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.
When I first spotted Swipes the Porcelain crab in a shop she was not very much to look at. Pale and stressed, squeezed into the corner of the shop tank with not a rock or pipe to hide under. Now almost two and a half years later she's a picture of health and as colourful as can be. A perfect reef inhabitant.
Swipes the Porcelain crab has been beefing up! She shed her exoskeleton again yesterday and yet again fooled me into thinking she'd died. The shedding looks so much like the real thing it's incredible. After checking that she was indeed still alive and back in her usual spot I removed the skeleton for further inspection.
Fortunately I had kept a previous shedding from July last year, so I could compare the two to see how much she's grown over the last six months. The first skeleton is bleached and falling apart but you can clearly see how much bigger she is now. As far as I am aware she has moulted twice more in between these, so about 2 months between each shedding. Clearly she's finding enough food to filter out.
Just a quick iphone video of Swipes doing her thing. She is just the coolest little crab waving her fan like mouth-parts around all day long. She is a completely peaceful filter feeder and her large claws are only used in territorial disputes with other crabs of the same species, not an issue here since she is going to be the only one I intend to keep. The rate of sieving for planktonic food increases dramatically just after the fish and/or corals have been fed.
I am pleased to report that Swipes the porcelain crab is back out again after moulting. She's bigger and more colourful now too so I'm assuming that means she's settled into her new home and is managing to find (filter) enough food to sustain her.
I found this in my tank this morning, the question is has Swipes gone to a better place or has she moulted? I'm thinking (definitely hoping) that she's moulted. The carapace has lifted in a way that I think is consistent with moulting. There's no sign of her in her usual feeding spot, but that's to be expected if she's hiding out and waiting for her new shell to harden. Fingers crossed that she's fine and will reappear again soon sporting a beautiful new skeleton!
Everything seems to be ticking along nicely at the moment. The KH dipped a little following the addition of the carbon dioxide filter and I've had to up my dosing rate as a consequence. I'm hoping it means that the corals are happier with the higher pH values and have increased their growth rates. Unfortunately perhaps, also due to the dip in KH (down from approx 7.0 to 6.5), the coralline on the back wall took a bit of a beating. It's not a problem as such but clearly I need to keep a better eye on the alkalinity level.
Swipes the porcelain crab, Petrolisthes galathinus, has settled in nicely and is proving to be a star attraction with the rest of my family (after Lurch the conch, who still remains the absolute favourite inhabitant). She has made her home underneath the left-hand rock pile and spends the majority of her time hanging out with Edna & Kylie (the two wrasses), filtering out small morsels of food from the water.
Ming, the Pom Pom crab (Lybia sp.) has also settled into the left-hand rock pile, in a small hole, way under the ledge. He's still pretty shy and we don't get to see him out in the open very much as of yet, I did manage to capture a sneaky shot of him in his hidey hole using flash today however.
It's pretty time consuming trying to take individual photos of all the corals individually on the same day so there just a small selection below, I'll work on adding the rest later in the week hopefully.
To finish, I just have to share a couple more shots of Crystal the Red Spotted cleaner shrimp, Urocaridella antonbrunnii, because she is the most incredible looking shrimp.
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.
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!