Glossary of terms used in marine aquaristics

Glossary of terms used in marine aquaristics reefpedia

If you are at the beginning of your journey with marine and reef aquariums it is neccessary for you to understand the most popular and important terms used in marine aquaristics. Read this article and answer questions like this what is base pump, who is cleaning crew and why you need one, how can you automate your saltwater aquarium maintainence and much more.

Table of Contents

Terms starting with A

Here is a list of the most common terms:

Aiptasia – an invasive anemone. The most common problem for marine aquarists. Extremely resistant to adverse conditions. Reproduces very easily and can therefore colonise an entire aquarium in a short period of time.     

Actinic light – high-energy aquarium lights for corals (usually blue, spectral length 400-450 nm).

Aquascaping – a way of arranging a rock composition inside an aquarium.

Terms starting with B

Bacteria – strains of different bacteria that we regularly add to the marine aquarium.    

Balling – a method of supplementing essential elements in a marine aquarium. Developed by Hans-Werner Balling.     

Base pump – a pump that is responsible for exchanging water between the sump and the aquarium. By connecting the sump to the aquarium we create a water circulation.  

Biological filtration – in saltwater aquariums hobby refers to the process by which beneficial bacteria break down harmful waste products, such as ammonia and nitrite, into less harmful substances like nitrate. These bacteria typically colonize various surfaces within the aquarium, including live rock and filter media. This natural method of waste conversion is essential for maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem in the aquarium.

Terms starting with C

Cleaning crew – the first animals allowed into the tank at the end of the aquarium maturation process. Various snails, crabs, shrimps and other organisms that feed on food residues and algae.

Terms starting with D

Denitrification – the reduction of nitrate to free nitrogen by denitrifying bacteria.    

DSB (Deep Sand Bed) – an old method of removing nitrates from a marine aquarium where denitrification processes take place in a layer of sand up to several centimetres thick.   

Terms starting with F

Fish only – means fish tank

Terms starting with H

Hanna – a company meter for various parameters made by Hanna Instruments. [trzeba dopisać o co tu chodzi, więcej szczegółów]   

Little Hanna – a mini version of a metre made by Hanna Instruments.  

Terms starting with K

Kalkwasser (lime water) – a solution of calcium hydroxide in RO water. It is designed to raise calcium levels in seawater. It is rarely used these days.    

Terms starting with L

LPS (Large Polyp Scleractinia) – one of several groups of corals. Long, huge, polyp hard corals. They produce an internal calcareous skeleton. Can be kept in saltwater aquariums.

Live rock (LR) – live, natural rock made from the limestone remains of corals and other creatures. Recommended as the best for a quick start in saltwater aquariums. Containing live bacteria and other microorganisms.    

Live sand (LS) – live sand packed with water containing beneficial nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria. Once considered one of the ingredients for a quick reef tank starts. Because of the balance of benefits and problems it generates, it is rarely used today.  

Terms starting with M

Mantis shrimp – An extremely fast-moving predator. Its field of vision covers almost 360 degrees. It strikes its prey with its “hammer”. If it appears in the aquarium as a stowaway it is likely to have been brought into the aquarium with a rock or on a graft stand.    

Mushrooms – corals of the genus Discosoma. They resemble mushrooms in shape.  

Mayano – anemones classified as invasive. As with Aiptasia anemones, it multiplies rapidly and it is difficult to get rid of from the tank.     

Macroalgae (higher genus algae) – the most evolutionarily advanced among algae. Most commonly found in aquaria, they belong to the genera Caulerpa and Chaetomorpha. They are used in refugium.

Marine Ich/Cryptocaryon Irritans – a disease caused by the protozoan parasite Cryptocaryon irritans. This disease is often contracted by fish of the genera species.

Terms starting with N

Nitrogen cycle – a biochemical process in the marine aquarium by which ammonia (with the involvement of nitrifying bacteria) is converted to nitrites, which in turn are converted to nitrates.

Non-photo (non-photosynthesising corals, NPS) – corals lacking the symbiotic algae Zooxanthellae). Corals need to be fed with a variety of frozen foods. They are not recommended for beginners.  

Nitrification – the process by nitrifying bacteria of converting ammonia to nitrite and later to nitrate.

Terms starting with O

Overflow comb – a plastic movable comb-shaped element that is glued or slipped over the edge of the chimney and water flows through the slots in the comb. The comb protects and prevents fish and other animals from passing into the chimney.  

Overflow – additional panes of glass glued in so as to separate the part of the aquarium used for the overflow of water into the sump. In the bottom of the chimney are embedded culverts for the pipes leading to the sump (there are usually three types of connection: drain, return and water revision). There are the following types of chimney: internal and external.

Overflow box (overflow) – a device that replaces the aquarium overflow. Instead of drilling holes in the bottom and inserting a glass chimney, we hang the overflow box on the edge of the reef tank. The water overflows into the sump.

Terms starting with P

Pistol shrimp – a shrimp of the genus Alpheus. Due to the special design of its pincers, it shoots them with enormous force stunning its victims. It often lives in symbiosis with fish of the goby species.

Panel – A separate part of the aquarium in which filtration takes place.     

Powerhead – The pump that is responsible for moving the water in the aquarium.  

Terms starting with R

Reef Pedia – the place to bring all the knowledge of the marine aquarium, marine fish and sea life insights together in one place. Articles are written by scientists and experienced marine aquarium experts. The Reef Pedia is a free up to date knowledge base.   

Refugium – a separate part of a sump or additional aquarium where macroalgae are placed. The refugium is designed to lower NO3 and PO4 and to stabilise the pH in the reef aquarium.    

Rico – soft corals of the Ricordea family.     

Terms starting with S

Softies – soft corals, i.e. corals without an internal calcareous skeleton. Due to their simplicity of maintenance, they are recommended to aquarists at the beginning of their adventures.  

Sand dollar – colloquial english name for sea urchins that live in a sand.     

Social Reef – a professional social network dedicated to marine aquaristics and reef systems.    

SPS (Small Polyp Scleractinia) – These are corals with small polyps that produce a calcareous skeleton. The most difficult to keep ins reef tanks and recommended for advanced aquarists.    

Sump – is a separate tank, usually placed underneath the marine aquarium. A place where filtration takes place. It is used to house the necessary technical equipment needed to operate the reef aquarium.    

Smart devices – devices that not only fulfil their typical functions, but, thanks to modern technology, allow remote management, notyfie users in case of issues  of the marine aquarium. They are currently a trend in marine aquaristics due to the range of benefits they bring. 

Smart devices – in saltwater aquarium hobby are advanced tools that go beyond their primary functions. Leveraging modern technology, they enable remote management and send notifications to users about potential issues within the marine aquarium. Their growing popularity stems from the convenience, increased monitoring accuracy, and enhanced control they offer to aquarium enthusiasts.

Letter T

Turbo – colloquial name for algae-eating snails. Turbo snails come from the genera Astrea, Tectus and Turbo, among others.     

Terms starting with V and W  

VSV (Vodka, Sugar, Vinegar) – vodka, sugar, vinegar, a mixture that is dosed into the aquarium as a nutrient for bacteria.    

Wavebox – a device that generates waves in an aquarium. 

Wurdemanni – a shrimp that feeds on anemones of the genus Aiptasia.     

Terms starting with Z

Zeo – a method of running an aquarium on Zeolite.    

Zeovit – a type of filtration to remove ammonia from the water. The purpose of this treatment is to prevent the nitrogen cycle from starting.     

Zoa – colloquial term for corals belonging to the genus Zoanthus.

Zooxanthellae – symbiotic algae that inhabit the bodies of most coral species. During the day the coral feeds on what the symbiotic zooxanthellae algae produce during photosynthesis.  


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About the author

Picture of Marek Protasewicz

Marek Protasewicz

Reefkeeping has been my passion for over 10 years now. I love learning. The hobby has taught me many valuable lessons, patience being the best example. Combining work and passion is my path. I run Crazy Coral, a marine aquarium shop, for a number of years. Building this business from the scratch I learnt from my own mistakes at a heavy cost.
Later I managed a project aimed at development of methods for quick growth of Corals in non-natural conditions. The project was carried out by Get Sales, Poland. Presently, I am responsible for distribution strategy at Reef Factory, of which I am a co-founder. The company produces smart devices for marine aquaristics. The last projects I have been involved in are Social Reef and ReefPedia.

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