Al, the Red Spotted pistol shrimp, celebrates his 4th anniversary with me in two days time (13th January 2021).
Over the last four years he has had three different partners (four if you count the Nudus goby pair as two). He was initially introduced with a Whitecap goby (Gordon), sadly Gordon managed to jump through the mesh lid after five months in my tank. After that Al eventually paired up with the resident pair of Nudus gobies (Hop and Skip), this surprised me as reportedly this species of shrimp will only associate with Whitecap gobies. They remained together for two years until both gobies had passed on. Then I introduced another Whitecap goby (Flash) and the two immediately paired up. They have been together ever since, going on 15 months now.
I see the pair much more in the new tank than I did in the Reefer. They seem a lot more confident now despite the fact that Mr Fantastic, the Tigertail cucumber, like to borrow parts of Al's burrow system to move about under the rockwork. I feed them both bits of mysis etc directly every day with a pipette to ensure that they are receiving enough nutrition.
I was playing around with iMovie in July 2020. Firstly here’s a quick video showing a few random clips of ‘stuff’ in the tank. Milo sends his apologies, he’s regrowing his claw so there’s no clapping today.
And secondly there's one fish that doesn't feature very much in my updates because it hides away for most of the time. I don't have many decent photos of him (or her?) as a consequence. I do get to see him almost every day at feeding time and if I don't then I can always rely on hearing his pistol shrimp buddy at some point during the day. The pair are most active after lights out when the rest of the fish are bedded down for the night. This fish may not be out all the time but I don't care because when I get to see him it's all the more special. I really love this fish! Anyway here's a crappy video taken with my phone a couple of nights ago, apologies for the reflections on the glass.
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 am sad to report that I lost my remaining Nudus goby (Tomiyamichthys nudus) a couple of weeks ago. Hop, along with his mate Skip and Candy the red striped goby, were the first fish to be introduced to this tank. I lost Skip after just 15 months and Candy disappeared after 2 years. I was so hoping that Hop would make it to his 3 year anniversary but he died 2 months short of it. I am assuming that they all passed away due to old age but I don't really know for sure. I wish nano gobies had longer lifespans.
This leaves me with a bit of a dilemma, what should I do about Al the pistol shrimp? He no longer has a partner goby to look after him. I know that he's still alive as I can occasionally hear him clicking and at feeding times I sometime see an antenna or two poke out from one of his burrow entrances but now that he's on his own I doubt that I will see much more of him. I'm tempted to try and find him another goby but this species of pistol shrimp is widely reported to only pair up with Whitecap gobies. Clearly that's not the absolute truth because he paired up with the Nudus gobies (after his original Whitecap partner jumped out of the tank through the mesh lid!). How long can pistol shrimps potentially live for in captivity? Al has been with me for going on 3 years too and who knows how old he was when he was captured, is he still in the prime of his life or coming to the end of it, I just don't know? Something to think about.
Interestingly I've noticed that Jessie has recently taken a keen interest in one of the pistol shrimp's burrow entrances. It hafs been pretty hard to miss this 'interest' because he has spent the last 3 days solidly excavating sand from in front of it. I can only assume that Jessie saw an opportunity to secure some prime real estate either because, without Hop, Al has abandoned that entrance or has been forced to do so by the much bigger goby. Anyway Jessie has been very industrious and the pile of sand is now massive, so much so that he's had to start dropping it more to the left side of the tank, on top of the Scolymia which I can't say I'm exactly thrilled about.
Apologies for the delay in updating this blog. I'm pleased to report that Tinker the male Pintail wrasse DID survive his cave diving experience after all. He refused to eat for three whole days following the ordeal but then on the fourth day he tried sampling a couple of small pieces of Mysis and then on subsequent days he ate a little bit more at every feed. He was feeding pretty much normally again after two weeks. His wounds (lost scales and shredded fins) repaired themselves in short order once he began eating again. I hope he's learnt his lesson not to go wedging himself into small holes in the rock again.
Jessie the Rainford's goby continues to do well. He is such a sweet little fish, keeping to himself whilst going about his daily business hunting for pods and sand 'chewing'. I think he's grown a bit since introduction.
On the 18th December, Edna the Possum wrasse will celebrate her second birthday in the tank. She is visible much more than she used to be, the corals have grown in and she can weave her way through, under and around them without exposing herself to the scary open water too much. This doesn't apply at feeding time when she's out ready and waiting to sneak a choice piece of her favourite food, PE mysis.
Hop the Nudus goby celebrated his second birthday on the 3rd December, he may have lost his mate back in March but he is still going strong along with Al, his shrimp partner. Red Spotted pistol shrimps are reported to only pair with Whitecap gobies but after mine sadly jumped out (through the mesh of the tank lid) the remaining shrimp accepted the Nudus pair instead. They have been together for well over a year now.
Before I sign off for today I'll leave an updated shot of the two Dendrophyllia sp. because why not! They are just so pretty. Notice the Pintail wrasse sleeping under the rock.
I hope to update more fully in the next couple of weeks. I have just one new coral addition to report.
A quick video clip taken today of a rare sighting of the two Tomiyamichthys nudus gobies together with the Red Spotted pistol shrimp (Alpheus rubromaculatus). Sorry the footage is a bit shaky but it was a spur of the moment kind of thing. If I'd have waited to set up my phone on the the tripod I'd have missed them entirely. These guys are too cool!
My tank is exactly a year old today! Wow, where has the time flown to? I've been a bit lax with the updates recently so there's lots to catch up on.
First lets get the bad news out of the way. I'm afraid that I've lost the lovely Tridacna maxima clam, it simply never thrived in my tank. Before adding it I carefully checked the shell looking for any nasty hitchhikers but I never found any. I must have missed some (or their eggs at least) as I started to notice some pyramid snails feeding on my precious Trochus and Turbo snails. Nooo! I checked the clam regularly at night with a flash light but never found any of the little devils feasting on it. After two and a half months it finally it became clear that the clam was doomed so I decided to remove it before pollution became an issue. I checked it over again when it was out of the tank and still couldn't find any pyramid snails on it. These guys are so small and clearly hide really well! Later on three teeny tiny ones did emerge from inside of the clam, it's hard to imagine that just three could have any impact on an animal so much larger than they but clearly over time they do. Unless of course the maxima was suffering from something else too?
At this point there's not much I can do about the pyramid snails, I am removing any that I see every day and I've become quite adept at spotting them now. On average I remove about 10 per day. The wrasse are sadly not eating them, come on guys I could really do with a helping hand here, sheesh earn your keep why don't you!! At least I haven't lost any of the snails yet and my original Tridacna crocea clam seems to be doing fine, it's laying down new shell so I take that to be a good sign for now.
The other blip on my reefing horizon is the Balanophyllia. It just doesn't look as good as it once did and I can't work out why. Am I feeding it too much or not feeding it enough? I had been offering it a piece of food once per day (at night), generally PE mysis, clam, Krill or lancefish, perhaps that wasn't enough to sustain it? So I decided to up the feedings to multiple times per day (anywhere between three up to a maximum of five a day) but this seemed to make no difference at all (in fact the coral looked a little worse) so now I'm trying less food. It's really frustrating because the sun coral is looking fantastic on a single feed per day.
Apart from the above everything else seems to be doing OK. The fish are all good, Rei the Yellow wrasse eats like a horse and is noticeably bigger. The best news is that my Tomiyamichthys nudus gobies have finally paired up with the Red Spotted pistol shrimp so I get to see them all much more now. The male goby still goes MIA every now and again but always resurfaces at some point. The gobies and pistol shrimp do not naturally associate together in the wild but I suspect they have done so in my tank because there are simply no other alternatives.
The corals are getting bigger and some are starting to get close to each other already, war is on the horizon I expect.
The zoanthids are spreading nicely especially the Utter Chaos, these are reproducing at a phenomenal rate and unfortunately over taking some of the original slower growing morphs. Whatever was afflicting the Red Tuxedo zoanthids seems to have subsided and I've not lost any more recently, I hope that's the end of that.
After a bit of a slow start the algae in the refugium has really got going now and the amount of life in there is incredible. It's amphipod, mysis shrimp and brittlestar heaven! Charlie the hitchhiking crab is alive and kicking and still growing. She was such a tiny thing when I first noticed her in the DT hanging out in the Seriatopora, now she's huge in comparison.
Life in the refugium.
Whenever I harvest any algae, I spend the following 30 minutes rescuing brittlestars from amongst the fronds. Well I can't just throw them out can I? It's easy to see how they are reproducing by division.
My first canister of ATI Carbo EX came to the end of its life in September, it lasted just over 3 months which I don't think is too bad. I have decided to continue with the CO2 scrubbing and have replaced it with a fresh cartridge.
Last week to celebrate the fact that the tank was approaching its first birthday I decided that some new additions were required. There was a gap (left by the T. maxima clam) that was just crying out to be filled. OK it didn't really need to be filled but what can I say, any excuse to shop for new corals.
I decided another encrusting Montipora sp. would do nicely and since it was likely to be the last addition (never say never tho) I wanted something special. I decided the Beach Bum (what a name!!) Montipora would contrast nicely with the three that I currently have. Since I was mail ordering from a fellow reefer I found I couldn't just buy the one coral so I ended up with frags of Hawkins Echinata (Acropora echinata) and a Sunrise Goniopora too. My name is Lisa and I'm a coral addict, lol!
Here they are on the sand awaiting fixing (squeezing!) in place.
Phew that was a marathon (are you still with me?) before I sign off I'll add a few more updated photos. After all who doesn't love a bit of eye candy?!
Now that I'm down to four Red Spot Cardinals I've noticed that they no longer shoal together. Two of them hang together in the back left-hand corner of the tank, the third swims alone in the back right-hand corner and the fourth, the smallest one, swims right out at the front of the tank. I must admit I do miss seeing them all together.
As for the Nudus gobies I've not got a clue what they are up to any more. They used to be out all day long but now they are mainly hidden underground doing goodness knows what. I wish I had X-ray vision so that I could see what they are doing. They are using the pistol shrimp's burrows; are they interacting with him at all? I would be nice to think that one day they might pair up but I can't see it happening at the moment
Will, the blue-legged hermit crab shed his exoskeleton this week which reminded me that it'd been a while since I added any new shells. As soon as I dropped in some larger accommodation he marched up to the nearest one, whipped his naked bum out of his old shell and moved into the new one. Has he no shame, lol! Here he is showing off his bright white new shell soon to be covered in coralline no doubt.
I noted in my June update that the Plexaurella sp. gorgonian had a damaged area on one of its branches. Well, a couple of days following that two more small damaged areas appeared and this time the gorgonin inside was exposed. The polyps then retracted completely. I waited for a week in the hope that it would miraculously recover but the polyps remained hidden and a layer of algae began to cover the branches. I decided then to take action and move the Plexaurella to a different area of the tank, if I left it where it was it would be a goner in no time at all. Finding a new location proved somewhat tricky as real estate in the tank is limited these days (ahem, what did I say about not over stocking my tank with corals!). In the end I decided to fix it close to where Acro #2 used to reside, it's not really an ideal spot long term, especially if the tiny remaining base of Acro #2 survives and sprouts new branches, but that's a problem for another day. Anyway I doubted that the gorgonian was going to make it but it appears I might be wrong. The following morning the polyps began to extend again and now 3 days later they are almost all back out again, it's not back to its previous fluffy glory but compared to how it looked before moving it's amazing. So was it a flow issue or a lighting issue? Or was the Seriatopora hystrix to blame, it was directly down flow of the Seri, maybe that was releasing some noxious substance that the gorgonian didn't like. Now I need to wait and see if the damaged areas can be recovered.
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.
It's only taken me 4 months but I have finally managed to snap a shot of Gordon the Whitecap goby. It's not much of a shot but believe me it's waaaayyy better than anything else I've managed to take to date. At least he is recognisable as a fish and not just a white blob that could easily be mistaken for a grain of sand, lol!
He's a lot bolder these days and I generally get to see him and Al, his pistol shrimp buddy every day. They are most active towards the end of the day when the lights are going down but I do see Al (or more accurately Al's antennae and claws) at every feeding time. I don't really know what Gordon is eating, I occasionally see him take cyclops/Calanus and even a small pieces of Mysis if Al doesn't get to them first. I also see him strike at 'stuff' unearthed by the shrimp's digging activities so he must be finding tiny crustaceans to eat as well. Most of the time when when the rest of the fish are fed he's nowhere to be seen.
Now I just need to get a decent shot of Al too, this was the one and only shot from tonight's session. I'm embarrassed to post it, but hey you can tell there's a fish and a pistol shrimp in the shot right? :o)
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!