a toxin that is quite poisonous if you have any open cut or sensitive area on your skin.


For the most in depth and up to date Aquarium Lighting article:
*Aquarium Lights, Lighting Information

An excellent read about optimal methods for aquarium reef chemistry maintenance such as calcium & alkalinity, not necessarily popular/fad/economy methods promoted in You Tube videos or by pop bulk reef retail suppliers:
*Reef Aquarium Chemistry Maintenance

*LED Light Review

*LED Aquarium Lights, Lighting Information

*Identifying Zoanthus, Palythoa, and Protopalythoa

An earlier article in this website:
*Purchase Aquarium LED Lighting; What to Know?

For a GREAT place to purchase Zoanthids:
*Zoanthid, Zoa’s, Zoos & more!

For the most knowledgeable place to purchase the best in LED Aquarium Lighting:
*AquaRay Aquarium LED Lights, Lighting


UV Bulbs; Problems of Quality?


(Please also reference this outside article:
UV Bulb Troubleshooting)

The use of UV-C Sterilization for aquariums, ponds, and home/office air and/or water purification has grown in popularity.

HOWEVER, so has the use of low quality electronic ballasts that often fail in months instead of years.
While most sellers of UV Replacement Bulbs still utilize at least reasonable quality Hot Cathode UVC Bulbs, Lamps; the same CANNOT be said for the manufacturers of UV Sterilizers of late.

Further Information:

Even the best in reliable Compact UV Sterilizers (the Terminator), does not have the ballast quality that they used to have.
Worse is the very over rated Coralife Turbo Twist which has had 100% ballast failures within months according aquarium/pond maintenance professionals.

Further Information:

What is very unfortunate from my experience along with others in the aquarium/pond industry; is that persons will purchase a UV Bulb that goes out either immediately or in a few months due to these poor quality ballasts than blame the seller of the UVC Bulb, making comments such as “Cheap Chinese Bulb” (even when the bulb is not even Chinese made) when in reality it is the low quality Chinese Ballast that is the problem???
Worse yet these same persons when finally convinced that their UV Sterilizer is the problem will go out and purchase another low quality UV Sterilizer such as the Turbo Twist, Laguna, Sunterra, AquaTop, Jebo and many other similar Ultraviolet Sterilizers that use these same low quality Chinese Ballasts, then repeat this cycle.

tmc8and15wattballasttnThe bottom line is when you realize you were misled into purchasing one of these low quality UV Sterilizers, I suggest spending a few extra dollars for a UV Sterilizer that has ballast that last many years instead of months, and has replacement parts available world wide at reasonable prices and finally just as importantly has the most efficient flow, Dwell Time pattern of ANY UV Sterilizer!

While this may seem like an over the top sales pitch, the FACTS are low quality ballasts are 90% of the cause of UVC Replacement Bulb failure, and ignoring this fact and purchasing a Compact UV Sterilizer or Submersible UV Sterilizer of which most have low quality ballasts to save a few dollars or worse refusing to admit to owning a poor quality UV and blaming the UV Replacement bulbs seller is simply irresponsible and you have no one to blame but yourself.
Sorry for the harsh point above, but based on the plethora of feedback I have received and from aquarium maintenance professionals this needed to be said!!

Further References/Resources:


Tropic Marine Center (TMC) Vecton, & Advantage UV Review

Revised 1/7/2014

TMC-Sterilizer-aquarium-and-pondTMC has long been a leader in the aquarium/pond products industry in both innovation and price.
In the case of their UV Sterilizers, TMC is not the ‘first’, nevertheless what they have done is build a well designed Ultra Violet Sterilizer line based on the most proven and practical design.

These Sterilizers are rugged in their build, with UV-C exposure times that are unsurpassed compared to comparable UV Sterilizer wattages.
TMC brings together quality & design along with price, making their UV Sterilizers/Clarifiers second to none when price and quality are factored in together. As an example, a TMC 110 PRO will easily equally or even out perform any Aqua 114 Watt UV for vastly less $$$.
See: 110 Watt Professional Pond or Large Aquarium System UV Sterilizer

The TMC Advantage and Vecton Ultraviolet Sterilizers design makes these among the most easy to service.
When compared to ALL compact UV Sterilizers that are so popular as of late, servicing of the quartz sleeve and UV lamp is much easier with the TMC units.
I know of many who have accidentally broken their compact UV Sterilizer sleeves when attempting to service the UV since most are seated in a way these often have to be pried out. This is not the case with the TMC UV Sterilizers.

As well TMC provides most replacement parts at reasonable prices, unlike the vast majority of UV Sterilizers now flooding the market (especially the Asian built units). Many compact UV manufacturers in particular do not either supply parts or do so at very high prices. Others utilize proprietary UV Replacement Bulbs (such as Tetra) that are difficult to obtain or are quite expensive.
This is NOT the case with TMC, as every UV Bulb they utilize IS an industry standard UV Bulb/Lamp.
See: TMC UV Replacement Bulbs, Guide


Reference From; UV Sterilization; Dwell Time Test between UVs:

*In a very telling controlled experiment between a Quality Compact 13 Watt UV Sterilizer versus a TMC Vecton 8 Watt UV shows the big difference between the TMC Advantage and Vecton UV Sterilizers vs Compact UV Sterilizers
Using a Rio 600 (200 gph), with 2 feet of 5/8″ ID tubing; the dwell time inside the Vecton was 2.6 seconds, while the 13 Watt Compact (Terminator) was 3 seconds.
It is important to note that the Terminator 13 watt holds DOUBLE the water volume at 20 oz. water (meaning a less efficient design with more water not within the optimal .3 cm exposure zone) versus 10 oz. of water for the 8 Watt Vecton.
Reference: Rio 600 Pump

It is noteworthy to keep in mind that the Terminator is one of the best designed Compact UV’s, as well, it is noteworthy that the popular Turbo Twist Compact UV has an even higher water volume due to even less efficient water contact design.

The result is 6.66 ounces of water per second is exposed to UVC irradiation for the 13 Watt Terminator while 3.84 ounces of water per second is exposed to UVC irradiation for the 8 Watt Vecton. MORE IMPORTANTLY the results are 1.95 watts of UVC energy per second for the Terminator 13 watt versus 2.08 watts of UVC energy per second for the 8 Watt Vecton

What does this mean?
The Terminator is a very good compact UV, however when you consider the 8 watt Vecton actually has a higher dwell time due to actual time per ounce of water held close to the UVC lamp and although the 13 Watt Terminator has a higher energy output, the lower dwell time basically renders these two UVs nearly equal in aquarium/pond gph capacity (the 8 Watt Vecton was actually slightly better). So with the TMC Vecton and Advantage you will be getting more UVC Sterilization per watt (as well as a more durable long life UV)

The bottom line is the TMC Vecton & Advantage Premium High Dwell Time UV with almost 100% water exposure to UVC of less wattage is often going to out perform a Compact UV of higher wattage!
See the authorized North American Seller:
Tropic Marine Centre Vecton, Advantage Ultraviolet Sterilizer, Clarifier

For Ponds; with this in mind, many pond keepers do not realize that a good, properly installed UV Sterilizer can be more than just a clarifier, as when run at level 1 sterilization one can lower disease incidence both directly and indirectly via improved Redox Balance.
A good dwell time coupled with the proper flow rate and turnover rate of the pond as per this dwell time can and will allow for this.
See Reference: Flow Rate & Turnover Rate Table

It is unfortunately all too common for some to run a 9 watt Tetra UV or Laguna 8 Watt UV on their pond at flow rates well too high to perform anything more than clarification, and often poorly at best.
As an example a commonly used 750 gph water pump for the Tetra 9 Watt or Laguna 8 Watt would not perform level one sterilization, and even with installation of a diverter or ball valve to slow or divert the flow, often the turnover rate will than be incorrect.
This same flow rate would not be a problem in a pond under 2000 gallons for the 15 Watt Pond Advantage!
See: TMC 15 Watt UV15 Pond Advantage UV Sterilizer

TMC has three basic types of UV Sterilizers;
Please click on pictures below to enlarge

*The Vecton UV, Aquarium Sterilizer Line, primarily designed for Aquarium use.
See: TMC Vecton UV Sterilizers

• You can see from the picture that this is a well constructed UV Sterilizer with maximum UV-C exposure and unsurpassed UVC dwell time which includes little space for water to pass outside of maximum penetration, unlike many UV Sterilizers on the market.

• This Sterilizer is very compact for a straight tube UV with opposing hose barbs for ease of installation.

• The Vecton utilizes a very long life and reliable magnetic ballast and starter, unlike most UVs that now have cheap electronic ballasts that often only last a year or two.

• The Vecton is manufactured from impact resistant, translucent polycarbonate.


*The Pond Advantage UV Sterilizer Line, built for ponds, but excellent for aquariums too. The Pro Clear UV30 has the highest dwell time per watt of energy than any other UV Sterilizer (including many TMC models as well).
See: Pro Clear UV30 Pond (& Aquarium) UV Sterilizers

• As with the Vecton, the TMC Advantage is a well constructed UV Sterilizer with maximum UV-C exposure which includes little space for water to pass outside of maximum penetration, unlike many UV Sterilizers on the market.
Vastly superior to the Coralife Turbo Twist in UVC exposure time

• With the higher dwell times of the 15 Watt, 25 Watt, & especially the 30 Watt Advantage; bypass valves or ball valves are often not required for many pond pumps often employed.
Many other smaller, low dwell time UV Sterilizers/Clarifiers such as the Tetra, Laguna, Coralife require water to pass through the UV at a slower rate to achieve level one sterilization.

• The Advantage UV includes a very rugged outer shell that blends well with many ponds and is equally at home in aquarium applications.

• The Advantage UV utilizes a very long life and reliable magnetic ballast and starter, unlike most UVs that now have cheap electronic ballasts that often only last a year or two (examples of UVs with poor ballasts include the Coralife and Laguna).

• Can be used with Vinyl Tubing Sizes; 1/2″, 5/8″, 3/4″, or 1″ ID OR Rigid pipe adaptors, for connection to 1 inch (40 mm) solvent weld rigid PVC pipe, are included with the unit. These adaptors are held in place with screw on collars, allowing the disconnection of the rigid pipe, leaving the unit or the rigid pipe in site for ease of servicing and maintenance.


*The PRO series as in the 110 Watt Pond PRO UV, primarily for ponds, but these are also useful and popular for large aquarium or systems (such as central filter systems)
See: 110 Watt Pond PRO UV; Professional Sterilizers for Large Pond or Aquarium Systems


• As with the Vecton & Advantage, the TMC Professional is a well constructed UV Sterilizer with maximum UV-C exposure which includes little space for water to pass outside of maximum penetration, yet without the gimmicks of many other premium UV Sterilizer commonly sold.

• Suitable for ponds up to 19,200 gallons (dependent on stocking density and the amount of sunlight the pond is subject to) or Aquarium Systems up to 1800 gallons (for level one sterilization).

• Very heavy duty PVC construction that resists UVC degradation as well or better than any other UV Sterilizer.

• In my opinion a very compact UV Sterilizer design for this size UV (about 40 x 15 inches); it is relatively easily hung sideways on walls for aesthetics.

• Simply the best professional grade UV Sterilizer for the price!

A suggested web site to purchase a TMC UV Sterilizer with whom the owner has decades of experience in UV Sterilizer design and professional use:
tmcuv2tn3Tropic Marine Center UV Sterilizers at American Aquarium Products

This website and its owner has been using and designing Ultraviolet Sterilizers professionally dating back to 1978.


Even if you find a better price for a TMC Vecton or Advantage (which I have found their prices to be among the lowest), you will NOT get more accurate information, especially when you consider the time and research that went into the article below:


UV Sterilization; How to Use Correctly
I highly recommend reading this above article if you desire to move past the basics of fish keeping and therefore keep a more healthy aquarium or pond.
This in depth information and knowledge makes this website THE PLACE TO PURCHASE A UV STERILIZER for your aquarium or pond.


Copyright; Misti King

Aquarium Fluidized Bed Filter Review; TMC V2, Merlin, Lifeguard

FSB (fluidized sand bed) Filters as a solution to increased bio load needs of large aquariums, a better, less expensive solution over large canister filters such as the Fluval FX5 or Eheim 2080, especially for freshwater planted aquariums

Revised 1/10/17

This Article/Review includes a section about Installation later in the article.


The Fluidized Sand Bed Filter is not a new concept, in fact my maintenance friends have been using these back to 1995 and even then admittedly we were far from the first to utilize the benefits of these awesome aerobic and even anaerobic bio filters.
The most common usage is for planted aquariums, some marine aquariums, high bio load aquariums (such as “feeder fish” in aquarium stores), or as an alternative to some canister filters.
My Suggested Product Resource: TMC Premium Fluid Sand Bed Biological Aquarium Filter

Fluidized Bed Filters use fine sand kept suspended in a water flow for aerobic biological filtration. The plus is they are basically self cleaning as the sand is constantly rubbing against other grains keeping down the organic buildup.

Widespread use has been somewhat allusive, moreover, part of this is based misinformation or misunderstandings by many websites, forums, and blogs [even otherwise excellent ones].
One example of an excellent usage is for marine use, as a friend of mine set an entire marine department with these filters as the PRIMARY bio filter!
The difference is he also utilized deep sand beds, live rock and protein skimmers along with taller versions of Fluidized Sand Bed Filters to allow for anaerobic de-nitrification as well as aerobic nitrification.

My Suggested Product Resource: TMC V2 Skim Aquarium Protein Skimmer

A newer innovation that really has improved upon the use of quality fluidised aquarium filters (in this case primarily marine use) is NPX Bioplastics Nitrate & Phosphate Reducing Polymer Media.
This product is VERY efficient when used in a fluidized filter at controlling nitrates and phosphates (the TMC model is much easier to use this in I might add).
With this product, use of a Fluidized Filter in a marine reef aquarium has no boundaries at all along with already proven results in freshwater, especially planted freshwater aquariums.

My Recommended Product Resource: NPX Bioplastics Nitrate & Phosphate Reducing Polymer Media

Recommended Reading for Reef Aquarium Chemistry:
Reef Aquarium Chemistry Maintenance

Even without the use of NPX BioPlastics, a taller FSB Filter such as the TMC model #1500 or even #1000 can perform some de-nitrification, or in other words, nitrate removal.
Here is a quote:
“In taller fluidized-bed filters, enough aerobic bacteria cultivate in the bottom half so that as water flows past them, they remove most of the oxygen from the water, so facultative anaerobic bacteria cultivate in the top half of the sand bed where they remove nitrates.”
Quote Source: Fish Addicts; Fluidized Sand Filtration Systems

It is also noteworthy that improvements with this filter concept have been forthcoming over the years since the first models that were great in concept, but poor in design.
Unfortunately though, many spam websites such as do not even list the latest generation Fluidized filters, but then my observations and those of my friends that have been in the aquarium industry for decades have seen little value to anything publishes.
As an example, their article about aquarium planaria, as the information contained there in is so extremely scientifically inaccurate.
Please Reference: Aquarium Planaria or Detritus Worms?

Back to Fluidized Filters Attributes:
When properly constructed and functioning as they should (correct suspension of sand in an even churning motion), the Fluidized Filter has bio capacities unsurpassed by ANY other type of aquarium or pond filter.
To the point, the newest generation TMC V2 #600F Fluidized Filter has the bio capacity of 35 pounds of fish or other bio life, and this is the smallest model of this current generation of Fluidized Filters.
The larger model #1500F can easily surpass the overly hyped Fluval FX5/FX6 or Ehiem 2080 in pure nitrifying bio capacity [as can the smaller models].

For marine reef aquariums, when used with oolitic sand with some form of mechanical filtration, live rock, a Protein Skimmer, these can often replace many more elaborate filtration systems and reactors. The before mentioned friend replaced his fishroom with these filtrs and found lower nitrates, more stable alkalinity and calcium levels (using oolitic sand).
The fact these filters are not utilized more by marine and planted aquarium keepers does not speak well for how we pass information of late in this hobby.

My Suggested Product Resources:

While the new generation Fluidized filters generally cannot perform chemical filtration and only limited mechanical filtration; when compared “apples to apples” the use of these Fluidized Filters instead of the high priced and often over hyped Fluval FX5 or FX6 or Eheim 2062 /2080 should be a ‘no brainer’, especially when cost is factored in.
This said, a second filter whether a Canister, HOB, Internal, etc. that can perform these other functions AND for REDUNDANCY should be paired with a Fluidized Filter [if only as an excellent pre-filter for your Fluidised sand bed filter].

As a generalization, ANY aquarium should be set up this way with at least two filters if only for redundancy as per most aquarium professionals consulted for this article.
However many users have added products to the fluidizing chamber that can affect other aspects of aquarium filtration such as NPX Bioplastics for phosphate and nitrate removal.

For high bio load aquariums such as “monster fish tanks” with fish such as Arowana, Oscars, etc, the FSB Filter is a “Godsend” when it comes to handling this high organic load.

The picture below is from a friend’s client 220 gallon tank that uses a TMC FSB Filter Model 1500 as its primary bio filter. This particular filter has a capacity of 30 lbs of fish, etc.!!


Fluidized Sand Bed Aquarium Filters are not self powered but works well attached to an internal filter, power head/water pump (such as the SunSun HJ 1542), or canister filer. A Fluidised Sand Bed Filter also needs water to be pre-filted to remove large particulates taht can clog the filter and cause the fluidation process to be inefficient or stop completely.

With the power head/water pumps, the FSB filter can be placed under an aquarium, on the back, in a sump, or even in the aquarium for some models such as the TMC V2 FSB filter.
My Recommended Product Resources:

My personal preference is the use with a power head pump such as the Rio Plus 1000, 1100, or 1700 along with a Filter Max #3 [or #2 for lower flow applications].
For tanks with large amount of organic debris in the water column, the Hydro Pond #3 or #4 attached to your power head/water pump would be a good choice.

With this method versus the popular canister filter application you add redundancy if you already have a canister filter, or better if you do not have a canister filter, you free yourself from these often troublesome filter monstrosities [I know of friends in the aquarium service business who claim they get more service calls and complaints about canister filters, regardless of brand than ANY other filter type].
With the addition of a Sponge Pre-Filter, this allows for removal of debris that could potentially lower the efficiency or clog your Fluidized filter and also simply allow for added mechanical filtration that would bring many Fluidized filters to a level of bio filtration no canister filter could match!
My Recommended Product Resources:

A Bit of History, from an interview with friend who has spent many years in the professional aquarium design and maintenance business:

Merlin-Fluidized-FilterCoralife-Fluidized1“Our first use was with the Coralife Sea Storm & Red Sea Merlin Fluidized Filters which although these were an inferior design when compared to the later 2nd and now 3rd generation Fluid Bed Filters, these filters still impressed me and my aquarium keeping friends as to what a fluidized filter could do (as per observations at the time via measured ammonia, nitrites, nitrates).”

“Later we utilized the LifeGuard (Pentair) Fluidized Filters, which were a big step forward in efficiency and reliability.
The LifeGuard is also the first Fluidized Bed filter my friend used to incorporate in a partial store set up and then later after testing, the entire store!”

“In fact in tests utilizing several different canister filters such as the Via Aqua 750 (& later the similar SunSun Models), Rena Filstar 2, and Magnum, wet/dry & large canister filter only systems, which included the Ocean Clear (converted to Bio Balls, Ceramic Media) and large Eheim Filters.
The measured results showed the Fluidized Filter Systems out performed all these before mentioned filter systems by a very large margin.
This is why the next fish/aquarium store I set up was solely with a Fluidized Filter system, powered by either canister filters, internal filters, or water pump with pre-filter.”

My Recommended Product Resources:

“As for these tests; all tanks used were of similar bio load (fish by weight volume) and all tanks were well cycled and running with 0 ammonia/nitrites. We then poured in a liquefied fish food and noted the spikes in ammonia/nitrites and the time to come down from these spikes. Not only did the Fluidized systems spike very little, the spike only lasted less than a day whereas the large canister filter and wet/dry systems spiked notably higher with a few days to come back to 0 readings.”

Now, fast forward to 2011 and the 3rd generation TMC Fluidized Filter Systems; these fluidized filters have less issues with blockage or “kicking out” sand and simply put work much more reliably than the Pentair (LifeGuard) 2nd generation Fluidized Sand Filters.
The occasional leakage problems of the Lifeguard FBF are much less common with the TMC FBF.
Although actual bio filtration results are not notably better, the ease of use, versatility, and reliability make the TMC V2 Fluidized Sand Bed Filter the better choice in our experience and why this is my fluid filter of choice.

One MAJOR ADVANTAGE over the Lifeguard filters is the ease or the large screw off top versus opening a small valve assembly on the Lifeguard to service and add media which then requires a funnel. Because of this, adding sand media and servicing is vastly easier with the TMC FSB.

My Recommended Product Resource: TMC Fluidized Filter Systems

One example of versatility is the TMC V2 Fluidised Filter has a much more simple method of adding sand, or media such as NPX Bioplastics versus the small opening with the LifeGuard/Pentair models which are much more difficult to add additional media through.

The TMC V2 does not have as much incidence of back up as earlier models either, especially the Sea Storm and Merlin.
Sand back up is not as much problem with the 2nd generation Lifeguard Fluidized Filters (the design is still not as secure to prevent this as the TMC model), although the Lifeguard still had/has issues of poor fluidation and sand loss often due to “uneven fluidation”.

Further Information & Installation Methods:

Of most importance, especially with a “monster fish tank” that likely has a large amount of organic debris in the water column is pre-filtration.
Whether you run a canister filter that contain filter pads, sponges, etc to filter out this large debris or add a sponge pre-filter to your water pump; the use of GOOD pre-filtration is a MUST, regardless of brand [although some brands such as the Pentair clog more easily than others].

As I noted earlier, the Hydro Pond Filters will likely do the best job of pre-filtration for high organic load/debris aquariums, but other methods can be employed such as making an acrylic box, adding holes, then lining with aquarium safe sponge material or coarse poly pads to protect the water pump.
Using sheet rock or similar to hide your water pump in then back filling with pebbles or better, volcanic rock, can provide excellent pre-filtration.
What is worthy of note is that a water pump that has a lot of organic debris on the impeller or in the impeller well is a sign of poor pre-filtration and likely current or future poor performance of the fluidised sand bed filter.

A second note of importance is that most FSB Filters have a minimum and maximum sand fluidation line, this is the area where the filter is most efficient.
While being closer to the high/maximum line will yield your best results, it is not nearly as important as reaching the minimum line, so simply adjusting your FSB filter within these two lines is most important.

Next, a salient point is that your sand is going to be light initially, but as bacteria builds on the sand, it will become heavy and your fluidation level will drop.
This is nothing to worry about as long as it is above the minimum line, but if your adjustment valve is partly closed, you can can open it some more to increase the flow (assuming your pump has enough head pressure).

This brings me to the next point (which I will expand on with pictures and further information below), that is pump selection.
Make sure your flow rate is within the FSB Filter manufactures suggested minimum gph (& lph) within 1/4 of the pump or filters rated maximum head pressure. In other words a FSB Filter with a 210 gph suggested flow rated should use a pump that is rated at 210 gph or higher and a pump with a maximum rated head pressure of 6 feet and this same 210 gph flow rate should not be placed more than 1.5 feet below the water level.

Pre-Filters-for-Sand-Filter1This first picture to the left displays four different methods of power head installation, all utilizing a Sponge Pre-Filter, built-in sponge, or Hydro Pond Filter to “run” your Fluidized Sand Bed Filter.
Please click on this picture to enlarge

The picture displays these pump configurations (with suggested product links):

*Rio Plus 1000 with a Filter Max #2.
*Rio Plus 1100 with a Filter Max #3
*SunSun HQB-3500 Pump (this filter has a small built in sponge pre-filter)
*Rio 20 HF with a Hydro-Pond #3 (either a Hydro-Pond #3 or #4 can be substituted for a Filter Max where a high aquarium or pond bio load requires a larger pre-filter).

A TMC V2 #1500 Fluidized Filter teamed up with the Hydro-Pond #4 would provide top notch bio filtration from both the large capacity Hydro Pond #4 as well as very good medium to coarse mechanical filtration that NO CANISTER filter including the Fluval FX5 can even approach (regardless of water pump used whether the Rio 1700, or any other water pump).

As a side note, commentary, I prefer the TMC #1000 & #1500 over the model #600, even for smaller aquariums, as the #600 does not have a tall enough “reaction” chamber to fully fluidize the sand bed.

With some ingenuity, one can add Purigen, Carbon, or whatever other chemical filtration media by adding to the inside of the Hydro-Pond Sponge.

Add the NPX Bioplastics to the Fluidised Filter and for a Marine tank with a Protein Skimmer and you have a first rate high capacity filter system that can easily handle a 200 gallon aquarium.
With a freshwater aquarium, the use of the Bioplastics inside the Fluidised filter require the use of Purigen as well to remove the bio wastes that a Marine Protein Skimmer normally would in a saltwater/reef aquarium.

IMPORTANT: Do not anything other than the required sand, rock, or ceramic media that comes with the Fluidised filter along with the Bioplastics as an option.
Carbon and in particular Purigen will not work properly in the reaction chamber of a FSB filter and such products should be placed in another separate filter or placed next to the intake of a water pump or sponge filter.

My Recommended Product Resources:

Adapters v2sandfilterandcanisterfilterThe first picture to the left displays the use of an Intake Adapter and a Return Adapter that can be a simple DIY part or purchased.
These can be helpful for some Fluidized Filter applications with a power head in the aquarium while the Fluidized filters sits below the aquarium rather on the back.
Please note that the TMC V2 Fluidized Bed Filter already includes their version of an intake adapter, however the V2 FB Filter only includes a simple return, so this return adapter pictured here provide better water control than part included.
My Recommended Product Resource: Intake & Return Adapters

The second picture to the above/left shows a simple application of a Fluidized filter connected to a SunSun Canister Filter

Product Resource:

This picture displays a TMC FSB Filter as per a of a sump system.
In this case, the aquarium owner is running the FSB filter off from a separate pump than is running the main sump system, which is suggested.
However I personally would recommend a pump with a pre-filter.

The Set-Up Options below displays the TMC V2 Fluidized Aquarium Filter with a Power Head with Hydro Pond, and Internal Filter:


An excellent list of MUST READ aquarium keeping articles from this website: Unique Aquarium (& Pond) Information Articles

An excellent read about optimal methods for aquarium reef chemistry maintenance such as calcium & alkalinity, not necessarily popular/fad/economy methods promoted in You Tube videos or by pop bulk reef retail suppliers:
Reef Aquarium Chemistry Maintenance

Another effective bio filter is the Sponge Filter, especially the Patented Hydro Sponge Filter.

For Further Aquarium Filter/Filtration Information, please see this article:
Aquarium Filtration; Filters

For light information for your aquarium, please see this article that is second to none:
Aquarium Lighting

Or for an accurate guide (31 years of UV-C experience went into this guide) for UV Replacement Bulb for Sterilizers, Clarifiers, & Purifiers:
UV Bulb Reference Guide


Purchase Aquarium LED Lighting; What to Know

Cree-cool-warm-daylightPurchase Aquarium LED Lighting; What to Know?

Most recent revision 2-8-18

With LED Lighting advancing at a fever pace, there is a lot to know and as well there is a lot of good information available, but there is also a lot of bad or simply misleading information too, especially when it pertains to what determines the best LED lighting for a Reef or planted freshwater aquarium.


Sections Include:

The picture above provides a simple but accurate depiction of commonly used emitters and how many might be equal in the incorrectly used parameter of PAR, BUT miss the much more important PUR (useful light energy) since many utilize warm white or cool white emitters that have much more lumens of energy in the much lower efficiency PUR useful green & yellow spectrums.

In other words, two lights (or emitters) might be equal in PAR, but the one that primarily emits its light energy in yellow & green or with incorrect spikes in other nanometers bandwidths is going to be INFERIOR as the picture above exemplifies!!

This makes the point of while a PAR reading/measurement is helpful for light within the approximately 400nm – 700nm range, it DOES NOT give an accurate reading of the exacting light bandwidths within the PAR range that is much more important for freshwater plants and light sensitive reef inhabitants!


  • The Cree 6500 is from the GroBeam 600
  • The Cree Cool White is from the EcoTech Radion
  • The Cree Warm White is from the Maxspect Razor

Click on the picture to enlarge.



Human-Light-SensitivityLets start with CRI (Color Rendering Index), this is what OUR human eyes see, not necessarily what is best for Corals or Plants.
Unfortunately even some of the best LED manufacturers as well as those reviewing LEDs, such as an otherwise very good Aquatics Blog post I read recently, tend to give way to much credence to the importance of CRI as to Aquarium Lighting.
Please reference: Aquarium Lighting.

Also many who purchase a good LED light will look at their new light and then compare it to an existing T5, Metal Halide, or similar and then complain that the LED is not as bright. This is again based on the fallacy of depending upon the narrow band of light our eyes can see.
Among the few LED’s that do not depend upon CRI ratings, rather with the most accurate essential light energy for Reef or planted aquariums currently on the market include the TMC AquaRay, Kessil or Orphek.
Further Information, Resources:

More specific to CRI, many purchasing or reviewing LED or other Aquarium Lights look to CRI as to how their corals or fish look under specific lights, and often those lights with higher CRI will show of certain colors better than other lights.
While this is all well and good, this should not be used other than maybe a minor consideration when purchasing an aquarium light, in particular LEDs.
Many low end LED lights such as the newer Fluval LEDs note CRI, but ignore the vastly more important PUR; WHY? because these lights are of very low quality with emitters daisy chained together and very low PUR.

Back to CRI, freshwater aquarium plants or the symbiotic zooanthellic algae living within corals, clams, etc do not “care” how they look to you, but their biological needs are important when it comes to “Useful Light Energy” (PUR) & and how much PUR is deliveredd to them, so these parameters should be more important to you.

In other words, having LEDs that allow for RBG features does little when it comes to supporting photosynthetic reef or planted aquarium life!!


Photosynthetically Active Radiation is the spectral range of solar light from 400 to 700 nanometers (some research indicates up to 750nm) that is needed by plants & symbiotic zooanthellic algae[1] for photosynthesis.
Although LESS important for determining which LED Light to purchase than “Useful Light Energy/PUR” it is still an important to know.

This is found from actinic UVA to near infrared.
The first aspect of PAR is Phototropic response (400-500nm)of which 450-485 has the highest PAR of the blue-actinic range) which is the absorption bandwidth of chlorophylls a, c², and peridinin (the light-harvesting carotenoid, a pigment related to chlorophyll).
The second aspect of PAR is Photosynthetic response followed by Chlorophyll synthesis (620-700nm) which is the red absorption bandwidth of chlorophylls a and c².

Please see this article for more on the subject of PAR:
Aquarium Lighting Facts; PAR

[1]Zooxanthellae are single-celled plants that live in the tissues of animals such as corals, clams, anemones, & nudibranchs.


PAR-PUR-SpectrogramPUR (AKA: “USEFUL LIGHT ENERGY”) stands for Photosynthetically Useable Radiation.
PUR differs from PAR as the basic definition of PAR is ANY light energy in a specific frequency range (400-700nm).
PUR is the known USABLE light energy portion of PAR, as well different photosynthetic species will have a different PUR range to which they respond, to which research is still behind as per exact wavelengths for many of these species.

It is important to note that an LED (or any light) can test well for PAR using a PAR meter, but still have POOR “Useful Light Energy” (PUR)!!

The Picture to the left is a spectrograph with high PAR Values and high PUR percentages, from a 2012 Cree XR-E 14000k emitter

If using Apogee MQ-200 PAR Meter or similar to test PAR value you can get similar µMol•m²•sec numbers from one LED to another.
A PAR meter can sense and report light (‘photons’ or ‘quanta’) that are responsible for promoting photosynthesis which are the wavelengths that are between 400nm and 700nm.

However, if one of these lights produces energy that peaks at 450nm (the blue spectrum); while another light peaks at 590nm (yellow spectrum); your reading comparison is not all that accurate since the PAR Meter reading will be similar, yet the light producing the exacting 450nm bandwidth is clearly the better light to use, which is where a PAR meter is often over rated!.
As well, PAR meters are less accurate in measuring ANY light energy under 500nm, which is why a one light from the same manufacturer with the same exact energy input that has higher nanometer light energy will have a higher PAR than one that is 450nm despite the same exact actual energy input and output!
Reference: Aquarium Lighting Facts; PAR

For zooxanthellae in your coral’s tissue, the light peaking at 450nm will have greater PUR than the light that peaks at 550nm, although the PAR mmol readings are less for the 450nm light with equal energy consumed.
Thus your PAR meter should be only a part of your light energy measurement determination, otherwise if a PAR meter is all that you use, you could end up with an inferior light!

Similar can be stated about relying on PAR only for a planted freshwater aquarium, especially since many fluorescent lights can be heavy on the yellow/green spectrums which a PAR meter does not differentiate.
This is also a problem with many LEDs that rely on “cool white” emitters, which unfortunately many of even the pricey LED fixtures utilize these less than desirable emitters!
For this reason LED fixtures such as the EcoTech Radion which utilize cool white emitters might have an excellent PAR value, it is going to fall short of others that utilize better daylight emitters in the more important PUR. Worse yet are the Warm White emitters used by Chinese LEDs such as the EverGrwo/Ocean Revive
EcoTech Radion Review
EverGrow & Ocean Revive Review

Based on known data as per Cynobacteria alone, and despite the lack of knowledge of certain particular corals or freshwater plant needs, we do know enough that PUR should be your major consideration.
To set PUR aside, as some arguments have chosen to do, is dishonestly ignoring KNOWN & ESTABLISHED FACTS about lighting and its effects on zooxanthellae, plants, to even humans!

The problem with relying solely on a PAR reading is this does not accurately reflect “useful light energy” output, as well there is more than one way to mix light “colors” (wave lengths) yet still maintain the desired PAR and other popular ‘selling’ parameters (kelvin, etc.); these mixes of colors (often by adjustable LED emitters) are rarely optimum for PUR/Useful Light Energy.

Please read this article which displays emitter spectrographs by simply using a digital camera:
PUR vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting (LED)

In fact as per the gimmick of adjustable LED emitters; Spectral output only holds true when the emitters are run at the operating voltage and current that they were designed for. As soon as that simple voltage rheostat is used (“control technology”) or RGB is altered, the spectral output changes thus lowering PUR.

I should also note, that based on observations by many TRUE aquarium maintenance professionals (not the Hollywood types), even a Spectrograph is not always a reliable source of exact “useful light energy” output as even when spectrographs have displayed similar charts, the results were different.
This may in part be due to the amount of energy actually delivered due to LED circuitry and driver design within each light band.

Unfortunately the VAST MAJORITY of LED Aquarium Lights flooding the market use general LED emitters available to all lighting manufacturers. These emitters are used for all lighting applications from home to industrial use and are NOT specifically designed for aquarium use.
These may require up to 4-5 times the wattage; such as the Boost LED or Blue Moon/TaoTronics LED. These are one in the same LED from the same Chinese manufacturer.
Reference: Blue Moon/TaoTronics, Review

These may produce similar results in PAR, but NOT PUR as the better patented emitters such as the exclusive CRee & Osram Olson emitters used by Tropic Marine Centre’s AquaRay LED or the Orphek LED.
The end result is while certainly reef capable, these LEDs require 120 watts of electricity to do the job a better fixture can do with 30 watts (part of the reason of higher input wattage is the use of extreme energy wasting current reduction technology, which wastes considerable amounts of energy as heat).

As per “Useful Light Energy” (PUR), I will address a comment that attempted to insist that “there is little difference in emitters” between those use by TMC, Orphek and other high end LEDs using patented emitters and those used by Marineland and others using “off the shelf” emitters.
To make such a rash comment ignores the expense of development and technology of the emitter, as well as drivers and circuitry running the emitters. This displays about much sense as comparing a processor running a computer circa 1995 as a processor running a 2013 computer.
For those who believe this type of BS or want to make such comments, go ahead and hang multiple LED flashlights you can purchase at Walmart for $5 over your aquarium and see how well your Reef inhabitants or freshwater plants thrive!!
While the above is an extreme analogy, as emitters used by LEDs such as Taotronics, Evergrow, etc. are certainly not this bad, they still are not of the exacting spectrum of the patented emitters since these and most other aquarium manufacturers used common “binned” emitters.

Cree & Osram Olson are recognized as the leaders in LED emitter technology and development; and even within specific emitter bins such as the well known XR-E emitter, these emitters are constantly upgraded with patents to these upgrades.
As an example (again using the XR-E), the XR-E emitter bin utilized two years ago is not the same patented XR-E purchased today. The newest emitter “updates” are kept exclusive by contract so one cannot purchase a Chinese LED fixture such as the popular E.Shine advertising an XP-G, XP-E, XR-E, etc. and expect the exact same emitter as one from a fixture that has exclusive rights to the newest developments, including the newer yet XT-E, XB-D, & ML-E emitters.

As an example of how this works, especially since this is a major area of confusion:

What many do not realize is that the aquarium lighting aspect of LED emitters is but a needle in a haystack as per emitter sales for companies such as Cree. So most of what is offered are standard emitter bins in Kelvin colors such as “warm white & “cool white”.
What has happened with the patented emitters such as the XT-E used by TMC AquaRay, is these emitters have been modified to more efficient colors such as 10K daylight, THUS REQUIRING LESS EMITTERS since there is less than a shotgun approach and therefore lower input electrical wattage.

Does this mean a new XT-E emitter used by EcoTech is BAD?
Certainly not, but as the graph at the beginning of the article illustrates, the common binned version does not compare to the patented version; these are FACTS that cannot be disputed!

As well Osram Olson has an emitter that was paid by TMC to be developed exclusively for the use in reef aquariums (the NP full reef spectrum blue).

This also includes the fact that most LEDs control their emitters with “Current Reduction” instead of the vastly superior “Pulse Width Modulation” with the end result of less than optimum PUR and excess heat generated.
Please reference:

As a final thought here, keep in mind that a high end LED Light fixture is an electronic piece of equipment that is in part only as good as its drivers and circuitry which is also why care must be given in the installation to protect against humidity or moisture damage.

For more about PUR, please reference these articles:
*Aquarium Lighting; PUR
*PUR vs PAR in Aquarium Lighting

Below is a picture of a reef aquarium containing acropora corals that has been running for 6 months as of the time of this picture with VERY high PUR but lower wattage (lower carbon footprint too) AquaRay/ AquaBeam NP 1500 and 2000 LED tiles ONLY!
This picture is from my other article:
Acropora Coral Information and Care; Lighting, Amino Acids, more


Other LED Considerations/Rumors

I look at areas where fiction & facts often get obscured either by poorly worded reviews, very often inaccurate forum posts, and manufacturer claims.

  1. Drivers/Circuitry: What an emitter diode produces depends entirely on the power being received, which depends entirely on power supply and drivers! The results of a poor driver is an unreliable PUR which is the sad fact of many LED fixtures!!
    The FACTS are most LED fixtures contain mediocre internal electronics essential for cost savings (you get what you pay for)
  2. First, many confuse the importance of dimming LEDs for sunrise and sunset. Having dimable features does not make an LED bad (as some claim), but neither does this feature make a LED better as others claim.
    It is also noteworthy that very few LED Fixtures use “pulse width modulation” rather most utilize “current reduction” which is inferior for retaining light spectrum quality across all emitters!!

    The bottom line is this feature is for the aquarium keepers benefit, so if you like this feature great. However if not fine too, but do not let this feature make you purchase a lessor LED if the better LED Fixture does not have this feature.

  3. CRI, I already addressed this earlier, so I will only add that this again is primarily for your benefit as an aquarium keeper, not your corals, etc.
  4. Moon Lighting; Moonlight is not Blue, so do not purchase a LED fixture for this reason only (meaning one LED fixture provides a blue moonlite phase while brand 2 has a dimmed full spectrum phase)
    Please reference:

aquarayheader6tnPurchase Aquarium LED Lighting, What to Know, Orphek

A couple of LEDs I would recommend is the vast TMC AquaRay Line of LEDs or the Deep Tank Orphek LEDs (which are currently difficult to obtain)

Be careful of purchasing brands such as the MarineLand Single/Double Bright, Ecoxotic, Maxspect, and many others as many of these lights simply do not have the best emitters as per PUR or in one companies case, infringe on patents.
For example the Ecoxotic depends upon (12) 1 Watt LED low end technology emitters versus (5) 2.4 watt very exacting wave length emitters for the TMC AquaBeam 500/600 (the 8000k white emitters use by Ecoxotic are not nearly as exacting as the patented & exclusive CRee 14,000k emitters used by the TMC AquaBeam/AquaRay); the result is although the Ecoxotic may cost 40% less, your useful energy (aka PUR) is less than 1/3 that of the TMC AquaBeam 500/600s.
Is this really bargain?
Please reference:

Unique Features; Lightning Storms

Another unique feature that some high end LED Aquarium Lights can perform is simulated lighting storms.
With the TMC Storm Feature and Multi Power Controller, an aquarium keeper can simulate lightning storms via an internal program that will last 30 minutes.
See: AAP AquaRay Controllers

This feature when utilized immediately after a water change is a proven way to stimulate many Tropical Freshwater Fish and certain marine fish species to breed.


It is now obvious in reading this article which aquarium LED brand is my preference, based on the science of lighting, as well as my use, and also as per the many I know in the industry who have used many different Aquarium LEDs, many with with good results.

So now I will point out another reason why I am sold on the TMC line; WARRANTIES and customer service.

TMC warranties their LED fixtures for 5 years, as compared to 1 or two years for most other brands. One brand, “Finnex” only has a 180 day warranty, these are a joke in my opinion!

Why is this important? Well since almost ALL other brands utilize “current reduction” and thus require cooling fans, these are a part that often breaks down, and there are even reports from some of my friends who own different LED fixtures with cooling fans that their unit even caught on fire when it over heated!!!

Since most of these companies do not have a long warranty, you could be stuck.
As well a few friends who returned their LEDs under warranty had to wait a few weeks for the repair to be made while their tank was missing an important light.

This is why, more than any other reason I prefer TMC, as I and others have used other brands with success, albeit with much more energy usage for the same results, nothing beats TMC for their customer service for a rare break down.

One friend who works for a retailer that sells AquaRay, told me that the vast majority of returns turn out to be products that were abused and had clear damage from this misuse.
HOWEVER they told me that even 3 years into the warranty they were authorized to give the customer a NEW LED fixture at no additional cost, not wait for a repair!!

This to me is incredible, as I have had other electronics break down such as a lap top computer and still had to wait a few weeks for the repair, they did not simply ship me a new laptop!


LED-Reef-White-TilesWhen the most important factors are considered, which this article only gives a brief ‘overview’ of (an in depth reading of Aquarium Lighting; Facts & Information is a must), the truly high end LED Aquarium Lights, of which there are currently just a few requiring only .6 (maybe .8) watt per gallon for high light freshwater planted aquariums and just .8 (maybe 1) watt per gallon for most Reef Aquariums. Of coarse this is a simplification and depth, specimen placement, etc. are also considerations.

For “FISH ONLY” of very basic planted or FOWLR marine tanks, only 1/3 to 1/2 the above watts per gallon are required.
Please note that there are many other variables such as specimen placement, tank depth, light placement that can increase or decrease these suggested wattages; Ex: a shallow tank (such as only 12 inches deep) that might be large in volume will require lower wattages of “high end” LED light energy.

These watts per gallons aquarium lighting requirements must be compared apples to apples as these watts requirements do not apply to most Aquarium LEDs as most are just cheap Chinese imitations utilizing older emitter bins without proper drivers/circuitry.

If you are still considering one of these LED knock-offs (that use “off the shelf emitters”), realize the most important light measurement is “Useful Light Energy” or PUR and although many lighting professionals recommend the use of PAR Meters as a measurement of any aquarium lighting fixture, in the end this is far from 100% accurate, especially when one compares the patented emitter bins to the standard emitter bins used by the cheaper Chinese or similar LED light fixtures.
Often the “cheap” LEDs produce considerably more much less efficient green/yellow light and are bottom heavy in the Blue Spectrum. It is also noteworthy that a couple of these low price LED makers from China are also using stolen technology emitters and pending lawsuits will likely result in these manufacturers not being around long term for any real customer support.

Another company keeps coming out with awesome controller “bells and whistles”, yet still uses “off the shelf” cool white, red, and green emitters along with current reduction technology that wastes energy as HEAT that that could be going to lighting your aquarium.
While these controller features are certainly impressive, when one does some honest homework, it still comes down to “useful light energy” and these emitters are clearly not the best for this.
That said, do not buy ANY LED for controller features, but for light energy produced. This includes TMC for their “storm feature”, which although it is cool and somewhat useful for some advanced aquarium keepers, the ONLY real reason to spend the amount of money an LED fixture costs is for LIGHT. So why not purchase your LED for actual lighting to keep your freshwater plants or coral reefs???

So consider whether your so-called “deal” of a LED Light is really a deal at all or look at it this way: would you use multiple LED Flashlights you can purchase at Home Depot or similar to light your Reef or planted Aquarium? Although this analogy may seem a bit exaggerated, it is still a reasonable analogy when one considers current technology advances and the costs of developing these advances.
In other words you may save some money up front, but long term you will use more electricity for a fixture with a 1 year warranty that if you are lucky might last 2 years versus a fixture guaranteed to last 5 years.
As well during the time you are running one of the fixtures that require a higher wattage to get the job done, your Carbon Footprint is going to be considerably higher!!

In the next section I provide actual LED recommendations based on the TMC AquaRay line of Aquarium Fixtures.
Some jaded persons may think I work for TMC; well I do not; I simply have found their LED lights the most assessable, with the most variable applications, with the among the best science and recommendations from my aquarium service professional friends to back them up, along with excellent customer service when problems did arise once (at least where I have purchased my LEDs), and finally with fair pricing when I consider that these are very high end “Cutting Edge Technology” aquarium light fixtures.
See: Customer Service

I will also state that my friends who maintain and design aquariums professionally primarily use this line of LEDs (based on results), which their input and research is my primary reason for this article and use.

Here is a very basic RSM 250, 65 gallon Aquarium with AquaBeam Reef White LEDs YouTube Video”
YouTube Video; RSM 250 with AquaRay 600 Reef White


This is where I have generally purchased My LED Lights from:

First understand the differences between the emitters and drivers used:

The Newest emitters:
*The Cree XT-E, XB-D, & ML-E, along with the Osram Olson “NP full spectrum Blue” (“Nature Perfect”) emitters are the newest yet.

The Osram Olson ‘NP full spectrum Blue’ is an emitter specifically designed for Aquarium Reef use in its PUR output.
The new Cree patented emitters promise to be a much less voltage sensitive emitter, allowing got better adaptation to the harsh aquatic environment.

In the blue spectrum, the ML-E Blue is generally used as a focused (lensed) emitter & therefore a deeper penetrating, High Kelvin 465-485nm “royal blue”.
The ML-E Blue can compliment other LED lights of 14,000 or less.

The new patented XT-E is used in the Fiji Blue are 420-465 nm, this emitter enhances the fluorescence of the corals. These are unlensed, and therefore are not quite as deep in penetrating as the ML-E blue, despite there lower kelvin.

Should you decide on the high end TMC AquaRay Lights, here are some considerations among the LED fixtures TMC offers;

*AquaBeam 600: Each 600 Fixture has a 24 x 11 inch light spread that penetrates well to 20 inches, good to 24 inches and fair to 30 inches (not recommended past 30 inches).
In deeper tanks such as though between 22-30 inches I recommend the #600s to add more light spread to compliment the more focused Reef White or Marine White 1000 Ultras.
See: AquaRay 600 Ultima

*The GroBeam 600 is suggested for planted and most freshwater applications.

*The Marine White 600 is best for fish only marine applications and blended with Marine or Reef Blue as well as any actinic T5 or similar lights already present. As well, the Marine White (in particular the 1000 Ultra) is an excellent compliment to the GroBeam in planted freshwater aquariums over 24 inches in depth (generally in a 3 GroBeam to 1 Marine White configuration).

*The Reef White (18K) is generally the best overall Reef LED in the 600 strips

*The Marine Blue (20K) is a good mix with other lower kelvin daylight bulbs or for deeper tanks (often in combination with Reef White)

*The Reef Blue is NOT a complete light for proper/full PAR/PUR in photosynthetic invertebrates, so this LED is meant as a compliment to other daylight LEDs or other daylight lamps such as a T2 or T5 daylight. The Reef Blue (as well as the Marine Blue) is also useful in tanks up to 30 inches for to compliment lower kelvin daylight in light penetration.

Mini-400-500-LED*TMC Mini 400 & 500:
*Each Mini 400 has a 15 x 15 inch light spread that penetrates well to 18 inches in freshwater.
Excellent for high light planted Nano aquariums (15 gallons or less, including small hex aquariums), as well the unique shimmer effect looks very nice with this newest offering by TMC

*Each Mini 500 has a 15 x 15 inch light spread that penetrates well to 18 inches in saltwater
Similar to the 400; excellent for Reef Nano aquariums (15 gallons or less, including small hex aquariums) for all but the most demanding reef life (which further test may yet prove OK for as well)
The Mini 500 includes 4 lensed CRee patented XP-E 10,000K and one unlensed Blue CRee XP-E. with a unique switch to control off & on, blue only, or all.
The Picture shows a Mini 400 mounted using a MountaRay bracket and head on view of the Mini 500 Reef, Marine Aquarium LED.
See: AAP Mini 400 LED Light Tile

*GroBeam 1500: Each GroBeam 1500 has a 24 x 24 inch light spread that penetrates well to 24 inches in freshwater (A Marine White would make a good compliment for tanks 24-30″ in depth in a 3 GroBeam to 1 Marine White configuration).
This is their best planted aquarium light BAR NONE with the most useful energy per square inch within the footprint!

Do not believe a certain unscrupulous live plant aquarium retailer that bad mouths these LED fixtures and has likely never used these lights.
As well, this person continues to push older technology inferior T5 lights; the FACTS are the GroBeam 1500 (& 600) is THE BEST freshwater planted aquarium light, period with the science to back it up!!
This light has been proven by so many to not only grow freshwater plants, but make plants thrive and explode in growth, their are many articles and aquarium forums documenting this!

Suggested Forum: Everything Aquatic Aquarium Forum

Colorplus-Ultima-Emitter-Spec-TN*Colour Plus 1500 (both AquaGro & Coral Colour): This is an excellent light for making fish, plant, and other colors “pop”
Excellent for medium to high light planted aquariums by itself and as a supplement to the GroBeam.

The Coral Colour Plus version contains the patented NP Blue as well as UVA emitters for advanced reef tanks.

Similar to the EcoTech Radion, except with less blue, which makes it a better choice for freshwater, although by itself a lower choice for reef tanks. HOWEVER this light exceeds the EcoTech Radion in that it utilizes newer generation XG emitters and more importantly does NOT use “cool white” as does the EcoTech, rather it utilizes 9000K Daylight emitters.

GroBeam & Colour Plus 1500

*Reef White 2000:
Each AquaBeam 2000 Ultima has a 20 x 20 inch light spread that penetrates well to 30 inches in saltwater (& freshwater for certain applications).
The Reef White is the best LED for deeper applications or to compliment other LEDs for very delicate reef specimens such as Maxima Clams.
As well the Reef White 2000 Ultima is a good compliment to Marine Blue, Fiji Blue or Reef Blue 600s in deeper tanks.

AquaRay NP Ultima 2000

*AquaBeam 1500 Ultima; Ocean Blue 20k:
The same emitters as the Reef White 2000, but the emitters are unlensed.
Each Ocean Blue NP Ultima 1500 Tile (20K) has a 24 x 24 inch light spread that penetrates well to 20 and maybe 24 inches in saltwater (& some freshwater applications).

This new LED fixture contains these emitters; (2) x Cree Patented XT-E Fiji Blue, (4) x Cree Patented XT-E Ocean White, and (4) x Osram Olson NP Blue.
Best results with these fixtures is for specimen placement under 15 inches (22 inches max), however the NP Ocean Blue 1500 can be mixed with the Ultra 1000 LED fixture for tanks much over 22 inches in specimen light placement

The Ocean Blue NP 1500 is excellent for use in most shallow Coral Frag Tanks, since these are unlensed emitters, resulting more light spread but less depth penetration

Ocean Blue 1500


As with ANY aquarium light, placement of your freshwater plants, sps corals, maxima clams, etc. can make a major difference in the amount or number of light fixtures required.
I know of many who have kept reef specimens and aquatic plants with half the recommendations I have made here. In these aquariums the plants or corals were placed directly under the lights with the entire tank simply not 100% lit.
An example is a friend with just one GroBeam #500 in a 40 gallon aquarium with live plants that are thriving and growing (this tank is actually well lit with just one GroBeam, but the plants are directly under the 24 x 11 inch footprint of lighting).


SHO Lighting Review; New Planted Aquarium Light Technology

Further Revised: 1/8/14

SHO-Custom-ApplicationAlthough the SHO (Super High Output) CF Light is not all that new, yet for some reason it is still not all that well known in the Aquarium Hobby. These high output CFLs are quite well known among indoor nurseries and Hydroponics operations, and somewhat known among aquarium professionals.
That said, since so much information is “cut and paste” nowadays (thanks to misinformed forums and places like Yahoo Answers), these lights are still either not well known or dismissed out of hand, such as the person referenced in this “Fish as Pets” post:
Aquarium Forum Hall of Shame Part 4: SHO Lamps/Lights

However the facts speak for themselves, otherwise why would many Hydroponics, Indoor Nurseries, and even health Centers that depend on high output natural sunlight use these lights?
The facts are while maybe the newer LED GroBeams are better, the SHO is hard to beat when it comes to results and economy of use (especially on a large scale).
As well, the 105 SHO puts out 6300 lumens of high PAR light that even the popular T5 cannot beat, even with comparable wattage.


Probably the biggest negative for the SHO Light is that these are not an “out of the box” light set-up, rather a bit of DIY ability to suspend a reflector, fixture, and lamp are required (other methods can also be utilized, but this is the most effective in utilizing these lights).
This negative aside, for those willing to utilize a SHO lighting set up, especially for a “high light” planted aquarium, there is no better lighting system other than LEDs (which also cost much more).

The picture to the above/left displays only a 65 Watt SHO in a reflector over a 20 gallon aquarium.
The customer spray painted flat black on the outside of the reflector. Then is using a black rubber PVC joiner, reduced 4″ to 2″, and two S/S strap clamps to secure and hide the electrical for a really nice custom application.
It is obvious from this application that the 65 Watt SHO is more than adequate for this 20 gallon aquarium. It is also noteworthy that the SHO light was added to this tank shortly before the picture was taken, so extremely good growth these lights achieve has hardly begun.

See this comment by a new user of the SHO:

I also purchased a couple SHO 85 bulbs with reflectors, and they are unbelievable on my 75 gallon. I have never seen my plants pearl as much as they do now, and I went from about 185 watts of HO t5s to 170 watt CFLs. I would consider these a serious upgrade!!!!

Mark T.


Here are just a few Interesting Points & Facts about the SHO Light:

SHO-Hood-Demo• The picture to the left displays how one can build a DIY rack to easily support the optional SHO reflector (which reduces restrike while increase light efficiency).
This is one of many ways an aquarium (or hydroponics grower) can mount a SHO light (Please click on this picture to enlarge for a better view)
• This is an awesome bulb for planted Freshwater aquariums
• A great bulb for DIY high intensity aquarium or greenhouse lighting projects and now medical studies have shown benefits to human and animal life.
The SHO Light is especially effective when used in properly designed reflector
(many convalescent hospitals are now employing these too, which along with greenhouse businesses, is the primary reason we have not always been able to obtain SHO lights as the primary North American Distributor is often sold out to these industries)!
• High output self-ballasted aquarium bulbs, no special (or expensive) ballast required
• 6400 K Day Light Bulbs

shobulbtn• Ideal for planted Aquariums (including Marine Refugiums), especially large tanks! In part due to the high PAR rating. PAR output is important for photosynthesis in plants or symbiotic algae in corals.
These bulbs are all you would need for a planted FW aquarium.
Reference: PAR, Photosynthetically Active Radiation, Aquarium Lighting
• 8000 hours average life
• The 65 Watt SHO produces 3900 lumens, while the 85 watt SHO produces 5100 lumens (the equivalent of a standard 425 watt bulb), and finally the 105 Watt produces 6300 lumens (the equivalent of a standard 525 watt bulb).
• 60 Lumens per Watt
• Can be used in freshwater or marine
• The SHO bulb is VASTLY brighter than most other competing lights.
See this website:
SHO Light, Lighting).

*Please note that for maximum effectiveness; the use of mylar or other reflective material behind your SHO Lights or better a polished reflector will direct the light energy into your aquarium.
Without the use of any reflective material, as much as 40% of your light energy can be lost and couple that with the use of glass or thick acrylic, another 40% can be lost (polycarbonate tops are best for light penetration).

Here are some Generalized Suggested Wattages for the use of a 6400K SHO Light:

*For planted freshwater aquariums; 2 to 2.5 watts of Daylight SHO Lights are required

*For Marine Reef, 2.5 to 2.8 watts of these SHO lights, possibly mixed with other light types such as actinic blue T5, LED 50,000K light.
Reference/Resource: TMC Fiji or Reef Blue LED Aquarium light

For the Internet’s premier source for Aquarium Light Information:

aquariumlightingdisplaytn4 The above article is a must read for those who want the most complete and accurate aquarium lighting information; A MUST READ!

A for a Complete UV Replacement Bulb Guide:
UV Bulbs; Replacement Guide


TMC, Tropic Marine Center Aquarium Products

Revised 12-13-17

Tropic Marine Centre Aquarium & Pond Products have been known for years in Europe (decades actually) as THE PREMIER fresh/marine aquarium as well as pond equipment company.
As well TMC is the authorized distributor for Quality Marine USA marine fish exports, who are the world leaders in ethical marine husbandry and healthy marine fish/reef invertebrates.

In speaking with many friends in the aquarium products/livestock industry, one thing that used to stand out about Tropic Marine Centre/Tropic Marin and that is this company has in the past backed the professionals such as the aquarium maintenance companies and high end aquarium speciality stores as well as selling via a high end professional distributor [Quality Marine USA].
Listening and responding to what these professionals asked. Also getting products (& livestock) that worked (and would be healthy as per livestock). Examples include the Tropic Marin Sea Salts, the AquaRay LED lights, and the Vecton UV Sterilizers.

Unfortunately of late TMC is but a shell of the company they used to be when it comes to backing professionals. Thankfully their products are still quality, if you can get them, but their backing of professional retailers and distributors is a thing of the past.

Still for the end consumer, one of TMCs positives over many other aquarium supply manufacturers is when there is a problem or warranty issue, TMC is still retailer based.
This means all returns are simply handled by the retailer purchased from, resulting in quick hassle free returns often with a new product. Compare this with manufacturer based returns that are becoming more common where by the buyer must send the product to the manufacturer, often waiting for a few weeks and often resulting in a refurbished replacement product!!

As well, speaking of warranty issues, TMC provides the longest warranty for their cutting edge, highest PUR LED lights with a 5 year fixture warranty; no other high end LED manufacturer even comes close with most only offering 1 year and a few offering two years

TMC is on the cutting edge in many areas, especially LED Lights/Lighting.

Here is the leading North American Retailer of their LEDs, whom I purchase from:
Premium High PUR Aquarium LED Lights from AAP

In other areas of aquarium equipment, TMC has improved on products that already are well known; often for prices that are lower while providing a superior product.

Examples here include the TMC Ozone Generator and Reverse Osmosis Aquarium Water Filter System

My Sources:


v2skimmer400tn*TMC V2 Marine Protein Skimmer

  • High performance, quality protein skimmer incorporating a patented venturi injection system which optimizes the perfect mixture of fine air bubbles and water and ensures intensive, efficient skimming and the removal of proteins and other harmful toxins (waste) from the aquarium.
  • Ozone Compatible; The V2 can be combined with an Ozone Generator for even more efficiency, in fact when used with an Ozone Generator this premium Venturi Skimmer can surpass any available Needle/Mesh Wheel Skimmer.

tmcozonegeneratortn2*TMC V² O³ Zone Ozone Generator

  • Unique “high purity ceramic” ozone cell design with microprocessor-controlled fan cooling for highly efficient and reliable operation
  • The TMC V2 Ozone Generator raises oxidizing levels within a Protein Skimmer or similar containment device for freshwater, this in turn helps to break down harmful waste products produced by fish, removing yellowing compounds and creating crystal clear water.

v2rounittn*TMC V²Pure Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System

  • Simply the best RO System for Aquariums under $300!!
  • Three-stage, professional RO (reverse osmosis) system incorporating high quality components including a TDS Meter in Advanced Models.
  • 10 inch Sediment/Micron pre-filter cartridge which functions as a first stage filter, removing particles of up to 5 microns from the water while also protecting and prolonging the life of the RO membrane. This pre-filter is enclosed inside a transparent filter housing so it is easy to see when the filter needs to be changed.
  • 10 inch activated catalytic carbon block filter which offers the highly effective removal of contaminants such as chlorine/chloramines and colorants from the water.
    Most RO and RO/DI systems commonly sold via discounters and bulk reef suppliers use lower quality carbon that do not remove chloramines, unlike the catalytic carbon used in these premium TMC RO systems.
  • Highest quality Thin Film Composite (TFC) RO membrane, which removes contaminants such as heavy metals and hardness-forming minerals from the water, as well as a high percentage of nitrates and phosphates.

    The other much more common type is the CTA, a.k.a. thecellulose triacetate membrane (sold by Dow), which is much less efficient, but also much less costly. These CTA membranes are used in most RO/DI systems commonly sold so as to meet price points, but the end result is the need to add DI canisters to the system which increase maintenance cost significantly.

  • Suggested use; In my commercial aquarium service business I found the use of a 32 gallon plastic trash can the best way to store RO water.
    We would run the RO water directly through a small hole in the lid of the plastic trash can with a secondary tube near the top to an overflow container should this first container fill while no one was present to shut off the RO Unit.
    The advantage of this over a pressurized RO tank is that with a pressurized RO tank, most are under 5 gallons and once filled the RO System will shut off, of which 5 gallons is far from enough water for most aquariums.
    However with the 32 gallon plastic container, enough RO water is rarely an issue! The other advantages over a tank are simplicity and cost.
  • Very Low Operating Cost; Based on maintenance schedule and replacement part costs listed below, your operating cost is only $ .014 per gallon!

Further Reading about the use of RO and RO/DI systems for aquarium water:
Use of RO, DI, Softwater in Aquariums


tmcuv2tn2*TMC Vecton and Pond Advantage UV Sterilizer/Clarifier

  • Simply the Best Ultraviolet Sterilizer at any price!
  • The Tropic Marine Pond (& Aquarium) UV Sterilizers feature solid construction by a company long recognized as an industry leaders in its innovation and quality of products. As well, these UV Clarifiers are made with UV bulbs that maximize water contact time, unlike many comparable high prices units.
  • See this other very informative post for much more about the “Top Notch” Premium High Dwell Time TMC Advantage & Vecton UV Sterilizers:
    TMC Vecton & Advantage UV Sterilizer Review

Further Resources
For a UV Replacement Bulb Guide: UV Bulb; Guide
For a UV Replacement Bulb/Lamp Specifications: UV Bulb Specifications; Aquarium or Pond

Or for Straight Tube UV Replacement Bulbs for your High Performance TMC UV Sterilizer:
Straight Tube, Standard & HO UV Bulbs


aquarayheader6tn2*LED Lights; AAP Aqua Ray; AquaBeam, GroBeam

This is where TMC is recognized by those who understand the science of aquarium lighting as THE WORLD LEADER with their use of patented and licensed emitters, drivers, and “pulse width modulation” for controlling their ultra premium LED Aquarium Lights. The only true full service online seller is American Aquarium Products with many brick & mortar sellers as well (BEWARE of a “Johnny come lately” non full service seller with little professional experience of these lights online, which AAP has already had to spend copious amounts of time helping their customers after they made the mistake of purchasing from, in particular with controllers).

  • TMC Aqua Ray LEDs includes the improved AquaBeam 600 Ultima as well as 1500 and 2000 Ultima with new wide angle beam that include the latest generation CREE Power High Performance LED Emitters and exclusive Osram Olson NP Blue, which is the first emitter designed SPECIFICALLY for reef aquariums.
    These are the best emitters for Aquarium LED lights available in their price range.
  • Less expensive than T5 Lights when compared to the equivalent light energy of (2) T5 18 Watt Lights & fixtures including; electrical usage, initial cost, T5 annual lamp replacement over the 5 year life of a AquaRay LED light fixture; the AquaRay costs $135 vs. $318.85 for the T5


tmcfluidizedfiltertn*TMC V² Bio Fluidized Sand Bed Filters

  • The most efficient Fluidized Sand Bed Filter that utilizes the most efficient method of aerobic biological filtration available.
  • The TMC V² Bio Fluidized Sand Bed Filter has a versatile compact design which can be installed internally in a sump or aquarium or externally as a stand alone or ‘hang-on’ filter.
  • A must have for advanced planted aquarium keepers as Fluid Sand Filters do not wear off your CO2
  • Also a simple and practical way to supply calcium, magnesium, and trace elements when used with Oolitic sand. These Fluidized Filters work similar (and much more simply) to a Calcium reactor and aid in supplementing essential minerals and buffers!

    See this review of the TMC Fluidized Filter for further information:
    TMC V2 Fluidized Sand Bed Filter Review

Bio-Calcium-Balling-TN*TMC Bio-Calcium Original Balling Set

The Balling Method by Hans-Werner Balling of Germany has become a popular method for dosing reef aquariums with essential elements, such as calcium, magnesium, among others, and maintaining adequate carbonate hardness alkalinity.

When the Balling method is properly used, all levels of major elements remain constant, with calcium levels at 420 mg/l, magnesium at about 1300 mg/l and carbonate alkalinity at 7 dKH.
Many German aquarists who have been using the Balling Method state this method accounted for a doubling is size of small polyp stony (SPS) corals in their aquariums within about 100 days.


  • Calcium Chloride Dehydrate
  • Sodium/Natrium Bicarbonate
  • NaCl-Free Sea Salt with ALL required minor and trace elements

Please read these articles for more:
Calcium, Kalkwasser, Reactors, Magnesium in Marine Aquariums
Reef Aquarium Chemistry Maintenance

Tropic-Marin-Salt-TN*Tropic Marin Pro Reef Salt
Tropic Marin Pro Reef Salt contains the exact mix of 70 trace elements found in natural saltwater.
Tropic Marin’s unique production process ensures these elements are maintained in solution to provide the natural biosphere necessary to grow and breed delicate marine fish, plants, and invertebrates.

Pro-Reef Salt is specifically formulated with optimized calcium and magnesium levels to promote optimal coral health and growth. Its unique buffering system and pH level have been adapted to accommodate the use of calcium supplements or calcium reactors to help simplify the care of even very sensitive hard corals.

Product Resource:
Premium Tropic Marin Pro Reef Sea Salt from Germany

Please read this article for more:
What Salt Mix to Use?

For the Internet’s premier source for Aquarium Light Information:

Or for an article specifically dealing with LED Aquarium Lights:
LED Aquarium Lights, Lighting


By Misti K.

Aquarium Lighting; Newer Technology: T2 Light Review, more

Quick Review of:
*LED Aquarium Light
*T2 Aquarium Lights
*SHO Aquarium Lights

Revised 1/10/14

This post will look at just a few types of aquarium lights/lighting, but is not meant as an exhaustive list.

These lights are primarily cutting edge, so if the reader is not familiar with these, it is partly due to the fact that the aquarium industry (as per lighting) is generally quite behind in technology (sometimes as much as a decade).
The LED can use as little as .6 watt per gallon a for a high light planted aquarium, while the T2 requires about 1.25 watts fr gallon (in correct placement) for planted freshwater aquariums.
However it is noteworthy that with LEDs, there are many that utilize analog controllers versus PWM (thus wasting energy as heat), as well as standard emitter bins. The result are LED fixtures that require 3-4 times the energy and thus the .6 watt per gallon can quickly change with these fixture (such as the Finnex) to over 2 watts per gallon for high light planted aquariums.

LED Comparison Chart

T2 Lights

T2-40-gallon-TN1T2 Aquarium Lights are another newer innovation, although not of the high tech level of the TMC LED Lights, the T2 Lights present a more affordable option over LEDS and even the older T5 lights. In fact lumen per watt and useful light energy is better than the often much more pricey T5 light.
These T2 lights are easily linkable for extra lighting or larger aquariums, with a very useful rotating lens for focusing light energy, unique to these lights.
The T2 has among the highest useful energy outputs of ANY fluorescent aquarium light and with the very unique rotating reflector/lens feature, very little wattage is needed in relation to light output (this also results in very little heat output too).

In fact here is just one comment (of many) I have received in feedback from a friend in the business of these T2 lights:
“T-2 lamps are amazing!!!!! They absolutely have to be the best kept secret in aquatics, I simply can’t exaggerate this point. I have spent hundreds of dollars experimenting with different strategies and lighting combinations, I sooooo wish I’d discovered your product long ago. I cannot believe how much freak’n light these things put out. I’m going to go on every aquatics forum and announce how amazing these lamps are. These Lights have exceeded my expectation 10 fold. If you were to demo these lamps at aquatics shows and exhibitions, you will quickly sell out. Both performance and value are immediately obvious. Wow!!!!!!”
(from Steven, Yorba Linda CA.)

T2 Light Reference: T2 Nano Aquarium Light, Superior to T5

The negative is lack of variations when compared to T5, as well the more fragile nature makes these lights more delicate & workmanship is not to the high end level of the TMC AquaRay LED Lights (but then the price more than makes up for this)

LED Lights
AquaBeam-Reef-1LED Aquarium Lights have come a long ways in technology in just a few years, from previously being added lighting decoration (highlighting) or extremely pricey for mixed results as per high light need applications such as reef aquarium.

That said, some of LED Aquarium Lights on the market are still not reef or planted aquarium capable such as the Marine Double Bright or Ecoxotic Stunner. These two lights might work as supplemental lighting or even low light plant lighting, but not high light planted aquariums or reef marine aquarium.
The Maxspect, EcoTech, Aqua Illuminations and other LED Lights are more capable, however these lights are still not using PWM technology or the emitter bin specifications of the LED emitters used by Tropic Marine Center AquaRay LED Lights, which are so precise that TMC has exclusive supply of these LED emitters and they are not available on the general market.
For these reasons the AquaRay AquaBeam LED lights have a more precise nanometer light output with a much higher output of useful light energy per watt than other premium LED Aquarium Lights as much less energy is wasted as heat or poor spectrum.
Reference: Current Reduction Versus PWM Technology

The picture above is a RSM 250 65 gallon aquarium with Reef White 600

Further References:
TMC AquaRay; AquaBeam, GroBeam LED Lights
Aquarium LED Light Reviews

Also see this article for an LED Aquarium Light Review:
LED Aquarium Lights, Lighting
Or this article from this website about purchasing LED Lights:
Aquarium LED Lights, Lighting; What to Know for Reef/Planted

SHO Lights
SHO-over-aquarium-2SHO Aquarium/Hydroponics Lights are an excellent cross over light, that only recently (the last couple of years) have some tech savvy planted freshwater (& some marine) fish keepers began to use.
This light has been used extensively by medical and hydroponics interests due to its simple self ballasted base, low cost in proportion to light output, and of coarse high PAR which is important in both Hydroponics and many medical studies that show better immune function, mental health, and more with high PAR High output lights, for which along with cost effectiveness have made these SHO lights quite popular in these commercial applications.

For aquariums, especially when used in a reflector or with Mylar in a hood, these aquariums can produce copious plant growth due to the high PAR energy produced per watt of energy consumed. In fact the 105 Watt SHO produces 6300 lumens, the equivalent of a standard 525 watt bulb.


For much more in-depth information on the subject of lighting, please read this article:
Aquarium Lighting

LED and T2 Aquarium Lights

For this website’s UV Light Replacement reference guide:
UV Bulbs; Reference Guide

Unique Aquarium (& Pond) Information Articles

Unique, accurate aquarium information articles
This post will provide links/resources to a few “Unique” aquarium/pond articles dealing either lesser known subjects or subjects that are often unfortunately “ripe” with myths due to cut and paste posting on the internet via Forums, Yahoo Answers,, eHow, and now Google with its spam ridden algorithm update that favor Amazon even in science based searches. As well as a few misinformed aquarium/pet stores that sadly often repeat this information too

Revised 1/30/18

  • UV Sterilizer Articles, Reviews
    Reviews and articles about the use of UV Sterilization in pond, aquarium, and home.
    Including just a few samples below:

  • Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle
    Easily one of the best if not the best article about the Nitrogen Cycle as it pertains to Aquariums & Ponds.

    This article covers many aspects of the Aquarium & Pond Nitrogen Cycle, from basic to advanced and unlike many articles such as one found at Fish Lore that rely on anecdotal information that is often quite outdated (such as the professionally discredited “raw shrimp” cycling method that the before mentioned article still puts forth), this article is regularly updated with researched information.

  • Pond Care
    A simple yet still content rich web page that anyone either not familiar with pond ownership or one who is having problems SHOULD read!
  • Aquarium Lighting; Light Facts and Information
    This is very in depth and frequently updated article, and although the subject is not unique, the content is due to the fact that most information about aquarium lighting is vastly out of date, often totally ignoring facts from research going back over at least a decade.

    Bluntly the Best article dealing with the complicated subject of Aquarium Lighting. Unlike most articles of this subject, the content is researched outside of the very anecdotal aquarium keeping community, which is often very behind in this subject, with many still suggesting the very archaic “watts per gallon” so-called rule. This article has information about bulb types such as T2, SHO, Induction Lighting and more that is missed by most. As well the important subjects PAR, watts per lumen, useful light energy, focused lumens and more are addressed.
  • Video Version of the first section of the above article:
    Aquarium Lighting
    Aquarium Lighting 2018 | Kelvin, PAR, Watts and More

  • Use of Salt in Freshwater Aquariums; Aquarium Answers
    This article/post deals with a subject that has considerable controversy on both sides, where often both sides have half the information/facts and are both “half right & half wrong”
  • Fish Diseases | How to Treat Sick Fish
    A unique article about a subject that already has a plethora of information available via the Internet. However this article is not to provide any specific treatment regimen for the readers fish, rather to provide an outline that will provide a better chance for success over the typical “my fish are sick and what medications & how much should I dump into my aquarium” question.
  • Use of RO, DI, Softwater in Aquariums
    An excellent article that is a MUST READ for anyone considering the use of RO, RO/DI, or home water softener water for their fresh or saltwater aquarium. As well this article corrects the misinformation about the popular economy RO/DI systems sold by discounters and bulk reef retailers that use less efficient components such as TFC (thin film composite) membranes
  • Aquarium Algae; Brown Diatom, Thread/Hair, Green Spot, Marine, BBA (Black Beard Algae)
    An Aquarium Answers article (post) algae control article, intended to address the types of algae that receive the most questions; including Brown Diatom Algae, Thread/Hair Algae, Black Beard Brush Algae (BBA), and Marine Hair Algae aka Filamentous marine algae (I address other algae as well in this article).
  • Aquarium Silicone; Tank Repair
    The most in depth article online about choosing the correct silicone sealant, Aquarium Repair, and DIY aquarium building
  • PUR, PAS, PAR in Aquarium Reef/Planted Lighting
    The most in depth and resourced article about the subject of light quality and light quantity. This article helps clear up many of the myths about this subject
  • Do Fish Drink? Osmoregulation/Osmotic Function in Fish
    An Aquarium Answers article (post) about osmotic function in fish. This is probably one of the best, most in depth & researched articles on this subject you will find on the Internet. Vastly more accurate and information than what you would find on most Google searches for this subject!!
  • Pond Veggie Filter
    An Aquarium Answers article (post) about a DIY Pond Veggie/Bog/Plant Filter.
    This article is based on experience with these pond filters going back to 1979, long before these were a fad.
  • Cyanobacteria in Ponds and Aquariums
    The original Aquarium Answers article post for an important reason; this is a subject that the author has spent decades of experience and research dealing with (along with continued research), as well this is a subject that sadly the majority of cut & paste web sites and blogs simply get wrong. So “googling” this subject is likely going to bring up a plethora of bad sites whose answer is simply to dump Erythromycin in your aquarium or pond despite the eventual environment havoc that will be reeked.
  • Fish as Pets; Misidentification of Planaria
    A subject that is common example of internet “cut & paste” of misinformation.
    With Google’s Penguin Update and constant Plagiarism of Websites, the chance of getting good information about Aquarium Planaria and other subjects is getting lower all the time.
  • Fish as Pets; UV Sterilizer Myths #5
    A basic article, however it provides insights into the common misinformation surrounding the use of UV Sterilizers for aquarium.
  • Fish as Pets; Aquarium Forum Hall of Shame #10; Aquatic Community
    A post at “Fish as Pets” that deals with what I would describe as a VERY intellectually dishonest forum thread from Aquatic Community & about aquarium chemistry and Wonder Shells in particular.

    This is a post that will either make you laugh or cry depending upon your mood based on the lazy misinformation posted in the thread quoted here (it is that bad!).
  • PUR or RQE, YouTube Video Fail- Guide to lighting a planted tank
    A newer article dealing with an either very dishonest or very misinformed YouTuber who incorrectly calls out correct science based aquarium lighting information, all the while putting out information discredited over a couple decades ago.
  • Common Aquarium Keeping Myths
    A newer article dealing with the myths of Betta Tail Biting, PAR as a definitive measurement of LED Light energy, & more.
  • Pet Mountain
    A review of an aquarium/pond retailer whose ethics are quite questionable.
  • Fish as Pets; Aquarium Moon Lights
    This post from “Fish as Pets” deals with the extreme misinformation found sadly in most LFS, forums, blogs, and even light manufacturers about what color moonlite actually is and how it relates (as per lunar cycles) to reef aquarium health

I will add more resources over time to this post.

By Misti K.

Aquarium Heaters

Aquarium Heaters

Revised 1/17/2014

There are many aquarium heaters now to choose from. Through about 35 years in the industry, we’ve had experience with many of them and have come to know some of the best. We have use basic automatic (non pre-set economy) heaters, to the very popular glass submersible pre-set (thermostatic) heaters, to the new quartz heaters, titanium heaters (including the digital titanium heaters), and the undergravel heaters (for Betta Bowls or similar. Here is what we have come to know as the best in our 35 years, using heaters in 100s if not 1000s of tanks.


Please click on the pictures below to to find out much more

Here are a few:

viaaquatitaniumwithdigitalcontrollertnTITANIUM HEATER



  • For fresh or saltwater
  • Durable construction
  • Internal temperature probe
  • Controls temperature from 68- 93 F (20- 34 C)
  • Separate controller
  • Easy to read temperature setting
  • For Marine or Freshwater use
  • The most accurate, state of the art thermostat available.


For 2.5 – 10 gallon aquariums (pictured 5-10 gallon model)



  • Extra small: easy to hide in mini tanks and bowls
  • Super safe even under gravel; no damage if left running dry
  • Completely submersible; ideal for use in both glass and acrylic tanks
  • Helps increase temperature 5 degrees F (2.5 C) for a 2.5 gallon aquarium or 4 degrees F (2 C) for a 5 gallon aquarium over ambient temperature
  • No setting necessary




  • Easy and precise setting of desired temperature
  • Sensitive and reliable thermostat maintains uniform temperature
  • Heating Element is highly efficient and compact
  • Designed for extended use and complete safety
  • Supplied with strong support clips and suction cups
  • Adjusts temperature from 66- 93 F

For Further Aquarium Heater Information:

Aquarium Answers; Aquarium Heaters

To purchase many types of aquarium heaters:

Aquarium Heaters

For a UV Replacement Bulb Guide for your Aquarium, Pond, Purifier:

UV Bulbs


Sponge Filters for Aquarium, Pond, Sump

Sponge filtration is an often overlooked type of aquatic filter device for freshwater tanks, ponds and bowls, and even marine aquariums. Many persons look past their simplicity as ineffective, but therein lies their quality.

spongefilternewtnSponge Filters


For the best in Aquarium Sponge Filters by ATI

For stand alone filters, please see our Sponge Filter Kit Page with more exact aquarium sizes for stand alone filters.


prefiltertanktnAQUARIUM PRE-FILTERS: See this page for Sponge Pre filters for your canister, wet/dry, or power filters. Great for live bearer aquariums, baby aquariums, etc. (including replacement sponges).

The Filter Max Pre-Filter is a MUST have for use with the Rena Smart HOB Filters & the reason the Rena Smart Filter should never be purchased from Amazon!!


HYDRO POND FILTERS For Hydro Pond Filters, follow this link

Hydro Pond Filters are also excellent for use in high flow aquarium sumps or similar.

For further Sponge Filter Resources:

*Sponge Filtration


Such as this article:
aquariumsumpsuggestiontnAquarium Sump, Central System Filter


UV-C Bulb Specifications; Aquarium and Pond

UV-Bulb-SelectionFor a Aquarium & Pond Supply’s COMPLETE UV Bulbs Reference Guide:
UV Replacement Bulbs, Cross Reference Guide

Most recent revision 10-29-14

In this article post, I’ll describe the differences in the many UV bulbs and why most UV Bulbs purchased at a low price are simply a waste of your money.
If your goal is level one or higher UV sterilization for your aquarium or pond, a cheap bulb will NOT work, which is why often purchasing on Amazon or eBay is folly since most UV sold there-in are medium pressure UV lamps NOT capable of level one or higher UV Sterilization, ONLY clarification!!!!

Types as per sizing and fitting:

Compact-Vs-StraightThe two most common categories for aquarium or pond UV sterilizer/clarifier used are “Compact” and “Straight Tube (Standard)” UV bulbs.

The compacts are a used by many popular UV Sterilizers such as the Sunsun Terminator, the Tetra, the Turbo Twist, the Jebo and many others. As well, most pressurized pond filters have UVs which use a compact bulb too.
These are used in UVs which take less space than conventional UV sterilizers.

Unfortunately, the UV Sterilizers that often employ the compact bulb often have many less than efficient designs and often the compact UV bulb is the bulb of choice by many low end UVs that have poor electrical components.
The does not mean all in this category are poor designs. The SunSun and Tetra are reliable, while the Turbo Twist used to be OK, but newer incarnations use VERY low quality ballasts and should be avoided.

The Straight tube UVs have been around for some time and their most basic design tend to be more efficient than Compacts, but there is wide variance in these as well.

Many lower end Straight Tube UVs have poor UV wall designs which do not allow for maximum contact or dwell time. As well, poor ballast transformer/ballast quality is common among UV Sterilizers employing straight tube UV bulbs too.
Examples of this poor quality are Lifeguard, Pondmaster Submersible UVs, AquaTop, and others that sell for under $50 (although the Lifeguard is not cheap, just overpriced in my view).

However, it’s also the straight tube UVs that have the best, highest dwell time.
Such UV as theTMC Vecton & Advantage, Aqua Ultraviolet, and Emperor

Within these categories, there is more break downs:


  • G23- these are a two pin base also called a PLS
    The most common G23 UV Bulbs, Lamps are the 5 Watt G23, 7 Watt G23, 9 Watt G23, & 13 Watt G23
  • GX23- these too are a two pin base, but have two clips instead of one clip to hold the lamp in place.
    The most common GX23 Bulb is the the 13 Watt GX23
  • G11- these are a four pin base with the four electrical contacts (pins) in a straight row.
    The most common configurations of the G11 are the 18 Watt G11, 36 Watt G11, & 55 Watt G11
  • G7- a newer version of the 4 pin G11 used for smaller lamps, currently only a 9 watt UV bulb uses this configuration.
  • G24- these are a newer more proprietary UV Bulb that uses a four pin base in a square configuration. Along with this, they have different lamp designs such as the “U” shape in the 18 Watt G24 and the Twist Shape in the 36 Watt G24. As for the design of these lamps, these are a less efficient design which do not allow for as much exposure time of the UVC.



  • T5 2 pin- this is simply a measurement of the width of a straight UV lamps width of 5/8 inch along with how many pins are at the end of the lamp/bulb.
    The most common T5 2 pins are the 4 Watt G4T5, 8 Watt G8T5, & 16 Watt G16T5.
  • T5 4 pin- this again is a 5/8 inch wide lamp/bulb, but instead has four pins at one end of the lamps bulb.
    This has become probably the most common of the straight tube UV bulbs
    Of the T5 4 pin UV Bulbs, the most common are the 8 Watt #PUVLF208, 10 Watt #GPH212T5L/4P, 15 Watt #GPH287T5L, 20 Watt #PUVLF350, 25 Watt #PUVLF46H, 50 Watt #PUVLF46H, & 57 Watt #PUVLF43H UV Bulbs.
  • T8 2 pin- this is a 1 inch wide (width) straight tube UV Bulb that has 2 pins on each end.
    This is a “work horse” UV bulb used by many of the best UVs and some of the older standards in UVC sterilization in the past.
    The most common T8 two pin UV Bulbs are the 15 Watt #G15T8, 25 Watt #G25T8, 30 Watt #G30T8, and 55 Watt #G55T8
  • Strait-tube-compare

    Most importantly when looking for a replacement UV Bulb or even a new UV sterilizer is how the lamp is designed to work. This can greatly impacts results.

    Simply put, the goal of a UV Bulb when used for aquarium or pond applications, is to produce UVC irradiation. However, many UV bulbs produced today are a medium pressure UV bulb which might last longer, but also only produce 7- 15% UVC irradiation.

    The better UV Bulbs (which also generally sell for more) use low pressure mercury UV Bulbs/lamps that produce from 35- 95% UVC irradiation.
    Generally speaking, a low pressure UV bulb is 7 times more effective than a medium pressure UV Bulb.
    So with this in mind, your so called great price of $10 or less for a bulb you found on eBay or is NOT such a great deal when considering this UV lamp likely AT BEST might help with some clarification. It MOST CERTAINLY will NOT produce Level One Sterilization!!

    Please Reference:
    *UV Sterilization; Facts & Information
    *How UV Lamps, Bulbs Work

    Heat-sheild-vs-no-sheildAs well a patented version of the low pressure UV bulb is available that uses a heat shield that further increases UVC efficiency and thus output.
    As of the most recent update of this article, this heat shield patented feature is only available on these UV Bulbs:
    The 9 Watt G23 UV Bulb/Lamp,
    18 Watt G11 UV Bulb/Lamp
    55 Watt #G55T8 UV Bulb/Lamp

    *9 Watt UV Bulb, with Heat Shield; Review
    *18 Watt UV Bulb, with Heat Shield; Review

    In summary, even if you do not purchase a UV Bulb with a heat shield (or cannot due to availability in your UV bulb size), do yourself and your fish a favor, and do NOT be “penny wise and pound foolish”. Don’t purchase a low cost medium pressure UV bulb, otherwise some clarification abilities is the best you can expect from your UV Sterilizer!