Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Peaceful State of Homeostasis

I need to upload some new pics. After the tragic loss of 3 fish, a shrimp, and a starfish, all within a week or two, for no apparent reason, the tank is finally returning to normal. We love eating breakfast by the tank. I drink my coffee while watching the fish eat. I've finally gotten into a routine of regular tank maintenance. It's still a lot of work but not as overwhelming as it used to be. Over the weekend, we even picked up a new shrimp and a new royal gramma to replace the ones we lost. The tank seems so much livelier with the new additions! Pics are coming soon.

Here's a list of tankmates:
1. Bluejaw Trigger (male)--Pedro (very cute, peaceful, shy little guy, although we suspect he may have had something to do with the loss of one of our cleaner shrimp after molting).
2. Phil--new Royal Gramma (after the loss of Phillip when I removed all the live rock in a futile attempt to catch a Banggai). He's so small! He loves the caves and nooks and crannies in the rocks. I hope he grows up to be nice and big!
3. 2 Banggai cardinalfish (both males; ugh). The Ropers (Mr. & Mrs. even though they're both guys). One is dominant and still chases the submissive one around but the tank is large enough and has enough hiding places that Mr. Roper doesn't get picked on too badly. These guys hide a lot and don't like the bright reef lighting.
4. 2 mated Clownfish (Oscellaris). Bonnie & Clyde. We got these guys as babies (captive-bred). They are the friendliest in the tank, and always come out to say "hi". If you open the canopy, you can hand-feed them! They are finally maturing into sexual differentiation. The male does a "shimmy" dance to entice the female. Bonnie mostly just chases Clyde around but I've seen her fiercely defend Clyde from more aggressive tankmates. No saltwater tank is complete without a pair of clowns!
5. Yellow Coris Wrasse. Louie. This fantastic guy is very flashy. He is a late sleeper and often goes to bed early as well (or when scared), which is in a secret hiding spot in the sand. When out and about, he loves to show off and is quite active. He likes to bounce off the live rock! He also picks at the rock for food all day long. He particularly likes to steal tidbits from Scooter (scooter blenny) just to annoy him.
6. Scooter Blenny (aptly named, Scooter). He's my favorite! This guy is very personable and especially hams it off for the camera. He makes it a point to hop over to me and say hello every time I'm tank-gazing. He hops on the live rocks all day long, picking at it like a hummingbird. I was afraid he wouldn't do well in my new system but we added a refugium, and since then, he's doubled in size! In addition, his colors have darkened and reddened into gorgeous spots. I would love to get him a female one day.
7. Lawnmower Blenny, Earl. This fat, happy little guy spends all day chomping away at algae. He always has a mildly grumpy look on his face. When we tank-gaze, he'll pause to peer at us curiously before aggressively attacking his next patch of algae.
8. Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse, Nahla. Although these guys often fare poorly in aquariums, we're keeping our fingers crossed. Nahla is fat and happy and verrrry friendly. She cleans all the fish in the tank, especially Pedro, Earl, and Scooter. She also eagerly attacks any meaty food I put into the tank. She has a nice fat belly on her. My favorite thing she does is to chase the rag when I wipe down the aquarium glass. She must think the rag is a big fish for her to clean!
9. Flameback Dwarf Angelfish, Casey. This guy is so brilliantly colored and renowned for algae eating. I took a chance on him, hoping he wouldn't pick at the coral. So far, so good. I keep him well-fed, and that seems to work well. He's definitely a pugnacious little fellow, however. He chases anyone away from his "territory" in the rocks but everyone else seems to just ignore him. With time, he's been settling down. Chill out, dude!

Coral and Other Inverts:
1. 3 Cleaner Shrimp, The Merry Maids (Mary, Melvin, and Melanie). I love these guys. They're pretty and are great at housecleaning. They even clean the fish! Plus, they lay eggs from time-to-time, feeding the fish! Actually, Melanie, our new addition, came in with thousands of little, tiny eggs attached to her legs. Way cool!
2. Various zooanthid frags (4 pieces)
3. Various mushrooms (all sorts of cool colors!). 4 pieces
4. Leather coral
5. Toadstool coral
6. Xenia (growing like a weed)
7. Elegance coral (so far doing great)
8. Frogspawn
9. Open Brain Coral (so cool)
10. Flowerpot Coral (so far, doing great)

We also have a number of snails and hermit crabs, the clean-up crew!

I measure tank stats monthly (although I check the temp, pH, salinity, calcium, and alkalinity weekly). Our water chemistry has been verrrry stable. Yea!
Temp: 81
pH: 8.5
Salinity: 1.024
Alkalinity: 8 dkH
Calcium: 400 ppm
Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates: 0 ppm
Phosphates: 0 ppm

Tank Maintenance:
Daily--Fish get fed 2x/day (a variety of meat, kelp, spirulina, and freeze-dried Copepods (Clyo-eeze), in the form of frozen, pellet, and flake food).
Empty skimmer cup.
Wipe algae off glass with magnet.
Check water levels in automatic top-off container.
Check to make sure light timers are working correctly.
Observe overall fish and coral behavior and health.

Bi-weekly--LPS corals and button polyps are fed with a turkey baster (meaty foods like mysis shrimp, crab meat, and oyster and prawn eggs). The elegance coral, brain coral, frogspawn and button polyps go nuts for it. Weird and wacky stuff to watch coral feed. I have to feed the fish right before so they don't steal the coral's food.

Weekly--20% water change (20 gallons). I'm trying to keep up on the algae growth in the tank so my water changes have been fairly aggressive as of late. Simultaneously, I thoroughly scrub the algae off the glass, substrate, rocks, and powerheads. I also change the filter sock and test any water parameters needed. Calcium and alkalinity buffers are added as needed.

Monthly--In addition to my weekly water change, I swap out the activated carbon in my media reactor. My cleaning is a little more vigorous, focusing on pumps, motors and other equipment. Thorough test of water chemistry is also done.

So far, this has worked well for me. I choose to feed my tank pretty heavily. It works so far because of superb filtration equipment and aggressive water changes. Another option would be to feed less, and change water less. But I like seeing fat, happy fish!


  1. It doesn't seem from your post that you quarantined the new Royal Gramma. Did you?

  2. No, I didn't. Sigh. The quarantine tank wasn't up and running so I didn't want to stress him out by putting him in an uncycled tank. Ugh. I'm trying to figure out a way around this.