Aquarium Forums for Information such as Lighting, UV, Filters

This is a subject that is way overdue to be discussed, as aquarium forums often are like our mainstream news media which simply repeat information, whether accurate or not that fits their template.
Often with intentional miss-information based on broken links by moderators after members provide said links such as to this website or even taking down of legitimate questions by members such as I witnessed as the Chicago Reefs forum (based on a forwarded email for a aquarium maintenance & research professional).

The video below from the Conan Show makes this point, and aquarium forums are no different, if not far worse:

I have seen this unfortunate statement in many forums when I have been told to read in emails from friends or clients:

“I havent really been able to find any info on the TMC lights, and i assume that if they’re as good as they say they are then a lot more people would be using them.”

Similar comments have been made about Fluidized Sand Bed Filter versus wet dry filters even though the FSB filter is clearly the better technology for planted freshwater aquariums when simple science is applied. It is also noteworthy that FSB filters AND TMC AquaRay lights ARE quite well known and used if you search beyond an aquarium forum.

Why is this?
First threads such as the one on Chicago Reefs get deleted, but more importantly if all you do is use forums to get your information, even if you only “lurk” there, you are going to find the same repetitive points about the same products they all push, often due to sponsorship by certain brands or simple lack of research “outside the box”
Looking at it another way, if it does not meet the forum’s agenda, often threads will get deleted

Another common problem is since search engines often give “authority” to websites or forums posts based on age, often what comes up in forums or Yahoo is simply out of date information. Some of these outdated posts may have been correct at the time, while others have been proven incorrect as science has progressed.
Thankfully the Internet is not 100 years old or God knows what in terms of bs would be argued as fact based on someone reading an outdated forum article!

Back to sponsorships/marketing and how different marketing methods have a direct bearing on what will be seen/read on a forum or not, as some companies use a different approach to marketing that does not involve forum sponsorships.
TMC for instance placed an emphasis on getting their product in the hands of aquarium installation professionals rather than forum sponsorships with the exception of a popular UK forum.

What readers should understand, and frankly this is not difficult for those with an open mind and have not drank the Kool-Aid so many forums serve, and that is these “outside the box” products are NOT going to be featured in ANY forum, even though they ARE popular among many who are not active in forums or other social media.

My clients are very private and refuse me to publicize any of their aquariums in pictures, even for a resume, so my referrals are all by word of mouth (I currently am not taking new clients anyway).

This is not all that unusual and in fact as an example from a story my mentor in the business told me about how once he was setting up an acrylic aquarium with tubes between two tanks and he brought his then wife to this executive office waiting room. She really could not help much at the time so she quietly sat on the couch . However soon one of the executives that worked there told her she had to leave, my mentor tried to explain, but he quickly told my mentor how important the privacy of their office was and that he needed permission to bring anyone other than himself.

My point is this is typical of how many view their aquariums maintained by these professionals, so you are not going to see many of these aquariums running AquaRay LED lights, FSB filters since these have never been really pushed or made it past the Kool-Aid gate keepers at many aquarium forums.

What is also unfortunate that even with this shroud around aquariums set up by professionals using these products, there is still ample information and pictures in websites such as this, Youtube, Facebook and other locations. Part of the issue or so it appears, since I am actually relatively new to being “active” on the Internet is the point that Google is not all that good in bringing up many science based websites , rather is heavy in many social media such as forums or big box websites such as Dr. Foster or Amazon. I personally use Bing though for my searches, while I have a friend who swears by DuckDuckGo.com for internet searches.

Although the purpose of this post/article is to explain to those who only read forums or cannot get past page one of Google that there IS PLENTY of information for those willing to do even the most basic of research, I will make some brief explanation of products that often get the cold shoulder in these Kool Aid serving forums.

  1. Aquarium LED Lighting

    Some of the most basic of science is ignored in these forums, here is just some of it:

    • Wasted Heat energy; this is science 101 that any energy that is being dissipated with fans is energy that is NOT going to light energy, thus requiring more wattage for the same results.
      If you see a fan or two blowing, you know that this is extracting heat.
      As well PWM, while more complicated also plays a role in this wasted energy as well as potentially changing the spectrum and thus wasting even light energy outside of the best known PUR.
    • Utilizing green emitters and other emitters (including warm white) that are known to emit light energy outside of what is optimum for corals and other photosynthetic life forms.
      While photosynthetic life can generally use most all light within the PAR range, it is fact that certain light spectrums are much less efficient and provide different aspects of photosynthetic response.

      Reference & recommended reading:
      PUR, PAS, PAR in Aquarium Reef/Planted Lighting

    • Heavy dependency on PAR meters, even though it is a fact that even a PAR meter is more accurate in the middle ranges, thus giving a green light a higher PAR value than an actinic blue, even though the blue is going to have a higher useful PAR and thus is higher in PUR.
      As well, statements by some that absurdly high PAR numbers such as 500 µMol•m²•sec are required by Acropora, when in fact a study at a Coral Farm in Bali showed no more than 200 PAR from noontime tropical sunlight at the depth the Acropora were being grown.
      These numbers may be true for some poor PUR lights that are heavy in green, yellow, etc. light energy, but not those with better PUR spectrums.

      Reference:
      PAR vs PUR in Aquarium LED Lighting

    • Warranties; while this is not a scientific argument, it is one of simple logic and that is why would a the so-called superior LED light only have a warranty of 1 year while the so-called junk LED have a warranty of 5 years?
      This is a real head scratcher, yet forums such as Reef Central or PNWMAS will actually bash the 5 year warranty lights over the 1 year warranty lights!!
      Part of the problem with these shorter warranty LED lights is fan malfunction. The fans on some LEDs will malfunction in a couple of years (or less), resulting in over heating of circuitry and total failure of the LED fixture.

      While a warranty does not necessarily make for a better LED light, as I personally really like the Aqua Illumination HD Twenty Six [with only a 1 year warranty], but it speaks volumes for fixture longevity

    • Reference:
      Aquarium LED Warranties

    Below is a reef aquarium I was given permission to share utilizing ONLY AquaRay NP 1500 & 2000 tiles.

    Acropora Reef Aquarium running AquaRay AquaBeam LED Lights, Lighting

    A couple of recommended related reads:
    ~Zoanthid Reef Aquarium Care & Lighting
    ~Acropora Coral Information and Care; Lighting, Amino Acids, more

  2. Aquarium Fluidized Sand Bed Filters

    Fluidized Sand Bed Filter in sump, planted aquariumThese really are not all that new, with many large commercial operations running these filters.
    What might be more new is the design, with better models such as the V2 Bio by TMC now available than what was the industry leader 10 years ago, the LifeGuard.

    What sets these filters apart, especially for marine or planted aquariums? With Wet/Dry filters, in particular, these will strip CO2, often resulting in the need for expensive pressurized CO2 units, that are often not required with FSB Filters.

    The planted aquarium below is running with a FSB filter with only Flourish Excel the only carbon supplement (it is also using AquaRay GroBeam LED lights):

    Planted aquarium with LED Lights, Fluidized Sand Bed Filter

    With marine aquariums, the V2 FSB Filter can be run with optional Oolitic sand which then works similar to a calcium reactor in maintaining calcium, pH, and alkalinity with less additional supplementation.
    As well these can be set up to control and remove nitrate with a tall enough filter such as the V2 #1500 and use of products such as American Aquarium NPX Bioplastics.

    References, including earlier posts from this website:
    Fluidized Sand Bed Filter or Canister Filter
    Aquarium Fluidized Bed Filter Review; TMC V2, Merlin, Lifeguard

  3. Aquarium UV Sterilizer Use

    This is too long a topic to address completely other than to state that there is good evidence that a UV Sterilizer does not just control disease by virtue of level 1 or 2 UVC sterilization, but by improving the Redox Balance than thus allowing fish to fight off diseases with their own improved immune system better.

    What many miss based on conversations with clients and others is they go and purchase some piece of junk UV clarifier that CANNOT ever perform level one UV Sterilization. Unfortunately many of these so called UV Sterilizers abound from the Green Killing machine to the many AquaTop UVs. Then they see poor or no results and make blanket statements in forums that UV sterilizers are only good for clarification.

    Another common issue is purchasing low UVC output UV replacement lamps on eBay, Amazon, etc that only produce 7-14% germicidal UVC light energy instead of a true level one low pressure UV Bulb that has 5 times the output and in the end make claims their UV sterilizer is junk.

    Reef Central:
    Misinformation also abounds when it comes to the discussion of high end UV Sterilizers and which are best and what they can and cannot do for your aquarium.
    This is where the anecdotal but unfortunately popular forum “Reef Central” is often at its worse.

    I have read many posts my customers or other service guys have sent me where this forum personally attacks those with actual experience and science based expertise rather than deal with the science. Similar to their Reef Police moderation when it comes to LED aquarium lighting.

    I have read where high level members/moderators will bash TMC UVs while promoting Aqua & Emperor UVs.
    As someone who also has used all three, I can state that they all are excellent premium UVs, but to trash the TMC, which seems to be the brand they love to trash, shows the lack of character and honesty that goes on at Reef Central.

    As an example, one argument they have used is that only Aqua & Emperor provide a good supply of parts and good customer service. However TMC does as well and my experience with obtaining parts and service since retailer based versus manufacturer based is much better with TMC.

    I could go on, but that is not the scope of this article, all I can say is to read anything at Reef Central with a grain of salt.

  4. Betta Fin Biting

    QUOTE From:
    The Myth of Stress Induced Betta Tail Biting.
    “This seems to have sprung from popular Betta keeping forums, just as the made up (myth) of s fish disease: “Red Pest”. Unfortunately just as in “Red Pest”, this myth has grown wings in re-post after re-post to the point many now believe this actually happens when in reality there are better explanations for the damaged tail or behavior Betta keepers think they are observing.

    For starters, biting of ones self when it has some sort of irritation (itch, stress, etc.) is a warm blooded animal phenomenon.
    You will not see a lizard, fish, etc. biting itself. Rather you will see these animals scratching against a rock or similar due to irritations. This is more commonly known as “flashing”.
    However, it is quite common for a bird or dog to literally decimate themselves over irritations or stress. Stress decimation has never been proven in cold blooded animals.

    Here is one such video example. This video claims tail biting, but does not show tail biting, rather just common Betta aggression whereby damage is mostly likely from impacting objects in the aquarium/bowl:
    YouTube; Betta fish tail biting
    OR this again showing aggression biting, not stress
    YouTube; Male Betta Biting His Tail
    Every other YouTube video is someone assuming their poor Betta is biting their tail, many showing Aeromonas and not treating for the real problem. This is how bad this myth has spread!!

    Another point is that this myth was dismissed by most in the professional aquarium keeping industry (including in fish illness seminars I attended), it was not until the Internet that it exploded that is suddenly became truth to many via non science based blogs re-posting the same information as an attempt to explain to many what they were seeing was tail biting like one might see with a stressed bird.
    Most of these blogs are regurgitating the same information (copy & paste) even the same diagram. One blog was by a friend (NippyFish) that I know was hijacked by a Russian (where I have been attempting to help her with DMCA acts that so far have gone nowhere, thanks Google), so this is far from trustworthy.
    Yet, even with these facts presented to them, a few aquarium keeping groups such as the otherwise intelligent “Fish Tank Enablers” continue to push this myth.

    Fish disease treatment is where many Facebook groups struggle with real research and unfortunately seem to loath mentoring which is how cut & paste information like this gets around. This is why I would suggest seeking out the few decent groups like “FRESHWATER FISHUES·Sick Fish Place” for real sick fish advice and use groups like the before mentioned Fish Tank Enablers more for “fish chat”.

    An interesting point that many of these non professional based blogs have in common is they state that certain bite shapes in tail damage are proof of biting when in fact this is simply more an indicator of the pathogen. The so called “Betta biting chunk” is typical of a Columnaris infection where by chunks of tissue simply fall off.
    More common though of Betta Fin Rot is a more ragged deterioration which these blogs claim (correctly) is more from fin rot. Problem is Fin Rot is not a disease per say, rather symptom (just like Septicemia or so called Red Pest). This more ragged fin damage is more common of an Aeromonas or Pseudomonas infection.

    Here is one of the copy & paste pictures that these blogs have shared that I have corrected to the correct diagnosis as per known science:
    Betta, Beta, Stress Tail Biting

References, including earlier posts from this website:

Aqua Ultraviolet versus TMC UV Sterilizers, Reef Central; THIS ONE IS A MUST READ!!
UV STERILIZATION; UVC Irradiation for Pond, Aquarium
Are UV Sterilizers Good for an Aquarium?
Actual UV-C Emission from a UV Bulb; Aquarium or Pond

Fluval FX 6 or 5 OR Fluidized Filter

Fluval FX5 Aquarium Canister FilterFurther Revised 1-18-2014

Canister Filters have been around for many years, long before I got my start professionally (working for an aquarium service company in 1986).
Eheims, Fluvals, Marineland Magnums, Rena Filstar, are just a few of the brands I have and still use.

Unfortunately these filters can occasionally be a nightmare in priming or loosing their prime due to connections, air bubbles, etc.
I managed these problems well since a leaky filter is something my clients pay me to NOT have.
However I also get many calls (as did my previous employer) from non-clients who request one time service calls for canister filters purchased elsewhere that they simply cannot get started or re-started.

This brings me to the point of this review; while canister filters are awesome for their capacity (assuming proper set up), these filters often can be be nitrate factories for high bio load fresh & saltwater aquariums.
As well, these filters are easily the number one cause of aquarium “headaches” based on my experiences with regular clients and one time service call customers.

One of the problems (among many) is the motor on the top which often gets an air bubble in the impeller well resulting in the filter stopping.
The Fluval FX5 addressed this problem with a bottom/side pump, which is by far the main improvement this filter offers in my experience (I emphasize experience, not just opinion).
The Fluval FX5 has many other features as well including what Hagen (the manufacturers) calls “Smart Pump™ Technology”. Personally I find this feature more of a gimmick as well as most of the other so-called features which are not much more than any other canister filter, except this filter retails generally for over $300 compared to much less for otherwise comparable filters.

As with ALL other canister filters, changing this filter is often a chore, despite some of the claimed “new features”.

TMC Fluidized Sand Bed Aquarium Filter, connected to pump, sponge This brings me to my comparison with a Fluidized Sand Bed Aquarium Filter.
These filters when properly set up (also assuming manufacturer) have a bio capacity that the Fluval FX5 or any other canister filter simply CANNOT match.
As well the simplicity is mind boggling when compared with ANY canister filter, since the filter is essentially self cleaning due to the abrasive action of the the sand in liquid suspension.

These filters also beat a wet/dry filter hands down on bio capacity and for planted freshwater aquariums are a no brainer when compared to a wet/dry since these do not “scrub” CO2 nearly as much as a wet/dry filter can and does do.

Part of the problem these filters have not “taken off” in my opinion is the fact that the aquarium hobby is very anecdotal and unwilling to think outside the box much of the time. This includes how to set up a Fluidized filter.

The picture to the above left displays a top of the line TMC V2 1000 Fluidized Filter mated to a water pump (SunSun JBQ 3500), then a Hydro Pond Sponge Filter attached to it. The Hydro Pond #4 by its own rights can handle an aquarium over 100 gallons, so when added to a Fluidized Filter that can handle 20 lbs of fish bio load (this is a lot of fish for an average aquarium under 200 gallons), you have a filter system second to none.

The negative of this set up is the large and sometimes obtrusive Hydro Pond #4, for which I generally prefer the vastly smaller Filter Max Pre-Sponge Filters (4 inches by 2.75 inches).
The other somewhat negative is the general lack of chemical filtration, however this is easily overcome by placing filter saver nylon bags of your favorite chemical media (such as carbon) behind the sponge pre-filter in the area of highest flow.
As well the use of products such as NPX Bio Plastics can be added directly to the Fluidized Sand Bed Filter which then aids in nitrate and Phosphate removal.
So you can see this second negative really is not a negative.

Back to positive, the ease of rinsing the sponge filter is so much easier than the cumbersome task of opening up a canister filter, and changing a small nylon chemical filter bag (if needed) is simple as well.

As to the Fluidized Bed Aquarium Filter itself, I have many types and have found TMCs V2 Fluidised Sand Bed Aquarium Filter by far the best due to the excellent fluidation and ease of adding additional sand or other media (this is where the popular Lifeguard model fails in my experience).

The other feature I like about the TMC over other designs is the ability to add Oolitic Fluidation sand which during its action in the chamber aids in buffering water for essential mineral cations and pH; this is a major plus for Liverbearer fish, African Cichlids, and of course any saltwater fish or reef tank, often taking the place of a Calcium Reactor when calcium needs are low to moderate.

The final feature I like is, as noted earlier, the use in planted freshwater tanks (using standard silica media) where this filter does not strip CO2 the way many other Hang on or canister filters can do. This makes this the filter of choice for any planted freshwater aquarium.

In summary; while the expensive Fluval FX5 is an improvement over older Fluvals and some other canister filters, for my money it is an over priced piece of equipment that is more than 50% more than a Fluidized Filter, Pump, and Filter Max Pre-Filter combination that can easily out perform it, all the while being a simpler filter system to maintain.

See Also:
Aquarium Fluidized Sand Bed Filter Review

Sponge Filters for Aquarium , Sump, Pond