I am sad to report that I lost my remaining Nudus goby (Tomiyamichthys nudus) a couple of weeks ago. Hop, along with his mate Skip and Candy the red striped goby, were the first fish to be introduced to this tank. I lost Skip after just 15 months and Candy disappeared after 2 years. I was so hoping that Hop would make it to his 3 year anniversary but he died 2 months short of it. I am assuming that they all passed away due to old age but I don't really know for sure. I wish nano gobies had longer lifespans.
This leaves me with a bit of a dilemma, what should I do about Al the pistol shrimp? He no longer has a partner goby to look after him. I know that he's still alive as I can occasionally hear him clicking and at feeding times I sometime see an antenna or two poke out from one of his burrow entrances but now that he's on his own I doubt that I will see much more of him. I'm tempted to try and find him another goby but this species of pistol shrimp is widely reported to only pair up with Whitecap gobies. Clearly that's not the absolute truth because he paired up with the Nudus gobies (after his original Whitecap partner jumped out of the tank through the mesh lid!). How long can pistol shrimps potentially live for in captivity? Al has been with me for going on 3 years too and who knows how old he was when he was captured, is he still in the prime of his life or coming to the end of it, I just don't know? Something to think about.
Interestingly I've noticed that Jessie has recently taken a keen interest in one of the pistol shrimp's burrow entrances. It hafs been pretty hard to miss this 'interest' because he has spent the last 3 days solidly excavating sand from in front of it. I can only assume that Jessie saw an opportunity to secure some prime real estate either because, without Hop, Al has abandoned that entrance or has been forced to do so by the much bigger goby. Anyway Jessie has been very industrious and the pile of sand is now massive, so much so that he's had to start dropping it more to the left side of the tank, on top of the Scolymia which I can't say I'm exactly thrilled about.
When I first spotted Swipes the Porcelain crab in a shop she was not very much to look at. Pale and stressed, squeezed into the corner of the shop tank with not a rock or pipe to hide under. Now almost two and a half years later she's a picture of health and as colourful as can be. A perfect reef inhabitant.
Time for a long overdue FTS update. As you can see the coralline continues to encrust apace, every now and again I scrape it off the front and sides but I leave it to grow rampant on the back wall. The plates grow quite thick until a large snail crawls across and the added weight causes a chunk to detach and they both fall down to the sand.
I'm sure some eagled-eyed reefers will have spotted the presence of hair algae in some of the previous close-up shots. If it weren't for the aforementioned coralline I expect the situation would be a lot worse. It began to grow when I lost some of the Acropora to red bugs. I cut out the branches but that still left dead encrusted bases which provided the perfect breeding ground for algae. I was not thrilled about the appearance of the green hair algae but it did allow me the opportunity to purchase a gorgeous Rainford's goby who loves to graze on the tufty stuff. I've noticed recently however, that it's been starting to spread elsewhere in the tank. For example when I brought the Balanophyllia up from the sump the rock on which it was attached rapidly grew a green furry cover as did the freshly exposed rockwork after I removed the Seriatopora. Part of the problem lies with the clean up crew as they simply do not venture on to the rocks to feed any more. The Trochus and Turbo snails only bother to rasp algae from the glass walls, I think they find it too difficult to navigate around the corals, why make an effort to search for algae on the rocks when an easy meal can be found on the glass? The only snails I have found so far that make any difference to the hair algae are Money or Annular cowries. I have four of these fascinating molluscs and they do seem to have an appetite for the shorter hair algae, a patch will occasionally be mown down.
I don't want to completely eradicate the hair algae as Jessie (the Rainford's goby) needs some in his diet so I'm a bit stuck as to what to do right now. The nitrate and phosphate levels are a touch under 4mg/l and 0.04mg/l respectively at my last ICP analysis (2nd September) so not overly high. I did try introducing a few new herbivorous molluscs in the hope that they would have a taste for it, (two Astralium sp. followed by three Spiny Astrea snails) but none of these new species are interested in eating the hair algae either. Typical! It seems that film algae/diatoms are preferred all round. The Trochus snails seem to do well on it anyway, last month I woke up to an alarmingly cloudy tank but it was just the snails having a bit of reproductive fun.
After the loss of the Pintail wrasse the tank looked empty of movement, I still had 5 fish but most of the time Rei the Yellow wrasse is the only one that's really visible. The Possum and pink-streak wrasse flit in and out of the rock work, the tiny Nudus goby lives in a burrow and the Rainford's goby markings are so subtle that it kind of blends in with its surroundings.
So what to add? I have a rather long wish list of fish that I'd like to keep but as I ran through it most of them were not a good fit. Grows too big, not compatible with current occupants, may eat corals, may eat shrimp, difficult to feed etc... In the end I kept coming back to the same two choices, a Spotted Mandarin (I love these fish!) and/or a firefish. The main issues with these were could I keep a Mandarin well fed in the long term and did I have enough hiding spots for the firefish to feel secure? I decided to go all in for a Mandarin, I have kept a male/female pair of Spotted Mandarinfish before now but my previous tanks were a lot bigger, if I was going to make it work in this tank some extra preparation was going to be needed especially since I have other pod hunting fish already in residence.
Firstly I set up a culture of Tigriopus sp. copepods in the kitchen, this soon became two cultures a back up in case either one crashed. Then, as I read around some more, I started to wonder if the Tigriopus pods would be sufficient. It seems that Tisbe sp. copepods are the recommended snack of choice for Mandarins. Well if that's the case then I needed a culture of those too. Unfortunately although these pods are readily available to buy in the USA they are absolutely not it the UK. I couldn't find a single current supplier of those pods in the UK or in Europe for that matter. So after considering long and hard I decided to throw caution to the wind and order from Algaebarn in the US. The order was placed on a Friday and the pods dispatched the following Monday. They were due to be delivered Wednesday but due to import paperwork 'stuff' they were held up in customs. Finally the package was cleared and they were delivered one day late on the Thursday (so 4 days in transit in all). To my very great relief the pods were alive and active. They had been packed well with an icepack and a cosy looking sleeping bag to protect them.
Once I had both species of copepods on the go I started to search for the perfect fish. I have seen many Mandarins in the shops during my travels in various states of health and they rarely look fat. Over a period of about a month I visited four different shops, the first three didn't have S. picturatus in stock (plenty of S. spendidus and scooter bennies) but the last one had a single Spotted Mandarin specimen. Sadly it was in the worst possible condition ever sat alone in a tiny acrylic box with no rocks or sand, it was just skin and bones poor thing. That shop should really be ashamed of itself, it was my first visit to there and I will certainly never be going back. Feeling disheartened I turned to online stores and discovered one supplier had Spotted Mandarins in stock AND had some Helfrich's firefish in too. The filefish were on offer, I think these fish are gorgeous and I couldn't resist. An order for one Spotted Mandarin, Synchiropus picturatus, one Helfrich's firefish, Nemateleotris helfrichi (and a couple of snails for good measure) was placed with Masterfisch.
The fish and snails arrived on time and looked great, they had been packed well. Phew! The Mandarin was a good weight, a male I think, he still needed a bit of fattening up but was not over thin either. After careful acclimation I nervously introduced the new stock with the lights out. My number one worry at this stage was how the Yellow wrasse would react, by switching off the lights it makes him vanish into the sand for a while hopefully giving the new guys a bit of breathing space to find their bearings. The Mandarin simply sank to the sand and, surprisingly, the firefish stayed out swimming around the front of the tank. For the entire time the lights were off the Mandarin did not move once. Once the lights were switched back on again he sprung to life and began exploring his new home. When Rei the Yellow wrasse emerged from the sand, to my very great relief, he totally ignored both new fish. I worried that the firefish would be scared and take to the rocks but it did not. So far so good!
For the next few days the Mandarin scoured the tank for copepods and it's easy to see how a small tank can be depleted of food in a very short time. On day 3 to my delight he began eating frozen food, yay! The bigger worry at this point was the firefish he would take in food and spit it out again, however he absolutely devoured the live Tigger pods so I began adding them every day more for him than the Mandarin. It soon became clear that my pod production was never going to cope with being harvested so frequently. I had read how successful outdoor cultures of copepods can be with very little effort so I went about setting up two outside (now there are 3!). The other fishy occupants were loving the live copepod feeds too most particularly the Possum and Pink-streaked wrasse. so much so I wish I'd started feeding them before.
It's been 6 weeks now since the new fish were introduced and both have settled in a treat. The Mandarin , called Kandinsky, has put on weight and now eats practically everything you put in front of him. Gamma mysis, PE mysis, lobster eggs, brine shrimp, calanus, he's not so keen on fish eggs or pellet but he has 'tested' them out. With perseverance he may come to relish those too. I did start out with a feeding station that I built out of acrylic. It had holes either end for entry/exit with a feeding tube in the top for ease of access but to be honest it wasn't terribly successful. Kandinsky loved it but so did the hermit crabs and Nassarius snails. I would often find a member of the CUC upside-down inside the feeder and they didn't seem to be able to right themselves on their own so I gave up. I feed him direct with a pipette and leave the Nanostream pumps off whilst he takes in his fill. I did also hatch some baby brine on one occasion when the pop cultures were low but it didn't elicit such an enthusistic response so I didn't culture any more. I may try again in the future if needed. Spike, the Helfrich's firefish adores the live copepods and lobster eggs, he also eats mysis, brine shrimp etc. Interestingly he did eat small pellets for a while when he wasn't so keen on the frozen food but seems to have gone off them now.
For the first 4 weeks I added live pods almost every day. Tigriopus during the daytime (6 days/week) and Tisbe pods at night (1 addition/week). I could not sustain this level of feeding beyond that (I supplemented with bags of pods from the LFS a few times as it was) and have reduced it to 3 or 4 doses of Tigger pods and one of Tisbe now. The Tisbe pod culture is doing well but harvesting is somewhat challenging, lol. They are so small, I know there are plenty jigging about in the culture tank but after harvesting it looks like I've caught nothing in the net. I've been pouring the 'dust', down a tube directly onto the sand to give them the best chance of survival (before the Mandarin finds them, lol). I do worry that by adding them at night when the sun corals are fully extended a lot might be captured and consumed whilst the Mandarin is snoozing. Talking of which I never realised it before but Kandinsky sleeps right out on the sand at night. He flicks a few grains over his body and just lies there right out in the open. Do all dragonettes sleep like this I wonder?
It's been almost 8 weeks since introduction, fingers crossed that Kandinsky and Spike continue to do well.
Coral warfare/shading is a becoming more and more of an issue as you would expect for any reef tank approaching 3 years of age. Well perhaps not if the tank had been sensibly/lightly stocked but I guess this hasn't happened. Common sense seems to fly out of the window where myself and reef tanks are concerned.
Most of what I'm going to post is kind of good really. Generally the corals are growing well but there are some that are losing the battle for survival.
The Stylophora needs regular trimming to prevent it from growing up to and touching the left hand glass wall. Its base continues to expand and kills off areas of contact with two neighbouring Montipora as it goes. It has also (along with the Pinnigorgia gorgonian) almost completely shaded out the Beach Bum Montipora. The Beach bum is fading away and there is nothing I can do about it, it's pretty much impossible to relocate. I try not to dwell on this fact too much, it's too painful. Big mistake. Big. HUGE!
I removed most of the green plating Montipora a while ago but it's making a comeback and shading the corals below again. I should never have introduced a frag of this in the first place, I just knew it would end up causing issues in a small tank but it was free and I just couldn't throw it away. On the plus side I must admit it is a lovely vibrant green colour.
The encrusting 'Superman' Montipora is possibly worse than the green plating Monti, I am definitely in need of some marine Kryptonite for this particular coral. At one point it grew up along one side of the clam till the Crocea decided enough was enough and forced its shell open wide enough to snap a good chunk of the the Montipora right off. The Superman Monti also kills any Seriatopora hysterix it touches and has encrusted over nearby Acropora like they were nothing but bare rock. Interestingly it has actually run out of rock space to the rear and has started growing out in a thick plate like formation instead.
I grudgingly accepted the loss of the purple tipped Acro frags to the Superman as they were not thriving anyway (due to the presence of red bugs) but it was harder to take the potential loss of the Acropora gomezi. Despite the parasitic bugs, the A. gomezi still showed nice colouration, not what it should look like under normal conditions but still nice. For months I gritted my teeth and watched this Acro be overgrown, but right at the last minute I decided to frag off the remaining two branch tips. I fixed both of them to the same frag tile and plonked it on the sand. A quick survey with the magnifying glass showed me that the tiny A. gomezi frags are still providing a home/food to the red bugs. I could remove and dip them (repeatedly if needed) but if the bugs are present elsewhere in the system then they will just become reinfested again. The frags have encrusted on to the tile but that's about all they've done at this point. One of the branch tips had a close encounter with the Scolymia thanks to a hermit crab, and got stripped. It's almost recovered bar for a tiny bit of algae covered skeleton at the very end. You can see one red bug highlighted but the arrow in the photo below.
The only other Acropora species remaining in the tank is A. hyacinthus (aka Red Planet), I have yet to discover any red bugs on it but that doesn't mean there aren't any lurking out of sight. Interestingly this Acro has been looking better recently colourwise, it's actually starting to look red once more, well pink at the very least.
The Scolymia continues to look good. It needs to be moved in the not too distant future as the Favia behind is creeping ever closer. I can't afford for those two to meet! Knowing my luck the (much) more expensive coral would be the loser if they clashed.
The Favia has completely overrun the Cyphastrea that used to grow to the right of it and continues to bubble up towards the Acanthastrea to the left. There's been no full on attack as of yet.
The Acanthastrea are surviving but not really thriving. I know that they prefer lower lighting conditions but the plating Montipora above is shading them too much at present. I have been trying to feed them to try and make up for it but 9 times out of 10 Rei the Yellow wrasse steals the food.
The Oxypora keeps expanding ever so slowly, it is also somewhat lacking in light these days.
The Utter Chaos zoanthids are a complete nightmare. They grow so fast and don't seem to be bothered by anything (at least nothing they have encountered in the tank so far). SPS corals are fair game, they just reach up shade out an area of coral until the flesh recedes and then they colonise the dead skeleton. I'm sure that this is a familiar story to many other reef keepers. Having never kept zoas before this is a new one on me. They have grown up the side of the clam and were beginning to reach over and shade the mantle before I decided to scrape them off. A temporary fix as they are encrusting again.
To be fair it's just the Utter Chaos zoanthids that are causing a headache, the rest are much slower growing (aside from growing out onto the sand which is making it hard for Lurch the conch to navigate round the tank).
The Heliofungia has grown to a lovely size but is really squashed up in the front left hand corner of the tank. It remains attached to the small rock and so cannot move around. This is possibly a good thing as I'm sure there would be carnage if it could scoot along the sand and relocate itself. It expanded so much that it was stinging the orange Dendrophyllia to the right of it.
The Lobophyllia has been doing OK, it's really slow growing but since it's tucked away at the side of the tank with not great lighting then that's not exactly surprising. It started off with one head and now almost has three.
Unfortunately one night it suddenly launched an all out attack on the Black sun coral. Before now it had been almost completely overgrown by the Utter Chao zoanthids and not retaliated but clearly the threat posed by the Black sun was a different matter. It stripped three branches of the sun overnight.
Since the orange Dendrophyllia and black sun both needed moving, plus I (still) had the Balanophyllia sitting in the sump I decided space needed to be made for them elsewhere. In the end I pulled out 100+ Utter Chaos zoas, clipped a few branches of A. hyacinthus and removed all of Seriatpora hystrix. The Seri broke into pieces during removal and I decided to keep just a single piece and reposition it a little higher up. This left a space big enough to just about squeeze in the sun corals, now I have quite a nice little cluster of NPS corals on the right hand side of the tank.
After spending over a year and a half in the sump the Balanophyllia is finally back in the DT once more and it's looking good, I don't know why I struggled with it so much. I wonder if perhaps it had some sort of infection that caused the flesh to recede before. It's good to see it back to full health (fingers crossed). I'm also thrilled that the accompanying hitchhiker bivalve is still alive too, I have no idea what that is eating but it must be filtering out enough as it has grown larger since introduction.
The yellow Dendrophyllia remains in place next to the Heliofungia, it has encrusted onto the rock work so I'm not going to mess with it. Eventually I expect it too will be stung but that's a problem for the future. In just over a year this Dendro has increased from 3 to 15 separate heads with another forming. Such a lovely looking coral.
The Pinnigorgia gorgonian goes from strength to strength, it grows so fast and always fully extends its polyps. I have cut off a number of branches of it already and need to trim it some more. The Muricea and Plexaurella gorgonians are much slower growing tucked away at the back of the tank.
That's it for now, I will post an updated full tank shot in a few days' time.
Back in May (which seems a lifetime ago to me now) we went on holiday for two lovely weeks (snorkelling videos to follow) and as is usually the case something untoward always happens to the tank. In this particular case there was no equipment malfunction, but one of the fish decided to go on hunger strike, why remains a bit of a mystery but Tinker the male pintail wrasse, decided to stop eating 3 days prior to my return. I tried everything I could think of to get him feeding again, first I harvested live amphipods from the refugium which he ignored and then I tried live brine shrimp from the LFS which he also ignored. I also tried live copepods from the LFS with no joy (it was a long shot as they are too small gain much notice by him anyway) and delicious raw king prawns from the fresh fish counter but still he refused to eat. I went as far as to order a fish trap with the intention of catching and removing him to a separate tank but since he was not feeding the chance of success was limited. I agonised over what to do for him but could not bring myself to subject the tank to a strip down just to try and catch a single fish. I kept hoping that he would begin to eat again but sadly on the morning of the 21st June, after a month of refusing food he passed on, I honestly feel like I failed him.
Also when I returned from holiday I discovered that Jaffa the Crinoid Squat lobster was on the move. He'd spent the last 8 months content to live in amongst the Utter Chaos zoanthids and been fed by hand. I can only assume that as he'd not been fed as regularly whilst I was away he decided a move to better pastures was required. He was spotted in various different positions around the tank (sometimes riding on the back of a snail) but then vanished on the night of the 30th May 2019. The same thing happened to the first squat lobster I kept. It seems like when settled these crabs do OK but when they start to roam the tank they fall prey to the pumps/weir or some other undetermined sad end. Sorry Jaffa.
Lastly after Tinker passed on, the remaining Pintail seemed somewhat subdued but was still eating. This continued for another 6 weeks more but then on the morning of the 31st July I found that she had too passed away. I cannot explain what caused her demise; the remaining fish and corals showed no signs of anything untoward. I will not be replacing them, they were beautiful and peaceful but to be honest were too big for this tank and Belle (mainly) was a practiced jumper. I lost count of the number of times she would startle and bounce off the net cover.
Not a good update to have to post sadly.
Apologies for the lack of updates. My tank is still running and approaching its third birthday in a couple of months time. There have been a few changes/losses since my last update, I'll post in stages as I have quite a bit to report.
Firstly my lovely Bruun's cleaner shrimp passed away in February after 2 years and 2 months in my tank, she just vanished one day and I am assuming (hoping) that she just died of old age. I think 2+ years is the average lifespan of cleaner shrimp in aquaria and she appeared to be fully grown when introduced. Sadly I never saw her clean any of the fish but neither did she irritate any of the corals as the more commonly available cleaner shrimp are inclined to do.
I really missed having a shrimp roaming around the tank so when I discovered another of the same species for sale (from the same online supplier that I had purchased Crystal from) I did not hesitate. However when my order arrived I was somewhat shocked to discover that the new shrimp was absolutely tiny, less than two centimetres long. I thought well surely that's going to be an expensive snack for a wrasse.
After acclimation I carefully introduced the shrimp into the tank hoping that it would take refuge in the mass of zoanthids. Unfortunately the little guy thought otherwise and ignored the safety of the zoas/rocks by swimming right down to the bottom of the tank and rested on the sand. Luckily as it was so small (and practically see-through) the fish didn't even seem to notice it was there. However all good things must come to an end and the shrimp decided to move on and swam right into the path of the rather large Yellow wrasse who immediately took chase, scaring the life out of me and the shrimp. Luckily it managed to dart out of the way towards the right side of the tank but as I moved round to get a better view I lost sight of it, I did however discover a Pintail wrasse swimming casually away from its last known location. A goner for sure I thought, but no! After lights out I was gobsmacked to discover the plucky little shrimp swimming happily around the tank.
For weeks after that the shrimp would sensibly only come out at night to hunt for food but then after a month I discovered it out and proud on the side of the weir, exactly where the original shrimp used to reside and she (he?) has been there every day since. It must be the best spot in the tank for a Bruun's cleaner shrimp to hang out.
To date Crystal #2 has been with me for 6 months and has grown some but still is quite small, she is now totally ignored by all the fish. I am hopeful that I may discover her cleaning them one day but at this point it seems a tad unlikely.
Now for the coral round up starting with LPS.
The Favia (Gonastrea sp.?) was such a tiny frag when first introduced, just three heads and now who knows how many there are. It has completely dominated the rock on which it was placed and has even expanded on to the sand on the left-hand side. There used to be a gap between the left and right rock structures that was wide enough for the conch to easily pass through but it's gone completely now. I fear that there will be a huge fight soon between it and the Acanthastrea. I did catch the two in contact one morning with mesentarial filaments extended, I'm not sure who instigated it but both survived the encounter and most of the time they coexist nail bitingly close together as seen in the photo below. Neither can be moved as they are well and truely welded to the rockwork.
Unfortunately the Cyphastrea to the right of the Favia has not fared so well. A tiny amount is still hanging on right next to the sand (hidden behind the Scolymia) but it's only a question of time before it's overgrown entirely, again it cannot be moved as it's also encrusted onto the rock work.
Acanthastrea #2 (lava glow) is slowly getting bigger but is shaded at the back so can really only grow forward. It's looking much better since I fragged the green plating Montipora that's growing above it. I haven't bothered to feed it much recently because the wrasses steal 99% of the food before it's ingested.
The original Acantastrea (#1) was really struggling due to lack of light and that was the main impetus for me to take the cutters to the green Montipora. I am happy to say that it's looking a bit better now and starting to regain some colouration. I have been trying to boost it by feeding it but again it's hard to sneak some to it without the beady eyes of the wrasses noticing.
The Heliofungia is growing huge now and has filled the left-hand corner of the tank. I can't even fit the whole coral in when taking a photo from above using the lens dipper. When extended the tentacles sway worryingly close to the the orange Dendrophyllia, I haven't seen them make contact yet but the nearest Dendro head has looked damaged so I'm guessing it must have happened at some point.
I thought I had killed the Heliofungia recently when I accidentally dropped the algae magnet on top of it but apart from looking shrivelled for a day it seems to have bounced back again (touch wood!)
The baby buds continue to do well, despite them being shaded out by 'Mum'. I don't know how many there are but they completely ring the base of the coral. It would be nice if they detached but show no signs of doing so, I daren't try to frag them off as knowing my luck I'd kill the lot of them and 'Mum' too.
The Oxypora is a coral that just is, it sits there minding its own buisness, silently growing larger bit by tiny bit. To be honest it's not in the best position and has plated out into and interesting shape to the rear, growing upwards along side the gorgonian.
The Scolymia is the coral that immediately draws your eye, I love it and it's so easy to care for. I'm not sure if it's growing but it certainly expands much more than it did on first introduction. I feed it every now and again at night when its tentacles extend. I have seen videos of other Scolys that feed during the daylight hours but mine never shows a single tentacle when the lights are on, perhaps mine can be trained to do so but there's not much point since the ever patrolling wrasses would spoil my fun. I am forever vigilant to its well being and do sometimes worry when, on the occasional day, it's not as big. It's the most I've ever spent on a coral so losing it would be a hard blow. Then it'd be no more Scolys for me.
The Lobophyllia was the first LPS coral to be added to the tank (along with Acan #1). Initially it was placed on the sand in the middle of the tank but I was advised to move it due to its aggressive nature (stinging all other corals in the vicinity) so I moved it to the front left-hand corner and then the right-hand corner but no matter where it went the snails kept knocking it over. In the end I had to glue it down to the base rock in the rear right-hand corner of the tank, tucked away from pretty much everything. The lighting is not great down there and it's got worse since the corals have 'grown in' so it's not surprising that growth has been minimal. Over the months (years now) the Utter Chaos zoanthids have marched their way ever closer to it (and everything else for that matter!) I fully expected the uber aggressive Lobo to keep them in check but no, when contact was finally made the Lobo did nothing at all. So the zoanthids just kept coming until the whole left hand side of the coral was hidden under a matt of polyps. Eventually I took pity on the Lobo and removed the encroaching zoanthids it was only then that I discovered the that Lobo had split into two separate heads. This coral is clearly made of tough stuff!
The most problematical of all of my LPS corals has been the Balanophyllia. It was the first non-photosynthetic coral that I introduced to this tank, I chose it mainly because it was a single head hence small and I'd never kept one before (I had kept Tubastraea sp. in the past and found them easy to care for). It started off looking fantastic but gradually the tentacles would extend less and less and the flesh began to recede at the base. I tried everything that I could think of to make it happy. I moved it to different locations in the tank in case it was a lighting issue (too bright perhaps?) or maybe it was flow related. I tried feeding it more frequently and also less frequently but still it continued to decline. Eventually I pulled it from the DT and sat it on a frag rack in the sump so that I could take better care of it. However as the months passed by still nothing much changed, it just hung on and looked rather sad. I tried all sorts of different food stuffs in the hope of stimulating it to open as it once did but the tentacles remained short and stubby or often absent entirely. I must admit there were periods when I would ignore it entirely but I always came back to it determined not to give up. Finally after much chopping and changing I settled on a different feeding regimen, instead of offering it small amounts of food regularly (daily or every other day) I changed to offering food only twice a week at which times I would swamp it. On Wednesdays I would offer it a good amount of LPS pellets and on Sundays it would get a smorgasbord of frozen food, reef roids and coral frenzy all soaked in Selcon. It now looks better than it has done for absolutely ages (I've had it for just under two years now), the change was gradual, the tentacles extend a reasonable amount and recession has stopped, in fact I think it may have even grown a little.
The bulge on the right-hand side of the head in the photo below is where the tip of the coral used to be. At one time the flesh receded right to the top and it lost tentacles on one side. Now it has a full ring of tentacles that extend, if not as much as before but definitely much improved. The colouration isn't as good as it once was so I assume I still haven't got the nutrition quite right but hey baby steps.
As you can see the hitchhiking bivalve that came attached to the base of the coral is still alive and growing. In addition, the rock base has gained quite a few 'friends'. There are a number of ball anemones, sponges, fan worms, vermitid snails (of course) and even three baby Tubastrea polyps that have settled out on to the base.
I'm at the point now where I'm thinking of introducing the coral back into the DT but hesitant to do so in case it starts to fade once more.
In comparison to the Balanophyllia the Sun coral (Tubastrea sp.) is easy to care for, feed it and it will grow (and reproduce!), it's released planulae larvae more times than I care to mention. The whole tank is littered with baby sun polyps now. They have settled out all over the rocks, on snail shells, in the weir, on the pump heads and even on the siporax in the sump to mention a few places. There are now too many to target feed so I am leaving them to fend for themselves.
I haven't been feeding every head of the main colony like I used to so it may be a little smaller than it used to be. At least that's what it looks like when I compare it to the older photos, it's either that or it wasn't fully extended when I took the most recent photo. From what I've read the heads do not share nutrition so if one doesn't get fed it fades away; I'm not exactly sure how true that actually is however.
The first baby sun polyp that I discovered in August 2017 is just over 1.5 years old, wow! It's still just a single head but seems to have developed a calcified base now. To be honest I'm quite surprised it's still alive as I haven't target fed it for ages, it's probably been over a year since I offered it food. It just got too difficult with the Seriatopora growing above it and also it became obscured by (those rather annoying) Utter Chaos zoanthids. Clearly it must be in a position to be able to capture enough food to keep it going.
The black sun coral (Tubastrea micrantha) seems to have well and truly settled in to life in my tank. It looks really amazing at night, I know that for most people that's not their cup of tea but come on it does look cool, right? I have seen it start to tentatively extend some tentacles during the day after the fish have been fed so if I offered some food to it directly then I think it would extend during the day. If only it weren't for those pesky wrasse, lol. I couldn't say if it has developed any new heads yet but the flesh has been encrusting downwards to the rock on which it's attached so I take that to be a good sign.
Amazingly a while back I found a couple of baby black sun polyps lying in the sump. I think these have developed from bits of flesh that fell off the main coral after my disastrous fragging attempt. I thought about trying to rescue them and fix them to a small rock but decided I had enough mouths to worry about already so they will have to take their chances in the sump.
The two Dendrophyllia are doing great, popping out new heads slowly but surely. The yellow one started with 3 heads and now has 14 and the orange one has gone from 3 to 9. Unfortunately there is a small problem with the orange one as I mentioned above, the head of the Dendro closest to the Heliofungia does not fully expand its tentacles any more and sometimes it looks a bit damaged. I should move one of them but the Heliofungia is too large to go anywhere else and the Dendro has just grown down and made contact with the rockwork plus it looks fantastic alongside the yellow one and there's not much space elsewhere for it either, arrggh!
That's it for now, I think I'll tackle the inverts update next before moving on to the rest of the corals.
Time for a proper tank update starting with the fish.
Sadly Rocket the Red Spotted goby vanished on the 29th December 2019. In the few days prior to his disappearance he hadn't been eating as vigorously as normal, did he die from old age or was there some other reason (perhaps refugium related)? I had him for just over a 18 months. This means I'm down to just one nano goby now in the form of Hop the Nudus goby. Hop was one of the first fish to be added to this tank in December 2016, he was introduced along with a female Nudus goby and a Red Striped goby. His mate passed on after 15 months and the Red Striped goby after 22 months. Hop has been with me for 27 months at this point so I'm worried how long he has left. The clock is ticking, I really wish nano gobies had a longer lifespan. I can't always locate him every day as he spends a lot of time hidden in his sandy burrow but he usually pops out for food whenever he feels like an extra snack. Even when he's not been target fed his belly always looks rounded so he must be finding plenty of pods to munch on when underground.
Edna the Possum wrasse (Wetmorella tanakai) has been with me for just over 2 years and 2 months now. She's quite secretive but much bolder now that the corals are a bit bigger. She flits from rock to rock when the light is at its peak but can be found swimming out in the open when the lights are dimmer. She loves PE mysis above all other frozen food and will home in on the bigger pieces even if they do take several 'chews' before she is able to swallow them.
Kylie the Pink Streaked wrasse (Pseudocheilinops ataenia) was added next so she has been a resident for 2 years and 1 month. Another model reef tank inhabitant, slightly more active than Edna, loves to hunt for 'pods'. Her favourite food is fish eggs which she will take straight from a pipette. I wish I could find her (him?) a mate but whenever I see another Pink Streaked wrasse in a shop I wimp out in case it's the wrong sex.
Rei the Yellow wrasse (Halichoeres chrysus) has been with me for a year and a half and has grown enormously. I still think of her as female but she has transitioned into a male now. If I'm totally honest this fish is too big for the tank and really needs to be moved on. I'm just not sure if he could be caught that easily, sometimes I just have to sneeze near the tank and he vanishes with a puff of sand.
Tinker and Belle the Pintail wrasse pair have been with me for 16 months and they are still going strong. I did fear that I might be asking for trouble introducing two of these fish as females of this family have a reputation for changing into male in captivity and this almost always results in all out war with another male. So far, I am relieved to say this has not happened. Will it happen in the future? I do not know. Tinker regularly displays to Belle and occasionally chases her around the tank when he's feeling moody, most of the time however they co-exist quite peacefully together. These fish love to eat and will try to consume as much of the food as they possibly can before the rest of the fish can reach it.
Jessie, the Rainford goby is the most recent introduction, I've had him for just over 6 months now and he is the most enchanting fish, totally peaceful and not at all shy. He naturally gives way to the larger wrasse when they come barreling past or at feeding time but he is always waiting at the top of the tank (along with the male Pintail wrasse) to try and grab as much food as he can. He can often be found sifting sand, pecking copepods off the back wall and to a lesser degree, eating hair algae.
That's the lot, every now and again I toy with the idea of adding one more fish but I am hesitant to upset the status quo. All of the fish get along and are healthy so I should be content with that, right?!
My next update will be corals.
Continuing on with the saga of refugiumgate, lol.
Last Wednesday I took delivery of a small amount of live rock (1kg). The package consisted of 3 smallish pieces of rock (as I requested), all with a nice coverage of coralline. Really rather nice looking rock in my opinion and actually much nicer than the stuff I used to originally set this tank up. Naturally since my aim was to increase biological diversity I also investigated the bag the rock was transported in, well you never know what goodies might lie within. My eye was immediately drawn to something swimming around at the bottom of the bag, in fact this creature was extremely lively considering how far it had travelled (all the way from Australia to Germany and then on to me). Obviously it was hardy beastie and at 15mm long it seemed positively massive to me.
It looked suspiciously like an isopod and alarm bells started ringing very loudly in my head. My knowledge of isopods is somewhat limited so I turned to my good friend Google for some assistance. There are hundreds of species of isopods, some are harmless scavengers but some like to feast on fish. After some research my heart sank as I tentatively identified this beastie to be an Cirolanid isopod. I am not sure of the species (possibly Cirolana harfordi), it could be a benign scavenger, an opportunistic eater of fish or an obligate blood-sucking fish parasite. It doesn't really matter one way or another because there was no way I was going to add it to my tank. The bigger problem I had was did it have any friends still hiding within the live rock? Boy a quarantine tank would have really come in really handy right now! I ummed and ahhed for a while but I couldn't bring myself to discard the rock on the chance it contained more baddies so in to the refugium it went.
Crikey, I do hope I haven't made the worst mistake of my reefing adventure. If there are any more isopods maybe they'll stay in the refugium or get trapped in the filter floss or even get decapitated by the impeller of the return pump...
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!