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5.5 Gallon Macroalgae Tank

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So, like many people, my experience with peppermint shrimp has been pretty terrible. I got this guy for free, and he ended up terrorizing my anemone and my hammer. No real damage done, but still. I caught him in a trap, threw him down into a bucket with some saltwater, a filter, and a few strands of caulerpa, and said that I'd take him to the store at some point.

 

Well, I never made it to the store, and seeing him so dark and discolored made me feel kinda bad - I mean, it's not his fault that he's an anemone-eating menace, right? He'd probably even be great for Aiptaisia, if I had any. I ended up getting a bit bored, and wanted to get the big 5 gallon bucket out of my crowded floor. So, I set up a 3 gallon jar that takes up ALMOST as much space! Makes sense, right?

 

This jar is just going to be a catch-all from stuff that I don't want in my 10 gallon. Caulerpa, extraneous macros, pesty inverts, whatever I happen to have too much of. It'll be receiving a 4 liter (1 gallon-ish) water change weekly, with water freshly drained from my 10 gallon. I don't feel like dosing this tank for the macros, so hopefully the "dirty" water from my main tank will help keep those fed, and it'll be cost-effective, too.

 

I used old base rock (cleaned), with a cycled sponge in the internal filter. The jar itself is just one of the massive glass jars from Walmart - they were used pretty often in the pico contest. I set it up a while back, and quickly upgraded. 

 

Equipment list:

 

3 Gallon Candy Jar

Top Fin Internal Filter

Old 12" Finnex LED Strip (plenty for most macros)

 

Livestock:

1x Bastard Shrimp

Caulerpa Prolifera

Dragon's Breath

 

I'm running this tank without a heater (for now), because as far as I can tell, the shrimp doesn't really require one. They're found as far north as Charleston, and seawater gets below 60 in the winter - the tank runs 68 at it's lowest, and usually hovers right at 70. No issues so far, although I will add a heater if it becomes necessary.

 

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Yes - it is ugly. This was thrown together at 1 AM out of pure boredom, and a strong will not to start eating sunchips or something. I'll probably be removing that solid piece of rock in the top left, and I'll be removing the caulerpa from the straw once it starts growing a bit. I just zip-tied it onto the straw to keep it from floating and getting caught in a place where it can't get light. You can see the little piece of dragon's breath on the far right - it was trapped under a rock in the 10 gallon, and I threw it in here to see how it'd do at room temp under a planted tank fixture. The hope is to make this look better as I go, and to fiddle with this tank instead of the main one. Trying to keep disasters from happening 😂

 

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That's a nice new home for him.

 

Pico jars are fun and I found mine very easy to maintain

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Yeah, I enjoyed the size of the tank when I had it set up the first time. I just wasn't a fan of not being able to keep a lot of the fish and inverts that I like - with a larger tank at my disposal, I think I can really enjoy this one. Nothing much simpler than some saltwater in a jar on my floor.

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So, while this thread was created on Sunday, the tank itself was set up on Friday. So there has been SOME time for things to settle in, and here's what I'm noticing:

 

The shrimp molted. I know that can also be a sign of stress, so I'm not writing it off as a good thing - but, it survived the molt and is doing well. It's still picking at the molt right now, but I'll remove it tomorrow to avoid polluting the tank.

 

The same Caulerpa that's growing very slowly in my 10 gallon under reef lighting has thrown out several new runners and has sprouted a few new leaves since being added to the tank. It's a brilliant green, too. I know the color is likely a product of the daylight lighting, but I can't explain the growth, other than maybe the caulerpa simply doesn't like the actinic lighting? I read that most green macros are collected from relatively shallow waters, so I guess that makes sense - I just didn't expect such a huge difference.

 

The Dragon's Breath has gone from almost completely yellowed to the red that I love about this macro. In my main tank, it does well - lots of growth, and decent color. But it's not as pleasing to the eye as the stuff is under daylight lighting.

 

So, have other people found that macros just don't do too well under super blue lighting? In the future, when keeping most macros, should I shoot for a more daylight light? Or, is there another variable that I'm just not thinking of? The only difference in water quality is that this stuff is a bit dirtier (nitrates are running around 20 PPM, with PO4 running around 0.1).

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I think most macros utilize warmer spectrums than corals do.  They need more red/white than blue to grow and photosynthesize.  I prefer whiter tanks overall but definitely with macro I'd try to keep to 14,000k or less.  I'm glad dragon's breath is doing well for you, I've tried it probably 8-10 times and it dies every time. :sad:

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That'd make sense, especially with the macros that hail from shallower waters. I also prefer tanks a bit whiter, but after giving this tuna blue bulb about a week... I kinda like it. I wish I could get a better mix of color, but the corals and anemone seem to really be liking it, and the firefish really fluoresces under it too. Maybe I'll mix in one of the 50/50 bulbs with it at some point - or I'll just DIY a fixture and kinda get a good mix. 

 

The dragon's breath seems kind of like a toddler that keeps on bumping into the coffee table. I've noticed that it grows pretty decently, but it shades itself out pretty quickly. I've got a dead spot in the center of the macro, because I didn't think about that portion being in the corner and not receiving any light. But, I enjoy how it looks, so hopefully I'll figure out a way to get a corner filled with it.

 

I'll probably throw in a couple pieces of Codium to see if it does any better under the planted tank lighting tomorrow. It's growing in my 10, but not super well. Maybe I'll learn some stuff with this little tank!

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Sat down to finish up a scholarship essay, and lost about 20 minutes just watching the shrimp do... shrimp things. Eating pellets, sifting through the muck on the floor, and doing a little dance. Kinda crazy how simple things can be so enjoyable, huh?

 

I ended up not moving out that rock, since he's been pretty active and I feel like removing part of the scape would give him less crawling room, if that makes sense. I'd like to get something that looks better, but I think what I have is working.

 

I forgot to throw in some Codium, so oops. I'll try and do that this weekend. I also need to figure out a way to get the caulerpa and the dragon's breath to stay put. I'll probably use zip ties for the dragon's breath, but I've found that caulerpa dies off when it's zip-tied. It's done it in both of my tanks. I'm sure it's already attached to the rock, but still, I'll have to figure something out to get it to fill in the rest of the rock to try and get things to fill in.

 

As for the shrimp, at this point, I'm pretty sure the cooler water isn't having any adverse effects. It does hide some during the day, but it usually comes out around feeding time. It's got good color, and I kinda get why some people love invert-only picos so much now. There's some interesting behavior that goes on.

 

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This tank is getting moved into a 5.5 today. My betta died last night, and while I had originally planned on replacing her or maybe getting something like a red claw crab, I think I just want to stick with what I have right now and get it thriving. Plus, I think the bigger tank will allow for another invert or two. Something macro-safe... suggestions? I'd like something that'd be out and about, so that rules out most crabs, I think.

 

I got the tank set up, got all the algae and shrimp moved over, and went to the new LFS to see what they had. I got a few clean-up crew members for my 10 gallon, and got a $1 damsel for this tank. It'll outgrow the tank, and when that happens, I WILL have something ready for it - but, for $1, it was hard to pass up. Apparently, they had to take it out of the damsel display because it was crowding the rest of them into a corner. This guy is like the damsel to end all damsels! He's pretty though, and is seemingly healthy. Worst comes to worst, I'll throw him into the bin that I'm growing Caulerpa in.

 

The store owner didn't even really know what macroalgae was, so I might have to continue ordering online for that. They did, however, have a decent selection of fish. They had a pygmy octopus, a Valentini Puffer, a Dogface Puffer, a cowfish, a bicolor blenny, and a pretty wide selection of other fish and coral. Not a ton of inverts, but quite a few corals. Just a few frags, but they did have a few torch colonies that wouldn't even fit into my 10 gallon - pretty cool stuff. 

 

I did add a heater back to this tank (it's preset to 76F), just for the damsel and any other tropical stuff I might want to add to the larger tank. I also moved the light I was using on the jar over to this tank, as well as the 5000K LED desklamp I had over it for the betta. It looks to be around 7000K, and does make the reds in the dragon's breath look nice. I had some caulerpa sitting in a jar on the windowsill with a bit of circulation, and it was growing far better than the stuff I had under artificial lighting. I think that it was an intensity thing, but I'm not positive - the stuff in the jar had quite a bit more flow, and seemed to grow taller and thicker, rather than shorter and bushier.. The dragon's breath that went into the shrimp tank DID grow quite a bit - maybe from the size of a quarter to the size of a silver dollar. It's a much more intense red than what's in my 10 gallon, too - that stuff is much more of a maroon, almost red-brown color. Healthy, and growing fast, but not the best to look at. This stuff closer to what Weetabix had in her planted tank, and that's what I try to emulate with macroalgae most of the time.

 

 

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The tank is a little cloudy, but it should clear. All the debris will get vacuumed out at the next water change, and is just junk from the rock that got knocked out during the move. I'll get a good picture of the damsel once he's out and about, but he's nothing special. Bright and colorful!

 

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Tank has cleared up quite a bit, as of this morning. Things seem to be doing well - I've been monitoring ammonia and nitrite pretty closely, to make sure the damsel didn't cause a mini-cycle. No issues there. Doesn't look like there's been any caulerpa die-off, either, and the dragon's breath hasn't gotten itself worked out of the hole it's in yet.

 

The damsel has been doing well. He's been mainly cruising around underneath the filters and between the rocks, but he's starting to venture out into the open. He's got the brilliant blue you'd expect when he's in lower-light areas, but he quickly turns to a pale purple when he's directly under the lights - I'm assuming that's due to the temperature of the lights, rather than stress.  He's eating, and pretty much just doing damsel things. No complaints, really. I'll definitely be moving this guy to a bigger home at some point though, since he's already using a lot of the tank up at 1 1/2" or so.

 

If anyone has suggestions for the tank, I'm always open 🙂

 

Sorry for the glare!

 

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Hey, very cute.  Did you move the peppermint in with the damsel?  Green star polyp can be a nice easy coral that will grow on the glass bottom if you want any coral.  Check out the livingroom penisula tank, he has gsp on his glass bottom tank at one end.

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I did! The peppermint has put up shot underneath one of the ledges, and has spent most of it's time under there since the move. Probably just adjusting.

 

I actually thought about mentioning a GSP carpet, but wasn't sure if the shrimp would bother it too much. While I know it wouldn't be nearly as tempting to it as an anemone or a hammer, I've already had issues with this guy picking at corals in the past. I might try it with a small frag, and see how it goes.

 

Here's the little devil cleaning off the Codium I just threw in from my main tank. It wasn't looking so good in there, so we'll see if it does better under the daylight lighting. 

 

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So, I've noticed something pretty interesting with the damsel. It makes sense, I just never thought about it.

 

He's been running around, chomping on Caulerpa. I never considered that he might graze on it, but after some reading, it seems as if they'll go after soft macros when they're hungry. He's nibbled at the Dragon's Breath and the Codium a few times, but doesn't seem to be able to do any damage. I'll be adding some veggies to his diet soon (as well as adding fresh/live foods), and maybe that'll make a difference. Regardless, it's interesting behavior, and I'll have to be conscious of any soft macros I put in from now on. Other than that, he's been pretty great. He's got the attitude you'd expect from a damsel, and looks amazing doing it - damsels get a terrible reputation in the hobby (for good reason), but I think they make a great centerpiece fish in a nano, or maybe great as a pair in a larger nano or an aggressive larger tank.

 

Despite that, the Caulerpa has been growing well! Quite a bit of new, small growth. The Dragon's Breath seems to be doing well, and has maintained it's color thus far. I need to secure it to a rock or frag plug with a zip tie, as they didn't stay wedged between the rocks for very long with Blue Satan coming along and tugging at them. The Codium looks about the same, I guess. Seems like a lot of the hair algae that had been growing on it has been cleaned off, and it does look better - although I have no idea what the purple/red color growing on it is. I don't think it's cyano or dinos, though. It didn't come off with my vigorous scrubbing, so I'm a bit confused. If it spreads, I'll cut off the infected bits.

 

I threw in a scarlet hermit from my 10 gallon, since he was picking at snails. I've never seen him bother macros, but I'll keep an eye on him. The Peppermint is doing fine, and watching him go absolutely insane when I feed has become one of my favorite pass times. He usually hangs out under a ledge, but whenever food hits the water, he's swimming around and going nuts. Once it all hits the tank floor, he ends up sliding around on the bottom, and that's another barrel of laughs!

 

Tank got a 1 gallon WC with water from my 10 gallon today, and I decided to go ahead and place some of the macros back up on the rock. I siphoned what I could, but even with a crimped hose, siphoning 1 gallon only takes a minute or so, and I ended up missing some debris. Oh well, it looks better, at least.

 

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Not sure what the brown bits are on some of the caulerpa, but I suspect it may be where the damsel's bitten into the algae - I guess it could be some sort of deficiency, though. The white bits are new growth, which is always exciting!

 

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This tank got a late night addition yesterday. I ended up with a Crown Conch, which is a predatory whelk. I thought it was a harmless conch (as it was sold to me as a Milk Conch), and I didn't catch on to it being a snail-eater until I found it eating one of my Astreas. I picked him up and dropped him into this tank, after ensuring he wouldn't pose a threat to fish, shrimp, or hermits, and I guess he'll reside here until I figure out what to do with him. He's really cool and fun to watch, and I've been told I could keep him as long as he was getting meaty foods every few days. I guess I'll see how he does in here with just whatever he can find and a spot-feeding every week or so.

 

Yes, that is the snail he murdered - and he's going back now to slurp the shell clean, I guess.

 

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