Tuesday, November 16, 2010

R.I.P. Flowerpot Coral

It happened so quickly! Here's a pic of this gorgeous, large coral from just last week. It did fantastic for about 3 months. I noticed a few polyps on the bottom that had started to retract the beginning of this week. A few days later, they were covered in gloopy, yellow, snotty, slime. Ewwww! The next day, the slime had grown to encompass half of the entire coral. In no time of all, it had transformed from "flowerpot" to "mucous ball". We were forced to pull it and say goodbye. I'm bummed but we kind of expected it. Flowerpot (Goniopora) coral has a very low success rate in the home aquarium (less than 10% make it past a year). http://www.dallura.com/reef/goniopora/goniopora.html

There's a huge, empty expanse of rock ready to be filled with something else. I'm leaning towards Daisy Polyps. They're hardy, easy to keep, and grow quickly. Plus, they're peaceful as well.

I also really like Galaxy Coral but they have really aggressive sweeper tentacles. I don't want to accidentally kill neighboring coral!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pictures! (As Promised)

As promised, here are some pics of our recent additions. As soon as I can get a good shot of the feather duster worm and plate coral, I'll put those up too.

Purple Pincushion Sea Urchin ("Spike"):
I absolutely love this guy. He's always crawling around and eating algae. He has thousands of little feet waving around between his spines. Very cool to watch!

Spike under the blue light. Note all the shells and rocks on his back (why he's sometimes called a "Collector" or "Pincushion" urchin).

Up the back wall to clean up algae! I never clean the back wall, allowing a little algae growth for my vegetarian critters. I also stuff a big kelp leaf in the rocks once in awhile. It breaks into little pieces and the fish go nuts.

Taking off with a clump of zoas (Lily). I quickly put the coral back. No coral was harmed in this photo. Spike sometimes gets a little "carried" away with his cleaning. Ha ha!
Scopas Tang ("Toby"):
He is sooo beautiful. I'm happy to have a tang in the tank again! I went with the Scopas tang since they are peaceful, smaller than other tangs, hardier than other tangs, and voracious algae eaters. They are similar to Yellow Tangs but less aggressive and a titch smaller.
Casey, our Flameback Angel, is hazing poor Toby, the new guy and low on the totem pole. Casey chases him around a lot at feeding time. It's not constant though and Casey tends to settle down aggression-wise with time (he used to pick on a lot of tankmates when first added; he's mellowed out over time). Luckily, Toby doesn't seemed too phased by Casey's bullying.
Toby is eating well--loves kelp and plankton. I've been trying to fatten him up; he's super skinny!

Toby, our Scopas Tang. I love the pale cream-brown, tiny stripes and white spots! Plus, his eyes can change color (from brown, shown here, to yellow). His fins are gorgeous too, like sails. Under the blue light, there's lots of blues and magentas that come out under the brown color. Who says this is a drab tang?
Casey bullying poor Toby.
Red-headed Goby ("Tiny Tim"):
Tiny, hardy, and reef-safe, I couldn't resist this little guy. This was a true test of how peaceful our tank is! He's less than an inch long and could easily be picked on or eaten by several of the fish in the tank. Not to fear, no one bothers Tiny Tim. He loves to hide in the rocks but is usually out front and center! He's not nearly as shy as I thought he would be. He grabs tiny pieces of meat floating by at feeding time.
Isn't he beautiful? Red head, yellow eyes, blue stripes, and see-through body, wow!

Tiny Tim darting in and out of rocks. He is sooooo cute!

Felipe (the Third), our Royal Gramma:
Surprisingly, we had bad luck with our first 2 royal grammas, despite their reputation for being very hardy. I think third time's a charm! We just love the royal gramma. He's hardy, peaceful, and strikingly colored. Felipe is always out and about, not nearly as shy as the others before him. Our tank just didn't feel complete without him.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stay Tuned...

I have LOTS of pics coming soon. Stay tuned for pics of our recent additions:

1. Spike, the Sea Urchin

2. Feather Duster Worm

3. Tiny Tim, our adoreable, miniscule Red-Headed Goby

4. Kobe, our new Scopas Tang

5. Montipora Plate Coral (our first SPS addition!)

Our tank is doing really well. We've had some minor things here and there, but overall, everything is awesome.

1. Algae update:
It took a few weeks to see the reduction in (hair) algae growth after reducing the light and feedings. We're now feeding only once a day and the light period has been reduced to 8 for the days and 10 for the blues. However, combined with weekly 20% water changes, addition of a sea urchin and some more snails, and vigorous scrubbing with a toothbrush, I'm happy to report that I'm winning the battle. I'm hoping to be able to cut back to 20% bi-monthly changes in the next few months. Mostly because, weekly water changes are A LOT of work!

2. Strangely Low Calcium and Alklanity Readings:
After our local go-to aquarium expert (Mike) said to start checking our calcium, I noticed it was low. It's always been on the low side anyway (calcium 420 ppm and alkalinity 8 dkH). I began adding the Bi-Ionic 2-part buffers to boost levels. Following the directions and adding conservatively (10 ml each for our 75 gallon tank), nothing happened. At the same time, our Elegance and Open Brain Corals began to look a little withered. I have been finding it necessary to add 40 ml each 3x a week to keep levels at 8 dkH and 440 ppm (calcium)! That's just absurd. Mike said I should be adding maybe 10 ml per week, if that. However, upon adding buffers, I noticed our coral perked up (the Elegance and Brain). I also saw an increase in coralline algae growth. The only thing we could think of is that we perhaps used distilled instead of RO water. We have been going to the grocery store and filling our buckets with the vending machine out front, instead of going to the LFS for RO. Maybe the Albertson's vending machine dispenses distilled? Back to the LFS for all our RO. No more second guessing.

3. Other Minor Happenings:
The Open Brain Coral appreciated being relocated to a lower flow area in the tank on the open substrate. It took some moving around in "mushroom city". Our low flow section of the tank is now densely populated; however, the Brain loves it. He blossomed, opened up, and expanded his tentacles almost immediately.

I replaced some of the old, nasty macroalgae in the refugium with fresh, new green stuff. Every week, I had been pulling some old out to allow room for new growth. This worked well for several months. Over the last several weeks, I noticed less growth of the macroalgae but unfortunately, rapid growth of the nasty, red microalgae. However, upon close inspection, I spotted a dense population of pods (they look like little bugs! Gross!). Not wanting to disturb them, I only removed a fraction of the old macroalgae before adding a ton of new. I think this was a good move. I now can safely say that it's good to replace the macroalgae with some new every 3 months or so.

I absolutely LOVE our automatic top-off dispenser. No more twice daily water top offs! Plus, it maintains a more stable salinity.

Our tank temperature dropped for the first time. Thank you cool fall weather! NOTE: Now that it's fall, don't forget to check to make sure your heaters are working! I was happy to see the little light indicator blink on our heater in the sump. Our temp is 78-79 for the first time (It was 80-81 over the summer). I can finally turn off the 3rd fan in the sump to save some energy (our other two are in the canopy by the lights and are temp regulated).

4. Tank Reports:
I'm happy to report that 2 out of 3 of our cleaner shrimp (the Merry Maids) are pregnant! Yes, they have millions of little eggs on their abdomens. Yay! That's a sure sign of a happy tank.

I've also spotted growth in our mushroom coral. I've been a little disappointed with the zoanthids. They're healthy but not growing as quickly as I expected.

The xenia is the one coral that's not doing so hot. Ever since moving around the rockwork (which caused the loss of our first Royal Gramma, Phillip) a few months ago, the xenia, which had been growing like a weed, suddenly stopped. However, it was still fully opened and pulsing. I could deal with that. Now, it's been wilting and pulsing very weakly. Maybe it has something to do with our odd water parameters (although xenia doesn't really care about alkalinity and calcium so much since it's a soft coral, there may be other trace elements it needs that the water is lacking which I haven't measured). I hope relying on the LFS RO water fixes this.

Stay tuned for pics!