In addition to the Pebble crab (RIP) I also received a commensal crab and a gorgonian.
The crab was a coral crab, Trapezia cymodoce. In the wild these crustaceans live in association with SPS corals, defending them against predators and feeding on the mucus produced by the coral. Unfortunately this individual had been through the wars, he arrived with one claw completely missing and the other broken (missing half of the pincer). The poor chap was basically defenceless, goodness knows what he'd been through before he'd been shipped to me. I introduced him carefully next to my largest Acropora but I discovered him hiding under a rock at the base of the clam the following day, he couldn't have been impressed with my choice of coral. Since he had no claws and no coral to live either in I was concerned about how he was going to settle. I gently pipetted a small piece of Mysis toward him and amazingly he managed to manhandle it with his broken claw toward his mouth. After that feeding him was a doddle, he greedily accepted food directly from the pipette. 17 days after introduction he moulted and reappeared with 2 complete claws, not just small claws but a proper pair of normal sized claws. Amazing!
The gorgonian was taller than expected which posed a bit of problem, where was I going to put it? One branch was stripped at the tip, another had flesh missing along its length and it was receding at the base. I had been advised by the shop that it was photosynthetic but as soon as I saw it in person it screamed non-photosynthetic to me. Not that I'm an expert or anything but it's not brown at all which I'd expect to see with a photosynthetic gorgonian. I had ordered it in the hope that it was the purple version of Menella, of which I have seen in photos online but never in person. This did not look like my yellow Menella, the polyps were smaller but it was here now and I would do my best for it. Fortunately it was attached to a reasonable size bit rock (coral skeleton) so I just placed it on the sand whilst I considered where it would go.
Here it is 4 days after introduction.
End on shot showing the whole gorgonian. You can see the stripped branch on the left and the small branch with missing flesh bottom left.
I decided to cut off the stripped top branch but leave the bottom one alone for the time being. After a few days it seemed the gap in lower branch was getting smaller or maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part. I decided to take regular photos to confirm it one way or another. The pictures were snapped at random times during the day and zoomed with my phone so they are not the best quality, oh and the gorgonian was shifted around a bit as I tried to work out where best to locate it in the tank.
This was on day 7 (after introduction).
Day 30 and the gap is now closed.
When I realised the branch above was regrowing I decided to keep an eye on the stripped area at the base too. This was on day 8.
This was day 30.
And this was day 39.
I'm pretty chuffed with that recovery especially since I honestly feared it would waste away in few short weeks. Maybe it is photosynthetic after all, lol.
I let the tank and myself have a breather for a week following 'clamgate'. Clive the clam appears to be fine after the incident and I'm pleased to report that nothing succumbed to an excess of clam ‘protein'. Then I transferred over my two remaining Acropora (gomezi and hyacinthus). I'd been putting off moving these because as we all know SPS can be tricky in new systems but it had to be done and if they didn't make it that'll be that. The A. gomezi was super easy because it's a tiny frag on a frag plug but the A. hyacinthus had grown rather large. I tried my best to frag it off the rock in one complete piece but, yeah that didn't happen. It broke into three, I was going to keep the two largest but in the end I opted to add a single bit only (easier to fix down). Those who followed my old thread may remember that the Reefer 170 had an issue with red bugs. I hadn't seen any of the little red devils for ages but that doesn’t mean that they were all gone, I can only hope. I dipped both frags in Reef Primer and checked them quite thoroughly before they were transferred.
Now we get to the big one. On the 26th April I decided to complete the tank transfer and shut the Reefer down. Prior to this I made one last concerted effort to catch Rei the yellow wrasse and Spike firefish but Rei would only poke his head briefly into the trap and Spike avoided it entirely so it was simply a no go. We did try catching the Spike using nets and acrylic baffles, much chaos ensued with the tiny fish outwitting us every time.
The strip down progressed pretty much as planned with no disasters to speak of, I found it quite stressful nonetheless. We emptied out the water and rocks in stages. The corals that I wanted to keep were cut off and placed in one bucket with the remaining rocks/corals going into another. Spike the firefish was cornered with a net and safely removed. Ming the Pom pom crab was discovered clinging to the underside of a rock. Finally we were left with a tank containing a little water, one last piece of rock and sand. With my breath held, the rock was lifted out revealing Al the pistol shrimp and Flash his Whitecap goby partner hiding underneath. Phew! A careful bit of sand exploration was required to flush out Rei the yellow wrasse. Swipes the porcelain crab was MIA at that point so we had to carefully go back and examine every bit of rock again placing them one by one back into the Reefer as we went. Finally we discovered her hidden in a hole in one of the base rocks. That was pretty much it except for one last thing of note, I discovered a rather scary number of Aiptasia living in the overflow weir along with half a dozen baby sun corals.
Following the transfer Rei the yellow wrasse hid in the sand for a whole 10 days before finally deciding to make an appearance. I honestly thought he’d died from stress or something. Everything else made it through OK which I’m relieved about. The fish were naturally pretty freaked out however so I didn’t take any photos for ages.
The Acros are still alive and growing but have lost colour which is probably down to the poor nutrient situation. There have been a number of reports circulating recently that TMC eco reef rock leaches phosphate and silicates but apart from a brief spike of phosphate during the cycle that hasn’t been my experience at all. Nitrate and phosphate have been consistently registering as zero on my test kits (Salifert and Hanna respectively). In the old days this wouldn’t have bothered me much but the internet has taught me to fear the dreaded D word. For a while I saw a little growth of what looked like some brown algae on the rocks but when viewed along the length of the tank with natural lighting behind was in fact green hair algae. There must have been some nutrients knocking about somewhere to fuel the growth. This algae started to become a little more pronounced so I decided the CUC needed a tiny boost. Two weeks and 6 small Trochus snails later most of this algae was gone, I felt quite pleased with myself. However the removal of the hair algae shifted the balance somehow and combined with a lack of nutrients I began to see the appearance of dinoflagellates on some of my gorgonians. Normally I would take a watch and wait approach but it’s hard not be affected by some of the algae horror stories I have read online. I dusted off the microscope and identified the species as Ostreopsis, fearing a full blown infestation along with the death of my beloved snails I decided action was required in the form of nitrate dosing. I had already been feeding quite heavily to that point including Reef roids and phytoplankton but it didn’t seem to have made any measurable difference. It felt wrong to be actually dosing nitrate! I began with a laughably tiny amount (0.5ml of Brightwell’s NeoNitro per day, 12.6ml will raise my tank volume by 1ppm so 0.5ml was nothing lol). After 6 weeks I gradually increased the dose to 4ml per day, during this time the dino growth increased slightly, mainly evident on the gorgonians, but never turned into the major disaster I feared. The gorgonians still had their polyps extended and the snails seemed fine too. I continued my weekly water change regimen using the opportunity to siphon as much of the dinos as possible every time (not recommended I know but I like to perform water changes).
When the tank was 4 months old I sent off the first ICP sample. I discovered elevated levels of Cobalt and Aluminium. I have no idea where they have come from, leeching from the rock maybe? The nitrate level was 0.02mg/l, phosphate was 0.03mg/l and silicate was 66ug/l. Iodine was a bit low as expected (and some other elements low as per usual).
Finally after 7 weeks of dosing nitrate I started to register 1ppm on the Salifert kit, incredibly the dinos started to recede! This might have been a coincidence of course and nothing at all to do with the nitrate level but either way I am happy.
I am curious to know why I’m not registering a release of phosphate and/or silicate from the TMC eco reef rock. Perhaps the corals are soaking up the nutrients as they are released, the gorgonians are growing very fast. Or maybe the rock is hatching a plan to trip me up later on down the road.
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 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!
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!
Swipes the Porcelain crab has been beefing up! She shed her exoskeleton again yesterday and yet again fooled me into thinking she'd died. The shedding looks so much like the real thing it's incredible. After checking that she was indeed still alive and back in her usual spot I removed the skeleton for further inspection.
Fortunately I had kept a previous shedding from July last year, so I could compare the two to see how much she's grown over the last six months. The first skeleton is bleached and falling apart but you can clearly see how much bigger she is now. As far as I am aware she has moulted twice more in between these, so about 2 months between each shedding. Clearly she's finding enough food to filter out.
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?!
Charlie climbed to the top of the refugium to say hello to me this morning. I discovered her sitting on top of the thick mat of algae. Oh my, she's grown a lot! So is clearly finding enough to eat down there. :o)
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.
Now that I'm down to four Red Spot Cardinals I've noticed that they no longer shoal together. Two of them hang together in the back left-hand corner of the tank, the third swims alone in the back right-hand corner and the fourth, the smallest one, swims right out at the front of the tank. I must admit I do miss seeing them all together.
As for the Nudus gobies I've not got a clue what they are up to any more. They used to be out all day long but now they are mainly hidden underground doing goodness knows what. I wish I had X-ray vision so that I could see what they are doing. They are using the pistol shrimp's burrows; are they interacting with him at all? I would be nice to think that one day they might pair up but I can't see it happening at the moment
Will, the blue-legged hermit crab shed his exoskeleton this week which reminded me that it'd been a while since I added any new shells. As soon as I dropped in some larger accommodation he marched up to the nearest one, whipped his naked bum out of his old shell and moved into the new one. Has he no shame, lol! Here he is showing off his bright white new shell soon to be covered in coralline no doubt.
I noted in my June update that the Plexaurella sp. gorgonian had a damaged area on one of its branches. Well, a couple of days following that two more small damaged areas appeared and this time the gorgonin inside was exposed. The polyps then retracted completely. I waited for a week in the hope that it would miraculously recover but the polyps remained hidden and a layer of algae began to cover the branches. I decided then to take action and move the Plexaurella to a different area of the tank, if I left it where it was it would be a goner in no time at all. Finding a new location proved somewhat tricky as real estate in the tank is limited these days (ahem, what did I say about not over stocking my tank with corals!). In the end I decided to fix it close to where Acro #2 used to reside, it's not really an ideal spot long term, especially if the tiny remaining base of Acro #2 survives and sprouts new branches, but that's a problem for another day. Anyway I doubted that the gorgonian was going to make it but it appears I might be wrong. The following morning the polyps began to extend again and now 3 days later they are almost all back out again, it's not back to its previous fluffy glory but compared to how it looked before moving it's amazing. So was it a flow issue or a lighting issue? Or was the Seriatopora hystrix to blame, it was directly down flow of the Seri, maybe that was releasing some noxious substance that the gorgonian didn't like. Now I need to wait and see if the damaged areas can be recovered.
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!