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Aquarium Lingo Cliff Notes

Learn the lingo and be confident when you walk into your LFS to purchase some SPS corals for your DSB SW nano.

By Melissa Ramirez | September 11, 2013

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Are there cliff notes for aquarium language and terms? If there aren’t, there should be. I’ve been an aquarist for quite a while and I still have trouble identifying, labeling, and communicating in aquarist-speak.
Knowing the language of the trade makes it easier to communicate and lends some credibility to your dedication as an aquarist. Your tank could be covered in algae, your fish might be flipping you the fin every time you walk by, but if you can communicate your filtration and lighting setup or proficiently describe the chemicals used in your tank you are money, honey.

Betta
Betta, Betta, Betta. Photo by Shutterstock
I’ve found that my elementary school saltwater descriptions aren’t really getting me anywhere. For example, here is my description of a pulsing zenia: The pink flowery clapper thing. Yeah, it’s time to learn the lingo.
 I’ve compiled a short list of abbreviations, terms and their meanings for all of us young, padawan learners. Learn them the old fashioned way. Write them on index cards, use one abbreviation a day in a sentence until you are completely confident you will not wander into your local fish store and describe the bubble coral as that thing that looks like a breast implant.

FW-Freshwater
SW-saltwater
SPS –small polyped stony coral
LPS-large polyped stony coral
FOWLR-fish only with live rock
FO-fish only
DSB-deep sand bed
LFS-local fish store
Nano-Small aquarium, generally 29 gallons or less (though this is even debatable)
PAR- Photosynthetically Active Radiation, this is in reference to your lighting
RO-reverse osmosis
Reef safe-this means the fish will not eat your coral
LED, metal halide, T5PC (T5 power compact)-all refer to lighting systems
Wet/Dry, Canister filtration, Sump-all refer to filtration.
Bio Load-this refers to the amount of potential waste your current aquarium inhabitants could expel. Good to know so you don’t overpopulate.
When you walk into your LFS on the hunt for an SPS for your new tank, be sure to know your tank size, lighting system and filtration system. Without fail, whenever I ask a question about a coral, the first question is, "What size tank do you have?” Followed closely by, "What kind of lights do you have?”
Now, with a little help from  the internet and index cards I can say with some level of authenticity, "I have a 24 gallon SW Nano with a canister filter and EcoRay 60D LED lights, light bioload, DSB, softies and SPS.” 
Try it. Go jot down your tank specifications, say it a few times in front of a mirror, smile at yourself and wink. You got this you sexy aquarist, you.

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