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Recommendation for Keeping Marine Lobsters

This article is contributed by Leslie Ng from Singapore

As a marine hobbyist, I have always developed the knack and interests to try out new stuff and that includes keeping live lobsters which I got from the supermarket seafood section as pets. Although that might sound absurd, the whole experience turned out to be fun and entertaining and the group of 3 which I initially bought had actually survived for years, one died after only a month while the other 2, both lived for years (the longest almost 5) until he died of a suspected outbreak of disease. But before I start it off with my pet lobster journey, let’s begin to try to understand more about this creature and its characteristics.

marine lobsterThe Marine Lobsters often seen sold at supermarkets (rather than pet shops) which are meant for consumption at the dinner table are actually part of a large aquaculture industry, cultivated around the world due to its economic value. There are different types of the lobster family commercialized and bred in large scale whereby one of the most commonly found is the Nephropidae lobster rather known as the true lobsters with claws while the other one is a variant of the spiny lobsters which belong to the family Palinuridae, sometimes called the rock lobster or known as marine crayfish. There are other lobsters families are loosely categorized into their own grouping and some of it not really made known to aquarist.

Just like myself, there are quite a number of people who actually showed interest in keeping the lobster as pets in their marine saltwater aquarium, not for food consumption but mainly as a display specimen. Keeping the lobster is not really something that requires special skills because as long as you have the basics of marine fish keeping like how to prepare the saltwater, that should be enough to ensure that they survive. One of the few things in mind before you get started, just make sure that you have a very large tank (minimum 100 gallons) and anything smaller than that will mean suffocating and causing increased level of stress and competition among your pets. If you have reef aquarium, stay away from putting those two together at all cost as the lobster will damage all the corals while small ornamental fish will ended up getting killed. Thus, normally a barren empty tank would be sufficient and if you decide to decorate things up a little bit, consider getting the artificial marine tank decoration which looks quite nice as well.

In order to ensure that your lobsters survive, the tank to keep your pets should be equipped with a working chiller as you need to maintain the water temperature at the lower range, at least below 15 deg Celsius. Try to avoid putting your juvenile lobsters into tiny cramp space because they are known to show aggression when confined in this condition and will fight until they get injured or lost their limbs. I had mine kept in an 80-gallon tank before I upgraded to 120-gallon because the bigger one was constantly picking on the smaller lobster. The tank facility need not be something which is high tech and a simple setup equipped with a sump system and a protein skimmer should be sufficient. And basically throughout the years, there wasn’t any problem at all as the maintenance routine was generally not demanding as I only need to change the water once every week. The filtration system will take care most of the cleaning process and since the lobsters are also scavengers, generally you won’t face many problems with leftover foods getting rot and contaminate the water. Thus just make sure that you feed the right amount of foods enough for their daily needs.

Lobsters are not picky eaters and they will accept anything that you give to them as foods like chopped fish meat, market prawns or even shellfish will be fine. In the wild, they will eat just about anything like small fish which they are capable to catch on their own, sea urchins, clams, shrimps, starfish and whatever they could scavenge. Although they have very bad eyesight, they actually could locate their foods using the antenna which works like a bio sensor or receptor to pick up the chemical agent present in the water. Like all crustaceans, in order for them to continue growing they will need to molt leaving the eerie-looking empty exoskeleton behind. Thus every once in a while, you will need to pick up the unwanted stuff and discard it. One word of advice when putting your hands in the water is that make sure you don’t get your fingers clipped by the claws or else, it will hurt a lot. I had my bad experience once and learning from it, after that I only use plastic rod or pipe to pick up or move items in the tank.

Although you can easily ensure that your lobster survive in the home aquarium condition, that should be the limit on as far as your pets hobby should go because if you have thoughts about raising them for sale and commercialize your venture, then you should just drop the idea because these crustaceans are best left to the experts in the aquaculture industry. Main reason is that lobsters are known to take a long time to reach maturity stage and you will also need to control and minimize your cost in order to make a return. Don’t forget, maintaining your chiller is one of the biggest obstacles as the cost of electricity will eventually cut into your profit. If your idea is to keep it simple and still having a pet lobster, then you should instead go for the freshwater crayfish instead which is much easier to handle than its marine cousin. Looking for something new for a change? How about adopting seahorses as pets?

comparison between fluval and eheimComparing Between Different Fish Filters (Advantages and Disadvantages). How about other brands like the BiOrb?

How to Maintain Calcium level in Reef Tank

In order to have a healthy reef tank, the calcium concentration should be in the range of 350 – 450 ppm and anything below or above the numbers are considered not healthy as it can limit the growth of your LPS or SPS. Basically these are the few things that you need to look into that can change your calcium concentration and cause you the problem of either deficiency or water that is too concentrated with calcium.

calcium rich reef tankThe aquarium salt mix/solution
Each conventional salt mix/solution has its own proprietary calcium content and it is a know fact that certain brands are considered better than the others. Since calcium can be in the form of calcium carbonate, calcium chloride, calcium acetate or calcium hydroxide, do not assume that all of them are the same as they have will have their own solubility in water and interactions with the other chemicals will affect pH and other parameters. The most commonly used in the reef tank community is the Kalkwasser which is a solution of concentrated calcium hydroxide slowly dripped into the system and so far this is one which proves to be working well. In order words, don’t buy into the idea that all salt mixes are the same as some of it can actually result in calcium deficiency occurring in your tank. Usually the best mixes should be a balanced "two-part calcium and alkalinity" supplements working together more like a buffer system so that when you increase you calcium content, this will not cause a major shift in your pH level. Most common are either the B-ionic or C-Balance sold in pet stores specializing in marine tank equipment and test solutions and there are other brands like Seachem and Kent supplements worth mentioning here as well.

The method on how you add your Calcium
How you add your supplement will also affect the concentration and also on whether the calcium is put to good use available for your stony corals. For example, the reason why Kalkwasser has to be slowly added to the water is because it needs ample time to react with the available carbon dioxide or else you will start to see precipitation of white grains of calcium carbonate forming everywhere from the heater to the tank filter. There is another method recommended by aquarist involving the use of vinegar to mix with the Kalkwasser solution prior to adding to your saltwater in order to avoid the precipitation problem but by doing these, come with associated risks as most vinegar has unwanted impurities in it which means that you are introducing these unwanted stuff to your fish tank. Second, leftover acetate can actually promote bacterial growth, although to certain extent, that is considered good but somehow you can’t control which type of bacteria will propagate as it will instead ended up feeding those bad bacteria which will cause more problems to your fish and invertebrates.

Problems coming from pH adjustment
Alkalinity will affect how much calcium is available in your reef tank, in other words, both of them are actually inter related. Therefore, in order to ensure that there is enough calcium in your reef tank, you will also need the right alkalinity level meaning that you need to strike a right balance between those two. Most problems actually started when alkalinity is already at the higher end and the aquarists will keep on adding alkaline booster in order to correct the problem but in actual fact is causing other issues as the calcium level will drop. This is actually a common scenario because most people do not realize on what is the right alkalinity level to maintain and somehow there is also confusion between the difference of meq/L and dKH. The normal level often seen is usually alkalinity at 3 -4 meq/L or 8 – 11dKH and no more of the alkalinity booster is needed when the alkalinity already falls within this range. In order to bring up calcium level, you should instead use dry calcium chloride adding in small amounts to make the adjustment. If this doesn’t work, then the only solution left is to conduct a water change.

Inaccurate aquarium test kit reading
Finally, last but not least, do not believe in whatever reading that you get. Sometimes, despite doing the correct adjustment you will still ended up with weird readings and that is the time that you will need to do some cross checking using other test kits. The fastest way is to actually ask from help from a fellow aquarist to get them to lend you a set so that you can quickly confirm whether your reading is accurate rather than buying a whole new box just to conduct the test. All items have its own shelf life and that includes test kits as well, thus check with the supplier what is the validity date on the use of these items. At times, read also the instruction for use of these test kits as improper handling or incorrect methods can also result in wrong reading given. In worst case situation, it was often a scenario that has a healthy natural reef system turned into complete disaster because of wrong information.

comparison between fluval and eheimComparing Between Different Fish Filters (Advantages and Disadvantages). How about other brands like the BiOrb?

About Me

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My fascination and interest towards aquarium fish has led me to devote my time towards caring and learning about this wonderful pet.

Aquarium fish keeping is a very challenging and exciting hobby. When I first started, I never knew much or have the necessary guidance back then because none of my family members were actually a keen hobbyist. And because of that, I’ve encountered numerous failures and the worst part is having to deal with dead fish every time when you started to grow fond and getting attached to my pets. However, I persevered and took steps to find out and search for information from other hobbyist, apart from the knowledge gained and learned from my own experience and research. The blog that I’ve created here is meant to share useful information and tips about aquarium fish keeping so that new hobbyist will not make the same mistakes that I’ve made in the past."

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