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Book Review:

Title: The New Wave: Aquarium Husbandry-A More Natural Approach

Authors: Sam Gamble and Bob Goemans

Format: CD ROM Computer Document (PDF) Acrobat Reader 5.0

351 pages, 16 illustrations and 40 color photographs

Publisher: Marc Weiss Companies, Inc.

Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312, USA

ISBN: 0-9724420-0-6

Price: $34.95


By David Dowless   


About the Authors:

Sam Gamble has been involved with mariculture for most of his life. At the age of fourteen he became a certified diver and has dived extensively. As an adult he has been involved with shrimp aquaculture in the Florida Keys and has published numerous articles about aquarium husbandry. For 10 years, Gamble served as an aquarium biologist at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, Florida. After the power outages caused by Hurricane Andrew, Gamble noticed that certain aquariums survived without power for several days. He began to examine why some of the aquariums survived and others crashed. Upon further study Gamble noticed the reduced nutrient and nitrate levels in aquariums that used under-gravel filtration. Gamble subsequently became interested in a series of articles written by Goemans and published in Marine Fish Monthly that proposed theories on natural nitrate reduction.

Bob Goemans is a familiar name within aquarium literature. Goeman's, a retired environmental contracting manager for a subsidiary of General Motors has been involved in the aquarium hobby for more than fifty years. Goemans is best known for his contributions to various monthly aquarium publications such as Freshwater and Marine Aquariums (FAMA), Tropical Fish Hobbyists (TFH), and the Marine Monthly Magazine. Goemans has also published a series of booklets relating to aquarium husbandry.

The New Wave: Aquarium Husbandry-A More Natural Approach is the result of an ongoing collaboration between the two authors. For more than 6 years, Gamble and Goemans have researched and experimented with the plenum method of filtration. "Our goal has mainly been to explain its (plenum) benefits and compare it to other methods because we see the plenum method as an enhanced extension of Mother Nature" (p. 257).


The Forward for The New Wave was written by Marc Weiss and is followed by a section titled About the Authors which contains two biographical essays written by the authors.

The New Wave is divided into three sections: Introduction, The Processes, and Results: Today and in the Future. The Introduction consists of 3 chapters. Chapter 1 The Framework documents the history of marine aquarium keeping from 1832 through the present day. According to Gamble and Goemans, it was Madame (Jeanette) Power, a marine biologist living in Italy that created the first documented "water cage" to house animals for research. Filtration methods included in this brief overview is the trickle filter, the Berlin method, Algae Turf Scrubber System, and the Jaubert plenum method. A general discussion describing the evolution of natural filtration use in marine aquaria completes the chapter.

Chapter 2 Artificial Systems briefly examines some of the equipment available to hobbyists today and delineates the reasons why certain equipment has become an integral part of modern day aquarium husbandry. "The point that we are trying to make in this chapter is that most aquarists have become too equipment and product dependent"

(p. 38).

Chapter 3 Natural Systems-A Closer View is a discussion of the biochemical processes happening in the natural aquarium. The opening of this chapter begins with an introduction to the subject matter and an explanation and definition of energy usage in an aquarium. This overview explains many terms used to describe basic biological processes in both macro and micro aquarium environments.

Chapter 4 The Plenum explores the ecology behind the use of a plenum system. "It could be said the evangelism of a plenum-equipped aquarium system is based heavily on ecology because there is a dependence of every form of life on involvement with each other" (p. 50). The text continues with a discussion of the plenum concept and the importance of the sand layers within the plenum as well as the dynamics of the sandbed which includes a technical discussion of the biochemical processes that occur in a plenum system. The various environmental parameters that determine the effectiveness of these biological processes within the plenum system is also considered.

Section 2 The Processes is comprised of 4 chapters. The first of these, Chapter 5 Microbial Constituents and Pathways begins with a recapitulation of microbial activities within the sandbed, and a presentation of the Black Box Theorem which states that ideally all energy entering the aquarium (the Black Box) should be balanced with energy exiting the aquarium. The chapter then links the Black Box Theorem with sketches and diagrams, that support its supposition. According to Goemans and Gamble ... "the perfect Black Box is the no maintenance, balanced aquarium (p. 88).

Chapter 6 Sandbed Variations and Misconceptions analyze many of the common methods that aquarists utilize to create sandbeds and the perceived fallacies or strengths associated with each sandbed variation: shallow sandbeds, plenum siphon systems, plenum use in remote locations such as a refugium, and several other variations are discussed in detail. The Misconceptions portion of the chapter examines purported problems that some aquarists have encountered while using the plenum system. Subsections for this area include Plenum Systems are Cesspools, Mysterious Fish Deaths, Nitrate Levels, Exporting Phosphates, Biochemical Additives, and Sand Sifters.

Chapter 7 Constructing and Maintaining the Plenum System is a step-by-step DIY plan for building and maintaining a plenum. All aspects of the plenum system are covered including the materials needed for the construction of a plenum grid and sandbed as well as appropriate substrate size.

Chapter 8 Myths and Dragons is an interesting discussion of common problems that often plague aquarists. Chief among these dragons are algal mats. Gamble and Goemans next examine what they deem "missing links" in current thinking that allow problems such as algal mats to occur so frequently. A technical discussion of the constituents of water, pH, redox, etc., follows. The end of the chapter examines the role of sugar based additives in the aquarium and then advocates the use of same.

The third section consists of two chapters: Chapter 9 and 10. Chapter 9 The Future discusses what the authors believe are the core requirements for sustaining a successful closed-system aquarium. Also discussed is biodiversity within the aquarium, creating the "Next Generation" system, electromagenetic's energy as a direct influence on organic organisms, and osmotic pressure and its affect on marine organisms.

Chapter 10 A Vision for the Next Century contains a brief summation of the book, how the information contained therein may be applied to closed-systems, and musings concerning the continuing evolution of aquarium husbandry in the coming century. Chapter 10 is followed by a list of more than 50 sources for further reading.

The New Wave has an expansive glossary that defines terms presented in the text. Scientific terminology and other words that readers may not be familiar with are highlighted in blue throughout the text. Simply clicking on the word will take you to the definition in the glossary.

There are 40 color photos of plenum systems maintained by the authors and others as well as an index containing a list of numerous sketches and diagrams illustrating concepts found in the text.

The New Wave is available on CD ROM only. It was created using a PDF format, therefore it requires the use of Adobe Acrobat 5.0 which is on the disc and installs easily on either a Mac or PC.


Obviously, many long hours have been spent in the creation of this book. The authors offer persuasive evidence for the use of a plenum system. In the authors' opinion, the plenum system mimics the natural filtration of the ocean better than any other method of filtration currently practiced by aquarists. The authors contention that energy, defined as protein, carbon, light, etc., should be used rather than exported by tradition filtration methods is compelling and worthy of further exploration. While much of the book is somewhat technical in nature, I feel that most of the concepts presented can be understood and applied by any industrious hobbyist that has some experience with basic aquarium chemistry.

The usefulness of this book lies in the fact that the authors have researched the inner workings of the plenum sandbed and correlated what the authors believe is a scientific basis for using the plenum system. Make no mistake about it: This book is a blatant advocacy for the widespread use of plenum systems.

Suggestions for Improvement:

This work would benefit immensely from a few pages at the end of every chapter that delivers a brief synopsis of the information contained within the chapter. This improvement would, in my opinion, make the work immanently more readable and allow less sophisticated readers to skip the technical sections without losing the essence of the information.

While the New Wave has dozens of articles and books for further reading listed in the appendix, not one source is clearly cited within the text of the book. This is a grievous oversight as it damages the credibility of the book. Without parenthetical citations or footnotes within the text, it is virtually impossible for readers to differentiate between information the authors obtained through personal experimentation/observation and information that is being reported second-hand. This lack of accountability also makes it difficult to differentiate anecdotal evidence from scientific fact. The final result is a book that is neither a scientific work nor a survey of existing literature. It is simply a reference work.

Frequently quotation marks are used to highlight one or two words within a given sentence. Although I realize the quotation marks were meant as points of emphasis, the marks occur so often that it left me wondering why they appeared at all. While this is a matter of personal taste, to my eyes and mind, these quotations were distracting and unnecessary. In addition, there are a few insignificant misspellings and typographical errors that could easily be corrected in future editions.

I was surprised that there wasn't a bibliography that included internet and written sources NOT utilized in the writing of the text. There is at least one large and well-known coral propagation farm in the Midwestern United States that uses and recommends plenum systems to the exclusion of all other filtration devices. This farm has operated successfully for years. Citing and documenting sources such as this would have bolstered the authors' claims regarding long-term success with the plenum system.

Final Thoughts:

The New Wave is a good effort to explain the scientific reasoning behind the use of a plenum system. Any aquarist from beginner to expert that is interested in studying about the effects of a plenum system on the ecology of a closed-system aquarium will find this work to be interesting and enlightening.

The New Wave: Aquarium Husbandry-A More Natural Approach may be purchased directly from the authors by visiting:




Gamble/Goemans Book Review (to do: place review) Here's a copy of Goeman's final email to me. I think you will be pleased! David Dowless <Very good. Bob F> Gamble/Goemans Book Review Hi David, Thanks, and we are the same type individuals ? we have a passion for the hobby. I wish I had known of you while I was writing The New Wave, as there was no 'editor' nor was there a proof reader that understood the hobby. I was at a loss when it came to help, as most people thought the plenum method a fad, or something they did not want to have their name associated with. The rumor mill was running wild at that time and anyone trying to understand microbial process was anti-religious so to speak and against aquarium additives and/or other aquarium products. It seemed, especially when we were seeking a publisher, the industry was running scare as they didn't want the truth coming out about how microbes really work and why. They preferred to keep the nitrification and denitrification processes simple, as that suited their goals. However, I believe we all benefit, both industry and hobbyists (and especially the inhabitants in our aquariums), when we understand how and why our little slices of the ocean work in confined space! You are right about the reference issues, however, we did cross that bridge early on, and went the only road at that time we though possible to appeal to the majority. In retrospect, I wish I had someone like you at that time to offer their thoughts! If I get to redo this work, I would like to seek your help. And, it was a goal to be both non-technical and technical where needed so we could appeal to both aspects of the hobby. Yet, appeal to the majority, who are not technical minded. A problem to say the least! Where to draw the line was difficult, especially for me as there was no one else to help. All of the writing was accomplished by me, so I take all the blame for what you call a 'haphazard' approach. Again, when you are drowning and have no one to call to, it's a frightening quagmire! And, if it's a must to have x-amount of text and continuity to round out the work, its time to be a little inventive of subject matter headings, and if necessary a little repetitive. I don't want to beat a dead horse, but except for a lot of technical data, it was a one man show. The only chapters Sam provided any data for was 4, 5, 8, and 9. Otherwise everything else, including the continuity of the info in those chapters came from me. Okay, so leave it here as I have other things needing my attention. Lets stay in touch because I really like what you do for Bob Fenner, who I think the world of, and that your constructive criticism, accomplished in a highly professional way, is people I want to stay in touch with.

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