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billygoat

18g Gorgonian Garden - A Caribbean Biotope

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billygoat

Made a few adjustments after I came home from work today. No pictures just yet but I'm going to make a note of the changes here so I can look back in case something ends up seeming off later on:

  • My new orange Ricordea was getting too much flow in the center of the tank. I didn't want it to detach from the piece of rubble it came on (getting them to re-attach is a massive pain) so I moved it over to the side of the display in an area with gentler water movement.
  • New cinnamon palythoa are still sort of halfway opening. Looks like they are taking awhile to adjust. I moved them off the sandbed and glued them higher up on the right side. Once they settle down they will likely overrun the area, but I think I am probably fine with that. A new RFA that will be arriving next week (thanks again Reef Cleaners!) will take the palys' place down at the base of the rock.
  • I did a bit of algae gardening and removed the small, straggling clumps of Galaxaura that remained in my tank. This species never did particularly well and I was tired of the ugly, gangly growth pattern it had gotten into, so I decided to discard it. Along with it I removed a clump of Halimeda (probably H. discoidea) that hitchhiked in on the Galaxaura, and under that I discovered a thriving colony of bubble algae. Pulled those out too.
  • My shaving brush (Penicillus dumetosus) is also done. Its last new sprout randomly died back (possibly eaten from underneath by my Eunice worm) and the old brush that remained was falling apart, so I simply removed it. I'll update my stocklist on the first page to reflect these changes. The Laurencia and the green Agardhiella are also mostly gone. These turned out to be quite palatable and I believe were gradually eaten by various things.

I've spoken in the past about the phenomenon of "softiefication" that seems to affect macroalgae-dominated tanks that reach a certain age, in which a system begins with a large diversity of macros that is gradually replaced with soft corals until only a few species of algae remain. For better or for worse, this seems to be happening to me as well! Halimeda opuntia and various species of coralline algae seem to be by far the most dominant types in my system, and I find myself slowly replacing all the other algae with more mushrooms, gorgonians, and rock flower anemones.

 

These decisions were made with an eye to the future, as I have a plan to fill the space vacated by the Galaxaura and other algae with a couple of things (I'm looking at you, corky fingers!). Stay tuned tomorrow for some pictures! 😊

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BearTheSquare

Excited to see that ric island fill in. That’s easily one of my favorite corals to cover a rock with their bright colors. Everything’s looking great and I’m excited to see the changes!

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billygoat
13 hours ago, BearTheSquare said:

Excited to see that ric island fill in. That’s easily one of my favorite corals to cover a rock with their bright colors. Everything’s looking great and I’m excited to see the changes!

Thanks Bear! The tank still has a few minor problems with cyano but overall things are going pretty well. 😊

 

Right, pictures! 😁

 

I moved the cinnamon palythoa off the sandbed and up onto the rocks. What you see here is about as open as they've gotten so far - not closed all the way but not showing tentacles either. I think the fact that I've been moving them around and re-mounting them and stuff probably isn't helping with that, but I don't plan to move them any more so hopefully they'll settle down.

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The new angular sea whip got moved to the front of the tank. I wanted to use it to fill in some empty space in the rear, but it is too short and too pretty, so I switched it into a more visible spot. I'm curious to see whether its polyps turn brown after a couple of weeks, or if they will stay white as they are now. I just now noticed there's some cyano growing on its tips too, so I'll have to deal with that after I'm done with this post. 😅

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I relocated the new orange Ricordea to the bottom left-hand corner, where it is protected from turbulent flow. It already looks much happier down there.

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Here's a photo of the left-hand side of the tank. The Galaxaura and hitchhiker Halimeda I removed yesterday were right above the turquoise Ricordea on the left (right next to the single strange of red grape algae over there). The Rics look much happier with that leggy Galaxaura out of there; they're massively expanded today. I think they were being excessively shaded.

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And finally, an FTS of course! The sandbed is too bright as usual, but you get the idea:

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The tank has been through a lot of changes over the past couple weeks, first with the re-addition of the refugium, then more rock fragments being added, things getting moved around, and finally with new livestock coming in a few days ago. I think it's time to dial it back for awhile and wait for the system to return to balance before I decide on any additional livestock choices. Overall I'm pleased with the direction it's headed in so far! 😊

 

That being said I should mention that I do have another Reef Cleaners order coming in, probably on Wednesday next week. 😅 Don't worry though - it's just some snails and pods for my refugium, a few hermits and porcelain crabs for the display, and another small RFA, so hopefully it won't impact the overall bioload very much. 

 

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Amphrites

I think John likes you lol, I tried to see if he had any RFA's left and was told they were fresh-out XD 
Tank looks amazing, I gotta' find a place for my rics where they can balloon and open up like yours, too much flow everywhere in my tank right now I think though. I even made them a little barricade-island too, ungrateful little buggers.

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Pjanssen
9 minutes ago, Amphrites said:

too much flow everywhere in my tank right now I think though

I think I'm having this issue too. Considered turning the Koralia off for a little while to see if it helps, but I don't think the Gorgs will like that.

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TatorTaco
1 hour ago, Amphrites said:

I think John likes you lol, I tried to see if he had any RFA's left and was told they were fresh-out XD 
Tank looks amazing, I gotta' find a place for my rics where they can balloon and open up like yours, too much flow everywhere in my tank right now I think though. I even made them a little barricade-island too, ungrateful little buggers.

He totally does! I messaged him about a week or two ago and he said he didn’t plan on restocking them again any time soon.

 

This tank is a testament to the quality of stuff John carries, and this tank proves how incredible a Caribbean themed tank can be. This is one of those tanks I’ll be referencing for years to come. 

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billygoat
6 hours ago, Amphrites said:

I think John likes you lol, I tried to see if he had any RFA's left and was told they were fresh-out XD 

 

4 hours ago, TatorTaco said:

He totally does! I messaged him about a week or two ago and he said he didn’t plan on restocking them again any time soon.

So here's the story with the RFA: John apparently found one last 'nem hiding under a piece of PVC pipe in one of his holding systems. He listed it on the site, and I just happened to be browsing when it came up. I had an active order with crabs and snails and things scheduled to ship already, so of course I went ahead and grabbed it. 😅 Just pure luck I'm afraid!

 

If you guys want RFAs though, I also just happened to notice that Gulf Coast Ecosystems is stocking them again for the first time in... forever? Eight dollars for the basic varieties (brown, white, green, etc.) and fifteen for the red ones. https://www.live-plants.com/rockflower.htm

I'd grab a few but honestly I don't think I have any place left to put them! 😁 The cheap RFAs from Reef Cleaners are almost certainly more colorful and vibrant, but GCE does an amazing job of packing and shipping and I have always been satisfied with their products, so I have to imagine their 'nems will at least arrive in good condition and settle down quickly.

 

5 hours ago, Pjanssen said:

I think I'm having this issue too. Considered turning the Koralia off for a little while to see if it helps, but I don't think the Gorgs will like that.

It's a really tricky balance to keep gorgonians and Ricordea together, 'cause Rics definitely do not like heavy flow all that much. I've found that mine can adapt to it over time, but it takes quite awhile and even now the two turquoise Rics in the center of my tank get a little blasted when the MP-10 goes all-out in random mode.

 

Also thank you all for your kind words, it always warms my heart to know that other people enjoy this tank as much as I do. 😊

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billygoat

Here's a close up! The Maw of Murder, Discosoma neglecta. This mushroom is about four inches (10 cm) across. It may occasionally eat your fish but I nonetheless highly recommend it.

 

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billygoat

I had some Halimeda go sexual on me last night! :naughtydance: It's less exciting than it sounds. But still pretty cool.

 

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Halimeda and other calcifying green algae sometimes blanch out at night or when they are disturbed, especially during shipping. That is a normal behavior that results from the algae's chloroplasts migrating away from the surface, causing it to lose its color. But when algae go sexual they actually expel their chlorophyll, turning bone white with little green fuzzy clumps on the surface. Looks just like this!

 

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BearTheSquare
1 hour ago, billygoat said:

I had some Halimeda go sexual on me last night! :naughtydance: 

Sounds like you had a pretty weird night man 😂

 

Everything looks awesome though! This tank makes me want to set up a biotope so bad.

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billygoat
1 hour ago, BearTheSquare said:

Sounds like you had a pretty weird night man 😂

It's that kinda hobby I'm afraid. 😉 And thanks for your kind words! Biotopes are definitely a bit more restrictive when it comes to stocking, and more expensive because you are basically obligated to buy things online, but they can be rewarding in their own way. 😊

 

With that fairly large clump of Halimeda removed, the "thicket" area at the back right-hand corner of the tank was looking a little thin. So I took the opportunity to add another big piece of new rock! 😁

 

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So blindingly white! But I think it will be nice and colorful in a couple of months time. I'll have to think for awhile before I decide what I want to put on it, if anything. I'm in it for the long haul here folks; there is no hurry.

 

Here's a top-down shot showing the new rock in the back:

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I think all of this new rock may be leaching some organics that are contributing to my recent cyano blooms. I trust John at Reef Cleaners and know his rock is very meticulously cleaned, but no amount of soaking or pressure-washing is likely to get all of the stuff that's locked away in there. I think it's only a matter of time before all of it leaches out and gets consumed though. Hopefully the cyano streamers that appear on the tips of my macro and gorgs at the end of every day will vanish when that happens.

 

Kinda cool to watch that rock coloring up slowly over time. In that top-down shot above you can see the difference between the first fragments I added (up in front) versus the brand-new addition (in the back). Green coralline is already starting to colonize the front rocks, which is pretty neat to see. They've only been in there for about 10 days.

 

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billygoat

I crossed shaving brush algae (Penicillus dumetosus) off my stocklist after trimming it all away last week. The algae seems to have noticed this and taken it personally. 😂 I guess I'll have to put it back on there, because it's clearly not done yet!

 

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billygoat

Reinforcements have arrived! 😁

 

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I got the following from Reef Cleaners:

2 Nerite snails

3 Blue-leg hermits

3 Green porcelain crabs

1 rock flower anemone

pods!

 

I also ordered 10 dwarf Cerith snails. I left a note on the order saying "Go easy on the snails John! I just need a few for my refugium." I'm sure you know how this story ends. 😅

 

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Most of these hundred or so snails are very small even by dwarf Cerith standards, so I just went ahead and added them. The larger ones of the bunch went into the 'fuge.

 

The RFA looks very nice! It attached immediately and seems healthy. It has an orange striped oral disc with a bright green center, and I think it's going to be really pretty once it settles down and inflates itself. Here's what it looked like moments after being added to the tank:

 

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In other news, cyanobacterial growth continues to be a persistent problem. I dropped the photoperiod down from 14 hours to 12. I also tested for organics yesterday and found that nitrate was at 2ppm and phosphate was undetectable. These are the lowest numbers I have ever recorded for this system. It's possible that my new rock additions are in fact leaching phosphates that are being immediately consumed by cyano and therefore don't show up in the water, so I can't rule that out completely, but these results took me by surprise. I wonder if this low-nutrient situation is somehow contributing to cyano growth? Seems like the opposite should be true! 🤔

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Amphrites

That's a very pretty nem.

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Kangster911

+1

You sir are making me want to get a rock flower anemone and I never ever wanted one.

Can I please ask what test kit you are using? I got API Reef master kit and I have a hunch that it is not accurate. I tested my RODI water and it says I have Nitrate and Phosphate...

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billygoat

The new RFA is definitely awesome! It went for a bit of a walk but still remains in a more or less visible location. Check it out under the evening lights:

 

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For $8 I have to say I am pretty satisfied with this purchase. It's a shame RC only stocks them like once a year, though with this quality I can kind of understand why.

 

53 minutes ago, Kangster911 said:

Can I please ask what test kit you are using?

I use Red Sea test kits - the Marine Care multi-test kit, Phosphate Pro kit, and Reef Foundation Pro kit, to be specific. They are quite a bit more expensive than API kits but seem to be considerably more reliable, so I decided to invest in them. I'm pleased with them so far as they are fairly easy to use and read.

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billygoat

Thursday is maintenance day, and that means it's time for another top-down shot!

 

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I've added a few more pieces of rock here and there. I'm really liking the "rubble zone" look created by all the little rocks and shells strewn about everywhere. This sort of clutter probably drives a lot of reefers nuts, but it's growing on me. 😁

 

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Tigahboy

Looks great!  

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billygoat
8 hours ago, Tigahboy said:

Looks great!  

Thanks Tigah! Means a lot coming from you! 😁

 

The new RFA has adjusted to my tank with remarkable speed. It ate some frozen mysis this morning, and by the afternoon it was looking completely settled in. Check it out near the center of this picture, acting like its been on the reef since day 1:

 

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billygoat

I was skeptical at first, but it seems that these green porcelain crabs really are quite peaceful and get along with each other just fine. Here's a pair of them hanging out together at feeding time this morning. They are definitely super cool animals and I like them very much. I hope they do well in the long term!

 

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TatorTaco

I got one of those crabs from John and while it’s great to have as a minuscule part of CUC, I never see the fella. 😞

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Kangster911

I also have those guys from Reef Cleaners. They are almost always hiding and only come out when they smell food or after the lights go out. They never bother anyone and are fun to watch as they use their 'nets' to catch whatever food is floating in the water.

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Amphrites

One looks awfully blue to be called green =p

 

Supposedly the blue are more red and the white are probably some form of abstract painting... Who names these animals lol?

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billygoat
7 hours ago, Amphrites said:

One looks awfully blue to be called green =p

I think that's just the light! I snapped that photo this morning before the whites came on. But I agree that they do have some weird trade names... certain parts of these "green" ones are a bright vibrant blue. Go figure. 🤷‍♂️

 

Porcelain crabs are definitely very skittish and reclusive, but I've noticed that if I sit quietly and observe my aquarium I can often see them peeking out of cracks in the rock and flicking their strange appendages as they filter the water. My rockscape is also arranged in such a way that I can look into the caves and see them silhouetted inside, which is a pretty cool effect. I think they're a very interesting little addition that makes careful observation of a nano reef even more rewarding.  😊

 

Here are a few photos from this afternoon. All the tiny snails I got from RC a few days ago have come out of their shipping torpor and are now practically covering the glass. There are so many! At least now I won't have to scrape it as often I guess. 😂

 

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Ratvan

I do love that Snail army shot

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