We have all seen the posts here and elsewhere: Does this look like _ _ _ _? Followed by some terrible pictures of “stuff”. I have at times tried to respond with a guess based on the limited information the poster has provided. Of course, it really is a shot in the dark. What might look like diatoms to one person, could be a form of dinoflagellates. A form of Cyanobacteria can look rust like and not really red…and also look like dinos. The only tried and true way to identify something is to take a sample and place it under a microscope. For the last couple of years, I have fought a bad outbreak of Dinoflagellates. I won’t go into the gory details. Suffice to say, raising the nutrient levels in my tank and encouraging other algae and bacteria to grow, as well as pods and other micro fauna, I have been able to get an upper hand. I am a believer, that Dinos exist in everyone’s tanks. I have sampled clean tanks, samples from sumps and skimmers, and filter socks…and have found various dinoflagellates. Often, I found them in small quantities or amongst other material like algae. But they were there. I was able to observe Dinos via a low-quality microscope with a 40x magnification. Well, this morning the lights came on and I saw material on the sand bed and on different items in the tank that had a large resemblance to Dinos. ( see pictures). The first thing I did was pull out my cheap microscope and pull a fresh slide and samples of the questionable materials. I was able to instantly see that what I was finding was filamentous and not Dinos. There were some dinos in the samples….as there always is… or at least since I had the initial outbreak. But the bulk of the materials was an algae and some cyano. After a couple of deep breaths, I got wondering why more hobbyist don’t buy a critical tool like a microscope. They aren’t expensive. I bought mine two years ago off Amazon for $58. It came with glass slides and covers. I honestly think from a piece of mind, an education perspective and just to be able to act quickly, I think it is one of the best investments a reef hobbyist can make. I also have a curiosity that I have passed to my kids. We like to look at all the various things under a microscope. I have seen embryonic crabs, shrimp, snails, worms of all types….. It just is a pretty cool thing to look at stuff under the microscope. I thought I would accompany this post with a quick poll. Who has a microscope? If you have one…. Put the brand name, cost and the place you bought it in comments. I think it would be interesting to see what people are using.