The tank has survived to reach its second anniversary today, how the time has flown. Needless to say after two years of running, the exciting stocking phase is pretty much over with (although never say never, lol!) and I've moved on to the not quite so exciting fragging phase.
The first coral that needed a proper pruning was the Seriatopora hystrix. It has grown in rather an unruly manner and some of the branches were growing over the top of the clam (a definite no-no!) and a good section was also now obscuring my view of the sun coral, making it harder to feed. The tips are easy to frag but I found that when trying to cut branches further down, whole sections would break off instead, so I removed far more of the coral than I intended. Oh well it will recover given time (assuming that the Utter Chaos zoanthids don't take it over completely).
Finally, I am able to see the sun coral in all its glory again. As you can see it does try to keep the branches of the Seri in check by stinging and killing off the tips that stray too close. If you look closely you can also see a few of the baby sun polyps that have settled on to the rockwork to the left. The whole tank is pretty much spotted with baby suns right now, even the Scolymia already has one settled on its skeleton.
Talking of sun corals, the Dendrophyllia frag I added in August is doing really well, it started out as 3 heads and now has 5, with another 4 more developing. This seems like a much faster growth rate than the Tubastrea, or maybe it is just more noticeable due to its branching formation.
I have also been lucky enough to pick up another Dendrophyllia frag from a fellow reefer. Morphologically it looks the same as the yellow one so it's possibly just a different colour morph (or perhaps it's a different species, I don't know). I so looove these corals, I know that they are only at their best after the lights go out but I simply don't care, I think they are spectacular! I sometimes wonder if I should have just gone with an NPS tank and be done with everything else, lol! Ideally I'd prefer to feed these corals during the day so that I can admire their beauty with the lights on but it's so darn frustrating. The wrasse try to steal the food and 98% of the time they are successfuI before the polyp has a chance to fully ingest it. No matter how I defend the coral, the bloomin fish sneak in and grab it most of the time. It's just not worth the effort and stress it causes (to me and the coral). Oh to be outwitted by a few fish....
Anyway back to fragging. The second coral that needed reducing in size was the green plating Montipora, I'd been psyching myself up to do this for months. I knew the time had finally come when the Acanthastrea corals growing directly below it started showing signs of struggling, they were at that point pretty much completely shaded out by the coral above. I kept putting it off because the Montipora had grown into such a perfect saucer shape and looked lovely, I knew that once I'd had at it the shape would be ruined. Unfortunately I didn't take any photos of either this or the Seri before I began chopping, I don't know what was I thinking? Anyway the plate coral may look quite delicate but it was surprisingly hard to frag, lower down the skeleton is deceptively thick. I took off a good couple of inches around the edges on the right-hand side and probably should have done more but that's a problem for another day.
Now that the there's a bit more light, the Acanthastrea 'Lava Glow' looks good again. Its smaller brother to the left of it is unfortunately still somewhat shaded. However this coral has never really grown well even when it received better lighting. I did try to move it to another location recently but it's fused to the rockwork so I'm afraid it's there to stay.
The third coral that needed to be fragged was Acropora hyacinthus. I've been nipping the front tips off here and there for a while as they grew towards the front glass but more drastic action was needed this time as I was no longer possible to clean the glass in front of it. Due to the fused branch growth it was now impossible to remove individual bits so the best remedy for the long term was to remove the entire front half of the coral and as with the Seriatopora more was removed than intended. In fact there's not much of the coral left now, just the base and one main branch. Hey ho!
Whilst fragging the A. hyacinthus a large chunk snapped off at the base and fell right on top of the Scolymia. Argh! The Scoly looked very unhappy for a few days and remained shrivelled up, naturally I feared for the worst but fortunately the reefing gods were smiling down and it has bounced back to full glory once more. To say I'd have been upset if a frag that originally cost £15 took out a much, MUCH more expensive coral would have been a bit of an understatement to say the least, lol!
The Scoly loves to eat but never shows its tentacles till after the lights go out so I only feed it at that time. I offer it krill or LPS pellets once or twice per week.
The Favia has grown from a frag the size of inch squared into quite a big beastie and has spread out not only over the rockwork but also out onto the sand towards the Acanthastrea to the left of it. There used to be a good gap between the left and right rock piles, a space in which the conch could easily pass through but now his shell won't fit through at all. I fear that it's only a question of time until the two corals start fighting each other and there won't be much I can do about it as they are both well and truly encrusted on to the rockwork, It won't be pretty I'm sure!
The Heliofungia also continues to do well, there's no sign of it wanting to break away and wander round the sand (which is fine by me!) nor are it's offspring. As you can see from the photo below the coralline algae growing on the glass is a bit of a pain. I want to scrape it all off but I don't want to damage the coral during the process. Everywhere I've read says if the flesh gets torn then it's "hasta la vista baby!", so I feel it's best to just leave it be.
Jessie the Rainford's goby has settled in beautifully and whilst he always gives way to the much larger wrasse at feeding time, he's not shy at all. He roams all over the tank, pecking at algae and chewing the 'sand'. He now feeds really well on frozen food and tries his level best to grab as much as he can before the greedy wrasse hoover it all up, I still offer him a bit extra via a pipette to make sure he gets enough to keep his little belly full.
Sadly I haven't seen Candy the Red Striped goby (Trima cana) since the 8th October. He/she was one of the first fish added to the tank on the 3rd December 2016. I understand that nano gobies do not have long lifespans, only a couple of years, so I'm assuming it was just his time. Two years is just too short sadly. I can't help but wonder how long Hop the Nudus goby will be around for now. He was also added at the same time as Candy and he already lost his mate earlier this year (March).
Sadly I don't have a recent(ish) photo of Candy to share as once the zoanthids grew over his rock he took to hanging out behind Lobophyllia where he was difficult to photograph. I'll post this sneaky shot taken last year instead. :'(
The rest of the fish are fine.
I have a new invert (see, I can still squeeze more stuff in lol!), a crinoid squat lobster. I tried keeping one of these adorable little crustaceans back in 2016, when the tank was relatively new. Sadly it vanished after just 20 days and I vowed not try another... then I came across this little guy. I reasoned that now that the tank is mature this itty bitty crustacean would stand a better chance at survival so he now resides in my tank. As I type this, it's been 27 days since introduction and I'm happy to say that he's taken up permanent residence amongst the branches of Seriatopora, hiding underneath the relative safely of the Utter Chaos zoanthids during the day, he blends in extremely well with the orange of the polyps. He's been named Jaffa and readily accepts all sorts of food from the pipette, I am hopeful he will do better than Stripes did.
Jobs I still need to do. I need to frag the branches of the Stylophora that are growing too close to the glass on the left-hand side and try and remove some of the many Utter Chaos zoanthids that have spread round the tank (I really regret adding those devils).
I've run out of time now so I'll sign off with the obligatory full tank shot.
To this, in two years.
Sod's law states that if something can go wrong it will and at the worst possible time too.
When we arrived back from our trip to the USA naturally the first thing I did was to check on the tank. Everything was present and correct but some of the SPS corals looked a tiny bit off. It was nothing major, they just looked a little bit paler than usual and had less polyp extension. So instead of beginning the depressing chore of filling the washing machine with dirty holiday clothes, I reached instead for the test kits. KH is always the first parameter I check and the result immediately showed me the source of the 'issue', the level had dropped to 3.35dKH! What the.....?!! According to the ICP sample I took on the day before we left the level was 7.12dKH (just 10 days previously). The reason for this drop, as I quickly discovered, was a doser malfunction, the head that dispenses solution B (alkalinity) was no longer working. According to data from GHL there should have been 337ml left in the dosing container but in actuality there was 930ml. A quick calculation showed me that the head had stopped working 8 days ago, the day after we had left. Oddly that made me feel a little better, I would have felt much worse if it had stopped working before we went away and I'd simply not noticed.
So began the slow process of raising the alkalinity back up to a safe level once more. I switched the dosing of B over to head no.4 whilst the issue of the faulty one was addressed. It's the first time I have had any issue with this doser in over 1.5 years of use so I was a little nervous of taking it apart but I needn't have worried. As soon as the blue plastic cap was removed it was obvious what the problem was, a tiny piece of the cap had snapped off and jammed the rollers (the offending piece is shown to the left of the screws in the photo below).
Once the bit was removed using a pair of tweezers, the rollers were free to move once again and amazingly the motor still worked, I had fully expected it to have burnt out after the rollers got jammed. All that was required to get it functional again was a new plastic cap, phew!
I have since discovered that GHL considers the cap and rollers to be wearable parts and need to be replaced annually. The rollers should also be cleaned every 3 months as well which I hadn't been aware of. Oops!
Over a period of 10 days the KH was gradually increased back to normal levels and I nervously watched for signs of stress in the corals. It's been 3 weeks so far and nothing looks worse, no stripping of corals as of yet so fingers crossed I've managed to get away with the momentarily blip in the alkalinity dosing schedule.
MACNA was absolutely fantastic and I loved every single minute of it, there was so much to see and do. The exhibitor stands were numerous and varied, with some amazing display tanks and we attended as many of the talks as we could fit in.
I particularly loved the stands from Biota, Ora and POMA Labs showcasing their captive bred fish. The 67-day old juvenile Yellow Tangs and teeny tiny Mandarin fish from Biota were just fabulous. If I could have successfully sneaked a Mandarin in my bag I would have. There were numerous coral vendors but I didn't dwell too long on the frag trays as I knew I was unable to take any home with me. The speakers were all excellent, with Martin Moe's 'Diadema sea urchin culture' and Elizabeth Groover's 'Ornamental wrasse culture' presentations being particularly fascinating to me.
On the Friday night there was a reception by the pool with nibbles & drinks and the evening's entertainment was provided by the band 'Live Rock', lol. Saturday night heralded the gala dinner with the Keynote speaker Charlie Veron who has certainly had an amazing life to date and observed first hand the declining health of corals on the Great Barrier Reef. Both events gave us a chance to mingle and chat with other reefers.
In a flash MACNA was over and we were on our way home again, boo hoo! I had a blast and would happily attend again if I could convince my better half.
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!