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billygoat

18g Caribbean Biotope - Six months old!🎉

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Mrs. Limpet
On 3/15/2019 at 7:39 PM, billygoat said:

Hi folks! I am here to share my nano with you. I've been in and around aquariums for much of my life (mostly as an admirer of other people's systems), but this is the first tank I've ever set up and managed entirely by myself, so I am still very much an amateur. In early November of 2018 I started lurking on nano-reef and a few other forums, and soon got the itch to start a tank of my own. After doing a lot of research I decided to set up a small system to display some of the species that I remember from my childhood in the Caribbean. 

 

So, here it is! Most recent FTS is at top; the FTS included with my original post is underneath.

 

5/10/2019

 

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3/15/2019

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My goal from the beginning was to create a simple and easy-to-maintain ecosystem that features species from Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. I wanted to run it as "natural" as possible, with as little equipment as I could get away with. So far I think I've done a pretty good job of meeting those goals. Here are the specs:

 

Equipment:

Tank: 18g Cobalt C-Vue AIO aquarium (with stand)

Lighting: Kessil A80 Tuna Blue w/Kessil X Spectral Controller

Heater: Cobalt Neo-Therm 75w

Circulation: Cobalt Mini MJ606 return pump and EcoTech Marine VorTech MP10 wavemaker

Mechanical filtration: pair of stock filter socks

ATO: Tunze Nano 3152

 

 

Stocklist:

(This list will be updated periodically to reflect the tank's current inhabitants)

Clean-up crew:
Dwarf and Florida Cerith, Planaxis, Virgin Nerite, and Nassarius snails
Orange brittle star (Ophiocoma wendtii)

Scarlet hermit crabs
Limpets (coral-munching hitchhikers!)

 

Invertebrates:
Caribbean mushrooms (Discosoma carlgreni and D. neglecta)
Ricordea florida
Purple plume gorgonian (Muriceopsis flavida)

Purple sea rod (Plexaura flexuosa)

Purple sea feather (Pseudopterogorgia sp.)

Rusty gorgonian (Muricea elongata)
Zoanthids
Stony corals (Stephanocoenia intersepta and Phyllangia americana)
Various hitchhikers (colonial tunicates, encrusting sponges, micro feather dusters, tiny brittle stars, bristle worms, Aiptasia, etc.)

 

Fish:
Masked gobies (Coryphopterus personatus) (2)

Sailfin blenny (Emblemaria pandionis)

 

Macroalgae:

Acetabularia crenulata

Amphiroa spp.
Botryocladia sp. (hitchhiker)
Galaxaura rugosa
Gracilaria hayi
Halimeda opuntia
Penicillus dumetosus
Rhipocephalus phoenix
Udotea flabellum

 

All very simple and easy-to-maintain inverts and fish, as you can see. I can't even really call it a reef, since the only few corals I have are nearshore Caribbean species that came in on my live rock!

 

Maintenance is very simple as well; I dose Ca and Alk by hand, and I do a 15% (~2 gal) water change once a week. I switch out the filter socks every time I do a water change. I also have a bag of carbon in the back that gets changed every 2-3 weeks.

 

You can view my original post and pictures here:

  Reveal hidden contents

 

I started off with 10 lbs. of uncured live rock straight out of the Gulf of Mexico (gulfliverock.com) and 20 lbs. of CaribSea West Caribbean Reef live sand.

 

December 2018

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I am very wary of overstocking, so I have tried to keep things as simple as possible. My stocking was very gradual; I didn't even add fish until the tank was about two and a half months old.

 

Here are a few more photos. I apologize once again for the low quality ><

 

View from the left-hand side:

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One of my forbidden Caribbean SPS corals 😉 I am fairly sure this one is the Blushing Star Coral, Stephanocoenia intersepta. The lovely red macro at the top is Galaxaura rugosa.

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Purple plume gorgonians (Muriceopsis flavida). I chose this species because it is hardy and quite rigid, as there is not a lot of space for more whiplike gorgs to blow around in my tank. I originally only wanted one, but the "medium" specimen I ordered from kpaquatics.com ended up being more than nine inches tall, so I had to cut it into three pieces to fit it into my tank. So now I have three of them! ^^

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Zoanthids and some of my plain-old turquoise ricordea, with a masked goby in the background. A monster Aiptasia anemone is visible on the right as well. Above the blue zoanthid on the central rock you can see another of my SPS corals. I am not sure about the ID on that one as it is still quite small; it may be a young colony of Oculina. (Edit 4/6/19: This is not actually Oculina but rather the Hidden Cup Coral, Phyllangia americana.)

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Here is one of my favorites: a giant fish-eating mushroom (Discosoma neglecta). When fully expanded it is more than three inches across, and I hear they get much bigger! I am not sure about the ID on the pretty red macro on the left; it started growing spontaneously on the substrate. It has soft feathery branches and seems to prefer fairly strong light and water movement.

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So far I have had no major disasters (knocking on all available wood), but small setbacks have certainly occurred. My tank has almost every type of aquatic pest you can imagine, including hair algae, cyanobacteria, bryopsis, Aiptasia, bubble algae, Dictyota, and more! So far none of these things have reached plague proportions, largely thanks to Cerith snails and diligent manual removal, and most of the nuisance algae is now in decline. Cyanobacteria growing on the substrate and glass continues to be a problem, but I think it is only a matter of time before that one gets beat as well.

 

I also have had some problems keeping crustaceans alive in my system, for reasons that are not entirely clear to me. I've tried a number of times to keep peppermint shrimp as a control for my Aiptasia, but they always seem to lose equilibrium and randomly die after only a few days in the tank. Even hardy hermit crabs don't last very long, with most of them slowing down gradually as time goes by, until they simply stop moving and die. A few have even exited their shells and wandered around naked for awhile before kicking the bucket. I'm a bit perplexed by this weird behavior, especially since everything else in the tank seems to be doing pretty well, but I have a few theories; perhaps there is a problem with heavy metals entering the tank somehow (copper, lead, etc.), or maybe some kind of allelopathic voodoo released by the soft corals or red macros is at work. I added some carbon this morning, so I will run the tank on that for a week or so and then perhaps try adding another shrimp.

 

Anyway, It's definitely been a learning process, but that's about what I've got right now! Thank you very much for visiting my journal, and thanks to each and every one of you for creating this wonderful community. This is my first post, but believe me when I say that I have already learned a whole heck of a lot from you guys. I look forward to being a part of the community! (And also to getting a better camera!)

 

 

Thank you for visiting my journal! I hope that you enjoy what you see in this thread, and if you have any questions about my system please don't hesitate to post them or message me!

 

Cheers,

Billy

 

 

 

 

Very nice tank! 

 

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billygoat
2 hours ago, Mrs. Limpet said:

Very nice tank! 

Thank you! I appreciate you stopping by to check it out. 😊

9 hours ago, Wonderboy said:

Awesome! Great work with the new scape - everything looks really happy. I like the new spot for the branching coralline - that is a nice-sized chunk. I'm sure you have quite the variety of micro-fauna with all those different algaes and the DSB - I could probably get stuck staring in to here for a while; I especially like those blue zoas 😉   How has the udotea been growing for you? It looks good. Is that the rhipocephalus behind it?

Thanks for your kind words! I have been actively working to cultivate a diverse collection of benthic microfauna, and have all sorts of worms, clams, burrowing snails, weird giant sand-dwelling flatworms, and other strange critters living down in the substrate. I think that maintaining high sandbed biodiversity is key to keeping a DSB healthy in the long run, so hopefully I can pull it off. 🤞

 

That is indeed a Rhipocephalus in the center behind the Utodea. That particular pinecone has gotten rather large, and seems to be lasting quite a bit longer than usual (they normally grow a new shoot every few months, after which the old one gradually begins to disintegrate). As for the sea fan, it has demonstrated an interesting pattern of growth spurts, during which it will grow very rapidly for about a week at a time - a half-inch a day or more, with a bright white growing edge - and then cease growth altogether for awhile. My theory is that during this "downtime" the alga is working on growing its rhizome rather than its "leaf", perhaps in preparation for sending up a new shoot.

 

I expected my rooting macros to sort of lose steam after a few months in the tank, but so far all three varieties continue to do well. Here's hoping they keep it up! 😄

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IceParrot

Have you thought about adding a curlique anemone with a pendersons cleaner shrimp? That would be a cool symbiotic relationship that is native to the Caribbean. Tank is looking awesome by the way. 

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billygoat
1 hour ago, IceParrot said:

Have you thought about adding a curlique anemone with a pendersons cleaner shrimp? That would be a cool symbiotic relationship that is native to the Caribbean. Tank is looking awesome by the way. 

Actually I have been strongly considering that combination as my next livestock choice! I want to get a curlique + anemone shrimp + pistol shrimp combo, as I think the pistol will defend the 'nem fortress pretty well against my murderous brittle star. Curliques are very common in the Caribbean so it seems like a good choice. My only concerns are my poor track record with keeping shrimp (my latest attempt at a peppermint mysteriously disappeared recently) and uncertainty about where to put the anemone. My understanding is that curliques grow pretty large, and I am not sure I have enough space for it to expand without stinging anything else in the tank.

 

I have not tested nitrates for awhile, but I have to guess that they are probably still at or over 10. This might be the reason I have trouble keeping shrimp, as I think they are sensitive to high nitrates.

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billygoat

Just a quick evening shot today. Night falls on the reef. 😊

 

IMG_0189.thumb.JPG.f74f0f6558233066269e939fad816a87.JPG

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billygoat

Had to euthanize my largest limpet this morning. 😢 I generally give hitchhikers a lot of leeway to do their natural thing even if it means dealing with a bit of grazed coral here and there, but this guy was starting to eat my gorgonians, and that was just a bridge too far. Those limpets are pests for sure, but I still hate to kill things. I still have three or four smaller ones in there; hopefully they will be better behaved.

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Kangster911
3 hours ago, billygoat said:

Had to euthanize my largest limpet this morning. 😢 I generally give hitchhikers a lot of leeway to do their natural thing even if it means dealing with a bit of grazed coral here and there, but this guy was starting to eat my gorgonians, and that was just a bridge too far. Those limpets are pests for sure, but I still hate to kill things. I still have three or four smaller ones in there; hopefully they will be better behaved.

Good thing you caught the guy in action before it was too late. Maybe you can turn that extra tank into a pest only tank. I saw a guy somewhere keeping a tank exclusively for pests only.

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billygoat
41 minutes ago, Kangster911 said:

Good thing you caught the guy in action before it was too late. Maybe you can turn that extra tank into a pest only tank. I saw a guy somewhere keeping a tank exclusively for pests only.

That's not a bad idea really. It would be nice to have a separate space specifically for exiling badly-behaved hitchhikers. 😄

 

Here's a no-filter photo from this afternoon. If you look very carefully underneath the green ricordea at the bottom, you can just see one of my gobies poking his head out on the left hand side. 

 

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Also I have to say, this self-imposed one month moratorium on new livestock additions has been more difficult than I anticipated! 😅 Reef Cleaners has all this cool algae in stock and I can't buy it! But I know it's for the best, so I will keep on keeping on. Almost halfway there! 👌

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Northwoodsreefer
1 hour ago, billygoat said:

That's not a bad idea really. It would be nice to have a separate space specifically for exiling badly-behaved hitchhikers. 😄

 

Here's a no-filter photo from this afternoon. If you look very carefully underneath the green ricordea at the bottom, you can just see one of my gobies poking his head out on the left hand side. 

 

IMG_0190.thumb.JPG.a488574843bad39e9552becbd9247eb4.JPG

 

Also I have to say, this self-imposed one month moratorium on new livestock additions has been more difficult than I anticipated! 😅 Reef Cleaners has all this cool algae in stock and I can't buy it! But I know it's for the best, so I will keep on keeping on. Almost halfway there! 👌

I just got some of the cool algea. Will post about it later today or tomorrow 

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billygoat

An update on my Mermaid's Wine Glass: it's still hanging in there, but I can't say that it looks too great! 😅 I've come to realize that my aquarium has way too much flow for this alga. It seems to prefer high light and very still water. With an MP10 running at 25% and a 160gph return pump I am sitting at somewhere around 35x hourly turnover, which is great for gorgonians and many other macros but probably very bad for these wine glasses. All the specimens in the middle of my tank dropped their caps, but in a low-flow area at the very back I have a few with parasols still attached.

 

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Interestingly, those that dropped their caps actually do seem to be growing. I don't have a picture of it, but thin green filaments are sprouting up from the empty stalks of the capless specimens that remain in the center of my tank where flow is fairly high. Perhaps they will end up growing after all? 🤔 I am interested to see how they turn out.

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billygoat

This blenny seems to have settled in very well and is now the boss of the tank. His little turf-roofed hidey hole reminds me of something out of The Hobbit😄

 

IMG_0192.thumb.JPG.4a86a217ecea3f4923a9ad1fd5b8aa2c.JPG

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TatorTaco
On 6/11/2019 at 8:19 AM, billygoat said:

Actually I have been strongly considering that combination as my next livestock choice! I want to get a curlique + anemone shrimp + pistol shrimp combo, as I think the pistol will defend the 'nem fortress pretty well against my murderous brittle star. Curliques are very common in the Caribbean so it seems like a good choice. My only concerns are my poor track record with keeping shrimp (my latest attempt at a peppermint mysteriously disappeared recently) and uncertainty about where to put the anemone. My understanding is that curliques grow pretty large, and I am not sure I have enough space for it to expand without stinging anything else in the tank.

 

Tag or message me if you’d like me to be your guinea pig before purchase. I have 2 of these anemones already and macro. I’m sure those two would perfectly coexist, but I’m also sure they’d sting other corals. 

 

I’m quite enjoying my experiments with my nems. 

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billygoat
33 minutes ago, TatorTaco said:

 

Tag or message me if you’d like me to be your guinea pig before purchase. I have 2 of these anemones already and macro. I’m sure those two would perfectly coexist, but I’m also sure they’d sting other corals. 

 

I’m quite enjoying my experiments with my nems. 

I'll certainly ask you a few things if I do end up deciding to go that route. I'm sort of on the fence about it for now, as I am really not sure I have enough space to fit one of those nems in (and even if I did it would probably be towards the back where it would be less visible, as that's the only place it wouldn't end up stinging things). They're awfully cool though so I am still tempted to get one.

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billygoat

Today is an exciting day for me! It's June 15th, and that means my nano is six months old! 🎈😄👍

 

I've really learned a great deal during the past six months and I feel like I have made a lot of progress with this system. It still contains almost every type of aquatic pest imaginable and has a few persistent problems, but I think that I have gotten a lot better at keeping the good critters healthy while keeping the undesirable ones under control. Part of my goal with this tank was to show that a system doesn't have to be completely clean or even completely pest-free in order to be enjoyable, and that with proper management a "natural" slice of ocean can be just as beautiful as a carefully cultivated and "climate-controlled" mixed reef. Or, well, almost as beautiful, at least. 😅

 

Here are a few photos of the tank as it has evolved over the past six months!

 

December 29th, 2018. I had just added my first macros! Several of them are still with me today, though they have moved around quite a bit.

12_29.18(1).thumb.jpeg.af87dba3ffd0e89eb755742d57e63525.jpeg

 

In early April I learned a hard lesson by murdering a few of my favorite gorgonians with an ill-advised and, in hindsight, completely unnecessary freshwater dip. The middle and right-hand gorgs in this picture did not survive. 😞

IMG_2992.thumb.JPG.69191acd583dbfbc8a4cbd78500be601.JPG

 

And this one is from yesterday, 6/14/2019! Things have definitely changed quite a bit since late last year, that's for sure.

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I am very pleased with how this tank has developed, and I feel like I will never tire of observing all the wonderful creatures that it contains. I do still have a few goals for the future of this system though! Most notably:

  • Re-implement my refugium box in the rear chambers. Previously I attempted to grow Chaetomorpha, and it made a bit of a mess. This time I want to try Ulva instead. Ulva grows more slowly than chaeto, but I am more interested in using the refugium as a habitat for pods than as a source of nutrient export, so I think Ulva will be perfect for that.
  • Add a fourth and final fish. I've been mulling this decision over for months but still am not sure what the choice will be. Royal gramma, chalk bass, neon goby, and cherub angel are all under consideration.
  • Perhaps automate my dosing at some point. I've noticed that Ca and Alk supplementation seems to have a noticeable effect on the growth of my calcifying algae, so I think I will continue to dose 2-part for the foreseeable future.
  • Maybe a lighting upgrade? I've been pretty satisfied with the Kessil A80 so far, but I would still like to experiment with a warmer-colored "freshwater" light if I get the chance. Hopefully this experimentation, if it ever occurs, will not end up crashing my system. 😅

Anyway, diving into this hobby has been a wild ride and I wouldn't have been able to do it without the support of the wonderful community here at N-R! So thank you so much everyone for following along and helping me out along the way. I really appreciate it. 🙏👍😁

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TatorTaco
3 hours ago, billygoat said:

I'll certainly ask you a few things if I do end up deciding to go that route. I'm sort of on the fence about it for now, as I am really not sure I have enough space to fit one of those nems in (and even if I did it would probably be towards the back where it would be less visible, as that's the only place it wouldn't end up stinging things). They're awfully cool though so I am still tempted to get one.

It’s super cool, but I honestly don’t think it’d be a good fit for YOUR tank. It may bother other corals that you’d prefer over it. Also, it wouldn’t bring much visual appeal to your tank - when it gets bigger it’ll be hard to keep it from dwarfing your gorgs and other corals and may through the sale of your tank, which looks bigger than it is. 

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IceParrot
6 hours ago, billygoat said:

Today is an exciting day for me! It's June 15th, and that means my nano is six months old! 🎈😄👍

 

I've really learned a great deal during the past six months and I feel like I have made a lot of progress with this system. It still contains almost every type of aquatic pest imaginable and has a few persistent problems, but I think that I have gotten a lot better at keeping the good critters healthy while keeping the undesirable ones under control. Part of my goal with this tank was to show that a system doesn't have to be completely clean or even completely pest-free in order to be enjoyable, and that with proper management a "natural" slice of ocean can be just as beautiful as a carefully cultivated and "climate-controlled" mixed reef. Or, well, almost as beautiful, at least. 😅

 

Here are a few photos of the tank as it has evolved over the past six months!

 

December 29th, 2018. I had just added my first macros! Several of them are still with me today, though they have moved around quite a bit.

12_29.18(1).thumb.jpeg.af87dba3ffd0e89eb755742d57e63525.jpeg

 

In early April I learned a hard lesson by murdering a few of my favorite gorgonians with an ill-advised and, in hindsight, completely unnecessary freshwater dip. The middle and right-hand gorgs in this picture did not survive. 😞

IMG_2992.thumb.JPG.69191acd583dbfbc8a4cbd78500be601.JPG

 

And this one is from yesterday, 6/14/2019! Things have definitely changed quite a bit since late last year, that's for sure.

IMG_0194.thumb.JPG.ffc5b091f2364f2dfcfcd1842a3ffb32.JPG

 

I am very pleased with how this tank has developed, and I feel like I will never tire of observing all the wonderful creatures that it contains. I do still have a few goals for the future of this system though! Most notably:

  • Re-implement my refugium box in the rear chambers. Previously I attempted to grow Chaetomorpha, and it made a bit of a mess. This time I want to try Ulva instead. Ulva grows more slowly than chaeto, but I am more interested in using the refugium as a habitat for pods than as a source of nutrient export, so I think Ulva will be perfect for that.
  • Add a fourth and final fish. I've been mulling this decision over for months but still am not sure what the choice will be. Royal gramma, chalk bass, neon goby, and cherub angel are all under consideration.
  • Perhaps automate my dosing at some point. I've noticed that Ca and Alk supplementation seems to have a noticeable effect on the growth of my calcifying algae, so I think I will continue to dose 2-part for the foreseeable future.
  • Maybe a lighting upgrade? I've been pretty satisfied with the Kessil A80 so far, but I would still like to experiment with a warmer-colored "freshwater" light if I get the chance. Hopefully this experimentation, if it ever occurs, will not end up crashing my system. 😅

Anyway, diving into this hobby has been a wild ride and I wouldn't have been able to do it without the support of the wonderful community here at N-R! So thank you so much everyone for following along and helping me out along the way. I really appreciate it. 🙏👍😁

I think a Trimma or Eviota goby would be awesome! 😁

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Amphrites
1 hour ago, IceParrot said:

I think a Trimma or Eviota goby would be awesome! 😁

I just wish they lived longer... 

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billygoat
10 hours ago, TatorTaco said:

It’s super cool, but I honestly don’t think it’d be a good fit for YOUR tank. It may bother other corals that you’d prefer over it. Also, it wouldn’t bring much visual appeal to your tank - when it gets bigger it’ll be hard to keep it from dwarfing your gorgs and other corals and may through the sale of your tank, which looks bigger than it is. 

I think you're more than likely right about this. As cool as the curlique+shrimp combo would be, it's probably just not appropriate for my tank. I've looked at it from every angle and I just can't figure out a place where the 'nem would be able to anchor without stinging something, and that's assuming it would even stay where I want it to be in the first place. I think I'll hold off on it for the time being. I'll probably just end up getting even more macroalgae instead! 😊

 

7 hours ago, IceParrot said:

I think a Trimma or Eviota goby would be awesome! 😁

Both of those would be amazing, but unfortunately I believe both Trimma and Eviota gobies are indo-pacific and therefore not kosher for my Caribbean biotope. I know the right fish for me is out there though! I just have to finally figure out what it is. 😅

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748S911

I love this tank, happy 6 month reef!

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TatorTaco

What about greenbanded goby? Folks love them on NR and it’s fit your biotope. 

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knox_legend

Aren’t rock flower nems native to the Caribbean? If you wanted to scratch the anemone itch. I hope to have several in my tank once it’s ready to go. 

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thecoralbeauty

Wow! I had a lot of catching up to do. Your blenny is super adorable in his little house. 🙂

Also, the tank is really looking great these days! It'll be interesting to see how the wine glasses do. 

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billygoat
30 minutes ago, mwhitelock said:

Wow! I had a lot of catching up to do. Your blenny is super adorable in his little house. 🙂

Also, the tank is really looking great these days! It'll be interesting to see how the wine glasses do. 

Thank you for taking the time to read it all! I know I post quite a lot... 😅 And thanks for your kind words, they really mean a lot to me!

 

3 hours ago, TatorTaco said:

What about greenbanded goby? Folks love them on NR and it’s fit your biotope. 

GBG is definitely also an option. I've seen a whole lot of them recently and they seem to be champs when it comes to personality. I may be more in the market for something a bit more free-swimming though, since I already have a bunch of small perching fish. But a GBG is certainly not out of the question.

 

2 hours ago, knox_legend said:

Aren’t rock flower nems native to the Caribbean? If you wanted to scratch the anemone itch. I hope to have several in my tank once it’s ready to go. 

RFAs definitely are from the Caribbean, and would probably be a much better choice than a curlique for me. Anemone shrimp will also host in them as well. I feel like a rock flower would have a much easier time getting along with my other inverts, since their sting is weak and they don't tend to move very much. It might even end up living in my sandbed, which would be ideal.

 

Does anyone know if peppermint shrimp will pick on RFAs or other ornamental anemones? Keeping peppermints is one of my longer-term goals, partially because of Aiptasia and partially because I am stubborn and have failed to keep them alive multiple times in the past, which makes me determined to succeed at it eventually. I just worry that since shrimp are very opportunistic they might end up going after any sort of anemone after the Aiptasia are gone.

 

Here's a quick photo from yesterday. My masked gobies don't seem concerned when I come up to the glass, but they are afraid of my phone; I had to zoom in from a distance to get this picture of one. 😄

IMG_0195.thumb.JPG.072e8f9ccf39a1efa8418e0d98e3bf04.JPG

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Amphrites

I've heard of peppermints picking on just about all sessile inverts but mileage seems to vary dramatically, I'll never have one because of my maxima and the stories I've read though.

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Wendy

I LOVE your Caribbean themed tank!

I've read your whole thread throughout the weekend & you have such great information!

 

I have to agree with others that a Rock Flower Anemone would look fantastic in here. However, Peppermint shrimp have been known to tear into them & kill them.

 

Happy 6th month birthday/anniversary!!!

Your macro algaes are so colorful & your gorgonians are beautiful! Also, adore your fish choices (;

Keep up the awesome reefing!

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