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.
It may have been Good Friday (10th April 2020) when this happened but for me it was a BAD Friday.
I decided that the time had come for me to move over Clive the Crocea clam from the Reefer, I knew it was going to be stressful for me and undoubtedly for Clive too but I underestimated just how stressful it was going to be for all concerned.
Clive has been struggling recently due to being crowded out by corals on all sides and from above too. I had already removed the shading from above (the gorgonian) but the zoanthids growing up his shell were becoming a real issue (again) and I'd put if off for way longer than I should have. I knew that I wanted him off that rock completely and I felt the only way to do that was literally breaking the rock apart. I didn't want to mess around with trying to cut the byssal threads or anything like that. So the whole rock had to come out. Fortunately on set up I'd drilled holes in the rocks and used an acrylic rod to stack them together so only the top rock needed to be removed. Even so that meant pulling out a large expanse of Superman Montipora, the Seriatopora and a whole load of Utter Chaos zoanthids too.
Here's the rock in a 25l bucket, Clive can just about be seen in the bottom left hand of the photo.
Once I'd pulled off a handful of zoanthids obscuring the lower portion of Clive's shell we got to work on the rock with a hammer and chisel. It was brutal to be honest, the Monti was smashed to pieces and branches of Seri were snapped off right, left and centre. Eventually we ended up with a tiny bit of rock still attached to Clive and his foot appeared to be intact, phew! Then I got to work with a scalpel, scraping off each and every zoa.
This is how he looked before his haircut:
and here he is afterwards, mission accomplished. He even started to extend his mantle in appreciation.
After acclimation I placed Clive in his new home and swiftly opened a bottle of wine to celebrate a job well done except that when I went to check on Clive later I discovered a cloudy tank and found him spawning. My first thought was "Wow how cool, I must record this!" but then as the tank got cloudier and cloudier I began to worry if the filtration of a 2 month old tank could cope with such a large and sudden influx of protein. I googled clam spawning and realised I should probably take action right away. Luckily I already had 20l of saltwater made up already so with the help of my family we began siphoning out the eggs every time they were released. I also set the RO unit to start collecting more water in case extra was needed. Finally Clive was spent and we were too. I tested the ammonia levels 2 hours after the spawning and again after another 2 hours but I couldn't detect elevated levels, thank goodness.
I learned something new that day, that clams release sperm AND eggs. The sperm is released first till exhausted and then the eggs are released. Maybe Clive should actually be called Harry/Harriet or something. Clearly this was a stress induced spawning event, sorry Clive.
I spent a rather sleepless night in bed worrying if I would get up and find a dead tank in the morning but luckily everything seemed fine. All the fish were present and correct and Clive had his mantle fully extended. He has lost colour in one area due to shading by the zoas but hopefully he can recover that now he's in full light again.
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?!
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.
Things have been pretty settled on the fish front recently but today that all changed, trouble brewing on the goby front. This morning I discovered both the T. nudus gobies sitting right outside the pistol shrimp's main burrow entrance, I've not seen this behaviour before. As the day progressed I actually observed them popping in and out of all the shrimp's burrow entrances/exits, something was certainly amiss here! There was no sign of the pistol shrimp or his Whitecap partner but they've gone missing before so I was not overly worried. That was until the afternoon, when Gordon the Whitecap goby suddenly popped right out of a hole in front of me. I mean the whole fish, not just the head but the whole body and tail too, I would have been beyond excited if it were not for the fact that he'd been chased out of the hole by one of the nudus gobies. What the...?! Where was his pistol shrimp buddy?? The Whitecap is such a timid fish, he's completely lost without his pistol pal. The lights are off now and he's been chased out on to the sand again. This is not good and I'm seriously worried about the whereabouts of the pistol shrimp. Has he died, perhaps through an unsuccessful moulting? If that's the case then I doubt Gordon will survive long without him. I really hope there's another explanation to the shrimp's absence and that he'll resurface again very soon.
On a lighter note I discovered two Stomatella sp. snails cruising about the tank in the last couple of days. I spotted one on the shell of the T. crocea clam when it was introduced but obviously there must have been two. Some good freebie hitchhikers at last!
Not a great day in Lisa's Reef today. I discovered that my new clam not only has a second tiny Aiptasia attached to it's shell (I noticed and removed the first larger one before the clam was even placed into the tank) but is ALSO infested with Pyramid snails. Noooo! These tiny snails are no bigger than a grain of rice are parasitic, they suck out the body fluid of the clam (and sometimes also other snails depending on the species), they can quite easily weaken and kill the clam given enough time and numbers. Operation Pyramid removal will commence 1hr after lights out today.
As promised here are some photos of the new additions. The beautiful T. crocea clam, a tiny frag of Favia sp. (?) and some green zoanthus sp. I still have to find a spot for the zoanthids, somewhere down on the left-hand side of the tank I think.
Last week we had our first power cut since this tank has been set up, argh! I was so wishing at that point that I hadn't sold my old generator, it was a big unit (bought for my 7ft monster tank) and could have easily run everything on this little tank. *sigh!* Fortunately the power came back on after 8 (very long) minutes and everything restarted without any intervention from myself which is good to know as I'm sure that there will be more cuts in the future. I suppose I'd better start saving up for another generator or maybe a UPS this time round. If only I didn't keep spending my money on livestock....
That leads me on to today, we just happened to be in the nearish vicinity of two marine shops in Birmingham and of course I just had to pop in and check them out. Ahh so many lovely corals on offer, most were fortunately too big (and expensive) for my tank but there were some tiny frags just the perfect size. I limited myself to a very small bit of what I believe to be Favia sp. (or something similar) and a tiny piece of rock covered with some green zoanthids. Additionally I couldn't resist coming home with a beautiful small Tridacna crocea clam. I had initially planned on buying a T. maxima clam but as I've not come across any I've liked I decided to try a Crocea instead. They are reported to be the hardest of the giant clam family to care for so I hope I've not made a mistake here. I did avoid choosing the very tiny specimens as I know they have a poorer survival rate. Of course I could have gone with the hardier T. derasa but I've kept one of those in my last tank and it grew into a calcium sucking monster, lol! At least Crocea are slow growing and stay small. I will take pictures tomorrow when they've settled in a bit.
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!