I have always had a hankering to try a non-photosynthetic gorgonian, it's crazy I know because feeding them can be so hard but I think they are incredibly beautiful corals. Apparently out of all the species available Menella sp. is reportedly the easiest to keep however in all my years of running a reef tank I have never seen one for sale in a shop. Then amazingly a tiny frag became available online. I reasoned to myself that surely I could find somewhere to squeeze in something that small and before common sense could prevail an order was placed.
The frag arrived looking great and the polyps were fully extended in the pot, I placed it on a frag rack whilst I pondered where on earth I was going to put it. It really is lovely, delicate yellow polyps extending from a dark red central stalk. I have been offering it a variety of dried and frozen foods not really knowing what it prefers to eat or is indeed the correct size for it to swallow. Out of curiosity I decided to film how it would react when I dumped in a load of live Tigriopus copepods in to the tank. I didn't really expect to see much so I was quite surprised to actually catch some action when played back. The footage is not great having been digitally zoomed in on my phone and then cropped on the computer plus the speed has been slowed down but you can actually see pods being caught and more excitingly being ingested! Keep an eye out for the pod that gets caught on the right hand side of the branch and at the time stamp 1.02 you can see the polyp actually swallowing it! Pretty cool stuff I think.
Time will tell if I can manage to keep this beauty alive long term. Now that it's fixed in place I should be able to track any changes be they good or bad.
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.
Time for a long overdue FTS update. As you can see the coralline continues to encrust apace, every now and again I scrape it off the front and sides but I leave it to grow rampant on the back wall. The plates grow quite thick until a large snail crawls across and the added weight causes a chunk to detach and they both fall down to the sand.
I'm sure some eagled-eyed reefers will have spotted the presence of hair algae in some of the previous close-up shots. If it weren't for the aforementioned coralline I expect the situation would be a lot worse. It began to grow when I lost some of the Acropora to red bugs. I cut out the branches but that still left dead encrusted bases which provided the perfect breeding ground for algae. I was not thrilled about the appearance of the green hair algae but it did allow me the opportunity to purchase a gorgeous Rainford's goby who loves to graze on the tufty stuff. I've noticed recently however, that it's been starting to spread elsewhere in the tank. For example when I brought the Balanophyllia up from the sump the rock on which it was attached rapidly grew a green furry cover as did the freshly exposed rockwork after I removed the Seriatopora. Part of the problem lies with the clean up crew as they simply do not venture on to the rocks to feed any more. The Trochus and Turbo snails only bother to rasp algae from the glass walls, I think they find it too difficult to navigate around the corals, why make an effort to search for algae on the rocks when an easy meal can be found on the glass? The only snails I have found so far that make any difference to the hair algae are Money or Annular cowries. I have four of these fascinating molluscs and they do seem to have an appetite for the shorter hair algae, a patch will occasionally be mown down.
I don't want to completely eradicate the hair algae as Jessie (the Rainford's goby) needs some in his diet so I'm a bit stuck as to what to do right now. The nitrate and phosphate levels are a touch under 4mg/l and 0.04mg/l respectively at my last ICP analysis (2nd September) so not overly high. I did try introducing a few new herbivorous molluscs in the hope that they would have a taste for it, (two Astralium sp. followed by three Spiny Astrea snails) but none of these new species are interested in eating the hair algae either. Typical! It seems that film algae/diatoms are preferred all round. The Trochus snails seem to do well on it anyway, last month I woke up to an alarmingly cloudy tank but it was just the snails having a bit of reproductive fun.
It occurred to me after my last update regarding the continuing red bug issue that there was one pest I hadn't actually seen in the tank for a while and that was pyramid snails. For months and months I religiously siphoned out as many of the tiny parasitic snails that I could find, I literally removed hundreds of them without any obvious dent in their population. Naturally this got old very fast and as the months went by and my hardworking clean-up crew (Trochus & Turbo snails etc) and clam looked fine I became less vigilant. I would still remove any that I saw attached to the snails but I no longer actively seeked them out. Today though I've searched the tank most thoroughly with a magnifying glass and cannot find any evidence of a single pyramid snail. That's not to say that they aren't still present in the tank but considering how many there were at one point I take it to be a positive sign. Perhaps one of the fish has finally found a taste for them, the most obvious candidate being the Yellow wrasse but I have never seen her (now him) show any interest in eating them even when faced with one crawling up the glass in front of her face.
So that's the step forward, now for the backward step. Since the demise of some of my Acropora I have been faced with the issue of what to do with their dead skeletons. I fragged off as much as I could but that still left a goodly amount of encrusted base on the rocks. Sadly these have now become a magnet for hair algae. Normally the snails would have made short work of this algae before it had chance to establish but they find it quite hard to navigate their way round the rockwork these days due to the fact that there are lots of other corals in the way, in fact I hardly ever see the Trochus/Turbo/Ceriths on the rocks at all now, they just spend all their time cruising round the glass. Since this algae is growing ever longer by the day and starting to spread I need to formulate a battle plan asap.
That's it for now I'll sign off with an updated video for your viewing pleasure.
Here are the rest of our snorkelling videos.
The only trips we did were to see the Whale shark and the Manta Ray, sadly both were somewhat disappointing. We were lucky enough to see them but they stayed deep and it was a rugby scrum to get to see them at all. Not ideal! I'm not surprised they stayed deep to be honest. The turtles however were fantastic, we saw them both on the house reef and at Turtle reef, they pretty much ignored us completely and went about their business.
That's the last of the footage, I hope you enjoyed watching the videos.
My husband and I recently spent 2 absolutely glorious weeks snorkelling the house reef at Vilamendhoo, Maldives. My reward for being married for 25 years, every cloud has a silver lining and all.
It's only the second time I've ever visited a reef (the first being on our honeymoon in Eilat, Israel an age ago). I was expecting the reef to be in bad shape and yes, it was everything I had feared. It must have been amazing a few (10+?) years ago but now it's a wasteland of dead skeletons. However there were signs of recovery, lots of new mini colonies taking hold with the south side of the island leading the way. It could be good again if there isn't another bleaching event in the future years, we can only hope.
Anyway there was an abundance of fish and I (we) spent practically every waking moment snorkelling, no boring sunbathing for us! Why people go all that way just to lie in the sun I will never know. Thanks to our fabulous children (possibly the only time I've ever had cause to call them fabulous ) I had a shiny new GoPro to record our adventures on. I have lots and lots of footage to post and rather than have one incredibly long video I have decided to split it up into smaller, viewer friendly segments.
Don't hold your breath for BBC quality filming, the steadiness of the camera depended entirely on how choppy the sea was and how excited I was at seeing a fish I'd previously only ever viewed in a book. David Attenborough I am certainly not! If I've misidentified any of the fish please let me know and remember to view in 1080p for the best quality picture. I hope you enjoy the videos.
More to follow in the next post.
First attempt at a proper tank video, plenty of room for improvement. Note the male Pintail wrasse is displaying to the female in the beginning section. :o)
Another short video for today, time lapse this time. I recorded it just after the lunchtime fish feed when the lighting is whiter. The sun coral expands it's polyps a lot more in the early evening but the lighting is ramping down again (i.e. very blue) so difficult to capture.
Early morning on the reef (so it's really, really blue).
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!
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!