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.
So, Benji the hermit crab is just minding his own business cleaning off the algae growing on Lurch the conch's shell and wham, Lurch's operculum shoots out and knocks him off in the blink of an eye. I guess Lurch didn't want his shell cleaning after all, lol!
Here we have a Cerith trying to hide amongst the zoanthids, but come on, that blinding white shell is not making it easy is it? Lol! Perhaps if it didn't spend weeks/months 'sleeping' under the sand things might be different. I'm just glad to know that he (or she) is still in the land of the living.
Well I never!! I reported in a diary post on the 21st July that the "King Midas" zoanthids were beyond all hope but it seems I may have been a tiny bit hasty....
To recap I introduced these zoanthids on the 25th June and intially left them on the sand for a week whilst I decided what to do with them, they seemed fine and opened up beautifully so I fixed them to the rockwork on the right-hand side of the tank. After that they promptly refused to open up again. After a week had passed with no improvement I decided to put them back on the sand again and in a couple of days they began to recover. Then I chose another spot on the rock not that far from where they were sitting on the sand and fixed them down again. They closed up again and began to shrink away. What the...?! So frustrating!!
For all intents and purposes I gave up on them as I didn't really know what to do anymore. There aren't many free spots left in the tank for corals these days. Finally when there was barely anything left on the frag plug I pulled it off the rock fully intending to chuck it away but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. You couldn't call them zoanthids really but there were some tiny blobs of flesh still attached, so back to the sand they went. This time I left them in amongst the 'shell graveyard' (the is a pile of spare shells on the sand front right-hand corner of the tank that the hermit crabs have either moved out of or will possibly utilise in the future (and the amphipods just love to play hide and seek in them)).
After a while the blobs started to show short some stubby tentacles and, knock me down with a feather, they began to resemble tiny zoas again. I've absolutely no idea what I'm going to do with them now, I'm not going to mess around with them so I guess they can stay where they are for the time begin. Fingers crossed that the hermits/snails won't bash them around too much when they going foraging for food.
Some bad news to report.
First up, the King Midas zoanthids I introduced just under 4 weeks ago. For the first week I left them sitting on the sand and they looked great, opening up nicely so I decided to fix them down on the rear of the right-hand rock pile. Oddly after that they refused to open up again. Hmm, I thought maybe they don't like that spot so I removed the frag plug from the rock and sat it back down on the sand at the front of the tank again. Happily they started to extend once more so a couple of days later I fixed them to a new spot not that far from where they were sitting on the sand. Sadly they never opened up again and started to shrink. As it stands they are pretty much all gone now, a couple of tiny polyps remain but they are closed up tight and will no doubt soon fade away. I am at a loss as to why these particular zoanthids have not survived when my other 7 varieties appear to be doing well. It's very frustrating and I'm quite sad about it because they will be my first coral loss since I started up. I didn't even manage to take a picture of them when they were open to post here for posterity's sake.
The next loss is not so much of a mystery which makes it all the more maddening although I've only just put two and two together after the damage was done. The two new Red Spotted gobies (Trimma rubromaculatus) are indeed a male and female pair as I've noticed them "gettin' jiggy wit' it" on a number of occasions now. This is a lovely thing but unfortunately means that they don't want any fish swimming near their patch and sadly their patch appears to be the entire rear lower half of the tank. Now this just happens to be the same area that the Red Spot Cardinals (Apogon parvulus) like to hang out. I'd noticed recently that the Cardinals had taken to swimming at the top of the tank where the flow is quite brisk, This a bit odd for them and should have paid more attention to it. It all became clearer this morning as I watched one of them stray just a bit too low and was immediately and aggressively chased upwards by the larger of the two gobies (named Rocket which seems quite appropriate considering the response I witnessed). I'm sure you can guess where this story is going now, skip back to yesterday and one of the Cardinals sadly jumped out of the tank. I was working opposite at the time but did not realise what had happened until it was too late. I feel sure after what I observed this morning that it was being chased by one of the gobies, after all these fish hadn't shown any inclination to want to jump before the Red Spotted gobies were introduced. Sigh, another hard lesson learned, mixing different fish even really tiny ones in a small space is not an easy thing to do.
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!
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!