A coral update, first up Acropora sp. #3. In April I thought this coral was beyond hope, it was bleached and areas of the frag were dead. Then the lighting schedule was altered and things began to slowly improve. The lovely green colour returned but algae took a hold on the dead skeleton. Now, in June, the Acro is as green as ever and the flesh is regrowing over the bare skeleton. An amazing recovery which highlights just how resilient these corals can be given the correct conditions.
Moving on to Acropora sp. #2, not such good news here I'm afraid. At the beginning of March I discovered that this coral was infested with red bugs, Tegastes acroporanus. I made the decision to try rid the coral of this pest by dipping it in Polyp Lab's Reef Primer, the only treatment I had in house at the time. The dip did work, killing the bugs and the Acro appeared to be pest free for weeks following with good PE. However, recently I've noticed that the coral had stopped growing and the polyps were absent again, Sure enough on close investigation the coral was covered with red bugs once more. Obviously some of the red bugs survived the first dip or remained in the tank jumping back on the coral after it was reintroduced. So, what to do now? In the intervening months the coral has encrusted at the base so removal was not a simple option. I can't deny that I wished that I'd just chucked the coral the first moment I discovered the little blighters thus (maybe) solving the problem straight away. After taking a big breath I deliberated the problem for a few days, revisiting the idea of dipping the Acro again and also the option of biological control. If I thought that adding a Dragonfaced pipefish was a sure fire fix and my tank could have supported one I would have been setting up some copepod cultures straight away in preparation and given one or more a try but it's such hit and miss affair. Some individuals eat them and some ignore them and I cannot in all conscience add a fish that might not thrive just to fix a problem of my own making. I should have QT'd the coral or least dipped it before adding, sigh! Never trust an LFS for a healthy pest free frag! In the end I opted for removing the coral as much as I could before a water change and scrubbing the remaining encrusted base whilst siphoning the water at the same time. Either the encrusted base survives without the bugs which is a perfect result or the encrusted base dies but I'm red bug free which is acceptable or worst case scenario the red bugs are present on another coral in which case I have destroyed a perfectly viable frag for nothing. Stay tuned for updates if you dare.
I've been really pleased with the progression of the tank recently, the fish seem settled with no argy-bargy between them, coral colouration continues to improve with each week and things are generally looking healthy. I hope by saying that I've not just jinxed everything now.
As a consequence I have been on the look out for a few more corals to add a bit of extra interest to the tank. It's proven hard to source the last few bits from my wish list as they don't seem to be readily available or the pieces I've come across in the shops are just too big to squeeze in my tank. Regular readers (if there are any out there? Ha ha!) will know that I've been trying to stick to small frags so that I can enjoy watching them 'grow in', plus buying aquacultured corals has always got to be a good thing, right? After 7 months of keeping my eye out I resorted to shopping online (my second favourite pastime). I never thought I would actually take the chance of buying corals online but so far my experience of it has been all great with no losses to date.
Yesterday the postman brought me not one, but two packages, it was a very exciting day.
The first package contained 3 corals. A Balanophyllia sp., possibly my new favourite coral. This is non-photosynthetic and will require feeding by hand but it is so very, very pretty. I had originally wanted to source a small colony of sun coral (Tubastrea sp.), as I've kept those in the past and found them easy to care for but have not seen any for sale, They used to be regularly available but not any more it seems. Anyway this species is very similar (and fits in the small size theme) so I decided to give it a go. My research has suggested that they only extend their feeding tentacles at night but this one seems happy to open up no matter whatever the time of day which is wonderful, more time for me to admire it! As a bonus there is a mussel attached at the base, although I haven't ascertained if it's still living or not. I do hope so but keeping it that way may prove difficult as it's a filter feeder.
Check out all those nematocysts!
Then came a baby plate coral, now I knew that I wanted an LPS coral with swaying tentacles and had originally considered a Euphyllia sp. but I know these can get very large over time so I finally settled on a plate coral. When I saw this baby one available I knew that I wouldn't have a better opportunity to purchase one, it really is tiny measuring just 2cm across when the tentacles are expanded. Normally these corals are free living on sandy or muddy substrates but this one presently has a 'stalk' and when it arrived was glued to a flat frag plug. Unfortunately the frag plug was covered in tiny Aiptasia so it just had to go. The base was duely chopped off along with as much of the original superglue as I dared (and there was a LOT!), then it was fixed it onto a spare piece of rock I had in the sump (I just knew that I'd find a use for that rock eventually, lol!). Now I am hoping that this coral is indeed a long tentacle plate coral, Heliofungia actiniformis and not a very small branch of a torch coral, Euphyllia glabrescens. They do look rather similar when small. I guess time will tell, if it grows and detaches from the base to become free living then it'll be a plate coral, if it develops new branches then it's not!
The final part of this order was a Sunny D zoanthid (plus a baby bud), during transit the polyp had worked itself free of the frag plug so clearly it had been fragged very recently. My first response was one of annoyance but as I hate the look of frag plugs in general it proved fortuitous, it was a simple matter to dab a bit of glue to the base of the polyp and fix it to my live rock. It opened up within a few hours of introduction and is still there today so hopefully it'll survive. I think it's fair to say I'm now a fan of zoanthids, I'm up to 7 different types now, how did that happen?! ;o)
My second online order came all the way from France, how brave was that!! Ever since I added my first gorgonian I knew that I wanted to introduce at least one other species. I had been waiting to purchase the purple frilly gorgonian that Reefworks supply but as it hasn't been available for months I started searching elsewhere. Sadly gorgonians seem to be a bit of an afterthought at most LFS I have visited. The SPS corals are lined up neatly in tanks but the gorgonians seem to be plonked in without any care to their wellbeing at all, most ending up lying on their sides and being stung by something more aggressive resulting in stripped branches or worse. Fortunately for me I discovered Eco-Gorgs, sustainably-produced aquarium sized Carribbean gorgonians, perfect for me and only a few clicks away. OK, admittedly a bit of a journey was required to get them to my tank but worth the chance i thought.
First in my basket was a small frag of Plexaurella sp. and very fluffy looking it is too.
This was followed swiftly by Isis hippuris, though I have to say it doesn't look anything like images of this species online but what do I know?
...and lastly Muricea elongata because it seemed a shame to only order just 2 corals when they were coming so far. This is the only one that has not fully extended all it's polyps yet. I had to leave all 3 gorgonians on the sand for a few hours after acclimation whilst I went out and when I got back this one had been knocked over, typical! There seems to be a bubbling issue with the two branches that had been in contact with the sand. Fingers crossed it will recover in a few days time.
That's it for the time being, I'll try for some better shots of the new corals later on in the week when they've fully settled in and maybe even a new FTS. If you've managed to read all the way to the bottom of this post then top marks, you must be a sucker for punishment!
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.
I love getting out the magnifying glass and looking at the small stuff, there's always something new and cool to discover.
The continuing saga of the pesky tiny Aiptasia.
I noticed the first tiny polyp growing out of the sand in the front left-hand side of the tank on the 22nd January, I immediatly siphoned it out with a pipette connected to some airline. Then on 5th March, two more appeared in the same area. They were promptly removed in the same manner. Unbelievably on the 10th March, yet another one appeared in the sand, what the?! Am I just removing the heads and they grow back from the base? Clearly siphoning them out was not working so this time I decided to nuke the little guy with some Aiptasia-X. Was that the end of it? Err no! A couple of days ago another one popped up in the same area. Arrrgggh! This time I took a scoop and removed the polyp and all the surrounding sand too. Only time will tell if I've beaten them this time, the strange thing is that they haven't appeared anywhere else in the tank... yet!
Here it is in a glass cup, so I definitely removed something!
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?
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.
Soooo, I've been keeping an even closer eye on the tank (if that's possible for me, lol!) ever since I noticed one of the Acropora corals (#3) had blisters on it's branches.
Acropora #2 had been showing less polyp extension than the others but it's been growing fine and the colour has been good with lovely blue tips to the branches. I thought it was doing fine, however whilst processing my last set of photographs I happened to notice some red dots on the branches of the coral. Uh-oh! Alarm bells instantly started ringing in my head. Out came the magnifying glass and lo and behold there they were, red bugs!! Honestly this tank must be in the running for the award for the introduction of the most number of undesirable hitchhikers in the shortest amount of time.
I have not had the pleasure of having to deal with these parasitic crustaceans before but I do know about them. Red bugs (Tegastes acroporanus) are tiny predatory copepods that live specifically on Acroporids. I considered my options:
1. Do nothing, the coral looks fine and is growing even though PE is almost non-existent.
2. Treat the tank with the recommended medication, Milbemycin Oxime (known as Interceptor or more recently Sentinel in the US). It is a prescription only medication designed to treat dogs suffering from heart worm disease but also happens to kill marine crustaceans.
3. Remove the infested coral to a separate tank and treat with the above.
4. Remove the infested coral to a separate tank and treat with a proprietary coral dip.
5. Take the coral out and throw it in the bin.
I wasn't a fan of option 1, the coral may be fine now but it's never going to thrive whilst covered with parasites. Option 2. was entirely out of the question, Milbemycin kills ALL crustaceans so my crabs and shrimp would also be toast. I could remove my precious crabs and shrimp to another tank but to catch the pistol would require removing most of the rock work. That means major stress for the tank and major stress for me too! I love my shrimp and goby and there is no way that I'm going to risk upsetting them (and the rest of the tank) unless absolutely necessary. Option 5 was seriously tempting, it's only a small frag at the moment so it'd be no great loss but I do hate to give up without a fight. Plus there is really no way to know if any of the other corals are parasitised too, trashing one coral may turn out to be pointless if others are also affected. So really that left options 3 and 4, option 3 being preferred as Milbemycin is known to definitely kill red bugs whereas a coral dip may not.
So with the decision made I just had to source Interceptor or whatever it is called in the UK. Unfortunately that plan soon went out of the window as our regular veterinarian refused to prescribe it for me, so it was back to the drawing board.
The only coral dip that I had to hand was Polyp Lab's Reef Primer and after much scouring of the web I couldn't find any mention if it was actually effective against red bugs or not. How typical! Still it's all I had to hand and I thought there was nothing to lose by giving it a try.
I mixed a little over the recommended dose of the Primer in a container of tank water, removed the coral from the rock work and immersed it carefully. Almost immediately the Acro started to exude excess mucus. I continually squirted the Primer solution over the branches with a pipette for about a minute and then checked the coral with my magnifying glass, I was surprised to see red bugs trapped within the mucus and no longer moving. Encouraged I removed all the slime (with bugs) that I could see and carried on blasting the coral with Primer solution. After approximately 5 minutes I moved the coral to another container of tank water, rinsed it off and placed it back in the tank. Unsurprisingly the coral looked rather pale by then.
Today Acropora #2 looks pretty darn good, it's still a little pale and has no PE but it's alive and more importantly there are no red bugs on it! I've checked multiple times throughout the day and cannot find a single one. Of course that's not to say that my tank is now a red bug free zone but it's a step in the right direction. The other Acros seem unaffected and have good PE so you never know I may actually be lucky. Heh, considering how things have been progressing in the pest department probably not, but still I do like to be optimistic. Hmm, I did have to remove 2 more tiny Aiptasia from the sand yesterday, discovered in the same spot as the one I found back in January......
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!