Iâ€™m fresh from MACNA XXI in Atlantic Cityâ€¦Besides being a wonderful event with great people, excellent presentations, and complete lack of sleep, MACNA brings together hobbyists, manufacurers and vendors from all over the world. Â (I love speaking at MACNA!) Whenever you bring this mix together, youâ€™re bound to get a good idea of whatâ€™s currently going on in the hobby. As a fish geek who straddles the line between old school and new school (ok, I donâ€™t do Twitter, but I â€˜m a Mac guy who blogs on Reef Buildersâ€¦), I thought it would be fun to give you my assessment of what I think is hot in the hobby as 2009 enters itâ€™s final months. Here goes..
1) Lighting- a constant evolution!– As you know (because youâ€™re a Reef Builders reader), you can count on a newÂ lighting fixture being introduced practically every week. At MACNA, you couldnâ€™t toss an Acan frag without hitting some new lighting system. T5 is still hot! Combinations of T5 and LED are really cool. Stalwart Ice Cap introduced a combo T5/LED fixture that used a really cool T5 sized LED stripÂ (that consumes about 24 watts for every 4 feet of length!) that will likely lay down a gauntlet for other manufacturers for some time to come. Although the LEDâ€™s were essentially for aesthetics, they did the job, and gave notice that even the big guys are pushing the state of the art with LEDs. . Hopefully the future will bring more developments.
One of the things that Iâ€™ve noticed is that the lighting manufacturers are starting to get it: Not only does the lighting have to be functional, it needs to look good in the modern reef keeperâ€™s home. So we are starting to see some really decent looking T5 pendants (Sfilgoi and ATI come to mind) that not only make your reef look good, but they compliment your dÃ©cor as well. The days of plywood frames, spaghetti rolls of wiring, and black powder coated retrofits as your only state-of the-art lighting option are coming to a close. Halide users get a boost from more efficient electronic ballasts, and some pendant lighting systems that incorporate combinations of T5, halide, or even LED in an aesthetically attractive package. Bravo! One thing is for sure- whatever I talk about today will beÂ out of vogue by next week, but the general trend is looking, ahem- bright -for new lighting systems.
2) Skimmers- cones, clones, and designer favorites- Talk about a market in flux, the protein skimmer manufacturers are at it again! Cone skimmers, ranging from the sexy, nuclear -blast -proof Vertex cones to the uber trendy Deltec â€œiPod White â€œ TC./SC lines, toÂ ever-reliable MRC, are creating amazingly good products for hobbyists at virtually every price point. The efficiency of cone skimmers is subject to some debate, but it looks as though the trend may be here for a while. If youâ€™re looking to catch the cone skimmer train but canâ€™t afford to pay for the big boys, lines like Eshopps are making a nice product at s price that keeps you solvent. New pump technology and mesh wheels promise greater efficiency and performance, so this constantly evolving technology will help us all down the road.
3) Aquariums- Shallow, Wide Rimless leads the way- What more can I sayâ€¦? The current trend towards shallow, wide and rimless aquariums is â€“well- as Jake would say â€œDope!â€ Beautiful aquariums, unencumbered by the ugliness of trim, are now popping up everywhere. And the build quality is better and better.Â Low iron glass, invisible seems, rounded acrylic edges, hot background colors, and external overflows add to the cool factor.While not for everybody, you canâ€™t help but admire the clean, modern look this style affords. Add into the equation that you almost have to equip one of these babies with a state-of-the-art suspended lighting system and its getting easier that ever to create a system that evenÂ the most jaded non-hobbyist would take a second glance at.
4) This is not your 10-year oldâ€™s nano tank! Iâ€™m finally getting ready to shut up about the absurdity of mass-produced compact fish extermination systems, er- â€œnano tanksâ€.Finally, manufacturers seem to be getting it: You can produce a more-or-less state of the art aquarium under 30 gallons in size that is well equipped, aesthetically attractive, and completely functionalâ€¦And people will buy it! Low iron glass options? Got it. A protein skimmer that actually works? Check.. Real lighting? Yup!Â Filter systems that provide actual filtration? Sure thing!Custom shapes and trims? You betcha! What can I say, todayâ€™s nano tanks are not only a viable option for many hobbyists that donâ€™t have room for larger systems, they are a fun choice for the reefer suffering from advanced phase MTS (â€œMultiple Tank Syndromeâ€)!
5) Livestock- Is that a Scolymia or are you just happy to see me? Wow- really pretty LPS corals are finally coming in. The days of ugly grey specimens are coming mercifully to a close. You need only walk down the aisles at the show to see dozens of stunning specimens that make yesterdayâ€™s imports look like door stops. The other good news is that many are now being captive propagated, too- so they are more guilt-free than ever before! Yes, coral “chop shops” abound, but look hard enough and talk to a few reefers in the know, and you’ll find places run by “core” reefers that get it. Â Ricordia and Zoanthids are bigger and badder than ever, with new color morphs popping up all the time. â€œSPSâ€ geeks can rjoice over the continuing supply of beautiful specimens now readily available. Yes, even you dorks who crave “limited editions” (I’m not even gonna go there…) can be happy these days at the variety. Â Soft coral lovers like me can celebrate the revival ofÂ softies as new, more colorful ones hit the market.
Captive propagation works, and itâ€™s producing great results! Just look at the many captive Clownfish breeds Â from ORA, designer Pseudochromis, Â gobies and other fish from breeders across the nation are starting toÂ rock the fish world!Â In fact, hobbyst level interestÂ in captive breeding is at an all time high, withÂ wonderful presentations from Martin Moe, Matt Wittenrich, and Frank Marini inspiring us to do the right thing and â€œgrow our ownâ€! This is hopefully not just a trend, but the start of a new era of responsibility and stewardship as the hobby matures.
In summaryâ€¦ Sure, there are plenty more cool things going on in the reef world, but I thought that Iâ€™d summarize just aÂ few ofÂ the ones that caught my eyes here. I can go on and on, but you get the picture. Besides, you can just stay tuned to Reef Builders for the latest and greatest each and every day! Itâ€™s a great time to be a reefer. Until next timeâ€¦Stay Wet.