In a recent collaboration with one of our clients, CerMedia was able to sit down with Golan Binder, founder of Southern California-based Oceans Aquarium Design, to get a sense of the reliability of MarinePure® and how it is being used in the industry. This high-end aquarium design and installation business near Los Angeles is known for their incredible salt- and freshwater aquatic displays in addition to providing aquarium maintenance and the quarantine and delivery of exotic and colorful fish, living corals, and invertebrates.
With over 20 years’ experience delivering the aquariums of his customers’ dreams, Binder is constantly looking for ways to ensure the long-term success of his aquatic designs. CerMedia is proud to share that Binder consistently uses MarinePure as one of his secret weapons to maintaining happy, healthy fish.
In this interview, learn more about Ocean’s Aquarium Design—including how the business was formed and it goals for creating luxury aquariums at the highest caliber—and why the founder believes MarinePure is an integral part of building the reliable, longer-lasting life-support systems his customers have enjoyed for years.
Tell us about Oceans Aquarium Design. How did you get the company started and why were you drawn to the industry?
I grew up near the Mediterranean Sea near a tide pool where I was always in the water and always had fish tanks as a kid. I fell out of the hobby in my teens, and somewhere in my 20s, I returned to keeping aquariums again. I became very serious about living reef aquariums and had a successful SPS [small polyp stony coral] tank, which led me to become somewhat of a farmer; I would frag the corals and take them to shows.
What types of projects does Oceans Aquarium Design typically take on?
At Oceans Aquarium Design, we design, install, and maintain high-end aquariums for commercial and residential settings. Our aquariums almost always tend to be in the many hundreds of gallons, but they are often in the thousands. You might have seen that we’d recently done an aquarium for the Anaheim Ducks’ offices, and as I mentioned earlier, we also just completed a 3,000-gallon residential aquarium.
We’re an A-Z service, which means we design and install the aquariums, but we also bring in the fish and maintain the tank, so it’s a long-term relationship. Our clients, in many cases, don’t have to do anything—and that includes feeding. All they do is enjoy the tank.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that we do saltwater systems about 99% of the time. Some of our clients who want large aquariums typically also want that wow factor with big, beautiful, exotic, and colorful fish—and those are the types of fish that live in saltwater. We do some freshwater tanks, but those don’t seem to be as common.
Tell us about Oceans Aquarium Design’s process in working with a client.
We typically take a look at what size the wall is that the tank is going up against. Then we take into consideration the other elements of the space: Does it have a slanted ceiling? Is there a doorway next to it? A lot of times you don’t want to overwhelm a space with something too big, so there is a lot to consider.
Next, we often work with architects and interior designers to make sure it’s going to work. We try to combine what the client is looking with our own recommendations. It’s all about collaboration, and when everything comes together, it’s pretty spectacular.
What’s one of the most challenging aspects of what you do?
One of the misleading things in our industry is that you can show people any aquarium that’s been set up for a few months, but is it going to look that good and function that well years down the road? Designing and maintaining these systems mean you need to make sure you’re planning in advance and that the life-support system is just as well thought out as the way it looks. You don’t just want the animals in the tank to survive, you want them to thrive. You want them to behave naturally and be able to grow and look healthy.
I went to a local medical center here in Los Angeles where my wife gave birth to our son. They had a couple of aquariums in the hospital, and the fish looked absolutely horrible. They were missing fins, they had no color, and you could just tell they weren’t being cared for. I remember thinking there had to be a better way. And I’ve seen that on many an occasion since.
So, when we design a system, we really want to know that whatever we’re doing can support the life that is going to be in there, and it can be a beautiful aquarium that runs well and stays clean for as long as possible. You don’t want an aquarium where the fish are alive, but it gets dirty in two days. There is a lot of thought in what goes into the life support, and you want it to run long term . . . you want it to run for 20 years and not have to make any substantial upgrades. You’ll eventually have to replace pumps and things like LED lights that get discontinued, but you want the life-support foundation of the tank to be solid.
What components go into making a solid life-support foundation?
As most aquarium enthusiasts know, you need a biological filtration component in your system
that is going to convert ammonia into nitrite and then nitrate (aka the aquarium cycle). The wonderful thing about MarinePure Blocks is that you have a lot of low-oxygen areas where anaerobic bacteria grows, and can even convert the harmful nitrates into nitrogen, which is then a harmless gas in the tank that just evaporates out of the system.
When we started out doing fish-only tanks, people typically used plastic bioballs, but we really wanted to find something that had a lot of surface area that was inert and safe to use.
How did you find out about MarinePure, and why do you think it’s so effective in establishing that solid life-support foundation?
At some point, I don’t remember how, but I became aware of MarinePure and did some research. I was really intrigued by the story on the CerMedia website about the Niagara Falls Aquarium where they used 30 of the MarinePure blocks in the shark exhibit. They talked about the success of how that helped reduce water changes and nitrates—which is incredible, especially for sharks and rays that are sensitive to nitrates. That is what really inspired me to try your products.
We started to incorporate MarinePure into our own clients’ aquariums, and we’ve seen tanks that reduce nitrates as soon as a week or two later, but without doing anything other than running the system through your blocks. We’ve been using it ever since. And not to mention it does not take a lot of space, whereas if you were to treat a 1,000-gallon aquarium with bioballs, you would need a huge area for them. With MarinePure, you can cut that physical space to a fraction of what you would usually need, and as long as you have the right mechanical filtration in place that takes out the solids first, it lasts a long time.
If you listen to Dr. Tim, who I love and listen to a lot—and I see him as an authority in the biological filtration space—he explains that you need to keep your biological media clean so the bacteria can grow on it. If you’re biological filtration gets covered with gunk or algae or anything like that, you’re going to choke that bacteria. So, before the water hits the biological media, they go through mechanical filtration first. Let me say this: I have never had to remove and clean the MarinePure media—not once—and some of our aquariums that use it have been running for three to four years.
Learn More About CerMedia and MarinePure
Cermedia LLC, located in Buffalo, NY, manufactures MarinePure® Bio-Filter Media, which is a man-made ceramic bio-filter media that has the unique combination of a large amount of surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow in addition to a network of open-flow pores. These features enable water to move easily throughout the part, allowing the nitrogen components to find the bacteria, allowing all parts of the nitrogen cycle to take place, including ammonia and nitrite elimination and nitrate reduction. MarinePure also does not need to be cleaned, there will always be open pores, as long as there is mechanical filtration pulling out the large particles before they encounter the MarinePure bio-filter media.
If you have any questions about how to access MarinePure® Bio-Filter Media or incorporate into your new or current tank, feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to help walk you through how to use this bio-filter media for a cleaner, easier-to-manage fish tank.