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    A Look Back: 2009’s Biggest Reef Aquaria Stories, Trends and Topics

    It’s hard to believe the roller coaster ride of 2009 is coming to an end. Sure the economy nearly melted, and at times the reefing industry screeched to a near halt, but overall it wasn’t that bad. Whether you see the glass half empty or half full, there is no question that the hobby has […]

    It’s hard to believe the roller coaster ride of 2009 is coming to an end. Sure the economy nearly melted, and at times the reefing industry screeched to a near halt, but overall it wasn’t that bad. Whether you see the glass half empty or half full, there is no question that the hobby has grown leaps and bounds since 2008. Thanks to new websites and the growing presence of social media, aquarium related information is traveling around the world at a quicker pace and fostering the growth of a global hobby… and an industry.

    Looking back there are many great GBD articles and stories that we’d love to highlight–but there are a few that stick out in our minds. Check them out–what a wild year it has been.

    LEDs: Orbitec v PFO

    Twenty-o-nine kicked off with a bang. PFO, an aquarium lighting titan was brought to it’s knees with a quick strike from Orbitec, an aquarium aerospace company based out of Wisconsin. See all the information you could want on this legal case here: Update from the LED Legal Battle, PFO Still Fighting?

    As most of you are now aware, the patent fight ended after PFO claimed bankruptcy. While we don’t believe the lawsuit to be the only reason for the dissolution of PFO… it certainly was the last straw. PFO’s bankruptcy precluded the cases summary judgement, and the case was dismissed. At the end of the day there was no real winner, but if there is one take away from this debacle it’s the value of a patent search. Orbitec and PFO spent hundreds of thousands of dollars slugging it out in a court room and now there is nothing to show for it. In March 2009, Marty Gustafson of Orbitec said:

    Fortunately our product line will be released later this year under a partnership with another aquarium lighting company, and we look forward to continuing to integrate and work together in the industry.

    PFO is out of business and Orbitec has yet to deliver their LED product they stated would be made available later in 2009. It’s now very late in 2009 and we have not seen or heard any progress on their end. Maybe Orbitec can prove the industry wrong and put together a winning product. As for now the  score unfortunately remains: Lawyers  1 point. The hobby, PFO and Orbitec zero.

    Thankfully the patent issue has not prevented all LED products from coming to market; such as the new unit Aqua Illumination, TMC Aquabeam and Nano Tuners’ LED Spotlight. On the opposite end of the LED spectrum, it’s unfortunate that this realm of lighting has become so ripe with misinformation.

    Rare Fish: The $30K Genicanthus personatus pair

    If there is one story that best highlights the growing market for rare fish–it’s this one. The $30,000 USD pair of Masked Angelfish popped up at B-Box Japan. Months later GBD was able to track down these beautiful fish with plenty of photos and video to satisfy your eye candy cravings. [To top it off, we spoke with Dr. Chung earlier this month and the pair is now spawning!]

    But the Masked Angels weren’t the only big news in the rare fish world; Amphiprion mccullochi, Tinkeri Hybrids, Lotilia graciliosa, Prognathodes guyanensisClarion Angels, Prognathodes basabei, Roa excelsa, and confiscated Clipperton Angelfish also entered “the trade”. For the first time other countries are fighting off Asia on these rare, high priced and beautiful animals. In the past, fish have largely been ignored in favor of corals–now it seems hobbyists are balancing their interest in both.

    The Year of Cone Skimmers

    2009 was the year of the cone. From ATB to KZ and then Vertex, everyone has followed since. Now it seems every aquarium equipment manufacturer in China is producing cone skimmers all with seamless molds. If you’re feeling handy why don’t you make the traffic cone into something useful?

    Cone skimmers do work, but will they stay at the forefront in 2010, or, will they end up like thousands of counter current venturi skimmers–sitting in a reefer’s basement?

    Chalice Crazy Reefers

    The hobby surely broke a record with October’s sale of a single eye fragment of the “My Miami Chalice“. Regularly fetching prices in the $1,000K + range, one ebay auction elevated the price to $2,000 USD! Here’s a photo by Chris Thomas of this coral which originated from Jason Fox.

    The chalice craze has since died down… somewhat. These brightly colored chalices will be popular for a long time, but with an increasing supply of these corals the prices cannot be maintained. The four digit price tags on some chalice corals seemed to create a price inflation that spread to other in-demand scleratins including Scolymia, Favia, Aussie SPS and the very recent arrival of Bali Deepwater Acros.

    The ironic thing is few, if any, of these hyped corals are truly rare or that expensive to initially purchase. At a consumer level, the hobby has always been obtuse in these matters! But hey, if people are willing to pay…

    Azoox Corals : Dendros, Balanos, Rhizos and More!

    Duncans were so 2008, or at least that’s how it seems after 2009’s wave of Azoox mania. Legal issues aside, Dendrophyllia, Balanophyllia, and Rhizotrochus were all in demand this year. In addition to this, we’re seeing more azoox keepers venture into the other Dendro–Dendronephthya along with azoox gorgonians such as Menella sp. and Swiftia sp.

    The care of these corals is heavily dependent on the development of specialized foods and nutrient reduction. We hope to see this continue–in addition, the hobby is for the first time seeing some of the merits to organic carbon dosing. It is these Azoox corals who will eventually benefit the most these new filtration strategies.

    A New Level of Reef Aquariums

    The most encouraging and promising trend of 2009 was without  a doubt the number of beautiful aquariums popping up around the world. 2009 saw reefers look outside of tradition aquarium aesthetics to create some of the best looking aquariums in the world. Rimless tanks, open aquascaping and clean lines are, dare I say, becoming the mainstream among advanced reef keepers. Take a look at some of the best here.

    The list could go on… and on and on… These are just some of our picks that we found to be the most interesting and popular over the past year on GBD. What are yours?

    As an aquarist or industry insider, what do you believe made 2009 the year that it was?

    10 Comments

    1. pavlo
      December 24, 2009 at 9:18 AM | Permalink

      great write up. it’s unique to glass-box and truly addresses ‘modern reef aquariums’. best entry i’ve seen in a while. now if we can get an update and some photos of the glass box, life would just be grand! 🙂

    2. Nicholas Sadaka
      December 24, 2009 at 10:07 AM | Permalink

      I would like to think that 2009 will be remembered as the basic foreground for marine captive breeding. While the species list of captive bred marines aren’t flooding in, it seems to me that techniques are steadily being developed, hopefully with the end result being MOST marine aquarium species offered as captive bred, much like the freshwater industry. I may be a little biased as a regular Glass-box reader, but I think Kevin from Live Aquaria is right at the front line of all this development (as well as the great people at many public aquariums). I hope in 5 years or so, we’ll look back at 2009 as the year that marine captive breeding began to take off. The newest success I’ve heard is with the Queen Triggerfish…hopefully many more soon.

      I also wanted to thank Eric and the contributors here for all the great information and keeping us all abreast of all the latest and greatest in the industry. You guys really are absolutely fantastic. Thanks!

    3. reef
      December 24, 2009 at 10:41 AM | Permalink

      The Cone skimmer hype is making some Business’s good money.

      Cone skimmers are not better than a good quality standard shape skimmer.
      Its the pumps that make the skimmer perform.
      At least Deltec never bought into the hype.

    4. cet98
      December 24, 2009 at 1:32 PM | Permalink

      and what a Wonderful Year is has been!… LOL!
      Looking forward to the new innovations yet to come in 2010, but most of all I look forward to what Eric and GBD have to say about it!!!!

    5. Jon 'hahnmeister'
      December 24, 2009 at 2:36 PM | Permalink

      @Reef,
      I would say that the cone is better for several reasons. Some of those reasons are purely mechanical and dont need speculation even. For instance, running a 2′ tall skimmer with a beckett puts alot of back-pressure on the amount of air intake, esp if its a cylinder. The cone body does lower the water level in the body a good bit. Getting 1500lph of air from a stock beckett and eheim 1260/62 isnt so easy on a cylinder… but easy on a cone. Also, as the body funnels to the top, the turbulence is reduced, something that a wider body wouldnt facilitate. Of course, these points could be considered one and the same, since dropping the water level means the bubbles in the neck are seperated more from the turbulence below.

      I will agree though that once a skimmer has reached the point where is has taken out all it can from the system… it cant do much more really. So the ultimate level that one skimmer can lower a system’s organics does reach a point where it cant do any more… provided its a good skimmer to start. But the main difference is how fast a skimmer can get to that level in the first place. In car terms it would be “its not so much the top speed, but the acceleration.” That being said, the faster rate of removal has resulted in many people reporting lower phosphate levels, clearer water, etc… when placing a cone on their system.

      Deltec has not bought into the cone skimmer idea, but that doesnt mean much. Ever since I discovered/reported the effects of an enlarged diameter volute on needlewheel performance, many makers out there, even Royal, have ‘revamped’ their pumps to reflect this, including Deltec. I didnt think it was a significant discovery at the time, but the phone conversations I have had with companies since tells me otherwise. Prior to that and their recent skimmer revamp (Bermuda patent anyone?), they also poo-poo’ed the ideas of meshwheels and bubble plates for years.

      Lets just sum it up like this… I think we can all agree that the old design of putting a flat piece of material as a transition between the body and neck of a skimmer wasn’t a good idea. So then ‘funnel’ shapes started as a transition between cylinder diameters, and positive results were reported. The cone is just the complete evolution of that idea.

      @Eric, As for Orbitech claiming… “will be released later this year under a partnership with another aquarium lighting company”. Are you overlooking Aqua Illuminations?! Why wouldn’t they be considered the aquarium lighting company that Orbitech is partnered with? They are partnered with Orbitech after all.

      ” On the opposite end of the LED spectrum, it’s unfortunate that this realm of lighting has become so ripe with misinformation.” -Eric

      Its getting much better, but could you elaborate on what you mean there? One thing I would add is that if you ‘read between the lines’ as to what the Orbitech patent will mean as long as it stands is that we will likely be seeing a flood of rimless aquariums and other setups that allow LED lighting to be suspended or retrofitted in a manner that lets people get around the Orbitech patent. I would think that Glassbox would be thinking happy thoughts about that. We may also see more product uses from ‘non-aquarium’ LED makers getting used in this industry, much like the horticultural companies like SLS and PGS ventured into reef keeping pendants and T5’s. With Cree’s XP-G line having such an ideal spectrum for reefs built in, Orbitech will have a hard time telling LED makers that they cant sell their ‘steet lighting’ or ‘parking lot pendants’ because reefers might put them over their tanks.

    6. December 25, 2009 at 9:15 AM | Permalink

      @Jon, Claiming that businesses are partnering is not a wise thing to do, particularly when it is not based on fact. Aqua Illumination and Orbitec are not partners. If a controllable, high powered LED lighting manufacturer wishes to stay in business they will have to pay a royalty fee to Orbitec. That is not a partner choice, it is a legal binding obligation–should Orbitec pursue or threaten. It is this or go to court a la PFO.

      As an example, partnering would be something along the lines of an equity-like stake on Orbitec’s end in return for a perpetual royalty free license to the partner.

      Unless the major lighting manufacturers band together, I do not see a one man show fighting and beating the patent in say the next 2 years.

      Regarding misinformation, myself and an industry leader will be touching on this in the future. For starters, driving a Cree XR-E Q4 at 700mA is not overdriving…

      Regarding the patent, you may want to revisit the most expanded version. Initially the light had to sit on the edge of the aquarium (e.g. mounting feet). This is no longer the case.

    7. Kevin
      December 25, 2009 at 10:04 AM | Permalink

      @Eric

      What is your thoughts on the cone given all things equal eg pumps, internal volume etc,

      Thanks

    8. December 26, 2009 at 5:47 PM | Permalink

      Add to the list of trends of 2009 NP Biopellets. Vodka, sugar, vingar dosing is not a new trend but NP Biopellets are aquarium version of zu zu pets this year. We shall see in the upcoming months how well this product works on this side of the pond.

    9. December 27, 2009 at 11:07 PM | Permalink

      @Kevin

      All things equal, I believe the cone will have a slight advantage. In the long run, will it be a noticeable difference? No one knows. The limited (read: one) controlled study on protein skimmer performance suggested skimmers removal nearly the same amount of organics… but what aquarists see in their collection cups does not always agree with this.

      More analysis needs to be done in this area, but I’m not sure if it ever will be. For now I can say that I am very pleased with the performance of my ATB cone skimmer. It is quiet, consistent, easy to clean, and keeps up with the heavy feedings.

      @Mike, I agree and hope to see these carry into 2010.

    10. Jeremy Maneyapanda
      December 31, 2009 at 12:23 PM | Permalink

      Well said Eric. And all things considered, I wouldnt trade my MRC skimmer for a cone skimmer and a pile of money. We use what we finds works. I have yet to see a skimmer work better for me.

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