(Re)Introducing aquarist, Albert Thiel, the interview (part 1)
If you’ve kept your ear to the ground, you will know that a great name in this hobby is making a comeback, so to speak. Albert Thiel is back in the reefkeeping spotlight and is about to unleash the most comprehensive book on nano reefkeeping our hobby has ever seen. Not only has Albert been busy putting together the new book, he has been working tirelessly across numerous online forums helping hobbyists out with all their nano related issues.
Welcome to the team
And now Nanoreefblog.com is proud to welcome Albert to the team as a special guest contributor. We are excited to be publishing Albert’s articles here on the site, and these articles will only be found here, and nowhere else.
Who is Albert Thiel?
Ok, so I can hear a few of you thinking “Who is this Albert Thiel guy?”. Let me fill in the blanks for you. Albert was born in Belgium and moved to the United States of America in late 1979 where he worked for a number of large US based aquarium companies before starting the infamous, Thiel AquaTech. As an author, Albert has published a number of reefkeeping related books including possibly the first book on ‘nano reefing’ entitled, Small Reef Aquarium Basics – for smaller tanks and for beginner hobbyists. Other titles include the best selling The Marine Fish and Invert Reef Aquarium, Advanced Reefkeeping I, Advanced Reefkeeping II (e-book) and The New Marine Fish and Invert Reef Aquarium (e-book). In addition to his books, his work was regularly published in magazines including his own monthly, The Marine Reef Newsletter. In addition to his writing Albert has spoken at numerous aquarium conferences and meetings across the world.
The interview (part 1)
nrb: Hi Albert, how are you doing? Word has it you have not been getting much sleep lately with your new book due out soon? Can you tell us a little more about the new book and what we can expect from it?
Thank you kindly and yes, I am doing well, except perhaps for having contracted carpal tunnel syndrome in my left hand as a result of all the typing I have been doing over the last few months.
And, yes you can indeed say that … between writing the book and writing articles, and responding to questions on the forums that I am a member of, the days have been long to say the least.
On some I have been getting up at like 4:00 in the morning and working till 10 or so at night. On others a little later, like maybe 6:00 am and writing and typing till 8 or 9 in the evening or sometimes longer.
Even though some chapters are easier and faster to write than others, for instance the ones on filtration and on chemicals used to purify the water, and devices etc. there are chapters, and parts of them, where double checking the accuracy of what one writes is necessary, and that may involve consulting a number of books, technical articles and papers, and sometimes doing a lot of searches on the net just to get corroboration of what I wrote.
It may also involve emailing other authors and getting their opinion on certain statements to ensure that what ends up in the book is indeed accurate, and has become an accepted and workable practice.
Sometimes one discovers that newer techniques that are advocated do not have enough verifiable evidence that confirms that they are safe to use and/or will result in positive outcomes. Indeed they could be anecdotal and not necessarily repeatable and, as such, have to be identified in that manner.
Then there is testing, and retesting, and making sure that what one writes is not just applicable to one tank but can be reproduced on other aquariums as well and by other writers and hobbyists.
In short, ensuring that whatever one writes is accurate can be very time consuming, and I certainly do not want to include anything in the new book unless I am satisfied that it is correct, a fact, and is not a one time occurrence.
Add to that all the changes that have occurred in the hobby over the last few years and more research becomes necessary to validate those changes and different approaches that are currently being used and suggested.
The goal of the book is to provide Hobbyists with very detailed information, and I mean really detailed information, on everything that has to do with Nano-Reefs and to Reefs in general. In fact it is the most complete reference book on anything Nano-Reef that will be on the market.
It includes not only the filtration methods and how to set them up and what devices can be used, but also the compounds that can be used, what they do and how etc. And as you know there are many new devices and many new compounds, additives and foods currently on the market.
Add to that all the choices a Hobbyist has to make depending on the size and type of aquarium and a simple topic can take up pages and pages and more pages because of the amount of detail I wanted to include so no other book on the market could compare to mine.
Then to be complete there are pages and pages on fishes and corals, not just a general suggestion but a description of their needs, care, habits, behavior, compatibility with other fishes and corals etc. Images and pictures are included for everything discussed and except for a few diagrams all are in color.
Of course, to be complete, I also included long sections on problems that can occur and how to deal with them, water quality and how to maintain and adjust it, pest algae and such, diseases of fishes and corals, parasites, flatworms, corallivores, clean up crews and their members, carnivorous Nudibranchs, snails, bugs, copepods, isopods, amphipods, worms of many kinds, and many other undesirables, protozoans and much more. The section on pest of corals alone is over 60 pages long with many pictures and images to allow Hobbyists to identify whatever they may discover in their aquarium.
Some parts of the book deal with all the newer methods of running Nano and other reefs and analyze and explain what the foundation is for those methods and whether or not they apply to certain types of set-ups, and if they do how to properly configure them. Examples would include ULNS’s, Sulfur reactors, newer type skimmers, arrays of additives that comprise sometimes 8 or 9 different ones that “all” have to be used to deliver on what they say they will, and a lot more still.
Interspersed in the discussion of fishes and corals is the information the hobbyist needs about water flow and lighting and also on feeding, placement, precautions to take, disease and how to treat some and what to use to do so, etc.
Note that although there is not a great amount of detail on them, I do cover Pico Reefs and Sealed Systems as well, obviously in far fewer pages than Nano-Reefs and all related topics.
So how long is the book? At this point based on a 6” x 9” format and 10-type font size it is around 450 pages, and that does not include the index and the bibliography which will add another 30 pages or so.
The book will be available in print and also in an e-version formatted for the readers that Hobbyists may be using.
Currently I am in the final stages of the third proofreading, but as I keep reading, I keep adding more detail here and there that I feel enhances the content, and so the book may “grow” a little more, but I cannot exceed 500 pages as per my Publisher. Not too sure why but that is a restriction they have.
Most importantly, and to ensure that the book does not get out-of-date, all those who buy the printed version will receive a “free” 1 year subscription to the “Marine Reef” Newsletter (does that bring some memories back?) which will update the book, expand on certain sections, discuss new approaches that have come about, add new topics etc.
I may have overlooked some of what is part of the book as I am writing this from memory but for those interested more can be found at http://www.athiel.net/nanoreefordering.html as page that I update as I go along and want to communicate more information to those who are interested in the content.
Basically I wanted to make this book the most comprehensive and complete reference tool for both beginner and more advanced Hobbyists and I hope I have achieved that goal, and whatever I feel needs to be added will be included in the Marine Reef Newsletter.
nrb: You have been seemingly absent from the reef aquarium scene for sometime – why the return? And what prompted the focus on Nano reefs?
Correct, I have not been very visibly active in the hobby for a number of years, say since 1999 when I stopped writing articles and published the last book I wrote (Advanced Reefkeeping II) which is only available on the Net and did not go in print. Probably a first, as in those days e-books were certainly not the norm.
Remember also that I sold Thiel Aqua Tech in 1996 and as such my name was not seen on shelves in pet stores and in articles in magazines or advertising. To be honest I should never have sold the Company to the Buyer I sold it to, as he managed the business so badly, and upset so many hobbyists that it tarnished my name quite a bit as many did not know that I was no longer involved with the Company.
But he kept operating under the Thiel Aqua Tech name, and so all those who were treated very improperly (and that is a euphemism) were under the impression that I was the one causing all those regrettable situations, and all the unacceptable ways of handling customers.
But that is the past, and as much as I wish that it had never happened, there is really nothing I can do about it, except for apologizing to those who suffered the consequences of the Buyer’s appalling and dreadful behavior.
I did however maintain a keen interest in the hobby and stayed on top of what was going on by reading and research, and through contact and conversations with other authors and experienced hobbyists.
So, in reality although I was not at the forefront so-to-speak, I was still involved in the hobby but in a different manner.
Good thing I did so or I would not have been able to write the new Book given all the advances and changes that have come about, and all the new techniques that are nowadays being used on both reefs and Nano-Reefs.
So why Nano-Reefs and not Reefs in general? Simply because I am a firm believer that to ensure that the hobby will keep expanding and growing, that the future is in the Nano-Reef area, more so than in larger Reef systems (although they will still continue to be around of course).
Keep in mind also that most of what I included in the book on fishes and corals and pests and diseases, and on filtration etc. is just as applicable to larger systems than it is to Nano-Reefs.
And if you remember when no one talked about Nano-Reefs, one of my books published in 1989 and revised in and expanded in 1992, actually dealt with Nano-Reefs, but I did not use that name, rather I called the book “Small Reef Aquarium Basics”.
Of course few associate that book with Nano-Reefs, but that is what it was and dealt with, and it was written a long time actually before Nano-Reefs became so popular and continue to grow in acceptance, so even then Nano-Reefs were on my mind!
In fact in those days the name Nano-Reef did not even exist and I called them Small Reef Aquariums.