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Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

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OK, so a pretty dull and ugly stage to look at right now to be honest, but if I get my thoughts down, hopefully can prevent the later issue of not remembering how things started out.


Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are a twin tank system, the by-product of a bad urge to tinker, combined with a environmental scientist turned systems analyst reacting to discovering some rampant confirmation bias running through hobbiest level info for reef keeping. They are a sealed pico design, and a big part of what attracts me to that is the attitude of the reefers and pioneers in this field. So many rules have been broken already that the resistance to change and innovation is much lower. My kinda people 🙂



Dr Jekyll is a good an upstanding tank who will follow accepted best practice where possible. He is my control



Mr Hyde will not be following best practice. I will throw whichever half baked ideas I see fit at it to see what happens. He is "Experimental". I use quotations there because I want to say at the outset, scientific method will not be followed, rigorously or at all. I'm doing this for my own entertainment, and with so many potential variables and very long duration required before a system can be declared stable I would need hundreds of almost identical tanks running simultaneously to satisfy scientific method for all the things as I would like to examine. Mr Jekyll will have things thrown at him, I will eyeball their impacts against the control and make judgement calls.



Possibly I will run a third tank (if I can get away with it) which would be a Frankenstein's monster. Taking the best bits of Mr Hyde and stitching them together to see what happens. I'm pushing my luck with two of these atm and I have no successful results to implement now anyways, so this will be a possibility for later on.


I am also an Australian, sourcing items locally and internationally. I will try and keep a record of what I source from where, but at this stage of course I cant back up any recommendations up with results or experience, please just treat it as a list of "look what i found" suggestions.


Experimental suggestions are welcome. I have a few in mind already, and can only test so many at a time, but if someone has a belter of an idea I will be very happy to hear about it.


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Christopher Marks

Welcome to the community @Armstrod👋


It's great to see more reef jars coming online, this is a fun concept with two twins! (One evil? 😈). What kinds of things are you hoping to keep?

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Ah I should have said, the whole concept sounds a bit off the rails if there's livestock involved.


Plan is coral only, maybe some snails if needed. For the more out there ideas Mr Hyde will likely run empty with just live rock and sand while I watch parameters and try to determine if it's safe to proceed to introducing/reintroducing coral.


Ideally I'd like to frag out and have exact same species in both tanks to keep variables consistent.


As for corals, I'm seeing what frags come up cheap at the LFS. I'm just evaluating the tanks stability and waiting on more equipment to arrive currently, so we will see whats in stock when the time comes. 


At this stage I'm primarily looking for hardier species, softies, maybe some zoanthids later, but there was a tiny hot pink morph frag that caught my eye on my last visit who may be Dr Jekylls first guest if its still there when the tank is ready.

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Equipment. (Please keep in mind, this is only a list of items I've been able to source and initial impression. I wouldn't go as far as calling them recommendations as they're unproven and I'm inexperienced.) 


Wins. (I'm happy with these so far, but past performance is no indicator of future results, do your due diligence)


This took a lot of hunting, I couldn't find anything suitable anywhere, and was about to pull the trigger on a $160 piece of glass, when the local kmart suddenly got these in stock


$19 AUD. 38cm(h) x 25cm (d). Empty will comfortable hold between 14l (just below neck, giving larger surface area) or 15l (partway up neck). Nice thick glass, and clear with no join lines.


Lynns. (These are giving me the shits but I'm putting up with them. Category name is a long story... )

Air Pump

***Add brand later***

Sourced at local pet shop, cost too much and its a noisy little bugger with a deeper thrum that can be heard through walls in surrounding rooms. I can do better but it works.


Bins. (Yeah, these didn't work out.)

Ebay Water Heaters.

These actually look great, are small and do the job. But they're stainless steel. Researching after the fact show that any stainless can leach. I might try one in Mr Hyde at some point but the facts behind the no S/S in marine environment does look legit. Would be great for a freshwater setup though.

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Alrighty, bit of a picture update.

Waiting for the cycling became plenty tedious, and with a test kit taking forever to ship (ordered from Amazon Australia, shipped to me from Belgium?!?!) I was into the local fish store almost every weekend begging for water tests.


Net result, kept buying live rock. Pictures are state of play 27/5/19. Honestly now I'm sitting here going way too much rock... things are getting difficult to navigate, but theres no immediate need to pull it out, so will press on.


The live rock had a whole lotta life, Mr Jekyll was suddenly inundated with bristle worms and amphipods. A mild thanos-ing of the worms occurred, just to bring it into balance, as half a dozen suddenly appeared and there isn't a lot to support themspacer.png.


Jekyll 1.gif


Mr Hyde on the other hand was identifying his first internet myth. Can you use regular pool salt in place of a marine mix? Internet says yes and no, My tests, No. Both tanks will now be switching to Natural Sea Water.

Hyde 2.gif

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With tanks jammed to capacity (and then some) with live rock, I decided to cool it with visits to the LFS.


That lasted all of one weekend, and the next weekend sure enough I was there asking for tests again, "Just in case". I had algae growing throughout the tanks and plenty of little critters sunbathing on the empty rocks all day so thought I might be ready. Luck was with me, as the ammonia came back at zero and the owner gave the thumbs up, so I dipped my toe in the water and came home with four corals and a Trochus that the wife has named Ben. (Ugh no pressure keeping him alive then eh?)


Ben carving a path of destruction through the algae, while the new Monti settles in off to the right.(at least I think it a monti? It was in the frag tank at a price I couldn't refuse, but no label.)



Daisy coral in it's trial location. After dramas of it getting caught in the current and summersaulting away from its ledge into the dark unknown recesses of the tank I made the decision to glue it down. Naturally the day after gluing it then started retracting its polyps in the evening and generally acting like it was disliking the lighting, so had to be "unglued" and relocated again. Feels like I'm just powering through the list of all the amateur reefkeeper mistakes at this point... But its how we learn dammit!



A little pair of forest green morphs that immediately appeared as aqua blue under my lighting.




And the Acan! Do have to say, the pictures I'm getting out of the old mobile phone are pretty impressive, at the time I took this, I was barely able to make out the Acan through the algae on the glass etc. Imagine my joy when I looked at the pictures to notice the Aiptasia lurking out the side!


That led to a visit to the LFS, being told no-one had any Aiptasia-X in stock anywhere, a lot of googling, trying to convince the local chemist I wasnt a junkie and please may I have a needle and syringe, my first "surgical procedure" (heartrate at about 160 BPM) while I try to inject lemon juice into the little sucker. Early days though, but I believe it was mission successful, no more Sightings of the little buggers since.


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Then last Thursday I'd decided I simply had to get another Trochus. Ben had slowed right down (full to bursting I suspect). While in the store there were a couple of corals in the "damaged goods" section that caught my eye, and wallet. The new snail was immediately named Tobey McGuire by the missus because why not.


So into Jekyll went a finger leather, attached to the biggest frag rock I've ever seen.


A sad looking lobo, with an absolute infestation of Vermatid snails I'm still trying to figure out... got the ones on the underlying frag rock by sealing them in superglue, but keen to hear any advice on dealing with some that have setup shop on the actual "Mantle" of the coral.




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Later that night, I was surprised by a bivalve hitchhiker, apologies for the blurry picture, but he quickly scooted out of sight. Did learn something about myself, in that I have no idea what the difference is between a mussel, scallop, pipi, clam, cockle etc. So if anyone does have an ID on it, would be keen to know.



Then over the next few days, with some targeted feedings the lobo staged a solid recovery, and I performed my first surgery, sealing in some of the more obvious Vermatid snails with dabs of superglue. Unfortunately it turns out there are more hiding in the mantle still, so I'm now hoping to discover a dip or something to deal with them.



Buoyed with my lobo success, my attention turned to the giant frag rock my leather was sitting on. Gently trimming at the edges I whittled it away until "OH HELL!" the entire thing split in half suddenly and the leather coral was left with only a tiny fragment attached to its foot. So it was returned gingerly to the aquarium in a much more bonsai-ish state, and I wandered off to reflect on the reasons why people shouldn't be doing surgery on household pets.


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After trying without success to glue the small remaining parts of the rock for the finger leather to some base rock, to give some stability while the rest of its foot reattaches, I decided I needed some gel type superglue instead of the watery dollar store stuff I was making do with. So after googling the price and muttering about how $30 was too much, off I trooped to the LFS, money in hand, in order to try and rectify the errors I made with the finger leather.


Naturally the LFS had no glue in stock, and I had $30 of "aquarium money" burning a hole in my pocket. So I did the responsible thing when  you're having a problem getting one coral to attach to some base rock, and bought 5 more unattached specimens. Bring on the attack of the morphs. Please excuse the slime in the first few pictures, The acan apparantley thought the neighbourhood was going to hell.



Later that night, you can see the current bane of my existence, the little pink morph, about to throw itself off of a cliff.



And now we are up to date, with picture below showing the current state of affairs. The pink morph has launched itself off into the recesses of the tank for the millionth time, and its now staying there dammit. It's just a shade dweller compared to its stable mates I suppose so I'm leaving it to find its own location. Meanwhile the finger coral continues to right itself, so I'm hoping its finding its footing.


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I use the Gorilla brand glue gel.  It is under $5.00.

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Just quick update, I'm not sure where I'm going with this thread atm lol, Mr Hyde is evolving a furious rate... he's now becoming a laminar flow nano bookshelf tank, but its a long story and may spin off to its own thread I think. But Dr Jekyll continues to bubble along merrily. Do have to say the rate of learning in this hobby is ferocious, you're making new contacts and finding new opportunities to do things differently almost every day. It's not been overly cheap if I'm honest, but I'm glad I've started with Pico Jars as it has really allowed me to work through the learning curve without huge commitments to equipment and stock.


Major updates, unfortunately a few coral morphs were lost. They kept refusing to adhere to anything and then unfortunately several ended up underneath the rockscape. They pulled this stunt mid-workweek, and unfortunately by the time I could get the time to pull-down the tank to retrieve them they'd perished.

This has been one of the major drivers for Mr Hyde becoming a bookshelf tank. The upright jar format does have a lot of benefits, but having everything arranged vertically does really limit access to things lower in the tank. My takeaway has been that when going vertical it works best to go in with a very clear initial plan that can remain stable, rather than working things out as I go. Bringing a long horizontal design online will give me more of a "workable" aquarium and the vases can instead shift to more of a permanent display role.


A small sunsun canister filter has also been added, running zeolite, carbon and a few sponges. The morphs unfortunately left an ammonia spike which had to be dealt with. After using it for a bit I'm very much on board with it, as the tank in general picked up considerably, but I am mindful of their nitrate factory reputations, as well as the amount of real-estate they take up and the clutter they're adding to the tanks. Mr Hyde ver 3.0 will likely be a reworking of one of the vase tanks to run an overflow and mini-sump, in a design that will still allow the entire tank to be rotated. It's going away a bit from the simplicity of a pico vase, but the hopeful trade off will be in presentation as the design I'm toying will should remove tank clutter all together and may be presentable enough to make its way to my office. Unfortunately at the moment they look a bit like they're on life support with the numbers of wires and tubes etc running to them.


The gold hammer has been since relocated to give it a bit more breathing room, but polyp extension is actually a lot less in the new location, perhaps the big greenie was a neighbour it just loved to avoid. I know the feeling.



And some surprise hitch-hikers. this tank has only ever had a trochus snail in for cleanup duties. but now has its own little eco system of limpets, bristle worms and much to my surprise, after adding my $5 gorgonia (discounted after it suffered some damage in transit to the LFS), a late night inspection to make sure everyone was behaving showed up dozens of micro brittle stars running cleanup on the dead parts of the gorgonia I hadn't trimmed. I've no idea how long they've been in there for, but hopefully there wont be too much of a drama when their population starts to stabilise.


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