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]

Marine Aquarium Terminology: Activated Carbon vs. Carbon Dosing

As if our hobby weren’t perplexing enough to the average beginner given all the oddball jargon we toss around, things can get doubly befuddling for novices when they come across two or more similar-sounding terms that actually apply to very different concepts. Such confusion could easily arise, for example, when newcomers are first confronted with … [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]

Marine Aquarium Acronyms: RO/DI Defined

As most marine aquarists will tell you—and as we point out frequently here at Saltwater Smarts—using purified source water for initial aquarium fill-ups, partial water changes, and freshwater top-offs is essential to maintaining the best possible water quality in a saltwater system. One of the more common methods hobbyists use to achieve this “purified source … [Read More]

BGA Battle Plan: Controlling Cyanobacteria in Saltwater Aquariums

You’re relaxing in front of your saltwater aquarium, enjoying the beautiful undersea vista you’ve created when you notice a few red, algae-like patches on your live rock that weren’t there before. You reach into the tank and give one of these growths a few taps with your finger and notice that it feels rather slimy … [Read More]

A Guide to Routine Marine Aquarium Maintenance

There’s no question that a saltwater aquarium requires a significant amount of maintenance if the fish and invertebrates it contains are to remain healthy and their life-support system is to continue functioning efficiently for the long term. But that doesn’t mean you should let all those routine chores overwhelm you! Ongoing upkeep becomes much more … [Read More]

The Minimal Role of Mechanical Filtration in Marine Aquariums

Mechanical filtration—the physical straining out of suspended particulates from aquarium water—has something of a mixed reputation among marine aquarium hobbyists. This may seem odd to those with experience in the freshwater side of the hobby, where the use of hang-on-back and canister power filters is quite commonplace. But then, freshwater fishkeepers tend to think of … [Read More]

Saltwater Aquarium Water Change: a Maintenance Cornerstone

When it comes to maintaining exceptional water quality and healthy, vibrant livestock, marine aquarium hobbyists have no greater ally than the humble water change. No filter, skimmer, reactor, ozonizer, UV sterilizer, or any other “izer” should be considered a substitute for the simple process of siphoning out and replacing a percentage of your aquarium’s water … [Read More]

The Lowdown on Live Rock

“Live rock”: It’s one of the first terms new saltwater aquarium hobbyists hear—and one of the first times (of many) they may find themselves scratching their heads in bewilderment. Let’s clear up the confusion! What on earth is live rock? What exactly does this seemingly oxymoronic term describe? Is it another name for a stony … [Read More]

Getting to the Bottom of Aquarium Sand and other Substrates

The choice of substrate—the material placed on the bottom of the tank—for a saltwater aquarium is one of many areas in our hobby that generate confusion and disagreement. Ask 10 hobbyists which type and depth of substrate they would recommend, and you’ll likely get 10 different answers. The truth is, there’s no single substrate particle … [Read More]