I, like many other people, became very involved in the marine aquarium hobby. I started with a few fresh water tanks, but was soon ready for a greater challenge. I have seen many people go to the fish stores and stare in awe at the beautiful marine organisms. These creatures of the ocean are brightly colored and highly active. Then, the onlookers turn away after being told that these fish only live in salt water. A few of these people actually take the next step, and ask about salt water aquariums.
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When talking to a sales person about salt water, they are usually told a few things: First, a common misconception, it is practically impossible to have a salt water setup and takes expert attention and care. Second, they are told it costs a lot of money. Third, they are told that they shouldn't try salts and should stick to fresh until they have the huge amount of time to put towards a marine tank. OK, so it does take a little effort, and it does take a little more time than fresh, but I have been doing salt water tanks since I was 15! I did this while managing 2 varsity sports and all honors classes. Obviously, it can't take too much time, or I would never have been able to be successful. You must have a large enough tank or the water quality could fluctuate too easily. I would recommend a tank no smaller than 30 gallons. I personally believe the All-Glass Large Size Aquariums are wonderful, and would recommend reading my article on them for further information. (a cheap plug! Sorry:^) Finally, a productive salt water tank can easily be done with only a small amount more than a good Fresh water tank.
For the purpose of this Article, I will only dwell on the topic of filtration. In a salt water setup, or any aquarium for that matter, there needs to be 3 basic types. In reality there are many more categories of filtration, but these three general terms will be sufficient for our purposes. The first type of filtration is mechanical. This is what everyone thinks of when they think of a filter. The main objective of mechanical filtration is to collect solid debris from the water, usually of larger sizes (big enough to be visible. In many cases loose filter floss is used. It looks like a giant cotton ball, and comes in a plastic bag. It is pretty inexpensive. The problem is, it needs to be replaced often at is kind of messy. With the Proline 3000, or all of Amiracle's great trickle filters, the water must pass through a filter pad. This is a dense pad made of a material much like the filter floss. It works quite similarly to a coffee filter. The water passes through, and it collects the larger particles on one of it's sides. The water is then clean enough to pass on to the next stage of filtration.
The 2nd stage of the filtration is called biological filtration. This is an area of the filter in which billions of microscopic organisms grow. They eat the toxins in the water, turning them into less harmful compounds and chemicals. In the Proline 3000, a large area of the "sump" (the box of a wet/dry filter)is designated for biological filtration. This area is filled with "bio-balls." These are small "pin cushion" balls that have large surface areas in order to allow a greater number of bacteria to colonize. The bio-balls are provided with the filter. The water enters the filter, going through "protein-skimmers." These will be explained later. In next goes through the filter pad explained above, and flows onto a "drip-plate." This is a plate with many small holes drilled into it. The water passes through the holes, and "trickles" down over the bio-balls. This is why this type of filter is sometimes called a "trickle filter." The purpose for having the water trickle over the bubbles, as opposed to flowing pass them while they were submerged, is because it allows for more oxygen to reach the bacteria. If the bacteria have a greater supply of oxygen, they grow and multiply faster, thus using more of the "toxins" in the water. It provides for a more efficient environment. Because this are of the filter is not submerged in water, it is a.k.a. the dry section of a "wet/dry" filter.
The final area of filtration is called chemical filtration. This is when certain chemicals are used to remove more impurities from the water, removing odor, dis-colorants, and other potentially harmful impurities. One of the most commonly used and best known chemical filtration substances is activated carbon. Almost every filter has it, from the fresh water aquariums, to the Britta Home Filtration units! It can take out chemicals and other things which smell and turn the water yellow, not to mention kill your fish. A section of the Proline 3000 has been designated for chemical filtration. It follows shortly after the bio-balls, and is in the wet part of the tank.
Following the wet area of the tank, the water is pumped back up to the aquarium, where it can flow back into the siphon/overflow box, and down into the filter once again. The overflow boxes are included with the filtration unit, and are easy to adjust and clean. They work efficiently, although the syphon tube may be troublesome under slow-flow rates.
One final thing to mention, is a characteristic of the Proline series that sets them apart from the others. When the water first enters the filter, it passes through a protein skimmer! This is a tube like column in which tiny bubbles are formed. Based on the principal that proteins will gather of the surface of water where it meets the air, just as a foamy scum layer forms at the beach, the bubbles attract the pollutants. The bubbles rise to the top of the water column and pop. This forms a scummy brown fluid, rich in protein and other algae nutrients. The liquid collects at the top of the column, and can be cleaned easily! This lowers the frequency of having to clean the filtration unit by preventing the pollutants from entering the system from the first place. Because of the large amount of water the Proline 3000 processes, TWO PROTEIN SKIMMERS ARE INCLUDED!!! These protein skimmers collect a large amount of waste, before it enters the filter areas.
The Proline Series might seem a little expensive, but is far better than other filter systems. It performs great, sitting in the cabinet of my 125 gallon salt water tank! My water is clear, and my fish are happy. When compared to the large amount of fish that could be killed due to poor filtration, the price is quite reasonable. The system can be found in most Aquarium shops, and can be ordered from many places online. The maintenance is low, the quality great, and the efficiency magnificent. I would have to say that this is one of the best systems I have ever used!
The only thing to keep in mind is that you MUST clean the prefilter and filter pad on a regular basis. This can be acheived either by replacing the filter media or cleaning it with hot water. This removes a lot of waste from the system before it can be broken down into nitrates. While nitrates are not particularly toxic to fish, they do encourage algae growth. One of the single largest factors which determines the algae level of a tank is its nitrate level. By limiting the amount of organics being introduced into the system (ie food), and by routine maintenance, this problem can be curbed with reletive ease.
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