Elos tank update, 3/11/2016

It’s been about 9 months since the last update, and much has changed in the tank. First and foremost, the algae bloom has been on the decline, as constant removal of algae by hand at the bi-weekly water changes has finally yielded progress. In addition, various algae eating invertebrates were purchased to various degrees of success. First, the Astraea and Trochus snails have largely died out, presumably due to starvation. However, before starving out, the Trochus snails mated by releasing eggs and sperm into the water. Over the past few months, I found five or six baby snails of varying sizes in my sump and pumps. The survivors are now growing in the display tank, which puzzles me. If there was not enough food for the adults (as they died slowly one by one over months), I am curious how the babies are finding enough food to grow. The largest baby is almost as big as the adults I bought. The scarlet legged hermit crabs I bought also died slowly, one by one, and I only have one left now. Finally, I bought two Turbo snails, which have been the only thing to eat the thicker, coarser hair algae. Those two have been vital at eating the thicker strands of algae and converting it into waste which is then skimmed out.

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Side view of the Elos tank.

Secondly, one of my clown fish jumped out of the tank and killed itself; while cleaning the room, I found its dried out corpse on the floor. I put a second baby clown fish through a successful 30 day quarantine in hyposalinity (15 ppt) and introduced it to the display. While smaller, this clown fish is much more curious, and will swim to people and is all around an entertaining fish.

The hammer and frogspawn corals continue to grow, there have been multiple splits in the heads. One concern I have is that my hammer may be bleaching, and the tentacles directly under the light are listless lay flat. This may be due to one of two things. The first is that my Neptune APEX controller died, and when I received the repaired unit, I forgot my light programming. For several days, the hammer was under the full power of my LED lights until I programmed it down. The second is that when I did water changes, I changed 15 gallons out of my estimated 30 gallon volume of water. That caused the water level to dip below the new growth, which may have damaged the hammer. I have begun smaller water changes (see below) as part of an experiment.

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Hammer (left) and frogspawn (right) Euphylia corals growing closely together. While not visible, the smaller of the hammer coral heads appear to be listless and limp in the water, a possible sign of trouble.

My Kenya tree coral has recovered and is experiencing a growth spurt. It has grown laterally along with the current of my return outlet, and there is a great amount of polyp extension. I speculate this may be because of the copepods I introduced into the sump, or the various other plankton that are hatching in the water and circulating (e.g. cleaner shrimp nauplii, bacteria/algae, etc). In addition, the second bubble tip anemone I bought has migrated almost entirely around the tank. Instead of being in the back, it recently moved above my leather mushroom coral. For months, the leather mushroom was stung and began to withdraw. The two have finally achieved enough space that the mushroom coral is extending polyps while the anemone takes up most of the light. I worry about crowding in this part of the tank, but there is not much I can do, as the corals are quite firmly attached to their rocks (having grown off their plugs) and the anemone is also in a tight crevice.

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Bubble tip anemone (top) and Kenya tree coral (bottom). Note the lateral growth and polyp extension on the Kenya tree coral.

My icetort Acropora has done very well despite the bright light and possible lack of current. It sits on top of the rocks, nearest the lights and to the side of the return outflow. The branches have grown very high, almost to the surface of the water and it has a very nice coloration. Previously, at night, it would shift coloration to a pinkish tone, and extend polyps. While I do not see that anymore, it has polyp extension now throughout the day. I am not sure if this is a warning sign, but it is still growing.

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This icetort Acropora has grown significantly since I first was given it.

The two chalice corals have basically grown and attached themselves to the rocks they are on. Both are extending very long polyp tentacles at night, which makes me confident they are adapting to the tank and doing well. The left specimen has begun to develop bumps and valleys, and the right specimen has begun to “drip” onto the rocks and merge onto them. Both have a very thick mucus coating that is obvious when handled. The bird’s next Seriotopora coral I had to frag; first because it was suffering from tissue necrosis and bleaching (again, probably due to my lights). After impromptu surgery with a pair of coral clippers, I had accidentally broke off some health parts, which I fragged and scattered around the tank. These all seem to be doing well, even a part that suffered from tissue necrosis appears to be recovering after a change in placement. My Uncle also dropped off two more Acropora specimens which I have placed high up.

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This birds nest Seriotopora has suffered bleaching and tissue necrosis. After cutting away the dying parts, and accidentally fragging it, the various pieces appear to be doing well and growing again.

Finally, the Monitporra specimen which I thought dead from algae covering it up, has begun to revive and recolonize its skeletal structure. If you compare photos of this with its previous state, it’s clear just how far this coral has to go, but I’m still in awe of its ability to survive almost a year without strong light.

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This Montiporra was thought dead, but after the algae bloom abated polyps have reappeared and it is recolonizing its own skeletal structure.

Gallery with captions below:

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Elos tank update, 6/3/2015

It’s been nine months since the last tank update and many interesting changes have occurred in the aquarium since then. The first update involves the fish; Liz, our Royal Gramma, has become the queen of the aquarium, constantly flashing both the Percula Clown fish and the Blue-Green Chromis. In addition, Jorge, our Hector’s Goby, was evicted by Liz from a nice tunnel he made. Liz literally bit Jorge’s face and Jorge had to thrash around until Liz let go, then he hid in the back of the tank and has made several new homes, as far from Liz as possible. Also, one of my Blue-Green Chromis died, although a body was never found. For weeks that fish had been bullied by the other Blue-Green Chromis and it never made a full recovery.

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Side view of tank, June 3rd, 2015

Secondly, the tank itself has been modified further. I removed the Tunze powerhead and the carbon reactor, as both were bulky and I didn’t feel they were adding much to the aquarium except for taking up space and power. The Tunze was basically blasting huge amounts of current and I felt the new return pump (an EHEIM Compact 2000+) was putting out more than enough water flow to keep the aquarium supplied with a good current. The carbon reactor was extremely annoying to service regularly in the cramped cabinet, and eventually I began to neglect replacing the carbon. To compensate, I have begun to simply change the water more regularly, moving to 15 gallons of water every two weeks. The tank is estimated to be 30 gallons of water once displacement from rocks is counted in; to ensure these large water changes don’t shock my animals, I use a scientific scale and precise measurement of the water I mix to get the salinity as consistent as possible. An Elos Osmocontroller and conductivity probe ensures the salinity remains constant during those two weeks.

Thirdly, I have stayed with the hw-Marinemix salt and have been happy with the mix overall. The alkalinity in the mix is around 9 dkH and I have begun to dose the BRS 2-part alkalinity/calcium supplements regularly to keep it at that level. I had to measure the drops in alkalinity and calcium in my tank for two weeks to get an idea of how much is consumed, and now I have a dosing regimen that is not exact, but the regular water changes will compensate for that.

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Front view of tank, June 3rd, 2015

Fourth, the largest changes to the tank have been with the invertebrates. My uncle has given me several new coral frags out of his collection, including two chalice corals, an Acropora frag, and a bird’s nest frag. Unfortunately my original Montipora died after being covered in my algae bloom. Many of the corals have changed significantly in the past 9 months. The frogspawn and hammer corals continue to bud new branches and several of the major heads have split in two as well. The mushroom leather coral has become elongated to further filter food from the current and has formed a new interesting shape. The Kenya tree coral has had major polyp withdrawal and has also tilted shape, possibly due to the change in current after I removed the Tunze powerhead (or possibly long-term decline due to lack of plankton foods). The bird’s nest and Acropora corals have begun to show new branches, which is encouraging. However, the chalice corals appear to have something wrong; they are showing some signs of tissue recession and mild bleaching. Due to the pattern of algae and bacteria mats in my tank, I believe my light intensity is too strong near the top. I also acquired two bubble tip anemones, one pink and one green. Both have changed shape, rather than being a puffy mass of bubbles, they have become much more elongated both in body and tentacles, resembling larger Aiptasia anemones, presumably due to the new environment of my tank.

Finally, the snail population in my tank has been vastly augmented to deal with the algae bloom which continues. My uncle suggested that my dry mined “reef saver” rocks from BRS may contain phosphates from being in the soil for so long. Over a long period of time, these phosphates will leach back into the water as marine life/plants excavate the rocks, which sustains an algae bloom when combined with the food fed to the aquarium. Since this has been occurring for approximately 9 months (since the last tank update), I am inclined to agree. The treatment plan has been to buy 20 Astraea and Trochus snails, along with 6 scarlet legged hermit crabs, and turn them loose. We also got a half dozen more Nassarius snails to augment the cleaner crew. It’s been very encouraging to see these absolutely pristine patches of rock appear where the Astraea and Trochus snails roam, and I hope the tank is cleaned up in a couple more months.

Elos tank update 6

It’s been quite a while since the last update due to travel, and quite a few fall events. The tank has had several notable changes in the meanwhile. First and foremost, two new fish were added to the tank after successfully passing medical isolation and observation. Lizzie is a Gramma Ioreto or Royal Gramma Basslet. Like her species, she enjoys hanging out near her “home” which is a network of tunnels and holes in the live rock, and is a voracious eater. Her behavior (like all the other fish) changed dramatically after she was introduced to the display tank, and tolerates the presence of people much more readily now. Jorge is a Amblygobius Hectori or Hector’s Goby. As expected, Jorge spends most of his time sifting sand, picking algae off the rocks, and otherwise staying near the bottom of the tank. As such, Lizzie and Jorge don’t interact much with the other four fish, and there has been no observed bullying.

Front of the Elos tank.

Front of the Elos tank.

Side of the Elos tank.

Side of the Elos tank.

Secondly, I recently had to take out my Tunze powerhead for cleaning, due to some algae/debris being caught in the impeller shaft and making a buzzing noise. I noticed the current on the outer tank generally stayed the same, and the fish have always displayed greater movement when I turned off the power head for feeding. I decided to leave the powerhead off for a month, as the fish seem to have more room to swim. The reason for this is the power head was directing an extremely powerful current onto a shelf of live rock to baffle the current, making the whole region of the tank off limits.

Meet Jorge, our new Hector's Goby.

Meet Jorge, our new Hector’s Goby.

Thirdly, I have switched salt brands to hW-Marinemix Reefer salt. The Red Sea salt is dried up saltwater, and thus has parameters to match. The alkalinity is approx 7dKH when mixed to 35ppt, and thus I do need to dose alkalinity regularly as my coraline algae and soft corals are using it up. My tank uses up 4-5ppm alkalinity a day, thus I lose about 28-35ppm per week. My weekly water changes are not enough to keep the alkalinity at the 7dKH minimum. However, the hW-Marinemix Reefer salt does have approximately 8.5-9dKH alkalinity when mixed, so my corals always stay above the minimum. This has saved me a bit of time having to mix and maintain keeping the Bulk Reef Supply 2-part solutions around.

Meet Lizzie, our new Royal Gramma Basslet.

Meet Lizzie, our new Royal Gramma Basslet.

The Euphyllia frogspawn coral continues to divide one of the largest polyps, there is now a noticeable angle difference between the two polyps that split. The polyps are extending even further out now, as evidenced by photographic comparison. The Euphyllia hammer coral has buds that are now extending out of the new skeleton tubes. Before, they were simply green dots on a bump, now it’s a definite tube and the polyp tentacles are waving in the water.

The Montipora has completely enveloped one of ledges next to the frag plug.

The Montipora has completely enveloped one of ledges next to the frag plug.

My Montipora has completely covered one bump of rock that was next to where I glued the frag plug. The branch at the top has grown a bend in it; before it was simply a thin tube pointing up. In addition, the Sarcophyton leather mushroom coral has grown quite a few new polyps and the body is no longer circular, it has become oblong presumably in response to the current and food supply. Lastly, the Capnella Kenya tree coral has grown so much that it almost touches the side of the tank; my cleaning magnet will brush against it when it is fully extended. Also, it used to have one primary branch, now it has two that are equal length.

The Capnella continues to grow.

The Capnella continues to grow.

I am considering buying a Assessor Flavissimus or Yellow Assessor Basslet as Anna has taken a liking to its appearance. Its characteristic habit of swimming upside down or sidewise has really endeared itself to our imagination.

The new polyps on my Euphyllia have begun to extend out of their new skeleton.

The new polyps on my Euphyllia have begun to extend out of their new skeleton.

Elos tank update 5

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The front of the Elos tank; my attempt at sprucing up the front right side of the tank with a Entacmaea quadricolor rose bubble tip anemone has failed. The anemone is happily living in the shade of the cleaner shrimp cave.

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Side view of the Elos tank. The Euphyllia frogspawn and hammer corals are amazing to behold, they have become huge pom poms whose polyps now intertwine.

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The Capnella Kenya tree coral is either growing, or extending its branches even further out. When I first got it, it clearly had one main branch that was longest, and the rest were noticeably shorter. At this point in time, there are at least two branches equally long in length (and I’m pretty sure it didn’t shrink).

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The super tongas Nassarius snails have begun to mate and lay eggs up at the return outlet. What surprised me is I swore I had no females left, as they were not laying eggs for the longest time. I spotted four specimens laying eggs, which means at least four females left. Note to self: check if Nassarius breeding is seasonal.

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It’s hard to see, but this Monitpora coral has begun to creep over all the adjacent live rock and the finger growth at the top is still lengthening. Polyps are definitely further extended than when I first acquired it, and the irregular shape of the growth is increasing, possibly a prelude to branch formation.

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My Euphyllia frogspawn coral had a case of tissue recession on the branch stalks of its skeleton. I never noticed that the stalks were covered with a thin layer of flesh until it started to peel off. First there was a hole, then the holes widened and then it began to peel off. For three days, I anxiously watched the frogspawn extend only half as much, and then it burst out again. Information I could find was not particularly credible, some posts claimed it’s normal part of the asexual reproduction where the polyps split from one another. Other posts claimed it was a bacterial infection that required removal and dip (which I think is not the case for me).

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The Sarcophyton leather mushroom coral has a wider radius than when I first acquired it. The polyps are clearly extending our further because it gives the coral a bright green fuzzy appearance from the tendrils.

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Growth of new branches off the stalks of my Euphyllia hammer coral continue to develop. The branches I noticed before are longer and have much bigger polyp tentacles. Before, I could only see little bright fluorescent nubs (e.g. the very tips). Now, the tentacles are extending out and wave in the current. When the hammer was only just coming out in the morning, I managed to see a few more new branches that normally are obscured by the larger polyps.

Elos tank update 4

Front of Elos tank.

Front of Elos tank.

Side of Elos tank.

Side of Elos tank.

The Montipora coral is showing signs of growth.

The Montipora coral is showing signs of growth.

New polyps "budding" out of the Euphyllia coral.

New polyps “budding” out of the Euphyllia coral.

Rose bubble tip anemone before it wandered out of sight.

Rose bubble tip anemone before it wandered out of sight.

Capnella Kenya tree coral is growing quite well.

Capnella Kenya tree coral is growing quite well.

The 30 day quarantine period expired for the second Percula clown and my two Chromis Viridus blue green damsels. As soon as they went into the tank, their behavior changed markedly. The two Chromis Viridus were very skittish in the quarantine tank, always hiding in the PVC pipe and always staying out of sight whenever a person appeared. However, in the display tank, they immediately changed behavior and began to swim openly, which mystifies me.

The Euphyllia hammer coral has at least six “buds” coming out of the bases of the established skeleton, and I can see numerous other bumps that may sprout polyp tentacles as well. The frogspawn fissioning is still progressing, but nothing of note in the past week.

The Montipora coral is clearly showing signs of growth as irregular bumps are starting to form, whereas before it was a smooth coating on the coral frag plug.

The Capnella Kenya tree coral looks absolutely amazing, like a living shrub. The Sarcophyton leather mushroom coral has begun to form a waxy layer and the polyps have retracted for now. According to my coral husbandry book, this is expected and is a way for the Sarcophyton to shed unwanted debris and is part of its life cycle.

I bought a rose bubble tip anemone that was introduced into the tank. I placed it on a rock in the front with moderate light and current, and let it attach. By the night I noticed it had begun to move around. By morning, I had a small panic attack when I couldn’t find it at all. Turns out it moved all the way into a nook underneath an archway out of the light, where it has stayed all today.

Nassarius snail appears to be dying, as it just lies on top of the sand bed. The body mass is either completely withdrawn or shrunk, but it can barely move its snout in response to being picked up. It has not responded to food in two days, so I am afraid it’s just going to die.

For the next two fish, I bought a Amblygobius Hectori, or Hector’s goby. Despite the store employee netting the fish into dry air, and then handling it with gloves because he forgot to get the water ready, the fish is already out and about my tank during feeding time, and appears to be tolerant of the presence of people. I also bought a Gramma Ioerto or royal gramma basslet from a different store. This fish was well adjusted in the store, but it’s been two days and it refuses to budge from its corner of the tank where it tries to hide from everything. I am borderline concerned it hasn’t recovered from the shock yet, but time will tell. Both were rated as being easy to care and feed, and are peaceful fish.

The idea of buying a six line wrasse or a orange diamond goby was nixed for varying reasons. The orange diamond goby will grow to 6-7 inches in length, and it will decimate my sand bed of life. That size is far too big for my tank, and I would like my sand bed to have microfauna in it to help with nutrient management. The six line wrasse does eat shrimp, and it also jumps. While I would be sad at the wrasse carpet surfing, my greater concern is for Plato and Candy, my two cleaner shrimp. Stories abound of six line wrasses that coexist for years with their shrimp tank mates, only to eat one eventually.

Elos tank update 3

Side shot of the Elos tank.

Side shot of the Elos tank.

Front shot of the Elos tank.

Front shot of the Elos tank.

This Euphyllia frogspawn coral polyp is splitting into two individuals; note the two mouths (which used to be a single stretched slit).

This Euphyllia frogspawn coral polyp is splitting into two individuals; note the two mouths (which used to be a single stretched slit).

The Capnella Kenya tree coral has apparently recovered, as it has a taut shape with fuller extended polyps than before.

The Capnella Kenya tree coral has apparently recovered, as it has a taut shape with fuller extended polyps than before.

I just got back from a week long trip to British Columbia to go fishing with my dad. The tank was taken care of by my girlfriend while I was away. There are three things of note.

First, my Euphyllia frogspawn coral has one polyp member that is fissioning in two (e.g. asexual reproduction). What I thought was a mouth slit is apparently a stretched feeding orifice, as the individual now is splitting into two. This is exciting, if I can successfully promote this it will give me experience of what good water parameters are like.

Secondly, the Capnella Kenya tree coral is steadily improving. It has a much tauter shape; before it appeared to be a bunch of smooth rounded sticks put together. Now it is much tauter and its polyps extend out further. At night it has a light purple hue, and during the day its greens pop out under the blue light. I had no idea this was what it was supposed to be like, but it now closely resembles the photos of Capnella in the guide book. I hope it continues to recover and takes advantage of the stronger current I placed it in.

Lastly, my Euphyllia hammer coral has noticeably more branches that are beginning to have polyp tentacles extend out. I’m not sure if the frogspawn can or will do this as well, but it’s interesting to note the two are branching out in different ways.

I am busy acclimating the three fish in the quarantine tanks in preparation for introduction to the main display tank. Of note, Christopher the clown fish in the Elos tank has noticeably grown. I can now make out individual scales, which I could not before. In addition, his dorsal fin spines are much more pronounced, and he is obviously longer than the approximately one inch length when we bought him. I hope that Philip, the other Percula clown is able to grow as well.

The two Chromis Viridus blue green damsels are also doing well. Opal has recovered from the lost scale and I cannot see the wound anymore. There is a brown spot that I cannot make out on both fish (opposite sides though) and I am not sure if that’s just debris, a wound, parasite, etc. However, since it appeared at the 28 day mark in quarantine I do not think it’s an invertebrate parasite. I am still going through with plans to raise the salinity from 12ppt to 35ppt and watch in see in the meanwhile. If I raise the salinity at 3-4ppt per day, that gives me 6-8 days of observation.

Lastly, I am looking into buying an orange diamond goby and a six line wrasse as the possibly last two fish for the tank, but I need to check the diet, temperament, and tank size requirements before I purchase. I am concerned the fish either will get too big, or they will not get along with the others.

Elos tank update 2

Front view of the Elos tank.

Front view of the Elos tank.

Side view of the Elos tank.

Side view of the Elos tank.

Bulk Reef Supply customer support gave me an idea as to why my alkalinity was not going up despite dosing their 2-part solution. Apparently my tank is either small or new enough that I had to break the doses up throughout the day to avoid precipitation. My guess is on the “new” part rather than small, as it has only been up and running for about three months. I have been doing 5mL at a time three times a day, and have been getting very close to the 0.75 dKH alkalinity increase expected.

The corals provided by Uncle Bernard are following a day/night cycle, with polyps extended during the day, and recession into their skeleton structure at night. I am hoping a photo record of the tank every Monday afternoon will help me identify growth or problems. With change being so incremental, it is impossible to detect change without a photograph.

The Sarcophyton leather mushroom coral has begun to expand (or wilt) so that it covers a much greater surface area. I am curious whether this is a movement strategy to garner more nutrition and light, or whether it’s part of the surface shedding to clean off detritus. A more ominous possibility is that the Sarcophyton is dying, but since it’s only been 5 days I doubt it’s dying that fast.

Also encouraging are the tiny little buds of polyps on the sides of the Euphyllia hammer coral. Initially I noticed six of these, and I could see tiny little dots of fluorescent tentacles at the end of each bud. Now, five days later, the tentacles are extended even further out as I can see them waving in the current as they spread out.

The Capnella Kenya tree coral also has its polyps extending out further than before; originally they were just ridges or bumps sticking out of the branch structure. Now, under magnifying glass examination they are clearing taller than wide, which they were not before. A similar observation is being made on the Montipora sunset monti coral. I also am watching some pale white bumps on the side of my Zoanthus orange polyp coral, which I suspect are newly budding polyps.

Plato the cleaner shrimp still is carrying his eggs around, I am still waiting to see when they hatch (although I don’t expect any to survive my corals). Christopher the clownfish has learned to associate people with food and now swims endearingly close to the tank walls (and for the first time broke the surface of the water) when approached.