I've been really pleased with the progression of the tank recently, the fish seem settled with no argy-bargy between them, coral colouration continues to improve with each week and things are generally looking healthy. I hope by saying that I've not just jinxed everything now.
As a consequence I have been on the look out for a few more corals to add a bit of extra interest to the tank. It's proven hard to source the last few bits from my wish list as they don't seem to be readily available or the pieces I've come across in the shops are just too big to squeeze in my tank. Regular readers (if there are any out there? Ha ha!) will know that I've been trying to stick to small frags so that I can enjoy watching them 'grow in', plus buying aquacultured corals has always got to be a good thing, right? After 7 months of keeping my eye out I resorted to shopping online (my second favourite pastime). I never thought I would actually take the chance of buying corals online but so far my experience of it has been all great with no losses to date.
Yesterday the postman brought me not one, but two packages, it was a very exciting day.
The first package contained 3 corals. A Balanophyllia sp., possibly my new favourite coral. This is non-photosynthetic and will require feeding by hand but it is so very, very pretty. I had originally wanted to source a small colony of sun coral (Tubastrea sp.), as I've kept those in the past and found them easy to care for but have not seen any for sale, They used to be regularly available but not any more it seems. Anyway this species is very similar (and fits in the small size theme) so I decided to give it a go. My research has suggested that they only extend their feeding tentacles at night but this one seems happy to open up no matter whatever the time of day which is wonderful, more time for me to admire it! As a bonus there is a mussel attached at the base, although I haven't ascertained if it's still living or not. I do hope so but keeping it that way may prove difficult as it's a filter feeder.
Check out all those nematocysts!
Then came a baby plate coral, now I knew that I wanted an LPS coral with swaying tentacles and had originally considered a Euphyllia sp. but I know these can get very large over time so I finally settled on a plate coral. When I saw this baby one available I knew that I wouldn't have a better opportunity to purchase one, it really is tiny measuring just 2cm across when the tentacles are expanded. Normally these corals are free living on sandy or muddy substrates but this one presently has a 'stalk' and when it arrived was glued to a flat frag plug. Unfortunately the frag plug was covered in tiny Aiptasia so it just had to go. The base was duely chopped off along with as much of the original superglue as I dared (and there was a LOT!), then it was fixed it onto a spare piece of rock I had in the sump (I just knew that I'd find a use for that rock eventually, lol!). Now I am hoping that this coral is indeed a long tentacle plate coral, Heliofungia actiniformis and not a very small branch of a torch coral, Euphyllia glabrescens. They do look rather similar when small. I guess time will tell, if it grows and detaches from the base to become free living then it'll be a plate coral, if it develops new branches then it's not!
The final part of this order was a Sunny D zoanthid (plus a baby bud), during transit the polyp had worked itself free of the frag plug so clearly it had been fragged very recently. My first response was one of annoyance but as I hate the look of frag plugs in general it proved fortuitous, it was a simple matter to dab a bit of glue to the base of the polyp and fix it to my live rock. It opened up within a few hours of introduction and is still there today so hopefully it'll survive. I think it's fair to say I'm now a fan of zoanthids, I'm up to 7 different types now, how did that happen?! ;o)
My second online order came all the way from France, how brave was that!! Ever since I added my first gorgonian I knew that I wanted to introduce at least one other species. I had been waiting to purchase the purple frilly gorgonian that Reefworks supply but as it hasn't been available for months I started searching elsewhere. Sadly gorgonians seem to be a bit of an afterthought at most LFS I have visited. The SPS corals are lined up neatly in tanks but the gorgonians seem to be plonked in without any care to their wellbeing at all, most ending up lying on their sides and being stung by something more aggressive resulting in stripped branches or worse. Fortunately for me I discovered Eco-Gorgs, sustainably-produced aquarium sized Carribbean gorgonians, perfect for me and only a few clicks away. OK, admittedly a bit of a journey was required to get them to my tank but worth the chance i thought.
First in my basket was a small frag of Plexaurella sp. and very fluffy looking it is too.
This was followed swiftly by Isis hippuris, though I have to say it doesn't look anything like images of this species online but what do I know?
...and lastly Muricea elongata because it seemed a shame to only order just 2 corals when they were coming so far. This is the only one that has not fully extended all it's polyps yet. I had to leave all 3 gorgonians on the sand for a few hours after acclimation whilst I went out and when I got back this one had been knocked over, typical! There seems to be a bubbling issue with the two branches that had been in contact with the sand. Fingers crossed it will recover in a few days time.
That's it for the time being, I'll try for some better shots of the new corals later on in the week when they've fully settled in and maybe even a new FTS. If you've managed to read all the way to the bottom of this post then top marks, you must be a sucker for punishment!
Whilst the original zoanthids (wild collected presumably considering the amount of other life present on the rock) haven't really done much, my most recent smaller frags (aquacultured?) have been doing great. The green ones (possibly "Radioactive", I'm not well versed with the trendy zoa names) and the "Red Tuxedo" polyps already have new buds, they add a lovely splash of colour to the lower, shadier parts of the tank. I decided therefore that a few more were needed. On Thursday, I picked up some "Wango Tango" zoas (lol where do they get these names from?) and some "Agave" palythoas. Although they were sold to me as "Fire & Ice" zoas, I think that's incorrect, they look more like "Agave".
I can quite easily see how some reef keepers become obsessed with collecting zoanthids, the variety is absolutely amazing! I may just have to get a few more myself (I need some Utter Chaos in my life, rofl!).
A better FTS (with less blurry fish hopefully) and some top-down photos of corals that I forgot to include in yesterday's update.
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.
On the 31st December 2016 I introduced Zoanthus sp. #1 to the tank. On the rock along with the zoas came a mystery disc thing that I identified as a foraminifera called Marginopora vertebralis (see here). For a couple of months nothing changed and then suddenly it vanished. I assumed that it had died and had fallen off the rock or had been knocked off by a snail or hermit crab. The following day I discovered it just behind the zoa rock. A few days later however it was in a different spot, OK, so the hermits or snails must have been moving it during their never ending rock cleaning duties. But then a few days after that it was in yet another spot and no way could it have been placed there by a crab or snail unless I have very, very clever snails/hermits. During the next two days I paid extra attention to the foram and lo and behold it was moving around the rock, all be it very slowly, of its own accord. Who knew it could do that?? I certainly didn't!
I have since discovered that foraminifera can move about with slender pseudopodia, or extensions of cytoplasm, the living matter of the cell, which stream through an opening in the test known as the aperture; in porous tests, the pseudopodia also emerge through the pores.
Please see the link below for more details:
This thing is seriously cool!
For the most part the tank is doing OK. There is very little in the way of nuisance algae, the furry stuff that was coating the rocks seems to be fading away without any intervention on my part. The zoanthids are opening up nicely and looking good, so I think the nudibranch problem is solved. The LPS expand nicely during the day and are always ready to eat whenever they sense food in the tank.
Most of the SPS corals are doing well, showing good growth or at the very least basing out. Colouration however is not great for some of them, I'm hoping that with time and stability the colours will improve. Maybe it's a nutrient issue?
There is one Acropora sp. (#3) that does not look good. I have noticed recently that there appears to be blistering to the flesh. This is a new one on me so I did a bit of searching on the web and others have reported this ailment. Unfortunately no one really knows what causes it. Some say that it's due to an imbalance with the big three, i.e. KH, Ca and Mg but in my case I have those parameters well within recommended levels and they haven't fluctuated much either. The only suspect I can think of at this stage is KZ Sponge Power, I began dosing this on the 11th February (1 drop every other day). It may have nothing to do with the problem but I think I'm going to stop using it for a while and see if the Acro improves.
I nuked the tiny Aiptasia that sneaked into the tank on the clam shell with Aiptasia-X and didn't feel bad about it at all. Now I just have to be vigilant for more Pyramid snails. My list of hitchhikers found in this tank is growing ever longer.
I'm happy to report that the fish are all doing fine. It's been just over a month since I added the Pink Streaked wrasse and I'm thinking that the time might be right to introduce some more soon. This time I definitely want fish that will swim out in the open. I have fish that hug the rockwork, that sit on the sand and one that hides in a hole in the sand, I really need some bold fishies that aren't shy!
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.
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.
Lets start with the bad, it seems I didn't locate and remove all of the nudibranchs from the zoanthid rock last week, I can't say that I'm really that surprised to be honest. So, yesterday out came the rock again (it's good job it's not stuck down!) for another thorough inspection. This time 3 of the little blighters were flushed off. If I discover any more at a later date then I'm going to have to break out the Reef Primer and dip the rock. I know that I should probably have done this as soon as they were first discovered or, even better, as preventative measure but I really hate killing the cool harmless stuff just to nuke the (possible) bad hitchhikers.
Now for the good news. :o) As soon as I knew that I was setting up another reef tank I knew that I HAD to have a pistol shrimp and goby pair. I have never tried keeping a symbiotic pair before and would really wanted to observe the interactions between the fish and shrimp and, most particularly, admire the shrimp hard at work digging. Anyway to my very great surprise my wonderful better half came home yesterday with a Whitecap Goby and Red Spotted pistol shrimp pair. I had tried to purchase a pair before but on the day before I was due to visit the shop the shrimp went missing from the tank in which it was being kept in, I was so gutted as they are not commonly available. Luckily for me the shop was able to obtain another pair and unbeknownst to me, my husband drove over and picked them up. The pair are absolutely beautiful! Upon introduction, the shrimp separated from the goby and headed for the back left-hand corner of the tank whereupon it promptly started digging a hole in the sand. The goby however remained in the open water at the top of the tank which is not a good place to be considering the size of the fish (tiny!!) and the strength of the water flow from the Tunze Nanostream pumps, but more worryingly it is small enough to take a dive through the weir comb to the depths below. I decided to switch off the circulation pumps for the time being to give the little fish a fighting chance to settle but there’s not much I could do with the size of the gaps between the comb. Will I still have a goby/shrimp pair tomorrow who knows? I expect a sleepless night ahead for me worrying about the poor things.
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!