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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

April 20, 2011

High-Tech for Marine Tanks

By David Lass

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Anyone who thinks the aquarium hobby--or aquatics business--is dying clearly hasn’t been paying attention to the high end of the marine side. New products are developed as we learn more about fish and corals’ needs, and it behooves any store to keep up on the latest trends.

Skimmers and calcium reactors, along with automatic topping off systems, are always being tweaked with and improved upon. One interesting trend is the very low nutritional input reef systems that include a reactor I call the “vodka eater,” in that you have to feed the bacteria with vodka (or any other grain alcohol). As the cost of computer chips continues to go down, we are seeing more controllers that do more things for a marine aquarium. It is pretty commonplace now to be able to control lighting, dosing pumps and water flow from a small computer at the aquarium. Actually, some systems can be controlled from your portable phone, which, I am convinced, is soon going to be able to control most of our life.

The most significant improvements for marine tanks are, in my opinion, with LED lighting and water movement devices. LED lighting systems can provide marine lighting at one-third the electric operating costs of metal halides. What is equally important is LED lighting systems do not give off any heat to the aquarium, which means reef tank keepers can also save the cost of buying and running a chiller. New water movement devices are available now that can simulate any reef water pattern, and providing strong water movement is key to a healthy reef tank.

For many retail pet stores, the competition from the Internet is taking a large portion of the high-tech marine equipment basis. While it is clearly difficult for brick-and-mortar stores to compete purely on price, the local fish store will always have the advantage of interacting face-to-face with customers, imparting information and, most importantly of all, offering a wide selection of fish and inverts they can see and select from.

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