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!
On the 18th April I relocated Charlie (or is it Charlize?) the hitchhiking crab from the DT to the refugium. After almost 4 weeks of no-show, today I discovered him (her?) alive and well in the jungle. I am chuffed, what a survivor!
Also I've also been playing around with a new macro lens, starting with some of the easier corals to capture.
There's one zoanthid morph that I've been saving a spot for in my tank but have never seen it for sale in an aquarium shop or via my favourite online supplier so I decided to give E-bay a whirl instead. I ordered two polyps of the "Utter Chaos" zoas, they arrived promptly and were in great condition, I was very pleased (and relieved) with my purchase. I did treat the polyps to a dip in Reef Primer just in case there were any unpleasant hitchhikers, it seemed unlikely on such a small frag disc but as I didn't know the source tank I decided it was not worth the risk. I can see why these zoanthids are so popular, the fluorescent orange colour really 'pops' under the blue LEDs. I roughly chopped down the frag disc as much as possible and hope the remainder will be grown over and hidden asap. I hate frag discs on show in the DT!
I also added a few more snails today to boost my clean up crew as I've noticed that the resident crew aren't quite managing to keep the algae growth in check, not unsurprising now that I am feeding the tank more. So a big welcome to Laurel, Hardy, Eric & Ernie the Trochus snails and Del Boy & Rodney the Ceriths.
I love getting out the magnifying glass and looking at the small stuff, there's always something new and cool to discover.
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.
An interesting month to be sure. Generally the tank has been fine with no losses but there's just been something not quite right with some of the corals. The colours had been fading and polyp extension was poor. On the 14h April I decided take action and alter the lighting profile/ intensity to see if it would help the corals. In no time at all the corals started to pick up, the colours looked a bit better and the polyps began to extend again. It's only been 17 days and there is still a way to go but the corals do look happier and healthier.
The worst affected was Acropora #3, not only had it been losing colour but it was also suffering from blistered skin. The photos below show how the coral has changed over time:
Fingers crossed it will make a full recovery assuming I can keep the water quality up to scratch.
Now for a few more coral shots:
Last but not least the obligatory FTS. Unfortunately I was so intent on trying to get all the fish in shot at the same time (except the Whitecap goby, there's no way in a million years that would be in the shot, period!) that I didn't make sure that they shutter speed was fast enough to prevent motion blur. Ooops!
In my quest to discover why some of my corals were looking pale (in one case very pale indeed) with poor or non existent polyp extension I decided to send a sample of tank water off to Triton for an ICP-OES (which stands for Inductively Coupled Plasma-Atomic Emission Spectroscopy) analysis. I must admit that I had actually intended to do this anyway when the tank reached the 6 month mark just because I was curious as to what it would tell me about my water quality.
At the same time as sending off the sample I did a whole round of testing myself. The intention being that I could compare both results and see if my test kits (not to mention my testing technique) were up to scratch.
Here are the results from my testing performed on the 18th April 2017.
Specific gravity: 1.026 (51.7mS according to my conductivity probe)
Alkalinity: 7.0dKH (Salifert)
Calcium: 410ppm (Salifert)
Magnesium: 1272ppm (Salifert)
Potassium: 390ppm (Salifert)
Strontium: 0-3 (Salifert)
Nitrate: undetecable (Salifert)
Phosphate: undetectable (Hanna phosphate)
Iodide: <0.01 (Salifert)
Iodate: <0.03 (Salifert)
...and here are the ICO-OES results.
So what do the above results tell me? Well, the obvious issue that immediately jumps out is the elevated tin (Sn) level. Eeek! Where on earth did that come from? I have read that a possible source for tin could be the glass (as molten tin is used to "float" the glass on during it's manufacture). Other than that, something could be rusty and contaminating the system but I'm at a loss as to what it could be, all the equipment was bought new and there's nothing obviously rusting as far as I can see.
Apart from tin, I don't think the rest of the results look too bad really, pretty much as I expected. My tests are not that far off which is good to know (with the possible exception of Strontium which is low with the Salifert test kit but actually at an acceptable level according to Triton). My phosphate level is surprisingly low despite the increased fish load and extra feedings. Triton recommends feeding more and/or reducing the amount of phosphate remover used. As I don't use any remover that's going to be difficult to do but I do intend to feed more to my corals.
Ca: 410 434
Mg: 1272 1258
K: 390 386
Sr: 0-3 7.06
Iodide/Iodate: <0.01/0.03 0
PO4: undetectable 0.006
So what now? Well I'm going to continue performing water changes as normal, maybe change out a little more in the next a few weeks. Triton recommends 6 x 15%, but they are probably assuming that I don't perform water changes at all which is certainly not the case. I popped a polyfilter into the sump for good measure mainly because I had one to hand (from years ago, I hope they don't 'go off'?) and surely it can't hurt. I also intend to start dosing iodine again.
Just before sending off the water sample to Triton as reported in a previous post, I also reduced the intensity of my lighting. It's been 14 days now and I do think that there has been an improvement in the corals, the colours look a tiny bit better and the polyps are starting to extend again. Perhaps the lighting was the main issue? I am hopeful that things will continue to improve. Now I just need to get rid of all that tin....
Photos to follow on Monday with the full May update.
Yesterday morning the male T. nudus goby was back out with the female again so I knew immediately that the eggs must have hatched at some time during the night. He had been caring for them non-stop for the last 7 days without eating so I was expecting something to happen within the next two days. I checked on the tank 2 hours after lights out the previous night but there was no sign of any fry at that point. When I checked again in the morning there were a few tiny goby shaped objects floating around the tank and one was even still wriggling but it was swept away by the flow before I could reach for a pipette to catch it. Unfortunately the fry don't really stand much of a chance of surviving intact by the time I get up in the morning to look for them. The powerheads are so fierce and the fry are so delicate, not to mention that I now have a shoal of hungry Cardinals that are always on the look out for any tasty morsels that happen to float by. I expect that they had a breakfast feast yesterday and the Acanthastrea looked suspiciously happy too!
At least I took better notes this time so I'm fairly confident now that the egg incubation period is 7 days so maybe next time if I stay up late or get up really, really early I can actually catch and photograph some.....
The continuing saga of the pesky tiny Aiptasia.
I noticed the first tiny polyp growing out of the sand in the front left-hand side of the tank on the 22nd January, I immediatly siphoned it out with a pipette connected to some airline. Then on 5th March, two more appeared in the same area. They were promptly removed in the same manner. Unbelievably on the 10th March, yet another one appeared in the sand, what the?! Am I just removing the heads and they grow back from the base? Clearly siphoning them out was not working so this time I decided to nuke the little guy with some Aiptasia-X. Was that the end of it? Err no! A couple of days ago another one popped up in the same area. Arrrgggh! This time I took a scoop and removed the polyp and all the surrounding sand too. Only time will tell if I've beaten them this time, the strange thing is that they haven't appeared anywhere else in the tank... yet!
Here it is in a glass cup, so I definitely removed something!
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!