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Billy's 18g Caribbean Biotope - Breakdown Complete!

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Sharbuckle

Thanks for the update. I really enjoy this tank. Makes me miss my gorgonians. 

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billygoat

Hey everyone! Just a quick update today. I've done some minor rearranging and removed a few things, but overall nothing major has changed in the tank. Everything is still truckin' along. Here's a new FTS from yesterday:

 

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The biggest change has been the addition of some Codium to my display. This algae was living in my sump chambers for a long time, but it never really did well back there (probably because there's not enough water movement). I moved it back into the display side and it seems to be much better. In the back chambers it was getting overgrown with hair algae, but in the display snails and such can easily keep it free of epiphytes. I think it looks pretty nice.

 

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Okay, that's it for now! I'm going to try to be better with updates, so I hopefully will have some new photos before too long!

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Sharbuckle

Looks great. Codium is such an interesting macro. I like the texture, it almost feels rubber and fake. 

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Tired

I'm a fan, too. I love the texture it adds. And it impresses me how well it does with algae on it- justs sits there all "okay" until something takes the algae off. 

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billygoat
17 hours ago, Sharbuckle said:

Looks great. Codium is such an interesting macro. I like the texture, it almost feels rubber and fake. 

 

6 hours ago, Tired said:

I'm a fan, too. I love the texture it adds. And it impresses me how well it does with algae on it- justs sits there all "okay" until something takes the algae off. 

I agree with both of you - the Codium is a very interesting macro. I've noticed that it's quite cosmopolitan as well, with many temperate and cold-water species that look very similar. I occasionally find it washed up on the beach here in California, and it amazes me to see how similar the colder-water variants look. Its weird, fuzzy branches and spongy texture are unique among macros available in the hobby. And as a bonus, it doesn't seem to get eaten by anything (unlike many other macros I've tried, which quickly get consumed by my tank's inhabitants).

 

As promised, I have a few more photos to post today! I decided to do a few then-and-now shots. Let's start with a beautiful shell that I added to the tank a few months ago. This specimen was hand-collected in the Caribbean back in the '90s. Here's what it looked like when I tossed it in the tank in April, compared to what it looks like today:

 

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It sure didn't take too long for various coralline species to completely encrust that thing! It's wild to look at the progress.

 

Next is my Caribbean tube coral. This guy started off as a tiny hitchhiker, but has since grown into one of my favorite things in the tank. Here's a photo from back in January, next to a photo from today:

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Interesting to note that those blue zoanthids at the bottom were doing a lot better back then! They never did recover as well as the green ones after the Great Lighting Disaster of last year.

 

And finally, here's a general shot of the mid-right side of the tank. Lots of things are growing all over the place. The green zoanthids at center started off as a single mutilated polyp that came in as a hitchhiker last year. Now there are more than 20 of them. They're fighting with the branching coralline algae for space in that area.

 

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Okay, that's all for now! Thanks as always for reading.

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billygoat

Hoo boy. It's been a hot minute since I posted! But don't you worry friends - the tank is still going strong. In fact, I'd say that it looks better than ever (knock on wood!). Everything is lush and rich and extended, and my corals and algae are growing like crazy. I haven't really done anything to the tank for a long time, besides routine cleanings and maintenance. No new livestock has been added for many, many months. Water changes are now performed twice monthly rather than weekly. Interestingly, this change in my WC schedule seems to have had no effect on my livestock. I removed my carbon permanently some months ago as well, also to no apparent effect. The tank just keeps getting simpler, and I keep getting more pleased with it.

 

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I did run into a few problems recently with high temperatures. It got super hot here in Los Angeles for awhile there, and my tank's temperature reached up close to 85 degrees on a few of the worst days. I tried to float ice packs (wrapped in plastic bags) in my sump to cool it off, but I didn't have enough ice packs to keep it cool consistently - they melted within minutes once I had them in there, and I couldn't refreeze them fast enough to keep up! In the end, I decided to just see what happened to my corals, and sure enough... nothing really did. One of my gorgonians closed up for a week, then shed and was fine. Overall I was pretty amazed by the resilience of all of my animals. They really just took the hot spell in stride.

 

I also lost a few of my mushrooms (Discosoma carlgreni) to a weird wasting disease. I think the disease was brought in with the red carlgreni mushroom that I purchased way back in March or so. Affected mushrooms melted away over the course of weeks, then detached and just vanished. Strangely, only a few of my mushrooms succumbed - I still have a cluster of perfectly healthy ones on the other side of the tank, and the contagion seems to have petered out. Oh well! 🤷‍♂️

 

Here are some more photos! Gorgonians and ricordea from the left hand side:

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The right-hand side. Not much going on over here, but this is the least-viewed angle of the tank so I think it's okay.

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The zoanthids have gone nuts. They can't be stopped. Soon they will cover everything and I will wish for the days when I had the Maw in here. At least it was easier to move around. 😂

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Big floppy piles of green, blue, and turquoise ricordea. They keep splitting and dividing! I'm not sure what I did right, but they seem to like it.

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That's all I've got for now! Thanks as always for reading.

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lizzyann

Looks great, I've been hoping for an update!

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Tired

Stop tempting me with pretty shrooms! I've already got one little shoulder demon pointing out KP Aquatics' in-stock stuff. Those multi-color ones, hoo boy. I do have this corner I could put some in... 

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billygoat
On 8/28/2020 at 9:42 PM, lizzyann said:

Looks great, I've been hoping for an update!

Thank you! I've definitely been super lazy about posting here (even though I said I would try to get it together and be more active - whoops! 😬) but I am still keeping up with some of my favorite journals... from the shadows! Your tank looks great too.

 

On 8/28/2020 at 9:58 PM, Tired said:

Stop tempting me with pretty shrooms! I've already got one little shoulder demon pointing out KP Aquatics' in-stock stuff. Those multi-color ones, hoo boy. I do have this corner I could put some in... 

All the prettiest of those Rics are indeed from KPA... but the big turquoise ones towards the middle of the pile (the ones that are a bit less flashy) are from Gulf Coast Ecosystems. I paid a whopping $4 for each of them! 😅 Definitely not the worst place to buy Ricordea, though I haven't checked their stock for a long time now.

 

I have a few more pictures to share today! Check out this RFA that I caught in the act of spawning:

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I catch this guy spawning maybe 3 or 4 times a year, usually immediately after the lights go off in the evening. Usually it cups up and assumes a weird fluted shape, but this time it curled up its edges instead, which looked very strange. If you look carefully at this photo you can see a fine plume of creamy... stuff (gametes? planula larvae?)... coming out of the animal's mouth.

 

My Caribbean tube coral has been growing ever larger. It's forcing the zoanthids out of its area, which I don't mind at all because I think it is cooler than they are. I have had some issues identifying this particular specimen - at first I thought it was a Hidden Cup Coral (Phyllangia americana), but after closer observation I have a hunch that it is not actually NPS. I believe it may in fact contain zooxanthellae, more after the style of Acans or similar LPS corals that require light but also have huge appetites. The only lead I have on an actual ID is from this dive website, which unfortunately lists the species as simply "Tube Coral", with no scientific name. The picture there looks quite similar though.

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Also, did you know that I have a fish? Sometimes I forget too! My sailfin blenny (or Fatfaced Pigblenny, as I affectionately call it) is doing very well. Every morning when I pass by the tank, this fish rushes over to the window and attempts to frantically flag me down with its dorsal fin. It's a very enthusiastic animal.

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And here of course are the real goods: close up pictures of gorgonians. What more could you want in your life!? Nothing, surely. Nothing at all.

 

Eunicea (=Plexaura) flexuosa

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Pterogorgia citrina.

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Muricea laxa.

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Okay, that's all for now! More to come soon!

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Tired

Very cool!

 

That would be a male rock flower anemone, then. When RFAs spawn, the males release sperm into the water for the females to fertilize their eggs with. The females retain the eggs inside them until they're tiny anemones, then spit said tiny anemones out. 

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billygoat
On 8/31/2020 at 12:21 PM, Tired said:

Very cool!

 

That would be a male rock flower anemone, then. When RFAs spawn, the males release sperm into the water for the females to fertilize their eggs with. The females retain the eggs inside them until they're tiny anemones, then spit said tiny anemones out. 

Makes sense! I wasn't sure if they were broadcast spawners or brooders, but I guess they must be brooders. This is probably why there are 15+ baby rock flowers in various places in my tank... not entirely sure what I'm going to do when they all grow to full size, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. For the time being I have been avoiding intentionally feeding them, so they don't grow too quickly.

 

Here's a photo from today - ye olde overhead shot. I haven't been using the tank cover for my rear chamber area (I found that removing it helps to moderate temperature when it gets very hot in the room), so coralline algae is starting to grow back there too.

 

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Tired

Mayyy have placed a KP Aquatics order for some ricordea. 

(It's coming in tomorrow.)

 

Huh. I think my super-bleached RFA might be the same color pattern as that one you have on the right. It definitely has an orange disc and that really strikingly contrasted lime green mouth. Assuming it survives, I guess we'll see eventually. 

 

Everything looks really nice, as usual. Jealous. I like the one aiptasia over there like "ha! I live here too!" 

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billygoat
17 hours ago, Tired said:

Mayyy have placed a KP Aquatics order for some ricordea. 

(It's coming in tomorrow.)

 

Huh. I think my super-bleached RFA might be the same color pattern as that one you have on the right. It definitely has an orange disc and that really strikingly contrasted lime green mouth. Assuming it survives, I guess we'll see eventually. 

 

Everything looks really nice, as usual. Jealous. I like the one aiptasia over there like "ha! I live here too!" 

Ha! Good eye there. That Aiptasia and I have come to a sort of... understanding... over the past few years. I look at it real hard most of the time, and occasionally I get in there and melt it with Aiptasia X when I am feeling aggro, but it knows that there is nothing I can really do to permanently kill it, so it always grows back. I figure I am pretty lucky just to not have more of them. 😅

 

How are the new Ricordea from KPA? I am curious as to whether their selection has suffered as a result of the pandemic. I haven't ordered from them since before the lockdown began.

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Tired

I wonder if it's a species of aiptasia that spreads less readily? Or maybe it's just signed a tiny aiptasia contract. Have you found any little scraps of legal paper floating in there? 

 

I'd say their selection is still pretty good. Not all the rics were in stock, but they had a few. I ordered a blue one, a rainbow, an orange, and an 'oddball'. I already had two of these. The big center one, orange one on the right, multicolor one bottom left, and blue one on the far lower left are the ones I got. The color in this picture is... a little off in a way I can't quite define, like every top-down picture I take in this tank is for some reason. Must be the lights. I asked specifically for an orange ric with some blue on it, if possible, and that's what they sent me. I'm very happy! Two of the rics are kinda small, only about 3/4" across so far, but may expand more once they get used to my flow. I also got a yellow-mouthed zoa from them, but it's not open yet. 

image0.jpg?width=840&height=630

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billygoat
5 hours ago, Tired said:

I wonder if it's a species of aiptasia that spreads less readily? Or maybe it's just signed a tiny aiptasia contract. Have you found any little scraps of legal paper floating in there? 

Oh don't worry - that one big guy is definitely not the only aiptasia in my tank. 😅 I find new babies from time to time, but I am usually able to eradicate them before they can spread. The big one though... I feel like it's going to live forever, no matter how many times I attempt to destroy it. 🙄

 

Beautiful rics! I'm glad you're pleased with the purchase, and happy to hear that KPA is still up and running. Those shrooms will definitely get plenty bigger as they acclimate to your system. In fact, I'd recommend trying to space them out a bit if you have room on your rocks. The first time I tried gluing rics down they ended up expanding to a much larger size than I anticipated, and I felt a little foolish for putting them so close together.

 

Those yellow-eye zoanthids from KPA are pretty cool too. I have a few living in the 4g refugee cube next door to my C-Vue:

 

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Tired

Yeah, I've nudged them apart a little since then, they were still pretty scrunched. They're just on some bits of rubble, so they can figure themselves out, and I can move them further again if needed. I'm trying to put them close enough together that it looks nice, but give each one at least one side of itself it can spread/multiply into. Hoping to turn that whole side of the tank into a little garden of them, with some macros sticking up between them for texture differences. Since rics don't seem to mind having things touching them.

 

The yellow-eyed zoas remind me of some of the hornets. I wonder if they're the same species? Either way, I love the shape, and there's something nice about their colors. I'm glad I snagged these, the zoanthids usually seem to be out of stock. Guess they're popular. 

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Tired

image0.jpg?width=472&height=630image0.jpg?width=472&height=630

That blue one just keeps getting bigger! Had to fish the orange one out from under it. Also figured out I can get a decent shot of the actual colors if I do a side view instead of top-down, but that does come with the algae on the glass. Oh well. I could probably fiddle with my lighting to try and make these pop more, but I like the lights how they are. 

I like that these don't seem to mind anything touching them. They're just casually expanding around that macro that won't stay up off the ground. As opposed to some of my other corals (looking at you, acans) that throw an absolute fit when something else touches them. 

They might be getting a tiny bit more flow than they entirely need, some of their bubbles are sort of elongated. I assume the whole coral would shrink up if they were actually bothered, though, and I'm not inclined to go fiddling around with my flow rate and offending everything else when it's not needed. 

Any tips on what these like to eat? I see a lot of varied things when I look it up, so I'm thinking "most small foods" is probably a good bet. I have to feed them something they can eat quick, there are a lot of amphipods in that area and I don't need to feed those buggers any more than what they already get.

 

(Don't worry, I won't hog your thread with my own pics. I just really wanted to show these off once more. I am extremely pleased with them, and unfortunately want to get more. 'Unfortunately' because I don't have all that much free space to put them in. At least they're self-fragging.)

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billygoat

Those look great! I might hold off on getting more if I were you though - you will likely end up with plenty of them once they start to settle down. 😅

 

2 hours ago, Tired said:

They might be getting a tiny bit more flow than they entirely need, some of their bubbles are sort of elongated. I assume the whole coral would shrink up if they were actually bothered, though, and I'm not inclined to go fiddling around with my flow rate and offending everything else when it's not needed. 

Mine tolerate quite a bit of water movement, since I like to keep the flow pretty brisk for my gorgonians. They may take some time to adjust to the conditions in your tank, but if you leave them in once place long enough they will likely adapt to wherever they are placed (provided they aren't getting blasted with heavy direct flow or anything like that). Sometimes their bubbles look "pinched", elongated, or crowded because they have not yet expanded to their full size. Tentacles on the radial edge of the animal's oral disc are also always more elongated than the bubbles on the center part. In some specimens these radial tentacles can become bifurcated and grow quite thick as well.

 

They're fine with macroalgae or other non-coral objects touching them (as long as they are not excessively shaded as a result), but be advised that they will sting any other corals that come in contact with them, and they tend to win coral combat with a lot of other things.

 

2 hours ago, Tired said:

Any tips on what these like to eat? I see a lot of varied things when I look it up, so I'm thinking "most small foods" is probably a good bet. I have to feed them something they can eat quick, there are a lot of amphipods in that area and I don't need to feed those buggers any more than what they already get.

I've seen my Rics eat everything from Reef Roids to frozen mysis, but to be honest I actually don't feed them directly anymore. So far they've been fine with that, though I imagine that they opportunistically catch things out of the water on a regular basis to make up for it. I feed my gorgonians and tube coral a slurry of Reef Roids mixed with Brightwell liquid phyto supplements 3 or 4 times a week, so the Rics more than likely get in on that, even if it doesn't look like they're actively eating.

 

Rics are slow eaters, and take a long time to eat regardless of what they are fed. I seem to recall them gulping down meaty foods a bit faster than particle foods, but that could also just have been my imagination.

 

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Nano sapiens

Good to see the system is still doing well (despite the heatwave).

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Tired

How fast do yours tend to split? I have a couple with multiple mouths (the one I got from ReefCleaners has 3!), and I'm curious if there's a general timeline between the formation of a second mouth and a split, or if it varies too much to be sure. 

 

I guess I can give them mysis and just set it directly next to their mouths, so they can gulp it down quickly. There are amphipods living under them now. I'm not surprised, they're probably great to live under. Can they eat amphipods if one gets on top of them? Because that would be great. 

 

They don't look like they'd have much sting to them, but I know I've read about them stinging other corals. They don't have sweepers, right? Do they just have nematocysts through their whole surface? Seems effective.

Sidenote- these aren't toxic, right? I've handled a couple to place them, and they didn't do anything to me. I've never read about them being toxic, but KP Aquatics has a warning about them. 

Care should be taken when handling any zoanthid, ricordea, mushroom coral, or sea anemone because they use stinging cells called nematocysts to sting and capture their food, and these cells can cause skin irritation and eye damage if it gets on you or in your eyes.

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billygoat
15 hours ago, Nano sapiens said:

Good to see the system is still doing well (despite the heatwave).

I was actually really surprised to see so few negative reactions in my livestock despite a consistent period of daytime temperatures in excess of 84 F. These soft corals and gorgonians are really resilient! I just hope they can keep it up, because more hot weather looks like it's on the way this weekend... 😬 I might need to break out the ice packs again.

 

14 hours ago, Tired said:

How fast do yours tend to split? I have a couple with multiple mouths (the one I got from ReefCleaners has 3!), and I'm curious if there's a general timeline between the formation of a second mouth and a split, or if it varies too much to be sure. 

Speed of splitting seems to vary dramatically between individuals. I've had single-mouth Rics arrive, acclimate, develop another mouth, and split within a matter of maybe 3 or 4 months, but on the other hand I've also had huge multi-mouth Rics take more than a year to finally get around to splitting. The extent to which they feel comfortable with flow, lighting, etc. probably has a significant effect on the speed with which they split. You'll know when they get around to it because the edges begin to pinch inwards at the splitting point.

 

14 hours ago, Tired said:

They don't look like they'd have much sting to them, but I know I've read about them stinging other corals. They don't have sweepers, right? Do they just have nematocysts through their whole surface? Seems effective.

As far as I can tell, nematocysts are present in both the radial tentacles and the "bubbles" on the animal's oral disc. Rics don't have sweepers, but they can expand pretty significantly if they feel the need to throw down in a coral brawl. 

 

14 hours ago, Tired said:

Sidenote- these aren't toxic, right? I've handled a couple to place them, and they didn't do anything to me. I've never read about them being toxic, but KP Aquatics has a warning about them. 

I think that warning from KP is just a generic "don't blame us if something weird happens" reduction of liability. As far as I can tell, Ricordea are not particularly toxic. I've touched them before and felt the stickiness of their nematocysts, but I have never felt stung, nor have I noticed any problems arising from their mucous. Rics produce copious amounts of mucous when squished, poked, or otherwise manhandled, and I've gotten this goop on my hands a number of times with no apparent ill effects. That being said, I would probably avoid getting it in your mouth or eyes if possible. You never know what might happen with these weird sea creatures and their defenses. 😅

 

 

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Nano sapiens
1 hour ago, billygoat said:

I was actually really surprised to see so few negative reactions in my livestock despite a consistent period of daytime temperatures in excess of 84 F. These soft corals and gorgonians are really resilient! I just hope they can keep it up, because more hot weather looks like it's on the way this weekend... 😬 I might need to break out the ice packs again.

I ran my 55g at 84-85 in the summer for many years (softies, shrooms, monti cap, leptastrea, pearl bubble) without any issues.  The summer average water temp in the Philippines, for example, is around 84  :)

 

Stocking on the light to lmedium side is advisable due to the higher overall aquarium metabolism and less O2 in the water (protein skimmer and/or air diffuser/pump can help with O2).

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billygoat
1 hour ago, Nano sapiens said:

I ran my 55g at 84-85 in the summer for many years (softies, shrooms, monti cap, leptastrea, pearl bubble) without any issues.  The summer average water temp in the Philippines, for example, is around 84  🙂

 

Stocking on the light to lmedium side is advisable due to the higher overall aquarium metabolism and less O2 in the water (protein skimmer and/or air diffuser/pump can help with O2).

Good point about the oxygen depletion during hot weather! I hadn't thought of that, but it's almost certainly a stress factor in my tank. Most of my livestock are invertebrates, with only one small fish, but metabolic activity no doubt increases considerably during heat waves nonetheless. I may add an airstone or something like that if the temperature climbs very high again.

 

Now that you mention the natural high ocean temperatures in summertime, I recall watching an amateur dive video from Key Largo in Florida awhile back, and being amazed at the diver's equipment displaying a sub-surface (probably 30 ft. or so depth) temperature of 88 degrees! Perhaps these nearshore corals are more resilient than we give them credit for. 🤔 

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billygoat

Goodness, it's been a hell of a week here in Los Angeles! An extreme heat wave and accompanying power outages took my tank for a ride, but it looks like most everything is going to pull through.

 

At first the outages weren't so bad, as they were planned rotating blackouts that only lasted an hour or so at a time, but on Sunday the heat dialed up to truly sweltering levels (it was 104 F at my computer desk, where I now sit typing this message) and some electrical equipment in my neighborhood exploded under the strain. The resulting blackout lasted 30 hours, and its effects on my tank were fairly severe.

 

Thankfully my VorTech battery backup kept circulation going in the C-Vue, saving its inhabitants from suffocation. Severe temperatures were more difficult to address, with tank temps climbing to nearly 87 F during the peak of the heat wave, but amazingly everything seems to have survived. Some of the gorgonians were a bit distressed by the heat and lack of light, but they are all beginning to come back around and I believe all will be just fine. 🤞

 

It's now been two days since the outage, and my gorgonians are making progress on re-extending their polyps.

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Unfortunately, the 4 gallon Waterbox refugee cube was much more heavily impacted by the blackout. It has no battery backup, and without a battery powered air pump I had no way to keep the water oxygenated except by manually agitating it (I picked up cupfuls of water and poured them back into the tank to simulate circulation). I could only do this when I was awake though, so while I was sleeping the tank simply sat stagnant for 6 or 7 hours at a time. Yikes! 😬 The temperature in the tiny tank also went completely out of control. At one point it was over 90 F!

 

This was devastating for the corals, especially the Maw. It began spewing huge amounts of mucus, clouding the water and causing even more problems. I moved as much livestock as I could into the C-Vue and performed multiple water changes on the cube (mixing the salt water manually with a spoon - thankfully it was so hot that I didn't need a heater) to keep the remaining animals alive, but some of them still look like they're on the ropes. The Maw in particular has detached and is in bad shape. Here's what the tank looks like now:

 

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Briareum, as you can see, does not care much about extreme heat, hypoxia, or toxic mucus in the water. It's fine. The rest of the stuff I am less sure about. We'll see what happens.

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banasophia
23 minutes ago, billygoat said:

Goodness, it's been a hell of a week here in Los Angeles! An extreme heat wave and accompanying power outages took my tank for a ride, but it looks like most everything is going to pull through.

 

At first the outages weren't so bad, as they were planned rotating blackouts that only lasted an hour or so at a time, but on Sunday the heat dialed up to truly sweltering levels (it was 104 F at my computer desk, where I now sit typing this message) and some electrical equipment in my neighborhood exploded under the strain. The resulting blackout lasted 30 hours, and its effects on my tank were fairly severe.

 

Thankfully my VorTech battery backup kept circulation going in the C-Vue, saving its inhabitants from suffocation. Severe temperatures were more difficult to address, with tank temps climbing to nearly 87 F during the peak of the heat wave, but amazingly everything seems to have survived. Some of the gorgonians were a bit distressed by the heat and lack of light, but they are all beginning to come back around and I believe all will be just fine. 🤞

 

It's now been two days since the outage, and my gorgonians are making progress on re-extending their polyps.

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Unfortunately, the 4 gallon Waterbox refugee cube was much more heavily impacted by the blackout. It has no battery backup, and without a battery powered air pump I had no way to keep the water oxygenated except by manually agitating it (I picked up cupfuls of water and poured them back into the tank to simulate circulation). I could only do this when I was awake though, so while I was sleeping the tank simply sat stagnant for 6 or 7 hours at a time. Yikes! 😬 The temperature in the tiny tank also went completely out of control. At one point it was over 90 F!

 

This was devastating for the corals, especially the Maw. It began spewing huge amounts of mucus, clouding the water and causing even more problems. I moved as much livestock as I could into the C-Vue and performed multiple water changes on the cube (mixing the salt water manually with a spoon - thankfully it was so hot that I didn't need a heater) to keep the remaining animals alive, but some of them still look like they're on the ropes. The Maw in particular has detached and is in bad shape. Here's what the tank looks like now:

 

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Briareum, as you can see, does not care much about extreme heat, hypoxia, or toxic mucus in the water. It's fine. The rest of the stuff I am less sure about. We'll see what happens.

Oh no! So sorry... must be very stressful too... as if there wasn’t enough stressful stuff going on right now... I hope your tanks recover. 💛

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