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.
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)
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.
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!
The new corals have been fixed in place and are looking great, I just hope I can keep them looking as good. I had to move the Lobophyllia as Lurch the conch kept barging past it and knocking it over, it's well away from the Acanthastrea now so there'll definitely be no coral warfare between those two.
Also, and try not to laugh too much, but I managed to take a quick video of Gordon the Whitecap goby and Al, his pistol shrimp partner. Al had decided to rework the 'wall' yet again giving me the best chance of capturing them on camera. Unfortunately I had to position the camera downwards to see into the hole so there is some glass distortion and I've never taken a video in my life so there's that, lol! Still you can see that they are alive and doing their thing.
Whitecap goby & Pistol shrimp
Nothing much to report really, there were no new additions last weekend. The tank is ticking along nicely and the fish have settled back into their fishy routines. For the gobies this is sit on the sand and wait for food to float by and for the wrasse it's cruise the rockwork searching for tasty morsels.
I am getting to see the the pistol shrimp (Al) and Whitecap goby (Gordon) everyday now which is excellent (well the heads of them anyway). On Friday Al decided that the 'wall' needed some modifying/rebuilding. I must have sat and watched him for at least 2 hours shovelling sand up and over the top. True to nature Gordon the goby hovered nearby and I was treated to the best views of him so far, I saw not only his head but his anterior dorsal fin too! OK that doesn't sound like much but it's more than I've seen since, well, introduction really. I could have taken photos but I was so entranced by all the activity that I didn't want to risk scaring them off. I am still hoping for whole body views sometime in the future. I must say it's almost tempting to destroy the wall so that I can watch Al rebuilding it again, lol! I won't of course, that would be too cruel.
Since I still have no pictures of Gordon or Al I thought I'd show you Lurch the conch instead, he's grown amazingly since he was introduced on the 14th November 2016. His day typically consists of waking up midmorning eating algae off the sand and rocks all day long and then at some point at night he buries himself back in the sand for a nap. He's a lot more agile than I expected a conch to be, he can climb on to the lower rocks and has even made it all the way up to the top of the left-hand rock pile on a couple of occasions. Getting back down again is somewhat problematic and basically involves him falling off, at least the sand bed is there to cushion his fall. I think his eyes are really beautiful!
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!