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Approximately 4 months ago we set up three identical systems using different substrates in the refugia. As seen in the photos from those tanks in Jan. 15, 2012, algae has become so problematic in the tanks that use the Fiji and CaribSea substrates, that frequent removal of the algae was necessary in order to prevent it from overgrowing the corals. So in order to continue our experiment long term, more snails were added to each tank after the nuisance algae was brushed off and removed. In addition it became necessary to siphon detritus from the tanks, change ECO Phos and activated carbon. We also started adding low dose of kalkwasser solution instead of just regular RO/DI water for evaporation. These changes stabilized the systems and all of the corals are growing well. However the coloration of the corals is different depending on when different substrates are used, such that the blue color is good but not red in the CaribSea tank, while red is good but not blue in the Fiji tank. The best growth and colors of corals is in the EcoSystem tank, however they have to be seen in person for the differences to be fully realized.

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Our 3 experimental reef tanks comparing tanks using different substrates are already showing some significant differences. Since the tanks are set up the same and have approximately the same water chemistry parameters, which are close to those of natural seawater, these differences are surprising. Especially since they are being seen after the tanks have only been set up for approximately 2 months. These differences are the amount of encrusting algae that is occurring in the tanks using the Fiji and Caribsea substrates. This algae is actually becoming problematic and is starting to stress the corals. In an attempt to reduce this problem and to see the differences in the mud long term an additional 7 snails were introduced to all tanks. Unfortunately in these two tanks even these additional snails are having difficulty controlling the algae.

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Innovation is what makes our world great, and what produces change. In 1996, after six years of research, EcoSystem demonstrated the EcoSystem Method utilizing Miracle mud, which was both innovative and a change from the standard methods then being used to maintain reef aquaria. Since then, several competitors copied this concept and brought out their own versions of a mud substrate, having done little research into the advantages and disadvantages of their product. To try and determine the differences in these substrates, EcoSystem has set up three equivalent tanks, each of which uses a different mud substrate. These three mud substrates are Miracle Mud from EcoSystem Aquarium, Mineral Mud from CaribSea and Fiji mud from Walt Smith.

The tanks are set up the same and utilize the same equipment with only the mud substrate being different. These tanks will house exactly the same corals and fish and will utilize the same lighting for each tank. Water parameters will be recorded weekly and the health and growth of the fish and corals will be documented both in a log and via pictures and video. We expect that this experiment will demonstrate the differences in these systems over time.

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