I've been running the ATI disposable carbon dioxide scrubber since the 21st June 2017 during which time I've used up 3 units. The first one lasted for 12 weeks and 2 days which I thought was a decent amount of time for the cost. The tank pH was higher and more stable so I decided the experiment was worth continuing. An additional 2 units were purchased, the second unit lasted for 13 weeks and 3 days, still good, but the third unit exhausted in just 2 weeks! So what had changed (assuming the unit was not faulty somehow)? Well the skimmer was replaced, the windows in the house were closed because it was extremely cold outside and there were a few more people visiting due to it being Christmas. Aside from the lack of fresh air and more CO2 being breathed out the new skimmer pump is clearly pulling a lot more air than the old one and you can see that from the amount of bubbles being produced in the skimmer body.
So what to do? A two week run time for the disposable unit is no longer cost effective for me but I do like the higher pH levels that the scrubber produces (and so apparently do my corals if you take the increase in Alk/Ca usage into consideration). In the end I decided to scrap the disposable idea and try a refillable unit instead. The 4l refillable unit that ATI produces is just too large to fit inside my cabinet so I decided to give the Fauna Marin Skim Breeze a whirl instead. This unit holds 1l much like the ATI disposable version but can be refilled with fresh media when the old stuff is exhausted. It comes complete with 1l media to begin with and when that is used up I intend to refill it with a medical grade CO2 absorber called Spherasorb. I'll see how that pans out and report back later on.
My tank is exactly a year old today! Wow, where has the time flown to? I've been a bit lax with the updates recently so there's lots to catch up on.
First lets get the bad news out of the way. I'm afraid that I've lost the lovely Tridacna maxima clam, it simply never thrived in my tank. Before adding it I carefully checked the shell looking for any nasty hitchhikers but I never found any. I must have missed some (or their eggs at least) as I started to notice some pyramid snails feeding on my precious Trochus and Turbo snails. Nooo! I checked the clam regularly at night with a flash light but never found any of the little devils feasting on it. After two and a half months it finally it became clear that the clam was doomed so I decided to remove it before pollution became an issue. I checked it over again when it was out of the tank and still couldn't find any pyramid snails on it. These guys are so small and clearly hide really well! Later on three teeny tiny ones did emerge from inside of the clam, it's hard to imagine that just three could have any impact on an animal so much larger than they but clearly over time they do. Unless of course the maxima was suffering from something else too?
At this point there's not much I can do about the pyramid snails, I am removing any that I see every day and I've become quite adept at spotting them now. On average I remove about 10 per day. The wrasse are sadly not eating them, come on guys I could really do with a helping hand here, sheesh earn your keep why don't you!! At least I haven't lost any of the snails yet and my original Tridacna crocea clam seems to be doing fine, it's laying down new shell so I take that to be a good sign for now.
The other blip on my reefing horizon is the Balanophyllia. It just doesn't look as good as it once did and I can't work out why. Am I feeding it too much or not feeding it enough? I had been offering it a piece of food once per day (at night), generally PE mysis, clam, Krill or lancefish, perhaps that wasn't enough to sustain it? So I decided to up the feedings to multiple times per day (anywhere between three up to a maximum of five a day) but this seemed to make no difference at all (in fact the coral looked a little worse) so now I'm trying less food. It's really frustrating because the sun coral is looking fantastic on a single feed per day.
Apart from the above everything else seems to be doing OK. The fish are all good, Rei the Yellow wrasse eats like a horse and is noticeably bigger. The best news is that my Tomiyamichthys nudus gobies have finally paired up with the Red Spotted pistol shrimp so I get to see them all much more now. The male goby still goes MIA every now and again but always resurfaces at some point. The gobies and pistol shrimp do not naturally associate together in the wild but I suspect they have done so in my tank because there are simply no other alternatives.
The corals are getting bigger and some are starting to get close to each other already, war is on the horizon I expect.
The zoanthids are spreading nicely especially the Utter Chaos, these are reproducing at a phenomenal rate and unfortunately over taking some of the original slower growing morphs. Whatever was afflicting the Red Tuxedo zoanthids seems to have subsided and I've not lost any more recently, I hope that's the end of that.
After a bit of a slow start the algae in the refugium has really got going now and the amount of life in there is incredible. It's amphipod, mysis shrimp and brittlestar heaven! Charlie the hitchhiking crab is alive and kicking and still growing. She was such a tiny thing when I first noticed her in the DT hanging out in the Seriatopora, now she's huge in comparison.
Life in the refugium.
Whenever I harvest any algae, I spend the following 30 minutes rescuing brittlestars from amongst the fronds. Well I can't just throw them out can I? It's easy to see how they are reproducing by division.
My first canister of ATI Carbo EX came to the end of its life in September, it lasted just over 3 months which I don't think is too bad. I have decided to continue with the CO2 scrubbing and have replaced it with a fresh cartridge.
Last week to celebrate the fact that the tank was approaching its first birthday I decided that some new additions were required. There was a gap (left by the T. maxima clam) that was just crying out to be filled. OK it didn't really need to be filled but what can I say, any excuse to shop for new corals.
I decided another encrusting Montipora sp. would do nicely and since it was likely to be the last addition (never say never tho) I wanted something special. I decided the Beach Bum (what a name!!) Montipora would contrast nicely with the three that I currently have. Since I was mail ordering from a fellow reefer I found I couldn't just buy the one coral so I ended up with frags of Hawkins Echinata (Acropora echinata) and a Sunrise Goniopora too. My name is Lisa and I'm a coral addict, lol!
Here they are on the sand awaiting fixing (squeezing!) in place.
Phew that was a marathon (are you still with me?) before I sign off I'll add a few more updated photos. After all who doesn't love a bit of eye candy?!
Everything seems to be ticking along nicely at the moment. The KH dipped a little following the addition of the carbon dioxide filter and I've had to up my dosing rate as a consequence. I'm hoping it means that the corals are happier with the higher pH values and have increased their growth rates. Unfortunately perhaps, also due to the dip in KH (down from approx 7.0 to 6.5), the coralline on the back wall took a bit of a beating. It's not a problem as such but clearly I need to keep a better eye on the alkalinity level.
Swipes the porcelain crab, Petrolisthes galathinus, has settled in nicely and is proving to be a star attraction with the rest of my family (after Lurch the conch, who still remains the absolute favourite inhabitant). She has made her home underneath the left-hand rock pile and spends the majority of her time hanging out with Edna & Kylie (the two wrasses), filtering out small morsels of food from the water.
Ming, the Pom Pom crab (Lybia sp.) has also settled into the left-hand rock pile, in a small hole, way under the ledge. He's still pretty shy and we don't get to see him out in the open very much as of yet, I did manage to capture a sneaky shot of him in his hidey hole using flash today however.
It's pretty time consuming trying to take individual photos of all the corals individually on the same day so there just a small selection below, I'll work on adding the rest later in the week hopefully.
To finish, I just have to share a couple more shots of Crystal the Red Spotted cleaner shrimp, Urocaridella antonbrunnii, because she is the most incredible looking shrimp.
Since the addition of the Profilux controller I've been monitoring the pH cycle of the tank quite closely. I must admit that I just love this kind of thing, it's the scientist in me. I've noticed that the minimum value was lower when there were two of us working in the same room as the tank than when it was just me or even when there was no one in the room at all. When there were two of us working in there the pH would drop to below 8.0. I thus began thinking about adding a CO2 scrubber to my protein skimmer to see what difference it would make to the pH cycle.
There are a couple of scrubber options on the market (that I know of) and after brief consideration I decided to try the new ATI Carbo EX filter since I have used their ICP test recently and the price seemed quite reasonable. Connection to my skimmer was easy and I have it situated in the cupboard alongside the tank (next to my RO resevoir). It measures just under 21cm high and 10cm diameter for anybody interested in the dimensions.
As soon as the scrubber was connected I noticed that the tank pH began to rise, so it certainly appeared to be working. Frankly, I'm amazed that just breathing in the same room can have such an effect on the pH of a tank. I have drawn up a graph from two typical daily 24hr pH cycles, taken from 8am in the morning (when the lights switch on) to 8am the following morning. The green line shows data from the 15th of June (6 days before the fitting of the reactor, we were out of the house for half the day) and the blue line is from the 28th June (6 days after fitting the reactor, I was working in the same room for most of the day).
As you can see the pH before the scrubber fluctuates from a low of 8.03 to a high of 8.16 and with the scubber it cycles between 8.23 and 8.34. Obviously this is data sampled from just 2 days but from from my general observation, the pH is most certainly higher with the scrubber and interestingly the cycle has a slightly narrower maximum and minimum range. Will this have a positive impact on the general health of the tank? That's the important thing, watch this space for updates!
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!