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Related Articles: Stocking a BusinessDrygoods in Business, Livestocking a Business, Fish Food Business, Selling Aquarium Set-ups, Selling Tank Set-ups Right, The Mini-Reef Revolution, Custom Aquariums, Aquarium Lighting, Selling Aquarium Filtration, Freshwater Filters, Saltwater Filters, Pumps (air and water), Ultraviolet Sterilizers, Fish Food  & Feeding Accessories, Merchandising Corals and Shells

/Go Rin No Sho of Business

The Right Filter For the Right Fish: Saltwater

Bob Fenner  

If there is one aspect of the aquatics industry that is more tricky and controversial than freshwater filtration systems, it's got to be marine ones. Undergravel yes or no? The best wet-dry media? Is DLS bogus? What's the "best" out-gassing plastic ring? Are power heads necessary, suggested, deleterious, compared with airlift mechanisms? What the dickens is re-dox, ozone, skimmers/fractionators, dosimeters... & what do they have to do with me and my business? Plenty, if you intend to sell and service saltwater, particularly if you have livestock.

First, a not-so-surprising admission: aquatic life keeping and selling is not an exact science; there is a whole lot of "art" and intuition involved. What works in one particular application for that user is not necessarily the ideal or optimized set-up we would advocate.

My basic suggestions regarding how to go about searching for and merchandising this stock are the same as for last month's issue on freshwater filtration: I would offer one best and one less-expensive alternate in each category/type of filter.

Complete Aquarium Kits:

For saltwater complete set-ups we have a premium set-up with all the basics and just undergravel filtration, and an advanced set-up with better gravel media and an accessory canister filter.

We do not offer a ready-made wet-dry modular system per se, but do proffer an A/B choice in built-in wet-drys: the Truvu/Aquaplex and Advanced Aqua Tanks products respectively.

About Under-Gravel:

For "fish-only" (non-reef) marine assemblies we still endorse undergravel filters. Good ones, that cover the whole bottom with no "dead" space and large air lift tubes (1"). I personally "plug" compressed air as my drive of choice, several of our staff favor lines of epoxy-filled magnetic-drive power heads instead. I like the increased aeration, about the same flow, and the reduced waste-heat from just using air.

Power Filters: 

Whenever possible and on all of our service accounts, we employ outside canister filters in addition to undergravel on "fish-only" systems. These are generally good canister types (Eheim, Fluval), better hang on the back "mini-wet-drys" (Tru-Vu, Advanced Aqua Tanks), or hang on the back power filters (Supreme, Second Nature). For media we use a ceramic "macaroni" (Ehfi-Mech, biomech), a good grade of animal-bone carbon in a "bag" (typically Boyd's Chemipure), and our own brand of Dacron polyester "wool" in one or more grades.

Wet-Dry or Reef Filters 

Are strongly suggested for all serious marine aquarists with medium to larger systems, and definitely for all wanting to try their hand at keeping corals, "live-rock" and other invertebrates. I prefer heavy-duty brands that have been and probably will be on the market for years.

Of all the wet-dry media available we stock and use two. Pall Rings and Bio-Pak. Pall Rings were developed many years ago for the sewage treatment industry. These little (we use 1 and 2 inch size) cylinders with internal baffles are the winning design. The black "sinkers" are my favorite format.

DLS or Double-Layer-Spiral is typically a "roll" of Dacron and "sprung" poly netting. Some people swear by it, I swear at it. There has been a sprinkling of articles in the science and hobby comparing DLS with other media. Check them out.

Spray bars versus drip plates. Many years ago the fine folks at Dupla (Horst & Kippur) sponsored real scientific testing...functionally spray bars are inferior. Are you shocked? Besides drip plates don't clog or break down. Aesthetically? Whatever floats your boat. Spray bars do not however aid in better distribution, increased out-gassing, gaseous diffusion, biological augmentation...they are a gimmick.

Pressurized Filter "Systems"

 Like Sandpoint's Power Trickle Canister and Ocean Clear Filters modular systems are appropriate mid-tech. for medium-large systems. These products sell and work nicely together or as an adjunct to other filter modes.

Ultraviolet Sterilizers:

 Are advised for keeping down microbial populations and oxidizing some organics primarily. We sell the TMC line from Quality Marine and Rainbow Lifegard. My views on where to use and what to look for in these units can be read in the 5/89 issue of Freshwater & Marine Aquarium Magazine. Many other commercial & resale units produce inferior amounts of radiation, are poorly engineered and constructed, leak far too often and are difficult to service.

Ozonizers and Protein Skimmer/Fractionators: 

We use and resell Sander's products, available through Phil Shane's Quality Marine. Dupla's lines are simply the best, but quite expensive; outside most hobbyists' affordability. Our businesses have protein skimmers with and without ozone on all centralized filter systems. For ourselves and our customer's these units are vital for optimizing water quality and reducing "anomalous" losses. I am very interested in Supreme's new Skilter, a combo protein skimmer/outside power filter that shows tremendous promise.


Yes, I'm aware of denitrators, injectors, contactors, de-nitrifying towers, Redox potentiometer/dosimeters and other manner of chemical, physical and biological filter materials, tools and processes. But this is supposed to be intended as a brief, introductory survey, and I've probably already gotten myself into enough hot water.

This is not meant as an exhaustive review of all available models and types of filtration. The above are my choices of the best available, most appropriate technology on the market. What is being offered by manufacturer's and suppliers in your area and demanded by your customer base may be, and judging from the breadth of advertising and what is offered, is quite different from my points of view.

As stated in the accompanying article on freshwater filtration, what's important is that your store's personnel know their reasons for selling your lines of marine filters and be ready to make an effective presentation to your public.


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