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debbeach13

Hi I just found your thread and am now following. I also have a 20L and enjoy seeing what others do with theirs. How is the algae battle going? Did you change up the lights and pumps as you mentioned? 

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3 hours ago, debbeach13 said:

Hi I just found your thread and am now following. I also have a 20L and enjoy seeing what others do with theirs. How is the algae battle going? Did you change up the lights and pumps as you mentioned? 

Nope I haven't yet. It's still on my Amazon wish list, as I'm still saving up for them. I'm also somewhat wary of ordering from Current USA as they are based in California and shipping is just a mess across the country.

 

Also welcome to my journal! I try to update at least weekly in text form and there are monthly photo updates. I also post questions here to ask you all, so feel free to give your input as some members have here already.

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I would be happy to help when I can. Just so you know I am a lazy reefer. I keep softies and some LPS. I run a a KISS tank relying on LR and WC. I do have an AC 50 that always has filter fluff (pillow stuffing) and usually a couple teaspoons of carbon or a pc. of poly filter. I do not test much and do not dose at all. I do not have any SPS so could not help there at all. I have had been into SW for over 30 years but am constantly learning and amazed at other peoples tanks. Agreed shipping can be crazy right now but at least equipment can survive delays. Happy reefing!

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July 23:

 

Temperature 82F (even though heat index is over 100 for the past 3ish weeks now)

Salinity 1.021sg (i'll explain later)

Alkalinity 8 dKh

Calcium 375ppm

Magnesium 1170ppm

Nitrate <12ppm

Phosphate ~0.025ppm

 

Ugh so during the blackout period my wife commented on crackling noises near the aquarium. It was crackling from saltwater getting near my surge protector. YIKES! I wasn't certain where the water was coming from but the carpet was definitely damp. I was wondering if the waterproof blanket was doing too good of a job causing condensation and making it literally rain inside. I tasted the water and it was salty so it seemed like it was a leak. I wasn't sure what was going on but I kept on eye on it for the next several days.

 

Earlier this week it still seemed damp without the crackling and my wife then mentioned my aquarium water level was dropping fast. Naturally I kept topping off with RODI. I was hoping it was not a leak. I checked last night around to see where water might be. I felt around the cabinet and it was dry. Huh weird. The rim of the aquarium is tight, so I shined a light on the wall and there was tell tale bubbling from water just making the drywall damp over a period of time. There were two long streams that went up to the box.

 

...turns out I overstuffed the filter with media. Creating a nice big reservoir...it overflowed trickling against the wall. There's a nice imprint of my Aquaclear filter thanks to the water. There goes my deposit. I contacted the maintenance crew just now. Lesson learned: Don't position stuff right up against the wall. Leave some breathing room.

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What a ride. It's been 6 months now and going through the various stages of microbial and algal growth has taught me a lot through the short time of owning of a somewhat simpler reef tank.

 

The equipment has been all the same except for the few adjustment settings I made to the filter and light. The most recent memory is not to over pack your filter box especially if not too great at checking the filter most mornings. I feel like had I seen this earlier the wall damage wouldn't have been so bad. Fortunately, the repair people at the apartment just said to sand off the bubbling and put primer on it. They said they'll give me the paint to touch it up.

 

The biggest takeaway I've learned is really learning the small nuances in keeping a reef tank. Sometimes at the macro level you see people publish their photos and even videos but sometimes when updates are published the details are lost for the sake being easily communicable. And I think this is what makes this journal different from others: the depth of information. The prevailing principle is knowing that people are looking and possibly adapting materials and methods in their own way. I only hope that I am creating repeatable methods to have repeatable results. I think I'm happiest with that when I know what I'm doing can be done by others, TOTM or not. Details are so critical. In a literal sense, I learned some about the reef in the microscale. It makes sense however. How can you have such diversity in larger scales? It is likely that there's a wild and diverse blend of microbes living within the scope of a light microscope or if you have the money a Scanning Electron Microscope. In the right doses, products like Vibrant and AlgaeBarn's Ecopack have their place. In maximizing chances of success, it takes time to allow the good bacteria to spread and be fruitful and numerous. Likewise, sometimes I wonder what my aquarium would have taken shape if I populated it more slowly. Another example is spending some time (for me in the morning) and stare at every square millimeter of the tank space. Look and learn at what's going on. What you see is telling you how things are doing. Granted there's an element of interpretation, but if it looks right then you're probably on the right track. There's a place for quantified data (there's a reason why I test pretty often), but qualifiers are generally the first sign you see of anything.

 

Another lesson is to not give up. I hit the dinos. Even with the warnings from people around me about having too clean water, I still went forth, and it was a humbling but good learning experience. However dinos is a place where some people give up. For my experience I've seen vermetid worms, wild black flatworms from who knows, bryopsis, cyano, a necrosing Favia, and angry clownfish. As successful as the tank may look, I definitely had my episodes that required some time on the internet researching and learning. Many things are surmountable especially with the knowledge base and technology available out there. It'll only get better as time, understanding, and perspective continues in the hobby and the science behind it. Finally, invertebrates can be easier than fish. Corals just need a shred of living tissue to keep going. Fish...well...takes a bit more effort.

 

I can only think of two takeaways right now. There are probably more things I've learned but those are things that stuck out to me the most. If I had to add anything, I only wish I did this years sooner. I can't believe how much fun I was out missing out on. Better late than never. However I am grateful that I've worked on other people's reef tanks before working on mine.

 

I like to think it would be helpful in not just describing the hardware directly associated with the tank, but additionally listing the extraneous support tools that may be needed for maintaining a water box.

 

6 month mark: Materials

  • 1 gallon pitcher - use this normally to hold a reserve RODI for top offs or FW soaks
  • 3 Five gallon buckets - 2 I use as holding units for mixed saltwater, 1 used for direct water changes
    • With spare powerheads and heaters I generally mix a couple days ahead
  • Spare filter floss
  • Spare GAC
  • Spare Purigen
  • Couple plastic containers to store your media pouches
  • Reef Fusion 1 and 2 (dosing will vary based on aquarium's age and needs)
  • Vibrant
  • Dr Tim's One and Only or Bio-Spira (patents are the same)
  • Testing kit
    • NYOS Nitrate and Phosphate kits
    • Salifert Mg and Ca kits
    • API KH kit
    • API Ammonia kit (I highly do not recommend this. I found even Tetra's Ammonia strips to be better)
    • Refractometer
    • Magnetic Thermometer (suction cups wear out over time)
  • Several microfiber cloths
  • At least 25ft of airline tubing
  • Paint brushes
  • Soft Toothbrush
  • Fish medicines (Glad I haven't had the need to treat)
    • Fluconazole
    • Antibiotics
    • Copper (left at work)
    • Reef Dip (some Iodine solution to disinfect corals or anemones with a slightly poked foot)
  • Surge Protectors
  • Several of those tiny Bon Maman jars. Make great use for making a coral food slurry
  • Small animal syringes (find it in the hamster section of your local pet store)
  • Leftover dosing spoons from powdered medications or testing kits
  • Big gravel vacuum
  • Small gravel vacuum
  • Seachem Prime
  • Cyanoacrylate based glue gel
  • A tote to hold some of these things
  • 2 Seachem Hydrototes (5gal)
  • 1 bucket of Reef Crystals
  • A tired but curious mind

 

Methods in one sentence: January 2020 to July 2020

  1. A lot of research and knowing what products to get. Take your time to suit your budget and needs.
  2. Test early and make it a habit. Even doing practice runs is great since you'll passively memorize the directions.
  3. Be aggressive with inoculations. Colonies develop somewhat slow.
    • I would be cognizant if you start with dry rock then there will be successions of weird and wild things growing. You're basically seeing nature trying to reclaim something and at times it is not a pretty sight. It helps diversifying the microbes, so maybe live plankton and bacteria cultures are appropriate here. This is where live rock should be a very serious consideration. (but sometimes we're not made out of money)
  4. High nitrates aren't the end of the world. Just make sure there are a reasonable nonzero amount.
  5. CUC is a work in progress and snails come and go.
  6. I was very fast with my coral. Looking back I don't recommend this. There is the right colony out there. Sometimes the prettiest ones haven't made the shop yet.
  7. Learn how to take photos with whatever camera you have. The more manual controls you have available the better. I'm basically saying have a DSLR somewhere.
  8. If chemical treatments are required, be cautious and follow directions. Sometimes you may need to run a longer treatment time to see the full effects come into fruition. However always inspect the response of your life. If you interpret negative tendencies, then it's a sign to stop.
  9. If it can be helped, multi-pronged approaches to algae should be done. Redundancy really helps in the hobby. I'm basically saying see if you can have a diverse set of reef cleaners that covers a wide overlapping spectrum.
  10. Listen to you tank. Sometimes you may not need to change the water as much or as often or a combination of.

 

Oh I added a 3 more cerith snails and one more astrea snail.

 

Pictures next week!

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July 29

 

Temperature 82F

Salinity 1.023sg

Alkalinity 9 dKh

Calcium 430ppm

Magnesium 1170ppm

Nitrate ~10ppm

Phosphates >0.05ppm

 

Well the GHA is starting to take place, but it's an algae I don't mind as I let it overtake the rear face of the aquarium. It has carpeted about 80% of the intake tube of my filter unit. The Astrea snails make small dents and dings into it. As long as the algae doesn't go too wild I think it'll maintain the same level of grazing pressure. I'm going to reassess visually how the GHA carpet looks after a month or two and consider if I need additional help. I was thinking of getting those ninja star looking snails. They seem to be relatives of Astrea snails and can serve as a decent representative of similar looking snails from the region (as there are barely close enough analogs of Astrea in Japan). Also I've been noticing half of my Nassarius snails have been missing. I wonder if my pistol shrimp made the most out of his situation. Oh well, the sand bed still looks decently fine.

 

Surprisingly my margarita snails are still hanging in there with the seasonal increase in temperature. I'm slightly diluting my salt mix as I am guessing there is a relationship between how briny water is and how warm it can get. This is somewhat based on my pasta experiments in the kitchen throughout this pandemic. My wife hates my pastas only because she's gotten tired of eating it. For me however, I want to hone in on just practicing the Roman pastas as it'll give me a good technical background on making other sauces. My blackwater tank neighbor is at 78F matching the temperature of my thermostat. (The Mid-Atlantic region has been hot this month.)

 

It's been a month. Time for a water change I think.

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FTS, please excuse the non-compliant soft corals...

 

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Nice little growths on the leftmost colony. It keeps growing a new head.

 

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I am really loving mini carpets. I'm looking to get another one!

 

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I'm thinking of relocating this guy to a calmer part of the tank. The flesh is tighter to the skeleton and the palps aren't coming out as they normally do. I noticed there's some exposed skeleton near the mouth. I hope things are okay. It may have been a stray calcium precipitate stinging part of the tissue. Ouch.

 

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I just noticed this a few days ago. I wonder if the exposure of skeleton is also from a stray precipitate burning some of the flesh. I'm going to keep an eye on it to see if it gets worse. I hope not. I really like the robustness of this colony.

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August 5th

 

I purchased some Coral Cleaner from Two Little Fishies and it smells quite ####ing amazing. I may huff this stuff when I am not feeling well. I bathed both coral colonies for 30 minutes in the utility pitcher I had. It was already half full of RODI water so I added a quarter cup of IO Reef Crystals and mixed it out. Mixing happened a few days before. The Favia produced a lot of mucus in my tank. Yum. It's been about 3 days since treatment and things appear to be stable. I decided to change my methods in dosing the Reef Fusions 1 and 2. Instead of pumping a syringe which can be a little tough to push and pull. I got one of the disposable pipettes that come included with every refractometer out there. I also scaled back the dosing volumes so I wouldn't run into precipitation issues. I am now dosing about 1.5mL of each per day, injecting it at the return of my Aquaclear unit.

 

Temperature 82F

Salinity 1.023sg

Alkalinity 10-11 dKh

Calcium 420ppm

Magnesium 1170ppm

Nitrate ~12ppm

Phosphate >0.075ppm

 

Really what carried over from my anti-dino protocol is the additional big feed for the corals, so I'm doing that 3x weekly now. It's also nice to have my candy canes split more often to create a bigger colony. The single daily feedings are scaled up now. Weekly I feed a cube of mysis shrimp to all my fishes, both saltwater and freshwater, and invertebrates, target-fed to the shrimp and sea anemone.

 

Also, some stocking changes will be happening this week. Good stuff. I promise.

 

If I remember to do it, Vibrant will be dosed. However I haven't felt the need to do so.

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August 12th

 

I had a decent haul of coral. It's such a pain to connect my phone to the PC with the drivers going crazy sometimes.

 

Temperature 82F

Salinity 1.021sg

Alkalinity 9 dKh

Calcium 420ppm

Magnesium 1320ppm

Nitrate <25ppm

Phosphate <0,1ppm

 

I probably should do a water change soon. I guess that explains why my GHA really took off these past two weeks. I decided to gently pluck it off and give it a trim. The lawn in the back panel is shorter now with the haircut. I'm thinking scaling back the feed amounts is in order. I attempted to add some new members to the clean up crew. I found three ninja star snails but they expired quite quickly; one of two big trochus snails I bought only lasted a whole day. I mended by nassarius snail numbers back since I still suspect a certain pistol shrimp is taking swipes at them at night. Of the three margarita snails I bought during late winter I'm down to one last one, as expected. I took some of the dwarf cerith snails at work and put them in my tank to help with the smaller pockets my big snails can't reach. I'm considering just getting a few more astrea snails to lightly control the small tufts of GHA on the rock work. Fortunately, I haven't had any strand themselves. With this many empty snail shells, I could start acquiring small small hermit crabs.

 

I'm not sure what's making magnesium act the way it has been, I bought some Fluval Magnesium to help address it. I followed the directions of adding 5mL/20gal, and it was probably more than I needed. It probably was higher. I lost some tank water from acclimating the new animals, but I replaced it with RODI water.

 

I located some 1mL syringes we used to use to medicate our small mammals from work so I took them home so I can better accurately dose my Reef Fusions 1 and 2 in the mornings.

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I nearly got a red and gray-blue frag from Tidal Gardens, but I came across this stunning colony of a similar color mottling. Though I do like how Tidal Gardens added some charm in marketing as they described such Favites with the colors of OSU (the Ohio State University). Goes to show you how big Buckeye fans they can be in suburban Cleveland. This colony was purchased on eBay from acf_frags near Clifton, New Jersey. I'm under the assumption that this is Favites pentagona as it's likely the most traded of its genus in the hobby. Anyway, the flow is probably a little higher and is kind of directly in the direction (ha) of the AC70, so the sweepers should point away into the substrate or right at the glass then slightly right of the colony where there's no one, which is why the Candy Cane neighbor is so close. I'm pretty excited to have such a gem of a colony.

 

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I like them. I like this color. Nuff said.

 

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This lighting makes them look awful but beyond it's potatoey color this particular A. echinata frag is a bright orange with some flashes of green. This is an eBay purchase with Endeavor Aquatics in Houston, TX.

 

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ORA Orange Zoanthid from work. It's been at work for a while and I felt like I needed a nicer home. I feel like if Petco didn't set such a steep price on them they'd sell. Could you imagine this was supposed to $36!? Good thing for an employee discount. I'm still debating where to put this guy.

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I'm shopping for the last few (yeah right) corals I'd like before I run out of real estate. Cyphastrea might make the list, but I certainly want to add several more zoas to add to the diversity. As much as I would like to build a nice crown of multiple SPS frags, I think it's wiser to just have one frag and build that one out before I end up with no space on upper reaches of my rock work. Unfortunately, I have chosen to not get Pocillopora damicornis. I read about which part of a reef where it would occur and it seemed it was not the right fit for the scope in question. I have decided to stick with one nice looking variety of Montipora digitata. I've been on the hunt for a Forest Fire version and I've been attempting to make special order requests from work to acquire one. No dice. If nothing pans out in the next several weeks, I'll purchase one online somewhere.

 

Some hardware updates. I got a new light strip from Nick. He received a NICREW LED strip 30" by mistake so he gave it to me. It's a nice free substitute to give an extra shot of photons for the midday peak sun effect. The corals take a liking to it especially the zoa and war corals. Also something overlooked, I had to get a new surge protector as I ran out of space to handle two LED strips and their power transformers. My old strip looks kinda dangerous with all the equipment plugged in. These AmazonBasics are priced really well. Hope they do the job. I also purchased the coral lenses from Reefing Art for my phone. Hopefully photo quality will improve by the next round of photo updates.

 

Done a water change Saturday since we got real close to .1 ppm PO4, and impressed the guests that came over for dinner. Dining room reef #1. I should invite more people to come over, haha. I'm going to scale back to the NLS pellet feeding as the NO3 is a tad high, but still fine enough. I want to dance around the 5-12ppm range in my kit.

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August 19th

 

Temperature 81F (we're finally not having 90+ degree days)

Salinity 1.023sg

Alkalinity 9 dKh

Calcium 430ppm

Magnesium 1260ppm

Nitrate >12ppm

Phosphate >0.075ppm

 

I've been also making some room for the incoming SPS frag I'd want to go. Also, I've felt the coral arrangement go stale on me before getting the latest haul of goods.

 

I'm really yearning to start putting together another coral tank. The stuff is in storage right now...in my car's trunk...

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This will likely be the last final coral haul. I really mean it because the real estate will be at a truly full occupancy while affording some space for corals to expand and grow into the allotted subdivisions. This weekend I decided to jump on one of those Live Sales that Tidal Gardens does once towards the end of the month.

 

It's been frustrating to source a forest fire digitata through work and the LFS will get them but those get snatched up before I have a chance to see them. I nearly bought one from Rick's Fish and pet in Frederick, but the display tank was a tad unkempt, and again it was a 1 inch ish frag for $40. I think I may have found a nice grab for a colony, not a 1 inch stub, for  $48. (without factoring price to overnight ship) I also decided to acquire three more zoanthid frags to make a nice tetrad of color. Color seems to be a slightly loaded guess for as sometimes there's a chance that corals can change their colors some since my lighting isn't theirs. But for an average of $27 for each frag that isn't a bad deal.

 

I am however planning to acquire a red Cyphastrea from work. I suspect it is a seralia species as there's not strong alternating patterns. However if it grows into a strong and obvious pattern, I got a chalcidicum species. Neither will break the biotope as a hard as let's say my two mini carpet anemones.

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A neat little box.

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I done some experimenting and for normal light outputs I just need a 20K yellow filter. I add a polarizing filter (CPL) since I like the clarity it can offer and helps minimize glares from outside sources. However I may not need this since I normally take photos late at night with all the lights turned off in the living room.

 

For colors to pop I need 20K and 15K orange filter combined to combat the intense blues that wash out my camera.

 

Macro lenses are nice. I can really get in there for excellent close up shots like the ones down below.

 

I'm really enjoying this purchase already.

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Before then after,

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As you can see, macros just opened up a whole new level of detail for me.

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Doesn't quite get any closer than this...

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Unless I buy an underwater housing.

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Whole shot

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No this is just a test run and will not be in lieu of the normal monthly photo update. But enjoy looking at these anyway.

 

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August 26th

 

Temperature 80F

Salinity 1.026sg

Alkalinity 9 dKh

Calcium 460ppm

Magnesium  1290ppm

Nitrate >12ppm

Phosphate <0.1ppm

 

Today's the day!

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I'm quite impressed by the quality. Using specimen cups (those specimen cups), is a simple and elegant way to ship. It also removes the need of things I hate, Styrofoam.

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Forest Fire Digitata

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5G Blue Hornet

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Blowpops (Which flavor? Mango or Orange? IDK)

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Sakura

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Diamonds x Pearls

Now, this is really embarrassing...this cyphastrea bleached. I'm not sure what happened, but this happened after I fed it. I wonder if I laid on the food too thick. The white dots are from me decided to do a quick Revive dip for 10 minutes so the mesenterial filaments were out.

 

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mitten_reef

I see you’re a starting to embrace the blue a little bit, 😁.  Sooo one biggest question I have is why is the thread name?  Do you have inspirational images that you’re going after?  Is it from your personal memory of being there?  What makes this tank “Japanese”, the corals selected all look like any other mixed reef tank, so to speak?  

Edited by mitten_reef
I think I found the inspiration, via the youtube links you posted on one of the earlier posts on first page.
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Diamonds x Pearls

The blue has been there, mixed in with white and some presence of red and green. 🙄

 

On 1/31/2020 at 6:54 PM, Diamonds x Pearls said:

These two bits of literature give me an idea how to shape a biotope.

Quoting myself here:

Quote

Ever since I started keeping fish, I had this belief where if you were to keep an animal you should probably do your best efforts to have your animal feel most at home. It's probably most true if you're keeping wild-caught specimens. Lately in this day in age where aquaculture has progressed pretty well we don't really need to do it. However, I feel like there's a charm and challenge when you're building any tank and you want it to reflect something plucked from any body of water. A lot of my previous tanks were stocked region or even down to the corresponding river. I always made efforts to not "mix the rivers" in my freshwater aquariums.

 

So I had to pick a region. I wanted to challenge and frustrate myself. No, I can't pick this coral and that fish and that other thing because neither all those elements could occur at the same time. Sorry, royal gramma as much as I like you...species not found in the Pacific. Same principle "don't mix your oceanic currents."

 

Recently, I was a little frozen over how speciose this region "Indo-Pacific" really was, so I immediately went poleward so I can restrict the list even more. I went north along the Kuroshio current and decided "why not do a Japanese reef? Biotopes aren't exactly a thing in the reefing world. Do that biotope." Admittedly, there's a level of Japanese bias within my wife and I. I began googling coral species found in Japan. To my surprise corals grew as far north as the Sea of Japan and even just outside of Tokyo Bay where I would assume those waters would be a little more on the temperate side like my home waters in California.

Not going to lie, I didn't really think too hard on what or why. I think it's more of a matter of preference and challenge. It's pretty easy to buy coral that suits skill level and look. My thought process was: "Well shit what corals are out there?" To give you a matter of perspective, the only coral species I knew were the NPS corals found in the Eastern Pacific along California northwards just months before this tank started, so learning tropical reef coral taxonomy felt long on my own. Unfortunately, my college curriculum couldn't cover all the ground I wanted. Then I began watching videos of beginner friendly corals and this led to a rabbit hole of coral videos. I feel completely overwhelmed with having a wide berth of options. This also affects me ordering from a menu, so I sometimes suck at going out. With that in mind, I decided to do what I prefer to do for any aquarium I've made in the past, region lock myself.

 

At the beginning I wanted to try some Caribbean biotope, but I think @billygoat done a much better job than what I could ever put together (excellent stuff btw). Knowing that a lot of corals are Indo-Pacific origin, I felt that I should pick a general region and just run with it, but there's so many. I spent some time looking at different reef profiles and types from sheltered bays and lagoons to reef crests or even just something growing off the land's edge.

 

Japan has been a piece of fascination with me (and my wife). Admittedly, there's elements to the history and culture that catch my attention. I also remembered that the northernmost Pacific reefs hang out there too! While Okinawa and its surrounding archipelago is not the furthest we can go (Tsushima), from an oceanographic perspective the Ryukyu Islands reveal some interesting properties on how these coral reefs can still be diverse but yet appear at higher sub-tropical (or even temperate) latitudes. How is it interesting? The species you find in the Philippines are strikingly similar to Japan, about 1000 miles of ocean. This is mainly due to the warm water currents that flow from Taiwan up. These currents also carry itty bitty coral gametes that can allow for recruitment to spur. Learning about this, I was keen to the idea of making a Ryukyuan biotope, so it was off to the races to find videos and textual evidence of coral distributions and biogeographic patterns. Basically, I saw something cool in that and I liked it, so Okinawa-ish biotope it was. The metaphorical fist bump from Chris was pretty awesome too.

 

While my sources are really old and very likely outdated, they're still valuable to me in determining what species I could add into the aquarium. Granted my stocklist doesn't differ too had from the next one, but this stocking isn't an accident, yet months of thinking and referencing. I'd like to have a coral endemic to the region but I don't think that is within my power. Another limiter was that I wanted to select "common" corals since I wanted to create something that would be quasi realistic as if you might see something similar or at least see instances of the same species in situ. Conceptually, I wanted to make a preview of very common coral species found on small reef stands or moats in very sheltered lagoons among the Ryukyu Islands at less than 3 meters depth.

 

Don't get me wrong I liked the idea of having a hammer coral, but it was sorted under "uncommon", sucks, but I made the rules for myself (meanwhile goes out to get a mini carpet wtf). At the end of the day, this is probably subjective and makes little sense to people that aren't me. But I guess if there's some merit to this, I do like the challenge of having some corals unavailable to me by choice. A different kind of creativity is offered when boundaries are set. It also gives me an excuse to have a colder tank for winter time haha.

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