Looking Back on MACNA 2016

The Marine Aquarium Conference of North America (MACNA) show for 2016 (held in San Diego) just wrapped-up. After any show, it’s common to be a little ragged around the edges — but it’s great to have an opportunity to not only meet dealers, but to have the opportunity to talk directly to the enthusiasts and hobbyists that use our products. Because MACNA is focused exclusively on marine and reef aquariums, it also lets us laser-focus on a specific segment of users.

As usual, we’re very happy that so many aquarists have had great experiences and success with New Life Spectrum®. Manufacturers don’t have daily opportunities to meet our front-line users.
Thankfully, the experiences you shared with us using Spectrum were universally positive!

We introduced Reef-Cell encapsulated micro-feeder at the conference. It’s an evolution of the product formerly known as Nutri/Cell. We have refined the microcapsule powder so that even more of the micro-encapsulated water-stable capsules are 50 microns or under (although it’s always been the case that 80% of the food particles 50 microns or less).

We changed the name to Reef-Cell — a name I think better expresses the intended use of this innovative food as a feeder for SPS stony corals and filter/suspension feeding invertebrates. More importantly, we’ve managed to get down to having a 15 gram package. Our previous generation only came in 40 gram containers. However, when your food is measured in cc’s that is a huge amount. The smaller quantity package means that for those of you with moderate size systems or even nano-reef setups, the amount is reasonable and the food won’t be sitting in your cabinet forever. Of course, in these cases 15 grams should still last a good long time!

For anyone not familiar with micro-encapsulation: it’s a process originally developed in the pharmaceutical industry to create extremely small beads of organic material. In the case of Reef-Cell, the process involves embedding 5-10 micron particulates of nutrient (using the Spectrum Nutrition Formula of course!) in a droplet of seaweed-based alginate. We call this base the matrix. Think of it as an incredibly tiny chocolate chip cookie, wherein the alginate is the dough and the nutrient particles are the chips. Except in our case, it’s all healthy marine ingredients. The micro-encapsulation process is really exciting and makes possible foods that aren’t doable any other way.

It’s great for aquarium applications where you normally feed phytoplankton or zooplankton because these beads can duplicate many of the properties of plankton, while having the advantage of engineered nutrition. The micro-capsules are water insoluble, but will break down in the digestive system. Meaning they don’t break down in water. At the show, we had particulates sitting in a cylinder of water for three days with no sign of breakdown or leaching into the water.

The particulates are also close to neutrally buoyant; they suspend in the water for a good period of time, and will stay in your aquarium’s water column easily for the duration of a feeding cycle. The 50 micron form is also a benefit, because that is the size range for most plankton.

Plus, each particulate of Reef-Cell has many times the nutrient density of an equivalent particle of plankton. This is important, because in the ocean, corals live in a sort-of plankton soup, so the lower nutrient density isn’t a problem. But when you are feeding just twice a day, nutrient density suddenly becomes very critical.

In conclusion, MACNA 2016 was a great opportunity to show you all some great new stuff we were working on. Next year, the show is being held in the Big Easy: New Orleans. Hope to see you all there, and of course we will have new products and innovations to share with you then.

Ian M. Tepoot