Coral warfare/shading is a becoming more and more of an issue as you would expect for any reef tank approaching 3 years of age. Well perhaps not if the tank had been sensibly/lightly stocked but I guess this hasn't happened. Common sense seems to fly out of the window where myself and reef tanks are concerned.
Most of what I'm going to post is kind of good really. Generally the corals are growing well but there are some that are losing the battle for survival.
The Stylophora needs regular trimming to prevent it from growing up to and touching the left hand glass wall. Its base continues to expand and kills off areas of contact with two neighbouring Montipora as it goes. It has also (along with the Pinnigorgia gorgonian) almost completely shaded out the Beach Bum Montipora. The Beach bum is fading away and there is nothing I can do about it, it's pretty much impossible to relocate. I try not to dwell on this fact too much, it's too painful. Big mistake. Big. HUGE!
I removed most of the green plating Montipora a while ago but it's making a comeback and shading the corals below again. I should never have introduced a frag of this in the first place, I just knew it would end up causing issues in a small tank but it was free and I just couldn't throw it away. On the plus side I must admit it is a lovely vibrant green colour.
The encrusting 'Superman' Montipora is possibly worse than the green plating Monti, I am definitely in need of some marine Kryptonite for this particular coral. At one point it grew up along one side of the clam till the Crocea decided enough was enough and forced its shell open wide enough to snap a good chunk of the the Montipora right off. The Superman Monti also kills any Seriatopora hysterix it touches and has encrusted over nearby Acropora like they were nothing but bare rock. Interestingly it has actually run out of rock space to the rear and has started growing out in a thick plate like formation instead.
I grudgingly accepted the loss of the purple tipped Acro frags to the Superman as they were not thriving anyway (due to the presence of red bugs) but it was harder to take the potential loss of the Acropora gomezi. Despite the parasitic bugs, the A. gomezi still showed nice colouration, not what it should look like under normal conditions but still nice. For months I gritted my teeth and watched this Acro be overgrown, but right at the last minute I decided to frag off the remaining two branch tips. I fixed both of them to the same frag tile and plonked it on the sand. A quick survey with the magnifying glass showed me that the tiny A. gomezi frags are still providing a home/food to the red bugs. I could remove and dip them (repeatedly if needed) but if the bugs are present elsewhere in the system then they will just become reinfested again. The frags have encrusted on to the tile but that's about all they've done at this point. One of the branch tips had a close encounter with the Scolymia thanks to a hermit crab, and got stripped. It's almost recovered bar for a tiny bit of algae covered skeleton at the very end. You can see one red bug highlighted but the arrow in the photo below.
The only other Acropora species remaining in the tank is A. hyacinthus (aka Red Planet), I have yet to discover any red bugs on it but that doesn't mean there aren't any lurking out of sight. Interestingly this Acro has been looking better recently colourwise, it's actually starting to look red once more, well pink at the very least.
The Scolymia continues to look good. It needs to be moved in the not too distant future as the Favia behind is creeping ever closer. I can't afford for those two to meet! Knowing my luck the (much) more expensive coral would be the loser if they clashed.
The Favia has completely overrun the Cyphastrea that used to grow to the right of it and continues to bubble up towards the Acanthastrea to the left. There's been no full on attack as of yet.
The Acanthastrea are surviving but not really thriving. I know that they prefer lower lighting conditions but the plating Montipora above is shading them too much at present. I have been trying to feed them to try and make up for it but 9 times out of 10 Rei the Yellow wrasse steals the food.
The Oxypora keeps expanding ever so slowly, it is also somewhat lacking in light these days.
The Utter Chaos zoanthids are a complete nightmare. They grow so fast and don't seem to be bothered by anything (at least nothing they have encountered in the tank so far). SPS corals are fair game, they just reach up shade out an area of coral until the flesh recedes and then they colonise the dead skeleton. I'm sure that this is a familiar story to many other reef keepers. Having never kept zoas before this is a new one on me. They have grown up the side of the clam and were beginning to reach over and shade the mantle before I decided to scrape them off. A temporary fix as they are encrusting again.
To be fair it's just the Utter Chaos zoanthids that are causing a headache, the rest are much slower growing (aside from growing out onto the sand which is making it hard for Lurch the conch to navigate round the tank).
The Heliofungia has grown to a lovely size but is really squashed up in the front left hand corner of the tank. It remains attached to the small rock and so cannot move around. This is possibly a good thing as I'm sure there would be carnage if it could scoot along the sand and relocate itself. It expanded so much that it was stinging the orange Dendrophyllia to the right of it.
The Lobophyllia has been doing OK, it's really slow growing but since it's tucked away at the side of the tank with not great lighting then that's not exactly surprising. It started off with one head and now almost has three.
Unfortunately one night it suddenly launched an all out attack on the Black sun coral. Before now it had been almost completely overgrown by the Utter Chao zoanthids and not retaliated but clearly the threat posed by the Black sun was a different matter. It stripped three branches of the sun overnight.
Since the orange Dendrophyllia and black sun both needed moving, plus I (still) had the Balanophyllia sitting in the sump I decided space needed to be made for them elsewhere. In the end I pulled out 100+ Utter Chaos zoas, clipped a few branches of A. hyacinthus and removed all of Seriatpora hystrix. The Seri broke into pieces during removal and I decided to keep just a single piece and reposition it a little higher up. This left a space big enough to just about squeeze in the sun corals, now I have quite a nice little cluster of NPS corals on the right hand side of the tank.
After spending over a year and a half in the sump the Balanophyllia is finally back in the DT once more and it's looking good, I don't know why I struggled with it so much. I wonder if perhaps it had some sort of infection that caused the flesh to recede before. It's good to see it back to full health (fingers crossed). I'm also thrilled that the accompanying hitchhiker bivalve is still alive too, I have no idea what that is eating but it must be filtering out enough as it has grown larger since introduction.
The yellow Dendrophyllia remains in place next to the Heliofungia, it has encrusted onto the rock work so I'm not going to mess with it. Eventually I expect it too will be stung but that's a problem for the future. In just over a year this Dendro has increased from 3 to 15 separate heads with another forming. Such a lovely looking coral.
The Pinnigorgia gorgonian goes from strength to strength, it grows so fast and always fully extends its polyps. I have cut off a number of branches of it already and need to trim it some more. The Muricea and Plexaurella gorgonians are much slower growing tucked away at the back of the tank.
That's it for now, I will post an updated full tank shot in a few days' time.
First the not so good news, I think it's time to hold my hands up and admit defeat when it comes to growing Acropora in this tank. As soon I discovered the first red bug I feared the worst and that certainly appears to have been the case. I had hoped that the corals would be able to survive the parasitisation and for a while they did, growth was slow but steady and colouration looked OK but that's certainly not the case now.
To recap, patient zero (the frag that initially infected the tank) was removed leaving a small amount of encrusted base in the tank, it looked like was going to recover and regrow but progress was so slow that the neighbouring Montipora (Superman) completely overgrew it. The second casualty was the Purple-tipped Acro, this suffered from STN (slow tissue necrosis) and had to be fragged. The remaining frags encrusted onto the rockwork but again showed little upward growth and were in time also overgrown by the Superman Montipora. A tiny bit of encrusted base still remains but I fully expect it to fade away or be overgrown eventually. The A. loripes suffered from RTN (rapid tissue necrosis) whilst I was on holiday and the Red Dragon joined it shortly after. The A. echinata frag also suffered from STN and was fragged but the stress of it being chopped up caused the remaining branch to strip overnight. So this leaves me with Acro #1 which has browned out and is soon going be completely overshadowed by the green plating Montipora (I never actually wanted any plating Montipora in this tank but this was a freebie coral that came in along with an order of encrusting forms and I, like an idiot, assumed it was encrusting one too, duh!). I also still have Acro #3 which is struggling for space next to the large gorgonian and A. gomezi. At first glance the A. gomezi looks OK but is actually covered with red bugs and has put in no upwards growth since its introduction almost 18 months ago!! There is one Acro however which appears unaffected by the Red bugs and that is the A. hyacinthus (aka Red Planet), this has grown relatively well and in fact has to be fragged because it keeps growing too close to the front glass. I cannot find any trace of red bugs on this coral. So there you go, it's no more Acropora for me, perhaps I'll be able to restock one day when the remaining Acros have gone and the red bugs have died out without a coral on which to host.
In case there was something going on with the water quality that I wasn't aware of, I did send off for an ICP analysis but nothing stood out as being particularly troublesome. Strontium, Barium and Manganese were on the low side. Nitrate and phosphate were 3.02mg/l and 0.09mg/l respectively which is the highest they have been but not excessively high, I think (maybe someone may correct me?). Still, I have decided to run a little Rowaphos to bring the phosphate level down a touch. Full results can be seen via the link below.
Now for the better news the rest of the livestock for the most part appears to be doing fine. The Stylophora, Montipora and Seriatopora are all growing great (a bit too great actually). The lovely beach bum Montipora is thankfully still with me and finally showing signs of growth too. Unfortunately it's becoming harder and harder to see with the ever increasing Stylophora situated to the left of it and monster green plating Montipora to the front. Very poor planning on my part! I can just about catch a glimpse of it from the top but I suspect that won't last long. I would really love to move it to somewhere viewable but I doubt that I could get it off the rock even if I had somewhere to move it to which I certainly don't.
The Superman Montipora has completely filled in the space I gave it and is also growing up the side of the Crocea clam shell. I'm not sure if I should be worried about this development or not. I hope it doesn't impede the opening and closing of the clam.
I had to remove the original frag of the Cyphastrea as the Favia next door was remorselessly attacking it every night and anyway I never liked the look of the horrible frag plug. Since its removal the remaining encrusted part has been doing much better, it's still very close to the Favia but seems to have fallen under the radar for the time being. As for the Lobophyllia I had always been led to believe that they are super aggressive corals but the Utter Chaos zoanthids are creeping ever closer without any form of retaliation at all. I had rather hoped that it would keep them in their place.
Sadly the Sunrise Goniopora frag is not doing very well at all. To begin with, it looked great and was encrusting on to the rock it was placed but then it started to lose colour and not extend as much. I tried moving it to the back of the tank where it was less bright but that didn't seem to make a difference. I can only assume that it hasn't been finding enough food, I do target feed it Reef Roids and Goniopower but generally not more than once a week. I am ever conscious of the size of the tank and nutrient levels.
Here are a few recent photos:
Now on to the new stuff!
With the loss of a few of the SPS corals I was needing a pick me up and a new coral (or two as it happens) does the job. For ages I had fancied adding a short tentacled Fungia to the tank and since we had a trip to London planned a couple of weeks ago, a visit to Advanced Aquarium Consultancy was in order. I couldn't believe my luck when I found out the night before that they were having a sale on some of their corals. I thought "fantastic", I can save some money for a change, lol! However instead of saving money I spent more as I ended up buying a Scolymia instead of a Fungia. Oops! It's funny how that happens when shopping for corals. Needless to say I could have spent more, waaayy more, thank goodness I live too far away for AAC to be my LFS.
Apparently it's a Reverse Bleeding Apple Scoly (more red colouration than green) and here it is after 4 days. I've been watching it like a hawk, worrying about its health because frankly it's the most I've ever paid for a coral even with 20% off. Oh but it's so pretty.
I had to remove 4 Asterina sp. starfish from the base of the coral after acclimation, I felt bad about killing them but really, I have enough pest issues to deal with as it is. It's a shame because close up they are quite nice to look at and I love starfish but I can't take the chance that they may become a nuisance. Although it would be cool to have a Harlequin shrimp...
Here is the Scoly in night feeding mode.
Just after the addition of the Scolymia I discovered an online seller was offering frags of Dendrophyllia sp. Now I really love sun corals (well, non-photosynthetic corals in general) and my current Tubastrea is doing great so I convinced myself that I could squeeze in an itty bitty frag of a Dendro too. The coral was listed as yellow/red in colour with the polyps opening up in the day time as well as the night. However as you can see the coral is a uniform lemon yellow in colour with not a hint of red at all (unlike the one shown on the website). No matter though it looks healthy and really rather lovely, it opened up much faster than I expected and is taking in food already which is excellent. I can confirm in my vast experience of one week that it does indeed stay open during the day. I'm not convinced that it's a Dendrophyllia sp. however, it could alternatively be a branching Tubastrea sp. Only an examination of the skeleton will determine that for sure and since I'd really rather it didn't die I'll be content without a positive ID.
Here's a full tank shot to end this update.
Just prior to the skimmer failure I sent off water samples for yet another ICP analysis. The results of which are shown in the link below:
100%! Apparently I have a full house, everything is in balance although to be honest the salinity is a bit higher than I would like. I must try harder. The conductivity probe had drifted out of calibration. The tin contamination is gone at last but I seem to have a reading for iron this time round. The only change between now and the last test is that I have begun to soak the fish food in a vitamin supplement, I wonder if that’s the source? Something (else) to keep an eye on. I still can’t get much of a nitrate reading despite adding a couple more fish and feeding loads. I wonder if running the tank for 5 days without a skimmer has raised it at all?
Moving on to the corals, the warfare continues. The Favia continues to batter the Cyphastrea relentlessly. I thought it might stop once the leading edge was dead but no, the dead area seems to get larger every day. I would move the Cyphastrea if I could but firstly, it's well encrusted, and secondly I have nowhere else to put it.
Two of the Montipora sp. (#2 & 3) are now clashing with Acropora loripes and both are losing. Montipora #2 is also being hammered at the back by the Stylopora.
Despite religious feeding the Balanophyllia has still not been doing so well, It was only after I made the decision to move it that I discovered that it was receding very badly at the back where I couldn’t see. There was a white band of what I assume to be a bacterial infection at the receding edge. I relocated it to the rear of the tank but in hindsight I should probably have placed it in the sump because as soon as the Pintail wrasse were added, feeding it became nigh on impossible. They just kept stealing its food. Fortunately the Sun coral continues to do well and has grown multiple new heads. Feeding it can be a battle with the wrasse but it can be done with a little perseverance.
Moving on to the red bug problem, with no plan of attack they are obviously still present but the Acros seem to be coping with them for the time being. I fully expected the afflicted corals to be failing by now but they still have reasonable polyp extension and colour. I'm sure that they could look better as could their growth rate but at least they are not dead. The watching and waiting continues.
I've indicated some of the red bugs present on the Acropora below with red arrows there are more shown in the shot but you get the general idea.
As for the fish, Edna the Possum wrasse passed her first anniversary in the tank on December 18th and Kylie the Pink-streaked wrasse will have her first anniversary on the 28th January 2018.
A few more photos of the Pintails (Tinker and Belle) and Rei the Yellow wrasse too.
A few other random coral photos. I had hoped to have more shots to share but Christmas preparations got in the way.
Thanks for following my blog, I hope you all have a great Christmas! Hopefully I have more photos to share next week.
It's been five months since I removed the frag of Acropora sp. #2, due to an infestation of red bugs (Tegastes acroporanus). As I reported before a tiny piece of encrusted base remained in the tank, it was scrubbed rigorously with toothbrush whilst the surrounding water was siphoned away. The Acro base amazingly survived the scrubbing ordeal and has finally began to branch upwards once more. It appears to be red bug free, however, and this is the big downer, the tank is NOT free of these pests! Whilst taking some macro photos of the corals yesterday morning I discovered that at least three of the other Acropora sp. have red bugs crawling over them too (A. gomezi, Acropora sp. #3 & #4). So basically I tossed Acro #2 for nothing. To say that I'm feeling a wee bit disheartened with the tank right now is an understatement.
So what to do now? Remove all of the Acros? But most are encrusted to the rockwork so this would be tricky. Try biological control using a pipefish? The biggest drawback with this (apart from size of the tank, feeding/flow issues blah blah) is that I feel the tank is fully stocked now (see below for the recent and last fish additions). Of course I could strip the tank down entirely and quit or start again. The word 'upgrade' and using this tank as a quarantine tank has even been mentioned! Lots to think about.
Elsewhere war is underway between the Favia sp. and the Cyphastrea sp. The Favia is clearly winning since there is an area of dead skeleton on the leading edge of the Cyphastrea. The fighting occurs only at night so I'm going to have to camp out with a flashlight if I'm to catch the Favia in battle mode. Also the green encrusting Montipora is on the losing end of a clash with Acropora loripes.
Now on to happier news (had I known about the red bugs I would have held off buying any fish but I didn't, *sigh*). I visited my favourite fish shop a couple of weeks ago with the intention of choosing one final fish for the tank, I thought maybe a firefish or a wrasse, one that might actually relish eating pyramid snails. Talking of which I've just spotted one of the buggers in the shot of the damaged Cyphastrea above, argh!! Anyway, I decided against buying a firefish (I really loved the Helfrichi but just couldn't bring myself to fork out so much for one fish) and was discouraged from trying a Leopard wrasse because of possible compatibility issues with my resident Yellow wrasse. Instead I was directed towards the fairy wrasse; colourful and peaceful and not overly large. Now I must confess that I didn't really know too much about this group of fish so I was relying heavily on what I was being told by the lovely shop assistant. There was a group of Pintail wrasse, males and females (although they all looked pretty much the same to me) and apparently I was informed that it was possible to keep a male and female pair together, which is always a plus point for me.
I have since found out that female fairy wrasse almost invariably change into males in a captive environment resulting in warfare between the now two males. Unfortunately I was an hour into my journey home when I discovered that fact. I should have walked away for a coffee and research time before having a pair bagged up. Anyway they are in my tank now so I'll have to deal with issues if and when they arise. As if I don't have enough issues already!
These fish are really very pretty, the male is slightly larger than the female with perhaps more defined markings but to be honest they don't look that different to me. I hope that's not a bad sign. As expected they took some grief from the Rei the Yellow wrasse. She was not best pleased to see some new fish moving in to 'her' tank. She is the undoubted boss of the tank. The rest of the fish ignored the new additions after their initial curious inspections. The har-wrasse-ment by Rei continued for about three days after which she decided it was just too much bother and now lets them be. Most of the time she ignores them aside from a few half hearted chases every now and again.
OK these Pintails really like to eat!! Right from the very first feed they were in there grabbing their fair share even stealing food from right under the nose of Rei and they'll eat whatever I add to the tank almost without question. At the moment during the day they coexist quite peacefully with each other. When the lights dim in the evening there is a bit of jostling for sleeping accommodations, at least that's what I think is going on. It certainly doesn't look like the male is displaying to the female. I will be watching on very carefully for signs of it all going south. Gulp!
And now for a few more updated photos. Sorry there's no video footage yet, I got a bit distracted by the red bug fiasco and needed a large glass of wine to help ease the pain.
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!