By Bob Goemans
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The New Wave

by Sam Gamble & Bob Goemans

Book Description:

Format: Computer document (Acrobat Reader 5.0) 10 chapters, glossary, references and illustrations. This computer book contains 351 pages (the pages are relatively short, 25 lines each), 16 illustrations and 40 color photographs.

If having difficulty finding this gem, please contact Bob.

Book Review By Martin A. Moe, Jr.

It's just a little piece of plastic, a tiny compact disk about the size and shape of a business card (yep, sort of rectangular, but with rounded corners). It fits into the small inner depression of the CD tray in your computer, and then, like magic, it expands into a real book right inside the computer. Acrobat Reader 5.0 for Windows and for the Mac is also on the disk and it installs automatically so there is no problem in making the disk work on almost any computer. You can bounce around to any of the ten chapters, the illustrations, and the glossary faster than you can find a page in a regular book just by clicking on that choice in the left hand window. With Acrobat reader you can scroll up and down and zoom in and out, adjust the size of the print to your liking and also adjust the size of the contents window and the text window to fit your pattern of usage. Moving from page to page can be done by scrolling, or by clicking on the page advance arrow or with the page up and down keys on the keyboard. Individual words or phrases can be quickly found with the 'find' feature and all the words defined in the glossary are highlighted in the text so you can call up the definition of that word with just a click of the mouse. And if you really have to have it on paper, you can print out whatever you need. Of course one can't cuddle up with a big monitor in an easy chair, but with a little adjustment, I suppose a laptop computer might make this position acceptable.

As one about to become a 'Senior Citizen', I don't think a little disk and a computer will ever replace a real book in my world, but there are amazing advantages to this method of book production. Cost of publication is minimal, distribution is easy, storage is a breeze, running off more copies only when needed is a real cost saver, and even copy protection is possible. This title, "The New Wave" may apply to much more than just the marine aquarium hobby.

One usually purchases a book for content, however, not for format, and my job in reviewing this book is to provide you with a description and critique of the contents.

The New Wave is not a typical 'how to' or 'what is it' marine aquarium book. Basically, this book is a treatise on the function of deep sand bed filters that incorporate a relatively small, confined, water filled open space (a plenum), built-in under a deep sand bed substrate. Relatively recently, deep sand beds, usually including the presence of an infauna that processes waste products to various degrees, have become quite popular for marine reef systems The deep sand bed and the plenum interact though gradual diffusion of water between the two areas and this functions as a biological filter in a closed marine aquarium system. The value of equipping a deep sand bed, biological filter system with a plenum (a modification of the system used by Professor Jean Jaubert at the Monaco Aquarium to culture corals) has been a subject of great controversy among marine aquarists. The New Wave presents the authors theories and rationale to explain why a marine aquarium system with a plenum equipped deep sand bed is functionally superior to other methods of providing biological filtration, including systems with deep sand beds without a plenum. However, although the major thrust of the book deals with the function and construction of plenum-based systems, the last third of the book explores the theoretical interactions and functions of many physical, chemical, and biological phenomena that occur in captive and natural marine environments.

The book opens with a foreword by Marc Wiess and an introductory essay by each of the authors. It is then partitioned into three sections that group the chapters into the categories of Introduction, the Processes, and a third section, Results, which addresses a wide variety of topics.

Chapter 1 presents a brief history of marine aquaria starting in the mid 19th century and finishing with publication of The New Wave. The history of 'natural' methods of marine aquarium structure and maintenance are emphasized. The second chapter deals with 'artificial systems'. These are marine aquarium systems that the authors define as systems that 'have a bio-load that exceeds what can be maintained with naturally occurring microbes'. Such systems require use of a variety of filters and water processing equipment and management techniques that are not desired nor necessary in natural systems. Although the authors are not enamored with the use of such supplemental devices, and they are of the opinion that artificial systems that use supplemental devices " become more maintenance intensive, time consuming and usually more expensive to adequately support..." They make the point, however, that special systems designed for care and culture of particular organisms do require use of supplementary water management devices. The third chapter in this introductory section presents the authors definition of a natural system, which hinges on balancing the flow of energy within the web of microscopic and macroscopic life in the system. This is done through establishment of a natural substrate with the associated fauna and flora that utilizes, exchanges, and balances the available energy sources in the system. Chapter 3 also introduces pore water as one of the key concepts in this book. Pore water is explained as the water that is present at the interface of microbe and substrate, the core aquatic area where diffusion, energy flow and nutrient cycling takes place.

The second section of the book, Processes, chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7, is concerned with the structure and function of the plenum and the sand bed above it. Chapter 4 contains the heart of the authors' arguments on the functions of the plenum. The first of the two key concepts in this chapter concerns pore water. The authors state "A plenum enhances and facilitates natural equilibrium and balance in aquariums by increasing efficient pore water area throughout most of its sandbed." Meaning that the plenum functions to greatly enhance diffusion and microbial processing of nutrients throughout the entire base of the sandbed. The other key concept presented in this chapter, along with the great expansion and enhancement of pore water function that the plenum provides, is that the plenum, by providing for greater environmental variability, oxygen levels in particular, in the deepest areas of the captive substrate, encourages establishment of facultative microbes rather than the obligate microbes that develop in the relatively static environment of a deep sand bed without a plenum. The theory is that a facultative microbe, with the ability to quickly adapt to changes in oxygen and nutrient availability, represents a "safety net" that continues to process waste and nutrients in the system despite changes in oxygen availability that may occur in the substrate of a captive marine environment. An obligate microbe, without the ability to respond to changes in environmental oxygen variation, would not function as well in an aquarium substrate. The authors support these theoretical concepts with discussions of sandbed dynamics, energy sources and routes, carbon and nitrogen cycles, and sediment mineralization and other topics. The authors also explore the nitrogen cycle in this chapter and present a theory that plenum equipped systems are better able to complete denitrification of nitrate to nitrogen gas where as deep sand beds without a plenum may more often allow the cycle to stop at ammonification and not complete denitrification.

Chapter 5, Microbial Constituents and Pathways, introduces the author's concept of a "no-maintenance, balanced aquarium" as a "black box" where the energy input is balanced with the energy discarded from the system. The biological and chemical processes that occur within the aquarium are explored from the standpoint of a confined system. The distribution of oxygen is considered to be the most controlling factor in the function of the substrate and so oxygen and redox levels within the substrate define the activity and health of the sandbed/plenum. Energy pathways and zonation are discussed as is the nitrogen cycle, the presence and function of sulfur, metabolism within the aquarium, and the activity of the various microbial groups.

Chapter 6, Sandbed Variations & Misconceptions, investigates the various ways deep sandbeds can be constructed in marine aquarium systems. This includes sandbeds with and without a plenum, shallow sand beds, deep sandbeds, sand grain size, connections between the plenum and aquarium water, protein skimming, remote or refugia sand beds, the size of the grids between plenum and sand bed and numerous misconceptions about plenums and sand beds.

Chapter 7 contains the essence of the book for those interested in building a plenum-based marine aquarium system. It describes the construction and maintenance of a marine aquarium built with a plenum under a deep sandbed. The topics of grid assembly, type and size of sand, and construction and maintenance of the functioning system are covered in detail. The authors note that some augmentation of calcium and carbonate will be necessary for systems that contain extensive populations of calcifying organisms, and prevention of the formation of chemical binding of sand grains into concrete-like patches can be avoided by keeping the pH below 8.2.

The third section of the book, Results: Today and in the Future, is composed of Chapters 8, 9, and 10. This section contains 114 pages and represents almost half the text in the book. Chapter 8 is titled Myths and Dragons and covers many topics. The chapter discusses topics such as algal mats, light, nutrients, the structure of water, oxygen, free radicals, pH, layering of nutrients in aquarium water, and the biochemistry of sugars from the standpoint of elucidating fundamentals and correcting current misunderstandings as applied to marine aquaristics. Chapter 9, The Future, looks at many of these topics in unusual ways, for example under the topic Light and Water, the authors discuss using magnetism to "realign" light and polluting nutrients which "can have positive effects". There is also the claim that this has been done successfully, and that formulas must still be perfected and patents obtained. One can only wonder. Other topics covered in this chapter include electromagnetic energy, osmotic pressure, mitochondria, organic and inorganic phenomena, and, among others, magnetotactic bacteria. Chapter 10, A Vision for the Next Century, is very short and is a final appeal for the aquarist to consider the advantages of the plenum-equipped, deep sand system for marine aquariums.

In The New Wave the authors advance three recommendations for maintenance and management of plenum equipped deep sand bed systems that are somewhat contrary to the practices of many aquarists that employ deep sandbeds in their systems. These are application of only small, infrequent water changes (Chapter 7), use of a very limited infauna in the sandbed and frequent cleaning of the sand bed by vacuuming (Chapters 6 and 9) and a recommended use of biochemical additives, in particular, sugar based compounds (Chapters 6 and 8). In fact, 20 pages in Chapter 8 are devoted to a highly technical polemic justifying the use of such additives through an explanation of metabolic pathways (including membrane formation and function, glycolysis, the citric acid cycle, and oxidative phosphorylation). Although a degree in biochemistry is certainly required to understand this argument, one does come away with the understanding that sugar compounds are extremely important to the conduct of life. The authors state, "When microbes use the correct blends of sugars supplied in appropriate amounts there are specific byproducts created that aid efficient metabolism?the goal in especially closed systems." Specifically, whether and how these additives are necessary or important to a marine aquarium is not presented. The hypothesis that such additives are helpful has been made, however, and this opens the door for the future accomplishment of controlled experiments that can provide more specific answers.

It should be noted that throughout the book there is neither direct reference to specific experimental results or presentation of data that would provide experimental evidence to prove or support the theories that are presented. But then the purpose of the book seems not to be to unequivocally prove the case for the superiority of the plenum, but rather to advance theories and a rational to support the author's observations and to stimulate additional thought and experimentation into use of plenums under deep sandbeds to create a biologically balanced marine aquarium system.

The diagrams and illustrations are clear and very well done. As included in the text, they appear small and obscure, but clicking on the title instantly moves you to the full page presentation of the illustration, which also provides for a quick return to the text. The 40 photographs are not referred to in the text but serve to illustrate the construction and operation of the plenum system, and in a "the proof is in the pudding" sense, there are about 35 photos that document the growth and healthy condition of many beautiful corals in Bob Goeman's plenum based 75 and 125 gallon marine aquarium systems. Seven pages of references are supplied under the heading of "Further Reading". Unfortunately, these references are not cited in the text so the technical reader will find it difficult to trace the literature that supports many of the author's arguments, but the general reader may appreciate a text unencumbered with references.

The glossary is extensive, 16 pages, and the included terms are well defined. It is a good reference tool for understanding the technical terms that describe the function of deep sand bed biological filtration and many other topics of interest to marine aquarists. There is no index, which would ordinarily be considered a lack of a very important feature in a technical book, but in this instance, a computer document, the find feature in the software functions well to find particular words or phrases and adequately takes the place of an index.

In a nutshell, The New Wave presents a theoretical argument for the biological and chemical advantages of a plenum based deep sand system in maintaining a marine aquarium balanced on natural processes and describes the construction of such a system in detail. Any aquarist interested in establishing a deep sand bed, plenum-based system will find much to work with here. There is also a lot of 'out of the box' thought in this book that may well point toward new directions in marine aquaristics. On the other hand, an aquarist who does not wish to include a plenum in a marine aquarium system, and who is not interested in exploring theoretical biological and chemical interactions and functions in the aquatic marine environment may find the book difficult to read and comprehend.

Continuous education and critical thought, however, are part of an aquarist's responsibility to craft and to care of aquatic creatures, and this book will be helpful in this regard. It is an interesting and thought-provoking read for scientifically minded aquarists who ponder and debate the deeper issues in the structure and function of marine aquarium systems.

Quotes from readers:

Martin Moe, Jr. - 'Gamble and Goemans have created a fascinating journey through the structure and function of plenums and sand beds. Truly a "New Wave" in marine aquaristics.'

Dr. Jean Jaubert - 'An enormous effort to explain the complicated processes that underpin the homeostasis of an enclosed ecosystem'

Dr. Paul Carpender - 'The perfect combination of commonsense and science.'

Marc Weiss - 'Sam Gamble and Bob Goemans are two of the world's most advanced natural system enthusiasts. They have produced a work written with the beginner in mind, yet presents enough advanced information to satisfy both the sophisticated aquarist and professional aquarium caretaker.'

Table Of Contents:


About the Authors

Section One - Introduction

1 The Framework

Historical View of Aquaria

Natural Systems

The Evolutionary Tree

2 Artificial Systems

3 Natural Systems - A Closer View

In the Beginning

Opening the Door to Natural Systems

The Macro & Micro Environment

Section Two - The Processes

4 The Plenum





Sandbed Dynamics

Energy Sources & Routes

Measurements & Values

Carbon & Nitrogen Cycles

Microbial Organisms

Sulfide & Ammonium Oxidation

Nitrogenase Activity

Sediment Mineralization & Bacterial Synthesis

Microbial Sediment Grazing

Governing Parameters


5 Microbial Constituents & Pathways

Measuring Microbial Ecology

Black Box Theorem

Aquarium Cycles & Pathways




Microbial Groups

Sulfur Processes

6 Sandbed Variations & Misconceptions


Sandbed Options

Shallow Sandbeds

Deep Sandbeds

Sand Grain Size


Plenum Siphon Systems

Plenum Connected to Aquarium Bulk Water

Protein Skimming Not Needed

Remote Sand Systems

Grid Screening


Plenum Systems are Cesspools

Mysterious Fish Deaths

Nitrate Levels

Exporting Phosphate

Biochemical Additives

Sand Sifters


7 Constructing & Maintaining the Plenum System

Grid Assembly

Sand Choices

Placing the Sand

Adding Live Rock


Section Three- Results: Today and in the Future

8 Myths and Dragons

An Awaking

Algal Mats

Light Participation

Nutrient Influence

Other Factors Influencing Mat Communities

Mat Element Cycles


A Personal Philosophy


Electron Transport

Equilibrium and Balance



Structuring Water


Biochemical Oxygen Demand

Free Radicals



Food For Thought

From Here to the Future

9 The Future



The Next Generation System

Light and Water


Important Research Needing Further Study

Electromagnetic Energy



Osmotic Pressure


Common Sense

10 A Vision for the Next Century


Further Reading

Illustration Directory


At the present time there are two disc size versions. Both work in Apple and PC systems, however, the small disc will not work in a CD slot-loading machine.

The business card sized disc, which is in very limited supply may soon become a collectors item! Contact Bob for further information.

More Books by Bob Goemans

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