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billygoat

Billy's 18g Caribbean Biotope - Breakdown Complete!

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Amphrites
1 hour ago, Pjanssen said:

Refreshing? Way too much science for me, but I'll concede and admit the I was misinformed.

You weren't misinformed, just lacking in context lol. Cyanobacteria blooms from agricultural and industrial runoff can and have created shifting-perpetual (usually-hypoxic) dead-zones which kill anything that enters them, similar animals/bacteria/w-e are also frequently responsible for "red tides", "blue-green algae", and other blooms of neurotoxin-producing organisms which frequently-result in massive swaths of dead or dying wildlife. Other major sources can be largescale-upwelling events, really a fair-few natural-processes (not going to derail and start rambling)... Cyano is already in everyone's tank, the problems we run into in the hobby begin when it becomes a primary form of nutrient-uptake or algae.  (Just like Dino's, unfortunately I've found informing either organism of this fact does very little when they've become a problem...)
That said, direct application of H2O2 @ concentrations not exceeding 1-2ml per gallon will ABSOLUTELY clear it up.

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billygoat

I see a fresh new sprout peeking up! It's time for Shaving Brush: The Next Generation. Still growing directly out of the top of my live rock... 😂

 

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billygoat

The view from this side (the right side) is starting to look a bit more interesting as the tank begins to fill in. Don't mind the Maw down there at the bottom left; it's acting weird tonight. It's either trying to split or trying to move. Perhaps it is getting shaded by the shaving brushes and soft coralline overhead and is attempting to re-orient itself to catch some extra light.

 

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billygoat

As of yesterday my new shaving brush sprout seems to be bleaching! Very unusual; I have seen these algae send up new shoots several times in the past but have never seen them do this before. The stem of the new sprout is still bright green, and the bristles seem to be soft and flexible like they're supposed to be, so I'm hoping it's just some kind of weird phase. I know that these calcifying green macros have a very simple cell structure that allows them to move their chloroplasts around freely, which causes them to occasionally look white or blanched (Halimeda are famous for this; at night they often look pale because their chloroplasts migrate away from the algae's surface), so this may be nothing to worry about. I'll keep an eye on it.

 

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Overall the tank is looking pretty good though. My gorgonians in particular seem to be extremely happy. I'm seeing very good polyp extension every day, even from the stubborn Plexaura. Hopefully it will stay that way! 😊

 

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billygoat

@Wonderboy has convinced me that having a protected space to support a population of pods is a key component of any "natural" reef, so I'm locked in on my plan to reinstate a refugium. I'll probably try growing Ulva in it this time around; I'll place an order just as soon as I can do so without violating my self-imposed moratorium on new livestock for the month of June. Perhaps I'll pick up a few other interesting macros or inverts as well. 😉

 

As for the fourth fish... now that it's coming down to the wire and my moratorium has almost expired, I am thinking that I don't really need one. The two gobies and one blenny are enough for me, I think. They have spread themselves throughout the tank in a nice balanced way, and each of them has a good-sized territory. I think I would rather they stay happy than risk crowding them out by adding another fish. 

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billygoat

Not the best day on the reef today! I lost a scarlet hermit crab this morning, which puts me down to one left. When the lights turned on in the AM I found the crab wandering aimlessly without a shell, very weak and apparently disoriented. I attempted to help him get into a new shell, but he seemed uninterested and kept wandering off. I left him shell-less and headed to work, and when I came home I found no sign of him. I assume his succulent corpse was devoured by my monstrous brittle star.

 

A bit of a shame! And my ATO was acting a little weird this morning to boot. I unplugged it for the day, then plugged it back in at night and so far it seems okay... it's got me a little worried though. The ATO is not even needed right now as I am running a complete lid with zero evaporation, but if it turns on and gets stuck on that's obviously a problem. 😅

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billygoat

Here's an obligatory photo update as well: the blenny king in repose on his majestic throne. That Halimeda opuntia is going nuts near the front of the tank; if it keeps up it's going to be as tall as my gorgonians! 

 

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Fisker

Love that species of Halimeda! The only species I ever had was Carpeting Halimeda, which quickly went sexual in my tank. It was a pretty ugly mess anyway, when it arrived.

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billygoat
12 hours ago, Fisker said:

Love that species of Halimeda! The only species I ever had was Carpeting Halimeda, which quickly went sexual in my tank. It was a pretty ugly mess anyway, when it arrived.

Calcifying algae are generally pretty good about not going sexual, but it does occasionally happen, especially as a result of shipping stress. I once had some Cymopolia that arrived in a bag of brown water after having dumped all its chlorophyll in transit. Worst shipping water I ever did smell, by a long shot. That one definitely didn't last very long. 😅

 

I grabbed a quick FTS this morning before going to town with my turkey baster. This photo is pretty grainy now that I look at it more closely, but, well... you get the idea. 😁 It looks alright in there, just trust me!

 

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BearTheSquare

Big fan of how natural this tank looks. Looking great!

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billygoat
10 hours ago, BearTheSquare said:

Big fan of how natural this tank looks. Looking great!

Thank you! There is really not very much to my system, but I've gotten an enormous amount of support from the community here at N-R and it really has driven me to make my tank the best biotope that it can be. I appreciate all of you folks who stop by and read my journal; it really does make a difference to know that my aquarium is enjoyed by more than just me. 

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Firefish15
On 6/24/2019 at 8:51 PM, billygoat said:

I'll place an order just as soon as I can do so without violating my self-imposed moratorium on new livestock for the month of June. Perhaps I'll pick up a few other interesting macros or inverts as well. 😉

Good job on the self-restraint! I think you'll make it! :lol:

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billygoat
11 hours ago, Firefish15 said:

Good job on the self-restraint! I think you'll make it! :lol:

I'm not gonna lie, it's been a pretty hard month. 😅 I've actually already got a few new macros on order... but don't worry, they won't arrive for a week, so we'll already be in July by the time they get here. Safe! 😁

 

I'm excited to get my 'fuge back up and running. I've missed having pods around!

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billygoat

Recently I have observed some amazing growth in my Hidden Cup Coral, Phyllangia americana. This is a small NPS coral that is common in shallow waters in the Caribbean. I did not have a positive ID on it for the first three or four months of having it in my tank, so I never fed it intentionally; I assumed it was photosynthetic (it's brown in color, after all) and was mystified by its lack of growth. Here's what it looked like back in March:

 

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And here's the same coral from today:

 

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It now has something like three times as many heads as it started out with, and has developed lovely greenish translucent tentacles that are extended all the time. Turns out that those NPS corals grow when you feed them! Who knew? 😅

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Amphrites

Looks allot like dendro, that's a really cool animal to have as a hitchhiker.

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Maddie

Those Cup Corals are so cool! I've thought about sun coral but I'm so busy and I wouldn't want to starve them. 

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billygoat
7 hours ago, Amphrites said:

Looks allot like dendro, that's a really cool animal to have as a hitchhiker.

Agreed. Of all the random things I've had come into my system so far, it's got to be one of my favorites. It's audaciously healthy, and very beautiful despite its rather drab coloration.

 

1 hour ago, Maddie said:

Those Cup Corals are so cool! I've thought about sun coral but I'm so busy and I wouldn't want to starve them. 

Sun Corals are quite a bit larger than my Phyllangia and may be a different story, but keep in mind that I didn't even know this thing needed to be fed for the first three months that it was in my tank. It didn't grow at all during that period, but it didn't die either! 😅 It also seems to eat literally anything... I've seen it take frozen mysis, pellets, flakes, reef roids, bits of pulverized krill, turkey-bastered detritus, and even stray fragments of algae floating in the water column. So they might end up being easier to keep than you think! That being said, you might need to end up supplementing Ca and Alk to meet the coral's needs. But feeding at least would probably be no problem.

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Maddie
18 minutes ago, billygoat said:

Agreed. Of all the random things I've had come into my system so far, it's got to be one of my favorites. It's audaciously healthy, and very beautiful despite its rather drab coloration.

 

Sun Corals are quite a bit larger than my Phyllangia and may be a different story, but keep in mind that I didn't even know this thing needed to be fed for the first three months that it was in my tank. It didn't grow at all during that period, but it didn't die either! 😅 It also seems to eat literally anything... I've seen it take frozen mysis, pellets, flakes, reef roids, bits of pulverized krill, turkey-bastered detritus, and even stray fragments of algae floating in the water column. So they might end up being easier to keep than you think! That being said, you might need to end up supplementing Ca and Alk to meet the coral's needs. But feeding at least would probably be no problem.

To be honest, I don't actually feed my tank except for a tiny pinch of Reef Roids every few weeks. My goby is a picker, and my hermits and snails eat any algae and decaying matter, keeping the tank really clean. It's worked very well for me so far, and keeps it extremely low maintenance besides top offs and water changes. 

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billygoat
11 hours ago, Maddie said:

To be honest, I don't actually feed my tank except for a tiny pinch of Reef Roids every few weeks. My goby is a picker, and my hermits and snails eat any algae and decaying matter, keeping the tank really clean. It's worked very well for me so far, and keeps it extremely low maintenance besides top offs and water changes. 

I ran my tank like that for a really long time as well. I think for the first two and a half months or so I barely fed anything at all. It was kind of nice; in fact for awhile there I was thinking of trying to make it a totally self-sustaining system, with just pods for the fish to eat and herbivores to consume the algae. These days I feel that I have to feed in order to keep nutrient levels high enough for all the different macros I have though.

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billygoat

Home at last after a very long day, and the Terror Star is preparing for its nightly prowl. This thing is the real boss of my tank. It's the biggest animal in there by a pretty considerable margin!

 

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billygoat

I put together some photos from the past month to show how far my purple sea rod (Plexura flexuosa) has come. It has really taken a total U-turn since being first introduced to my tank; in the beginning it was so upset from shipping that I was certain it was going to die, but over the past few weeks it has gradually improved every day. Now it looks healthy and happy! It's crazy to think that at one point I was considering just giving up and throwing this animal away - that's how sure I was that it wasn't going to make it. The danged thing sure proved me wrong though, and I am happy for it. 😊

 

5/26. About 4 days after I added it, the gorg was getting chewed on by my brittle star. Pieces of dead flesh were falling off the tips. It looked pretty dire.

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5/31. Tiny polyps were just starting to show, but tissue loss continued. Several branches disintegrated within the next week and had to be clipped.

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6/19. By this point tissue loss had ceased, and polyp extension was becoming more regular and prominent. A good portion of the original skeleton ended up getting clipped off, but what remained looked pretty good! It was well on the road to recovery.

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Today, 6/29. Full, fuzzy polyp extension from the tips of the branches all the way down to the edge of the base. It's even starting to grow on the left hand side! I think at this point it is safe to declare this animal healthy.

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Plexaura is a temperamental gorgonian and a delicate shipper, but is very beautiful once it becomes established. Here's hoping it continues to grow and thrive in the months and years to come! 😁

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Fisker

Gorgeous! I gotta get me one of those, when the time comes.

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billygoat
On 6/29/2019 at 5:58 PM, Fisker said:

Gorgeous! I gotta get me one of those, when the time comes.

I recommend it! If you are interested in any of the various Caribbean photosynthetic gorgonians I definitely recommend KP Aquatics. They carry quite a variety of gorgs and all of them are reasonably priced. The four different species of gorgonian I have in my tank all came from KP, so I'd definitely consider them a trustworthy vendor. I also like that they do not ship their gorgs on frag plugs or rubble fragments, so you can glue the gorgs down exactly where you want them without having to worry about giant plugs muddling up your aquascape.

 

That being said, if a big plug is what you're looking for (either because you want to mount the gorg right on your sandbed or for whatever other reason), Gulf Coast Ecosystems (www.live-plants.com) stocks a similar selection of gorgonians that do come on plugs. Also very affordable prices, and they even ship cheaply by priority mail.

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Fisker

Thanks for tip!

 

I like big plugs, and I cannot lie...

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billygoat
34 minutes ago, Fisker said:

Thanks for tip!

 

I like big plugs, and I cannot lie...

Only issue with Gulf Coast Ecosystems is that they don't stock Plexaura sp. like the one I posted about above. I have to imagine that that particular genus would do very poorly shipping by 3-day Priority Mail, so that's probably why. They have a lot of other much hardier gorgs that do hold up well in shipping though, and at the price the plugs can't be beat. 😉 Gorgonians from the genera Pseudopterogorgia, Muricea, Muriceopsis, and Eunicea are all good choices that ship well and are tough as nails.

 

In other news... July is here, and that means I can get new livestock again! Hooray! :naughtydance:

 

So Billy, how was the one-month moratorium? What did you learn from this experience?

As difficult as it was to not add anything new to my aquarium for a fairly prolonged period of time, I have to say that it seems to have been great for the tank. Everything seems very stable and balanced, and my issues with nuisance algae (cyano, diatoms) seem to have melted away. During this month I had more energy to devote to maintenance and established a regular dosing routine that seems to be working out pretty well. The ban on new livestock also encouraged me to pay more attention to the stuff I already have in the tank, which actually turned out to be really gratifying as I was able to focus on the details of each individual specimen and see them thrive and grow.

 

That being said, I of course already have a new order coming in from Reef Cleaners. It ships today! 😅 I got:

 

1 Peppermint shrimp

1 Green porcelain crab

2 Micro decorator crabs (Naxia sp.)

Green "Agardhiella" (John Maloney's new mystery alga. I'm curious to see what this one is like.)

Laurencia sp.

Ulva (for the 'fuge, which is coming back online very soon!)

A bunch of pods (hooray for pods!)

 

I have a very poor track record with crustaceans, so let's hope that a month of stability has finally set the stage for their success! 🤞 Expect plenty of pictures once everything arrives!

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