Where to begin? In my last update I mentioned the sand had started to look a bit green and generally manky looking (scientific term, lol). At the start of August I noticed a patch of sand at the back of the tank had developed a suspicious brown look to it. It didn't look quite like diatoms and warning bells were ringing so I dusted off the microscope for a closer look.
This is how the sand looked at the back...
...and this is what I saw under the microscope:
So yeah it was dinoflagellates but not a species I had encountered before, this was large cell Amphidinium. Apparently this species is not toxic to livestock but can be much harder to get rid of. The best way to tackle it is to outcompete it by encouraging the growth of diatoms, to do that you have to raise the silicate level so I ordered myself a bottle of Brightwell's SpongExcel. I have since found that this is not the cheapest approach as it's not very concentrated, Waterglass is much most cost effective but at least it would get me started. Apart from the dinos making the tank look dirty nothing seemed to be suffering or dying so I took my time with the dosing, starting off slowly. It's pretty hard to test silica levels with home kits, Hanna do make one but it's aimed at freshwater and doesn't work well for saltwater so I didn't see the point of buying it.
In addition to silica dosing I decided to get a better grip on the nutrient levels. At the beginning of August the nitrate level was around 2.5ppm thanks to dosing NeoNitro but phosphate was still extremely low often registering as 0 on the Hanna ULR. I invested in some NeoPhos and started dosing that too (bonkers really!).
A sand sample taken just over two weeks later looked like this...
There were still dinos present but now I was also seeing some diatoms mixed in as well. I continued to dose silica but still at a lower amount than is normally recommended. The phosphate level had risen to approximately 0.04ppm on the Hanna ULR by the end of August. By mid September I realised that the orignal brown patches at the back of the tank had faded away. I sampled the sand on the 11th September I couldn't find any Amphidinium under the microscope, this was honestly quite a surprise to me as I'd expected to see some still hanging around. So my sand was clean right? Well no, I had replaced one sort of brown for another.
This was the 'new' brown...
I stopped dosing silica and by that time the phosphate was up to 0.06ppm or thereabouts so I decided to hold off dosing any more of that too. By October the sand had progressed from brown to green when cyanobacteria decided to join the party too. It's even got the audacity to smile at me under the microscope!
At the time of typing this the sand is a mix of green and brown. I'm not so bothered about the diatoms because the CUC love it but the cyanobacteria is nasty. So how do I combat green Cyano? I did think about using Dr Tim's Re-fresh but it states on the bottle that it could be harmful to snails and shrimps. I queried this with the manufacturer but they wouldn't elaborate as to how serious the risk was or even how the livestock is affected, is it toxic to them or do they die because of a knock on effect? I'd also rather not use chemicals such as Chemiclean either. So I have an imbalance between the nitrate and phosphate levels right? They currently stand at around 4.5 ppm for nitrate (Salifert) and 0.06-0.09ppm phosphate (Hanna ULR, the test results vary from day to day). Should I keep raising the nitrate (I am still dosing NeoNitrate every day) or try and reduce phosphate, or do both? I did add a couple of new fish at the beginning of September in the hope of addressing the nitrate issue but there was no noticeable effect. Maybe I need to add a few more?
The struggle continues...
I received the results of my second ICP analysis yesterday. Cobalt and Aluminium are still elevated but there is a little less than before so maybe the TMC eco rock has stopped leeching or is a least leeching less now, time will tell. The nutrient levels are still low despite my feeding a ton of food and dosing extra nitrate. I have been seeing a little bit of green cyano on the rocks and the sand is looking a bit greener too. I'm still debating whether I should do anything about it or just wait and see. I'll probably just wait and see. Oh and I have been plucking out tiny bits of Ulva from the sand (mainly) whenever I see them, grrr! I'm resigned to have to keep doing this from now on.
The sun coral has christened the new rock, the first baby is coming along nicely.
The baby Trochus snails are doing really well. I've been moving any that I find in the sump over to the refugium. The refugium needs cleaning and they are better off in there, I want to avoid the scenario where they get crushed by an impeller or jam up my X-filter. I have discovered some in the DT too which I'm surprised about, I thought that they would all have been wrasse food but I guess they are able to hide well enough to avoid such a fate. They do blend in with the rockwork extremely well.
The Coco worm continues to do surprisingly well, it has extended its tube even more now. Kylie the Pink Streaked wrasse is keeping a beady eye on it for me.
I'm also pleased to report that the Menella gorgonian appears to be doing great now. It's finally decided to pop out another branch at the base, woo hoo! Unfortunately I can't get it to completely recover the sections that lost some flesh earlier on because hair algae has taken a hold. It's only possible to see the algae when the polyps are fully retracted but it does annoy me no end. When the algae grows long enough a hermit comes along and gives it a trim which I appreciate.
Unfortunately the Rei Yellow wrasse seems to have taken a bit of a disliking to Jessie the Rainford's goby, I have no idea as to why; a dominance thing maybe. There is no chasing or actual fighting but a fair amount of posturing goes on between the two. When they meet they both fully flare their fins and engage in some sort of a staring contest, Jessie may be the smaller fish but he stands his ground. Rei had better watch his step because if it comes to a choice he'll be the one to go. Catching him would be the issue...
A quick pic of Sunny the Sunburst Anthias.
One of the recently added Trochus snails has sprouted a lush growth of Ulva on his shell. From what I've read this algae seems to be doing the rounds at the moment and since I don't keep any big herbivorous fish, or indeed intend to, it could become a headache for me if/when it spreads. Also I've noticed the appearance of a few patches of what I believe to be green cyanobacteria on the rockwork. I'm hoping this doesn't get any worse. Lastly I discovered another tiny Aiptasia in the tank. . It was growing on the tube of my Coco worm, either it came in with the worm or it has settled onto the tube whilst it's been in my tank, I kind of hope it's the former and not the latter. Where there's one there's probably many more waiting to be discovered. Oh joy!
Now for some possibly good news, the Coco worm, Protula bispiralis 'seems' to be doing quite well so far. I'm basing this off of the fact that it's extended it's calcareous tube quite a bit over the last month. If it can lay down some new tube then it must be getting enough to eat, right? When I came to treat the aforementioned Aiptasia with Aiptasia-X, I tried to make it go in first by poking it but despite literally brushing the feathery head three or four times with a pipette it refused to retract. I went ahead and treated the Aiptasia anyway and it stayed out during the entire procedure. I was somewhat concerned by this lack of responsiveness but I just watched a hermit crab crawl over the worm today and it retracted quick as a flash so I guess it simply wasn't bothered enough by me.
Here's a few crappy zoomed in iPhone pics showing the tube growth. The first shot was taken on the 3rd June and the second was taken this morning, 4th July, just over a month later.
Also I made an exciting discovery whilst performing a water change. I was pumping fresh saltwater into the sump when I noticed some unusual ‘blobs’ moving around down there. On closer inspection I discovered they were baby Trochus snails. How cool is that! OK, I know it’s nothing unusual for snails to spawn in reef tanks but this is the first time I have actually had them settle out and grow into proper baby snails in my tank. So far I have counted 4 of the little chaps but I'm sure there will be more hidden away.
Here’s one of the wee chaps cleaning the base of the skimmer. He’d better not make his way into the pump.....
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!