By Bob Goemans
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The Reef Aquarium, Science, Art, and Technology, Vol III

Authored by: J. Charles Delbeek and Julian Sprung

A book review by Bob Goemans

TITLE: The Reef Aquarium, Science, Art, and Technology Vol III

AUTHORS: J. Charles Delbeek and Julian Sprung

PUBLISHER: Ricordea Publishing (2006)

ISBN 1-883693-14-4

PAGES: 680

PRICE: $89.95

The word 'WOW' or 'Awesome' would be an understatement when describing this third volume in the authors very successful series of works dedicated to the art of keeping reef aquariums! As in the preceding two volumes, the combined years of research and photographing numerous aspects surrounding the business and hobby come through crystal clear. It fact, it not only presents an updated view of the science and engineering surrounding reef aquarium design and maintenance, it also looks at different approaches and the theory behind them. And there's much more, as the following discussion on the works topics will show.

The book contains eleven chapters, and begins with a Table of Contents, followed by the Acknowledgements; About the Authors; and, an in depth Introduction with many well-illustrated subtopics, e.g., Why we need reef aquariums; Ethical and ecological concerns about our hobby; Where to locate farms; Artificial corals, anemones, clams, plants, etc.; Renewable resource?; Wild harvest of corals; Publications on the trade; Disease; and Other ecological concerns about aquariums, such as the Release of non-native exotic or invasive species; Why people might release aquarium pets; and, The roll of public aquariums. Not only interesting, but also quite thought provoking as much of what is read here makes one think about the much larger picture than just their own aquarium!

Chapter One, 'The Basics of Aquarium Selection and Design' follows. It contains eight subsections, with most subdivided into various related topics. In this first and next discussed chapter, I'll mention them both so as to see the depth of the covered subjects, however, because of the number of subsection topics throughout this work, mentioning them all is not feasible. Its first subsection, 'The Aquarium,' discusses Glass tanks; Acrylic Tanks; Other options; and, Dimensions. The following subsection is devoted to 'Preparing the aquarium,' and its single separately named topic discusses Drilling holes. The next subsection is titled 'The Overflow,' and has topics titled Corner partitions; Two or more overflows; Multi-level overflow; Wall mounted strainers; Bulkhead and overflow box; Weir overflow; Hang-on overflow; Durso Standpipe™ noise reduction system; and, The Sump, which contains some good information, yet much more about sumps is covered in Chapter Six. The next subsection, 'Aquarium Location' contains only a brief discussion that sets the stage for the following subsection where 'Physical Considerations' are discussed, e.g., weight; electrical and water supply access considerations; the stand; cushioning the aquarium; leveling the stand; and, water spills & splashes. The next subsection is titled 'Biological Considerations' and discusses Carbon dioxide, Temperature, and, Sunlight. The chapter closes with a subsection devoted to 'Cleaning the aquarium.'

Chapter Two, 'The Common Elements' is the shortest, page-wise, yet has three highly informative subsections: Water; Live Rock; and, The Bottom Material. Natural seawater, Artificial seawater, and Freshwater preparation are topics discussed in the first subsection. In the Live Rock subsection, various types are discussed, e.g., aquacultured sources such as those from Fiji, Florida, and Hawaii. Other topics include Purchasing live rock; Seeding live rock; Live rock preparation; and, Cycling the live rock. The Bottom Material subsection is quite comprehensive, as it includes numerous topics, e.g., Sizes; Calcium carbonate affects on the water; Coral Sand; Grades of Coral Sand, (which includes discussions on Sugar fine aragonite); and various sizes of coral sand and larger coral fragments. It also discusses other forms of sand, such as Foraminiferan and Black sand, along with recommendations for their preparation. Live sand is also, yet briefly discussed, and is followed by discussions on Mud, which include thoughts on Preparing the tank with a mud bottom; and, Thickness of the bed.

Chapter Three, 'Plumbing and Electrical' covers so much ground that all its subsections cannot be covered here! But if different piping and tubing possibilities and their fittings and valves are of interest, then you certainly don't want to miss reading about them here, as the authors did a very good job covering the numerous possibilities along with testing them. And one of the subsections, 'Electrical Do's, Don'ts and considerations' is also quite comprehensive and well worth reading. In fact, this chapter alone is probably worth the price of the book, as it can answer many of the questions normally seen in the trade about these aspects.

Chapter Four, 'Physical & Chemical Parameters of Reef Aquarium Water' is another massive undertaking, as it contains 18 subsections having so many subtopics that I would have to use all my fingers and toes to just get past counting those in only one subsection. Just so you know how all encompassing this chapter is, the following are its subsections: Temperature; Gas Exchange; Specific Gravity; Salinity; Electrical Conductivity; pH; Alkalinity; Calcium; Magnesium; Ammonium and Nitrite; Nitrate; Phosphate; Trace and Minor Elements; Vitamins; Filtration and other affects on trace elements; Redox; Dissolved Organic Matter; and, Turbidity! Comprehensive is an understatement!

Chapter Five, 'Calcium, Alkalinity and pH Maintenance' pertains to what can be considered some of the most problematic parameters when it comes to maintaining reef aquaria. The authors separate its discussion into seven subsections, i.e., Where does all the Calcium Carbonate Go?; Calcium; Alkalinity; How to Supplement Calcium and Alkalinity; Methods Used for Rising the Calcium and Alkalinity Levels in an Aquarium; Other Calcium and Alkalinity Sources; and, Solving Calcium, Alkalinity and pH Problems. And the wealth of information within these subsections should enlighten all that read it.

Chapter Six, 'Filtration' is another massive undertaking, as it encompasses about 150 pages. Again its subsections, 21 of them, have far too many individual topics to mention here. Yet I'll go the road of mentioning those subsections, as I want you to see the completeness of the subject matter covered in this chapter: Mechanical Filtration; Surface Skimming; UV Sterilizers: Biological Filtration; Fluid Mechanics and Biological Filtration; Nitrifying Filters; Denitrifying Filters; Assimilatory Reduction of Nitrate; Substrate Filtration Principals; Refugia; Chemical Filtration; Protein Skimming; Natural Systems; Lee Chin Eng Natural System; Jaubert's Monaco system; Deep Sand Bed (DSB) Filtration; Berlin Method; Alga Turf Scrubbers (ATS) and Microcosm Management; The Ecosystem Aquarium® a.k.a. the Miracle Mud® Method; Cryptic Sponge/tunicate EG zonal Filtration; and, Natural Systems - Final thoughts. The word 'Awesome' comes to mind, again!

Chapter Seven, 'Water Motion' takes the reader through an array of thoughts on this important subject matter. Its subsections include: Types of Water Motion; The Role of Water Motion; Water Motion and Coral Placement; Accessory pumps and flow enhancing devices; Wave-makers, Rotating Returns and Current Switches; Surge Generators; and, Tidal Systems. Very informative!

Chapter Eight, 'Lighting' is of course probably one of the most controversial subjects in the trade, and the authors take a very sensible and organized approach in presenting their views on said subject matter. Subsections are titled; Orientation of Marinelife; Skylight versus Sunlight; Total Light Received by the Aquarium; Ultraviolet (UV) Light; Lighting Parameters; Types of Lighting Systems; Light Fixture Orientation; Reflectors; Ballasts; Lamp Types; New Trends in Aquarium Lighting; Coral Colour; and, Response of Coral to Artificial Lighting. An enlightening read!

Chapter Nine, 'Aquascaping' is another area in the hobby that has seen various opinions as to what a reef tank should look like and how to go about it. The authors also present an array of possibilities and their thoughts along with the aspects that should be considered if one was to choose a specific direction to follow. Its subsections include: Design Considerations; Use of Aquarium Backgrounds; Hiding Equipment; Model Building; Live Rock; Other Options - Alternatives to Live Rock; Materials that facilitate Reef Construction; and, Using Sand Beds for Aesthetic Purposes. If you're in the planning stage of a new aquarium, this may be one of the first chapters to read!

Chapter Ten, 'Foods and Feeding' provides the reader a vast amount of valuable and updated information even though it only encompasses 30 pages. Its subsections are: Fish Foods; Invertebrate Foods and Feeding; and Feeding Challenges. The subtopics covered are quite numerous, as this chapter is filled with information on different types of food and where to find them, and ways to feed various fish and invertebrates. Very informative.

Chapter Eleven, 'Maintenance, Husbandry and Disease Issues' is another massive undertaking, and contains 19 subsections devoted to the science associated with the subjects mentioned in its title. Its subsections are titled: Keeping a Log; Integrated Controllers; Maintaining Calcium Reactors; Lighting Maintenance; Tank Maintenance; Plumbing Maintenance; Pump Maintenance; Changing Activated Carbon and Other Media; Cleaning the Protein Skimmer; A Clean sweep - The Use of a Cleanup Crew; Coral Harvest/Pruning; Old Tank Syndrome; Disease; Parasitic Crustaceans; Long Term Puzzling Problems with Corals; Probiotics, Predatory Bacteria, and Bacteria Phages; Future Disease Treatment Options; Designer Corals; and, What's Next? Reef Aquarium Maintenance in the Future. Again, the subject matter is wide-ranging and filled with up-to-date information that you'll find quite helpful, and that's an understatement!

The work closes with a comprehensive 'Bibliography' and 'Index.'

In conclusion, Volume Three, The Reef Aquarium, Science, Art, and Technology is well written, informative, and beautifully illustrated. If reef keeping is your passion or there's a reef aquarium in your future, you'll find this work a combination of up-to-date reef aquarium science and product technology. And even if keeping various kinds of invertebrates is not your current passion, the authors work makes it evident that the successful keeping of these animals is quite achievable. Without a doubt an excellent addition to your home library.

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