A couple of weeks ago the tank passed its 3rd birthday and I celebrated (not!) by getting the coral cutters out, I had put it off for far too long. I haven't been able to clean the left hand glass for ages and the coralline algae was having a field day. I also took the opportunity to really reduce the over large gorgonian in the middle and trim a few branch tips of the Red Planet. I hate having to cut corals and always manage to accidentally damage other stuff at the same time plus the fish really hate the disruption.
After I had finished chopping I found it hard to even look at the tank, to me it looked rather sad even though I knew it really needed doing. The Stylophora looks an odd shape and by reducing the size of the gorgonian I exposed an area of bare rock that I knew would provide a perfect breeding ground for algae. Also there is always a knock on effect when fragging corals, I knew that the alkalinity/calcium uptake would lower (because I'd made that mistake in the past) so I turned down the doser. However I vastly underestimated the difference and the KH level still crept up over the following days. Duh!
I think I finally have the dosing level dialled in again after days of testing and retesting. I also took the opportunity to add a few more money cowries to keep the growth of algae on the rocks under control.
The Stylophora has recovered well, the photo below shows a couple of the branches 7 days post fragging. After 9 days the cut tips were fully covered and the tips had developed polyps after 14 days.
Kandinsky the Mandarin is doing well and is fat as a sausage. He hasn't managed to eat all the copepods in the tank...yet! When the glass has not been cleaned for a few days I can still see them scampering around (during the day too) which makes me very happy. Admittedly they are located more towards the top of the tank where Kandinsky does not venture much but if they get a chance to reproduce and spread elsewhere that's got to be a good thing.
Spike has proved to be a bit more frustrating in the feeding department. He loves lobster eggs and live copepods but isn't much interested in anything else. I hope that this will change in the future. Firefish have a reputation of being shy and hiding but not this fish, he's out in the open all day long.
A few coral shots.
Lastly the requisite FTS. I must have taken in excess of 300 photos in an effort to get all the fish in view at the same time, this was the best of the bunch. There is still one fish not on show but I'll save that update for the next blog posting.
I have always had a hankering to try a non-photosynthetic gorgonian, it's crazy I know because feeding them can be so hard but I think they are incredibly beautiful corals. Apparently out of all the species available Menella sp. is reportedly the easiest to keep however in all my years of running a reef tank I have never seen one for sale in a shop. Then amazingly a tiny frag became available online. I reasoned to myself that surely I could find somewhere to squeeze in something that small and before common sense could prevail an order was placed.
The frag arrived looking great and the polyps were fully extended in the pot, I placed it on a frag rack whilst I pondered where on earth I was going to put it. It really is lovely, delicate yellow polyps extending from a dark red central stalk. I have been offering it a variety of dried and frozen foods not really knowing what it prefers to eat or is indeed the correct size for it to swallow. Out of curiosity I decided to film how it would react when I dumped in a load of live Tigriopus copepods in to the tank. I didn't really expect to see much so I was quite surprised to actually catch some action when played back. The footage is not great having been digitally zoomed in on my phone and then cropped on the computer plus the speed has been slowed down but you can actually see pods being caught and more excitingly being ingested! Keep an eye out for the pod that gets caught on the right hand side of the branch and at the time stamp 1.02 you can see the polyp actually swallowing it! Pretty cool stuff I think.
Time will tell if I can manage to keep this beauty alive long term. Now that it's fixed in place I should be able to track any changes be they good or bad.
I picked up a frag of macro algae from a fellow reefer. In addition to mopping up a small amount of nutrients I'm hoping it will provide a perfect breeding ground for pods, well that's the plan anyway. The algae is Haliptilon sp. and apparently it can be quite invasive so I opted to keep it away from the rock work. I initially had it sitting on the sand in the right corner of the tank but the snails like to sleep there and have barged it out of the way a number of times. It was also near to one of the entrances of the pistol shrimp burrow and one morning I found it had been almost completely covered by sand. Fortunately it appears quite tough but not wanting to take any chances, I have moved it to the middle rear of the tank now. The hermit crabs have investigated it quite thoroughly and so far it has survived the attention mostly intact but it really needs to be attached to a rock to prevent it being knocked over.
Last month I was peering into the back of the tank and spotted an odd looking tentacle waving around. I stared a bit closer and discovered a fully grown Aiptasia anemone happily growing back there, argh!! Where did it come from? How long had it been there?? I have absolutely no idea, lol! I could only find the one which in itself appears to be a minor miracle. It was well hidden behind the sun coral from one side and large bushy gorgonian from the other. It was pure luck that I discovered it at all to be honest
Even though it seemed to minding its own business and not harming anything I decided it needed to be dealt with. Out came the Aiptasia RX and I gave it a good dosing. The next day I realised my mistake, the Plexaurella gorgonian that's sited on the rock below looked really rough. All the polyps had retracted and they stayed retracted. Clearly it must have taken an accidental hit from the Aiptasia treatment. For five days it showed no life whatsoever and then on sixth day a 4cm section of the uppermost branch just melted away exposing the stalk underneath. I feared the worst but on day seven some of the polyps on the lower branches started to extend once more and over the next week it gradually returned to normal. Eighteen days post treatment it looked good as new, the entire section of branch that had stripped had been covered over again. Amazing!
Oh and by the way there's no sign of the Aiptasia (for now).
Just over a month ago I introduced a new shrimp. In the wild Heliofungia are found associated with all manner of fish and crustaceans, it seemed a shame to me that I have a good sized specimen just crying out for a 'friend' to host in amongst its tentacles. After a long search I found a Venus anemone shrimp, Ancylomenes venustus, for sale. These tiny shrimp are naturally found in Heliofungia in the wild so it was the perfect match. After careful acclimation I introduced the shrimp right next to the coral, it jumped right in and hasn't looked back since. Venus de Milo or Milo for short is easy to feed, he's not really fussy about what he eats but currently prefers fish eggs over mysis. The Heliofungia has not skipped a beat since his arrival and doesn't seem at all bothered having to share its food, not that it gets much of a choice, Milo just helps himself to whatever has been caught by the tentacles. As well as being referred to as Venus anemone shrimp or graceful shrimp these little crustaceans have also gained the common name of clapping shrimp and it's easy to see why. Whenever a predator (be it fish or me) approaches Milo starts waving his front claws (chelipeds) back and forth in a manic clapping fashion. It's rather amusing even though it looks like he's going to give himself a heart attack.
I am sad to report that I lost my remaining Nudus goby (Tomiyamichthys nudus) a couple of weeks ago. Hop, along with his mate Skip and Candy the red striped goby, were the first fish to be introduced to this tank. I lost Skip after just 15 months and Candy disappeared after 2 years. I was so hoping that Hop would make it to his 3 year anniversary but he died 2 months short of it. I am assuming that they all passed away due to old age but I don't really know for sure. I wish nano gobies had longer lifespans.
This leaves me with a bit of a dilemma, what should I do about Al the pistol shrimp? He no longer has a partner goby to look after him. I know that he's still alive as I can occasionally hear him clicking and at feeding times I sometime see an antenna or two poke out from one of his burrow entrances but now that he's on his own I doubt that I will see much more of him. I'm tempted to try and find him another goby but this species of pistol shrimp is widely reported to only pair up with Whitecap gobies. Clearly that's not the absolute truth because he paired up with the Nudus gobies (after his original Whitecap partner jumped out of the tank through the mesh lid!). How long can pistol shrimps potentially live for in captivity? Al has been with me for going on 3 years too and who knows how old he was when he was captured, is he still in the prime of his life or coming to the end of it, I just don't know? Something to think about.
Interestingly I've noticed that Jessie has recently taken a keen interest in one of the pistol shrimp's burrow entrances. It hafs been pretty hard to miss this 'interest' because he has spent the last 3 days solidly excavating sand from in front of it. I can only assume that Jessie saw an opportunity to secure some prime real estate either because, without Hop, Al has abandoned that entrance or has been forced to do so by the much bigger goby. Anyway Jessie has been very industrious and the pile of sand is now massive, so much so that he's had to start dropping it more to the left side of the tank, on top of the Scolymia which I can't say I'm exactly thrilled about.
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!