A couple of weeks ago the tank passed its 3rd birthday and I celebrated (not!) by getting the coral cutters out, I had put it off for far too long. I haven't been able to clean the left hand glass for ages and the coralline algae was having a field day. I also took the opportunity to really reduce the over large gorgonian in the middle and trim a few branch tips of the Red Planet. I hate having to cut corals and always manage to accidentally damage other stuff at the same time plus the fish really hate the disruption.
After I had finished chopping I found it hard to even look at the tank, to me it looked rather sad even though I knew it really needed doing. The Stylophora looks an odd shape and by reducing the size of the gorgonian I exposed an area of bare rock that I knew would provide a perfect breeding ground for algae. Also there is always a knock on effect when fragging corals, I knew that the alkalinity/calcium uptake would lower (because I'd made that mistake in the past) so I turned down the doser. However I vastly underestimated the difference and the KH level still crept up over the following days. Duh!
I think I finally have the dosing level dialled in again after days of testing and retesting. I also took the opportunity to add a few more money cowries to keep the growth of algae on the rocks under control.
The Stylophora has recovered well, the photo below shows a couple of the branches 7 days post fragging. After 9 days the cut tips were fully covered and the tips had developed polyps after 14 days.
Kandinsky the Mandarin is doing well and is fat as a sausage. He hasn't managed to eat all the copepods in the tank...yet! When the glass has not been cleaned for a few days I can still see them scampering around (during the day too) which makes me very happy. Admittedly they are located more towards the top of the tank where Kandinsky does not venture much but if they get a chance to reproduce and spread elsewhere that's got to be a good thing.
Spike has proved to be a bit more frustrating in the feeding department. He loves lobster eggs and live copepods but isn't much interested in anything else. I hope that this will change in the future. Firefish have a reputation of being shy and hiding but not this fish, he's out in the open all day long.
A few coral shots.
Lastly the requisite FTS. I must have taken in excess of 300 photos in an effort to get all the fish in view at the same time, this was the best of the bunch. There is still one fish not on show but I'll save that update for the next blog posting.
The tank has survived to reach its second anniversary today, how the time has flown. Needless to say after two years of running, the exciting stocking phase is pretty much over with (although never say never, lol!) and I've moved on to the not quite so exciting fragging phase.
The first coral that needed a proper pruning was the Seriatopora hystrix. It has grown in rather an unruly manner and some of the branches were growing over the top of the clam (a definite no-no!) and a good section was also now obscuring my view of the sun coral, making it harder to feed. The tips are easy to frag but I found that when trying to cut branches further down, whole sections would break off instead, so I removed far more of the coral than I intended. Oh well it will recover given time (assuming that the Utter Chaos zoanthids don't take it over completely).
Finally, I am able to see the sun coral in all its glory again. As you can see it does try to keep the branches of the Seri in check by stinging and killing off the tips that stray too close. If you look closely you can also see a few of the baby sun polyps that have settled on to the rockwork to the left. The whole tank is pretty much spotted with baby suns right now, even the Scolymia already has one settled on its skeleton.
Talking of sun corals, the Dendrophyllia frag I added in August is doing really well, it started out as 3 heads and now has 5, with another 4 more developing. This seems like a much faster growth rate than the Tubastrea, or maybe it is just more noticeable due to its branching formation.
I have also been lucky enough to pick up another Dendrophyllia frag from a fellow reefer. Morphologically it looks the same as the yellow one so it's possibly just a different colour morph (or perhaps it's a different species, I don't know). I so looove these corals, I know that they are only at their best after the lights go out but I simply don't care, I think they are spectacular! I sometimes wonder if I should have just gone with an NPS tank and be done with everything else, lol! Ideally I'd prefer to feed these corals during the day so that I can admire their beauty with the lights on but it's so darn frustrating. The wrasse try to steal the food and 98% of the time they are successfuI before the polyp has a chance to fully ingest it. No matter how I defend the coral, the bloomin fish sneak in and grab it most of the time. It's just not worth the effort and stress it causes (to me and the coral). Oh to be outwitted by a few fish....
Anyway back to fragging. The second coral that needed reducing in size was the green plating Montipora, I'd been psyching myself up to do this for months. I knew the time had finally come when the Acanthastrea corals growing directly below it started showing signs of struggling, they were at that point pretty much completely shaded out by the coral above. I kept putting it off because the Montipora had grown into such a perfect saucer shape and looked lovely, I knew that once I'd had at it the shape would be ruined. Unfortunately I didn't take any photos of either this or the Seri before I began chopping, I don't know what was I thinking? Anyway the plate coral may look quite delicate but it was surprisingly hard to frag, lower down the skeleton is deceptively thick. I took off a good couple of inches around the edges on the right-hand side and probably should have done more but that's a problem for another day.
Now that the there's a bit more light, the Acanthastrea 'Lava Glow' looks good again. Its smaller brother to the left of it is unfortunately still somewhat shaded. However this coral has never really grown well even when it received better lighting. I did try to move it to another location recently but it's fused to the rockwork so I'm afraid it's there to stay.
The third coral that needed to be fragged was Acropora hyacinthus. I've been nipping the front tips off here and there for a while as they grew towards the front glass but more drastic action was needed this time as I was no longer possible to clean the glass in front of it. Due to the fused branch growth it was now impossible to remove individual bits so the best remedy for the long term was to remove the entire front half of the coral and as with the Seriatopora more was removed than intended. In fact there's not much of the coral left now, just the base and one main branch. Hey ho!
Whilst fragging the A. hyacinthus a large chunk snapped off at the base and fell right on top of the Scolymia. Argh! The Scoly looked very unhappy for a few days and remained shrivelled up, naturally I feared for the worst but fortunately the reefing gods were smiling down and it has bounced back to full glory once more. To say I'd have been upset if a frag that originally cost £15 took out a much, MUCH more expensive coral would have been a bit of an understatement to say the least, lol!
The Scoly loves to eat but never shows its tentacles till after the lights go out so I only feed it at that time. I offer it krill or LPS pellets once or twice per week.
The Favia has grown from a frag the size of inch squared into quite a big beastie and has spread out not only over the rockwork but also out onto the sand towards the Acanthastrea to the left of it. There used to be a good gap between the left and right rock piles, a space in which the conch could easily pass through but now his shell won't fit through at all. I fear that it's only a question of time until the two corals start fighting each other and there won't be much I can do about it as they are both well and truly encrusted on to the rockwork, It won't be pretty I'm sure!
The Heliofungia also continues to do well, there's no sign of it wanting to break away and wander round the sand (which is fine by me!) nor are it's offspring. As you can see from the photo below the coralline algae growing on the glass is a bit of a pain. I want to scrape it all off but I don't want to damage the coral during the process. Everywhere I've read says if the flesh gets torn then it's "hasta la vista baby!", so I feel it's best to just leave it be.
Jessie the Rainford's goby has settled in beautifully and whilst he always gives way to the much larger wrasse at feeding time, he's not shy at all. He roams all over the tank, pecking at algae and chewing the 'sand'. He now feeds really well on frozen food and tries his level best to grab as much as he can before the greedy wrasse hoover it all up, I still offer him a bit extra via a pipette to make sure he gets enough to keep his little belly full.
Sadly I haven't seen Candy the Red Striped goby (Trima cana) since the 8th October. He/she was one of the first fish added to the tank on the 3rd December 2016. I understand that nano gobies do not have long lifespans, only a couple of years, so I'm assuming it was just his time. Two years is just too short sadly. I can't help but wonder how long Hop the Nudus goby will be around for now. He was also added at the same time as Candy and he already lost his mate earlier this year (March).
Sadly I don't have a recent(ish) photo of Candy to share as once the zoanthids grew over his rock he took to hanging out behind Lobophyllia where he was difficult to photograph. I'll post this sneaky shot taken last year instead. :'(
The rest of the fish are fine.
I have a new invert (see, I can still squeeze more stuff in lol!), a crinoid squat lobster. I tried keeping one of these adorable little crustaceans back in 2016, when the tank was relatively new. Sadly it vanished after just 20 days and I vowed not try another... then I came across this little guy. I reasoned that now that the tank is mature this itty bitty crustacean would stand a better chance at survival so he now resides in my tank. As I type this, it's been 27 days since introduction and I'm happy to say that he's taken up permanent residence amongst the branches of Seriatopora, hiding underneath the relative safely of the Utter Chaos zoanthids during the day, he blends in extremely well with the orange of the polyps. He's been named Jaffa and readily accepts all sorts of food from the pipette, I am hopeful he will do better than Stripes did.
Jobs I still need to do. I need to frag the branches of the Stylophora that are growing too close to the glass on the left-hand side and try and remove some of the many Utter Chaos zoanthids that have spread round the tank (I really regret adding those devils).
I've run out of time now so I'll sign off with the obligatory full tank shot.
To this, in two years.
I first noticed that Acropora #4 was suffering from slow tissue necrosis (STN) in July '17. It was receding at the underside of the base but, as the top half looked good and was growing, I chose to ignore it in the hopes that it would eventually stop. Sadly it did not and in fact continued to the point where I had no other option other than fragging the coral. Since the branches were still short and stubby this proved somewhat tricky tricky to do. In the end I was left with just three tiny branch tips. The lesson learned here is that it's never a good idea to stick your head in the sand and ignore a coral issue (especially for 6 long months *cough*). I do not really know what caused the STN in the first place but the base was fixed into a recess in the rock so perhaps it was down to poor flow?
Talking of encrusted bases, remember Acropora (#2), the one that I tried to remove in June '17 after discovering that red bugs were still present on it? Well, the base is still ticking along nicely, growth upwards is slow but there is at least some growth oh and and it's started fighting with the Montipora sp. to the left of it.
On a happier note I'm discovering more and more sun coral larvae dotted about the tank. I expect most will not survive as they have settled quite close to other corals (there's not much real estate left these days) and will probably be quickly overgrown. This is probably a good thing else in the future I will have to spend all my free time feeding them.
Here's another shot of the Heliofungia from the other side taken during a water change, the only time the top lifts up enough to view the baby buds growing underneath.
Finally I'll sign off with a few other random shots, including a (now) rare view of Skip the Nudus goby.
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!