Day 4: The Beast is getting bigger, I may have to break off the rock it's attached to at this rate. Of all the Aiptasia I have been keeping an eye on none have been touched yet. The egg spirals laid on the small piece of rock have vanished so something probably ate them over night, I'm feeling pretty gutted about that.
Day 5: No change in Aiptasia but I can confirm that one of the nudibranchs is still alive, how do I know this? Well, I discovered one sitting on the silicone bead at top left corner of the tank first thing in the morning. Err, no there aren't any anemones to eat up there!
The nudibranch stayed there all day along, at least it didn't get eaten.
Day 6: No change and the Berghia is still in the same spot on the silicone, is it on hunger strike?
I moved the small rock a little so that I could take a photo of some odd looking polyps that seem to have sprung up from nowhere (more on this later) but as I did that I discovered some more eggs spirals had been laid inside a hole. Hopefully these will be more protected from predation unless mini brittlestars have a taste for nudibranch eggs in which case they will be toast.
Day 7 (today): The Berghia has vanished from the silicone, hopefully it's gone in search of a snack. No visible change in Aiptasia, well they did say it could take a while...
Day 8: Nothing new to report. I can't see if the egg spirals are still intact or not. I just wish that one tiny Aiptasia would vanish offering me at least some hope for the future control. Oh well I guess need to be patient a little longer.
Despite my very best efforts, Aiptasia anemones have taken a hold in my tank. I tried killing any that I discovered with Red Sea Aiptasia-X but more often than not they just bounced back. I moved on to NT Labs Anti-Aiptasia, that proved equally useless. Some would say that the problem lies with me but no matter how carefully/stealthily I approached the anemones to apply the killing solution they would hunker down and reappear a couple of days later. I also tried covering them with putty but no matter how carefully and forcefully I squished the putty down around the Aiptasia they would manage to find a way around it. As things stand I have one rather large Aiptasia (aka The Beast; it looks massive to me) and more than a fair few tiny ones. In fact the more I look with a magnifying glass, the more I find. So basically I've come to the conclusion that they are everywhere and if I don't do something soon it's going to get a lot, lot worse. It's time to get serious about this.
Plan A: Berghia nudibranch. These tiny sea slugs eat Aiptasia and only Aiptasia so are guaranteed to do the job if they survive long enough. The recommended number to add is 1 Berghia per 50l of water with a minimum of 3. My system is approximately 380l so I would need 8. Also there is a risk that wrasse might try and eat them even though they taste bad so it's also recommended to add an extra one in case one gets sampled. Now I have 3 wrasse, I can't imagine that the Pink Striped or Possum wrasse would eat them but the Yellow wrasse certainly might. I opted to order 10 to cover all bases.
The little guys were delivered on Tuesday 19th January from Berghiaonline, they were packed in a box with a heat pack which was still toasty on arrival and they all looked to be in good condition. Somehow I expected them to be bigger but in reality they are quite small.
I took extra care with acclimation because firstly, I wanted to maximise my chances of them surviving and secondly, I wanted to wait till the Yellow wrasse went to bed before introducing them. When transferring them from the pot to tank it's important not to scrape them off as this can damage them, instead it's recommended to use a pipette to dislodge them before sucking them up and depositing them in the tank. However the best and easiest way of adding them is to just place the whole pot in the tank and let them move out when they're ready. Naturally I chose the easiest and safest option, these babies are precious there was no way I was going to risk death by pipette. If I could have, I would have placed the pot with the open end right next to The Beast, lol. Come and get it guys, dinner is served! However that proved impossible to do so I had to make do with placing the pot on the sand and leaning it against the bottom of the rockwork. I was concerned that the pot would become dislodged overnight by a hermit or snail and end up rolling around the tank in the flow so I had the brainwave to weigh it down with a small rock and I had the perfect rock in mind. It came equipped with at least 3 tiny Aiptasia snacks, so if they felt peckish before moving out they could have one for the road so to speak.
Day 1: I rushed down to see if The Beast was gone but darn it! It was still alive and healthy. As far as I could ascertain all the Berghia were still mooching about in the pot. As the lights became brighter the nudibranchs took refuge in small holes in the rock or hid underneath it. OK, out of prying eyes of hungry wrasse at least. Disappointingly the tiny Aiptasia growing on the rock in the pot appeared untouched. To my very great surprise during the course of the day one of the Berghia laid a spiral of eggs on the small rock,
I have to say I was pretty chuffed with this, more recruits for my Aiptasia munching army assuming they managed to survive to hatching.
Day 2: The Beast still remains untouched. The pot appeared devoid of nudibranchs but they could be out of view in or under the rock. I opted to leave the pot where it was for a little while longer mainly to protect the newly laid eggs. I feared that my hermit crabs might find them an irresistible snack given the chance. By the afternoon however a hermit had managed to find its way into the pot and had no way of escaping. It was unconcernedly picking 'food' off the small rock. This forced me to take action, I removed the pot, liberated the hermit crab and placed the small rock on the sand next to the rockwork. As I was placing the rock I discovered the nudibranchs had laid another two spirals of eggs (on the opposite side of the rock to the first batch). Pretty cool huh! I hope that they don't all get eaten now that they are exposed to fish/crabs etc.
Day 3: The Beast is thriving dammit! In fact I don't see that any Aiptasia have been touched even some really tiny ones, that's not to say some haven't, just none that I can tell. There's no sign of any Berghia, hopefully sitting tight, hidden in the rockwork and building up an appetite. The eggs have survived the first night in the tank, maybe they are not very appetising to hermit crabs? Fingers crossed.
That's it for now, I hope and pray that these little nudibranchs do the trick and rid my tank of Aiptasia. Time will tell I guess. If they don't make it then I'll have to move on to plan B....
One of the recently added Trochus snails has sprouted a lush growth of Ulva on his shell. From what I've read this algae seems to be doing the rounds at the moment and since I don't keep any big herbivorous fish, or indeed intend to, it could become a headache for me if/when it spreads. Also I've noticed the appearance of a few patches of what I believe to be green cyanobacteria on the rockwork. I'm hoping this doesn't get any worse. Lastly I discovered another tiny Aiptasia in the tank. . It was growing on the tube of my Coco worm, either it came in with the worm or it has settled onto the tube whilst it's been in my tank, I kind of hope it's the former and not the latter. Where there's one there's probably many more waiting to be discovered. Oh joy!
Now for some possibly good news, the Coco worm, Protula bispiralis 'seems' to be doing quite well so far. I'm basing this off of the fact that it's extended it's calcareous tube quite a bit over the last month. If it can lay down some new tube then it must be getting enough to eat, right? When I came to treat the aforementioned Aiptasia with Aiptasia-X, I tried to make it go in first by poking it but despite literally brushing the feathery head three or four times with a pipette it refused to retract. I went ahead and treated the Aiptasia anyway and it stayed out during the entire procedure. I was somewhat concerned by this lack of responsiveness but I just watched a hermit crab crawl over the worm today and it retracted quick as a flash so I guess it simply wasn't bothered enough by me.
Here's a few crappy zoomed in iPhone pics showing the tube growth. The first shot was taken on the 3rd June and the second was taken this morning, 4th July, just over a month later.
Also I made an exciting discovery whilst performing a water change. I was pumping fresh saltwater into the sump when I noticed some unusual ‘blobs’ moving around down there. On closer inspection I discovered they were baby Trochus snails. How cool is that! OK, I know it’s nothing unusual for snails to spawn in reef tanks but this is the first time I have actually had them settle out and grow into proper baby snails in my tank. So far I have counted 4 of the little chaps but I'm sure there will be more hidden away.
Here’s one of the wee chaps cleaning the base of the skimmer. He’d better not make his way into the pump.....
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.
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).
The continuing saga of the pesky tiny Aiptasia.
I noticed the first tiny polyp growing out of the sand in the front left-hand side of the tank on the 22nd January, I immediatly siphoned it out with a pipette connected to some airline. Then on 5th March, two more appeared in the same area. They were promptly removed in the same manner. Unbelievably on the 10th March, yet another one appeared in the sand, what the?! Am I just removing the heads and they grow back from the base? Clearly siphoning them out was not working so this time I decided to nuke the little guy with some Aiptasia-X. Was that the end of it? Err no! A couple of days ago another one popped up in the same area. Arrrgggh! This time I took a scoop and removed the polyp and all the surrounding sand too. Only time will tell if I've beaten them this time, the strange thing is that they haven't appeared anywhere else in the tank... yet!
Here it is in a glass cup, so I definitely removed something!
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!
Not a great day in Lisa's Reef today. I discovered that my new clam not only has a second tiny Aiptasia attached to it's shell (I noticed and removed the first larger one before the clam was even placed into the tank) but is ALSO infested with Pyramid snails. Noooo! These tiny snails are no bigger than a grain of rice are parasitic, they suck out the body fluid of the clam (and sometimes also other snails depending on the species), they can quite easily weaken and kill the clam given enough time and numbers. Operation Pyramid removal will commence 1hr after lights out today.
As expected, the hole had not reappeared at the front when I got up on Saturday morning, however some other serious sand moving had taken place overnight. I guess the T. nudus gobies will not be moving back into their cave anytime soon because it no longer exists, it’s been totally filled in with sand. I now refer to it as the wall and not the cave. I may not be able to actually see the pistol shrimp much but it’s certainly making it’s presence known within the tank.
When it came to the first feed of the day to my very great surprise as soon as food hit the water a crater appeared in the sand just in front of the wall and a claw popped out, how very, very convenient! I was able to drop a piece of mysis right into the hole whereupon it quickly vanished. I dropped another piece in hoping to catch a quick glimpse of the Whitecap but sadly I did not. The view is not the best as you have to peer at an angle down through the glass again and the burrow vanishes under the rocks but still I’ll take that. I hope he stays put and works on it some more. I am hoping to be treated to views of the goby hovering at the lip of the burrow with the pistol in constant contact with his antennae hard at work shovelling sand. Ha, we’ll see! Sadly at the moment the hole does not remain open very long, the movement of the conch and other members of the clean up crew fill it in very quickly.
I managed to get brief glimpses of the shrimp at later feeding times but nothing of the Whitecap. This morning the same thing happened at feeding time, the ‘sinkhole’ reopened and a claw appeared at the bottom, but where is the fish?! I need to see the fish too just for my peace of mind, I hope he’s still OK in there.
Right, on to other reefing matters. I decided to whip out the algae magnet this morning and give the glass a much needed clean, I’ve only done it once since the pistol and goby pair were introduced in the hopes of allowing them time to settle. Anyway a layer of algae had built up allowing the copepods to flourish. There were literally hundreds of them! I actually felt bad squishing them with the algae magnet. Edna clearly needs some help eating them. Anyway it was at that time when I was taking extra care not to pick up any grains of sand and scratch the glass when I something new caught my eye. An Aiptasia!! Sitting there brazenly ‘growing’ out the the sand bed. Where on earth had that suddenly come from?! OK, I’ve only added two sets of corals, the first coral came with zoanthid munching nudibranchs, now the second with Aiptasia. I can’t wait to see what’s going to arrive with the next lot, planaria or a Eunice worm perhaps?? Now that's something to look forward to, rofl!
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!