by Richard Rayl
Pictures provided by Lam Kuduro
Aquarium hobbyists are often on the lookout for unique animals to stock in their miniature ecosystems. We like to look for striking colors, unique personalities, or differing physical forms to accent and complement our tanks. Nothing fits these descriptions more aptly than seahorses. Their otherworldly shapes are completely unheard of when compared to other common aquarium fish. The seahorse is almost mythical in design, with its horse like head strangely mated to an armored, serpentine body. Seahorses are fantastic creatures to observe in aquaria, and with a little advanced planning and research, not much more difficult to keep than many other fish. I hope this article will dispel some of the mystery behind seahorse keeping, and demonstrate the basic requirements for building and maintaining a stable environment so even a “beginner” aquarist may enjoy these fascinating – and beautiful – animals.
Seahorses were once considered to be very difficult animals to keep. At one time, seahorses were only caught in the wild. Wild specimens usually only lasted a few months in a home aquarium before succumbing to infection or starvation. Recent years, however, have produced a breakthrough with seahorse keeping – that of the captive-bred seahorse. Captive bred horses outshine their wild brethren in many different ways. They are weaned on frozen prepared foods, they are hardier to a wider range of environments, and are almost always disease-free. Finally, and probably most importantly, captive bred seahorses are not removed from the wild, so we are not contributing towards the depletion of a natural resource!
I was first introduced to seahorse keeping by my wife. We were entertaining the idea of a new aquarium in the house, and she mentioned in passing that she’d always wanted seahorses when she was a kid. I’d never even considered keeping horses, but her comment got me thinking. What would I need to successfully keep these odd-looking fish?
Photos provided by Kelly Delavergne
Seahorse BasicsThere are many different species of seahorse available to marine aquarists these days, and some species have very different requirements for their environment. Most common horses you will see will reach a similar full grown size; that is, 5-8 inches in height. For now we will focus on these normal sized horses; specifically, H. erectus, H. reidi, and H. barbouri.
First, we should look at a seahorse’s anatomy. Seahorses are relatively lower on the evolutionary scale than most bony fishes, and there are a few differences we should know that will affect how we keep these animals. First, and perhaps most importantly, seahorse gills are far less efficient than those of other bony fishes. Their method of gas exchange is limited compared to other bony fish. Also, seahorses lack true stomachs. Food is passed through their digestive system with surprising speed. Because of this, they have to eat more often to maintain their energy levels. Finally, seahorse keepers should keep in mind that horses lack scales. Instead, their structure is based on an exoskeleton that is covered with skin-like tissue. Because of this, seahorses are sometimes more prone to bacterial or viral infections, and sores on the skin are a threat the aquarist should be aware of. Finally, a seahorse’s mouth is uniquely different from almost every other bony fish. This elongated snout is regulated by a “suction gun” effect, which is adapted to suck small prey in at remarkable speeds. Do not be fooled by their small mouths, however. I have seen 4 inch seahorses attack and consume small shrimp more than half an inch long with little difficulty!
The Tank Now that you’ve decided to keep seahorses, you should really start with a new tank. There are too many factors to consider, too many restrictions to abide by, to try adding seahorses to an established aquarium. First, consider the size of your tank. Seahorses are vertical animals, and utilize the water column to its fullest extent. In other words, the height of your aquarium is just as important as its footprint is. Find a tank that is at least 18 inches tall; the taller, the better.
I chose a 37 gallon “tall cube” for my seahorse environment. This gave me a roughly 19’ by 19” footprint and 24 inches of height for the horses to play with. A tank this size, properly filtered, will be an adequate home for 3 or 4 seahorses without causing them stress, or 2-3 horses if you plan on adding a different fish or two. The standard fluorescent strip light that comes with most aquariums is sufficient for seahorses in most cases. Seahorses don’t like as much light as a normal reef tank would provide, which is a factor you must take into consideration if you wish to have a couple corals in the tank as well.
Controlling the temperature of a seahorse tank is also important. Seahorses prefer cooler waters than most tropical aquaria, so the tank should be kept cooler for their maximum comfort. A tank temperature of 74 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit will be suitable. Most of the time, this cooler temperature can be controlled by running a fan over the top of the tank, but you may want to explore a chiller if you live in warmer climates. Other parameters, such as pH, salinity, and nitrogen cycle readings, should all be kept as close to FOWLR settings as possible.
Author's 37 gallon cube tank along with his prized seahorse.
Filtration Filtration is a hotly debated topic in any aquarium setting, and seahorse tanks are no different. A good quality HOB style filter will be suitable for seahorse tanks, even preferable in some ways. Seahorses should not have a large amount of flow in their environment. They are relatively weak swimmers, and would be buffeted constantly by the flow of a strong canister or most overflow style filters. Overflow filters are a good option, provided the return flow is not too strong for the tank size. If you do choose a HOB style filter, you will need one that is rated for a larger tank than you will be keeping. Because of their primitive digestive systems, a single seahorse can create a large amount of undigested food that essentially passes straight through their gut, only to decompose in the aquarium. Filtering this out becomes a full time task. Water movement from a lower-flow HOB filter also becomes an issue. With reduced water current comes reduced O2 saturation. A seahorse’s primitive gills have a very hard time getting enough O2 from their environment, and in fact will die from hypoxia in tanks with inadequate filtration. Low flow also has the possibility to produce dead zones, or extremely low oxygenated areas of the tank.
A simple and elegant solution is available in the form of a protein skimmer. Not only will a skimmer help reduce nitrates and skim out excess organics, it will help aerate the water and increase the aquarium’s oxygen content. Simply put, a protein skimmer – even an inexpensive one – is an essential ingredient to seahorse aquaria. Another option you can consider is the addition of a single low flow powerhead. The commonly held belief that a seahorse cannot tolerate any current is a misconception; on the contrary, a healthy horse can handle quite a strong flow if it has to. I should stress that last point: if it has to. The idea of watching seahorses zooming around your tank or surfing the current may be amusing to consider, but not recommended for the horse. Rather, a small powerhead near the bottom or back of the tank is enough to generate a gentle current that will eliminate dead zones and still not stress your seahorse.
Tankmates and Environment A seahorse tank is going to be set up slightly differently than a FOWLR or reef environment, but the differences are only minor. First, you may have heard the old story that seahorses need species-only tanks. “Don’t put other fish in ‘em!”, I’ve heard rumbled around in some stores, and “All corals will kill seahorses!” has also come up from time to time. Nonsense, I tell you.
While it is true that keeping horses with other tankmates requires a good deal of advance planning, it is not difficult at all to find many species of fish, invertebrates, and corals that will be acceptable. There are plenty of online references to help plan your tank, most notably at www.seahorse.org, but here is a barebones list of what you may expect to add to your seahorse tank:
Fish: There are many slow, cautious fish that make excellent tankmates for seahorses. Scooter Blennies, firefish, Banggai and Pajama Cardinals, and Royal Grammas are generally considered safe to keep. Many small goby species are acceptable, and special fish like the Catalina goby are an excellent addition to a chilled seahorse tank. The key to keeping other fish with your horses is their activity level. Fish that have a high activity level will easily out-compete the seahorse for both food and swimming space. Although fish add visual interest and diversity in a seahorse tank, I strongly recommend that you start with your seahorses and add only a couple fish from this list afterward. Let the horses get used to their environment before introducing strangers, so the fish don’t become territorial.
Invertebrates: Most snails are fine for seahorse tanks, and in fact recommended. Small hermit crabs like the blue-legged varieties are acceptable, and help clean up any leftover food. Most other crabs are best left out of a seahorse tank, as they might try to nip at a horse’s tail. Shrimp are also usually left out of a seahorse setup. Small shrimp would likely become food for the seahorse, while larger shrimp may outcompete for food. Finally, anemones of any kind have absolutely no business in a seahorse environment.
Seahorses in the same tank with peaceful firefish in the background. Picture provided by the author.
Corals: A very hotly debated topic these days is whether you can keep seahorses in a reef environment. My answer is generally “no”, but with a twist. You may not keep many seahorses in a reef tank, but you can keep quite a few reef denizens in a seahorse tank! First, consider your lighting. Seahorses usually prefer lower light levels, so choose your corals accordingly. Also, any large tentacle LPS corals should definitely stay out of seahorse tanks. A good rule of thumb is if it looks like an anemone, it will act like one. Large LPS corals have great numbers of stinging cells that can and will hurt the delicate tissue of a seahorse’s hide. These restrictions still leave a large number of corals to choose from, however. Polyp corals are generally fine to keep with seahorses. Gorgonians are often the classic seahorse decoration, and do well with a little specific care. Mushroom corals and Ricordias are also generally acceptable. Finally, faux corals are becoming more popular as new varieties come to market that almost exactly match the real thing.
Hitching Posts: Seahorses need structure of some kind to hitch on to during the day. Most of their days are spend with their tail wrapped around some easy to grab spot, swiveling their independent eyes in every direction to try and hunt for food. Gorgonians are excellent for this behavior, as are many faux corals and kelps. My two yellow reidis spend most of their day in a red kelp that I have “planted” in the back corner of the tank. In the evenings they migrate to the yellow and orange Gorgonians near the front of the tank, often with their little faces trained right on me as they wait for their supper.
Photos provided by Tom Robinson and Lam Kuduro
Care and FeedingThe single best food for captive bred seahorses is frozen mysis shrimp. Horses love ‘em. Because seahorses are such slow, methodical feeders, you must decide how best to present the food to them. You can hand feed them with a little patience, spot feed a few shrimp in front of them, or set up a feeding station for them to go to. In most cases, your best friend is going to be a glass turkey baster. With the baster you can present shrimp one at a time in front of the animal, suck them back up if the horse doesn’t take it, or carefully deposit a larger amount of shrimp in the feeder station. Most seahorses should be fed 6-8 shrimp each twice a day. Larger horses will eat more, so observation of your animals is important.
Although I love hand feeding my seahorses, I find the feeding station is much more convenient. A feeding station consists of any cup-like object that the horses can come up to. I use a small clear glass culinary prep bowl, but I have seen people use many different items. Large empty shells will do, flat depressions in a piece of live rock, even plastic suction cup store bought feeder stations will work. You should provide some hitching posts around the cup for the seahorses to latch on to. In order to get them started with a feeding cup, you should get the horse’s attention with a single shrimp, and then guide it over to the feeding station. Usually you will only need to do this once or twice before they catch on. Soon you will see them motoring over to their feed bowl as soon as they see you walk in the room!
Food that author uses and recommends. Mysis shrimp from Piscine Energetics.
Health and Disease PreventionI have been asked before about a certain seahorse’s coloration. Color varies from individual to individual, rather from species to species. There is no species of “yellow horses.” I have seen yellow H. reidis, yellow kudas, and yellow erectus horses! The color of a seahorse will change depending on its mood, stress level, and environment. My H. reidis are usually medium yellow banded with brown stripes, but when my male is courting the female he changes to a bright yellow, and his stripes become highly pronounced. When I first introduced them to the tank they both lost most of their yellow coloration, assuming a mottled brown that blended in with the live rock. The bottom line is simple: don’t buy your horse on color alone! You should observe any color changes in your horse when you have him home, because a radical color change may be the result of a stressed animal.
Seahorses are prone to most of the same ailments as other fish. The diagnosis and description of seahorse disease could fill a full volume by itself. Detailed diagnosis and care articles are available online with a quick internet search. To cover the basics, however, you should remember that seahorses, despite being so visually different, will occasionally come down with the most common of marine parasites….ich. The best cure for ich is, of course, prevention, so you should be vigilant and quarantine any animal that goes in to your system. Seahorses are also prone to develop skin lesions from time to time. Remember, seahorses do not have scales, and the possibility of a bacterial infection is that much more increased if a horse’s hide is scraped. Be prepared with a small hospital tank on hand if you need to remove and treat a seahorse. The links below will help guide you if you encounter a sick seahorse.
And Now……You have your own seahorse tank! I hope this guide has been helpful to you. Although a seahorse aquarium requires a little more work to start up, the benefits of the finished product far outweigh the initial planning required. Seahorse aquariums are at the same time both incredibly relaxing and completely enthralling. Don’t be surprised when you find yourself spending time sitting in front of the tank, just…watching. After all, your seahorses will probably be watching you back.
Photos provided by Lam Kuduro, Shane Gehring, Kelly Delavergne
by Richard Back
All the early adopters and control freaks rejoice!
Neptune Systems' FMK (Flow Monitoring Kit) has finally come out!
It was first introduced in MACNA San Diego 2016 where we had Terence from Neptune Systems show us everything about it. (That video will be towards bottom of the page) You can see the official product video of FMK Module from Neptunes Systems here!
With new launch of FMK module, we got together with Terence Fugazzi of Neptune Systems to discuss in depth about this unit!
What made you guys at Neptune Systems decide to develop a product like the FMK?
Well, there are a number of key parameters in an aquarium and should they fall too far out of the norms things go bad - sometimes very quickly. With the Apex we already had tackled monitoring and alerting aquarists on most of these like: Temperature, pH, Salinity, PAR, etc. But there was one key component of keeping an aquarium alive that was missing - water flow. If this is not adequate, the animals will suffer. If it ceases altogether, it could be a matter of a few hours before all is lost. So we decided that having that key parameter monitored was a missing piece of the puzzle. That is what drove us to develop the FMM and the FMK - Flow Monitoring Kit.
Is this mainly just for return pumps then?
Well, that is how we started out, for sure. However, once we went down that road, we realized how little people understood about the flow in their aquariums - not only the return pump, but all the various filters and devices they use as well. Things like carbon, GFO, biopellet reactors, UV, etc. all require a specific flow amount to operate optimally. Also, that flow changes over time due to various factors in those devices, so a lot could be learned by the aquarist if they had access to this data. This made us realize we should offer smaller sensors as well. We even have sensors for 1/4” tubing so even the input to RODI systems could be monitored by the Apex.
This seems kind of complicated, is this just for the advanced aquarist?
A: No, with a little bit of simple plumbing work, any average aquarist can install these sensors and add the FMK to their Apex in under an hour. One could even say that the average or less experienced aquarist could benefit the most from the FMK since it helps them take out the guess work in so many things that require flow on an aquarium.
What is the cost for the FMK?
A: The FMK costs $199.95. When we created the FMK we looked at other standalone flow monitoring options both in and out of the aquarium market. Most cost at least double what the FMK costs, and that was just for one sensor and electronic readout - no text alerts, no logging on your smart phone, none of the advanced features you get with the FMK and your Apex. Since we believed this could be one of the most valuable pieces of equipment for creating a long-term successful aquarium, we wanted to get this technology into the hands of the most people possible. This is why we worked hard to develop something that would give our customers multiple sensors for a very reasonable price.
Are there other sized sensors than what comes in the FMK?
A: Yes, in addition to the 1” and 1/2” sensors that are in the kit, we also have available flow sensors for 2” and 1/4” as well. In fact, there are even more sensors available that you can plug into that FMM module for functions like leak detection and optical water level sensing. There are four ports on FMM where you can plug in all of these various sensors.
I have 1 1/4” return plumbing from my pump and I use 3/4” off my manifolds for my UV, do you have sensors in those sizes?
No, we do not. But we thought this through. You can easily adapt down a 2” sensor to 1 1/4” using a reducer bushing with no negative flow side effects. Similarly, you can step down the 1” sensor to 3/4”
What is that ACC connection on the FMM?
That is a DC24 Accessory port just like the ones on our Energy Bar 832 and 1Link module. Accessories such as our PMUP utility pump as well as our solenoid valve can be attached there. You then plug in a power supply to the other port next to it and you now have a new outlet available in your Apex Fusion dashboard that you can configure for control to your liking.
Can I just buy the FMM and mix and match sensors a la carte?
Of course you can! However, the FMK was put together so that you actually get a pretty decent cost savings if you buy the kit as opposed to buying things piecemeal.
Will the FMK only work on the new (WiFi) Apex?
No, the FMK will work on ALL Apex systems. We knew when we released the new Apex last year that no one would really believe us when we said that we wouldn’t immediately leave them behind. The FMK is proof that we care about all our customers, not just the ones with the latest gear. It took a lot of work to make the FMK work with the Apex Jr. and Apex Classic (which are now over 8 years old), but we heard loud and clear this was important to our customers, so we did it.
Will there be more "kits” released in the future?
Yes, we have a lot planned for the FMM module. The FMK is just the first “kit” that uses it. Out on YouTube you can go see interviews Terence did at MACNA where he also demoed the ATO solution we will launch in the very near future. That product will be the next kit released and will be called the ATK which stands for Automatic Top-off Kit.
Where and when can I buy the FMK and accessories?
The FMK is already being shipped to retailers in North America who will be receiving them over the next week. Many LFS and online dealers will have them. In fact, many of them are taking pre-orders right now. Sales outside North America will begin in about 8-10 weeks.
I hope you guys learned a great deal about this new unit that just came out! Definitely interesting piece of equipment for technical and advanced reef keepers! Get your control freak on and enjoy the new equipment for your reef tank!
by Richard Back
During Q4 of 2015, Neptune Systems released a new module called PMK (Par Monitoring Kit) module for your apex.
Recently I had gotten my hands on one because I wanted to keep an eye out on my par during my ramp up times to peak and to my ramp down times to eliminate the guessing work on placement of some of the light sensitive corals. Yes, too much lights can kill your corals as much as low light to no light can kill corals as well.
So here we go! Let's unbox this thing!
First thing that I noticed was the sensor.
From the first glance, it looks like the high quality original quantum sensor from apogee which is well trusted brand and go to unit for both hobbyists and industry professionals looking to find out their PAR level from their light fixtures. It looks similar but is it the same thing? No, it's not. It may feel different because it's made out of different material. This sensor is made to be continually submerged while the standard apogee is aluminum with powder coating and it will come off and pollute your tank if we tried to use it in same application. (in house tests were done in Neptune Systems to confirm this)
I really like the hidden enclosure that it comes with. Custom made from Real Reef Rock company, it hides the unit extremely well and places the cord in place so I can easily bury the excess wire under the sand to conceal it.
Time to check out the unit!
Unit was placed on my sandbed where I like to put my LPS (Euphyllias, Chalices, Platygyras, Favias etc) and softies (Florida Ricordias, Mushrooms and Rock Flower Anemones) I have my Ecotech Radions Gen 3 Pros programed to come on during 12:30pm, ramp up and peak about 2pm and maintain until 6pm then slowly ramping down until 8pm which then kicks into full actinics until lights go out.
You can see from the graph above that the PAR peaked at 102 on my sandbed. Average of the day including the ramp up and down time was 83.87 and the minimum was at 48 PAR. Why is that important? I spoke with Terence Fugazzi of Neptune Systems and I think he nailed when he said because it's not always about adding more PAR to the tank or checking during the peak hours. We have to know during the majority of the hours the animals are exposed to know if we are not starving the corals of the lights that they need to thrive. As long as spectrum of the light source is constant, you can understand the relationship in your tank between % intensity and PAR with this unit.
I read this article about immersion on Reef Builders! Is this unit accurate?
For those of you guys who haven't read it, immersion effect is caused when a quantum sensor that was calibrated in air is used to make underwater measurements. Sensor will give lower reading. This is fixed by multiplying the PAR reading by 1.08 (this unit is original quantum sensor) For example, my peak PAR is 102. To get accurate underwater reading, we would multiply 102 by 1.08 which will equal to 110.16 PAR. So accuracy is definitely there.
You can find out more information about immersion effect here on Apogee's website.
Terence has told me that sensors themselves does not need any adjustments for the update that the apogee recently did with their units so I'm thinking that it is possible that simple AOS firmware update can maybe incorporate it down the road.
I hope you guys liked my hands on review of PMK unit and think about maybe adding it to your arsenal of cool modules from Neptune Systems on your Apex unit. For me, I will be adjusting my lights so that it goes up to close to 150 PAR on sandbed.
Check out the video here as well!
by Richard Back
We all love staring into our aquarium. Let's not lie. We often daydream about it during our long, mundane times at work. Many tech savvy people out there has used home security systems to rig up a camera for their personal tank so they can monitor it wherever they are. But what about for those people who are not so tech savvy? (like myself)
This is where the new Ice cap Reef cam comes in. Very small in size (1" x 1") you can disguise it in black, blue or custom coraline colored, live rock look alike cases. (Live rock look a like casing is sold separately)
Contents of the box
It's very simple setup. You have option to go wifi or hardwired (LAN) and have to download the their app to get it to work. It's not yet compatible with popular controller like Apex but coralvue/icecap said that they will be looking into that .
Playing with it.
What I really like about this unit was ability to "stalk" your friends' tank as well as looking into your own.
As you see from the first picture which is my tank (Afishionado Camera), you can see that I have made a list by adding my friends' tanks. Adding people is very simple operation. Just need their ID code or QR code and their remote password and add them. After that, you will see their tank added to your list and all you have to do is just click on them and you will be able to see their tank remotely whenever and wherever. (pic 2,3 and 4)
Resolutions are 720P HD and you would require 2mb of upload speed to support this resolution without any interruptions. For those of you guys who are stuck with bad internet, there are VGA and QVGA options as well. App also supports rotate view for bigger screen option.
Videos are snappy, changeable resolutions, small form factor, easy to operate and having a list of cameras make this unit very attractive. One thing if I would have liked is higher resolution but I can see that it could have slowed the live feed (you and your list of friends) considerably.
It's a great unit and for you early adopters who want to try this unit for your tank, you can find these units retailing for $199 from many reputable LFS and from popular online retailers like Bulkreefsupply.com, Saltwateraquarium.com and marinedepot.com
by Richard Back
My aquarium utilizing algae scrubber filteration (algae picture provided by Joey Olive of 302 Aquatics) and macro algae and media reactor filled with chaeto from Kris Cline of Carolina aquatics .
There has been some debate online about using algae as form of filtration is actually not safe for our aquarium. To talk about this, we went to visit a guru that we all know, love and respect. Julian Sprung of Two Little Fishies in Miami, Florida.
Julian, there has been ongoing talks online saying that algae releases toxins that are bad for our reef aquariums so that it’s not recommended that we keep algae in large quantity. What are your thoughts on it?
(laughs) as you know from looking around my aquariums, I use algae to filter my aquariums to quite an extent. So if algae released toxins, I would be concerned about it. (laughs) Truth is that they do. They leach substances called leachate and if you have a rhizome of caulerpa growing across the coral, you can see the coral tissues get damaged.
Uh oh. Is algae only thing that releases harmful substances in the water that can be harmful for inhabitants of our tanks?
Any creature, whether it is sponge or coral, creature living on the reef, they emit substances in the water that are harmful to their neighbors because it is a battle for territory. Algae is no exception.
They will release things in the water and even bacteria will release things in the water.
How did this come about?
A lot of substances that are released by algae, we refer to them as D.O.C. (dissolved organic carbon) it may be simple sugar or more complex organic substances and there is a researcher whose name is Forest Rohwer and he is out there in San Diego. He is world famous researcher who studies in microlobulations in seas and on coral reefs, he looked at microbes, bacteria and the viruses that can be found on reefs and what he found on reefs, where algae are high stock, large standing stock of algae, where it is shifted more towards algae then the corals that is a cascading effect because as algae become dominant, they release D.O.C. and you can measure it in the water. He has been able to say that if you have this organic carbon in the water then we will find certain microbes in the water, corals will get disease, they will die, and it’s tied with algae and organics. Hearing this and reading reports he’s written on it, you might say hey, wait a second… but I keep and grow corals in aquarium and I’m using algae as an algae filter and the corals are thriving! That’s an contradiction or maybe you have a reef aquarium and you have been carbon dosing. Whether you are adding vinegar, glucose (sugar), methanol or any of these organic substances that people add to control nutrient levels and corals are thriving and not going downhill.
So how does Forest’s findings affect our aquarium hobby?
I don’t mean to discredit what Forest Rohwer is talking about. What I’m trying to say here is that it’s much more complex than black and white issue to say that algae is bad or dissolved organic carbon is bad. It really gets down to what is actually happening. There is lot to be studied. I think the contradiction is kind of thing that any scientist like myself would look at and say "wow! This requires more study." To really understand what is the process that the Forest has discovered and illuminated on the reef and what makes it work that way and why it isn’t the same process happening in our closed system aquarium. It would be neat if he can be introduced to the aquarium hobby and understand that what it is that we are doing and tie it down with his own research.
What is your personal opinions on algae filtration?
I think it’s wonderful way to control the nutrients in the aquarium.
It also modifies the respiration effects in closed system. (Soak up the C02, raise the pH)
Huge varities of macro algaes in refugium. Pictures by Hernando Rocha.
Thank you very much Julian for sharing your knowledge with us!
Although there is truth behind harmful release by plants, I think it's safe to assume that it's safe to be used in our aquarium to be effective tool to handle nutrients as well as keeping pH and oxygen level up at night time.
So fellow reefers, have no fear and utilize algae as method of filteration if you were considering it to using it to help you control your nutrients!
Be sure to look out for the video that will be coming out shortly with all this information plus more!
by Richard Back
Vortech pumps or commonly referred to as MP (10,40,60 number) pumps to hobbyists are known as one of THE BEST wave makers in the market. What makes them so great? What sets them apart from other units and how they are considered as gold standard in wave maker world? How did they come with that design? We spoke to Jay Sperandio who is Director of Sales & Marketing of EcoTech Marine to learn about this amazing device that revolutionized the way we think about waves in our aquariums.
You guys recently had Vortoberfest in honor of your Vortech pump. How did you guys come up for that event and how was that event for you?
Jay : It was a great event. We wanted to celebrate the VorTech pump and our customers and the hobbyist community in a fun way. VorTech pumps have become widely regarded as the gold standard for circulation pumps – but they have also evolved since the original MP40 and it has been the reef keeping community that has provided that direction and support. VorToberfest brought that forward and we feel was exactly the right way to commemorate the success of the pump and reef keeping.
Tell me the evolution of vortech pumps. What did you have in mind when you first created the pump and what new implementations that you have made with every upgrade/ revisions.
Jay : The original pump came about largely at the request of a company called IceCap. IceCap wanted a pump that could be used with their battery backup. The original owners of EcoTech Marine came up with the concept of the magnetically coupled pump as an innovatively different means for water circulation. The initial MP40 with the metal box wave driver was a little rough around the edges but EcoTech was a fledgling company and the technology was new and different. Despite the crudeness of the initial pump the hobbyist community latched onto it with great interest due to the flow it produced, its innovative design and the inherit benefits of no wires and a small in tank profile.
From there the full vision for the VorTech started to develop with wireless capabilities and more modes. The wireless wave driver was followed by the EcoSmart driver which improved communication range, added more functions including the wave auto-tune and EcoSmartlive modes. From the WWD the short pulse, long pulse and random modes were carried over.
There were also some wetsides improvements along the way which culminated with the complete redesign of the MP40 for the QuietDrive launch. The MP10 and MP60 also evolved over time however in terms of motor housing and wetside design they benefited from lessons learned through the MP40 lineage and started further along the development curve.
The last changes to the VorTech line incorporate in the current Quiet Drive models embodies years of feedback from the hobbyist community and really polishes the VorTech line. The current QD models are more powerful than ever, near silent and super reliable.
Harry Singer's Beautiful Mix Reef tank controlled by Vortech MP40 Pumps.
Vortech MP pumps are highly regarded as the “gold standard” of wave makers by hobbyists around the globe. What makes Vortech so much different / better than competing pumps in the hobby?
Jay : I think there are a number of reasons that the VorTech continues as the first choice for many successful reef keepers.
The patented magnetically coupled design gives the VorTech some pretty useful advantages over submersible pumps. In no particular order - the magnetic couple between an in tank propeller and exterior motor and driver means VorTechs are easy to reposition, easy to clean, have a small in tank footprint and keep wires and electricity out of the tank. Using a DC motor, which has since become standard in almost all aquarium circulation pumps gives the modes and controls.
Additionally some of EcoTech’s important competencies lie in software, firmware and wireless communication and that in turn unlocks even more capability and function for those that have tanks that can benefit from it.
Finally, we work hard to maintain the best possible reputation for support and backwards compatibility where possible. We are very grateful for our customers and know that they expect not just a great product but also a great ownership experience.
To me, what set your pump apart from other pumps from the get go was having all the electrical outside of the tank. How/who thought of this design? Any stories behind this?
Jay: This was Justin Lawyer’s design. After brainstorming the initial design, the consensus was that it was a ridiculous design that would never work. Apparently it did.
Now tell me, what is your favorite setting?
Jay: I always liked short pulse and random short pulse (Reefcrest). After visiting and studying WWC - I now run a variant of the schedule/flow pattern described in the World Wide Corals Corallab: http://ecotechmarine.com/corallab with a constant flow from one pump augmented by a pulsing flow from a second pump.
As my education in the hobby through investigating particularly successful hobbyists and industry professionals continues I try to implement (as appropriate for my tank) a synergistic approach to lighting, flow and water parameters (husbandry) critically incorporating what I learn. Adequate flow, which for SPS tanks involves very high water turnover, especially if you are running high light levels and have sufficient bioload and feeding is very critical. In my experience as a hobbyist, (given that the other parameters are correct) flow is something that when you get it right, or if you have it right already, results in a coral that is clearly thriving. It also consistently surprises me just how much water movement coral likes for such delicate organisms.
With the QD drives, it has gotten surprisingly silent. How did you guys achieve this?
Jay : Perhaps Tim Marks gave the best explanation in this video with Jake Adams:
Any tips for vortech users?
Jay: That’s a tough one- due to the broad flow and the amount of flow a VorTech is capable of – especially after the output increases that came with QD – if you can use a VorTech its hard to go wrong..
So I would say just make sure that you are getting the most out of your pump by providing the least obstructed area for it to move water. Vortech’s produce a lot of undertow which is good for lifting detritus off the bottom of the tank – especially when mounted on the ends of the tank. It’s admittedly not much of a tip but its worth considering when placing new rocks and corals.
For a tip that I can’t officially endorse - I have found with my VorTechs that the actual water movement in my tank can be fairly complicated and is impacted by coral growth– so it may be worth periodically experimenting with small placement adjustments to compensate for coral growth - a small movement in the location of the pump might have a significant impact on overall water movement and direction through the tank. I feel like certain corals seem to grow so as to hog flow.. Probably my imagination.. but it seems like a recent move of one of my pumps without any other tank changes has resulted in certain corals really stepping up their growth and polyp extension.
Left : Billy Rotne's beautiful SPS dominated tank fully controlled by Ecotech Radions, Vortech pumps and L1 return pump.
Right: Brian Miller's SPS Dominated tanks controlled by Vortech pumps.
Any hints on what to expect from future of vortech pumps?
Jay: We develop – we receive feedback and we evolve. We have big plans for the future of the EcoTech system and the VorTech is a critical part of that system. There are some exciting new developments especially with communication and control technologies- there is also the opportunity as always - to incrementally improve the physical pumps with respect to materials improvement and design changes. All in all we are very proud of the current Quiet Drive VorTech models for their functionality and capabilities, but especially because they represent a culmination of experience and user feedback accumulated since the inception of the original MP40.
Hopefully with the help of our customer reef keepers we will keep the best getting better and continue to provide the best magnetically coupled propeller pumps possible.
Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to talk to me today Jay. This discussion has given me ton of insight on Vortech pumps as well as ecotech marine as company in whole. I really enjoyed hearing about the inception, evolution, tips and learning about tricks to this pump from the maker as well as hearing all the fun behind the scene stories.
Well, there you go guys. If you guys are in the market for new powerhead or if you were considering which high end, effective product to go with, give Ecotech Vortech a look and see why tens of thousands of reefers (both for personal and commercial) around the world has made the decision to use this pump as their preferred wave maker for their aquariums.
We will get a group of dedicated writers that will share ideas, product reviews and thoughts.