The tank has survived to reach its second anniversary today, how the time has flown. Needless to say after two years of running, the exciting stocking phase is pretty much over with (although never say never, lol!) and I've moved on to the not quite so exciting fragging phase.
The first coral that needed a proper pruning was the Seriatopora hystrix. It has grown in rather an unruly manner and some of the branches were growing over the top of the clam (a definite no-no!) and a good section was also now obscuring my view of the sun coral, making it harder to feed. The tips are easy to frag but I found that when trying to cut branches further down, whole sections would break off instead, so I removed far more of the coral than I intended. Oh well it will recover given time (assuming that the Utter Chaos zoanthids don't take it over completely).
Finally, I am able to see the sun coral in all its glory again. As you can see it does try to keep the branches of the Seri in check by stinging and killing off the tips that stray too close. If you look closely you can also see a few of the baby sun polyps that have settled on to the rockwork to the left. The whole tank is pretty much spotted with baby suns right now, even the Scolymia already has one settled on its skeleton.
Talking of sun corals, the Dendrophyllia frag I added in August is doing really well, it started out as 3 heads and now has 5, with another 4 more developing. This seems like a much faster growth rate than the Tubastrea, or maybe it is just more noticeable due to its branching formation.
I have also been lucky enough to pick up another Dendrophyllia frag from a fellow reefer. Morphologically it looks the same as the yellow one so it's possibly just a different colour morph (or perhaps it's a different species, I don't know). I so looove these corals, I know that they are only at their best after the lights go out but I simply don't care, I think they are spectacular! I sometimes wonder if I should have just gone with an NPS tank and be done with everything else, lol! Ideally I'd prefer to feed these corals during the day so that I can admire their beauty with the lights on but it's so darn frustrating. The wrasse try to steal the food and 98% of the time they are successfuI before the polyp has a chance to fully ingest it. No matter how I defend the coral, the bloomin fish sneak in and grab it most of the time. It's just not worth the effort and stress it causes (to me and the coral). Oh to be outwitted by a few fish....
Anyway back to fragging. The second coral that needed reducing in size was the green plating Montipora, I'd been psyching myself up to do this for months. I knew the time had finally come when the Acanthastrea corals growing directly below it started showing signs of struggling, they were at that point pretty much completely shaded out by the coral above. I kept putting it off because the Montipora had grown into such a perfect saucer shape and looked lovely, I knew that once I'd had at it the shape would be ruined. Unfortunately I didn't take any photos of either this or the Seri before I began chopping, I don't know what was I thinking? Anyway the plate coral may look quite delicate but it was surprisingly hard to frag, lower down the skeleton is deceptively thick. I took off a good couple of inches around the edges on the right-hand side and probably should have done more but that's a problem for another day.
Now that the there's a bit more light, the Acanthastrea 'Lava Glow' looks good again. Its smaller brother to the left of it is unfortunately still somewhat shaded. However this coral has never really grown well even when it received better lighting. I did try to move it to another location recently but it's fused to the rockwork so I'm afraid it's there to stay.
The third coral that needed to be fragged was Acropora hyacinthus. I've been nipping the front tips off here and there for a while as they grew towards the front glass but more drastic action was needed this time as I was no longer possible to clean the glass in front of it. Due to the fused branch growth it was now impossible to remove individual bits so the best remedy for the long term was to remove the entire front half of the coral and as with the Seriatopora more was removed than intended. In fact there's not much of the coral left now, just the base and one main branch. Hey ho!
Whilst fragging the A. hyacinthus a large chunk snapped off at the base and fell right on top of the Scolymia. Argh! The Scoly looked very unhappy for a few days and remained shrivelled up, naturally I feared for the worst but fortunately the reefing gods were smiling down and it has bounced back to full glory once more. To say I'd have been upset if a frag that originally cost £15 took out a much, MUCH more expensive coral would have been a bit of an understatement to say the least, lol!
The Scoly loves to eat but never shows its tentacles till after the lights go out so I only feed it at that time. I offer it krill or LPS pellets once or twice per week.
The Favia has grown from a frag the size of inch squared into quite a big beastie and has spread out not only over the rockwork but also out onto the sand towards the Acanthastrea to the left of it. There used to be a good gap between the left and right rock piles, a space in which the conch could easily pass through but now his shell won't fit through at all. I fear that it's only a question of time until the two corals start fighting each other and there won't be much I can do about it as they are both well and truly encrusted on to the rockwork, It won't be pretty I'm sure!
The Heliofungia also continues to do well, there's no sign of it wanting to break away and wander round the sand (which is fine by me!) nor are it's offspring. As you can see from the photo below the coralline algae growing on the glass is a bit of a pain. I want to scrape it all off but I don't want to damage the coral during the process. Everywhere I've read says if the flesh gets torn then it's "hasta la vista baby!", so I feel it's best to just leave it be.
Jessie the Rainford's goby has settled in beautifully and whilst he always gives way to the much larger wrasse at feeding time, he's not shy at all. He roams all over the tank, pecking at algae and chewing the 'sand'. He now feeds really well on frozen food and tries his level best to grab as much as he can before the greedy wrasse hoover it all up, I still offer him a bit extra via a pipette to make sure he gets enough to keep his little belly full.
Sadly I haven't seen Candy the Red Striped goby (Trima cana) since the 8th October. He/she was one of the first fish added to the tank on the 3rd December 2016. I understand that nano gobies do not have long lifespans, only a couple of years, so I'm assuming it was just his time. Two years is just too short sadly. I can't help but wonder how long Hop the Nudus goby will be around for now. He was also added at the same time as Candy and he already lost his mate earlier this year (March).
Sadly I don't have a recent(ish) photo of Candy to share as once the zoanthids grew over his rock he took to hanging out behind Lobophyllia where he was difficult to photograph. I'll post this sneaky shot taken last year instead. :'(
The rest of the fish are fine.
I have a new invert (see, I can still squeeze more stuff in lol!), a crinoid squat lobster. I tried keeping one of these adorable little crustaceans back in 2016, when the tank was relatively new. Sadly it vanished after just 20 days and I vowed not try another... then I came across this little guy. I reasoned that now that the tank is mature this itty bitty crustacean would stand a better chance at survival so he now resides in my tank. As I type this, it's been 27 days since introduction and I'm happy to say that he's taken up permanent residence amongst the branches of Seriatopora, hiding underneath the relative safely of the Utter Chaos zoanthids during the day, he blends in extremely well with the orange of the polyps. He's been named Jaffa and readily accepts all sorts of food from the pipette, I am hopeful he will do better than Stripes did.
Jobs I still need to do. I need to frag the branches of the Stylophora that are growing too close to the glass on the left-hand side and try and remove some of the many Utter Chaos zoanthids that have spread round the tank (I really regret adding those devils).
I've run out of time now so I'll sign off with the obligatory full tank shot.
To this, in two years.
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.
MACNA was absolutely fantastic and I loved every single minute of it, there was so much to see and do. The exhibitor stands were numerous and varied, with some amazing display tanks and we attended as many of the talks as we could fit in.
I particularly loved the stands from Biota, Ora and POMA Labs showcasing their captive bred fish. The 67-day old juvenile Yellow Tangs and teeny tiny Mandarin fish from Biota were just fabulous. If I could have successfully sneaked a Mandarin in my bag I would have. There were numerous coral vendors but I didn't dwell too long on the frag trays as I knew I was unable to take any home with me. The speakers were all excellent, with Martin Moe's 'Diadema sea urchin culture' and Elizabeth Groover's 'Ornamental wrasse culture' presentations being particularly fascinating to me.
On the Friday night there was a reception by the pool with nibbles & drinks and the evening's entertainment was provided by the band 'Live Rock', lol. Saturday night heralded the gala dinner with the Keynote speaker Charlie Veron who has certainly had an amazing life to date and observed first hand the declining health of corals on the Great Barrier Reef. Both events gave us a chance to mingle and chat with other reefers.
In a flash MACNA was over and we were on our way home again, boo hoo! I had a blast and would happily attend again if I could convince my better half.
A couple of quick photos before I have to leave the tank again, I hope everything is still alive when I get back. This time I am leaving for the US to attend MACNA in Las Vegas, yippee! I'm hoping to take lots of photos whilst I'm there so keep an eye on this blog if you are interested in all things reefy.
I managed to snap a photo of Ming the Pom Pom crab last night. He is such a cool little dude! I've had him for just over 14 months now and both he and his anemones appear to be doing great. Every now and again I feed him directly as I did with a piece of Krill last night but for the most part he just finds his own food.
Also here is a quick FTS, just in case it something bad happens to the tank in the next week or so. The A. hyacinthus has grown too close to the front glass again so that it's no longer possible to clean it properly and the Utter Chaos zoanthids are out of control round the right-hand side so some serious fragging is in order when I get back. I did remove quite a few branches of the Seriatopora at the weekend (an easy job to do) as it was overgrowing the clam, eek!
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'm amazed to report that after just 29 days the new Dendrophyllia is already growing a new head, I guess that means it's happy with its location and receiving enough food. A stunning looking coral!
Update: I just realised after posting the above that there is another head developing on the right-hand side of the same polyp. It's hidden when the coral is extended.
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.
First the not so good news, I think it's time to hold my hands up and admit defeat when it comes to growing Acropora in this tank. As soon I discovered the first red bug I feared the worst and that certainly appears to have been the case. I had hoped that the corals would be able to survive the parasitisation and for a while they did, growth was slow but steady and colouration looked OK but that's certainly not the case now.
To recap, patient zero (the frag that initially infected the tank) was removed leaving a small amount of encrusted base in the tank, it looked like was going to recover and regrow but progress was so slow that the neighbouring Montipora (Superman) completely overgrew it. The second casualty was the Purple-tipped Acro, this suffered from STN (slow tissue necrosis) and had to be fragged. The remaining frags encrusted onto the rockwork but again showed little upward growth and were in time also overgrown by the Superman Montipora. A tiny bit of encrusted base still remains but I fully expect it to fade away or be overgrown eventually. The A. loripes suffered from RTN (rapid tissue necrosis) whilst I was on holiday and the Red Dragon joined it shortly after. The A. echinata frag also suffered from STN and was fragged but the stress of it being chopped up caused the remaining branch to strip overnight. So this leaves me with Acro #1 which has browned out and is soon going be completely overshadowed by the green plating Montipora (I never actually wanted any plating Montipora in this tank but this was a freebie coral that came in along with an order of encrusting forms and I, like an idiot, assumed it was encrusting one too, duh!). I also still have Acro #3 which is struggling for space next to the large gorgonian and A. gomezi. At first glance the A. gomezi looks OK but is actually covered with red bugs and has put in no upwards growth since its introduction almost 18 months ago!! There is one Acro however which appears unaffected by the Red bugs and that is the A. hyacinthus (aka Red Planet), this has grown relatively well and in fact has to be fragged because it keeps growing too close to the front glass. I cannot find any trace of red bugs on this coral. So there you go, it's no more Acropora for me, perhaps I'll be able to restock one day when the remaining Acros have gone and the red bugs have died out without a coral on which to host.
In case there was something going on with the water quality that I wasn't aware of, I did send off for an ICP analysis but nothing stood out as being particularly troublesome. Strontium, Barium and Manganese were on the low side. Nitrate and phosphate were 3.02mg/l and 0.09mg/l respectively which is the highest they have been but not excessively high, I think (maybe someone may correct me?). Still, I have decided to run a little Rowaphos to bring the phosphate level down a touch. Full results can be seen via the link below.
Now for the better news the rest of the livestock for the most part appears to be doing fine. The Stylophora, Montipora and Seriatopora are all growing great (a bit too great actually). The lovely beach bum Montipora is thankfully still with me and finally showing signs of growth too. Unfortunately it's becoming harder and harder to see with the ever increasing Stylophora situated to the left of it and monster green plating Montipora to the front. Very poor planning on my part! I can just about catch a glimpse of it from the top but I suspect that won't last long. I would really love to move it to somewhere viewable but I doubt that I could get it off the rock even if I had somewhere to move it to which I certainly don't.
The Superman Montipora has completely filled in the space I gave it and is also growing up the side of the Crocea clam shell. I'm not sure if I should be worried about this development or not. I hope it doesn't impede the opening and closing of the clam.
I had to remove the original frag of the Cyphastrea as the Favia next door was remorselessly attacking it every night and anyway I never liked the look of the horrible frag plug. Since its removal the remaining encrusted part has been doing much better, it's still very close to the Favia but seems to have fallen under the radar for the time being. As for the Lobophyllia I had always been led to believe that they are super aggressive corals but the Utter Chaos zoanthids are creeping ever closer without any form of retaliation at all. I had rather hoped that it would keep them in their place.
Sadly the Sunrise Goniopora frag is not doing very well at all. To begin with, it looked great and was encrusting on to the rock it was placed but then it started to lose colour and not extend as much. I tried moving it to the back of the tank where it was less bright but that didn't seem to make a difference. I can only assume that it hasn't been finding enough food, I do target feed it Reef Roids and Goniopower but generally not more than once a week. I am ever conscious of the size of the tank and nutrient levels.
Here are a few recent photos:
Now on to the new stuff!
With the loss of a few of the SPS corals I was needing a pick me up and a new coral (or two as it happens) does the job. For ages I had fancied adding a short tentacled Fungia to the tank and since we had a trip to London planned a couple of weeks ago, a visit to Advanced Aquarium Consultancy was in order. I couldn't believe my luck when I found out the night before that they were having a sale on some of their corals. I thought "fantastic", I can save some money for a change, lol! However instead of saving money I spent more as I ended up buying a Scolymia instead of a Fungia. Oops! It's funny how that happens when shopping for corals. Needless to say I could have spent more, waaayy more, thank goodness I live too far away for AAC to be my LFS.
Apparently it's a Reverse Bleeding Apple Scoly (more red colouration than green) and here it is after 4 days. I've been watching it like a hawk, worrying about its health because frankly it's the most I've ever paid for a coral even with 20% off. Oh but it's so pretty.
I had to remove 4 Asterina sp. starfish from the base of the coral after acclimation, I felt bad about killing them but really, I have enough pest issues to deal with as it is. It's a shame because close up they are quite nice to look at and I love starfish but I can't take the chance that they may become a nuisance. Although it would be cool to have a Harlequin shrimp...
Here is the Scoly in night feeding mode.
Just after the addition of the Scolymia I discovered an online seller was offering frags of Dendrophyllia sp. Now I really love sun corals (well, non-photosynthetic corals in general) and my current Tubastrea is doing great so I convinced myself that I could squeeze in an itty bitty frag of a Dendro too. The coral was listed as yellow/red in colour with the polyps opening up in the day time as well as the night. However as you can see the coral is a uniform lemon yellow in colour with not a hint of red at all (unlike the one shown on the website). No matter though it looks healthy and really rather lovely, it opened up much faster than I expected and is taking in food already which is excellent. I can confirm in my vast experience of one week that it does indeed stay open during the day. I'm not convinced that it's a Dendrophyllia sp. however, it could alternatively be a branching Tubastrea sp. Only an examination of the skeleton will determine that for sure and since I'd really rather it didn't die I'll be content without a positive ID.
Here's a full tank shot to end this update.
Here are the rest of our snorkelling videos.
The only trips we did were to see the Whale shark and the Manta Ray, sadly both were somewhat disappointing. We were lucky enough to see them but they stayed deep and it was a rugby scrum to get to see them at all. Not ideal! I'm not surprised they stayed deep to be honest. The turtles however were fantastic, we saw them both on the house reef and at Turtle reef, they pretty much ignored us completely and went about their business.
That's the last of the footage, I hope you enjoyed watching the videos.
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!