(Written in 2003)
Many reef aquarists face a major challenge in providing the necessary foodstuffs for most invertebrates. In fact, the nutritional factor is the second most difficult task facing aquarists, with that of maintaining water quality the most important! It is well known that the most common food that supports the world's marine food web is 'phytoplankton.' Unfortunately, nutrient-rich phytoplankton is generally missing in the daily diet of the invertebrates that occupy most reef aquariums.
Because phytoplankton is at the top of the numerical food chain pyramid, it's of great importance to many of the invertebrate that reef keepers strive to maintain. And since we aquarists know of the importance of phytoplankton in the wild, some try to provide a homegrown substitute. Yet, culturing these green water growths is somewhat time consuming and laborious, and, at times messy and frustrating. I've personally tried the culture routine and to some extent it worked well. However, when the time was not there to keep the culture going correctly, it quickly doomed the entire culture. I then tried the 'have it delivered live to your doorstep' method. Coral health and growth were greatly improved, however, temperature problems, shipping delays, storage problems, and possible disease problems finally resulted in the halting of those shipments. That was sad as I could see the difference in the wellbeing of some coral animals after the shipments were stopped.
Another situation with the culturing of your own green water is that usually only one species is grown, which limits that algae cell size to one diameter. And that may or may not be the size alga cell that a particular invertebrate species requires. However, it appears that "ALL" these problems are in the past.
As a non-scientist, my understanding of the phytoplankton situation is as follows: As mentioned above, phytoplankton is the primary food source for many invertebrate species, and even that of zooplankton. The phytoplankton species used in mariculture were selected because they are highly nutritional, i.e., Nannochloropsis, Tetraselmis, and Isochyrsis. Their main usefulness is the transfer of their valuable fatty acids to the consuming organism. Nannochloropsis and Isochyrsis are utilized because of their Highly Unsaturated Fatty Acid (HUFA) content. Nannochloropsis also provides the fatty acid Eicosapentaenoic (EPA), and Isochyrsis provides the fatty acid Docosahexaenoic (DHA). In fact, these two algae alone are very important in supplying necessary nutrition in the larvae stage and further up the food chain as they contribute to disease resistance, relief from sudden fright syndrome, poor growth rates, and infertility in some species of fish and crustaceans. The phytoplankton Tetraselmis, a green flagellate algae and somewhat lager than the other two algae, is mainly used to bring its fatty acids to consumers that require a larger cell size.
Zooplankton cultures, whether live or preserved, are either impractical at this time or need further research. Nevertheless, the use of phytoplankton is a highly workable situation and one that aquarists can currently utilize. However, it has either required the delivery of a live phytoplankton culture, or that of the aquarist culturing their own supply.
Now, through Liquid Life USA, it is feasible once again to begin feeding your invertebrate phytoplankton with practically no effort or inconvenience! I met Edward Ramirez, the person responsible for bringing this product to market, at the first IMAC Marine Conference in Chicago in May of 2003. His new product is called "BioPlankton."
He began the business by supplying live cultures to various retail outlets in Southern California. Yet, he wanted to improve the product by having increased cell density per milliliter, cell diversity, and that of storage time. He realized that live plankton cultures exist in growth limiting environments once light or temperature is reduced. In fact, they become less nutritional in these environments as their protein value goes down and their carbohydrate level goes up. Research showed that by using a centrifuge, the algae could easily be removed from the culture medium and that the process did not damage the integrity of the alga cell wall. It was now possible to mix the three important algae species in a highly concentrated mixture resulting in a density level far beyond what would survive in a live culture, and by immediately preserving this concentrated mixture, they retained their highest possible nutritional value. And, by lowering its temperature to below freezing, no unwanted pathogens survive!
There are three important parameters when it comes to feeding phytoplankton to aquarium inhabitants: Cell Diversity, Cell Concentration, and the Nutritional Profile. BioPlankton is a combination of three different algae species - Nannochloropsis, Tetraselmis, and Isochyrsis. With three different algae species, BioPlankton can feed a wider range of organisms due to cell sizes ranging from 2 to 16 microns. BioPlankton also has a cell concentration of 10 billion per ml, the highest of any available phytoplankton feed. And the algae species are preserved at their highest nutritional level therefore do not consume any further energy, which would reduce their valuable fatty acid content.
BioPlankton comes in a small 30 ml bottle that is kept in the freezer, yet its contents never freeze solid. Simply depress the pump in the cap of the bottle to eject a squirt of the combination of phytoplankton species into a small container filled with seawater, then stir and pour into the aquarium. Its that simple! No more bottles of green water on the porch or basement, no more worries about shipping delays, no more worries about a possible disease being in the live culture, no more storage problems, no more temperature problems, no more comments from the spouse about the home-grown culture equipment presenting a cluttered appearance, etc! And most importantly the feed is preserved, therefore, the phytoplankton do not consume their own energy reserves or will you transmit a pathogen. This assures that the last feeding is as beneficial as the first. Using the recommended feed protocol, the 30 ml bottle should last a 60 gallon aquarium for approximately three months, however, that depends upon bioload and how often it is fed.
I should also add that as important as this foodstuff is, aquarists constantly use many different types of equipment to export anything that would tend to cloud the bulk water or promote unwanted algae growths. Even though this is desirable to some extent, some of the coral animals in reef type environments have for millions of years received a good portion of their nutritional benefits from capturing and digesting phytoplankton. Now, with the ease of administrating this foodstuff, small amounts of this preserved phytoplankton can be dosed many times a day, which will greatly benefit the different types of invertebrate in reef aquariums. Your corals, sponges, tunicates, clams, feather dusters, etc., will rewarded you with very positive and visible results. In fact, the increased amount of small feather dusters and tunicates, besides increased sponge growth, has been quite visible in my new reef system after only the first few weeks of using this product.
Without a doubt, BioPlankton is a nutritional and convenient foodstuff for various invertebrates, besides being a truly economical product to use! I'm so impressed that I recommend it highly to all reef keepers, and personally don't want to be without a bottle. Give it a try, I'm sure you'll see an improvement in the health of your invertebrates.
I should also note that a similar zooplankton product is on the near horizon! What a wonderful addition that would make for the invertebrates in our closed systems. And, Liquid Life USA is also currently constructing a small scale hatchery where these products will be utilized to raise those difficult marine ornamentals we've heard so much about, but not many have had success with. They intend to walk their talk by having products that will create a far more natural environment, which will truly benefit its captive inhabitants.
Now for the bad news! BioPlankton is only sold to distributors and/or directly to stores. If your shop does not yet carry this product (they should not only carry it, they should also be using it in their invertebrate systems), they should contact their distributor or Liquid Life USA. In the U.S., they can be contacted at: Tel: 909.280.9145, Fax: 909.549.0557. In the U.K. contact Cellpharm Ltd., Malvern Hills Science Park, Malvern WR14 3SZ, Tel: 01684 585345, Fax: 01684 585345. Or, if your shop for some reason doesn't seem overly interested, the individual hobbyist can contact Edward directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let him know of your difficulties in attaining the product. He will then contact your local shop and/or a distributor in your area to get the ball rolling. Edward also has a "very new" website, and if you want some further info, logon at www.liquidlifeusa.com. Again, this is definitely a product that all reef aquarium keepers should checkout!