Media Review: The Reef Aquarium, Volume 3: Science Art and Technology

by | Jan 15, 2006 | 0 comments

The Reef Aquarium, Volume 3: Science Art and

The Reef Aquarium, Volume 3: Science Art and Technology

By J. Charles Delbeek and Julian Sprung

Book Design: Daniel N. Ramirez


Two Little Fishes

4016 El Prado Blvd.

d.b.a. Ricordia Publishing

Coconut Grove, FL 33133 USA

Web Site :

[email protected]

ISBN 1-883693-14-4

680 pages, profusely illustrated with excellent photographs,
diagrams, and charts and with extensive 11-page bibliography
and index.

Hardcover – $78.99

My experience with both the
theoretical and practical knowledge about aquarium husbandry for
coral reef animals that Julian Sprung possesses came many years
ago at one of the first meetings of MACNA, this one in New
Jersey. There, Julian suggested the possibility of keeping what
we now call “nanoreefs,” using the live rock method of
biological filtration. I had had many years of experience with
fresh water aquaria, and I quickly set up a successful ten-gallon
marine tank, the first I ever tried. The first book I reviewed
for the highly regarded printed edition of Aquarium
was Delbeek and Sprung’s The Reef
Aquarium, Volume One,
more than ten years ago, in 1994. At
that time it stood as the best single compendium of the basic
biology of corals and the techniques for keeping them alive and
healthy in the home microreef aquarium. So my reliance on Julian
for information and technique goes way back. I came to know
Charles later, after he became an aquarist at the Waikiki
Aquarium, and close in time to my own move to Hawaii, I came to
respect his knowledge equally.

They have now released Volume Three of their series, this one
is subtitled, “Science, Art and Technology,”
in contrast to the previous two, both of which were subtitled
A Comprehensive Guide to the Identification and Care of
Tropical Marine Invertebrates
.” The change in title
indicates a change in direction. Rather than concentrating on
particular organisms or groups of organisms, the authors have
concentrated on sharing new scientific concepts involved in
reefkeeping, the most recent developments in the technology
required to support it and the aesthetics of creating spectacular

The lengthy “Introduction” contains the author’s
thoughts on the ethics and ecological impact of our hobby. They
laud the developments in the aquaculture of fishes, corals and
other reef invertebrates. At the same time they defend the
collection of organisms from the wild, providing it meets two
criteria – sustainability of the harvest coupled with economic
benefits to local communities. Of course they criticize
destructive collection techniques, over-harvesting of rare
organisms and exclusion of locals from opportunities. (While I
support these concepts, I would rather the focus moved to
encouraging poor coastal communities to become more involved in
aquaculture.) They also make strong arguments against the release
of exotic organisms that have the potential of becoming locally

Chapter One is titled “The Basics of Aquarium Selection
and Design.” It covers the pros and cons of glass and
acrylic tanks, as well as other options and offers a detailed
look at the new methods for the construction of overflows and
sumps. It also discusses stand construction and locating the

The second chapter, “Common Elements,” discusses the
fundamentals – natural and artificial seawater, de-polluting make
up water, types of live rock and their proper treatment, sand and
gravel substrate issues such as grade and particle size as well
as depth of the bed and even touches on the use of mud in the

Chapter Three “Plumbing and Electric” is also full
of practical advice. The full spectrum of available piping and
tubing is discussed in detail as well as techniques for
attachment. The authors also provide a comprehensive discussion
of bulkheads and their proper installation and of valves and
other fittings. The discussion of main pump installation is very
thorough, with numerous charts, tables and calculators so as to
ensure proper pump selection. The section on electrical matters
covers proper set-ups for electrical systems, emergency back-ups,
ballast location and chiller selection and hookup.

Chapter Four, “Physical and Chemical parameters of Reef
Aquarium Water,” contains 68 pages of the most recent
research findings available on these topics, as well as
techniques for implementation of controls. It starts with
controversies over proper temperature parameters, and covers
systems of measurement and control, including detailed
discussions of recent technologies for heaters and chillers. This
section is also illustrated with numerous photographs and useful
explanatory charts and diagrams. There are equally detailed
discussions of gas exchange, specific gravity, pH and trace and
minor elements and supplementation.

The fifth chapter, “Calcium, Alkalinity and pH
Maintenance” also presents the most recent available
research findings on these critical parameters in 50 information
packed pages. Of course there are also detailed discussions of
measurement and the most recent technologies for control. The
authors cover new methods of dosing kalkwasser, types of calcium
reactors, balanced two-part supplements – indeed, every available
technique for maintaining optimum levels of each variable. This
chapter too uses visual aids very effectively.

Chapter Six, “Filtration,” includes more than 150
pages on this topic. The major discussion is an update of
research knowledge and techniques for biological filtration.
These discussions were, to me at least, as exciting as reading an
excellent novel! The main sections, in addition to the live
sand-live rock theory and practice, are long and thoughtful
discussions of Jaubert’s plenum technique and its
modifications, the newest techniques for refugium establishment
and maintenance along with current research findings on their
utility, and a long look at Adey’s turf scrubber technique.
There is also discussion of chemical filtration using GAC and new
developments using other filtrants. There is also a detailed
presentation of protein skimming and the controversies concerning

The next two chapters cover “Water Motion” and
“Lighting,” in more than 120 pages. At the risk of
becoming repetitious, these chapters also combine masses of
information from the most recent research literature with
practical advice and information on the new technologies that are
available to achieve desired results. In all these and previous
discussions, Delbeek and Sprung do not shy away from discussions
of controversies over theories and methods.

Chapter Nine, “Aquascaping,” is their contribution
to the aesthetics of minireef design, with beautiful photos to
illustrate the principals they consider important. There is also
their usual comprehensive presentation of practical and
innovative techniques for producing the desired effects.

The critical issue of “Foods and Feeding” is covered
in chapter ten. As an aside, when Terry Siegel visited Hawaii
last month, he marveled at how plump the beautiful fish in the
schools of tangs and others were. The authors also question the
philosophy of the “nutrient poor environment,” given
our current state of knowledge concerning biological and other
filtration. Their discussion is, as the case in the other
sections of the book, filled with information, and excellent
visual illustrations of newly available foods and feeding
regimes, many of them developed by the aquaculture industry.

The last chapter, “Maintenance, Husbandry and Disease
Issues,” follows the pattern of the previous chapters –
loads of new information based on solid research, especially of
coral and fish diseases and treatments, along with new
developments in techniques and very useful visual aids.

In summary, this volume is enormously valuable, with
up-to-the-minute information on everything that you want to know
about tweaking your system, problem solving for it and
establishing new aquarium systems. Danny Ramirez has made sure
the volume is up to the high production standard set by the
previous two, and it will make not only a useful but also a
handsome addition to the marine aquarist’s bookshelf. This
book is a “must have” for any serious aquarist.


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