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...
I have lots to update, hmm where to begin? I think I should probably get the bad stuff out of the way first.
Forgive me Father for I have sinned. For quite a while I had noticed that I was harvesting less and less macro algae from the refugium, growth had slowed to almost nothing at all despite there being plenty of nitrate and phosphate available. The days of my tank having low nutrients were certainly in the distant past as they had been slowly but surely creeping up. At the last ICP analysis nitrate was sitting at 11.5mg/l and phosphate at 0.13mg/l. I'd also noted that the mini brittle stars that used to thrive in amongst the algae had dwindled from hundreds to zero (there are still lots in the DT). I'd come to the conclusion that Charlize the hitchhiker crab had been supplementing her diet with some brittle star meat. Anyway hair algae had taken a firm hold in the upper half of the refugium and was choking out the growth of macro algae below. This meant that there was even less algae available to the crustacean residents (Charlize and also Bruce the Emerald crab) at the bottom of the refugium. Then at the beginning of December, I discovered what was left of Bruce, had he also been eaten by Charlize? RIP Bruce.
So on the 16th December 2019 I decided then to take the refugium out for a good clean, removing the old mud substrate and replacing it with some new, a long overdue task I must admit. I carefully salvaged as much of the macro algae as I could (a mix of Caulerpa racemosa and Chaetomorpha) and placed it, along with the naughty Charlize, into a bucket (with tank water obviously). I then disconnected the refugium and set about cleaning it.
Once everything was clean(ish) I added a new layer of mud, refitted the refugium and carefully filled with water. After a while I reintroduced the macro algae and crab. So far so good, however things were about to take an unfortunate downward turn. It seems that by cleaning the refugium and/or replacing the mud I had altered the water chemistry and not in a good way either. The redox value dropped to 250mV and stayed there. Under normal circumstances the redox probe reads somewhere between 350mV to 450mV and to be honest I don't pay that much attention to it. The numbers bounce around depending on whether I've just fed the fish or done a water change. A value of 250mV however was definitely not normal. I wondered if the probe was reading accurately so I cleaned and recalibrated it but still the readings remained low.
A few days after cleaning I noticed some suspicious looking brown algae starting to appear in the refugium and I just knew this wasn't going to be good. Sure enough after about a week or so I started to see signs of it appear in the DT too. It began by coating the gorgonians, the Plexaurella was particularly affected and closed up. Ten days after cleaning I discovered Charlize the hitchhiking crab dead in the refugium. Nooo! I couldn't believe it and felt so terrible guilty. Why did she die? My immediate thought was that the brown algae may have been the cause as some species of dinoflagellates are know to be toxic. I've have not been unfortunate enough to have to deal with this type of algae before but I've certainly read about it a lot. It looked just like typical dinoflagellates, brown and snotty with trapped air bubbles but just to be sure I took a sample and dusted off the microscope.
My suspicions sadly proved correct. The tiny oval protozoans were swimming in a circular motion around an anchor point like a tetherball which is typical of Ostreopsis sp., this is indeed toxic to snails and other herbivorous creatures. I've read many horror stories regarding dinoflagellates in reef tanks, so to say I was feeling depressed was a bit of an understatement, I had visions of all my corals covered with brown snot and the sand littered with shells of dead snails.
According to my research there is no easy way to rid a tank of dinoflagellates and I certainly wasn't keen on the idea of performing a 5-7 day black out. I decided not to panic and continue tank maintenance as normal. I continued with the weekly water changes (yes I know these were not advised) and siphon out as much of the 'snot' as possible in an effort to give the gorgonians a tiny bit of relief. I don't know if it helped them but it certainly made me feel better. In the ensuing days the dinos spread to the tips of the Seriatopora hystrix but surprisingly nothing else seemed affected. Every morning I would count the number of snails to make sure they were all still present and correct.
The redox level remained very low so on the 14th January I sent off a sample of water for ICP analysis just to check if the mud was leeching out something nasty but as you can see from the link below the results looked OK. Nitrates and phosphates were lower than the previous test but not that low.
Since I'd effectively removed most of the beneficial bacteria and critters from the refugium (except for amphipods and mysid shrimps) I decided it might be a good idea to add some diversity back in the form of some live rock rubble. This proved easier said than done as nobody seems to stock actual live rock anymore, it's all artificial or dead rock and bottled bacteria these days. I tried ordering some in from a local shop but when I went to collect it, it was just a bag of dry rock, sigh! In the end I located an online shop that was out of stock but expecting a fresh delivery of Australian live rock in the next few weeks or so. I decided to preorder a small amount and crossed my fingers that it wouldn't take too long.
In the meantime the redox gradually started to creep back up again and by the end of January it had hit 350mV once more, the gorgonians started to pick up again. The first to bounce back was the Muricea followed by the Pinnigorgia and finally after over a month of looking completely dead the Plexaurella shed a layer of algae/mucus and the polyps came back out again, sadly a couple of branches had stripped but at least some of it was still alive. I also only had to frag off one of the Seriatopora branch tips and the rest bounced back in no time at all.
As of today the dinoflagellates have almost completely disappeared from the DT, if you check the Pinnigorgia very closely there is still some evidence of some thin brown strings in one area of low flow but there's not much left at all. I am hoping in another month or so it will have gone altogether, I have my fingers crossed.
Oh and just as things were starting to look up I received acknowledgement that my small order of live rock was available and ready for delivery (20th February 2019). That story will have to wait until another post, oh the stress is never ending....
A few months ago I popped into my LFS to pick up some frozen food and naturally had to have a look around the livestock tanks. I spotted a nice Tubastrea micrantha (black sun coral) in one of the coral trays, I don't see many of these available and this one looked to be in good condition too with no loss of tissue (the polyps were not extended obviously). I was tempted to purchase it but space is tight and it's another mouth(es) to feed so in the end common sense prevailed and I walked away. Then weeks later we visited again, the coral was still there only this time it looked sad, flesh had stripped off from a number of heads leaving exposed white skeleton beneath, it was starving to death. Rashly I offered to take it off their hands but only if they discounted the price a little. Amazingly they agreed to this and I acquired myself yet another non-photosynthetic coral. It remains to be seen if this is a good or a bad thing.
When we got home I decided it might be a good idea to frag off the 'healthier' part of the coral and discard the section with stripped heads. However when I tried to chop it with some coral cutters I was barely able to scratch the surface of the coral. I passed it over to my husband but he could not frag it either. The skeleton of this coral is tough, I mean really, really tough! I have since read that the skeleton of T. micrantha is denser than most other corals on the reef, so that explains that then, lol. So not only have I a sad looking, partially stripped coral but one that also has damage to the base of one of the branches too. Doh!
After acclimation I placed it on the sand for observation. I fed the fish and waited for some sort of a response which turned out to be a big fat nothing! OK, not unexpected since it was during the day but when I checked again after the lights went out there was still nothing going on. I fed the other NPS corals but the black sun remained just a motionless black stick, not a single teeny, tiny tentacle popped out to say hello. It must have been so starved that it couldn't rustle up enough energy to do anything at all, even at night. Clearly I needed to make a special effort or this coral was going to be doomed.
So the following day I decided take direct action. I had heard about the 'bucket method' (feeding of sun corals in a separate container outside of the tank). I have never needed to try this before but now was the perfect opportunity. I took the coral out of the tank with some water and placed it in a small jug then I sat the jug in a makeshift water bath. I did this to try and keep the temperature from falling too low during the feeding process. I don't know if this was entirely necessary but as I had the equipment available I thought I may as well use it.
I made a diary to document my progress.
Day 1: I raided the freezer/cupboards for every food stuff I had that I thought might be suitable. Mysis (PE & Gamma), Krill pacifica, mussel, lobster & fish eggs, Calanus, rotifers, Reef Roids and Reef frenzy. I mixed them all up in a glass and let them marinate in some Selcon for good measure. Then I pipetted the food mixture gently all around the coral and waited for 40 minutes. No tentacles appeared and I can't say with any certainty that any food was ingested so back in the tank it went, this time I placed it up in the sump for easier access, this coral was going to be in and out of the tank a LOT in the next few days/weeks (and maybe months!).
Day 2: I removed the coral for feeding twice today, once in the morning for an hour and once the afternoon. There was still no sign of any tentacles but a couple of polyps may have taken in some tiny bits of Mysis. I noticed that the food had to be in direct contact with the mouth for anything to happen. I decided, going forward, to lie the coral on this side so that as many mouths were pointing upwards as possible and then turn it over and repeat.
Day 3: The coral was out for feeding twice again today. A few of the heads are definitely taking in small bits of food and I also observed the tiniest hint of a few tentacles swelling. Progress! I have extended the feeding times to 1-2 hours per feed. It's frustrating trying to get the food to stay in contact with the mouths most of it just ends up falling to the bottom of the jug.
Days 4 & 5: As above, not much change however a few more of the heads were starting to accept small pieces of food and now there are signs of some short stubby tentacles.
Day 6: I reduced the frequency of feeding to once per day.
Day 11: Fed the coral as normal in the morning when I checked on it in the sump at lunchtime just after the fish were fed and 5 of the heads had tentacles showing so it's starting to respond to food being in the water.
Day 14: 5 heads are showing short stubby tentacles when the coral is out being fed in the jug.
Day 17: I'm starting to see a few more tentacles appear now and food is being consumed much quicker. Not all of the heads show any signs of life yet though.
Day 18: I've started to notice that the coral has begun secreting mucus whenever I take it out of the sump to feed. I take this to be a good sign although it does make it harder to feed (the food gets caught up in the mucus and fails to make contact with the mouthes). Ideally I would like to keep the coral underwater at all times during the transfer process but space is just too tight in the sump so a quick trip in the air is required. Also today I discovered a teeny tiny Aiptaisa growing on the skeleton of one of the stripped heads, oh for goodness sake!!
Day 19: I fed the coral as normal and then whipped out some Aiptasia RX. This treatment killed off the pest anemone in short order but also stripped off any part of the sun coral flesh it came into contact with so now there's a bit more white skeleton showing *sigh!*
Day 21: The sun coral is starting to look a bit perkier now especially when it's undisturbed in the sump, some of the tentacles are already partially extended in anticipation of feeding time.
Day 24: It occurred to me today after looking at some of the original photographs of the coral that I could no longer see the area of the coral that we damaged when we tried to frag it, plus some of the stripped heads are no longer visible either. The flesh has regrown over them, just a couple of bare areas remain now namely where the Aiptasia RX was used. Also it's becoming a little easier to feed with some of the tentacles able to capture food.
Day 34: The coral looks ready to take its chances in the display tank. It's eating well and almost all of the heads are extending nicely.
Day 36: The big day! The black sun coral is finally fixed into position in the display tank.
I'd like to say that it's all plain sailing from here onwards but that's not strictly true. Firstly this coral will NOT extend its polyps when the lights are on, not even right after the fish are fed, at least it hasn't to date. So I have to wait till after dark to feed and then because well, it's black(ish) in colour, the tentacles are almost impossible to see (unlike the bright orange Tubastrea polyps). So unless I want to squirt food all over the tank I need a light to see what I'm doing. So a torch is required and then the tentacles start retracting again in pretty short order, argh! This is frustrating but I usually manage to feed 60% of the heads which is not bad. I understand that this coral shares nutrition throughout the whole colony so not feeding all of the heads shouldn't be too much of a problem.
In closing this NPS coral is certainly harder to care from than the Dendrophyllia or the orange Tubastrea but naturally looks pretty amazing when open. Long may it continue...
Apologies for the delay in updating this blog. I'm pleased to report that Tinker the male Pintail wrasse DID survive his cave diving experience after all. He refused to eat for three whole days following the ordeal but then on the fourth day he tried sampling a couple of small pieces of Mysis and then on subsequent days he ate a little bit more at every feed. He was feeding pretty much normally again after two weeks. His wounds (lost scales and shredded fins) repaired themselves in short order once he began eating again. I hope he's learnt his lesson not to go wedging himself into small holes in the rock again.
Jessie the Rainford's goby continues to do well. He is such a sweet little fish, keeping to himself whilst going about his daily business hunting for pods and sand 'chewing'. I think he's grown a bit since introduction.
On the 18th December, Edna the Possum wrasse will celebrate her second birthday in the tank. She is visible much more than she used to be, the corals have grown in and she can weave her way through, under and around them without exposing herself to the scary open water too much. This doesn't apply at feeding time when she's out ready and waiting to sneak a choice piece of her favourite food, PE mysis.
Hop the Nudus goby celebrated his second birthday on the 3rd December, he may have lost his mate back in March but he is still going strong along with Al, his shrimp partner. Red Spotted pistol shrimps are reported to only pair with Whitecap gobies but after mine sadly jumped out (through the mesh of the tank lid) the remaining shrimp accepted the Nudus pair instead. They have been together for well over a year now.
Before I sign off for today I'll leave an updated shot of the two Dendrophyllia sp. because why not! They are just so pretty. Notice the Pintail wrasse sleeping under the rock.
I hope to update more fully in the next couple of weeks. I have just one new coral addition to report.
Not the best of days on the reef today.
At feeding time I noticed the Male Pintail wrasse was MIA. He was absolutely fine the previous day, eating more than his fair share of food as usual. Then today he was gone. This prompted a frantic searching of the tank both inside and out by the entire family. There was no sign of him in the tank so we got on our hands and knees with torches searching the entire room, under cupboards and behind the tank (even though I have a net top to the tank). The fish however was nowhere to be found, how can a fish as large as this vanish so completely in a small tank?
It was my son who finally solved the mystery, he spotted the very tip of the wrasse’s tail poking out from a hole in a rock hidden right at the back of a cave at the very bottom of the left hand rock pile. Possibly THE most inaccessibile area of the tank.
Now I was faced with an impossible decision, let the fish die (the tail was still twitching) or pull out all the rocks? My husband pointed out that even if I did remove the rocks complete with large corals, how was I going to actually get the fish out of the hole?
We decided to wait and see if he could miraculously extricate himself on his own. For hours I hovered nervously around the tank hoping for a miracle. It was heartbreaking watching the female Pintail waiting around/in the cave, clearly aware that her mate was in there somewhere. Kinda surprising considering how he likes to chase her sometimes.
I had pretty much given up hope when, late this afternoon, the stupid wrasse managed to wriggle all the way THROUGH the hole in the rock and emerge out the other side. I didn’t know that was possible, up till now the only critter to use this hole is the Pom Pom crab.
Sadly the fishie is now in a really poor shape. His dorsal fin is shredded, he has wounds on his face and many missing scales on his side. I don’t know if he will survive this ordeal or not but he was in good condition yesterday so I can only hope. He wouldn’t eat tonight however.
Keeping a reef tank is so relaxing... NOT!!
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.
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!