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  • Questions and Answers
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    1. How long does it take to set up a reef aquarium so I can add livestock and coral?
    The answer to this question varies, depending on the way you choose to initiate your aquarium setup. To begin, you will add sand, rock and salt water. If you elect to use live sand and live rock you will begin to enjoy the movement and creation of life in just a few short days. Love rock comes with a variety of ocean-dwelling creatures, including stomatella, brittle stars, astral starfish, copepods, amphipods and much more. You can begin testing for ammonia and nitrite reduction after about two weeks. You will be able to add a clean-up crew once these tests yield a negative reading - this usually occurs from three to six weeks after your initial setup.
    If you choose to use dry aragonite sand and base rock to set up your aquarium, you will save a great deal of money, but you’ll have to wait and extra three to six weeks before adding livestock.
    2. What is a cleanup crew?
    A clean up crew usually consists of invertebrates (inverts) that include: snails, hermit crabs and cleaner shrimp. The number of inverts you add will depend largely on the size of your aquarium. There’s a great deal of conflicting opinion about how many of each you should add to your marine aquarium, but the safest, most economical way is to start small and add more if and when you need them.
    EXAMPLE: In a 30 gallon aquarium you can start with 3-5 hermit crabs, 2 snails and a single cleaner shrimp. In a 90 gallon set up you might want to start with 7-12 hermit crabs, 3-5 snails and two cleaner shrimp. There are many types of crabs and snails on the market today, each with its own particular set of advantages and disadvantages. As your aquarium begins to flourish you can utilize the services provided by Emerald, Arrow and Sally Lightfoot crabs; turbo, astral, cerith, nerite and nassarius snails as well as sand-sifting starfish, and coral banded and peppermint shrimp.
    3. What does a cleaner shrimp do and how long will they live?
    The Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) acts like a medical professional in a marine aquarium. Active, friendly and reef safe, the Cleaner Shrimp sets up shop and waits for fish to visit his chosen location so that they can be cleaned of dead tissue and ectoparasites. The Cleaner Shrimp lives from two to three years, shedding its outer shell regularly as it grows into adulthood. Most reef safe aquarium fish will not hassle or eat cleaner shrimp species, but that is not always the case. Hawkfish, some wrasses and predatory shrimp, such as the coral banded, might choose to look at the Cleaner Shrimp the same way they look at mysis shrimp, a tasty dinner table treat.
    4. When should I change my light bulbs?
    Lighting is one of the most important pieces of aquarium equipment that aquarists will need to maintain a marine environment that includes both SPS and LPS coral. While your lights may still turn on, even look bright to the human eye, they continue to deteriorate as time goes by. The spectrum or LUX turns from a blue wavelength to a red wavelength, thus creating increased algae, less energy and insufficient light to grow or even maintain most species of coral. While fish do not require artificial lighting, the same is not true for the thousands of species of coral available to the home aquarist today. You can purchase a lux meter to help you determine when your light bulbs need changing, but the cost can be prohibitive. Use these simple rules-of-thumb and you won;t go wrong - but keep in mind that the more hours per day you use the lights, the more often you’ll have to change them.
    Based on 7-10 hours of use per day:
    a) normal output fluorescent bulbs need to be replaced every 5-6 months.
    b) high output T5 bulbs, power compacts and VHO bulbs need to be replaced every 7-10 months.
    c) metal halide bulbs need to be replaced once a year.

    Keep in mind that as your bulbs deteriorate they lose a great deal of their original luster and brilliance, and though not always discernible to the naked eye, coral can be greatly affected by too little or too much illumination. It is imperative, therefore, that if your lighting fixture(s) houses multiple bulbs, you use good judgment when it comes time to replace old bulbs with new ones. The rules of thumb dictates that you change two bulbs at a time - leaving 10 -14 days between each replacement. This simply means that if you have 6 bulbs lighting your aquarium, and you change them at intermittent intervals (above), it will take one month or 30 days to exchange all of your bulbs for new ones.