You may have noticed the excessive number of white spots in the background of some of my previous coral photos. Spirorbid worms have been having an absolute field day in the tank, they are literally everywhere, the back wall looks like it has a bad case of the measles. I have never seen these worms spread as fast as this in any of my previous tanks but then I've never fed so much food as I have been doing in this one. Those of you that like a nice clean back to your tanks will absolutely hate my tank, lol. Anyway this leads me nicely to the new items of livestock added (along with the 6 Trochus snails mentioned in my previous post). I had this wine-fuelled crazy thought that since the filter feeding Spirorbid worms were doing so well it might be nice try some other filter feeding worms too. It seemed a waste of postage to be just ordering 6 Trochus snails. This was might not have been a good idea but I'm going to give it a jolly good go. So I have added a Coco worm, Protula bispiralis, and a couple of other fan worms (Sabellidae sp.). I added them in May and after a month they were looking OK, other than that I couldn't really say very much. I don't know what an ailing tube worm looks like. Time will tell I suppose.
Here's a quick iPhone shot of the Coco worm, it's just so lovely and I never thought I'd be saying that about a worm.
Lastly before I post FTS I want to mention my conches. For the first time I actually have enough open sand to keep a pair of these totally awesome molluscs. Dyson was introduced to this tank after the cycle and Henry was moved over from the Reefer 170. Well, Henry must be a Henrietta because it was love at first sight for these snails and they have been making sweet love a LOT!
And here is Henrietta laying the eggs, forming a lovely snot ball of sand.
Finally a FTS (taken 19th June 2020) showing all of the fish bar one (Flash the Whitecap goby is tucked up in his burrow).
The fish list in order of purchase:
Tanaka's possum wrasse x 1 (18th December 2016)
Pink streaked wrasse x 1 (28th January 2017)
Yellow wrasse x 1 (21st August 2017)
Rainfords goby x 1 (19th August 2018)
Helfrichi firefish x 1 (1st August 2019)
Spotted mandarin (male) x 1 (1st August 2019)
Whitecap goby x 1 (12th October 2019)
Fathead anthias x 1 (7th March 2020)
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 now reached the point in my updates where Coronavirus takes hold and the UK along with pretty much everywhere else in the world goes into lockdown.
I allowed Sunny (the Anthias) three weeks to settle, making sure that he was eating well and healthy looking. During that time I noted the nitrates/phosphates levels were continuing to fall so I thought I should get some more fish in there pronto. Since there was no way I could source any new stock from the LFS due to the lockdown I decided to move some over from the Reefer. I had purchased a fish trap ages ago but never got the chance to put it to good use, it was the smallest trap that I could find (the Little ocean small fish trap) but even so there was no way it was going to fit into the tank as it was, some coral need to be removed. I cut out a significant branch of the Pinnigorgia gorgonian and gently (as far as I could) snapped off the yellow Dendrophyllia and Balanophyllia from the rockwork. I took the time to scrape off every single head of Utter Chaos zoanthids that had grown onto the Balano rock as I'm not going to be transferring these 'pests' over to the the new tank.
Once the yellow Dendro was out of the way I carefully slid the fish trap into the front left side of the tank. Unfortunately the magnets are on the other side of the trap in this orientation so I wasn't able attach it to the glass, I had to simply lay it on the sand. I expected it to take a while for the fish to get used to the trap but within a few minutes Jessie the Rainford's goby and Kandy the Spotted Mandarin had popped inside to check it out. The fish I really wanted to catch first though were Rei the Yellow wrasse and Spike the Firefish but they were not impressed with the new state of affairs at all. Rei immediately vanished into the sand and Spike just kept well away at the back of the tank. I waited for 2 days but it became clear that neither Rei nor Spike were going to venture anywhere near it any time soon, in fact Rei actually decided that sleeping in the sand was far more preferable to eating. On the third day I decided my plan of catching specific fish was a non starter so I opted to try to catch any fish that I could. Jessie the Rainford's goby was first in and the trap worked perfectly, a quick tug of the cord and the door dropped down with the fish safely inside. Two days later it was Edna the Possum wrasse, the day after that it was Kylie the Pink Streaked wrasse and the next day it was Kandy the Spotted Mandarin (actually Kandy loved the trap so much that he spent more time inside of it than out).
The newly transferred fish seem to like their new home and it's a pleasure to watch them weave in and out of the caves in the rockwork. Unfortunately it seems I am currently person non grata, whenever I approach the tank they all vanish at breakneck speed and it breaks my heart just a little bit every time. Hopefully they will forgive me in a few weeks. Feeding has been a bit hit and miss in the new tank and I have been worried about the Kandy especially. He used to feed extremely well on frozen food in the Reefer but in the new tank all prepared foods were refused. I decided to set up a second Tisbe pod culture since it seems lots more might be needed. Fortunately after two weeks he's back on the frozen again (PE mysis rocks!) so I'm a little less worried about slow starvation now.
I have also transferred over the Orange Dendrophyllia and both of the Tubastrea corals so now I have a little NPS garden going on in the new tank. It's such a pleasure to be able to easily feed them at the moment, there's no fish trying to steal the food or corals overgrowing/around them and I don't have to bash SPS corals with a pipette trying to reach them. I wonder how long that's gonna last for.
Once the cycle was complete (fingers crossed it was) I switched on the light (I say light because at that time I only had the one unit up and running at that time) to encourage the growth of diatoms. By day 34 the tank looked like this:
I decided it was time to add some clean up crew and a fish. I'd spent a lot of time thinking about what to add as a first fish and I emailed several shops asking about special ordering fish but only one bothered to reply to my query, very disappointing. In the end I decided to go with whatever was available in the shops. We visited two different places and I ended up with 5 black foot Trochus, 5 teeny tiny hermits, a conch and a Sunburst (aka Fathead) Anthias. The anthias settled in a treat and is a really lovely fish. To begin with he hung out at the darker end of the tank (the side without the light) which is pretty much as I expected but after a week or so began exploring the whole tank. The snails and crabs got to work on the algae straight away, I did sadly lose one of the Trochus after 11 days but the rest were fine.
Since the fish and CUC seemed to be doing fine I decided to try transferring over a few tester corals from the Reefer. I decided to move over a couple of the gorgonians first, both have been severely shaded by other corals for a long time and deserved a break plus if they didn't make it I wouldn't be overly upset about it. Anyway as it happened they were totally fine, bulletproof it seems, and are loving basking in some good light again. The Plexaurella was quite bleached (and a bit deformed too) but is looking much happier now. The Muricea is hidden at the back of the tank but is also looking much improved. I know that gorgonians are not everyones cup of tea but I really like how they sway about in the current.
Once it became clear that the gorgonians were not going to keel over and die I decided to press on with a few more transfers especially since the second lighting unit had arrived and been hung. I was also starting to feel a bit of pressure by the rest of the family to just get it done already. I keep having to remind them that slow and steady wins the race. This time I chose to move a couple of more accessible corals, ie the ones not actually welded to the rockwork. The Heliofungia (plus shrimp) and, gulp, the Scolymia. I was particularly nervous about moving the Heliofungia in case Milo, the resident shrimp, decided to jump off and vanish into the rock-work or be eaten by a hungry fish! I needn't have worried Milo was not going to leave his home no matter what, wherever the coral went he was determined to go too, phew!
I wouldn't say that the Helio or Scoly are entirely happy in their new home, they are not as expanded as they were in the old tank. I'm hoping that they are just adjusting to the different lighting and/or the reduced nutrient levels. I hope that they will settle given a bit of time.
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.....
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!