I purchased a frag of Red Planet Acro (Acropora hyacinthus) in February 2017. Over the last four years it has survived red bugs, plodded along when Utter Chaos zoanthids grew all over its lower half and endured being hacked up and moved to another new tank. However the last 6 months have been its biggest test so far.
To recap, I transferred a segment of the coral over to the new tank on the 17th April 2020. Over the following couple of months it lost some colour but, all things considered, it seemed to be doing OK.
However 7 weeks after that it had browned out even more.
Then, ever so slowly things got even worse. It stopped growing altogether and kind of just hung on looking rather sad. Alkalinity and calcium uptake slowed down so that I kept having to reduce the amount the doser added. My other Acro (A. gomezi) oddly seemed to be OK with the conditions, it had great polyp extension, reasonable colouration and even a little growth. I began working through my list of possible tank issues. Cobalt poisoning? I kept up with the weekly water changes. Chemical warfare from the large gorgonian growing just to the left of it (do gorgonian release toxins in the same way leather corals do? I don't know). I regularly changed the activated carbon just in case. Not enough flow? I tried turning up the pumps but it made no difference (and upset the clam in the process). Not enough nutrients? This was certainly possible, to begin with they were on the low side especially the phosphate level (or so I am led to believe these days). I was dosing both anyway to combat the Amphidinium on the sand. In July the nitrate level hovered at around 1-2ppm and the phosphate bounced somewhere between 0 and 0.021ppm (depending on which days results you chose to look at). By December I'd managed to raise the nitrate to 5ppm and kept it steady at that level. I stopped dosing phosphate when it reached 0.06ppm but even so at the level kept gradually increasing, and as we all know high phosphate is bad for SPS corals so I started running Rowaphos to keep it in check (PO4 level peaked at 0.15 in mid December) *sigh*. I had been feeding a lot of food all through this, Oh and I also tried dosing with Red Sea AB+ for a short while to see if it made any difference. It didn't.
By the beginning of December the Red Planet had started to recede at the base and had lost some flesh on the underside of the branches. I didn't take any photos because it looked so awful and I honestly felt sure it was going to completely strip at any minute. I did however, find one photo taken in December where part of it featured quite well. I was trying to photograph the ghost cardinals at the time and totally failing, lol. You can see how brown the Acro looks with almost no polyp extension and some parts underneath where flesh has gone. A sorry sight indeed.
Literally the same day as the above photo was taken I noticed a hint of green at the base of the coral. Maybe all was not lost. Fast forward to today, a month later and it's totally transformed. The rate by which the Acro 'greened' up again and regrew the dead areas has been nothing short of miraculous. Polyp extension is back and it's even started to take on a pink tinge again. There's life in this (Red) Planet after all!
What caused this minor miracle? Well I can't say for sure. It could be that the TMC rock has finally stopped leeching cobalt, I need to send off another ICP test before I know that. I started adding Korrallen Zucht Sponge Power on 5th December but I can't imagine that helped the Acro at all. On the same day I also added 1.2kg Tropic Marin Reef Mud Vital to the refugium. I had some left over from my previous tank so I thought what have I got to lose? As it happens the refugium started growing Ostropsis dinoflagellates so I have could have lost a lot (including my sanity) but fortunately balance was restored again and the Dinos faded away after a few weeks of giving me sleepless nights. It is entirely plausible that the mud has added some essential nutrients that the tank and Acro had been missing. Something that can not be measured via and ICP perhaps. I can't think of a better explanation right now unless the coral suddenly decided to get busy live rather than get busy dying...
I let the tank and myself have a breather for a week following 'clamgate'. Clive the clam appears to be fine after the incident and I'm pleased to report that nothing succumbed to an excess of clam ‘protein'. Then I transferred over my two remaining Acropora (gomezi and hyacinthus). I'd been putting off moving these because as we all know SPS can be tricky in new systems but it had to be done and if they didn't make it that'll be that. The A. gomezi was super easy because it's a tiny frag on a frag plug but the A. hyacinthus had grown rather large. I tried my best to frag it off the rock in one complete piece but, yeah that didn't happen. It broke into three, I was going to keep the two largest but in the end I opted to add a single bit only (easier to fix down). Those who followed my old thread may remember that the Reefer 170 had an issue with red bugs. I hadn't seen any of the little red devils for ages but that doesn’t mean that they were all gone, I can only hope. I dipped both frags in Reef Primer and checked them quite thoroughly before they were transferred.
Now we get to the big one. On the 26th April I decided to complete the tank transfer and shut the Reefer down. Prior to this I made one last concerted effort to catch Rei the yellow wrasse and Spike firefish but Rei would only poke his head briefly into the trap and Spike avoided it entirely so it was simply a no go. We did try catching the Spike using nets and acrylic baffles, much chaos ensued with the tiny fish outwitting us every time.
The strip down progressed pretty much as planned with no disasters to speak of, I found it quite stressful nonetheless. We emptied out the water and rocks in stages. The corals that I wanted to keep were cut off and placed in one bucket with the remaining rocks/corals going into another. Spike the firefish was cornered with a net and safely removed. Ming the Pom pom crab was discovered clinging to the underside of a rock. Finally we were left with a tank containing a little water, one last piece of rock and sand. With my breath held, the rock was lifted out revealing Al the pistol shrimp and Flash his Whitecap goby partner hiding underneath. Phew! A careful bit of sand exploration was required to flush out Rei the yellow wrasse. Swipes the porcelain crab was MIA at that point so we had to carefully go back and examine every bit of rock again placing them one by one back into the Reefer as we went. Finally we discovered her hidden in a hole in one of the base rocks. That was pretty much it except for one last thing of note, I discovered a rather scary number of Aiptasia living in the overflow weir along with half a dozen baby sun corals.
Following the transfer Rei the yellow wrasse hid in the sand for a whole 10 days before finally deciding to make an appearance. I honestly thought he’d died from stress or something. Everything else made it through OK which I’m relieved about. The fish were naturally pretty freaked out however so I didn’t take any photos for ages.
The Acros are still alive and growing but have lost colour which is probably down to the poor nutrient situation. There have been a number of reports circulating recently that TMC eco reef rock leaches phosphate and silicates but apart from a brief spike of phosphate during the cycle that hasn’t been my experience at all. Nitrate and phosphate have been consistently registering as zero on my test kits (Salifert and Hanna respectively). In the old days this wouldn’t have bothered me much but the internet has taught me to fear the dreaded D word. For a while I saw a little growth of what looked like some brown algae on the rocks but when viewed along the length of the tank with natural lighting behind was in fact green hair algae. There must have been some nutrients knocking about somewhere to fuel the growth. This algae started to become a little more pronounced so I decided the CUC needed a tiny boost. Two weeks and 6 small Trochus snails later most of this algae was gone, I felt quite pleased with myself. However the removal of the hair algae shifted the balance somehow and combined with a lack of nutrients I began to see the appearance of dinoflagellates on some of my gorgonians. Normally I would take a watch and wait approach but it’s hard not be affected by some of the algae horror stories I have read online. I dusted off the microscope and identified the species as Ostreopsis, fearing a full blown infestation along with the death of my beloved snails I decided action was required in the form of nitrate dosing. I had already been feeding quite heavily to that point including Reef roids and phytoplankton but it didn’t seem to have made any measurable difference. It felt wrong to be actually dosing nitrate! I began with a laughably tiny amount (0.5ml of Brightwell’s NeoNitro per day, 12.6ml will raise my tank volume by 1ppm so 0.5ml was nothing lol). After 6 weeks I gradually increased the dose to 4ml per day, during this time the dino growth increased slightly, mainly evident on the gorgonians, but never turned into the major disaster I feared. The gorgonians still had their polyps extended and the snails seemed fine too. I continued my weekly water change regimen using the opportunity to siphon as much of the dinos as possible every time (not recommended I know but I like to perform water changes).
When the tank was 4 months old I sent off the first ICP sample. I discovered elevated levels of Cobalt and Aluminium. I have no idea where they have come from, leeching from the rock maybe? The nitrate level was 0.02mg/l, phosphate was 0.03mg/l and silicate was 66ug/l. Iodine was a bit low as expected (and some other elements low as per usual).
Finally after 7 weeks of dosing nitrate I started to register 1ppm on the Salifert kit, incredibly the dinos started to recede! This might have been a coincidence of course and nothing at all to do with the nitrate level but either way I am happy.
I am curious to know why I’m not registering a release of phosphate and/or silicate from the TMC eco reef rock. Perhaps the corals are soaking up the nutrients as they are released, the gorgonians are growing very fast. Or maybe the rock is hatching a plan to trip me up later on down the road.
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.
It occurred to me after my last update regarding the continuing red bug issue that there was one pest I hadn't actually seen in the tank for a while and that was pyramid snails. For months and months I religiously siphoned out as many of the tiny parasitic snails that I could find, I literally removed hundreds of them without any obvious dent in their population. Naturally this got old very fast and as the months went by and my hardworking clean-up crew (Trochus & Turbo snails etc) and clam looked fine I became less vigilant. I would still remove any that I saw attached to the snails but I no longer actively seeked them out. Today though I've searched the tank most thoroughly with a magnifying glass and cannot find any evidence of a single pyramid snail. That's not to say that they aren't still present in the tank but considering how many there were at one point I take it to be a positive sign. Perhaps one of the fish has finally found a taste for them, the most obvious candidate being the Yellow wrasse but I have never seen her (now him) show any interest in eating them even when faced with one crawling up the glass in front of her face.
So that's the step forward, now for the backward step. Since the demise of some of my Acropora I have been faced with the issue of what to do with their dead skeletons. I fragged off as much as I could but that still left a goodly amount of encrusted base on the rocks. Sadly these have now become a magnet for hair algae. Normally the snails would have made short work of this algae before it had chance to establish but they find it quite hard to navigate their way round the rockwork these days due to the fact that there are lots of other corals in the way, in fact I hardly ever see the Trochus/Turbo/Ceriths on the rocks at all now, they just spend all their time cruising round the glass. Since this algae is growing ever longer by the day and starting to spread I need to formulate a battle plan asap.
That's it for now I'll sign off with an updated video for your viewing pleasure.
First the not so good news, I think it's time to hold my hands up and admit defeat when it comes to growing Acropora in this tank. As soon I discovered the first red bug I feared the worst and that certainly appears to have been the case. I had hoped that the corals would be able to survive the parasitisation and for a while they did, growth was slow but steady and colouration looked OK but that's certainly not the case now.
To recap, patient zero (the frag that initially infected the tank) was removed leaving a small amount of encrusted base in the tank, it looked like was going to recover and regrow but progress was so slow that the neighbouring Montipora (Superman) completely overgrew it. The second casualty was the Purple-tipped Acro, this suffered from STN (slow tissue necrosis) and had to be fragged. The remaining frags encrusted onto the rockwork but again showed little upward growth and were in time also overgrown by the Superman Montipora. A tiny bit of encrusted base still remains but I fully expect it to fade away or be overgrown eventually. The A. loripes suffered from RTN (rapid tissue necrosis) whilst I was on holiday and the Red Dragon joined it shortly after. The A. echinata frag also suffered from STN and was fragged but the stress of it being chopped up caused the remaining branch to strip overnight. So this leaves me with Acro #1 which has browned out and is soon going be completely overshadowed by the green plating Montipora (I never actually wanted any plating Montipora in this tank but this was a freebie coral that came in along with an order of encrusting forms and I, like an idiot, assumed it was encrusting one too, duh!). I also still have Acro #3 which is struggling for space next to the large gorgonian and A. gomezi. At first glance the A. gomezi looks OK but is actually covered with red bugs and has put in no upwards growth since its introduction almost 18 months ago!! There is one Acro however which appears unaffected by the Red bugs and that is the A. hyacinthus (aka Red Planet), this has grown relatively well and in fact has to be fragged because it keeps growing too close to the front glass. I cannot find any trace of red bugs on this coral. So there you go, it's no more Acropora for me, perhaps I'll be able to restock one day when the remaining Acros have gone and the red bugs have died out without a coral on which to host.
In case there was something going on with the water quality that I wasn't aware of, I did send off for an ICP analysis but nothing stood out as being particularly troublesome. Strontium, Barium and Manganese were on the low side. Nitrate and phosphate were 3.02mg/l and 0.09mg/l respectively which is the highest they have been but not excessively high, I think (maybe someone may correct me?). Still, I have decided to run a little Rowaphos to bring the phosphate level down a touch. Full results can be seen via the link below.
Now for the better news the rest of the livestock for the most part appears to be doing fine. The Stylophora, Montipora and Seriatopora are all growing great (a bit too great actually). The lovely beach bum Montipora is thankfully still with me and finally showing signs of growth too. Unfortunately it's becoming harder and harder to see with the ever increasing Stylophora situated to the left of it and monster green plating Montipora to the front. Very poor planning on my part! I can just about catch a glimpse of it from the top but I suspect that won't last long. I would really love to move it to somewhere viewable but I doubt that I could get it off the rock even if I had somewhere to move it to which I certainly don't.
The Superman Montipora has completely filled in the space I gave it and is also growing up the side of the Crocea clam shell. I'm not sure if I should be worried about this development or not. I hope it doesn't impede the opening and closing of the clam.
I had to remove the original frag of the Cyphastrea as the Favia next door was remorselessly attacking it every night and anyway I never liked the look of the horrible frag plug. Since its removal the remaining encrusted part has been doing much better, it's still very close to the Favia but seems to have fallen under the radar for the time being. As for the Lobophyllia I had always been led to believe that they are super aggressive corals but the Utter Chaos zoanthids are creeping ever closer without any form of retaliation at all. I had rather hoped that it would keep them in their place.
Sadly the Sunrise Goniopora frag is not doing very well at all. To begin with, it looked great and was encrusting on to the rock it was placed but then it started to lose colour and not extend as much. I tried moving it to the back of the tank where it was less bright but that didn't seem to make a difference. I can only assume that it hasn't been finding enough food, I do target feed it Reef Roids and Goniopower but generally not more than once a week. I am ever conscious of the size of the tank and nutrient levels.
Here are a few recent photos:
Now on to the new stuff!
With the loss of a few of the SPS corals I was needing a pick me up and a new coral (or two as it happens) does the job. For ages I had fancied adding a short tentacled Fungia to the tank and since we had a trip to London planned a couple of weeks ago, a visit to Advanced Aquarium Consultancy was in order. I couldn't believe my luck when I found out the night before that they were having a sale on some of their corals. I thought "fantastic", I can save some money for a change, lol! However instead of saving money I spent more as I ended up buying a Scolymia instead of a Fungia. Oops! It's funny how that happens when shopping for corals. Needless to say I could have spent more, waaayy more, thank goodness I live too far away for AAC to be my LFS.
Apparently it's a Reverse Bleeding Apple Scoly (more red colouration than green) and here it is after 4 days. I've been watching it like a hawk, worrying about its health because frankly it's the most I've ever paid for a coral even with 20% off. Oh but it's so pretty.
I had to remove 4 Asterina sp. starfish from the base of the coral after acclimation, I felt bad about killing them but really, I have enough pest issues to deal with as it is. It's a shame because close up they are quite nice to look at and I love starfish but I can't take the chance that they may become a nuisance. Although it would be cool to have a Harlequin shrimp...
Here is the Scoly in night feeding mode.
Just after the addition of the Scolymia I discovered an online seller was offering frags of Dendrophyllia sp. Now I really love sun corals (well, non-photosynthetic corals in general) and my current Tubastrea is doing great so I convinced myself that I could squeeze in an itty bitty frag of a Dendro too. The coral was listed as yellow/red in colour with the polyps opening up in the day time as well as the night. However as you can see the coral is a uniform lemon yellow in colour with not a hint of red at all (unlike the one shown on the website). No matter though it looks healthy and really rather lovely, it opened up much faster than I expected and is taking in food already which is excellent. I can confirm in my vast experience of one week that it does indeed stay open during the day. I'm not convinced that it's a Dendrophyllia sp. however, it could alternatively be a branching Tubastrea sp. Only an examination of the skeleton will determine that for sure and since I'd really rather it didn't die I'll be content without a positive ID.
Here's a full tank shot to end this update.
Firstly another equipment change to report. I finally decided to change out the Beamswork EVO refugium light for a Kessil H80 Tuna flora. I had been considering replacing it for quite a while now, not because I was unhappy with the light but because the metal stand was rusting in all four corners where it sits on the top of the refugium. I'm not sure if this has caused any metal contamination in the tank yet or not but I wasn't happy with the situation so it had to go. The reason I opted for the Kessil is because it's pretty much the only light that I could find small enough to fit over the refugium, everything else was either too big/long and would have caused a huge light overspill issue or excess heat in the small sump area. To combat at least some of the light spill produced by the H80 I have added a small piece of black acrylic sheet between it and rest of the sump. The red light is something that does take a bit of getting used to but if the macro algae grows well under it then I'm happy, time will tell.
Now for a Fauna Marin Skimbreeze update. The FM media lasted two and a half weeks before needing to be replaced, about the same amount of time as the most recent ATI 1l disposable unit. I'm not that keen on the design of this reactor itself as air is preferentially pulled from the side the outlet tube sits (as can be seen in the photo below). So when changing out the reactor some media is still unused. I think I will try rotating the cylinder next time to see if I can reduce the problem. To refill the reactor I used the Spherasorb media, it looks exactly the same as the FM stuff but costs a lot less.
As for the livestock well everything is ticking along. Acropora growth is slow to nonexistent thanks to the red bugs but at least they are not dying. The exception to this is the A. hyacinthus which seems fine (with a rather odd growth shape it must be said), I've accidentally fragged it with the algae magnet a couple of times now because it's growing too close to the front glass.
The Utter chaos zoanthids are becoming annoying as they keep detaching and floating around the tank ending up in spots where I don't want them in or sucked on to the powerheads. Since I don't have anywhere to place frags (and hate the look of frag racks in the DT) I've chucked the loose ones I've found so far.
The sun coral is still releasing planulae and I keep finding baby polyps popping all over the tank. The more I look the more I can spot, they've even settled out on the clam shell. The larvae are fascinating to watch, tiny orange tear shaped blobs that wiggle around the tank until they find somewhere to settle out. It's very cool!
As for the Balanophyllia now living down in the sump, I can't decide if it's doing better or worse. There is one thing though, I happened to knock it over whilst trying to feed it and when I set it straight again I noticed it has some tentacles poking out the back, my initial response was Oh ****! Aiptasia!! But on closer inspection it actually looks like a baby Balano bud. I'm not sure if this a good sign or a bad one? Is it failing so badly that it's sending out buds as a last ditch attempt to survive?? I surely hope not.
I'll sign off with a few photos.
And finally a FTS..
I first noticed that Acropora #4 was suffering from slow tissue necrosis (STN) in July '17. It was receding at the underside of the base but, as the top half looked good and was growing, I chose to ignore it in the hopes that it would eventually stop. Sadly it did not and in fact continued to the point where I had no other option other than fragging the coral. Since the branches were still short and stubby this proved somewhat tricky tricky to do. In the end I was left with just three tiny branch tips. The lesson learned here is that it's never a good idea to stick your head in the sand and ignore a coral issue (especially for 6 long months *cough*). I do not really know what caused the STN in the first place but the base was fixed into a recess in the rock so perhaps it was down to poor flow?
Talking of encrusted bases, remember Acropora (#2), the one that I tried to remove in June '17 after discovering that red bugs were still present on it? Well, the base is still ticking along nicely, growth upwards is slow but there is at least some growth oh and and it's started fighting with the Montipora sp. to the left of it.
On a happier note I'm discovering more and more sun coral larvae dotted about the tank. I expect most will not survive as they have settled quite close to other corals (there's not much real estate left these days) and will probably be quickly overgrown. This is probably a good thing else in the future I will have to spend all my free time feeding them.
Here's another shot of the Heliofungia from the other side taken during a water change, the only time the top lifts up enough to view the baby buds growing underneath.
Finally I'll sign off with a few other random shots, including a (now) rare view of Skip the Nudus goby.
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.
The Montipora, despite my best efforts to kill these frags, have all survived and are showing signs of growth. :o)
As for Acropora #2, there are no signs of any remaining red bugs (yet!), the remaining piece of encrusted coral looks like it may well survive to fight another day. The polyps are out at least, indestructible or what! I don't know what I will do if the bugs reappear, there are not many options left to me now other than just living with them or trying a pipefish for biological control.
Acropora #3 continues to make a slow recovery from the blistering issue.
The Plexaurella gorgonian has made an amazing recovery since it was moved to a different location. The damaged areas of branches have grown over already and it's pretty much back to its previous fluffy splendour.
I'd like to say that everything is on the up but just as one set of problems looks to be solved another rears its head. I've noticed that the Red Tuxedo zoas have not been expanding as they used to and some actually appear to be shrinking. Nudibranchs I wonder? Sigh, there's always something I find to worry about, lol!
Anyway today I got my camera out and snapped some top down coral shots. I really want to get some new photos of the the fish, especially the wrasse but they are so very camera shy.
A coral update, first up Acropora sp. #3. In April I thought this coral was beyond hope, it was bleached and areas of the frag were dead. Then the lighting schedule was altered and things began to slowly improve. The lovely green colour returned but algae took a hold on the dead skeleton. Now, in June, the Acro is as green as ever and the flesh is regrowing over the bare skeleton. An amazing recovery which highlights just how resilient these corals can be given the correct conditions.
Moving on to Acropora sp. #2, not such good news here I'm afraid. At the beginning of March I discovered that this coral was infested with red bugs, Tegastes acroporanus. I made the decision to try rid the coral of this pest by dipping it in Polyp Lab's Reef Primer, the only treatment I had in house at the time. The dip did work, killing the bugs and the Acro appeared to be pest free for weeks following with good PE. However, recently I've noticed that the coral had stopped growing and the polyps were absent again, Sure enough on close investigation the coral was covered with red bugs once more. Obviously some of the red bugs survived the first dip or remained in the tank jumping back on the coral after it was reintroduced. So, what to do now? In the intervening months the coral has encrusted at the base so removal was not a simple option. I can't deny that I wished that I'd just chucked the coral the first moment I discovered the little blighters thus (maybe) solving the problem straight away. After taking a big breath I deliberated the problem for a few days, revisiting the idea of dipping the Acro again and also the option of biological control. If I thought that adding a Dragonfaced pipefish was a sure fire fix and my tank could have supported one I would have been setting up some copepod cultures straight away in preparation and given one or more a try but it's such hit and miss affair. Some individuals eat them and some ignore them and I cannot in all conscience add a fish that might not thrive just to fix a problem of my own making. I should have QT'd the coral or least dipped it before adding, sigh! Never trust an LFS for a healthy pest free frag! In the end I opted for removing the coral as much as I could before a water change and scrubbing the remaining encrusted base whilst siphoning the water at the same time. Either the encrusted base survives without the bugs which is a perfect result or the encrusted base dies but I'm red bug free which is acceptable or worst case scenario the red bugs are present on another coral in which case I have destroyed a perfectly viable frag for nothing. Stay tuned for updates if you dare.
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!