Halichoeres chrysus: A Hardy Little “Banana with Fins” That’s Just Right for Beginners

Known by a variety of common names—banana wrasse, canary wrasse, golden wrasse, yellow coris, et al—Halichoeres chrysus is hardy, readily available, reasonably affordable, well suited to modest-sized systems, and among the better choices for beginners. Of course, owing to all these positive attributes, this wrasse is justifiably popular among many seasoned salties, as well. Physical … [Read More]

Paul B’s Unique Perspective on Keeping Mandarins

Hobby pioneer Paul “Paul B” Baldassano is not your grandfather’s reefkeeper (though he is old enough to be your grandfather!). Nor is his book, The Avant-Garde Marine Aquarist: A 60-Year History of Fishkeeping, anything like your grandfather’s hobby literature. In fact, Paul B’s perspective on just about any aspect of the marine aquarium hobby is … [Read More]

Salty Q&A: Is a Sump the Same as a Refugium?

Question What exactly is the difference between a “sump” and a “refugium” (assuming there is a difference)? These are terms I didn’t hear in my 30-plus years as a freshwater aquarist, but I’ve heard them numerous times since starting my first saltwater tank.” – Submitted by Moira B Answer There is a distinction between a … [Read More]

What Gives with that Marine Fish that Never Eats?

I’ve had this fish in my aquarium for months now and it’s as fat and happy as can be, yet I’ve never actually seen it consume any of the food’s I’ve offered. How on earth is it getting enough to eat?” Caribbean Chris and I often field queries like this here at Saltwater Smarts, and … [Read More]

The Many Possible Purposes of the Saltwater Refugium

“Refugium” is a hobby term that resists easy definition. This is probably so because, unlike most aquarium accoutrements—heaters, powerheads, protein skimmers, lights, etc.—there’s no single, readily identifiable purpose for a refugium. Ask 10 different hobbyists what a refugium is for, and you’re apt to get 10 different answers. Essentially, a refugium is some sort of … [Read More]

Harmless or Helpful Live Rock Hitchhikers: “Pods”

Regular Saltwater Smarts readers often see references to them in Paul B’s posts. They arrive in our aquaria unbidden aboard chunks of live rock, in live sand, or on coral specimens attached to rocks. At a glance, they look like little insects scurrying over the rocks or swarming on the glass. I’m talking about “pods”—not … [Read More]

Good Reasons to Use a Refugium in Your Reef System

A refugium is a safe haven for algae and invertebrates in a separate tank from the main display aquarium. These organisms provide some distinct advantages to the overall health of a reef aquarium. First off, the critters breeding in the refugium occasionally make their way back to the display and offer healthy snacks for many … [Read More]

Green Mandarinfish: Gorgeous, Good-Natured, and a Very Finicky Feeder

Many coral reef fishes are renowned for their spectacular coloration and patterning, but there’s one particular species, commonly available in the marine aquarium hobby, that arguably surpasses them all in this regard. I’m talking about the green mandarinfish (Synchiropus splendidus). Also known as the mandarin goby (though it’s a dragonet from the family Callionymidae, not … [Read More]