Sod's law states that if something can go wrong it will and at the worst possible time too.
When we arrived back from our trip to the USA naturally the first thing I did was to check on the tank. Everything was present and correct but some of the SPS corals looked a tiny bit off. It was nothing major, they just looked a little bit paler than usual and had less polyp extension. So instead of beginning the depressing chore of filling the washing machine with dirty holiday clothes, I reached instead for the test kits. KH is always the first parameter I check and the result immediately showed me the source of the 'issue', the level had dropped to 3.35dKH! What the.....?!! According to the ICP sample I took on the day before we left the level was 7.12dKH (just 10 days previously). The reason for this drop, as I quickly discovered, was a doser malfunction, the head that dispenses solution B (alkalinity) was no longer working. According to data from GHL there should have been 337ml left in the dosing container but in actuality there was 930ml. A quick calculation showed me that the head had stopped working 8 days ago, the day after we had left. Oddly that made me feel a little better, I would have felt much worse if it had stopped working before we went away and I'd simply not noticed.
So began the slow process of raising the alkalinity back up to a safe level once more. I switched the dosing of B over to head no.4 whilst the issue of the faulty one was addressed. It's the first time I have had any issue with this doser in over 1.5 years of use so I was a little nervous of taking it apart but I needn't have worried. As soon as the blue plastic cap was removed it was obvious what the problem was, a tiny piece of the cap had snapped off and jammed the rollers (the offending piece is shown to the left of the screws in the photo below).
Once the bit was removed using a pair of tweezers, the rollers were free to move once again and amazingly the motor still worked, I had fully expected it to have burnt out after the rollers got jammed. All that was required to get it functional again was a new plastic cap, phew!
I have since discovered that GHL considers the cap and rollers to be wearable parts and need to be replaced annually. The rollers should also be cleaned every 3 months as well which I hadn't been aware of. Oops!
Over a period of 10 days the KH was gradually increased back to normal levels and I nervously watched for signs of stress in the corals. It's been 3 weeks so far and nothing looks worse, no stripping of corals as of yet so fingers crossed I've managed to get away with the momentarily blip in the alkalinity dosing schedule.
Everything seems to be ticking along nicely at the moment. The KH dipped a little following the addition of the carbon dioxide filter and I've had to up my dosing rate as a consequence. I'm hoping it means that the corals are happier with the higher pH values and have increased their growth rates. Unfortunately perhaps, also due to the dip in KH (down from approx 7.0 to 6.5), the coralline on the back wall took a bit of a beating. It's not a problem as such but clearly I need to keep a better eye on the alkalinity level.
Swipes the porcelain crab, Petrolisthes galathinus, has settled in nicely and is proving to be a star attraction with the rest of my family (after Lurch the conch, who still remains the absolute favourite inhabitant). She has made her home underneath the left-hand rock pile and spends the majority of her time hanging out with Edna & Kylie (the two wrasses), filtering out small morsels of food from the water.
Ming, the Pom Pom crab (Lybia sp.) has also settled into the left-hand rock pile, in a small hole, way under the ledge. He's still pretty shy and we don't get to see him out in the open very much as of yet, I did manage to capture a sneaky shot of him in his hidey hole using flash today however.
It's pretty time consuming trying to take individual photos of all the corals individually on the same day so there just a small selection below, I'll work on adding the rest later in the week hopefully.
To finish, I just have to share a couple more shots of Crystal the Red Spotted cleaner shrimp, Urocaridella antonbrunnii, because she is the most incredible looking shrimp.
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.
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!
It's four months since this little tank was set up and all seems to be going really well. Almost a bit too well actually, I'm expecting something to go wrong at any moment, it's usually the way. I'm keeping a close eye on the water parameters now that I have added a few more corals. In the past I have really struggled to keep the alkalinity and calcium levels at appropriate levels even with the use of a calcium reactor and kalkstirrer. As soon as it was pumped in it was sucked up by the corals and clams. This time round I'm hoping to maintain good levels with careful dosing. The parameters today were:
The above were tested using a refractometer, Salifert test kits and a Hanna pocket checker for the phosphate. I'm fairly sure that my phosphate level is not really zero but it must be pretty low and there is very little in the way of nuisance algae growth in the tank apart from a bit of furriness on the rocks. I do not know what the furriness is but it doesn't look too unsightly and stays short. In any case there seems to be less of it now. The macro algae growth in the refugium has been disappointing to date, considering the lack of nutrients I suppose it's not entirely surprising. As long as the reason is not down to a lack of flow or lighting, time will tell, I can't imagine this situation will last for long. I've started dosing a small amount of Reef Roids and KZ Sponge Power recently so they may affect the levels in the future.
You'd think that over 4 months I'd de familiar with all the livestock in my tank, well no actually. A couple of days ago I noticed that the Seriatopora had retracted its polyps and on closer inspection I discovered a small crab sitting at it's base. Where on earth had he suddenly popped up from?? I highly doubt that he came in on any of the SPS frags as they are too small to conceal a crab, I suppose it could have hitched a ride in on the zoanthid rock but the most likely explanation was that it was hidden in the live rock when it was first added. It doesn't look like it's chowing down on coral flesh (at the moment, heh!) so I'll leave it be for the time being and watch and wait. I hope it behaves itself or we'll be having some fun and games with extrication later on.
I had to leave the tank in the capable hands of my eldest son for three days over the Christmas period whilst I was away visiting the in-laws. Amazingly everything survived the ordeal, lol, although the squat lobster is currently MIA. I am hoping that he is in hiding following the shedding of his exoskeleton but equally he may have passed on. I will be very sad indeed if he has died.
I really need to get my dosing regimen sorted out. The alkalinity dropped as I wasn't dosing which is somewhat unexpected since there are no corals in the tank to suck up the calcium and yet the calcium and magnesium levels remained stable.
As predicted the growth of algae (interestingly on the live rock only and not on the sand) has increased with the addition of the new Mitras light so to keep on top of it just before I went away I decided to add some more CUC. One more small Black foot Trochus was introduced along with a Mexican Turbo snail for added variety. The Turbo snail (named Pablo) has done a wonderful job eating the furry looking algae that has started to cover the well lit areas of live rock.
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!