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.
I went away this weekend and managed to find the time to visit a few not so local fish shops (as the reef-obsessed tend to do given the opportunity). In the 3rd shop I struck gold and located the Porcelain crab (Petrolisthes galathinus) I've been searching for since I first set the tank up. She is one of the hitchhiking species that are sometimes found in live rock. I used to have one of these peaceful filter feeding crabs in my old tank and knew I wanted one for this tank too. When I arrived back home everything in the tank seemed fine and my crab (a female according to the shape of her abdomen) was duly acclimated and introduced just before the lights went out.
This morning I eagerly rushed down to check on my new crab only to discover that the curse of the Red Spot Cardinalfish had struck again. Another one of them had died, this time I discovered the body, the Lobophyllia was trying its best to eat it! The meal turned to be too much for the small coral to stomach and I was able to remove the dead fish using a pair of tongs. It was at this time that I happened to notice a small shape lying on the carpet to the side of the tank. Closer inspection showed it to be Gordon my Whitecap goby, nooooooo! He had jumped out of the tank at sometime during the night. I do have a mesh lid on the top to prevent any jumpers but somehow he still managed to find a way out, he was a very small fish after all. There is no doubt in my mind that he jumped as a direct result of the persecution by the Nudus gobies. The female in particular went out of her way to terrorise him at every opportunity. I have no idea what will happen to Al the pistol shrimp now and I dare not introduce another Whitecap as the same thing could happen all over again. He's going to have to make do on his own from now on and I expect I won't see him nearly as much as when Gordon acted as lookout for him. I feel so very, very sad today.
On the 18th April I relocated Charlie (or is it Charlize?) the hitchhiking crab from the DT to the refugium. After almost 4 weeks of no-show, today I discovered him (her?) alive and well in the jungle. I am chuffed, what a survivor!
Also I've also been playing around with a new macro lens, starting with some of the easier corals to capture.
Never in a million years did I think that it'd be easy to catch and remove my hitchhiking crab but boy how very wrong I was. My deluxe homemade crab trap actually worked first time! I propped an empty glass spice jar up against the top rock where the crab lived and baited it with some mysis shrimp just after lights out. I honestly felt that the jar was a little too tall for the job and it would never catch anything but to my very great surprise it did. I checked back on the tank after just an hour and was gobsmacked to discover the crab sitting in the jar. It's so great when a plan comes together without any blood being shed (and doesn't cost anything, lol).
With clearer photos I'm now confident that the crab is indeed Chlorodiella nigra. Please refer to the link below for comparitive purposes.
Of course I couldn't bring myself to kill the little guy, after all he had done no wrong, simply knocked a frag off the rock which was probably my fault for not fixing it down securely enough. The biggest issue for me was the fact that he'd set up home right next to my clam and whilst this species is reported to mainly eat algae I didn't want to take the risk of the clam being irritated or even worse becoming a crabby snack down the line. So off he went into the refugium where hopefully he'll be content with an endless supply of algae (and pods?) to munch on.
After waiting absolutely ages for delivery I was finally able to set up my shiny new GHL Profilux 4 controller over Easter. The hope is that when the time comes I can monitor the tank whilst I'm away, so less worry for me. At the moment I just have it set up with four probes measuring temperature, pH, redox and conductivity.
There is just 0.1 degree Celsius difference in temperature readings between the digital GHL probe and the Simplyaquaria temperature controller which is pretty good going considering the price difference between the two. I am going to keep the Simplyaquaria controller running as a backup to the GHL, two alarms are better than one in my books. I may actually move the Simplyaquaria probe to the DT so that I have two separate temperature readings to compare.
The conductivity of the tank water measured by the GHL probe was 51.8mS which converts to a specific gravity of 1.0257. My calibrated refractometer measured it to be 1.026, again the values are pretty close which is good. I am happy to know that I've been maintaining a suitable salinity using the refractometer.
I never bothered to purchase a pH test kit this time round so I had no idea what the actual pH readings were going to be. The levels are fluctuating between 8-8.2 or thereabouts, I would like to study the whole 24hr cycle but haven't managed to work out how to access data from the Profilux yet (if indeed it's actually possible to do).
The redox probe is still bedding in, to be honest I'm not really sure what to expect from the readings as I've never used one before. It came with the set so I thought it'd be interesting to set it up and investigate what it can tell me about the tank.
On the livestock front, Charlie the hitchhiking hermit crab is now on borrowed time after his first tank misdemeanor yesterday. He knocked my prize Acropora gomezi frag off the rock in his quest for food. I supposed I should be pleased that he just wanted to graze off the rocks and not eat the coral but still it's annoying. He's really quite big now so I'm sure that he'll cause more trouble in the future if I don't try and catch him now.
I think the T. nudus gobies have spawned again, Hop has been sequestered in the cave for the last two days and Skip won't let him out to feed, so I'm hopeful that there are eggs hidden inside. I hope I actually get to see some fry this time round, pretty please! The Cardinals also appear to be courting but there's been no further release of eggs.
My hitchhiking crab has been getting bolder and I've finally managed to snap a few photos of him. Charlie is much bigger now, at least 2 times larger than when I first spotted him or maybe even 3 times now! When I say 'him' I may be incorrect, in reality 'he' may be a 'she', so a Charlize as opposed to a Charles. Female crabs have a wide abdomen and males have a narrow one. In Charlie's case it looks sort of in between, an immature female perhaps?
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!