After a year and a half of running a supposedly cold water aquarium at room temperature (usually above 20C), I have finally bought a chiller! I found it very hard to choose between the several available brands, with mixed messages on forums about noise, ventilation and size. In the end I decided on a D-D DC300 chiller; however, the supplier was out of stock and suggested to take the 750 Watt model instead. As it was not that much more expensive and as running a larger chiller at shorter intervals is more econonomical (and also after a year of indecision I of course could not just wait for a couple of extra weeks), the D-D DC750 chiller it was. I ordered an Eheim compact +2000 pump (1000 to 2000 l/hr) to go with it online and got some insulated tubing from my local stoner hydroponics guy. When the chiller arrived it was a lot bigger than I thought. I placed it in a kitchen cabinet out of sight, and hopefully hearing, and with help from friends drilled two holes in the wall to the living room, to lead the tubing up to the tank:

IMG_8466(I still have to drill holes in the surface for the two electric cables.) The chiller is set at 17C, which results in about 14-15C in the aquarium. With a lower temperature setting, ‘tank sweating’ (condensation) occurs. So the temperature is still at the upper end of native tanks, but I think (hope) it might make the difference for some species of algae and some sublittoral species. The chiller only comes on about four times per 24 hours for a half hour and the noise is not too bad. The inside of the cabinet heats up quite a bit, but I think it should not be a problem. I had planned to fit the outflow through one of the two holes drilled in the back compartment for the two Red Sea Max pumps, but the tubing was too stiff/the compartment too small to make the angle. I have now just tie-wrapped the tube into the tank:

IMG_8465I still have to find a proper solution to close the two holes, as I do not want the water to be sucked into the back compartment that way (bypassing the filter/skimmer). I have set the pump at 2000 l/hr which (with the loss because of chiller and tubing) is still not very strong (the two RSM pumps had a combined 1100 l/hr). I might re-install one of the original pumps to get some extra flow directed at the water surface. Next project: finally installing my LEDs!

new year’s resolutions

It has been a while since I last posted about the aquarium, mainly because I had a problem with algae and did not like the look of the tank in general. Combined with being away for two weeks over the holiday season, I decided to remove the rocks and most animals from the tank. Only left are some snails, Cushion stars and a Spiny starfish (who seems to do fine except for being less brightly coloured than when I caught it). The snails made a good start and cleaned up a lot of algae but it was too little too late. Also, (non Spiny starfish-related) mortality was quite high. Of all snails, the periwinkles fared least well (as I had noticed on earlier occasions); the Grey top shells seemed to do best. A main problem is that the snails move out of the water and often die there. Grey top shells can be found in the intertidal but are also common in the subtidal and so might be more suitable for the aquarium.








Anyway, time for a fresh start in the new year. I have decided to buy a chiller (and pump), mainly so I can switch off the noisy hood fans, but also because a more natural temperature regime might help keeping some of the more difficult species (see eg here and here). I have trawled the internet to find recommendations for the least noisy chiller but to no avail. I will stick with a more expensive brand and hope for the best. I will also invest in LED lighting. LED lights give a nice shimmer effect, generate less heat, use less electricity, need less replacement and are more easily dimmable. I’ve found this interesting Red Sea Max 130D retrofit kit:solderless_rsm130_dimmable__09721.1361404356.640.640I will need to buy a separate dimmer and probably will have to ask my local sparky for help fitting it in the hood but it seems like a good investment. I’d like to supplement white LEDs appropiate for shallow water with some blue ones so I’ll be able to get a deeper water feel as well. This week I saw an inspirational aquarium back in Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam: a deep water reef with gorgonians, many brittle stars, Boar fish (or Zulu fish) Capros aper, Snipe fish Macrorhamphosus scolopax and John Dory Zeus faber. A crap photo:


However, I will go for a more brightly lit seaweed aquarium first. I will switch to finer gravel and reduce the amount of rocks to improve water flow. This time I will also focus more on fish. Marius has a great picture of a Two-spotted goby Gobiusculus flavescens in his Irish rock pool aquarium here and I definitely want to have a couple of these (I had a tiny one recently but it was eaten by one of the Snakelocks…). The other fish I definitely want to have is a bright green juvenile Ballan wrasse Labrus bergylta (although the other species are pretty too):

wrasseSmall wrasse can be caught using a hand net but I reckoned it would be easier using a cast net. After my first trial run with such a net in the Helford river a while back I am not so sure though: loads of leaves and twigs but no fish. Youtube has hundreds and hundreds of ‘how to throw a cast net’ videos but these all use slightly different techniques which sometimes involve a throw whilst holding the led line between the teeth… Anyway, I’ll have to practice!


my Red Sea Max 130D

After moving to the seaside, I was sure that I wanted to have a native marine aquarium but I was not too sure about what set-up to buy. I have quite a bit of experience with tropical fresh water aquariums  but marine tanks always seemed to be much more difficult with sumps and skimmers and all that. However, nowadays everyone can start the hobby with a of ‘plug-and-play’ aquarium. After a bit of online research, I decided to go for a Red Sea Max 130D. At 130 liters it is a medium-sized tank, although I guess it is still often classified as a ‘nano’ tank.


All equipment is hidden in a compartment at the back behind black-tinted glass:

130d_filtration_bigWater flows into the back compartment through a sieve, this sieve cannot be removed for cleaning which is unfortunate as it easily gets clogged, especially when you have lots of seaweeds in the tank (I do not use the extra comb (1) because I did not find it very effective and it takes up too much space). Water then flows through a filter pad (2) into the skimmer compartment (3). The stock RSM skimmer is very noisy and I only use it at night. I find that the skimmer cup is not very easy to clean either. There is an empty compartment (4, 5) for a chiller pump that I hope to fill up soon (of course I do not use the heating element (6)). Water flows then through ceramic (7)- and carbon (8) filter material before two pumps jet the water back into the main tank compartment again (9). This design is quite bad, as the filter material can only be accessed after removing the pumps and the bags are stuck in a narrow compartment. I also use a bag with RowaPhos to remove phosphates to keep algae in check.

So filtration, skimming and design could have been designed better (as well as lighting, see a previous post) and it is perhaps no surprise that internet forums abound with descriptions of RSM tank modifications and additions (e.g. this media bag and skimmer replacement option). Although I am overall happy with my Red Sea Max tank, if I would by an aquarium today I probably would assemble it from separately ordered parts.