Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Aquarium Update and New Fish (6-Line Wrasse)

Meet Julius, the newest addition to the aquarium! He's a 6-line wrasse and very active and quite gorgeous. He loves to hide in the rocks and sleep in the sand but he's always out and about, swimming and darting this way and that. He's a meat eater and, although it's been rumored that his species can be aggressive (mostly to other wrasses), he gets along wonderfully with the gang! He's also known to be pretty hardy (especially for the wrasses). In addition, I've been told they can feast on common pests, such as bristleworms and flatworms. Bonus! I'm very happy with the new additon! Welcome home, Julius!
In other aquarium news, everything is doing quite well. The aquarium recently turned 16 months old. Since the move, I've been having some trouble with hair algae, probably due to a combination of a slight increase in temp (due to increased ambient temp of the apartment) and the death of my sea urchin. I do have plans to acquire a new urchin in the future but it is nice not to have to worry about pieces of coral being hijacked or rocks being overturned!
Also, I've noticed I've had to dose quite a bit lately. I've had to add about 35 ml of the B-Ionic buffers 2x/week to boost alkalinity and calcium. This seems very high for a 75 gallon aquarium. I've always had some trouble keeping my alkalinity high. I know the aquarium is now mature but since I have all softies, I don't understand where the calcium is going. However, all the coralline algae died upon the move. Maybe I need to boost levels until this is restored. Any thoughts?
Until then, here are some pics of the aquarium and gang since the move:
Mr. Roper (male Bangaii Cardinalfish) poses for the camera.
"Hey! Where's the seaweed?" Earl, the lawnmower blenny demands.
--Mushroom City, more than alive and well.
--Hazel, the purple firefish and Felipe, the royal gramma, sneak by, unable to escape the camera.
--Bonnie and Clyve, happy in their mansion, the Elegance Coral.
--Nahla, the bluestreak cleaner wrasse, picks some bugs of Pedro, the bluejaw trigger. Mr. Roper hovers while 2 out of 3 of the Merry Maids (the shrimp), hang out for a chance to help Nahla clean Pedro.
Toby, the Scopas Tang, grazes on everything but the hair algae.

--View of the aquarium, 2 months post-move. Casey, the flameback angel, is also apparent, above the large rust mushroom.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Aquarium Recovery

Shown here is the aquarium at the old place. Strangely enough, it looks almost identical today. It's recovering very well since the move. It's been about 1 month so far.
The elegance coral, which we were most worried about, has grown, yet again. The thing is taking over!
I lost almost all the corralline algae upon the move. I've been religiously checking the calcium and alkalinity levels, both which needed a boost. In addition to using the liquid 2-part buffer (B-Ionic), I also like being able to control the two parameters individually with calcium blocks and an alkalinity powder. I am starting to see some corralline growth return.
I had to add my clean-up crew back again. I lost all my crabs and snails on the move. I added them into two small batches. Some have died off, and I think I've reached a saturation point.
Along the same lines as clean-up crew, I've been having some hair algae issues. Part of it is probably the stress of the move. Also, my temp has increased by a degree since the move (now at 81 degrees). Not to mention the increased humidity of living only a mile from the coast. The biggest reason is probably due to the death of my sea urchin. I've been hesitant to get a new one. For one, I like how my coral and rocks are arranged without having to glue everything down. Plus, I don't want to risk having one die again and "nuking" the whole tank. So in the meantime, I'm back to weekly water changes until everything settles. Not a big deal except I hate hauling tons of 5-gallon buckets of water down stairs. Ah, the joys of apartment living.
All-in-all, everything is good in aquarium land! Can't wait for a few more weeks to go by so I can move into phase 2--getting a new fish. Still trying to decide what to get. Maybe a wrasse...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Moving an Aquarium--No Small Feat

Recently, I moved to a new apartment. At first, I was devastated, thinking I would have to sell my aquarium, just over 1 year old. It was doing so awesome. Tearing it down would break my heart. Luckily, my fish guy, Mike, agreed to move it for a small fee. It was a lot of work but totally worth it!
--aquarium before the move, focusing on the elegance coral, my favorite part of the whole tank. The clownfish have taken up residence in it, and offer hours of endless entertainment.
--Mike begins to disassemble the aquarium. He bagged up all the livestock carefully, transporting them in a styrofoam cooler. He saved as much water as possible (although I had a huge batch (32 gallons) of freshly mixed salt water ready to go at the new place. He then takes apart all the equipment. With the help of a strong friend and our two trucks, we loaded up all the livestock and equipment. Time was of the essence. Luckily, I was only moving 30 minutes up the street.
--Mike takes apart the plumbing and the sump in the cabinet under the aquarium.
--My precious aquarium empty and up turned on the front lawn!
--Old aquarium water in several 5-gallon buckets, livestock and other equipment in front of the new apartment. We had to remove all the substrate (about 100 pounds) and live rock (another 75 pounds) in order to carry the aquarium down the stairs. Even still, it took the three of us all our might to lift it. I calculated the total weight of the aquarium, water, substrate, rock, and cabinet. It weighs about 2,000 lbs (1 ton). Sheesh!
--Mike setting up the aquarium in the new place. Make sure you have it exactly where you want it before adding water! Having an experienced aquarist was absolutely key. It made the process seamless. After setting the aquarium on its stand in the preferred location, Mike set up the plumbing. Then, the substrate and live rock was added back into the tank. Finally, the water was added back in.
--The tank is running (note how cloudy it is) and livestock are acclimating in bags on top. It was impossible to arrange the live rock exactly how it was before. We did the best we could. We arranged the coral next. Then, the fish were released.
--Finally, the canopy with the lights were set up.
The next day, the sea urchin had lost all its spines and was exuding a thick slime. One of the Banggai cardinalfish had popeye and was lethargic, close to death. The Scopas Tang had one popeye but was still eating. Frantically, I ditched the urchin, performed a large (50%) water change and performed several frequent feedings throughout the next several days. I lost the Banggai (R.I.P. Mr. Roper) but the tang recovered (yay, Toby!).
Little by little, the tank is recovering. I had to restock the macroalgae in the refugium and add all new snails and hermit crabs (most of them died in the move). Also, most of the coralline algae died. I'm performing weekly water changes for now to help the tank recover (and get on top of some nasty, green-hair algae). Thankfully, the worst is over. I will be testing water parameters regularly. The elegance coral, my most precious speciman, seems to be doing great. I also want to spike the refugium with more pods.
Keeping my fingers crossed....so far, so good.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

1 Year Anniversary

We have a lot of catching up to do on the home aquarium start. The tank is officially a year old! It's definitely been a success but not without its share of ups and down. On the whole, the aquarium centers around an equilibrium that cannot be greatly disturbed for sustainability. Today, I'll go into the nitty gritty. Stay tuned for an exciting ride!

First, let's get the stats over with:

Temp 78-79.
pH 8.4
S.G. 1.025
Calcium 520 ppm
Alkalinity 5 dkH (used to be 7-8, although 8 was a fight)
(Why is my calcium good but alkalinity low?)
Ammonia 0
Nitrites 0
Nitrates ~5 ppm
Since Louie and Scooter both disappeared about a week ago, unfortunately, I decay the rise in nirates to increased decomposition. I've never recorded a nitrate concentration before. Returning to small weekly water changes for now will reduce nitrate levels and address the other issues as well (S.G., pH, Ca2+, alkalinity).
Routine Care:
Daily: feed fish, check water levels (fill automatic top-off--Note to Self--purchase larger ATO container!), check temp and lights.
Every 2 Days: clean skimmer cup
Weekly: Dose calcium and alkalinity. I dosed with 10 mL of B-Ionic Buffers 1 & 2 today to raise the calcium/alkalinity. This is generally needed about 1x/week. Water changes help too. Alternatively, there are these rad little blocks that you can put in your sump to raise calcium levels. They dissolve as needed and are supposed to be foolproof. However, there is some controversy out there on the "blocks". It is generally recommended to dose weekly.
Feed coral. My elegance coral is a pretty big eater. I sometimes only feed coral every other week since I feed my tank every day. Typically, I feed coral the day or two before a scheduled water change.
2x/Month: 20% water change. Alternatively, I change 10% weekly. Change filter sock upon water change. Remove ~1-5% of old refugium macroalgae to encourage growth Kill any prominent aiptasia
Monthly: More vigorous cleaning of tank during water change to remove algae. Replace activated carbon in media reactor. More vigorous cleaning of protein skimmer.
Bi-Annually: Change bulbs. Clean out powerheads and pumps. Check and clean all equipment.
Onto some sad news: Louie and Scooter in memorium. Both of these fish were my favorites. They were part of the original crew that were first introduced to the tank. Both grew and thrived over the last year. I had begun to take their boisterous, ever-constant presence for granted. When they disappeared, first Louie, then Scooter, it was very sudden, unexpected, and heartbreaking. I have no idea what happened, and I've been racking my brain.
Could Louie, the yellow coris wrasse, have jumped from the tank? Perhaps, but I've searched everywhere, including the floors, overflow, filter sock, sump, refugium, and pumps. Plus, my dog didn't find anything, and there was never a smell. Unlikely. Could something have eaten them? What? I haven't seen anything, I don't have anything that would eat something that big (Louie) or slimy (Scooter, the scooter blenny, is covered in a thick film of mucous and generally distasteful to other carniovores) Could they have both starved to death? Also, unlikely because I watched them both eat constantly. They both loved Cylop-eze but they became omnivorous over time. Both loved picking at the live rock. Plus, I have a refugium. Could the refugium have crashed? I still see a healthy population of pods, so, again, unlikely. Could Louie have buried himeself in the sand? Not if he was healthy. He was big and active, quite used to swimming around, out front and center all day, and running the show. If he had become weak or ill, he would have buried himself in my (deep) sandbed to die.
Unfortunately, I will never know. All I can do is follow my procedure for tank care after unexpected death of a fish. Check all water parameters. Perform a 15-20% water change. Watch remaining fish carefully. (Note: Entire tank readings are normal and fish and coral look delightfully happy.) Wait at a least a month before adding any new inhabitants to allow tank to return to homeostasis.
I miss you guys, Louie and Scooter! Ironically, they used to "hang out" together. They are probably up in fish heaven right now, feasting off the live rock. Louie as a baby. So tiny!
Louie all grown up (about 2x the original size!), hovering over Scooter (also doubled in size). In addition, Scooter's colors darkened to a purple/brick-red.
Louie teasing Scooter, as he often did. They loved hanging out.
Scooter proudly showing his huge dorsal fin. So that's why they call you a "Peacock Dragonet"!
Current Inhabitants:
Pedro--bluejaw trigger (not as shy as he used to be; very friendly; I call him "the sherrif".)
Casey--pugnacious flameback dwarf angel who has decided my open brain coral is dessert. However, she doesn't touch any of my other corals. She's quite striking and her beauty has earned her the right to be a diva.
Felipe--royal gramma (shy but plucky)
Bonnie & Clyde--mated pair of captive-bred clowns (Oscellaris).
When they were babies, I couldn't tell which one was Bonnie but now, it's pretty obvious (the larger and more aggressive of the 2).
Toby--Scopas Tang (shy and great algae eater. A quiet beauty)
Earl--lawnmower blenny (great algae eater. colors have become more vivid and size has more than doubled since I first got him! He's quite a character, jumping around and banging his head against the rocks.)
Hazel--purple firefish (shy but starting to come out of her shell. She loves hanging out in "mushroom city", the more quiet, lower flow part of the city).
Mr. & Mrs. Roper--both actually are males; an unlikely pair of Bangaii cardinalfish. One became dominant, and they comfortably (albeit begrudgingly) coexist in the same tank.
Nahla--bluestreak cleaner wrasse. She's makes up for her smallish size with amazing speed and dexterity. She eats just about anything, and it shows in her rosy, round belly. Not shy at all, she enjoys hanging out with Pedro and pecking at my hand and arm when I clean the tank.
Purple Collector Sea Urchin:
nocturnal and great algae eater. Some complain that these guys eat all their corralline algae. I have a ton of coralline algae since I first introduced him. Sure, he eats it but he also spreads it around and helps it grow. He does sometimes abscond with a coral frag that hasn't been securely fastened to the live rock.
3 Skunk Cleaner Shrimp:
The Merry Maids, Merry, Marie, and Marty. These guys are my favorites! They are quite tame, and jump all over my hand and arms when I'm cleaning the tank. They are great at cleaning up messes! In addition, they set up cleaning stations (Merry's Car Wash) and give Pedro, Toby, Cassie, and other fish vigorous scrubbings.
Mushrooms (all types and colors. They thrive in "Mushroom City", the low-flow, quiet corner of the tank. Back there, they are growing like weeds.)
Elegance Coral
Zooanthids (various greens and reds. They prefer lower flow sections of the tank).
Button polyps (beautiful greens and reds, growing rapidly, it enjoys weekly feedings).
Pink zoanthid colony that thrives in a high-flow section of the tank where nothing else grows. Here it has tripled in size.
Daisy Polyps
Xenia (colony no longer pulsing but still healthy appearance and some (although slower) growth) Clove Polyps (Clavularia)
Leather Coral
Red Plate Coral (likes high flow, high light)
Now for the best part!
The pics:
1 year later: my aquarium
Right-hand side of aquarium (Bonnie & Clyde, Leather, Button Polyps, and Pink Zoanthid Colony shown here)
Pedro, the bluejaw trigger, hanging out in his favorite feeding spot.
Side view of aquarium. Bonnie & Clyde and Felipe say hello. Toby also present (Scopas Tang). Also shown, frogspawn, clove polyps, daisy polyps, and clam (front, center).
Casey, the flameback angel (left), and Mr. Roper, the Bangaii cardinal fish (right) make an appearance.
Elegance coral
View from left-hand side.
Button polyps!

Cassie popping to "haze" Hazel (hence the name) in Mushroom City. Toadstool on right-hand side.

Daisy polyps
Boo! (Mr. Roper)
The shrinking violet, Mrs. Roper, hiding under the elegance. Toadstool, zoanthids, and 'shrooms also visible.
Toby, showing off by clove polyps.
On a final note, look what I found in the aquarium! Tiny sea stars! I looked them up. They are Asterina Sea Stars. They are only 1/4" in diameter and most likely hitched on some live rock. They are considered omnivores and enjoy detritus, coralline algae, and in some cases, coral. They reproduce asexually. Keeping them is quite controversial. Some complain about attacks on coral or rampant proliferation. Others sing their praises as beneficial parts of the clean-up crew, hallmarks of good aquarium husbandry, and nutritious food for harlequin shrimp. Since I've only seen 2-3, and they seem to be helping, not hurting, thus far, I'm going to keep them and just watch them. They're pretty cool little guys!

Asterina Links:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our Trip to the Atlanta Aquarium


Atlantic sea nettle jellyfish

On an impromptu trip to the east coast to visit family, we had the chance to see the George Aquarium in Atlanta, one of the world's largest aquariums. I had always heard cool things so I was stoked to check it out. I only had my crappy little camera phone (see pic above). It was amazing. Don't forget your (flash-free) camera!

We checked out the coral reefs first (Tropical Diver). I think we spent 10 minutes at the first tank just staring in awe at the teeming numbers of angelfish, butterflyfish, and anthias swimming actively about the reef in the first tank. We spent a long time gazing at the garden eels, japenese spider crabs, jellyfish and seahorses before nearly having our minds blown by a giant aquarium covering the entire wall and ceiling of a stadium-sized room (aerated by waved action). The next 20 minutes were spent identifying several species of tangs, surgeonfish, groupers, sweetlips, anthias, and several other amazing species of Indo-Pacific reef fish impossible to keep in the average home aquarium (including the largest, fattest mandarinfish I've ever seen). The only reason we finally dragged ourselves from the room was there was lots more to see. In addition, we were all sort of dizzy from sensory overload and needed a breather.

The next exhibit didn't help with the dizziness. In the Ocean Voyager section, we encountered an aquarium the size of several football fields. An octet of scuba divers enjoyed the view from the inside of the tank. We were mezmerized by happy groups of sting rays, skates, and manta rays, somersaulting on the surface. A few hammerheads, razor sharks, and sand sharks swam about with huge, protruding fangs, sending shivers down my back. Four enormous whale sharks the size of two school buses side-by-side peacefully swam in lazy laps. My mouth hung open for so long that my jaw ached. We left with cricks in our necks, eyes glued upwards, as we exited on a moving sidewalk through a long tunnel where we could watch the gi-normous fish swim above.

Finally, we moved onto the Coldwater Quest were we were oohed and aahed by 4 large, yet very adoreable beluga whales from the arctic waters of Russia and Greenland. There smiling faces and social butterfly personalities reminded me of dolphins. I also delighted in the African penguins, frolicking in the water and cuddling and preening in mated pairs. Maybe true love does exist afterall. One woman shook her keys for the penguins, who delightedly swam in frantic zig-zags, chasing the shiny object. She put her keys away, only to have the penguins jump to the water's surface, squack, and flap their wings, splashing water to beg for the keys again. They were hysterically entertaining and unbelievably adoreable.

Be sure to visit if you're in the neighborhood!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Help! Power Failure!

Last night at midnight, as I was typing away at the computer, the entire house suddenly went pitch black. The deafening silence buzzed in my ears. After Travis and I made sure no one was trying to break in, I realized it was a major SDG&E issue (not that anyone in customer service would admit it or even apologize). When I woke up this morning and the power was still not on, I panicked. Help!

After consulting with the local aquarium stores, I was informed that most fish and inverts will be okay as long as the power outage is 24 hours or less. The main problems are: sudden drop in temperature, depletion of oxygen from the water, and build-up of nitrates from waste (not to mention changes in pH as a result from oxygen depletion, the lights being out, nitrate build-up, etc.).

First, the temperature. Even on a hot day, because water is so good at cooling, the temperature will drop. My temp went from 78 degrees to 72 in 12 hours. I wrapped the entire system in blankets and a sleeping bag, paying extra careful attention to the top, where the aquarium loses most of its heat to ambient air.

Second, oxygen. For $11, I purchased a battery-operated air pump, connected it to the tubing and air stone and dropped it into the tank. For my tank, I used 3 (2 would have probably been fine). They also sell rechargeable, back-up air-pumps that only go on if there is a power outage (like if you're out of town). I picked up some of those as well.

Third, nitrates. Don't feed the fish. That helps prevent excess waste.

Finally, this experience has made me consider looking into a back-up generator for future problems. They can be pretty expensive; however, Home Depot rents them out by the day.

Power is back on and aquarium is running smoothly. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tank Update

It's been awhile. The tank is now officially 8 months old. And I have to say that's it's been a success. I've had to fight with some algae problems and a few deaths but on the whole, it's been a very rewarding process.

Okay, first the bad news.

In the last 8 months, these were the losses the tank suffered:

  • baby regal tang (ich)

  • helfrichi firefish (ich)

  • 2 royal grammas (1 got lost in a rock; the 2nd wasn't healthy to begin with)

  • 2 shrimp (most likely eaten by my bluejaw trigger)

  • red-headed goby (most likely eaten by bluejaw trigger)

  • trimma goby (most likely eaten bluejaw trigger)

  • (Note: At this point, I stopped putting very tiny specimens in the tank since Pedro (the bluejaw) thinks it's food for him)

  • Linksys Starfish (don't ever buy these either unless you have a very large, stable tank)

  • Flowerpot Coral (don't ever buy these; they last 3 months, tops)

  • Featherduster Worm (lasted about 1 week, fled it's tube and was never seen again)

  • Ornate Leopard Wrasse (this broke my heart; he was gorgeous and peaceful but eventually starved to death. I later learned this is common with this type of fish. Not good for beginners due to their specialized eating habits. Most likely, my tank just didn't have enough copepods on the live rock to sustain the poor guy.)

That seems like a long list! Live and learn. On the other hand, there's a lot of good news too. Here are the successes:

  • Pair of clownfish (now sexually mature). I got Bonnie and Clyde as captive-bred juveniles. They are all grown up and the OGs of the tank.

  • Pair of male Banggai Cardinalfish. I was hoping Mr. and Mr. Roper would be a Mr. and Mrs. but it was not to be. However, the tank is large enough that both are happy. The dominant one definitely chases the weaker guy around but the smaller one has lots of hiding places (particularly the Elegance Coral). I actually tried to net the smaller guy out and give him to a friend for a better life but that was a disaster. So they are here to stay.

  • Yellow Coris Wrasse (Louie). He has at least doubled in size!

  • Scooter Blenny (Scooter). He has also grown and often displays his peacock sailfin. He's my favorite fish. I thought he wouldn't survive since he feeds on copepods and I got him only a month or two after my tank was set up. However, I think the refugium has sustained him very well. In addition, he now feeds on whatever I put in the tank.

  • Royal Gramma (Phillipe). 3rd times a charm! I always wanted one for the tank. Hardy, peaceful and beautiful, my tank just wasn't complete without it. I lost the first 2 to bad luck but Phillipe is here to stay.

  • Lawnmower Blenny (Earl). He helps with my algae problem but is also fascinating to watch. He likes to eat by smashing his head violently against the rock to decimate the algae, attacking his food.

  • Bluejaw Trigger (Pedro). I know I shouldn't have a trigger in my reef tank but of all the triggers, he's the most peaceful. Although he's my prime suspect in the disappearance of some of the smaller denizens, he gets along really well with everyone else. Plus, he's just awesome! One of my favorites.

  • Flameback Angel (Casey). Another one I shouldn't have in the reef tank. I've spotted him nipping the open brain coral a few times but other than that, he leaves the coral alone. He's a punk though, chasing everyone around (especially anyone new). Most everyone else just ignores his pugnacious attitude.

  • Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse (Nahla). She wasn't expected to survive in captivity. Often these guys are fussy eaters. However, she bucks the stereotypes. She's a voracious eater and quite spunky, often stealing shrimp right out of the Buejaw's mouth! She also loves cleaning everyone in the tank, including my arm when I'm doing housekeeping chores.

  • Scopas Tang (Toby). A great algae eater with a unique shape, he's similar to the ever-popular Yellow Tang but much more peaceful and a better algae eater.

  • Purple Firefish (Hazel). She's the newest addition to the tank. An easy keeper (eats meat), colorful and peaceful. She's getting hazed by everyone in the tank right now (hence the name) but seems to be settling in well, thanks to plenty of hiding places in the live rock.

  • 3 Skunk Cleaner Shrimp. (The Merry Maids). They molt about once a month and lay eggs constantly (they are hermaphrodites). They also clean everyone in the tank (including me!). They've grown quite large, no longer a bite-sized snack to tempt Pedro. Definitely a favorite.

  • Purple Collector Urchin (Spike). He was added to help clean the algae from the tank. He does a great job although I do feed him seaweed every now and then. He can wreak havoc at night (he's nocturnal), carrying any coral that's not adhered with epoxy away on his back. I learned this the hard way.

  • Clam (Libby). I never knew they came in such brilliant colors! She decided she wanted to stick herself onto the bottom of a rock with her foot. I had to rearrange the rocks a little for better viewing. She's pretty awesome. Eats phytoplankton.

  • Elegance Coral. This has thrived despite all warnings against success in an aquarium setting. The largest resident of the tank and the most eye-catching.

  • Xenia Coral. No longer pulsing or growing as rapidly as it once did, however, it still claims a large territory on the rock.

  • Frogspawn. Easy keeper. Loves to eat.

  • Open Brain Coral. Not thriving as much as I'd hoped. It might do better with more frequent feedings.

  • Leather Coral. Has at least doubled in size.

  • Daisy Polyps. Easy keepers, fast growing, not aggressive. A real joy after the flowerpot debacle.

  • Various mushrooms. Has grown exponentially. Are very colorful and wonderful.

  • Various zoanthids. They have been growing rather slowly but finally are growing and finally thriving.

  • Plate coral. The first SPS I've introduced into the tank. Hasn't really taken off yet. I think my tank is definitely more of a softie tank. Just not enough light (and no interest in adding more light, based on temp issues and very high electric bill).

  • Clove polyps (Clavularia). Very hardy. Looks like a cross between xenia and daisy polyps. Very cool!