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Postlarval Kow

Peninsula style - 4.6 Ultum Rimless - successful move

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Postlarval Kow

 

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(FTS - 2021/02/25 - 2 months after catastrophic water-loss and high salinity event, DOOM of 2020 )

 

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(Front - 2 month post DOOM event)

 

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(Back - 2 month post DOOM event)

 

Humans:

 

Collaboration between two marine scientists that travel a ton from a Midwestern base of operations. First system for one of us, the other has set up personal (5g [upgraded], 10g [power-loss crash], 29g [moved and donated], 16g [crashed while out of country]) and school-funded (120g to 340g [still going after > decade]) reef systems for over 15 years, but with a recent 5 year hiatus. We wanted sustainably sourced stock, a minimalistic routine, and – most importantly – a pleasing aquarium to stare at if stuck at home in the evening. Stay-at-home orders = regurgitate a long story in case it helps anyone else or brings a smile.

 

Design:

 

We like seeing growth, so we settled on a peninsula style set-up that features different colonies and angles from each side. We wanted to make a small system look big, so we took a chisel to our rocks and made a S shape (if looking from above) island with the central part at the highest elevation. Each side of the tank has 2-4 focal colonies only visible from that side, but the layout also enables different views and perspectives of the sps we have growing on each rock (i.e., you can see 7 colonies from any angle). I freaking love the personality of dottybacks so I wanted to have as much cave and tunnel space as possible (in a tank with ~3g of water) so one could entertain us.

 

 

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(shots on 27 - Sep - 2020)

 

Tank:

 

Ultum Nature Systems, 4.6 gal (sooooo pretty compared with my previous only AGA systems in an earlier era) [seems discontinued now tho… =( ]

 

 

Light:

 

30-watt HiParGero from Amazon (fairly close to 10,000K, maybe a touch cooler).   AI Prime 16HD (swapped on Oct 27, 2020). On 1730 to 0030 daily. Suspended independently from tank using a garage Y bracket and a string on a screw.

 

 

Filtration:

 

Aquaclear 20 (run about a tablespoon of carbon for fear purposes, and a third of the filter media for mechanical removal of stuff – probably does some work as well given the bioload)(Havent done for months). Able to run a 3watt clip-on UV sterilizer to combat the occasional dino bloom post waterchange.

 

 

Powerhead:

 

Koralia 240 Nano (from 2014?)

 

 

Heater:

 

Free Sea 50-watt heater (in AC20 w thermostat visible) set to 79

 

 

ATO:

 

Smart Micro

 

 

Water:

 

RO/DI LiquaGent 4-Stage 75GPD and Instant Ocean’s “Reef Crystals” blend at a SG of 1.024 to 1.028. No quality testing outside SG/temp

 

 

Mobile Life:

 

Pseudochromis freidmanni (“FEEESCH” - orchid dottyback)

Astraea Turbo snails (32x)(one grew too big and was knocking things over)

Scarlet hermit crab (“Burrito”) (doomed by molt: 29-Apr-2020)

“Orange” hermit crab (“Taco”)

Scarlet hermits ("Enchilada" and "Fajita")(unknown doom and consumed)

Blue leg hermit ("Tamale")

Money Cowrey ("Rangoon")

So many sea stars, sponges, and all of the standard pods, flatworms, nematodes, Serpula sp, and a rich variety of mostly background algae.

 

 

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Sessile:

Live rock – assorted mixed pieces from other people’s broken-down aquariums from LFS

Birds nest – “green” (white fuzzy tips in our system – too fast growth, pleasing shape)

Monti - Green digita (vivid green, purple base if cooler light)

Monti - Mystic Sunset

Monti - Rainbow (70% recovered from DOOM of 2020)

Monti - Sunset (10% recovered from DOOM of 2020)

Monti - Melonberry

Chalice – Hollywood stunner

Lepto - jack-o-lantern (removed before the chalice completely destroyed it)

Tongue - Orange with purple tip tentacles

Trumpet – spruce and tan (sacrificed 28/may/2020 for weird behavior before vacation)

Hammer – branching pale green

Acro – neon green polyps on tan base that turns to purple base and turquoise polyps at tips

Acro - yellow tips WWC frag from coworker (DOOM at end of 2020)

Acro - red planet (removed in July 2020 for STN worries)

Acro - red planet v2

Turbinaria – green “fire”

Zoas – rasta

Zoas – whamming watermelon

Zoas – hailander

Zoas – fiesta? (purple core, red fringle)

Zoas – blue watermelon? (creamy orange inner with grey mouth and grey skirt)

Zoas – cats eye? (metallic green mouth and metallic red inner with grey skirt)

Zoas – gooshter? (blue mouth and metallic red inner, brown skirt)

Zoas - Sunny D

Zoas - Scrambled eggs

Zoas - Laser Lemon?

Zoas - Unknown metallic green and blue with spades

Ric florida - Rainbow

Cyphastrea – ugly off-brown purple-tinged colony hidden in the back (gave away)

 

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Shall include some posts with the tank's growth and our trials and tribulations (including a struggle to remove a demonic snail killing bobbit) in the next bit. Been lurking for literally a decade, but this QT has us going nuts.

 

 

 

 

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debbeach13

Welcome to NR. Glad after all this time you are sharing your tank with us. I like your scape and coral placement. It does have a larger feel to it. I hope it continues to mature and fill in. Stay safe.

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Postlarval Kow

Thanks for the kind sentiments!

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Postlarval Kow

Growth and History:

This pico is (sadly) our second iteration… we learned our lesson with a paly death spiral after 8 months of lovely growth. So here we used the same gear but with new rock/coral in nearly the same configuration. The only survivors were our beloved crabs and a far too tame dottyback (learned an important lesson on fish training). The first tank allowed us to dial in the settings, coral placement and a good routine but makes us sad to think about to this day. Outside of the paly death spiral – we have not had a single coral or animal mortality because of tank conditions (knock on wood), so we must be doing something right. We refilled the tank with rock (precured to remove cycle) and water (and our surviving crabs/fish) on September 17, 2019. We went a bit crazy with water changes for the first 3 weeks to make sure our little dudes were fine, then felt it settled (rock was precured in another reefer's tank for years and transported via water filled bucket), added snails and fresh frags from 2 encrusting monti colonies from LFS that we trust. Growth was immediate and apparent, so we have slowly stocked since.

 

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Coral growth has been lovely and is wildly noticeable and pleasing in a small tank. The mystic sunset and superman encrusting montis were the first coral we added into the tank. These small nickel/dime sized frags of encrusting monti have both become 600% larger in about 7 months at the time of this writing. You could not even see the mystic sunset from the back view of the tank originally, and now it is the dominant coral. Everything that we have epoxied or glued in place has encrusted and grown onto the rocks. The birdsnest has gone from 3 tips to more than 40 after < 6 months. Nothing has died and each colony has noticeably expanded. We are so excited to watch the growth continue - and it looks like acropora and superman monti will soon be doing battle as they seek to encrust the same part of the rock.

 

 

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We have had no algae plagues or pests or disturbances for the past couple months and the tank has responded accordingly from each and every view by continuing to grow. We did move the zoanthids down to the base of the rocks as they seem to do best in areas with less flow in this tank.

 

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We think there is perhaps space for 2 or 3 frags before we are out of space. Definitely want a plate for the lower left of the back view, but have not found an aquacultured specimen for a while - and the QT has our local stores shut. We also want another acropora frag high to add complexity to the left side of the main view and a different colored encrusting monti to add a splash of color here and there. Suggestions would be welcome! Red is a bit high in the tank, but perhaps thats because of our light fixture.

 

 

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CC26

Hey, may I know what settings you have your lights on? I have the same lights over a 5.5 gallon aquarium (so just a tad bit bigger than yours) and I'm still trying to figure out the settings for optimal growth. Thanks in advance!

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Postlarval Kow

We totally dig the au natural look (makes us think of the colors at 3m while diving in high vis sunny water) so the default setting is what we have it on. I think it resets anyways whenever it turns off, unless ours is a dud. Cheap light, good growth, no regrets.

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CC26
3 hours ago, Postlarval Kow said:

We totally dig the au natural look (makes us think of the colors at 3m while diving in high vis sunny water) so the default setting is what we have it on. I think it resets anyways whenever it turns off, unless ours is a dud. Cheap light, good growth, no regrets.

Interesting. Mine does not reset when it goes off so I have forgotten what the default setting was. Although if I'm not mistaken, it was both blues and whites on maximum. I've personally experienced coral bleaching from too much light when I ran mine at those settings, and a few other people have reported the same looking at threads here and on other forums. I have since dialled it back but am now paranoid that I've gone too far in the other direction and am not providing enough light. If your corals are doing well under those settings, I think it might be possible that you simply have your lights mounted higher above your tank, since you did mention that you're using a custom fixture rather than the mount that came with the lights.

 

Also, if you do test your water parameters, at what levels do you keep your nitrates and phosphates? I've read that it's good to have them on the higher side if you run a tank with elevated alkalinity, which you do.

 

Edit: Whoops, sorry, just went back to your original post and saw that you don't test those parameters. Maybe a better question would be how often you feed your tank?

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Postlarval Kow
On 5/5/2020 at 7:44 PM, CC26 said:

Interesting. Mine does not reset when it goes off so I have forgotten what the default setting was. Although if I'm not mistaken, it was both blues and whites on maximum. I've personally experienced coral bleaching from too much light when I ran mine at those settings, and a few other people have reported the same looking at threads here and on other forums. I have since dialled it back but am now paranoid that I've gone too far in the other direction and am not providing enough light. If your corals are doing well under those settings, I think it might be possible that you simply have your lights mounted higher above your tank, since you did mention that you're using a custom fixture rather than the mount that came with the lights.

 

Also, if you do test your water parameters, at what levels do you keep your nitrates and phosphates? I've read that it's good to have them on the higher side if you run a tank with elevated alkalinity, which you do.

 

Edit: Whoops, sorry, just went back to your original post and saw that you don't test those parameters. Maybe a better question would be how often you feed your tank?

I think that the light is on max output for both white and blue and will play with it later today and edit this accordingly. It is 115 mm above the surface of the water, mounted centrally and so that the long dimension of the light follows the long dimension of the tank.

 

We feed sporadically but it seems like we put in about 1/8th of a cube of Hikari mysis a few times a week for the fish, and try to get a couple of the LPS to get a bite when we do so as well. We feed reefroids to all of the coral as well but less frequently - perhaps 1x a week. I guess we should start logging feeding as well as water changes - thanks for the inspiration!

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Postlarval Kow

New gorgeous aquacultured orange tongue loves to eat! Check out the time-lapse video below

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Postlarval Kow

Added a few new corals to the tank in May that are now happily growing and adjusting well. IMG-2129.thumb.jpg.03c43246ee5ef5ee83ae55c0c58d5655.jpgIMG-2128.thumb.jpg.e90f79250b69df23316b621fb5c8d622.jpg

 

Additions included a gorgeous and gluttonous orange tongue, a tabling acropora and another encrusting montipora.

 

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Aquacultured orange tongue

 

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ORA red planet (weird necrotic tissue band is healing over at base and the thing has already expanded massively)

 

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melonberry (we chopped the massive frag into 7 chunks and placed them in 3 spots - all are encrusting and have crazy blue polyps)

 

Sadly, we also lost our OG hermit crab Burrito after 2 yrs to a failed molt and had a snail decide that it would rather try and survive in the air. We also sacrificed our trumpet coral after it ate something disastrous, causing full retraction for 3 straight days before a week-long out-of-town excursion. Sad to remove it, but we did not want anything progressing while the tank was on autopilot. The birdnest was massively trimmed and we jammed a bunch of the frags into some epoxy where they are happily growing for a friend.

 

 

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Postlarval Kow

We re-upped the clean up crew in preparation for a couple of month long trips so that it is back up to 6 hard working inverts. To do so we added two more delightful crabs and found a money cowrey at a LFS that was too adorable to not include. This little dude is a super charismatic and gorgeous gem that can really fit into some tight spots but is all over the place while feeding at night.

 

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Other than that, things are growing fast and hard and things seem mostly stable (knock on wood). We had to glue over a couple of war zones and move a monti frag that was devouring its neighbor, but everyone recovers within a day. Increased the capacity of our ATO reservoir and added a battery backup so that hopefully things can be on autopilot for month long trips in August and September.

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The first acro we put in has now started a fun branching pattern after encrusting into war with the superman monti.

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In addition the fiesta and whammin watermelon zoas have more than doubled in number in the past 5 months, and the chalice loves his shady little nook.

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Hopefully the tank will thrive for extended periods of no humans - all we really do is a weekly water change and sporadic feeding anyways. Oh. And lots of staring at the pretty water box filled with rainbow rocks and cursing at the FEEESCH as he harasses everything that moves.

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cheesesteak

I love the scientific nature of this thread 😊 Everything looks super healthy. 

 

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Postlarval Kow
On 7/2/2020 at 4:25 PM, cheesesteak said:

I love the scientific nature of this thread 😊 Everything looks super healthy. 

 

Thanks so much - absolutely ideal complement to two scientists!

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Postlarval Kow

We were cleaning out our pumps the other day and checking on the clean-up crew at night - and spotted something from a past nightmare... so here comes a long-winded but hopefully informative story about snail-killing predatory-worms (presumably Oenone fulgida). We saw the smallest little worm lurking in a crevice (perhaps 3 to 4 cm revealed) and can only hope that the FEEEEEESCH kills it before this happens again:

 

Backtrack to fall 2019:

For a couple months early in the tank's history, we kept wondering what was going on with our snails. They would be fine and happily chomping algae for weeks, but then suddenly they would be a mucus covered dead mess. Especially on our top rock. Then we saw why. A delightful bobbit-esq worm! Unfortunately this demon was by far the largest biomass in the system. As one of the poor phone photos below shows, he could stretch from his lair to anywhere in the tank – casually reaching hapless victims as he pleased. This did not please us. Should he decide to devour all of our snails while we were both out of town and no-one was around… it could cause a nasty spike.

 

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So began a multi-month extraction campaign. Unfortunately, after he killed two snails in a 2 day period (hungry demon) and was finally detected (11/5/2019 – he had killed 6 snails at this point) he refrained from making a kill for months. Guess he preferred non-astrea snails. We spent plenty of time with locking hemostats at his lair hunting him with bits of flesh and a red headlamp. Touched him a few times, but never got a good grab. His lair was directly under a lovely monti and on the same rock our acropora was encrusting over, so we did not want to smash him out, or do an extended FW or carbonated water dip. He declined to appear for months, then… one cold January morning he was chewing on the base of our trumpet coral. Eating something by chewing thru the epoxy on its base. This was too much to bear. He was clearly desperate, so I moved slow and got a good angle and had plenty of luck. He was a good 30+ cm (stretched out against his will) when I snagged him with the hemostats. He now lives in 100% ethanol under the tank.

 

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Our only advice would be to leave the snail victims in a place that causes the head of the worm and his cave to be separated enough to make your hemostats hard to detect. He seemed to follow a scent/mucus trail to victims, even after they moved. Traps were a non-option for a worm of this size in such a small tank, but would obviously work well in a larger system. He also did not respond to red light, so the night time is the right time to hunt... accordingly beer helps a patient hunter. And scotch.

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Postlarval Kow

Three fun random updates to throw out there:

 

1) The tank survived a couple of week long abandonment periods and a 2 week hands off test! It is looking fairly great we think. This is rather thrilling because who doesnt want a self-sufficient pico tank? Really looking forward to seeing the growth after a 3 week trip! Assume that FEEEESCH will be fine. Plenty of random stuff to eat (he goes after flatworms...) and a really big bristleworm if he is up to the challenge.

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2) Solid growth and three war zones between corals: Superman Vs Acro (Superman wins, neutral glue zone placed), MelonBerry Vs Mystic Sunset (MelonBerry wins, frag delegated to shame corner), and Superman vs Sunset (Sunset wins, Eating its way up the rock). We also have two pending battles that are oddly NOT going nuts: Sunset Vs Birdsnest (growing into each other with no tendrils) and Birdsnest Vs Green Monti (growing into eachother and seem OK with it).

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3) We tossed the super awesome frag of Red Planet after a portion of it continued to have STN. It had also expanded by about 3 cm2, but the little band of doom was irritating us. Our first self-faulted coral fatality!! No clue why it wanted to slowly die in that spot, but it definitely had one ill-favored section that slowly spread. We tried gluing it (emerged a week later), fragging it (emerged a week later) and then tossed it with a frown. Figure it was just a flow and light imbalance at that section. Nothing to replace it now as *hopefully* fieldwork starts up this month and we want to leave things on autopilot. Shall tinker again in late October.

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debbeach13

Sorry about that coral loss. The FTS looks great. So we you be gone for 2 months? Is any one going to check on the tank?

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Postlarval Kow

The tank has survived abandonment with no coral loss. That includes days of extreme temperature, and power-loss from several tornados touching down in Chicago! It is actually looking fairly good. The mystic sunset has grown so much that the hammer is finally puffing up a bit as well in the shade.

 

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(backside view - updated the FTS as well at thredd start)

 

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(side view - the birdsnest is now touching TWO montis with no nasty feelings... cool!)

 

Sadly (not really too pissed) the largest and most disgusting bristleworm is nowhere to be found... FEEESCH seems full tho, so maybe he earned his keep? Although the multitude of flatworms may alternatively be sustaining him. The glass was fairly disgusting after a month of abuse. Other than the bristleworm lurking thus far unseen - we did lose a crab. Ill grab another little dude tomorrow to help keep a small patch of cyano which is forming beneath the mystic in the lee of the gooshters under wraps. The tank temp was a bit toasty and the acro did some fun bleaching! Tis the season (for the northern hemisphere)! However, after a couple of feeds it is already coloring back up.IMG_4008.thumb.JPG.8399fda57496dc8017e4163c56fe08d2.JPG

 

A couple of days of kindness, then the tank is on its own again for a few weeks. Shall try and get everyone's lipid content thru the roof in the meantime and do some aggressive water changes and flatworm siphonings if they reappear.

 

Fingers crossed for another self-sufficient period. After this next trip we shall swap lights to something that will slow down the SPS growth. Things are going NUTS and I dont want to have to glue over warzones each water change.

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Postlarval Kow

After a little TLC, the tank is looking good. The hammer we have is undeniably the least attractive I have ever seen - it has always been a half-bleached pale thing - but it looks much better with a bit of shade from the mystic sunset, and it has grown substantially (3 heads and a few baby splits instead of 2 mouths) in the 11 months we have had it.20200904_235003.thumb.jpg.6090f15f1062dd6659ff5093208eb3ff.jpg

 

Took a ride to a newly redone lfs and replaced a lost scarlet hermit with a wee-little blue leg thats already a spicy cyano eating fiend: introducing Tamale!

 

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Hopefully he gets along with the other two and in time the three become just the best of friends. Like FEEESCH and our cowrie Rangoon:

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Postlarval Kow

Alrighty! Now comes the big test - can a <4 gallon system with an open top and a decent bioload survive for 3 weeks with literally no oversight besides a trusty ATO?

 

Today the ATO reservoir was filled up, a gallon and a half were changed, and then all the inhabitants got a solid feed of reef-roids and mysid. So hopefully the chemistry of IO and a touch of food is enough to keep coral growth going, and the FEEESCH is able to figure out a diet that suits him without humans.

 

Sort of insane to see that all of those pretty nickel sized frags have filled out the tank in about a year with minimalist care and a cheap Amazon light...

 

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Hope to come back to living coral/critters and then start making colors pop by slowing down growth and fostering more fluorescence by swapping the spectrum (if I shine a black light on it, MAN are the colors great).

 

Wish it some luck!

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Postlarval Kow

The tank passed a year old and is looking great despite the recent abuse! Back in town for a few days of TLC and then back to autopilot. I think that FEEESCH has developed a taste for flatworms as they stopped proliferating. A few raging montipora vs montipora battles, and the fiesta zoas are starting to pick at a melonberry frag but mostly looking good. The acro recovered as well and is nice and fuzzy at the tips. All sessile and motile life accounted for!

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FEEESCH is really begging hard! The tongue has more than doubled since we got it. Ill try and do a year of growth shots sometime this weekend as I bet it will look pretty cool.

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Postlarval Kow

A sip of scotch for a year of growth!

 

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The progression from blank rock to basically a tank of montipora has been cool to see:

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The changes are particularly striking in the back where the mystic sunset has spilled over the entire rock and is now acting as 'glue' binding the rocks together.

 

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Lets hope that the system can last another month of mostly neglect. If the tank is still kicking in late October we are going to swap the lighting for a more customizable spectrum and focus on color instead of growth - space is limited now. However, we still want to put another acropora on the top rock to fill the last swath of empty space.

 

Cheers to a year!

 

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cheesesteak

Congratulations! The growth is incredible. 

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Postlarval Kow

The tank looks great - minus a touch more algae lurking in the background than normal. In this shot you can see each and every coral colony.IMG_4067.thumb.JPG.84a183f98fcc333b1757c972b6168ac0.JPG

 

Other than everything being alive, I came back to a complete warzone! I love seeing polyps eat eachother and there is no space left for the SPS to go without conflict.

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These montis are really going at it:IMG_4062.thumb.JPG.e8af14e216d51b2f6f5b47295fadfcaa.JPG

 

Even the turbinaria is getting into the action (although it seems to be losing on the side up against the mystic sunset)!

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Good growth and the plan is still to upgrade the lighting to get more colors to pop - I think the tank is way too bright right now and it needs a decrease. Perhaps Tuesday!

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debbeach13

Tank is so full. Maybe I need to go away for a few weeks.

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Postlarval Kow

Switched to an AI fixture instead of generic Amazon lights and I had forgotten how much a quality light can make colors crisp and colors pop!

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The crabs celebrated with a party, and I am going to do some serious pruning on the monti vs monti vs monti vs birdsnest battle, the chalice vs front glass onslaught, and the monti vs turbinaria front.

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Packed with coral - and florescence! I dont have a filter, so no point trying to capture the colors but it is a rainbow.

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