For a while now some of the corals have been losing colour. The worst affected being Acropora #3 (A. formosa?), the one that has been recovering from blistered skin. It's reached a point where some form of action needed to be taken. I had hoped that by introducing some more fish the nutrient levels would increase and the corals would look a bit happier, but even though I'm adding a lot more food to the tank the nitrate and phosphate levels still remain oddly undetectable. I performed as many tests as I could on Friday (with the exception of Iodine) and the results were as follows.
Specific gravity: 1.026
The levels are a touch lower than I'd really like them to be especially alkalinity and Strontium but the Tropic Marin Pro Reef salt mixes up to give an alkalinity level of 6.7dkH and 0-3ppm respectively so if I want those levels to increase I'm going to have to supplement them in my mixing bucket before doing a water change.
I intend to add Reef-Roids to feed the corals more frequently as the filtration system I have in place seems able to cope with the extra loading. Along side that I also decided to alter my lighting schedule. I looked at some of the other LX7 lighting profiles posted on the GHL website and their levels were set lower than mine. Had I been unintentionally frying my corals with too much light I wonder? So now I have reduced the levels and the difference is quite noticeable to my eye, the tank looks a lot darker and quite a lot more bluer! To be honest I really don't like the look but if the corals respond positively then that's what counts. I expect I'll get used to it eventually.
This tank is approaching the 6 month mark (on the 16th April). Wow, where has the time gone to? It's now well and truly in the 'spotty phase', the back glass is covered with spots of coralline algae and spirobid worms. I have scraped it once already and am now in two minds if I should do it again. Does it look natural or does it just make the tank look messy? I can't decide, answers on a postcard please. :o)
I've had to move the Lobophyllia yet again. The Lobo was very happy in its last spot but, darn it, the snails (Mr Conch I'm looking at you particularly!) just kept knocking it over no matter how hard I pushed it in to the sand. So now I've glued the base of the skeleton to the rock work on the right-hand side at the back. It's not great for viewing but at least it won't get damaged there. Fingers crossed that's the last time I have to move it!
Acropora sp. #2 still appears to be red bug free and the PE looks good. Acropora sp. #3 is on the mend I think, to my eye there appear to be less blistering now. It's not completely out of the woods yet but I'm feeling a little more confident about its future. General coral colouration is not great but I'm not too concerned about that at this point.
My mysterious hitchhiking crab has thankfully moved away from the S. hystrix and has set up home in the uppermost right hand rock. I still don't have a decent picture of him to show I'm afraid, he moves like lightning whenever I get close. So far he's not attacked or eaten anything that he shouldn't, I regularly observe him scraping at the rock work with his spoon shaped claws and he does a great job of keeping that area clean of algae and detritus. He has grown considerably and I am probably not helping matters by occasionally feeding him directly. I have tentatively identified him as Chlorodiella nigra which is a member of the Xanthidae crab family. According to my research they are generally fine when smaller but can become troublesome as they grow and their appetite increases. I am investigating removal options just in case.....
Yesterday afternoon I introduced probably my last fishy additions for this tank, they are still settling in at the moment, pictures to follow hopefully later on in the week.
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.
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.
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 with Aiptasia-X 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!
The new corals have been fixed in place and are looking great, I just hope I can keep them looking as good. I had to move the Lobophyllia as Lurch the conch kept barging past it and knocking it over, it's well away from the Acanthastrea now so there'll definitely be no coral warfare between those two.
Also, and try not to laugh too much, but I managed to take a quick video of Gordon the Whitecap goby and Al, his pistol shrimp partner. Al had decided to rework the 'wall' yet again giving me the best chance of capturing them on camera. Unfortunately I had to position the camera downwards to see into the hole so there is some glass distortion and I've never taken a video in my life so there's that, lol! Still you can see that they are alive and doing their thing.
Whitecap goby & Pistol shrimp
Up till now I have avoided ordering corals through the post but this week after seeing one of my 'wishlist' corals available online and checking the shop reviews I decided I should give it a whirl. Boy am I glad that I did, the frags arrived yesterday from Reefworks and they look great, easily as good as those that I have driven to the LFS and picked up myself. The colouration was excellent right out of the bag. The coral that I really wanted was the plating Acropora hyacinthus (red planet), this growth shape really speaks to me of reef. Naturally I couldn't just order one coral so frags of A. gomezi and A. loripes were also added to my basket along with a gorgonian for some movement. I'm not sure that they would necessarily be found together in the wild but my tank is quite static looking at the moment and they apparently can take a blasting in regards to flow so hopefully it should fit in quite nicely with my set up.
I'm pretty much set up for SPS corals now, maybe I could squeeze one more in along with something encrusting perhaps. I am happy to say that the corals that I have all appear to be doing well either basing out or growing at the tips, I expect that I'll need to keep a close eye on the KH levels etc now, the extra corals are bound to suck it up quicker. Now I just need to find that perfect clam...
A new month and a new FTS. Besides a few new corals not that much has changed really. The Stylophora is showing some nice growth, the Lobophyllia and Acanthastrea look good, the zoanthids are, err, surviving. I think that all the nudibranchs have gone now and the remaining heads are opening up once again, I did lose a few of the orange ones that were on top of the rock, they simply melted away. Too much light/too little light/too much flow/too little flow? Who knows?? To be honest I've never really been that successful with zoas, perhaps the water is too clean? I'm considering feeding some coral foods to see if it helps them at all.
Acro #1 looks the same, it was knocked off the rockwork by a naughty hermit crab and when I stuck it back down it was in a slightly different orientation so it's difficult to tell if there has been any growth or not. Acro #2 has shown a tiny bit of growth and the damaged tips on the lower left-hand branches have regrown. I do think that they have lost a little colour though, another reason to try feeding perhaps, plus the nitrates and phosphates are still undetectable which according to current thinking is not ideal for SPS these days.
Since the Pink Streaked wrasse was added the Nudus gobies and Red Striped goby have moved to the front right of the tank. I get to see a lot more of them now which is really great. The tank has settled down nicely again. I need to relocate the Lobophyllia as Lurch the conch keeps knocking it to the left in his quest to clean the lower rocks. I am also thinking of adding a plating coral to the rock that sits above the pistol shrimp and Whitecap's home (I've seen them again today btw, two days on the trot I think that's a record, lol!) in order to give the entrance to the burrow a bit of shade, I think that will help them to feel more comfortable and hopefully they will become more visible. At the moment the lighting is really too bright for them.
I've been trying to get some shots of the Possum and Pink Streaked wrasse but it's proving difficult as they don't sit still like the gobies do. I will keep trying. Oh and last but not least Crystal the Bruun's cleaner shrimp shed her exoskeleton again last night so she seems fine too.
It's all gone quiet on the pistol shrimp and Whitecap goby front, no positive sightings since Wednesday the 25th and no new burrow holes have appeared in the sand either. Still apart from their absence the tank looks to be doing OK. Parameters are within normal ranges and the corals that I have look fine, time for some new additions methinks.
I still really want to add an Acropora colony with a commensal crab hidden in amongst the branches but all the colonies I have seen have really large bases which would be difficult to find places for on my rockwork. I could cut them down I suppose but it would be hard to do without damaging the coral, not to mention freaking out the crab, so I decided yet again to stick to small frags only. Unfortunately the tank is going to look pretty empty for ages whilst they grow out and I will have to make sure that I stay strong and don't get tempted to fill in the empty gaps with extra corals. So anyway on Saturday I chose a beautiful green frag of Acropora formosa (I think) and a frag of Seriatopora hystrix. Additionally I perhaps rather foolishly decided to purchase another fish, one that will hopefully be on display (eventually) for a bit more time than my current fish stock. I settled on a small Pink-Streaked wrasse who I was assured by the LFS was not just a pretty fish but also functional predator of the troublesome red bugs etc. I don't have any of those in my tank at the moment....but you never know.
Needless to say the tank is now in fishy turmoil again. The Nudus gobies have moved out of their new (version 2) home and even Candy the Red Striped goby has changed her usual perching spot. Sigh! Interestingly Edna the Possum wrasse doesn't see bothered at all and seems to be ignoring the new fish. Who knows what the Whitecap is thinking imprisoned under the rockwork (alive I hope!). I must point out though that the Pink Streaked wrasse does not appear to be aggressive at all to any of the resident fish, she has spent all of today cowering in the right-hand back corner of the tank.
I think that's it for new fish additions for a while, the current occupants need to settle down and chill out a bit.
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!