Coral Sea Reserve Could Be Worlds Largest

Plans to create the world’s largest marine nature reserve have recently been announced by the Australian government.

The proposed Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve will cover an area the size of Britain and France combined lying off the country’s northeast coast. Covering 989,842 square kilometres, it will stretch from the Great Barrier Reef to Papua New Guinea in the north and the Solomon Islands in the east.

Research has shown that the area is a refuge for numerous endangered species. It is one of the last places on the planet where thriving populations of large predatory fish such as sharks and tuna remain.

The plan is now in a phase of public consultation that is sure to see strong opinion both for and against the project from various parties. We hope to being you an update on the outcome early in 2012…. let’s hope it gets a green light!

New Species: Margined Butterfly

image: Digital-Reefs

A new species image and profile has been added to the Digital-Reefs galleries.

The Margined Butterfly is a fairly unusual import however we spotted this stunning large specimen at Cheshire Waterlife recently. Usually imported from Australian waters, this species is said to be slightly less finicky than the popular Copperband Butterfly.

For a full sized image and access to this species’ information profile, click HERE (free registration required).

New Sponsor: ReefPhyto, UK

It gives us pleasure to announce that Reefphyto has come on-board as a sponsor.

Based in Bristol, Reefphyto has grown significantly since starting operations in 2008 and now, after moving to a new larger facility, they offer a truly vast array of specialist live and dry foods for UK marine aquarists.

Offering unrivalled levels of customer service and knowledge covering every aspect of marine aquarium foods and the general reef keeping hobby they aim to provide extensive product availability and help you through each aspect of your new or existing hobby.

We suggest you take the time to view their latest products by clicking the banner below… and look out for our a Digital-Reefs product review coming soon!

Lost ‘Neptune’s Cup’ Rediscovered Off Singapore

First described in 1822, the Neptune’s Cup Sponge Cliona patera hadn’t been seen in the wild since 1908 after years of overharvesting. Growing up to a metre in height, yellow in colouration and shaped like an ornate goblet, huge numbers were taken as curios for museums and private collectors.

However, during a recent, routine dive off the coast of Singapore, researchers with the environmental consulting DHI Group, spotted something unusual. “When we came across the sponge, we knew immediately that this was something very different,” said marine biologist Karenne Tun from DHI. Sure enough, they had found a juvenile specimen. 

Tun explains, “Now we have the opportunity to study the biology and ecology of this impressive sponge and learn about its life cycle. […] We’ve already had the first surprise: The Neptune’s cup was thought to be a very slow growing species. However, between our last visits in April and August, respectively, it had grown several centimeters.”

Red Sea Marine Care Programme Due December

image courtesy of Red Sea

Following the success of its Reef Care Program (RCP) for maintaining optimal water conditions in established reef aquariums, Red Sea announces the launch of its Marine Care Program (MCP), a complete biological maturation and algae management program for new marine and reef set-ups.

Unlike most biological ‘cycling’ products, which only provide the bacteria that convert toxic waste products to nitrate, the MCP completes the biological maturation process by also establishing thriving colonies of anoxic (de-nitrifying and phosphate harboring) bacteria as well as promoting the growth of coralline algae and other micro fauna found in live rocks. The MCP maturation program will result in a biologically matured system ready for stocking all animals, including delicate SPS corals, in approximately 21 days.

“Full maturation of all biological processes is the key to the long term success of any reef aquarium” says Sharon Ram, Chief Scientist of Red Sea. “Our study of the biological processes that take place simultaneously in new systems enabled us to develop a fully integrated solution with detailed implementation instructions for each of the 21 days of the maturation period.”

The MCP includes the Reef Mature Pro Kit and a full complement of analytical test kits required for the maturation period. The test kits are also ideal for the ongoing monitoring of fish only systems.

The Reef Mature Pro kit contains a concentrated blend of nitrifying bacteria, a bacteria growth starter, NO3:PO4-X, biological nitrate and phosphate reducer and KH-Coralline Buffer to maintain the optimum KH while vitalizing Live Rocks. The MCP Test Kits include pH/KH, Nitrate/Nitrite, Ammonia and a combined Marine Care kit.

“The MCP is a natural extension of our RCP and is yet another step toward achieving Red Sea’s vision of making reef aquariums the aquarium of choice for all hobbyists.” says Eli Nissenberg, Managing Director of Red Sea Group.

Available worldwide from December 2011.

For more information about Red Sea products, log on to


Three Is Definitely A Crowd For Cleaner Shrimps

image: Digital-Reefs

Brighly-coloured, gregarious and often helpful to their tankmates, Lysmata amboinensis Cleaner Shrimps are justifiably popular additions to many saltwater systems. However, new research coming from the University of Basel in Switzerland has shown that these delicate and otherwise unassuming creatures have a definite dark side.

Hailing from environments where food is hard to acquire, they’ve evolved a distinctly ruthless streak and have no qualms in despatching their peers to ensure they stand the best chance to survive and breed. As hermaphrodites, they all start out as males but go on to develop female reproductive organs as they grow. They can mate as a female only in the few hours after moulting, but can mate as males even while carrying eggs. Despite this, they cannot self-fertilise.

In addition to such adaptations, they’ve also developed other more sinister habits and to study this, Research Leader Janine Wong housed groups of shrimps in aquaria of different sizes. She then observed their behaviour after dark using digital videography and red-spectrum lighting. Sure enough, where more than a single pair was present, usually the larger specimens waited until their cohabitants had just moulted and then killed and devoured them under cover of darkness. This occured even where food was in plentiful supply thus indicating that such behaviour is deeply engrained.

The message to reefkeepers is clear… if you are going to add these shrimps to your system, even if it is a large one, stick to singles or pairs!

Read the paper HERE

Stressed Tangs Get Wrasse Rub-Downs

Research published in the journal Nature Communications recently describes an interesting and unique relationship between the Cleaner Wrasse Labriodes dimidiatus and Striped Bristletooth Tang Ctenochaetus striatus

As well as offering a cleaning service, observations in the wild and experiments in captivity have now shown that the cleaner wrasse also uses it’s pectoral and pelvic fins to actively massage the tang. Such tactile stimulation has been shown to result in lowered cortisol levels for the client fish, thus offering tangible health benefits.

Marta Soares of the ISPA University Institute in Lisbon, Portugal, and her team were responsible for the study. “We know that fish experience pain,” she said, “Maybe fish have pleasure, too.”

Ecoreef UK Sets European Standard For PNG Livestock Imports

We are pleased to relay the announcement that Ecoreef UK has been appointed the first European supplier of sustainably collected Papua New Guinean livestock from EcoAquariums PNG Ltd. The first arrivals of PNG fish will be on sale before Christmas, with corals following shortly after in 2012.

EcoAquariums is setting the standards in sustainable, equitable and responsible fish collection. All reefs are surveyed by the PNG government prior to collection; a catch limit is set for each targeted species in each collection zone, and the Papuan collectors are paid fair prices for their catch, which they gently collect with hand and barrier nets. All exported fish (apart from damsels and the like) will have a plastic uniquely numbered tag attached to their shipping bag which will follow that fish through the supply chain. When the customer buys the fish from the local fish shop they will be given the tag to take home. Entering the number from the tag into the EA website will enable them to view their fish’s date of capture, capture location and the fisherman who caught it. This is true provenance, and a first for the aquarium trade.

Steven Harvey and Dale Pritchard of Ecoreef UK are delighted that EcoAquariums has chosen them to supply the UK market and they see this as a real opportunity to develop their business in a way that supports a robust and sustainable marine aquarium industry. “I believe that by supplying sustainably collected fish along with those that are captive bred, The Reef will be supporting socio-economic and environmental sustainability, as well as establishing a secure future for our industry” says Dale. “This will set the benchmark for the UK marine ornamental trade.” Steven and Dale started working together 6 months ago on a breeding project which has already been successful with 5 types of clowns and red head gobies. They hope to start wholesale supply of tank bred fish in the next 6 months.

Retail outlets interested in receiving these fish and corals will be screened to ensure their practices and holding systems are adequate to maintain the high level of quality that these fish possess. There will only be few outlets selected to join this initial phase to ensure that quality and consistency of stock can be guaranteed.

PNG photographs courtesy of EcoAquariums PNG.

** Digital-Reefs wishes Ecoreef UK all the best with this venture and we hope to report on them much more in the future!**

REVIEW: SuperCarb Activated Carbon From NT Labs

Whether or not your reef aquarium has perfect water parameters or not, the use of Activated Carbon can really help with managing not just nitrogenous wastes, but also the accumulation of all kinds of other toxins such as phenols, organic acids, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and hormones. Not all removed by filtration or skimming, these substances can build up quickly in a closed reef system, so periodic use of Carbon can really provide a safety useful net.

As there are already a few different brands of Carbon on offer for reef aquarium use, we were happy to oblige when NT Labs offered us a pack of SuperCarb to review.

This product is physically activated (high temperature steam), rather than chemically, so leaching of Phosphates is not a concern. It comes in an attractive pouch that is durable and resealable, and is an extruded, pellet form (this makes it ideal for use in reactors as it won’t break down rapidly if tumbled). As a pellet, rather than a granular form, there was also minimal dust and one quick rinse with RO water was enough to get it ready for use.

With the general abilities of Carbon already proven by decades of use in aquaria, our test focussed on the practical application of this product and general observations made from this use. With already excellent water quality, including a zero Nitrate reading, we didn’t expect to see much change, however, we noticed that:

> even using the product in a mesh bag, water clarity improved within 24hrs – as well as generally noticing this in the test tank, when we compared glasses of water taken from the tank before and after the application of the product we noticed the water in the post treatment glass was very slightly less tinted when held against a white background.

> we also noticed that a slight surface film present in the tank dissipated after a few days. This happened without any change in flow pattern or feeding regime so we suspect that this may have been a result of the addition of the Carbon.

> dust on tank walls and sides growth slowed so that rather than needing to use the algae magnet every 2 0r 3 days, we only needed to use it roughly once a week to keep the tank walls looking spotless.

> lifespan of other chemical media increased and this not only led to savings on these products, it also reduced the need to replace them so frequently.

> coral polyp extension appeared to improve noticeably several days after use. As there were no other significant changes at this time we suggest that the Carbon may have removed substances that were otherwise inhibiting the extension of these corals.

With one gram providing around nearly one square metre of surface area, a 250gram pouch is enough to treat an estimated 800 litres. At a cost of £14.99 we think this is really good value, particularly bearing in mind the other positive attributes of this product.