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Système Biologique Marin - Marine Biological System

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Centre de Reproduction Marine

Marine Reproduction Center

                We're back... with new plumbing !

A few years back the City of Montreal refurbished it's century old water supply network to this area. They replaced old mains and refurbished other conduits with non-toxic linings... In July 2017 the building owners agreed to upgrade the water system to the SBMarine Lab... It meant demolishing walls (three storeys high) and it should have taken a week or two... But the contractor was in for a nightmare for behind the first dry-wall: a second sheet-rock wall was found dating to 1945. Yet there was another much older wet plaster on metal grid wall... this one was hard to demolish ! The old plumbing was a highly toxic hybrid network of Steel, Copper and cheap PVC... The work started early august and ended late october.

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              So we got our fabulous non-toxic water supply... but at what cost ?

Tons of plaster filled an industrial container and produced a thick toxic cloud of dust that infiltrated not only books, folded linnen in drawers but mostly the SBMarine tanks... The constant banging, sawing, drilling brought the stress level to new heights in all tanks... Since the doors had to be left open to get the waste out there was no air-conditioning precisely at the warmest and most humid weeks of summer... Two heat waves in august and september brought the temperatures above 107 F in the Lab... Several tanks had to be emptied to be cleaned and specimens relocated from tank to tank ( moving the collection was unthinkable at the time). So yes of course we did encounter some losses but they were nevertheless minimal.... The causes: take your pick from above. If you don't see a specimen on our pages in the coming months: consider having a good thought for it.

  We wish to thank the Lebire family for delivering a top level water supply

  It's a remarkable DONATION towards the well being of the SBMarine collection

the Marine Biological System


Fifty years ago, the pet industry had one objective: to sell - ornamental - fishes to decorate family dwellings. Accessories in those days were rather rudimentary and filters (basically mechanical) did nothing more than broom the dust under the carpet. There was no difference between a goldfish bowl and a so-called aquarium because both lacked proper filtration. Only seasoned aquarists had the right notions about water quality, feeding, etc... which they got from specialized books and magazines. These passionate aquarists often had to build equipment to compensate the lack of it in Local Fish Stores... At that time some Aquarist Magazines displayed tentalizing pictures in order to market the hobby... In short they often sold impossible dreams to clients of good faith, but completely ignorant of the basic principles and knowledge required to succesfully maintain tanks. My father used to say: - With aquariums you don't do what you WANT but what you CAN ! The best example is this famous picture of a tank filled with Scalares (Angels) and Hyphessobrycon innesi (Neon Tetras): every aquarist dreamed of such a tank !! Truth is: Angels are predators (Cichlid family) and Neons easy preys... But most resellers claimed that the Neons could have died of fish tuberculosis (uncurable by the way) or some kind of fungus: the poor clients had no choice but to buy more HEALTHY Neons... Apply this sales strategy and you will understand why most family aquariums ended in the garage after a few months  :)


Without an experienced aquarist: nothing is possible...


So the reponsability lies with every serious aquarist to learn, to acquire documentation, to experiment and to give much time to his hobby. It requires free time, observation and lots of reflexion. Time also for tank maintenance. If your schedule is loaded and you're more of the nomad type (moving every year) then marine aquariophilia is not for you. Don't forget that most marine fishes live longer than dogs (any clownfish has a life expectancy of twenty years or more: in the wild and in captivity); anemones and corals can live over a century... If you have young children it is best to stick to freshwater tanks: they are an invaluable source of learning. Keep in mind that the principles of biological filtration are the same as with salt water. The SBMarine Biological Filter and Methodology that go with it applies to freshwater also !!


Furthermore we strongly opt against freshwater or saltwater community tanks. Here is another example: Local Fish Stores sell Clownfish as beginner's fishes because they are resistant and ideal community fishes... In reality and in fact Ocellaris are pugnacious and will go out of their way to harrass even very large fishes by nipping at their caudal fins, not mentioning invertebrates... Premnas biaculeatus (Marron Clownfish) will systematically kill any fish or invertebarte they don't deem fit in their tank. They are also bulldozers capable of moving around large rocks to design their own lair. That's the way it is and you can't change the Genetic Code of specimens: even if you see yourself as a talented and very ZEN decorator with expensive Disco Blue lights !!

It goes without saying that if your clownfish live in a sterile tank without an adequate diet, etc... they will probably look famelic or rachitic and won't have the verve to live according to their true nature.


Each family and each specie within a family has different dietary needs, specific aquacaping that fits their nature, lighting conditions, etc... These are all reasons to choose a specific tank with specific aquascaping and environment for each specie.

What type of tank is needed for a Marine Biological System ?

So what should we consider as a - specific tank - exactly ?

Let's go back to this - community tank - idea that dates back decades shall we... At SBMarine we call it the - Community Tank Syndrome - and have placed it in the same bag as the - Typical Reefer Syndrome - (see Orion briefing 3). Here is another example: In freshwater a tank filled with different SPECIES of TETRA that Complement each other is considered a Specific Tank. However not all TETRAS are compatible so you must be knowledgeable and act accordingly. Same applies to Cichlids family and so on... All this according to their geographical origins.  By creating Specific tanks according to Family of fishes you often meet all feeding, lighting, aquascaping and water chemistry requirements !! And it works fine with FRESHWATER tanks... no problem...

Now... about the marine - Community Tank Syndrome - ...

Marine families of fishes: oh yes... let's have a look at them shall we.

Surgeonfish: Not one single specie can be placed together with another in captivity and it is difficult mating a pair :) ...since they mostly breed in large Groups.. It can be done but requires HUGE tanks and exhaustive scientific knowledge...

Groupers: Hey... just forget it (see the EOS tank title page)... Perhaps a related family like Anthias can be handled in home aquariums... 

Angelfish & Butterfly fish: Now it gets really really complicated here... Might as well forget that also...

You might eventually find a Family that allows such combinations and we wish you good luck...

Why is it this way you may ask. One must encompass a wider understanding of Marine Life... Something the REEFER Community simply doesn't grasp !!! A WILD REEF is nothing more but a Huge Hunting and Feeding Ground for ALL SPECIES COMBINED (fishes, invertebrates, algae, etc). The Wild Reef is a specific environment (tank) in itself where all species complement each other in a balanced way !!

On a reef nothing is safe because - Everything - hunts and eats - Something -

Thing is you simply can't bottle the planet in a few gallons of water...

by doing so you turn a tank into an arena for physical, venomous and chemical warfare...

This just about sums it all up for the Marine Community Tank Syndrome... period

Specific tanks remedy all this marine community nonsense and here is where you start discovering the beauty and value of them

Only one and it is a standard tank with no holes drilled to accomodate bulkheads and tubing that connect to equipment of all sorts... In other words a good old fashioned tank with no holes or overflows !! The larger the better. 

You see the Marine Biological Filter rests at the bottom of the tank and is powered by either an air pump or a powerhead. All SBMarine tanks are covered with glass and all that is needed is a minimum space on the sides to allow for the passage of electrical cords and airline tubing... Regular (monthly) water changes allow for chemical stability of the tanks. We don't use water heaters or any other equipment... That's it...  it doesn't get more Old School than this and believe me it works !! But you don't have to take my word for it. The Orion Briefings will take you step by step through tank management methodology with illustrated tutorials. All photographs are taken in our experimental tanks and are date/time stamped so you can follow the evolution of data and specimens. We're not into cheating or marketing and want to give the most accurate rendering of procedures.

Sylvain Bériault (April 6, 2018)

Montreal, Canada