A few weeks ago I decided to take action against the hair algae growing on the skeletons of my recently deceased Acros. I armed myself with a toothbrush and tried scrubbing the affected areas, at the same time I performed a water change enabling me to siphon out the algae as soon it was liberated. It didn't take long for me to realise that this just wasn't going to work very well. It was almost impossible to reach some of the areas without running the risk of damaging the surrounding corals and even in the areas I could reach I was unable clear it all off. Worst of all during the process, thanks to my clumsiness, I snapped off the branch tips of several corals. So no more scrubbing for me!
Instead I decided to embrace the hair algae rather than hate it. For years I've wanted to try keeping a Rainford's goby (aka Court Jester goby, Koumansetta rainfordi) but never had the courage to try one because of their reputed difficulty in accepting prepared foods plus need for filamentous algae in their diet. As luck would have it I came across one of these little fish during a visit to a local fish shop, I observed it for a while whilst running through my Rainford's goby purchasing check list.
1. A healthy looking specimen (sleek looking without a concave tummy). ✓
2. Eating prepared foods (I watched it tuck into frozen mysis). ✓
3. Mature aquarium to introduce it to (the tank is 22+ months old now). ✓
4. Filamentous algae present on which it can browse (yes indeed!). ✓
5. No super aggressive tank mates such as dottybacks or hawkfishes to harass it. ✓
My biggest concern, apart from the feeding issue, was the presence of my Yellow and Pintail wrasse, they are much bigger fish and I had no idea how they would react to the introduction of a small and delicate goby. I was fairly confident that the other nano gobies and wrasse would have no issue. After much umming and aahing I decided to take the risk and bring the little fish home with me.
Amazingly, once introduced the new goby was completely ignored by all the resident fish, I was certainly not expecting that! Despite the lack of aggression the goby was far from relaxed which I suppose is normal for any new fish and the Yellow/Pintail wrasses are undoubtedly quite scary to a timid little goby. He didn't hide but kept low down on the sand in the front left-hand corner of the tank and actually looked to be struggling with the brisk flow so I turned down the powerheads to give him some relief. That night he created a cosy little depression in the sand underneath the Utter Chaos zoanthids to sleep in. By the way I have no idea if this fish is male or female, I decided to go with male (a tough little guy with any luck) and named him Jessie.
Over the next couple of days Jessie slowly settled in and started exploring the tank. I can confirm that he does peck at/sift the sand and eat hair algae, result! I can't see him being voracious enough to eradicate the hair algae or even keep it in check for that matter but that doesn't bother me right now, I'm just thrilled that he's eating. He was still nervous of the bigger fish and would dart out of their way whenever they approached and when it came to frozen food he would look interested but was not confident enough to grab a bite. Fish have to be quick off the block in this tank when it comes to food as the greedy wrasse tend to hoover it up in no time at all.
I increased the number of feedings from three to four times per day and on the fifth day post introduction, Jessie felt confident enough to sneak a couple of small pieces of Gamma Mysis. By the eight day he was up for trying to tackle a large piece of PE Mysis but this was a bit beyond his capability, he tried 'chewing' it 4 times but as he spat it out for yet another attempt a wrasse swooped down and stole it, lol! To ensure that he is getting his fair share I have introduced him to the magical food dispenser (me and a pipette). I like to spot feed most of my livestock (fish, corals, shrimp and crabs) and naturally the fish know that the pipette means food so it takes a bit of time and patience to get the food to the intended target. The Yellow and Pintail wrasse try to steal as much of it as possible, I swear given the chance those fish would keep eating until they popped! I have to wait until these fish 'appear' to lose interest before quickly releasing a piece of food in front of the intended recipient. Fortunately, Jessie is a quick learner and took to the pipette trick remarkably fast, he's even started pecking at the tip in his impatience for the food to appear.
It's early days for this fish but so far I think it's looking promising. I will certainly keeping a very close eye on the state of his tummy to make sure it stays full looking and not sucked in.
I first discovered Charlize the hitchhiking crab sitting at the base of the Seriatopora in February 2017, she was such a tiny little thing back then no bigger than the nail on my little finger. For a couple of months I let her do her thing before deciding to move her after she knocked a frag off the rockwork. She was surprisingly easy to catch and rather than dispose of her, something I never like to do with any living creature, I placed her into the most desirable of crab residences, the refugium! Since then she has positively thrived and has grown incredibly. She's a beefy crab now measuring a couple of inches across, quite a bit bigger than the Emerald crab she now shares her home with. When I added Bruce (the Emerald crab) I did worry that there might have been issues between the two but so far everything's been good. They tend to hang out at opposite ends of the tank although I occasionally find them relatively close together as in the second photo below. I can't help but wonder how much growing Charlize still has left to do, I may need a bigger refugium if she keeps expanding, gulp!
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.
Not much new to report really, everything seems to be ticking along and there have been no new additions.
I harvested a load of macro algae from the refugium as the upper half was a completely solid mass. I think I might have been a bit over zealous with my pruning as the algae growth seems to have stalled somewhat since then. A knock on effect being that the nutrient levels within the tank have risen slightly. On the 9th January phosphate tested at around 0.046ppm and nitrate 0.35ppm using the Elos low range kits. When I tested again on the 10th January the phosphate level had crept up to 0.08ppm and nitrate to 1ppm. Hopefully once the algae growth picks up again the levels will stabilise as I don't really want the phosphate level to get any higher. I must get into the habit of harvesting smaller amounts of algae on a more regular basis.
I've also been chasing the male pintail wrasse round in the hopes of capturing a decent photo of him displaying to the female but boy, he's really fast! I have multiple shots of just his tail or the rear half of his body, lol. I am very persistent though, thank goodness for digital cameras or I would have probably given up by now.
I finally relented and moved the Balanophyllia to the sump, it was on the fast track to coral heaven if I left it in the DT thanks to the Pintail's attentions. It's so much easier to feed down there now, especially during the day as the refugium is reverse lit so it's nice and dark. The good news is whilst the flesh on one side has receded quite badly due to the earlier infection it doesn't appear to be getting any worse and it's certainly happy to start eating again. It's a pale shadow of what it once was, the photo below shows how far the tentacles currently expand (and the receded skeleton). I hope it improves and opens up fully again.
The green tentacled corallimorph was looking a little more extended than I usually see it during the day so I whipped out the camera for a quick snap of that too (with flash). It looks like an anemone (and is commonly called a ball anemone) but actually is a part of the mushroom family. It hitchhiked into my tank on a small piece of zoanthid rock and doesn't appear to have spread much in 8 months time, mind you neither have the zoas either, lol. I think it actually looks rather attractive.
I'll sign off with another short video. It's not much different than the last one I posted tbh but hopefully still enjoyable to watch.
When the lights switch off above the display tank there's still plenty of action to watch down below in the refugium.
My tank is exactly a year old today! Wow, where has the time flown to? I've been a bit lax with the updates recently so there's lots to catch up on.
First lets get the bad news out of the way. I'm afraid that I've lost the lovely Tridacna maxima clam, it simply never thrived in my tank. Before adding it I carefully checked the shell looking for any nasty hitchhikers but I never found any. I must have missed some (or their eggs at least) as I started to notice some pyramid snails feeding on my precious Trochus and Turbo snails. Nooo! I checked the clam regularly at night with a flash light but never found any of the little devils feasting on it. After two and a half months it finally it became clear that the clam was doomed so I decided to remove it before pollution became an issue. I checked it over again when it was out of the tank and still couldn't find any pyramid snails on it. These guys are so small and clearly hide really well! Later on three teeny tiny ones did emerge from inside of the clam, it's hard to imagine that just three could have any impact on an animal so much larger than they but clearly over time they do. Unless of course the maxima was suffering from something else too?
At this point there's not much I can do about the pyramid snails, I am removing any that I see every day and I've become quite adept at spotting them now. On average I remove about 10 per day. The wrasse are sadly not eating them, come on guys I could really do with a helping hand here, sheesh earn your keep why don't you!! At least I haven't lost any of the snails yet and my original Tridacna crocea clam seems to be doing fine, it's laying down new shell so I take that to be a good sign for now.
The other blip on my reefing horizon is the Balanophyllia. It just doesn't look as good as it once did and I can't work out why. Am I feeding it too much or not feeding it enough? I had been offering it a piece of food once per day (at night), generally PE mysis, clam, Krill or lancefish, perhaps that wasn't enough to sustain it? So I decided to up the feedings to multiple times per day (anywhere between three up to a maximum of five a day) but this seemed to make no difference at all (in fact the coral looked a little worse) so now I'm trying less food. It's really frustrating because the sun coral is looking fantastic on a single feed per day.
Apart from the above everything else seems to be doing OK. The fish are all good, Rei the Yellow wrasse eats like a horse and is noticeably bigger. The best news is that my Tomiyamichthys nudus gobies have finally paired up with the Red Spotted pistol shrimp so I get to see them all much more now. The male goby still goes MIA every now and again but always resurfaces at some point. The gobies and pistol shrimp do not naturally associate together in the wild but I suspect they have done so in my tank because there are simply no other alternatives.
The corals are getting bigger and some are starting to get close to each other already, war is on the horizon I expect.
The zoanthids are spreading nicely especially the Utter Chaos, these are reproducing at a phenomenal rate and unfortunately over taking some of the original slower growing morphs. Whatever was afflicting the Red Tuxedo zoanthids seems to have subsided and I've not lost any more recently, I hope that's the end of that.
After a bit of a slow start the algae in the refugium has really got going now and the amount of life in there is incredible. It's amphipod, mysis shrimp and brittlestar heaven! Charlie the hitchhiking crab is alive and kicking and still growing. She was such a tiny thing when I first noticed her in the DT hanging out in the Seriatopora, now she's huge in comparison.
Life in the refugium.
Whenever I harvest any algae, I spend the following 30 minutes rescuing brittlestars from amongst the fronds. Well I can't just throw them out can I? It's easy to see how they are reproducing by division.
My first canister of ATI Carbo EX came to the end of its life in September, it lasted just over 3 months which I don't think is too bad. I have decided to continue with the CO2 scrubbing and have replaced it with a fresh cartridge.
Last week to celebrate the fact that the tank was approaching its first birthday I decided that some new additions were required. There was a gap (left by the T. maxima clam) that was just crying out to be filled. OK it didn't really need to be filled but what can I say, any excuse to shop for new corals.
I decided another encrusting Montipora sp. would do nicely and since it was likely to be the last addition (never say never tho) I wanted something special. I decided the Beach Bum (what a name!!) Montipora would contrast nicely with the three that I currently have. Since I was mail ordering from a fellow reefer I found I couldn't just buy the one coral so I ended up with frags of Hawkins Echinata (Acropora echinata) and a Sunrise Goniopora too. My name is Lisa and I'm a coral addict, lol!
Here they are on the sand awaiting fixing (squeezing!) in place.
Phew that was a marathon (are you still with me?) before I sign off I'll add a few more updated photos. After all who doesn't love a bit of eye candy?!
There's one zoanthid morph that I've been saving a spot for in my tank but have never seen it for sale in an aquarium shop or via my favourite online supplier so I decided to give E-bay a whirl instead. I ordered two polyps of the "Utter Chaos" zoas, they arrived promptly and were in great condition, I was very pleased (and relieved) with my purchase. I did treat the polyps to a dip in Reef Primer just in case there were any unpleasant hitchhikers, it seemed unlikely on such a small frag disc but as I didn't know the source tank I decided it was not worth the risk. I can see why these zoanthids are so popular, the fluorescent orange colour really 'pops' under the blue LEDs. I roughly chopped down the frag disc as much as possible and hope the remainder will be grown over and hidden asap. I hate frag discs on show in the DT!
I also added a few more snails today to boost my clean up crew as I've noticed that the resident crew aren't quite managing to keep the algae growth in check, not unsurprising now that I am feeding the tank more. So a big welcome to Laurel, Hardy, Eric & Ernie the Trochus snails and Del Boy & Rodney the Ceriths.
Never in a million years did I think that it'd be easy to catch and remove my hitchhiking crab but boy how very wrong I was. My deluxe homemade crab trap actually worked first time! I propped an empty glass spice jar up against the top rock where the crab lived and baited it with some mysis shrimp just after lights out. I honestly felt that the jar was a little too tall for the job and it would never catch anything but to my very great surprise it did. I checked back on the tank after just an hour and was gobsmacked to discover the crab sitting in the jar. It's so great when a plan comes together without any blood being shed (and doesn't cost anything, lol).
With clearer photos I'm now confident that the crab is indeed Chlorodiella nigra. Please refer to the link below for comparitive purposes.
Of course I couldn't bring myself to kill the little guy, after all he had done no wrong, simply knocked a frag off the rock which was probably my fault for not fixing it down securely enough. The biggest issue for me was the fact that he'd set up home right next to my clam and whilst this species is reported to mainly eat algae I didn't want to take the risk of the clam being irritated or even worse becoming a crabby snack down the line. So off he went into the refugium where hopefully he'll be content with an endless supply of algae (and pods?) to munch on.
For a while now I've noticed some interesting macro algae growing on the top of one of the Tunze pumps. Now that's it's larger I have tentatively identified it as Colpomenia sp. (probably C. sinuosa). There is none of it to be found anywhere else in the tank so I expect that the snails or, most likely, hermits are eating it off the rockwork before it gets a chance to take a hold. I will need to remove it soon as I expect that it's going to interfere with the pump's flow. They are due a strip down and clean in a months time so I will probably wait till then. It is a type of bubble algae so I suppose I should be a little concerned about it spreading but it's been OK so far and I have faith in my CUC.
Who says conchs only stick to the sand! For the time being Lurch manages to get himself up on the left rock pile (straight up the front of the rocks) and half way up the tank back in search of a tasty rasp of algae.
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!