Early morning on the reef (so it's really, really blue).
It's been five months since I removed the frag of Acropora sp. #2, due to an infestation of red bugs (Tegastes acroporanus). As I reported before a tiny piece of encrusted base remained in the tank, it was scrubbed rigorously with toothbrush whilst the surrounding water was siphoned away. The Acro base amazingly survived the scrubbing ordeal and has finally began to branch upwards once more. It appears to be red bug free, however, and this is the big downer, the tank is NOT free of these pests! Whilst taking some macro photos of the corals yesterday morning I discovered that at least three of the other Acropora sp. have red bugs crawling over them too (A. gomezi, Acropora sp. #3 & #4). So basically I tossed Acro #2 for nothing. To say that I'm feeling a wee bit disheartened with the tank right now is an understatement.
So what to do now? Remove all of the Acros? But most are encrusted to the rockwork so this would be tricky. Try biological control using a pipefish? The biggest drawback with this (apart from size of the tank, feeding/flow issues blah blah) is that I feel the tank is fully stocked now (see below for the recent and last fish additions). Of course I could strip the tank down entirely and quit or start again. The word 'upgrade' and using this tank as a quarantine tank has even been mentioned! Lots to think about.
Elsewhere war is underway between the Favia sp. and the Cyphastrea sp. The Favia is clearly winning since there is an area of dead skeleton on the leading edge of the Cyphastrea. The fighting occurs only at night so I'm going to have to camp out with a flashlight if I'm to catch the Favia in battle mode. Also the green encrusting Montipora is on the losing end of a clash with Acropora loripes.
Now on to happier news (had I known about the red bugs I would have held off buying any fish but I didn't, *sigh*). I visited my favourite fish shop a couple of weeks ago with the intention of choosing one final fish for the tank, I thought maybe a firefish or a wrasse, one that might actually relish eating pyramid snails. Talking of which I've just spotted one of the buggers in the shot of the damaged Cyphastrea above, argh!! Anyway, I decided against buying a firefish (I really loved the Helfrichi but just couldn't bring myself to fork out so much for one fish) and was discouraged from trying a Leopard wrasse because of possible compatibility issues with my resident Yellow wrasse. Instead I was directed towards the fairy wrasse; colourful and peaceful and not overly large. Now I must confess that I didn't really know too much about this group of fish so I was relying heavily on what I was being told by the lovely shop assistant. There was a group of Pintail wrasse, males and females (although they all looked pretty much the same to me) and apparently I was informed that it was possible to keep a male and female pair together, which is always a plus point for me.
I have since found out that female fairy wrasse almost invariably change into males in a captive environment resulting in warfare between the now two males. Unfortunately I was an hour into my journey home when I discovered that fact. I should have walked away for a coffee and research time before having a pair bagged up. Anyway they are in my tank now so I'll have to deal with issues if and when they arise. As if I don't have enough issues already!
These fish are really very pretty, the male is slightly larger than the female with perhaps more defined markings but to be honest they don't look that different to me. I hope that's not a bad sign. As expected they took some grief from the Rei the Yellow wrasse. She was not best pleased to see some new fish moving in to 'her' tank. She is the undoubted boss of the tank. The rest of the fish ignored the new additions after their initial curious inspections. The har-wrasse-ment by Rei continued for about three days after which she decided it was just too much bother and now lets them be. Most of the time she ignores them aside from a few half hearted chases every now and again.
OK these Pintails really like to eat!! Right from the very first feed they were in there grabbing their fair share even stealing food from right under the nose of Rei and they'll eat whatever I add to the tank almost without question. At the moment during the day they coexist quite peacefully with each other. When the lights dim in the evening there is a bit of jostling for sleeping accommodations, at least that's what I think is going on. It certainly doesn't look like the male is displaying to the female. I will be watching on very carefully for signs of it all going south. Gulp!
And now for a few more updated photos. Sorry there's no video footage yet, I got a bit distracted by the red bug fiasco and needed a large glass of wine to help ease the pain.
Some bad news to report.
First up, the King Midas zoanthids I introduced just under 4 weeks ago. For the first week I left them sitting on the sand and they looked great, opening up nicely so I decided to fix them down on the rear of the right-hand rock pile. Oddly after that they refused to open up again. Hmm, I thought maybe they don't like that spot so I removed the frag plug from the rock and sat it back down on the sand at the front of the tank again. Happily they started to extend once more so a couple of days later I fixed them to a new spot not that far from where they were sitting on the sand. Sadly they never opened up again and started to shrink. As it stands they are pretty much all gone now, a couple of tiny polyps remain but they are closed up tight and will no doubt soon fade away. I am at a loss as to why these particular zoanthids have not survived when my other 7 varieties appear to be doing well. It's very frustrating and I'm quite sad about it because they will be my first coral loss since I started up. I didn't even manage to take a picture of them when they were open to post here for posterity's sake.
The next loss is not so much of a mystery which makes it all the more maddening although I've only just put two and two together after the damage was done. The two new Red Spotted gobies (Trimma rubromaculatus) are indeed a male and female pair as I've noticed them "gettin' jiggy wit' it" on a number of occasions now. This is a lovely thing but unfortunately means that they don't want any fish swimming near their patch and sadly their patch appears to be the entire rear lower half of the tank. Now this just happens to be the same area that the Red Spot Cardinals (Apogon parvulus) like to hang out. I'd noticed recently that the Cardinals had taken to swimming at the top of the tank where the flow is quite brisk, This a bit odd for them and should have paid more attention to it. It all became clearer this morning as I watched one of them stray just a bit too low and was immediately and aggressively chased upwards by the larger of the two gobies (named Rocket which seems quite appropriate considering the response I witnessed). I'm sure you can guess where this story is going now, skip back to yesterday and one of the Cardinals sadly jumped out of the tank. I was working opposite at the time but did not realise what had happened until it was too late. I feel sure after what I observed this morning that it was being chased by one of the gobies, after all these fish hadn't shown any inclination to want to jump before the Red Spotted gobies were introduced. Sigh, another hard lesson learned, mixing different fish even really tiny ones in a small space is not an easy thing to do.
I have some new stuff. :o)
After searching for ages I located a shop that had some Red Spotted gobies, Trimma rubromaculatus, in stock (finally Facebook is useful for something). They only had two left when I visited but apparently they were a mated pair so I just couldn't leave without them. They've been with me for 4 days now and seem to have settled in a treat. On introduction they were ignored by the other fishy residents with the exception of Candy, the Trimma cana goby. Candy is actually a male Red Striped goby and he was not best pleased to see a another male goby, even of a different species, invading his patch. There was much posturing between himself and what I would assume to be the male Red Spotted goby. No damage was done fortunately and now they appear to be keeping their distance from each other. The new gobies, named Rocket and Sparks, are much more active than Candy and are out and about a lot more especially at feeding times when the nanostream pumps are off. They do find it hard work to battle the flow when the pumps are on and are generally found suctioned onto the underside of rocks or resting on the back wall instead of swimming up in the water column.
In addition to the gobies I also purchased another small frag of zoanthids, this variety is called "King Midas" and comes with some hitchhiking fan worms too, a nice bonus in my opinion. I think I'm pretty much out of space now where zoanthids are concerned. Picture to follow in my upcoming 1st July update.
I also added to my crustacean collection in the form of a Pom Pom crab just because I think these guys are just the coolest. They have such beautiful markings and the little anemones they hold are neat. I hope he (or she) doesn't do too much damage waving them around the tank, lol! No photo as of yet because he's kind of shy at the moment.
In other news Lurch the conch finally got up after his extended snooze. He spent almost 2 whole months hidden under the sand with no movement at all except for the odd glimpse of an eyeball and his proboscis poking out of the sand for an occasional bedtime snack. I'm surprised that he can survive for that long with such little food to sustain him. Luckily he seems none the worse for his 'hibernation' period thank goodness, I just wish I knew what caused it, is it a natural part of his lifecycle or was there some water quality issue that he didn't particularly like?
The Nudus gobies have not been in much evidence since Gordon the Whitecap goby made his leap of faith last month. I used to see them all the time but after the upheaval with the pistol shrimp and the loss of Gordon they hardly ever came out of the burrow system and never both at the same time. Then Hop (the male) vanished entirely, the last sighting of him was on the 18th June and after that nothing. He has been known to go missing before, when guarding eggs, but I generally get to see his head pop out of the burrow every now and again. I was beginning to think that he'd had an altercation with the pistol shrimp and lost or been buried alive under the rocks, eek! Happily no, after 8 days he's back out again like nothing was ever wrong so I guess he had been guarding eggs again after all. I wish they'd let me know so that I don't worry so much, lol!
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.
Yesterday morning the male T. nudus goby was back out with the female again so I knew immediately that the eggs must have hatched at some time during the night. He had been caring for them non-stop for the last 7 days without eating so I was expecting something to happen within the next two days. I checked on the tank 2 hours after lights out the previous night but there was no sign of any fry at that point. When I checked again in the morning there were a few tiny goby shaped objects floating around the tank and one was even still wriggling but it was swept away by the flow before I could reach for a pipette to catch it. Unfortunately the fry don't really stand much of a chance of surviving intact by the time I get up in the morning to look for them. The powerheads are so fierce and the fry are so delicate, not to mention that I now have a shoal of hungry Cardinals that are always on the look out for any tasty morsels that happen to float by. I expect that they had a breakfast feast yesterday and the Acanthastrea looked suspiciously happy too!
At least I took better notes this time so I'm fairly confident now that the egg incubation period is 7 days so maybe next time if I stay up late or get up really, really early I can actually catch and photograph some.....
For a while now I've been trying to decide on my last fish additions for this tank, I wanted something small, peaceful and reef safe, oh and would swim out in the open most of the time. That couldn't be hard, could it? In actual fact finding something that fits all those criteria was surprisingly difficult. I researched loads and visited more than a few shops checking out what was on offer. It soon became clear to me that there wasn't actually that much choice really, the small fish category is not well represented at any of my LFS or indeed any of my not-so-local fish shops either.
In the end after much wavering, I decided to take a bit of a risk and try a small group of Red Spot Cardinalfish. These fish have a bit of an iffy reputation in captivity, there are a fair few reports of them vanishing/dying for no apparent reason at all. If the feedback were all negative then I wouldn't have considered them at all but along with the bad there are also reports of success and some even having them breeding. I hope my experience of them will be the latter.
At the LFS I asked for five individuals (I've heard that odd numbers work better than even, I have no idea where that recommendation originated) but in the end I came away with six fish. The very nice salesman added an extra to my bag for free, who was I to say no to that?
They were introduced to the tank late on Saturday afternoon and I must say that they've really brought it to life, they are always out in the open and haven't hidden away once. Even the wrasses have more confidence now and are out and about a lot more which is lovely. They appear to be eating well although it's hard to know if they all are getting their fair share. I was advised to offer them smaller foods but they seem keen to take bigger items too. So far they have eaten cyclops, calanus, lobster eggs, enriched brineshrimp and PE mysis. I can understand how these fish may fade away if not fed enough as they are always on the go, never taking a rest even at night. I hope that I can keep up with their dietary requirements without polluting the tank at the same time.
Some say that these fish are boring and ugly but I would strongly disagree, they are delicate and subtly coloured. Do they look like a fresh water tetra? Well yes, they kind of do but they work for me and have fitted in to my tank without issue (...so far).
This tank is approaching the 6 month mark (on the 16th April). Wow, where has the time gone to? It's now well and truly in the 'spotty phase', the back glass is covered with spots of coralline algae and spirobid worms. I have scraped it once already and am now in two minds if I should do it again. Does it look natural or does it just make the tank look messy? I can't decide, answers on a postcard please. :o)
I've had to move the Lobophyllia yet again. The Lobo was very happy in its last spot but, darn it, the snails (Mr Conch I'm looking at you particularly!) just kept knocking it over no matter how hard I pushed it in to the sand. So now I've glued the base of the skeleton to the rock work on the right-hand side at the back. It's not great for viewing but at least it won't get damaged there. Fingers crossed that's the last time I have to move it!
Acropora sp. #2 still appears to be red bug free and the PE looks good. Acropora sp. #3 is on the mend I think, to my eye there appear to be less blistering now. It's not completely out of the woods yet but I'm feeling a little more confident about its future. General coral colouration is not great but I'm not too concerned about that at this point.
My mysterious hitchhiking crab has thankfully moved away from the S. hystrix and has set up home in the uppermost right hand rock. I still don't have a decent picture of him to show I'm afraid, he moves like lightning whenever I get close. So far he's not attacked or eaten anything that he shouldn't, I regularly observe him scraping at the rock work with his spoon shaped claws and he does a great job of keeping that area clean of algae and detritus. He has grown considerably and I am probably not helping matters by occasionally feeding him directly. I have tentatively identified him as Chlorodiella nigra which is a member of the Xanthidae crab family. According to my research they are generally fine when smaller but can become troublesome as they grow and their appetite increases. I am investigating removal options just in case.....
Yesterday afternoon I introduced probably my last fishy additions for this tank, they are still settling in at the moment, pictures to follow hopefully later on in the week.
For the most part the tank is doing OK. There is very little in the way of nuisance algae, the furry stuff that was coating the rocks seems to be fading away without any intervention on my part. The zoanthids are opening up nicely and looking good, so I think the nudibranch problem is solved. The LPS expand nicely during the day and are always ready to eat whenever they sense food in the tank.
Most of the SPS corals are doing well, showing good growth or at the very least basing out. Colouration however is not great for some of them, I'm hoping that with time and stability the colours will improve. Maybe it's a nutrient issue?
There is one Acropora sp. (#3) that does not look good. I have noticed recently that there appears to be blistering to the flesh. This is a new one on me so I did a bit of searching on the web and others have reported this ailment. Unfortunately no one really knows what causes it. Some say that it's due to an imbalance with the big three, i.e. KH, Ca and Mg but in my case I have those parameters well within recommended levels and they haven't fluctuated much either. The only suspect I can think of at this stage is KZ Sponge Power, I began dosing this on the 11th February (1 drop every other day). It may have nothing to do with the problem but I think I'm going to stop using it for a while and see if the Acro improves.
I nuked the tiny Aiptasia that sneaked into the tank on the clam shell with Aiptasia-X and didn't feel bad about it at all. Now I just have to be vigilant for more Pyramid snails. My list of hitchhikers found in this tank is growing ever longer.
I'm happy to report that the fish are all doing fine. It's been just over a month since I added the Pink Streaked wrasse and I'm thinking that the time might be right to introduce some more soon. This time I definitely want fish that will swim out in the open. I have fish that hug the rockwork, that sit on the sand and one that hides in a hole in the sand, I really need some bold fishies that aren't shy!
Nothing much to report really, there were no new additions last weekend. The tank is ticking along nicely and the fish have settled back into their fishy routines. For the gobies this is sit on the sand and wait for food to float by and for the wrasse it's cruise the rockwork searching for tasty morsels.
I am getting to see the the pistol shrimp (Al) and Whitecap goby (Gordon) everyday now which is excellent (well the heads of them anyway). On Friday Al decided that the 'wall' needed some modifying/rebuilding. I must have sat and watched him for at least 2 hours shovelling sand up and over the top. True to nature Gordon the goby hovered nearby and I was treated to the best views of him so far, I saw not only his head but his anterior dorsal fin too! OK that doesn't sound like much but it's more than I've seen since, well, introduction really. I could have taken photos but I was so entranced by all the activity that I didn't want to risk scaring them off. I am still hoping for whole body views sometime in the future. I must say it's almost tempting to destroy the wall so that I can watch Al rebuilding it again, lol! I won't of course, that would be too cruel.
Since I still have no pictures of Gordon or Al I thought I'd show you Lurch the conch instead, he's grown amazingly since he was introduced on the 14th November 2016. His day typically consists of waking up midmorning eating algae off the sand and rocks all day long and then at some point at night he buries himself back in the sand for a nap. He's a lot more agile than I expected a conch to be, he can climb on to the lower rocks and has even made it all the way up to the top of the left-hand rock pile on a couple of occasions. Getting back down again is somewhat problematic and basically involves him falling off, at least the sand bed is there to cushion his fall. I think his eyes are really beautiful!
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!