Category Archives: Immersive Images

sample immersive ‘VR’ images that put you right in the centre of the story

REVIEW: The Aquarium at Cockfields Farm

Following our recent visits to Liverpool Reef Centre and Oasis Aquarium, we remain in the North (home of some of the highest ranked marine retailers in the UK) for this feature, but this time travel slightly further afield, to the East of Manchester.

Located in Ashton-Under-Lyne, Cockfields Farm is a business that has grown from humble beginnings. Originally selling potatoes at the front gate in 1966, it has developed into a large complex with custom-built facilities. It still offers top quality farm produce but now also houses a large cafeteria, extensive aquatics/exotics supplies and even a children’s petting zoo! Within easy reach of a major motorway network this site is easy to reach and, with the facilities on offer, it’s ideal for those reefers that can’t escape the family for the day! On-site facilities really are top notch… for a start, parking is excellent. Also, it’s clean and tidy inside with lots of space to move around, and toilets are also available.

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Catlin Seaview Survey Promises Unrivalled Views Of GBR

An exciting new project that promises to provide stunning interactive imagery of the Great Barrier Reef, has recently been announced.

Chief Scientist for the project, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the Global Change institute at The University of Queensland said that the scientific data gathered during the project will strengthen the understanding about how climate change and other environmental changes are likely to affect ocean ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef. He stressed that the visual nature of the project will also help bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and public awareness.

“The Catlin Seaview Survey comprises a series of studies which will reveal to the public one of the last frontiers on Earth: the oceans. For the first time in history, we have the technology available to broadcast the findings and expedition through Google. Millions of people will be able to experience the life, the science and the magic that exists under the surface of our oceans. This project is very exciting.”

The Survey is not just another scientific expedition – it aims to capture the public’s imagination and engage people with the science like never before.

The Catlin Seaview Survey camera, developed specifically for the expedition, will capture thousands of 360-degree underwater panoramas which, when stitched together, will allow people to choose a location, dip underwater and go for a virtual dive at all of the locations visited by the expedition.

With full details viewable on their website, we think this is going to be a fantastic tool for reefkeepers.

REVIEW: Oasis Aquarium, Manchester

You may well have heard by now that the recent PFKs readers UK ‘Marine Retail Outlet of the Year’ award was won by Manchester’s Oasis Aquarium. Based just to the North West of the City Centre, we were pleased to be invited to visit this relatively local supplier to discover just what makes it more highly regarded the other suppliers we’ve been to.

This store begins to impress the moment you step through the door. It’s immaculately maintained, well laid-out and although perhaps a little on the ‘cosy’ side, absolutely crammed with dry goods on the street level floor. The product choice really is excellent, with Oasis being preferred and authorised agents for a long list of manufacturers, large and small. Actually, things were a little chaotic when I arrived but only because a brand new pearl white Red Sea S-Max was being assembled in the store (one of the first in the UK). You can’t miss the two lovely mature reef displays in this area either… both testaments to the obvious skills and experience of those who have set-up and maintained them. The ‘proof is in the pudding’ as they say.

Moving downstairs into the livestock area is a real treat. I can’t quite put my finger on it but after 10 years in the hobby, this is one of the few stores where I still feel a tingle of excitement… like I’m entering an ‘Aladdin’s Cave’. There are literally tanks everywhere you look and furthermore they are all modern, spotlessly clean, well-lit and filled to the gunnels with livestock (and apparently they weren’t even fully stocked on my visit). Moving into a second room we have freshwater stock, and deeper still into a third room, more freshies and stunning Discus… over 200 tanks altogether, some of which are partitioned into several sections.

Back on the subject of marine livestock though – the thing that perhaps jumped out most was the eye-popping selection of high grade LPS specimens, on sale for very reasonable prices too (in my experience many other stores would be looking for 10-20% more for this kind of stock). The central LPS display tank is worth a visit in itself and I hope this comes across in the images. Fish-wise, it was pleasing to see a broad selection (well over 150 species at an estimate) with both common and rare fish evident. I’m not lying when I say I don’t recall having seen one sick, injured or dead fish either. It’s clear that this supplier evidently gets the cream of TMCs imports. Furthermore, captive bred/raised species were also available including some lovely juvenile Pomacanthus maculosus angels. It’s worth noting that the fish system is run at a slightly lower Salinity than the full strength invert systems, and they don’t use Copper in the retail fish system. Finally, labelling was clear, up-to-date and informative… an excellent show all round!

Hanging around inconspicuously for nearly 3 hours, I was impressed that the staff remained extremely polite and helpful both with me and with a range of other customers of different levels who visited. The advice being given out generally was spot-on… unopinionated, up-to-date and not commercially driven. Put all of these factors together and it’s clear why people evidently love this store. Many other retailers may get some of these elements right, but this is one shop that excels in all areas. Take note that this retailer is also a member of OATA and thus bound by their code of conduct.

We hope to visit again soon and specifically bring you a pictorial update on the Red Sea S-Max display system. If the rest of the shop is anything to go by, it’s going to be STUNNING.

Click HERE to view an interactive 360 degree image of inside the store, or explore the image gallery below to see our choice pics from the visit.

AQUA 2011 – Digital-Reefs Reports

Now into its second year, AQUA 2011 took place at the Telford International Centre on October 5th and 6th and proved to be a bigger and better event this year, attracting around 80 companies involved in the water gardening, aquatics and reptiles trade. As well as offering networking and buying opportunities to those involved in the trade, a seminar programme was also running which gave delegates a chance to obtain useful advice and ‘best-practice’ guidelines to take away. Over the two days thousands of visitors attended the exhibition marking this now biennial event as an important date in the trade calendar.

In terms of new developments that will interest reefkeepers, there was a profusion of new products on show. Take a look at the summaries below for a general feel for what’s hot in the reefkeeping market right now.

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Tunze – in addition to the existing range, the new nanostream 6095 ‘wide flow’ was on display both ‘wet and dry’. For aquariums from 100 to 1,000 litres, this pump certainly packs a lot of flow into a small package generating 2,000 to 9,500 l/h for 5 to 21 watts energy consumption. With all the good design features of the existing line up, this model remains compact in size and feels excellent quality in the hand. It certainly looked impressive running alongside the other models in their display too, although in such a situation it was hard to gauge individual performance. It would be nice to see what this can do in a fully stocked set-up, particularly with multiple units running on a controller.

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ITC Aquatics – clearly an innovative and proactive operation, ITC were showcasing a very interesting new Internet based social media project which is due to be launched slightly later this year (keep your eyes on ‘Aquatics Live’ at Olympia in November for further details). As UK distributors for Ecotech Marine, also on display was the new Ecotech Radion XR30w LED light unit which is due for release in the UK imminently. With 34 LEDs running at a total of 130 watts, five channels of colour control, multiple colour presets and wireless communication between the unit and an Ecosmart Vortech pump, this is clearly the LED unit to beat at the moment. It certainly looked the part hanging over an Aquatronica controlled and monitored display, and was drawing a lot of attention. Containing some stunning corals including a voracious Rhizotrochus, and some happy looking Crinoids this display had to be the best in the show (look out for a short HD video coming soon). The capabilites of the Vortech pump were also on display – check out this HD video.

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Neptunes Acrylic Tank Manufacturers – two stunningly attractive large acrylic systems were on display here, each with mitred edges and glossy acrylic stands and hoods boasting magnet-sealed cabinetry and ‘marine safe’ waterproof design. These systems come complete with everything required (including salt!) or without, and we are told are proving particularly popular with the discerning Dubai market. New acrylics coming on-line can also claim the impressive feat of being able to withstand rocket-propelled grenade or rifle assaults… which makes them ideal for areas with small children! And if you are worried about scratches, these high end systems come with specialist cleaning and repair solutions. With the largest system coming in at just over £3000 without equipment, the price compares very favourable to glass systems.

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D&D The Aquarium Solution – Without a doubt one of the most well known and respected European suppliers of  reef and marine aquarium equipment, David Saxby and team were on hand to showcase a range of new products. These included the new FMR75 fluidised reactor which has been designed to operate within a sump or in a ‘hang-on’ capacity. Other useful design features of this product include valve adjustment which allows a wide range of media to be used, and baffles to prevent media from exiting the reactor on start-up. Also notable was an attractive AI SOL LED unit suspended from bespoke mounting rails with hanging kit. The unit itself was dazzlingly bright, equipped with white Cree XP-G and blue/royal blue XP-E series LEDs beamed through a combination of 40 and 70 degree lenses. For those who still favour halides, the recently released Giesemann Megachrome Crystal metal halide bulbs recently released through D&D should be of interest… we hope to bring you a review of these in the near future! Finally, reliable and efficient H2Ocean and Abyzz pumps also looked excellent as did a nanocube fitted with nano-glo LED unit (see images).

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New Era Aquaculture – the latest product to become a part of the vast array of nutrition options for reef livestock offered by New Era is the wheel-shaped MINI MarineGrazer™. Supplied in a pot which also contains a special suction fixing allowing it to be fixed to the tank wall, this product is an interesting new take on feeding omnivorous/herbivorous reef fishes sheet algae from a clip. Based on what we saw at the show, fish like Tangs certainly seem to enjoy the natural and sustainably sourced ingredients in this product (it certainly has a unique smell!). It would be interesting to see what finicky Butterflies and Angels make of it too… actually, such a product could prove pivotal in maintaining the long term health of such species in captivity. Stand-by for our own mini-review in the near future!

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NT Labs – leading experts in fish health and water treatments with a reputation for quality, we were particularly interested in the marine aquarium products being showcased by NT Labs at this event. The expertise offered by this operation comes across strongly in their product range, and as such, we are pleased to announce that we will be running bite-sized reviews of a number of their products in the very near future. With a learning zone, local retailer finder, fish disease diagnosis tool, dosage/volume calculator, product tutorials, trade area, customer reviews, related products, latest news, social media links and much more, we suggest taking the time to visit their revamped website HERE.

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Midland Reefs – Now the authorised UK distributor for Sicce, JBL and Ecosystem aquariums, there were extensive displays of these products on show at the Midland Reefs stand. Tim Hayes took the time to outline his plans for a new coral distribution facility located in the Midlands as we inspected a nice selection of corals in a sample holding tank lit by good-looking Orphek PR156W and Dif-100 LED units. Dr Tims bacteria-based products were also being showcased and we were impressed with the level of research that has gone into the development of these products. They should prove invaluable in the set-up of reef aquaria, dealing with specific problems (cyano outbreaks) or for the ongoing health of established systems. We hope to be able to do some testing for this supplier, so as ever, keep your eyes on the blog.

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TMC – the Tropical Marine Centre display was visually impressive and seemed especially busy. However, we did grab a few minutes to discuss new products and latest developments. Particularly interesting and attractive were the stocked MicroHabitat 15 and 30 nano tanks on display fitted with AquaRay MiniLED tiles on MountaRay brackets. Looking as they do, these are sure to draw fresh talent into the hobby at the basic level. Of course, it’s good to see that this is being approached in a responsible and ethical manner, and we know that this theme runs throughout TMCs operations. As well as the massive range of Aquaray lighting products, all kinds of other bits of kit were on show, from the latest Calcium reactors to replica live rock. We suggest you take a look at TMC latest Aquatic Catologue to see the full range.

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Red Sea – Already seen stateside, and now officially unveiled to UK market, the new Red Sea Max 500 dominated the Red Sea display. As well as being an attractive system generally, this large ‘plug and play’ aquarium incorporates some interesting design features that should prove beneficial to reefkeepers. Most obviously, the T5 lighting system on this aquarium features a useful gull-wing design that allows for easy access to the tank. It’s also a sumped system. The new Reef Care Program which has recently been broadcasting through Youtube was also being promoted indeed it was nice to see some Digital-Reefs imagery on the packaging too!

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Seneye – the Seneye ‘Reef’ aquarium monitors are certainly hot property at the moment and this innovative new product was attracting a lot of attention. With the ability to monitor and log Ammonia, pH, temperature and various lighting parameters via USB, we are hoping to get hold of one of these units in the near future to test in the ‘real world’.

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Vitrea – Sublime Aquario introduced stylish products from this Moderna-based Italian manufacturer, centred around their Vitrea V-Led Color technology LED lighting. These low wattage but bright units feature attractive design along with dawn and dusk functions. The Vitrea touch screen controller also allows a variable colour spectrum. On this evidence, they certainly appear to be both innovative, functional and very attractive!

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That’s all for now folks… we hope you enjoyed our coverage of this event. Many thanks to the organisers for allowing us to attend, and to go into off-limits areas to get shots. And of course a big thank you to all those mentioned above for taking the time to talk to us. If you have any comments or queries about any of the products, or think we missed something important out, feel free to subscribe and comment below.

On a final note, feel free to take a ‘virtual look’ at the event by clicking on the thumbnail below… enjoy! (please excuse temporary watermarks on the movie).