The Montipora, despite my best efforts to kill these frags, have all survived and are showing signs of growth. :o)
As for Acropora #2, there are no signs of any remaining red bugs (yet!), the remaining piece of encrusted coral looks like it may well survive to fight another day. The polyps are out at least, indestructible or what! I don't know what I will do if the bugs reappear, there are not many options left to me now other than just living with them or trying a pipefish for biological control.
Acropora #3 continues to make a slow recovery from the blistering issue.
The Plexaurella gorgonian has made an amazing recovery since it was moved to a different location. The damaged areas of branches have grown over already and it's pretty much back to its previous fluffy splendour.
I'd like to say that everything is on the up but just as one set of problems looks to be solved another rears its head. I've noticed that the Red Tuxedo zoas have not been expanding as they used to and some actually appear to be shrinking. Nudibranchs I wonder? Sigh, there's always something I find to worry about, lol!
Anyway today I got my camera out and snapped some top down coral shots. I really want to get some new photos of the the fish, especially the wrasse but they are so very camera shy.
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.
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.
So far the corals (and clam) that I have purchased from my (sort of) LFSs have arrived with 'extras'. Aiptasia, nudibranchs, pyramid snails & red bugs. The corals I have mail ordered from Reefworks however have been hitchhiker-free, so it was a kind of a no-brainer who to choose for my next additions. On Friday I took delivery of some lovely new corals. A beautiful frag of Oxypora sp., so well encrusted that the frag plug was completely hidden, it's my new favourite coral. A frag of Cyphastrea sp. "Meteor Shower", also well encrusted although I would have preferred to have been able to remove the frag plug entirely for positioning onto the rockwork. It looks kind of unnatural at the moment but hopefully it will 'grow in' given time. I also received a frag of Acropora sp. "Red Dragon", and a frag of Acropora sp. with purple tips (but is currently not purple at the moment), plus a frag of Red Tuxedo zoanthids. The zoas are still settling in so I don't have a photo of them yet and the I'm still working out how to take a decent shot of the "Red Dragon" (the bloomin' Welsh Dresser gets in the way. It's going to have to go, lol!).
Whilst I had the camera out I snapped a few other shots, more to follow including a FTS later in the week. Acropora sp. #2 that I treated for red bugs is now looking much happier with good PE. Acropora sp. #3 with the blisters is actually showing some improvement, a couple of the blisters have burst and the wounds are healing nicely. I think it's on the up and up now.
I'll start with the 'red bug' coral first (Acro #2), it remains parasite free and is starting to extend its polyps again. It still needs to regain some colour but I'm sure that it will improve given time.
The Acropora that is suffering from blisters (Acro #3) looks about the same or maybe a little worse. It's still extending its polyps so it's really quite perplexing.
I performed as many water tests as I could last week in the hopes of picking up some obvious imbalance. The results were as follows:
Specific Gravity: 1.026
Iodide: <0.01ppm, Iodate/iodine: <0.03ppm
In the light of the results I have upped my KH/Ca/Mg dosing (again) as I've noticed a small downward trend now that there are more corals (plus a clam) in the tank. I have also begun to dose a small amount of Lugol's iodine every 3 days. I realise the Strontium level is low too but I want to retest that before deciding on a course of action. It was my first time using that particular test kit and, oh my, what a faff it was! I really hope I don't have to test for Strontium levels too often.
As for the gobies, they are endlessly fascinating and completely annoying at the same time. Poor old Gordon the Whitecap goby was chased out onto the sand by one of the T. nudus gobies (the darker one called Skip, who I've actually now renamed to Psycho Goby) for two nights on the trot. I know I wanted to see a bit more of him but not like that. He was swimming all over the tank, I feared I'd find him sucked over the weir or mangled by one of the powerheads the following morning. Fortunately on the evening of the third day of torment Al, the pistol shrimp finally reappeared. Had he been shedding and had gone into hiding for a few days as a consequence? Anyway he is back together with Gordon and they (well he certainly is but I've not seen Gordon since Friday) are now residing under the far right hand side of rockwork, keeping out of the way of Psycho Goby if they know what's good for them.
So now the T. nudus gobies are back in their old cave again and have taken over the pistol shrimp's old burrows. They do seem to have undergone a personality transplant which I think can only mean one thing, they are getting ready to breed (again?). Skip (AKA Psycho Goby) vanished into the cave late last week and was not seen for a day or so and now for the last two days Hop has remained hidden in the cave. From this behaviour and what I've witnessed before I am assuming that Skip is female and Hop is male. Poor old Hop is not allowed out of the cave now even to eat. At feeding time Skip snags loads of food, as bold as brass but Hop is simply not allowed to. He does appear at the cave entrance (only at feeding time though) but is promptly chased back in by Skip, she has become really quite aggressive towards him. At the last feed yesterday when she discovered his head popping out she turned really pale (almost white in fact), opened her mouth wide in a clear threat posture and chased him back in again. I guess his job now is to guard the eggs and nothing else lol! Clearly well and truly under 'the fin'. The only way to know if my assumptions are correct is to watch for the release of fry, I don't know how long goby eggs take to develop or at what time they normally hatch out. I expect it's most likely after lights out so I will be waiting with a torch in hand hoping to spot them.
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!