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.
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.
A new month and a new FTS. Besides a few new corals not that much has changed really. The Stylophora is showing some nice growth, the Lobophyllia and Acanthastrea look good, the zoanthids are, err, surviving. I think that all the nudibranchs have gone now and the remaining heads are opening up once again, I did lose a few of the orange ones that were on top of the rock, they simply melted away. Too much light/too little light/too much flow/too little flow? Who knows?? To be honest I've never really been that successful with zoas, perhaps the water is too clean? I'm considering feeding some coral foods to see if it helps them at all.
Acro #1 looks the same, it was knocked off the rockwork by a naughty hermit crab and when I stuck it back down it was in a slightly different orientation so it's difficult to tell if there has been any growth or not. Acro #2 has shown a tiny bit of growth and the damaged tips on the lower left-hand branches have regrown. I do think that they have lost a little colour though, another reason to try feeding perhaps, plus the nitrates and phosphates are still undetectable which according to current thinking is not ideal for SPS these days.
Since the Pink Streaked wrasse was added the Nudus gobies and Red Striped goby have moved to the front right of the tank. I get to see a lot more of them now which is really great. The tank has settled down nicely again. I need to relocate the Lobophyllia as Lurch the conch keeps knocking it to the left in his quest to clean the lower rocks. I am also thinking of adding a plating coral to the rock that sits above the pistol shrimp and Whitecap's home (I've seen them again today btw, two days on the trot I think that's a record, lol!) in order to give the entrance to the burrow a bit of shade, I think that will help them to feel more comfortable and hopefully they will become more visible. At the moment the lighting is really too bright for them.
I've been trying to get some shots of the Possum and Pink Streaked wrasse but it's proving difficult as they don't sit still like the gobies do. I will keep trying. Oh and last but not least Crystal the Bruun's cleaner shrimp shed her exoskeleton again last night so she seems fine too.
Day 57: I'm loving the new crusty additions. The Bruun's cleaner shrimp is an amazing little thing, we have named her (no idea of the sex actually!) Crystal as she is pretty much completely see through with just a few spots of colour and her insides visible. She is pretty hard to find unless you are specifically looking for her.
The crinioid squat lobster is all over the tank, in a new location every day. We have named him Stripes, not very original I know. I'm pleased just to be able to admire him, I'm sure in a bigger tank with more rockwork he would be almost impossible to locate once introduced. He has really long chelipeds (the first pair of legs with the claws) they look rather unwieldy to me but I guess they are perfect for him. I wish that I could keep him with a crinoid friend but crinoids are extremely difficult to care for long term due to their filter feeding requirements. Luckily squat lobsters do not need them to thrive in a reef tank environment.
Day 53: Time for some crustacean action! I have a particular fondness for shrimps and crabs and am hoping that with a smaller tank I'll be able to introduce and actually observe some of the more reclusive species. In keeping with the smaller theme I chose a Bruun's cleaner shrimp, Urocaridella antonbruunii and a crinoid squat lobster, Allogalathea elegans. I also introduced a couple of Striped Nassarius snails, Nassarius sp. to scavenge excess food, fish waste and detritus in addition to keeping the sand turned over.
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!