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Top Saltwater Aquarium Myths

Since the beginning of time, successfully keeping a saltwater aquarium has seemed a total mystery to a vast majority of people. Over the past few decades, the science of saltwater aquaria has increased by leaps and bounds. In spite of the new knowledge, many of the old myths which arose during the years of experimentation are still professed by some as facts. Here are some of the most popular myths which are still in circulation:

1. It takes at least 6 weeks to cycle a saltwater aquarium

MYTH:
It takes 6 weeks to cycle (establish the biological filter) a new saltwater aquarium.

FACT:
The original method used for cycling a tank consisted of putting a fish or two in a new tank, then waiting up to 6 weeks for the nitrobacter and nitrosoma bacteria to form and grow. It is now known that there are a number of methods which can cycle a tank in as little as one day.

2.  Water changes are the only way to reduce nitrates in a saltwater aquarium

MYTH:
Water changes are the only way to reduce nitrates which are the end product of the nitrification process in a saltwater aquarium.

FACT:
There are a number of methods which can be used to reduce or even prevent nitrate build up without performing a water change.

  • Denitrator Units
  • Mangroves
  • Some types of Algae
  • Live Rock in conjunction with a Berlin Filtration System
  • Live Sand in conjunction with a Jaubert/Plenum System
  • Nitrate Absorbing Products
3. The ideal reef tank temperature is between 76° and 78° Fahrenheit.

MYTH:
The ideal reef tank temperature is between 76° and 78° Fahrenheit.

FACT:
The water temperatures of most of the reefs where your corals came from are a lot higher than 78° F. Read about it in: How High is Too High?

4. Tangs (Surgeonfish) are very sensitive to nitrates.

MYTH:
Tangs (Surgeonfish) are more sensitive to nitrates than other fish.

FACT:
Surgeonfish are no more sensitive to nitrates than any other species. Tangs have endured nitrate levels of hundreds of ppm for extended periods of time with no ill affects.

5. Massive water changes are harmful to saltwater fish and invertebrates.

MYTH:
Massive water changes to quickly reduce nitrates and other toxins are harmful to saltwater fish and invertebrates.

FACT:
While a rapid change in salinity, temperature or pH can be harmful to fish and invertebrates, a rapid reduction in nitrates does not adversely affect them.

6. Coral Banded Shrimp kill fish.

MYTH:
Coral Banded Shrimp kill fish.

FACT:
The Coral Banded Shrimp is a scavenger as well as a parasite picker, and may attack other shrimp, but will not normally attack fish. Many people who find their Coral Banded Shrimp consuming a dead fish or invertebrate assume that it was killed by the shrimp.  However the shrimp is just doing what it does for a living: Scavenging.

7. All LFS people are knowledgeable and always give you good advice.

MYTH:
You can depend on the people in your LFS to be knowledgeable and to give you good advice.

FACT:
There are a great number of LFS owners/employees who are well experienced in saltwater aquariums and will give you good advice. However a majority of them (usually younger workers) have little or no knowledge or experience in this subject which requires time to learn.

8. Bio-Balls are nitrate factories.

MYTH: Bio-Balls or wet/dry filters create nitrates in a saltwater aquarium.

FACT: Bio-Balls and wet/dry filter material can trap detritus and other tank debris which break down and eventually create nitrates. If the Bio-Balls are cleaned regulary, they don't create any more nitrates than a substrate with the same materials in it.

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