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billygoat

18g Gorgonian Garden - A Caribbean Biotope

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melson

I have a Caribbean biotope myself! Upgraded from an 8g to a cvue 26g recently. Going through a bit of an algae phase right now while everything evens out!

 

It's cool to see what everyone else does with the Caribbean/Florida biotope. Great job! 

 

When I get my polylab lens in I plan on making a thread asap.

 

Keep updating with all you're doing!

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billygoat
4 hours ago, melson said:

I have a Caribbean biotope myself! Upgraded from an 8g to a cvue 26g recently. Going through a bit of an algae phase right now while everything evens out!

 

It's cool to see what everyone else does with the Caribbean/Florida biotope. Great job! 

 

When I get my polylab lens in I plan on making a thread asap.

 

Keep updating with all you're doing!

That's awesome! I can't wait to see where you've taken it and how it overlaps/differs with mine. And you even have (basically) the same tank? How exciting!

 

And of course thanks for your support! 😄 I will do my best to keep the updates coming.

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Firefish15

Still figuring out cyano myself. For some reason, it pops up most on the high-flow side of the tank. 🤨

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billygoat
8 hours ago, Firefish15 said:

Still figuring out cyano myself. For some reason, it pops up most on the high-flow side of the tank. 🤨

I have the same issue... and I know the flow on my substrate is pretty high, because I see gross red filaments of cyano blowing around in the current. Go figure! I thought about picking up a Florida fighting conch, as I've read that they annihilate cyano, but I know that I'd eventually have to rehome it because my tank is too small for an adult. So I'm trying to avoid that option if possible.

 

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Though my aquarium has all sorts of pests, I still have to say that I love the extraordinary biodiversity that uncured live rock has added to my system. All the different shades of coralline algae are breathtakingly beautiful, and even several months after setting up my tank I still find new and interesting hitchhikers from time to time. The large, red, solitary tunicate at the left middle of this picture is one of my favorites. It's been in there filtering since day 1. The other night I was observing the tank after hours with a red light and even found a few small nocturnal chitons grazing on the rocks! Who knows how long they have been in there.

 

That lonely zoanthid in the middle is a hitchhiker as well; it came in on the bottom of one of my ricordea. At first it was so brutalized that I wasn't even sure what it was, but I decided to take a chance and glue it down just to see. Now it has regenerated its tentacles and seems quite happy ^^ Hopefully it will start reproducing before long.

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billygoat

One more shot for tonight 😉 I tried to capture the beautiful deep red glow that my Graciliaria gives off under very blue light, but the photo doesn't really do it justice. This particular species has been my hardiest and most successful macroalgae; it is called Graciliaria hayi and I strongly recommend it to anyone wondering which macros they should add to their tank. It seems to do well under a variety of different lighting and flow conditions, and is quite resistant to epiphytic pest algae as well. This specimen has more than doubled in size in the 2+ months I have had it.

 

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A hitchhiker limpet is also visible on the rock in the middle. I have five or six of these guys that came in at some point. They seem to be the best grazers a reefer could ask for, though they never leave the rocks and also seem to accidentally snack on the edges of corals. So far the damage has been very light, and I am grateful to have them around 🙂 

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billygoat

Here's one for you guys... one of my multi-mouth ricordea dropped a little budling at some point, which tumbled around my tank for awhile before settling in the branches of one of my macros. I thought about pulling it out, but I think I will actually just leave it there and see what happens 😄 It might make for an interesting display if it decides to grow!

 

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Firefish15
16 hours ago, billygoat said:

Though my aquarium has all sorts of pests, I still have to say that I love the extraordinary biodiversity that uncured live rock has added to my system.

It does make it seem more like it's own little ecosystem. All the different layers of diversity. 🙂

I collected my rock from Kenya when I lived there, but it sat dry for a couple of years before I could do anything with it. Would have been nice to preserve the hitchhikers. It was just dead rock when I got it wet again.

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billygoat
3 hours ago, Firefish15 said:

It does make it seem more like it's own little ecosystem. All the different layers of diversity. 🙂

 

Diversity is really where its at! A diverse display is not only beautiful but resilient to the various problems that are bound to eventually occur. That's exactly what I want to have going on in my system.

 

Today has definitely been a "hands in the tank" day, as I did some extensive spring cleaning to try and combat the growth of pest algae. A whole lot of basting, scraping, and tweezering later, my aquarium looks quite a bit better - at least for the time being 😄 I'm sure the cyano will be back tomorrow!

 

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I also pulled out a large, awkward chunk of Cladophoropsis algae that had been languishing for weeks in the front corner of my tank. I think removing it definitely has improved water movement around the corner of my rock structure, and eliminated a major detritus trap as well. Seeing all the gunk come out from under that algae got me thinking about my Gracilaria, so I decided to check under it as well... and found a massive trove of rotting algal fragments and other gross detritus. Luckily the Gracilaria is not attached to my live rock, but instead is glued to a small pebble that sits on the substrate. This makes picking it up and cleaning/trimming it much easier... I just have to remember to do it every once in awhile. ^^

 

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billygoat

Oh jeez, this doesn't bode well...

 

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I have a feeling that at feeding time in the morning, there will be one less masked goby at the table 😅

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748S911
8 hours ago, billygoat said:

Oh jeez, this doesn't bode well...

 

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I have a feeling that at feeding time in the morning, there will be one less masked goby at the table 😅

wow....

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billygoat

Yeah, so that's confirmed, one masked goby devoured by The Maw. A word of caution to my fellow reefers: Discosoma neglecta is a beautiful mushroom, but it will 100% eat your perching fish, so make allowances for that if you're planning to get one! I think I might end up getting a gramma or some other fish that's less likely to set itself down on the mushroom of doom :x

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TatorTaco

That sucks about the goby. 

 

I really hope you continue to post frequently with your discoveries.  I've always been terrified of hitchhikers, so I started with dry rock and religiously dip my corals.   Following your tank has certainly changed my opinion of that, and is swaying me to set up a new tank and just order exclusively from KPA - everything from the liverock to the livestock just to see an un-sterile (is that word?) biotope.  The hitchhikers, the pests, the natural ecosystem all contained in a glass box...I'm incredibly intrigued. 

 

While the tank is still new and you're finding your way through the hobby, do you have any thoughts on what you would have done differently?  Would you have gone with the same tank dimensions or gone with a different size?  I understand that FL is saturated with gorgonians and macros, whereas most corals that come from the Indo-Pacific have more corals and less gorgonians and macros.  I wonder if it would've been preferable to go with a longer/shallower tank if most of these items are usually found at the same depth?  

 

Sorry for the lengthy response, but I'm so incredibly fascinated. 

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billygoat
29 minutes ago, TatorTaco said:

While the tank is still new and you're finding your way through the hobby, do you have any thoughts on what you would have done differently?  Would you have gone with the same tank dimensions or gone with a different size?  I understand that FL is saturated with gorgonians and macros, whereas most corals that come from the Indo-Pacific have more corals and less gorgonians and macros.  I wonder if it would've been preferable to go with a longer/shallower tank if most of these items are usually found at the same depth?  

I think about this frequently, and I have mixed thoughts about how I did things initially. I can tell you that I definitely like the tank I got. The C-Vue 18 is a nice size for what I wanted to do, and Cobalt makes a beautiful aquarium. However I also think that you could make a stunning display with either a longer or taller tank, depending on what you want to focus on. Macroalgae like to take up a lot of space, and the rooting varieties (Udotea, Rhipocephalus, Penicillus, etc.) grow very quickly and will spontaneously propagate by spreading rhizomes through your sand bed. A long tank that focuses on these sand-dwelling plants, with a bunch of sand and a few pieces of rock here and there for other things to attach to, might make for a very interesting display. On the other hand, gorgonians seem to be pretty comfortable growing in close proximity to one another (although a few species do have sweeper tentacles), but require a lot of vertical space to really reach their true potential. A taller tank with less sand and more gorgs could be pretty cool as well.

 

I opted for the middle of the road, with a fairly standard-sized tank that has a decent amount of rock and a decent amount of sand, so I could have both a few gorgs and a few different species of macroalgae. In the end what you get really depends on what you want to keep. I know it's been hammered into all of our heads since day one, but planning and patience really pay off!

 

38 minutes ago, TatorTaco said:

The hitchhikers, the pests, the natural ecosystem all contained in a glass box...I'm incredibly intrigued. 

I have zero regrets about purchasing uncured live rock, despite all the "nasties" that it introduced into my tank. I strongly recommend that you go this route if you are planning on putting together a biotope, as the diversity it adds to your system really makes the whole thing come together. So far the pests in my tank have largely kept each other in check, but you have to be ready to intervene manually if something looks like it might be about to get the upper hand over everything else. It can be a bit more labor intensive than your standard "sterile" setup, especially during the first few months.

 

40 minutes ago, TatorTaco said:

That sucks about the goby. 

Don't worry about it. I felt pretty bad at first, but then I realized that my little ecosystem is just working as it ought to 😅

 

My turn to apologize for the lengthy response! Please let me know if you have any other questions; I could talk about my tank all day 😄

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vlangel

I really like your tank, and I am going to blame you for me wanting a biotope like yours. 😂 I may still do it someday, maybe after seahorses.

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billygoat

Well, today was certainly an interesting day! I had a shipment of livestock coming in this afternoon, and it arrived on time as expected... but it contained, in addition to the few crabs and shrimp I ordered, about a dozen dwarf Planaxis and twenty Nassarius snails! My tank is fed very lightly (once every other day at the moment) and has only three very small fish, so I am not sure how I am going to keep 20 Nassarius snails alive... but it's cool I guess? 😅 I'll do my best!

 

Oh, and my peppermint shrimp was DOA. 😞 I guess I will have to wait a bit longer to see if they will survive in my system...

 

Everything else looks good though! Check out this Caribbean porcelain crab.

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And I picked up a pair of scarlet hermits as well. Hopefully they'll fare a bit better than my previous hermit crabs.

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2 hours ago, vlangel said:

I really like your tank, and I am going to blame you for me wanting a biotope like yours. 😂 I may still do it someday, maybe after seahorses.

I've been very impressed by all your tanks so far, so I'm sure that if you tried a biotope you'd knock it out of the park! Why not go ahead and give it a shot? 😉

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billygoat

It's Friday, and that means it's time to post an FTS! But unfortunately I have to work all day, and the light is very poor in the morning, so this top down shot will have to suffice.

 

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You'll notice I took the heater (75w Neo-Therm) out of the back chambers and placed it in the display. Lately I've been having some problems maintaining a steady temperature in the tank, with temps dipping as low as 73.5 in the evening (at a setpoint of 78) and only reaching ~76 in the day. I think this is probably due to increased evaporative cooling caused by an increase in surface agitation from my powerhead, so I moved the heater into the display for the time being to try and combat this. I thought the temp sensor might have been malfunctioning, as it showed a steady 78 in the back chamber, but sure enough when I moved it into the front it immediately registered that the temperature was unacceptably low. This likely indicates that it was not receiving sufficient water movement over the heating element/sensor while in the back.

 

It's sort of unfortunate, as a heater is not the most attractive thing to have in one's display, but the Neo-Therm is pretty low-profile so hopefully it won't be too intrusive. Plus if the return pump ever fails for whatever reason I won't have to worry about the tank cooling down to dangerous levels!

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Firefish15

I've got the same model of heater, and it's done well for me. It's got a lot of current through the HOB fuge.

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billygoat
3 hours ago, Firefish15 said:

I've got the same model of heater, and it's done well for me. It's got a lot of current through the HOB fuge.

I definitely think it's a good heater. I came home from work today and found my thermometer reading 77.5, which is basically perfect (the temp probe is in first chamber of the sump, so it's usually about 0.5 degrees cooler). So I guess that heater will be staying in the display for now! I'm not too torn up about it.

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Firefish15

One thing that can make it a little less obtrusive is to flip the heater around in the mounting bracket so the temp dial and lights are facing outward. Granted, if you want to see the dial, you have to have it on a glass panel.

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billygoat

That's not a bad idea. I could even mount it under the powerhead, facing out, so all the gear would be in one corner of the display. I'll have to play around with that when I get a chance. Thanks for the tip! 😄 

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billygoat

I posted this rather poor photograph of my unidentified Caribbean hitchhiker coral in the ID forum the other day, and with the help of some N-R members I have decided that it is the "hidden cup coral," Phyllangia americana. This is a common nearshore species from Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, and is apparently quite hardy. I know this because I have had it in my system for three and a half months without even realizing that it is not photosynthetic! 😅

 

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Originally I just assumed it had zooxanthellae, so I put it in one of the brightest spots of my tank... Oh well! It seems to be doing well enough. I'll start spot-feeding it with crushed pellets and see if it begins to grow a bit more. It has long, pretty, transparent tentacles with tips that glow fluorescent green under actinic light.

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melson

I got an Inkbird temp controller to help with the temperature. I also noticed in my Cvue 26g I was having a bit of a variance and since using the Inkbird it's helped.

 

I have two Caribbean porcelain crabs! They are peaceful and very interesting to watch! Once they find their "spot" they rarely move!

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billygoat
8 hours ago, melson said:

I got an Inkbird temp controller to help with the temperature. I also noticed in my Cvue 26g I was having a bit of a variance and since using the Inkbird it's helped.

 

I have two Caribbean porcelain crabs! They are peaceful and very interesting to watch! Once they find their "spot" they rarely move!

I might pick up an Inkbird and try it out. It seems like a whole lot of users in this community endorse them, which makes me more inclined to give it a shot ^^

 

And the porcelain crabs are definitely super cool. I love watching their filtering appendages. I didn't expect them to flick in and out so fast like that!

 

This morning at feeding time I decided to drop a piece of freeze-dried krill into the tank, just to see what would happen... and sure enough, my new army of Nassarius snails emerged from the sand and devoured the entire thing in about 10 minutes. I know they are just snails, but it was actually really entertaining to watch them go to town!

 

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billygoat

Also where's your thread at @melson? I am dyin' to see your biotope 😄

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billygoat

My sea fan stalled out for awhile, and I thought it was preparing to send a new sprout up somewhere in the tank, but over the course of the past ten days or so it has exhibited some unexpectedly rapid growth. These pictures were taken about a week apart:

 

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It's a bit interesting, as I have not really changed my maintenance schedule at all. Perhaps this growth is due to an increase in calcium availability since the removal of my Bryothamnion. I have very few corals, but I think my wide variety of calcareous algae may still be keeping calcium in short supply. In the future I think I might invest in a few BRS dosers and start adding 2-part, especially if cyanobacteria continue to be a problem for me (I've read that raising alk can help combat cyano). Hopefully that won't be necessary though, as I'd like to keep it as simple as I can.

 

Also, here is the Goby King on his Zoanthid Throne. Can you tell that this area is very much his territory? 😄 

 

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