By Bob Goemans
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Bob Goemans corresponds with Thomas Brickey

Thomas Brickey writes...

Hello Mr. Goemans,

I just bought and read your Live Sand Secrets book/guide, and absolutely loved it! I am running two aquariums right now, both "fish" only, with a plenum system. I entered the hobby as a way to gain some comfort for my patients in my waiting room. (I'm a dentist.) But I have become more and more intrigued with the hobby. I had a tank added to my home, and have the same gentleman taking care of both.

However, I am now looking to begin a new tank in my kitchen; a reef tank this time (with a few fish), and want to know more so that I can perhaps "take over" the maintenance of the tanks on my own. The man taking care of the tanks knew enough to convert our "undergravel" systems to the plenum, but after reading your book, I am not sure he really understands or knows much about the process. I have had multiple conversations with him, and have determined that he does not have the time (or interest?) to read and learn any more than he needs to run his "maintenance" business. (which I believe consists mostly of vacuuming the sand, cleaning the glass, and doing occasional water changes, which is something I should be able to do myself, and save me some money at the same time.)

Therefore, my questions to you are:

1. What books/guides do you recommend I go get/read? There are so many to choose from, and if I plan to utilize the technique and methods described in your booklet, I don't want to buy something that pre-dates this technology, or that suggests methods which contradict the Live Sand/Plenum method.

2. Do I really need a protein skimmer? Mike (my fish guy) says "no". But, from what I've read, it seems a good idea. And if I do, what type, brand, etc.?

3. You describe "egg-crate" pieces in your booklet, however, I have seen these black mesh things (like the ones used in both my tanks), which don't exactly resemble your drawings. Do you know what I'm referring to? Is this a superior arrangement to your original design? If not, where do I get these "egg-crates", as I am unfamiliar with them. (sorry, if it's painfully obvious I've just never seen them.)

The bottom line is when I enter into a new hobby I like to learn as much as I can. I believe all involved in this hobby owe it to the environment, animals, etc, and to our future generations to learn as much as we can, to do a good job, so that we don't have to regularly obtain new inhabitants for our tanks simply because we are too lazy to "do it right". I am an avid diver (even though I live in Utah!) and have taken trips to Cayman, Hawaii, and soon to Aruba. I yearn to dive in Bonaire, Belize, Honduras, and Cozumel. Well, thank you very much for your time. Please, continue writing! Your booklet was in-depth, yet understandable; Direct, without being too hard to read; and your descriptions were clear. Now I need more books to I can learn what to put in, where, and such!

Any and all advice will be greatly appreciated.


Thomas Brickey, DMD - "Live to Floss, Floss to Live!"

ps. If you're ever in SLC, UT (perhaps for skiing some time?), please consider looking myself and my wife up. We'd love to show you our soon to be "new" tank, and buy you a drink, dinner, or cup of coffee.

Bob replies...

Hi Thomas,

Thanks for the nice words and don't want to appear like I'm pushing my own booklets, but if you liked Live Sand Secrets, you'll really like Protein Skimming and Activated Carbon Secrets; and the newest one, Marine Algae Control Secrets. This trio of booklets will update any aquarist and give them the honest facts they need to truly have success in this hobby.

It's unfortunate some of the people who do the hands on portion of the hobby everyday don't keep abreast of the growing knowledge base. In fact, Sam Gamble and I are finding it difficult to find an aquarium publishing company for our new book, The New Wave, because as I was told to my face by one of them that any book promoting more natural methods would harm the aquarium product industry. How sad! But that's the way the big aquarium companies in this industry think! They are trying to control the major flow husbandry methods to suit their product lines!

For a wide-angle look at basic aquarium husbandry, I always recommend reading Martin Moe's "The Marine Aquarium Reference." It is a low cost, yet an easy to read book that explains the basics of aquarium keeping, including water quality and general maintenance. It was written before my involvement in plenum systems, however, is still worthwhile reading.

As for protein skimming, it is one of the most important chemical filtration processes, besides activated carbon, that can be employed. I think both you and your maintenance man should read my skimming and carbon booklet. In fact, Mike ought to read all three as it sounds like he is far behind the times! When your done reading it, any questions left unanswered just send them my way. As for the eggcrate pieces, I'm not sure what you are referring to. But if it's the entire plenum grid, they can be purchased ready-made from Coral ReefProductions, 800 S. Dixie Hwy., Suite 302, Coral Gables, FL 33146, (305) 667-9605, Visit their website and you'll be able to see what it looks like.

Last year I was in the Caymans on a local environmental business situation and had the opportunity to visit the area just off shore where it begins to drops off to 10,000 feet deep. That submarine ride was a thrilling experience to say the least. I wish everyone, including your maintenance man though as you do!

Read up and contact me with your plans before you spend any money on equipment. We'll discuss and tweak them as needed so you start off on the right foot, so to speak. One other thing, my booklets are now available through If you could log on and search their title, I would be pleased if you could post a comment on their behalf.

Hope this helps,



Protein Skimmers; Plenum; Aquarium Setup Advice

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