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Billy's 18g Caribbean Biotope - Breakdown Complete!

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billygoat

Check out these tiny snails! The next generation of cleaners is on the way. 💪

 

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TatorTaco

Wait - you're keeping all these gorgonians in an 18G tank with only the A80 as the light source?  For some reason I thought you had much more light on this tank.  What intensity are you running that little hockey puck at?  How high is it mounted off the water line?  Are you running more blue or more white for the macroalgaes? 

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billygoat
1 hour ago, TatorTaco said:

Wait - you're keeping all these gorgonians in an 18G tank with only the A80 as the light source?  For some reason I thought you had much more light on this tank.  What intensity are you running that little hockey puck at?  How high is it mounted off the water line?  Are you running more blue or more white for the macroalgaes? 

That's correct! I have the A80 mounted slightly more than 7 inches above the waterline. It runs on a 14 hour photoperiod, starting with low blues at 6:30AM, then ramping up pretty quickly to around 75% color and intensity by 10AM. It reaches a peak of 85% color (read: more whites) and 85% intensity at 12PM, stays there for 3 hours, then goes through the whole sequence again in reverse, turning off at 8:30PM with no moonlight cycle. Overall it stays at or above 75% intensity for around seven hours a day.

 

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I used to have it ramp all the way up to 100% for the max midday period, but a few of my mushrooms started crawling towards the shadows for shelter, so I decided to bring it back down a bit. 

 

Coverage is not the absolute best, as there is a bit of shading in the corners. Overall it's really not too bad though. It's a quiet light (silent in fact, since it has no fan) and uses very little energy. Not sure if I'd be doing better with something stronger, but I've been seeing decent growth and the gorgonians seem happy, so I have no complaints about it so far.

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billygoat

Looks like some more reproduction is underway! This mushroom (Discosoma carlgreni) looks to be undergoing pedal laceration. It's been creeping down the rock slowly for a few weeks, and you can see that at the top left of the 'shroom there is a little piece of its foot that it has left behind in its previous location. If I am not mistaken, this bit of foot should eventually grow into a clone of the original mushroom.

 

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Hannahhhh
Just now, billygoat said:

Looks like some more reproduction is underway! This mushroom (Discosoma carlgreni) looks to be undergoing pedal laceration. It's been creeping down the rock slowly for a few weeks, and you can see that at the top left of the 'shroom there is a little piece of its foot that it has left behind in its previous location. If I am not mistaken, this bit of foot should eventually grow into a clone of the original mushroom.

 

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That’s so cool! I was wondering what pedal laceration actually looked like! Thanks for sharing!!

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BearTheSquare

Love the tank, it’s filling in so nice. Awesome news about the mushroom reproduction too!

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billygoat
54 minutes ago, Hannahhhh said:

That’s so cool! I was wondering what pedal laceration actually looked like! Thanks for sharing!!

Of course! I'll be sure to keep an eye on it and post some more pictures as the new mushroom continues to develop and grow.

 

30 minutes ago, BearTheSquare said:

Love the tank, it’s filling in so nice. Awesome news about the mushroom reproduction too!

Thank you so much! It's been a lot of fun to watch things grow in. I'm still working on my photography, but here's another shot from this morning:

 

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Amphrites

My Ricordea just keeps adding new heads, three and counting on the same mushroom lol... Maybe I feed it too much...
Also all that macro just looks so damn good, if gorgs didn't shed so much your tank would have successfully convinced me to buy some, not sure it hasn't just yet tbh...

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billygoat
59 minutes ago, Amphrites said:

My Ricordea just keeps adding new heads, three and counting on the same mushroom lol... Maybe I feed it too much...
Also all that macro just looks so damn good, if gorgs didn't shed so much your tank would have successfully convinced me to buy some, not sure it hasn't just yet tbh...

Gorgonians are great! They don't shed all that much really, and usually the process only takes a couple of days. You can help them along with some strong flow or a bit of turkey basting. Here's a before-and-after of the same shedding gorg from a few days ago and again from this morning:

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It's back to looking shaggy as ever, as you can see! Most photosynthetic gorgonians are extremely easy to take care of and will adapt to a wide variety of conditions. They are an easy way to add some vertical relief and movement to your tank. 😊

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Firefish15
2 hours ago, billygoat said:

I'll be sure to keep an eye on it and post some more pictures as the new mushroom continues to develop and grow

If it starts drifting about, you might need to leave it in a shot glass with some rubble to attach to. That's what I had to do with a discosoma of mine recently.

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billygoat
4 hours ago, Firefish15 said:

If it starts drifting about, you might need to leave it in a shot glass with some rubble to attach to. That's what I had to do with a discosoma of mine recently.

That's a great idea! I'll have to keep that in mind for the next time one of my sessile inverts decides to go whitewater rafting... 🙄

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billygoat

Here's a picture of my kitchen, with my aquarium in the background! 🙄 I'm working on this photography stuff, I swear. Just bear with me folks. 😂

 

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Pjanssen

Your tank looks great and nothing wrong with your photography in my opinion. I ended up phasing my macro algae out in my Florida biotope, but seeing yours makes me want to add some back in.

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billygoat
1 hour ago, Pjanssen said:

Your tank looks great and nothing wrong with your photography in my opinion. I ended up phasing my macro algae out in my Florida biotope, but seeing yours makes me want to add some back in.

Thank you for your kind words! I didn't know you had a biotope; I will have to check it out. 😊

 

I have noticed that many macroalgae-dominant tanks undergo a period of "softiefication" at some point in their lives, where macros are removed in favor of soft corals that are less temperamental, don't break into obnoxious pieces, and are generally easier to care for. This is totally understandable, and I actually did the same thing a few months ago with this system. I eventually decided to re-add many of the macros I removed though, since I thought the tank looked a little too bare without them.

 

For round 2 of macro selection I tried to pick mostly slower-growing calcifying species that would not require frequent pruning. It's working out so far, but I discovered that I do have to dose 2-part now (not something I did previously) because consumption has actually increased to the point that water changes alone cannot keep up.

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Frozen_Reef
1 hour ago, billygoat said:

Thank you for your kind words! I didn't know you had a biotope; I will have to check it out. 😊

 

I have noticed that many macroalgae-dominant tanks undergo a period of "softiefication" at some point in their lives, where macros are removed in favor of soft corals that are less temperamental, don't break into obnoxious pieces, and are generally easier to care for. This is totally understandable, and I actually did the same thing a few months ago with this system. I eventually decided to re-add many of the macros I removed though, since I thought the tank looked a little too bare without them.

 

For round 2 of macro selection I tried to pick mostly slower-growing calcifying species that would not require frequent pruning. It's working out so far, but I discovered that I do have to dose 2-part now (not something I did previously) because consumption has actually increased to the point that water changes alone cannot keep up.

What would you recommend for a 2 part? I’m making my 5 gallon into a macro dominated tank ad I feel like I’ll need to does fertilizer 

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billygoat
1 hour ago, Northwoodsreefer said:

What would you recommend for a 2 part? I’m making my 5 gallon into a macro dominated tank ad I feel like I’ll need to does fertilizer 

I use plain old BRS 2-part, but dosing in a pico system is kind of a different beast. I know that many reefers with sub-5-gallon systems choose not to dose and instead simply do a large water change every week to replenish minerals and nutrients. It also really depends on what sort of algae you end up getting. My tank probably would not require Ca and Alk supplementation if not for the enormous amount of calcifying algae that I keep. And even with all of that coralline and Halimeda, my tank's dosing needs are fairly laid back compared to reefers who keep lots of SPS corals; in fact if I wanted to I could probably even get away with not dosing anything at all. I'm willing to put in the extra effort though, so I add 10ml of liquid sodium bicarbonate a day and 10ml of liquid calcium chloride every 3 days. The composition of the salt you use to mix your saltwater will also impact your dosing decisions.

 

All things considered I would probably hold off on dosing anything until your tank is well established and you do plenty of testing to determine how much Ca, Alk, and Magnesium your system consumes on a daily basis. There's a good chance you won't need to bother adding anything at all.

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Frozen_Reef
2 minutes ago, billygoat said:

I use plain old BRS 2-part, but dosing in a pico system is kind of a different beast. I know that many reefers with sub-5-gallon systems choose not to dose and instead simply do a large water change every week to replenish minerals and nutrients. It also really depends on what sort of algae you end up getting. My tank probably would not require Ca and Alk supplementation if not for the enormous amount of calcifying algae that I keep. And even with all of that coralline and Halimeda, my tank's dosing needs are fairly laid back compared to reefers who keep lots of SPS corals; in fact if I wanted to I could probably even get away with not dosing anything at all. I'm willing to put in the extra effort though, so I add 10ml of liquid sodium bicarbonate a day and 10ml of liquid calcium chloride every 3 days. The composition of the salt you use to mix your saltwater will also impact your dosing decisions.

 

All things considered I would probably hold off on dosing anything until your tank is well established and you do plenty of testing to determine how much Ca, Alk, and Magnesium your system consumes on a daily basis. There's a good chance you won't need to bother adding anything at all.

Okay, I’m getting a massive reef cleaners order ($50 or so) and it’s coming with a lot of macro the my 5 gallon. Lowkey hoping to find a whitespotted Pygmy filefish for the tank...or I’ll move my clown over 😂

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Amphrites

Seachem two-part is solid, but not balanced so if you follow their dosing guidelines your alk will supposedly slowly fall, that said nano tanks are weird and I rarely need to dose anywhere near as much alk as the Cal-Mag complex.

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billygoat
2 minutes ago, Amphrites said:

Seachem two-part is solid, but not balanced so if you follow their dosing guidelines your alk will supposedly slowly fall, that said nano tanks are weird and I rarely need to dose anywhere near as much alk as the Cal-Mag complex.

I, on the other hand, find that my system consumes Alk quite steadily but uses much less Ca and so little Magnesium that water changes alone seem sufficient to keep levels up around 1300. It really goes to show how dosing needs vary wildly depending on your tank size, salt, and what you keep in your tank!

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Pjanssen
5 hours ago, billygoat said:

Thank you for your kind words! I didn't know you had a biotope; I will have to check it out. 😊

you're welcome. It's my IM 14. Just a little over 2 years old.

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billygoat

Yesterday I decided to do a bit of redecorating! A few minor changes took place:

  • I removed the large clump of red Galaxaura at the center left of the front display. It was growing, but only in a very leggy and frankly rather ugly fashion, and was getting so long that it was beginning to irritate my gorgonians. I have a few frags of it growing in other locations in the tank, so it will remain on my stocklist. I think its gangly growth pattern was due to either too much flow or not enough light.
  • I replaced the unmanageable Galaxaura with a clump of rigid coralline algae from the back right of my tank. This coralline was also brushing up against my gorgonians and needed to be relocated, so I think this move worked out well.
  • I trimmed back my red grape alga (again, to keep it off the gorgs), glued the frags to a shell, and placed it on the other side of the tank. They get even more light and current now, so hopefully they will grow in their new location.

Here's the new layout! I think it's a good look and I am quite pleased with it. All four gorgonians are now free to sway as they please without worrying about rubbing against anything.

 

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knox_legend

Looks great! 

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mitten_reef
1 hour ago, billygoat said:

Yesterday I decided to do a bit of redecorating! A few minor changes took place:

  • I removed the large clump of red Galaxaura at the center left of the front display. It was growing, but only in a very leggy and frankly rather ugly fashion, and was getting so long that it was beginning to irritate my gorgonians. I have a few frags of it growing in other locations in the tank, so it will remain on my stocklist. I think its gangly growth pattern was due to either too much flow or not enough light.
  • I replaced the unmanageable Galaxaura with a clump of rigid coralline algae from the back right of my tank. This coralline was also brushing up against my gorgonians and needed to be relocated, so I think this move worked out well.
  • I trimmed back my red grape alga (again, to keep it off the gorgs), glued the frags to a shell, and placed it on the other side of the tank. They get even more light and current now, so hopefully they will grow in their new location.

Here's the new layout! I think it's a good look and I am quite pleased with it. All four gorgonians are now free to sway as they please without worrying about rubbing against anything.

 

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Do you vacuum the sand at all? Or do you plan to let it balance itself out eventually?  I mean, it looks pretty steady the way it looks, hasn't grown more red cyano(?), but also not less either.  

 

Also does hypnea pannosa fit the biotope theme?  That'd be a killy macro that balance out the missing blue color in this tank!  

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billygoat
20 minutes ago, mitten_reef said:

Do you vacuum the sand at all? Or do you plan to let it balance itself out eventually?  I mean, it looks pretty steady the way it looks, hasn't grown more red cyano(?), but also not less either.  

 

Also does hypnea pannosa fit the biotope theme?  That'd be a killy macro that balance out the missing blue color in this tank!  

I have not been vacuuming the sandbed, though I do occasionally sift through the top half-inch or so with a turkey baster. I've noticed that doing this tends to prompt a temporary bloom of diatoms (you can see the golden color a bit on the sand in the center of the photo above), so I try to be pretty sparing with that sort of cleaning. I'm hoping that the tank will eventually reach a point where the macroalgae have a firm upper hand over the micros and I simply won't have to worry about it anymore, but it's definitely going to take awhile I think. And the red cyano against the front glass is probably going to be a permanent feature, since I don't feel too keen on disturbing the deep substrate just to scrape it off. It's a bit ugly, but I've mostly come to terms with it. It's kinda what I signed up for with a tank like this. 😅

 

Another strategy I'm considering is to cover almost the entire sandbed in Halimeda. Dense mats of Halimeda that cover almost every available inch of substrate are common in nature, and it would also shade my substrate, which would deter cyanobacterial growth. I'm not 100% sure I want to go that route though. It might lead to other problems down the line.

 

As for Hypnea pannosa, that one is unfortunately a pacific species, so I've avoided it so far for my biotope. Very sad because it's extremely beautiful! There is a Caribbean genus that is very similar (Ochtodes), but it seems to be very difficult to find. 😞

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Wonderboy

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?

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