So far the corals (and clam) that I have purchased from my (sort of) LFSs have arrived with 'extras'. Aiptasia, nudibranchs, pyramid snails & red bugs. The corals I have mail ordered from Reefworks however have been hitchhiker-free, so it was a kind of a no-brainer who to choose for my next additions. On Friday I took delivery of some lovely new corals. A beautiful frag of Oxypora sp., so well encrusted that the frag plug was completely hidden, it's my new favourite coral. A frag of Cyphastrea sp. "Meteor Shower", also well encrusted although I would have preferred to have been able to remove the frag plug entirely for positioning onto the rockwork. It looks kind of unnatural at the moment but hopefully it will 'grow in' given time. I also received a frag of Acropora sp. "Red Dragon", and a frag of Acropora sp. with purple tips (but is currently not purple at the moment), plus a frag of Red Tuxedo zoanthids. The zoas are still settling in so I don't have a photo of them yet and the I'm still working out how to take a decent shot of the "Red Dragon" (the bloomin' Welsh Dresser gets in the way. It's going to have to go, lol!).
Whilst I had the camera out I snapped a few other shots, more to follow including a FTS later in the week. Acropora sp. #2 that I treated for red bugs is now looking much happier with good PE. Acropora sp. #3 with the blisters is actually showing some improvement, a couple of the blisters have burst and the wounds are healing nicely. I think it's on the up and up now.
Yesterday I (along with the assistance of my better half) installed my long awaited shiny new GHL Doser 2 SA pump. No more manual dosing for me, yay! This piece of equipment is seriously snazzy, it feels solid and it just looks so very, very cool. I almost wish I'd got it sitting in full view; the light show it gives off is seriously impressive. It flashes violet, red, yellow, green, white or blue depending on its status. It reminds me of my teenage disco days lol! My only disappointment with the unit so far was the lack of a UK plug. Why?! The Mitras light has one so why not the doser too?? Very annoying indeed.
The initial set-up was straightforward and I especially enjoyed calibrating the pump heads, it made me feel like I was back in the lab again. Programming the dosing schedule through the GHL Control Centre was easy too. However where we fell down was trying to connect the doser to our home wifi network and then on to the myGHL Cloud. The disco light was supposed to turn blue when connected but it resolutely stayed blinking white no matter how much I shouted and pleaded with it. We did get there in the end after we double, triple and quadruple checked the instruction manual and all the data required (IP address/password info etc). I'm not sure I would have been able to sort that bit by myself to be honest. Good job my other half is useful with a computer.
The doser and dosing containers are situated in the cabinet next to the tank along with the ATU tank. Presently I'm using it to dose Tropic Marin balling salts (A, B & C). One pump head is currently redundant but I'm fairly sure I'll find something extra to dose at a later date. The liquids are dripped into the return chamber of the sump. Since space is severely limited inside the cabinet (with the refugium tank in place) I swapped out the Reefloat Sensor sump mount for the new Reefer mod. This was very easy to do, rather like changing a plug. Now the dosing tube holder sits where the sensor sump mount used to be, all very neat and tidy, well sort of if you ignore the spaghetti junction of tubing and power leads down there.
For a while now I've noticed some interesting macro algae growing on the top of one of the Tunze pumps. Now that's it's larger I have tentatively identified it as Colpomenia sp. (probably C. sinuosa). There is none of it to be found anywhere else in the tank so I expect that the snails or, most likely, hermits are eating it off the rockwork before it gets a chance to take a hold. I will need to remove it soon as I expect that it's going to interfere with the pump's flow. They are due a strip down and clean in a months time so I will probably wait till then. It is a type of bubble algae so I suppose I should be a little concerned about it spreading but it's been OK so far and I have faith in my CUC.
For over a week (possibly 8 days, I can't remember exactly) Hop, the T. nudus goby, has been confined to the 'cave'. During that time I only saw him briefly at feeding times whereupon he would poke his head out of the cave and Skip would immediately chase him back inside again. Yesterday morning however he was back out on the sand again resting next to Skip like the previous eight days had never happened; so I assumed rightly or wrongly that if eggs were being cared for then they had now hatched. I searched and searched for any evidence of fry, checking the overflow box and sump/refugium too in case some had ended up in there, but could find none. Did the eggs hatch out at some point after lights out on Saturday night and end up as coral food/shrimp/crab food and/or were destroyed by the powerheads?? Or maybe there never were any eggs in the first place and Hop & Skip have simply kissed and made up now, lol!
I am so disappointed that I didn't get to confirm my suspicions that my gobies are indeed breeding but Skip has a nice round tummy again so hopefully she will lay again and I will not miss the next batch of babies.
On the 31st December 2016 I introduced Zoanthus sp. #1 to the tank. On the rock along with the zoas came a mystery disc thing that I identified as a foraminifera called Marginopora vertebralis (see here). For a couple of months nothing changed and then suddenly it vanished. I assumed that it had died and had fallen off the rock or had been knocked off by a snail or hermit crab. The following day I discovered it just behind the zoa rock. A few days later however it was in a different spot, OK, so the hermits or snails must have been moving it during their never ending rock cleaning duties. But then a few days after that it was in yet another spot and no way could it have been placed there by a crab or snail unless I have very, very clever snails/hermits. During the next two days I paid extra attention to the foram and lo and behold it was moving around the rock, all be it very slowly, of its own accord. Who knew it could do that?? I certainly didn't!
I have since discovered that foraminifera can move about with slender pseudopodia, or extensions of cytoplasm, the living matter of the cell, which stream through an opening in the test known as the aperture; in porous tests, the pseudopodia also emerge through the pores.
Please see the link below for more details:
This thing is seriously cool!
Who says conchs only stick to the sand! For the time being Lurch manages to get himself up on the left rock pile (straight up the front of the rocks) and half way up the tank back in search of a tasty rasp of algae.
I'll start with the 'red bug' coral first (Acro #2), it remains parasite free and is starting to extend its polyps again. It still needs to regain some colour but I'm sure that it will improve given time.
The Acropora that is suffering from blisters (Acro #3) looks about the same or maybe a little worse. It's still extending its polyps so it's really quite perplexing.
I performed as many water tests as I could last week in the hopes of picking up some obvious imbalance. The results were as follows:
Specific Gravity: 1.026
Iodide: <0.01ppm, Iodate/iodine: <0.03ppm
In the light of the results I have upped my KH/Ca/Mg dosing (again) as I've noticed a small downward trend now that there are more corals (plus a clam) in the tank. I have also begun to dose a small amount of Lugol's iodine every 3 days. I realise the Strontium level is low too but I want to retest that before deciding on a course of action. It was my first time using that particular test kit and, oh my, what a faff it was! I really hope I don't have to test for Strontium levels too often.
As for the gobies, they are endlessly fascinating and completely annoying at the same time. Poor old Gordon the Whitecap goby was chased out onto the sand by one of the T. nudus gobies (the darker one called Skip, who I've actually now renamed to Psycho Goby) for two nights on the trot. I know I wanted to see a bit more of him but not like that. He was swimming all over the tank, I feared I'd find him sucked over the weir or mangled by one of the powerheads the following morning. Fortunately on the evening of the third day of torment Al, the pistol shrimp finally reappeared. Had he been shedding and had gone into hiding for a few days as a consequence? Anyway he is back together with Gordon and they (well he certainly is but I've not seen Gordon since Friday) are now residing under the far right hand side of rockwork, keeping out of the way of Psycho Goby if they know what's good for them.
So now the T. nudus gobies are back in their old cave again and have taken over the pistol shrimp's old burrows. They do seem to have undergone a personality transplant which I think can only mean one thing, they are getting ready to breed (again?). Skip (AKA Psycho Goby) vanished into the cave late last week and was not seen for a day or so and now for the last two days Hop has remained hidden in the cave. From this behaviour and what I've witnessed before I am assuming that Skip is female and Hop is male. Poor old Hop is not allowed out of the cave now even to eat. At feeding time Skip snags loads of food, as bold as brass but Hop is simply not allowed to. He does appear at the cave entrance (only at feeding time though) but is promptly chased back in by Skip, she has become really quite aggressive towards him. At the last feed yesterday when she discovered his head popping out she turned really pale (almost white in fact), opened her mouth wide in a clear threat posture and chased him back in again. I guess his job now is to guard the eggs and nothing else lol! Clearly well and truly under 'the fin'. The only way to know if my assumptions are correct is to watch for the release of fry, I don't know how long goby eggs take to develop or at what time they normally hatch out. I expect it's most likely after lights out so I will be waiting with a torch in hand hoping to spot them.
Things have been pretty settled on the fish front recently but today that all changed, trouble brewing on the goby front. This morning I discovered both the T. nudus gobies sitting right outside the pistol shrimp's main burrow entrance, I've not seen this behaviour before. As the day progressed I actually observed them popping in and out of all the shrimp's burrow entrances/exits, something was certainly amiss here! There was no sign of the pistol shrimp or his Whitecap partner but they've gone missing before so I was not overly worried. That was until the afternoon, when Gordon the Whitecap goby suddenly popped right out of a hole in front of me. I mean the whole fish, not just the head but the whole body and tail too, I would have been beyond excited if it were not for the fact that he'd been chased out of the hole by one of the nudus gobies. What the...?! Where was his pistol shrimp buddy?? The Whitecap is such a timid fish, he's completely lost without his pistol pal. The lights are off now and he's been chased out on to the sand again. This is not good and I'm seriously worried about the whereabouts of the pistol shrimp. Has he died, perhaps through an unsuccessful moulting? If that's the case then I doubt Gordon will survive long without him. I really hope there's another explanation to the shrimp's absence and that he'll resurface again very soon.
On a lighter note I discovered two Stomatella sp. snails cruising about the tank in the last couple of days. I spotted one on the shell of the T. crocea clam when it was introduced but obviously there must have been two. Some good freebie hitchhikers at last!
Soooo, I've been keeping an even closer eye on the tank (if that's possible for me, lol!) ever since I noticed one of the Acropora corals (#3) had blisters on it's branches.
Acropora #2 had been showing less polyp extension than the others but it's been growing fine and the colour has been good with lovely blue tips to the branches. I thought it was doing fine, however whilst processing my last set of photographs I happened to notice some red dots on the branches of the coral. Uh-oh! Alarm bells instantly started ringing in my head. Out came the magnifying glass and lo and behold there they were, red bugs!! Honestly this tank must be in the running for the award for the introduction of the most number of undesirable hitchhikers in the shortest amount of time.
I have not had the pleasure of having to deal with these parasitic crustaceans before but I do know about them. Red bugs (Tegastes acroporanus) are tiny predatory copepods that live specifically on Acroporids. I considered my options:
1. Do nothing, the coral looks fine and is growing even though PE is almost non-existent.
2. Treat the tank with the recommended medication, Milbemycin Oxime (known as Interceptor or more recently Sentinel in the US). It is a prescription only medication designed to treat dogs suffering from heart worm disease but also happens to kill marine crustaceans.
3. Remove the infested coral to a separate tank and treat with the above.
4. Remove the infested coral to a separate tank and treat with a proprietary coral dip.
5. Take the coral out and throw it in the bin.
I wasn't a fan of option 1, the coral may be fine now but it's never going to thrive whilst covered with parasites. Option 2. was entirely out of the question, Milbemycin kills ALL crustaceans so my crabs and shrimp would also be toast. I could remove my precious crabs and shrimp to another tank but to catch the pistol would require removing most of the rock work. That means major stress for the tank and major stress for me too! I love my shrimp and goby and there is no way that I'm going to risk upsetting them (and the rest of the tank) unless absolutely necessary. Option 5 was seriously tempting, it's only a small frag at the moment so it'd be no great loss but I do hate to give up without a fight. Plus there is really no way to know if any of the other corals are parasitised too, trashing one coral may turn out to be pointless if others are also affected. So really that left options 3 and 4, option 3 being preferred as Milbemycin is known to definitely kill red bugs whereas a coral dip may not.
So with the decision made I just had to source Interceptor or whatever it is called in the UK. Unfortunately that plan soon went out of the window as our regular veterinarian refused to prescribe it for me, so it was back to the drawing board.
The only coral dip that I had to hand was Polyp Lab's Reef Primer and after much scouring of the web I couldn't find any mention if it was actually effective against red bugs or not. How typical! Still it's all I had to hand and I thought there was nothing to lose by giving it a try.
I mixed a little over the recommended dose of the Primer in a container of tank water, removed the coral from the rock work and immersed it carefully. Almost immediately the Acro started to exude excess mucus. I continually squirted the Primer solution over the branches with a pipette for about a minute and then checked the coral with my magnifying glass, I was surprised to see red bugs trapped within the mucus and no longer moving. Encouraged I removed all the slime (with bugs) that I could see and carried on blasting the coral with Primer solution. After approximately 5 minutes I moved the coral to another container of tank water, rinsed it off and placed it back in the tank. Unsurprisingly the coral looked rather pale by then.
Today Acropora #2 looks pretty darn good, it's still a little pale and has no PE but it's alive and more importantly there are no red bugs on it! I've checked multiple times throughout the day and cannot find a single one. Of course that's not to say that my tank is now a red bug free zone but it's a step in the right direction. The other Acros seem unaffected and have good PE so you never know I may actually be lucky. Heh, considering how things have been progressing in the pest department probably not, but still I do like to be optimistic. Hmm, I did have to remove 2 more tiny Aiptasia from the sand yesterday, discovered in the same spot as the one I found back in January......
For the most part the tank is doing OK. There is very little in the way of nuisance algae, the furry stuff that was coating the rocks seems to be fading away without any intervention on my part. The zoanthids are opening up nicely and looking good, so I think the nudibranch problem is solved. The LPS expand nicely during the day and are always ready to eat whenever they sense food in the tank.
Most of the SPS corals are doing well, showing good growth or at the very least basing out. Colouration however is not great for some of them, I'm hoping that with time and stability the colours will improve. Maybe it's a nutrient issue?
There is one Acropora sp. (#3) that does not look good. I have noticed recently that there appears to be blistering to the flesh. This is a new one on me so I did a bit of searching on the web and others have reported this ailment. Unfortunately no one really knows what causes it. Some say that it's due to an imbalance with the big three, i.e. KH, Ca and Mg but in my case I have those parameters well within recommended levels and they haven't fluctuated much either. The only suspect I can think of at this stage is KZ Sponge Power, I began dosing this on the 11th February (1 drop every other day). It may have nothing to do with the problem but I think I'm going to stop using it for a while and see if the Acro improves.
I nuked the tiny Aiptasia that sneaked into the tank on the clam shell and didn't feel bad about it at all. Now I just have to be vigilant for more Pyramid snails. My list of hitchhikers found in this tank is growing ever longer.
I'm happy to report that the fish are all doing fine. It's been just over a month since I added the Pink Streaked wrasse and I'm thinking that the time might be right to introduce some more soon. This time I definitely want fish that will swim out in the open. I have fish that hug the rockwork, that sit on the sand and one that hides in a hole in the sand, I really need some bold fishies that aren't shy!
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!