Saturday, July 17, 2010

Invasion of the Brown Body Snatchers

24 hours after we introduced the 8 pieces of new coral, I noticed something new as I walked by the tank. "Hmm. What's that on the glass?" Upon closer inspection, I observed a thin layer of brown slime. Instantly recalling upon the books I'd read, I recognized it as "diatoms". WTF? I had followed all instructions to a tee. Put in live rock. Add some substrate. A protein skimmer. A media reactor for the fun of it. Let simmer for a month. And, supposedly, whallah!, you're tank is ready for fish. Well, not quite. Only one or two hardy fish but that's irrelevant here.

We added the coral and decided to wait another (yes, that's 2) months before adding fish. I patted myself on the back for being so patient and converative. I'm so brave for jumping right in. Maybe this wouldn't be so hard afterall. I followed the store owner's instructions about adding the coral supplements to the tank. Alkalinity? Check. Calcium? Check. Reef "vitamins" and "nutrients"? Check. To be extra careful, I added only 1/4 of the dose recommended by the manufacturer. The next morning, brown slime, creeping all over everything. Over the next 12 hours, I sat, wringing my hands, and helplessly watching the brown slime infest my entire tank: the glass, the walls, the substrate, live rocks, and even the thermometer. By morning, after consulting Mike, our aquarium guru, we knew what action was to be taken.

First, no more adding anything to the water. The tank was simply too young. And too unstable. Second, shorten the photoperiod to only 8 hours a day (for now). Third, do a final water change (we had done 50% (our first one) only a few days before)of 20%. Scrub off algae from rocks and glass and mix up the substrate with fingers. Add 10 more snails and 10 more hermit crabs. Then, leave it alone. I was skeptical that was all that was needed to rescue the tank from such an aggressive full-frontal attack.

We followed the above instructions carefully, then left the tank alone, watching it and wringing our hands again. One day later, I was pleased to see that everything looked much cleaner. But had the diatoms only retreated or fully surrendered? After several more days, I am happy to report that the diatoms appear to be defeated. The glass is clear, and lots of red and white coralline algae are painting the rock in colorful patterns. A little hindsight research teaches me that diatom growth is the first species of algae that commonly appears after a newly cycled tank. (I can already spot patches of green algae (2nd phase of attack) guys coming in nicely. I am secretly glad. They will be lush pastures for some hungry tangs.)

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