I fully expected an item of equipment would fail at some point, I just never expected it to happen quite so soon. My Deltec skimmer stopped working last Wednesday after 1 year, 1 month and 15 days of use. I have to admit that I'm disappointed that the pump failed after what seems like a relatively short space of time. As soon as I realised there was a problem I called D&D aquarium solution direct for assistance. They were extremely helpful and diagnosed that a new stator/controller was required and promised to ship one out as soon as possible. Which is really excellent service, thank you so much Tony!
To my ears the Deltec skimmer makes very little noise when working but when it was off I really did notice a difference, the room seemed a lot quieter. In addition to the noise the tank pH dropped quite considerably, below 8 on the first night and every night the skimmer was off which it hasn't done for a long, long time. I didn't realise a skimmer had that much impact on tank pH to be honest. I decided to run an airline into the sump to aid water movement and oxygenation but I really don't think it made a blind bit of difference, it certainly made me feel better though.
If there is one thing I really hate about reef-keeping it's equipment failure, it's something I cannot control. My tank may be small but the welfare of my livestock is very important to me and when things go wrong I worry. When the replacement parts had not arrived after two days I started to think about alternative skimmer options. It was now Friday and most likely the postman would not deliver on the weekend so I was looking at the following week before the tank would be skimmed again. If I had a spare skimmer pump ready to go then there'd have been no worries but I hadn't had the foresight to be that prepared. I do have a spare return pump sat in the cupboard but sadly no skimmer pump. After much thought I decided to purchase another skimmer, am I crazy? Well yes but everyone knows that already.
I ordered an Ultra-reef Akula 160 skimmer which my husband kindly picked up from the shop on the way home from work for me. First impressions, this skimmer is built like a tank! It's extremely robust and heavy, it feels like a really solid bit of kit in fact the Deltec seems a bit flimsy in comparison. However unlike the Deltec it doesn't come with a UK plug, grrr! So a bit of rewiring was required before use. It's a little bit wider at the base than the Deltec so required a shuffle round of other equipment to squeeze it into the sump. I did fear a one point that I might have to cut down one of the Siporax baskets to accommodate it but fortunately it was not required in the end. The unit is quiet running but it does produce a little more noise in the form of "bubble hissing'.
Overnight a lovely thick foam formed in the skimmer body but it had not reached the top of the cup and overflowed as I hadn't managed to dial the water level in properly before I went to bed. Hopefully it will settle fully in the next couple of days and pull out some really stinky brown waste. The signs are very promising and there's certainly excellent bubble production by the Sicce pump.
And here we are 3 days later it's pulling out some brown liquid and the pH of the tank has risen back up to normal again (8.2-8.3ish) so I can relax once more. The Deltec pump parts have also arrived and it's all ready to go again, I think I am going to keep it as a spare in the event of an issue with the Ultra-reef. Well you just never know....
I realised last night that it's been a year since I introduced the first fish to this tank. I thought I should mark the occasion by taking some celebratory photos of them. Unfortunately Candy the Red Striped goby was the only one prepared to pose for for me. The Nudus gobies were, as usual, hidden in their burrow so no shot of them sadly (they really don't like the new Fairy wrasse, especially the male who constantly tries to steal their food). Anyway happy 1st birthday gobies!
It's been four weeks since I introduced the two Pintail wrasse and I've been nervously watching their behaviour like a hawk.
Oh boy these fish really like to eat! When it comes to feeding time they are like mini sharks especially the larger male and yes, from what I've seen I do indeed have a male and female of the species (I'll elaborate a bit more on that in just a moment). Given half the chance they will eat all the food that I add into the tank no matter whether it's meant for them or not. This has caused a bit of a problem for me as I like to make sure that everyone gets their fair share. To do this I offer food directly to some of my livestock, this includes the Possum wrasse, Nudus gobies, pistol shrimp, Pom Pom crab (occasionally), cleaner shrimp and some corals most notably the sun coral. Pre-fairy wrasse days I used to do it via the end of a long pipette. Unfortunately it took the fairy wrasse all of a couple of days to realise that the pipette equalled food and no matter how I tried to evade them or distract them 9 times out of 10 they would steal the food. In the end I had to discard the pipette and be a little bit more inventive. I connected a syringe to a long piece of acrylic tubing with silicone hose. The tubing is wide enough to take up whole pieces of food, so now when I need to feed, the food is inaccessible to the fish until I depress the syringe plunger. It drives the male Pintail crazy as can he see the food is there but he can't get at it no matter how much he pecks at the tube. Then I wait for him to lose interest and dispense the food, this seems to be working quite well so far.
Moving on, these fish may be sharks at feeding time but when it comes to glass cleaning they turn into complete and utter nervous wrecks. I have read that these fish can be jumpers and boy do I believe it, show them an algae magnet and it's splashes all round. Thankfully I have a mesh top to prevent any would be escapees. They show no sign of wanting to make a hasty departure at any other time including water changes. As a consequence I have been avoiding cleaning the glass as often (and hence taking less photos), I hope they learn to accept that the algae magnet is not out to get them because I really like being able to see into the tank.
Now that they've settled into their new home their behaviour has changed. The larger fish is most definitely male because he's very recently started displaying to the female. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I wouldn't have believed how he changes his colour during the nuptial display. It really is amazing! He extends his fins are and his colour intensifies especially the area on the rear of his belly which turns red and the area under his dorsal fin turns purple. I know that this is natural behaviour but I hope it doesn't cause any long term issues with the pair. I'm slightly paranoid having read that keeping pairs of these fish in smaller tanks generally doesn't work out in the long term. I really don't want him to harrass her to death or for her to change into a male. I will be watching very carefully and intervening if needed.
Another short video for today, time lapse this time. I recorded it just after the lunchtime fish feed when the lighting is whiter. The sun coral expands it's polyps a lot more in the early evening but the lighting is ramping down again (i.e. very blue) so difficult to capture.
Early morning on the reef (so it's really, really blue).
It's been five months since I removed the frag of Acropora sp. #2, due to an infestation of red bugs (Tegastes acroporanus). As I reported before a tiny piece of encrusted base remained in the tank, it was scrubbed rigorously with toothbrush whilst the surrounding water was siphoned away. The Acro base amazingly survived the scrubbing ordeal and has finally began to branch upwards once more. It appears to be red bug free, however, and this is the big downer, the tank is NOT free of these pests! Whilst taking some macro photos of the corals yesterday morning I discovered that at least three of the other Acropora sp. have red bugs crawling over them too (A. gomezi, Acropora sp. #3 & #4). So basically I tossed Acro #2 for nothing. To say that I'm feeling a wee bit disheartened with the tank right now is an understatement.
So what to do now? Remove all of the Acros? But most are encrusted to the rockwork so this would be tricky. Try biological control using a pipefish? The biggest drawback with this (apart from size of the tank, feeding/flow issues blah blah) is that I feel the tank is fully stocked now (see below for the recent and last fish additions). Of course I could strip the tank down entirely and quit or start again. The word 'upgrade' and using this tank as a quarantine tank has even been mentioned! Lots to think about.
Elsewhere war is underway between the Favia sp. and the Cyphastrea sp. The Favia is clearly winning since there is an area of dead skeleton on the leading edge of the Cyphastrea. The fighting occurs only at night so I'm going to have to camp out with a flashlight if I'm to catch the Favia in battle mode. Also the green encrusting Montipora is on the losing end of a clash with Acropora loripes.
Now on to happier news (had I known about the red bugs I would have held off buying any fish but I didn't, *sigh*). I visited my favourite fish shop a couple of weeks ago with the intention of choosing one final fish for the tank, I thought maybe a firefish or a wrasse, one that might actually relish eating pyramid snails. Talking of which I've just spotted one of the buggers in the shot of the damaged Cyphastrea above, argh!! Anyway, I decided against buying a firefish (I really loved the Helfrichi but just couldn't bring myself to fork out so much for one fish) and was discouraged from trying a Leopard wrasse because of possible compatibility issues with my resident Yellow wrasse. Instead I was directed towards the fairy wrasse; colourful and peaceful and not overly large. Now I must confess that I didn't really know too much about this group of fish so I was relying heavily on what I was being told by the lovely shop assistant. There was a group of Pintail wrasse, males and females (although they all looked pretty much the same to me) and apparently I was informed that it was possible to keep a male and female pair together, which is always a plus point for me.
I have since found out that female fairy wrasse almost invariably change into males in a captive environment resulting in warfare between the now two males. Unfortunately I was an hour into my journey home when I discovered that fact. I should have walked away for a coffee and research time before having a pair bagged up. Anyway they are in my tank now so I'll have to deal with issues if and when they arise. As if I don't have enough issues already!
These fish are really very pretty, the male is slightly larger than the female with perhaps more defined markings but to be honest they don't look that different to me. I hope that's not a bad sign. As expected they took some grief from the Rei the Yellow wrasse. She was not best pleased to see some new fish moving in to 'her' tank. She is the undoubted boss of the tank. The rest of the fish ignored the new additions after their initial curious inspections. The har-wrasse-ment by Rei continued for about three days after which she decided it was just too much bother and now lets them be. Most of the time she ignores them aside from a few half hearted chases every now and again.
OK these Pintails really like to eat!! Right from the very first feed they were in there grabbing their fair share even stealing food from right under the nose of Rei and they'll eat whatever I add to the tank almost without question. At the moment during the day they coexist quite peacefully with each other. When the lights dim in the evening there is a bit of jostling for sleeping accommodations, at least that's what I think is going on. It certainly doesn't look like the male is displaying to the female. I will be watching on very carefully for signs of it all going south. Gulp!
And now for a few more updated photos. Sorry there's no video footage yet, I got a bit distracted by the red bug fiasco and needed a large glass of wine to help ease the pain.
Sorry for the lack of updates, there's a bumper one with video footage coming over the weekend (hopefully).
For now I just wanted to post a quick progress update on the baby Heliofungia actiniformis bud that I discovered last month. Now it has siblings! There are three in total (that I can see), the original one plus two more have developed either side of it. Nice!
The Heliofungia was looking a bit sorry for itself last week, it was that time of the month again, waste excretion, yum! The Yellow wrasse really enjoys this extra treat, lol! Is there anything that this fish won't eat? Anyway that's beside the point, under normal circumstances I only get to view the top of the coral but because it was a little deflated I could see part of the underside too. It has developed a baby with it's own mouth and ring of tentacles! Now I still consider this coral to be a baby itself although it has grown a lot since introduction, I am still waiting for it to detach from the rock and become free living. A quick bit of research showed me that Heliofungia do indeed asexually reproduce by budding on the underside of the skeleton. So cool, I love discovering new stuff!
When the tank hit one year old I sent off for another ATI ICP-OES analysis. The results of which are below.
Sooo, if it's not one thing it's another, last test the calcium level was a little low and now this time it's potassium. I don't currently own a potassium supplement and am debating whether I really need to order one now or not, I've never had to dose potassium before so it's a new one on me. The tin level is continuing to drop so that's one issue sorted and I seem to have hit on the right level of iodine dosing too. Nitrate and phosphate are still on the low side, I keep expecting them to rise as the tank gets older but there's not been much change yet. Despite this the coral growth is slow but steady and the colours are looking nice (well to my eyes they are at least) so I will continue as is for the moment.
A quick video clip taken today of a rare sighting of the two Tomiyamichthys nudus gobies together with the Red Spotted pistol shrimp (Alpheus rubromaculatus). Sorry the footage is a bit shaky but it was a spur of the moment kind of thing. If I'd have waited to set up my phone on the the tripod I'd have missed them entirely. These guys are too cool!
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!