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Billy's 40g Florida Keys Biotope


billygoat

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growsomething

"Gorgonians! They're all I've got, folks."

 

They're all our Gulf/Atlantic reefs might have in a few decades!  Really hope some kind of genetic stony strains emerge that can tolerate all the stressors.  And I hope we clean up our effluent here in FL.  It's the primary cause for the die-off so far.

 

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15 hours ago, DNR88 said:

Good to see the Argi! 😁 How is (s)he doing? I loved mine, so much character!

Seems like a great fish to me, although I have to admit that it needs a lot of space for such a small animal. My 40g tank is barely big enough for it! It picks on my corals sometimes too, but it has a tiny mouth and a short attention span so I don't think it's really capable of causing any serious damage.

 

11 hours ago, growsomething said:

"Gorgonians! They're all I've got, folks."

 

They're all our Gulf/Atlantic reefs might have in a few decades!  Really hope some kind of genetic stony strains emerge that can tolerate all the stressors.  And I hope we clean up our effluent here in FL.  It's the primary cause for the die-off so far.

 

The state of reefs in the Caribbean region is certainly very sad right now. ☹️ Yesterday I was watching an amateur dive video from Coki Beach in St. Thomas, which was basically my back yard when I was growing up, and I was stunned to see how much it has changed over the years. The only stony corals I could spot in the video were dead or heavily bleached, and while there still seem to be plenty of gorgonians and sponges, most of the primary reef-building species seem to have massively declined. And that's out in the islands - I'm sure Florida is even worse, with all the additional pollution from the large population centers and agricultural operations there.

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Not to completely hijack Billy's journal but...

 

It's worth mentioning the original founder of sealifeinc, now kpaquatics, is trying his best to fix the Caribbean stony coral crisis with a nonprofit called Coral Restoration. 

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16 hours ago, melson said:

Not to completely hijack Billy's journal but...

 

It's worth mentioning the original founder of sealifeinc, now kpaquatics, is trying his best to fix the Caribbean stony coral crisis with a nonprofit called Coral Restoration. 

Hijack! The whole point of my tank is to remember those reefs, so I'd hardly say it's hijacking to point out those restoration efforts! 😂 They are very important!

 

With the easing of covid restrictions here in Los Angeles I recently went back to my "beforetimes" job as a marine science educator, so I talk about reef restoration quite a lot actually... the state of reefs in the Caribbean has never been worse, and they need all the help we can give them. Weird coral diseases, massive bleaching events linked to climate change, and other anthropogenic problems like effluent runoff and plastic pollution have been piled on top of long-standing issues such as the introduction of destructive invasive species (lionfish), overfishing, and general misuse of reefs by recreational divers and boaters to create a perfect storm of problems for coral reefs in Florida and the Caribbean. Populations of critical reef-building corals like Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) and Staghorn (A. cervicornis) have declined by more than 90% over the past few decades. Those are usually the species that get mentioned when Florida reefs show up in the news because they are the focus of arking and outplanting efforts by projects like the one @melson mentioned, but there are tons of other cool corals in the region that have also been heavily impacted, including my personal favorite, Caribbean pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus) :

 

five-seas-Dendrogyra-cylindrus.jpg.1969b628acd926c3f6d5a874bdab42c7.jpg

 

The Florida Reef is the third-largest barrier reef in the world, second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Belize Barrier Reef, and it's right here in our own backyard. It saddens me to think that if the pace of environmental degradation continues to increase, all the beautiful animals that call the reef home might not be around for much longer. ☹️

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10 hours ago, A.m.P said:

Am I mistaken or was that coral declared functionally extinct earlier in the year?

 

10 hours ago, growsomething said:

Yes, it was, in the keys.  I recall it grew somewhere else in the Caribbean or gulf, though.

You guys are talking about Dendrogyra, yeah? I was not aware that it went extinct in Florida, although sadly that does not really surprise me. It still exists in other parts of the Caribbean, and in some places I think it's still going relatively strong. Last year (or was it a few years ago now?) the Florida Aquarium had success with inducing pillar coral to spawn under laboratory conditions, but unfortunately captive-raised specimens outplanted in the ocean are unlikely to survive unless the original causes for their decline are addressed. Still though, it's at least one bit of encouraging news!

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20 minutes ago, billygoat said:

 

You guys are talking about Dendrogyra, yeah? I was not aware that it went extinct in Florida, although sadly that does not really surprise me. It still exists in other parts of the Caribbean, and in some places I think it's still going relatively strong. Last year (or was it a few years ago now?) the Florida Aquarium had success with inducing pillar coral to spawn under laboratory conditions, but unfortunately captive-raised specimens outplanted in the ocean are unlikely to survive unless the original causes for their decline are addressed. Still though, it's at least one bit of encouraging news!

Ah yeah, that was vague sorry.
https://reefbuilders.com/2021/05/25/dendrogyra-cylindrus-extinct-in-florida/

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13 hours ago, A.m.P said:

Interesting! Thank you for the link. I am always eager to learn more about what's going on out on the Florida reef, even if the news is rarely positive.

 

I have some updates from the tank as well. Good news, but also not so good news. That seems to be the general trend these days.

 

First the good news: my Cladocora colony is definitely on the rebound. I've been feeding it daily and that seems to make a tremendous difference for this particular coral. It has regained most of its color and will hopefully be back up to full strength before long.

 

IMG_1922.thumb.JPG.8ffee4ecd0ff103d4f233a1b8b7021f4.JPG

 

My new light also seems to have been well received by all of my corals, which is a relief. The last time I changed my light it was kind of a boondoggle: I bungled the controller settings and ended up microwaving a couple of gorgonians, all for a light "upgrade" that was of questionable importance to begin with. This time has been much smoother, and a lot of my corals look better than they have in a long time. These yellow-eyed zoanthids for example are puffier than I've ever seen them. They're growing over the base of that gorgonian on the right.

 

IMG_1923.thumb.JPG.2425b695ec0d6a306b76773d8e805162.JPG

 

My mangrove propagules also seem to be doing well. They are all developing roots, which is great to see. I have a plan to plant them in substrate and house them in the sump chambers of my tank, which I will go into in more detail when my materials arrive later this week. It won't be a permanent home for them, but it will at least get them going while I figure out where I want to put them down the road.

 

IMG_1924.thumb.JPG.5dd26430c055fe8e33a2bf3b9b8c085a.JPG

 

Unfortunately it's not all good news on the reef: aggression between my chromis is increasing. My aquascaping activities appear to have disrupted them sufficiently that they now fight pretty regularly, with the most dominant of the three really going after the weakest of them. Their combat is not constant, but when they go at it they are pretty invested; the poor runty chromis has a popped eye (again), probably because he got punched in the face by the biggest one. The little guy is getting pretty thrashed. I feel that I ought to remove at least one of the three to try and give them more space, but I am having a lot of trouble catching them. I'm unsure about what the long term solution to this situation will be, but hopefully I will figure something out before they manage to kill each other.

 

I haven't got any pictures of the fighting fish because the camera stresses them out, but... yeah, it's not a great look for the chromis trio at this point. They were fine for about four months, but I had a feeling this situation would eventually arise. It is another lesson learned I suppose. 😥 I guess I can rest assured that when the dust settles I will end up with at least one survivor! 😅

 

Anyway, fish issues (fissues?) aside, the tank as a whole is really doing amazingly well. This current system is exactly what I envisioned when I upgraded from my previous 18g setup, and I am very pleased with the way it has come together. I have a tendency to fail to see the reef for the corals when certain things go wrong; I get stressed out over relatively minor imperfections even when things are pretty great overall. But I know that in time the few problems that I have will work themselves out one way or another. I just hope I don't have to kill too many fish to get there. 😬

 

Here's an early-morning side-view shot to close out this update. Thanks as always for reading! 🙏

IMG_1921.thumb.JPG.e2142d8caedb279c313a891c19a641aa.JPG

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If I were you, I'd take out the bigger two chromis. They're unlikely to ever get along, so you should cut down to just one. And if you keep the runty one, he's guaranteed a nice house, instead of potentially getting shunted around continuing to be the runty beat-up one in more setups once rehomed. 

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On 6/18/2021 at 10:47 AM, Tired said:

If I were you, I'd take out the bigger two chromis. They're unlikely to ever get along, so you should cut down to just one. And if you keep the runty one, he's guaranteed a nice house, instead of potentially getting shunted around continuing to be the runty beat-up one in more setups once rehomed. 

If I end up removing them, that's probably what I'm going to do. They seem to go through periods of getting along punctuated by periods of savagery. Still not sure what the long term solution might be, though I must admit that I've been considering simply getting a bigger tank. I'd really like a 100g setup at some point down the road, and I imagine that my three chromis would be just fine in such a system if I end up upgrading sooner rather than later.

 

I have a quick update for this tank though: my mangrove module is in! I ended up taking half of my propagules and planting them in a "'fuge cup" made from an IceCap filter sock cup filled with Miracle Mud refugium substrate topped with regular aragonite sand. I had to have the lip removed from this cup (using a router) to fit it into the sump. The remaining four propagules are still hanging in styrofoam in my sump. We'll see which group of mangroves grows better!

 

IMG_1928.thumb.JPG.23c54afb11f4f66f5eb8381f50a4756b.JPG

 

IMG_1929.thumb.JPG.204d8541cc09ab015b3bc1e62bd8099e.JPG

 

IMG_1932.thumb.JPG.ada01807687357b40074fa004ada114a.JPG

 

IMG_1933.thumb.JPG.6165f713d694e519404ceb72e69693f1.JPG

 

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ECLS Reefer
5 hours ago, billygoat said:

If I end up removing them, that's probably what I'm going to do. They seem to go through periods of getting along punctuated by periods of savagery. Still not sure what the long term solution might be, though I must admit that I've been considering simply getting a bigger tank. I'd really like a 100g setup at some point down the road, and I imagine that my three chromis would be just fine in such a system if I end up upgrading sooner rather than later.

 

I have a quick update for this tank though: my mangrove module is in! I ended up taking half of my propagules and planting them in a "'fuge cup" made from an IceCap filter sock cup filled with Miracle Mud refugium substrate topped with regular aragonite sand. I had to have the lip removed from this cup (using a router) to fit it into the sump. The remaining four propagules are still hanging in styrofoam in my sump. We'll see which group of mangroves grows better!

 

IMG_1928.thumb.JPG.23c54afb11f4f66f5eb8381f50a4756b.JPG

 

IMG_1929.thumb.JPG.204d8541cc09ab015b3bc1e62bd8099e.JPG

 

IMG_1932.thumb.JPG.ada01807687357b40074fa004ada114a.JPG

 

IMG_1933.thumb.JPG.6165f713d694e519404ceb72e69693f1.JPG

 

I need to copy that idea for my mangroves they look ragged on the root system and just pick up junk in the tank. That’s a nice clean look, with that cup!

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12 hours ago, ECLS Reefer said:

I need to copy that idea for my mangroves they look ragged on the root system and just pick up junk in the tank. That’s a nice clean look, with that cup!

It worked surprisingly well, and even if the mangroves don't take for whatever reason the chunk of substrate will probably prove to be useful as a site for anaerobic denitrification.

 

One issue I encountered was that the holes in the bottom of the cup are pretty big (about 1/2" or so), which would surely cause substrate to leak out over time. I fixed this by putting a layer of small shells at the very bottom of the cup to ensure that those holes don't leak or clog. I'm sure any other similarly sized objects (busted bits of dry rock, small bio balls, etc.) would work just as well.

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I tidied up my tank's rear chambers today and cleaned my return pump. Anyone who owns a Nuvo 40 will understand how onerous of a task this is. I love my tank but I have to say that the design of the sump area is terrible. 😂

 

That being said, I consulted with numerous friends and family members and discovered that there is a broad consensus for me keeping this tank running rather than upgrading to a bigger system. So I may end up starting a second tank rather than moving everything into a bigger tank... even though a bigger tank is really what I want. I'll think on it for awhile and see what happens. I may take a look at the IM 25 lagoon (a tank I've always admired) and start a system with upside-down jellies and mangroves.

 

Here's a neat overhead shot that I took during my water change today.

 

IMG_1934.thumb.JPG.c75bdd40aed258fe7f5b2688218caaa2.JPG

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My most recent attempt at an FTS. Ignore those zoanthids on the right; they had just been trampled by Chad the Friendly Crab.

 

IMG_1939.thumb.JPG.b743008724d91469ddfabff152c6c96a.JPG

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Got quite a lot going on in Ric Town these days. Strange to think that I used to have like one polyp of each of these different colors... 🤔

 

IMG_1942.thumb.JPG.dd4b8ad6653bfd57d0a543fe4b326df9.JPG

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Murphs_Reef
On 6/16/2021 at 5:23 PM, billygoat said:

 

Interesting! Thank you for the link. I am always eager to learn more about what's going on out on the Florida reef, even if the news is rarely positive.

 

I have some updates from the tank as well. Good news, but also not so good news. That seems to be the general trend these days.

 

First the good news: my Cladocora colony is definitely on the rebound. I've been feeding it daily and that seems to make a tremendous difference for this particular coral. It has regained most of its color and will hopefully be back up to full strength before long.

 

IMG_1922.thumb.JPG.8ffee4ecd0ff103d4f233a1b8b7021f4.JPG

 

My new light also seems to have been well received by all of my corals, which is a relief. The last time I changed my light it was kind of a boondoggle: I bungled the controller settings and ended up microwaving a couple of gorgonians, all for a light "upgrade" that was of questionable importance to begin with. This time has been much smoother, and a lot of my corals look better than they have in a long time. These yellow-eyed zoanthids for example are puffier than I've ever seen them. They're growing over the base of that gorgonian on the right.

 

IMG_1923.thumb.JPG.2425b695ec0d6a306b76773d8e805162.JPG

 

My mangrove propagules also seem to be doing well. They are all developing roots, which is great to see. I have a plan to plant them in substrate and house them in the sump chambers of my tank, which I will go into in more detail when my materials arrive later this week. It won't be a permanent home for them, but it will at least get them going while I figure out where I want to put them down the road.

 

IMG_1924.thumb.JPG.5dd26430c055fe8e33a2bf3b9b8c085a.JPG

 

Unfortunately it's not all good news on the reef: aggression between my chromis is increasing. My aquascaping activities appear to have disrupted them sufficiently that they now fight pretty regularly, with the most dominant of the three really going after the weakest of them. Their combat is not constant, but when they go at it they are pretty invested; the poor runty chromis has a popped eye (again), probably because he got punched in the face by the biggest one. The little guy is getting pretty thrashed. I feel that I ought to remove at least one of the three to try and give them more space, but I am having a lot of trouble catching them. I'm unsure about what the long term solution to this situation will be, but hopefully I will figure something out before they manage to kill each other.

 

I haven't got any pictures of the fighting fish because the camera stresses them out, but... yeah, it's not a great look for the chromis trio at this point. They were fine for about four months, but I had a feeling this situation would eventually arise. It is another lesson learned I suppose. 😥 I guess I can rest assured that when the dust settles I will end up with at least one survivor! 😅

 

Anyway, fish issues (fissues?) aside, the tank as a whole is really doing amazingly well. This current system is exactly what I envisioned when I upgraded from my previous 18g setup, and I am very pleased with the way it has come together. I have a tendency to fail to see the reef for the corals when certain things go wrong; I get stressed out over relatively minor imperfections even when things are pretty great overall. But I know that in time the few problems that I have will work themselves out one way or another. I just hope I don't have to kill too many fish to get there. 😬

 

Here's an early-morning side-view shot to close out this update. Thanks as always for reading! 🙏

IMG_1921.thumb.JPG.e2142d8caedb279c313a891c19a641aa.JPG

 

What I do from time to time, is flick one of the bigger ones with my finger right in the head if I can to break them up which works for a while.. 

Mind my dusky wrasse keeps them on their toes most of the time. 

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ECLS Reefer
19 minutes ago, Murphych said:

 

What I do from time to time, is flick one of the bigger ones with my finger right in the head if I can to break them up which works for a while.. 

Mind my dusky wrasse keeps them on their toes most of the time. 

I have a single chromis left from the three I bought last year and I swear he's the most belligerent, hated fish in the tank. He's like the grumpy old hermit that doesn't like neighbors and has to say something rude when he sees them. Every single fish in there has a bone to pick with him. I won't ever buy another chromis after dealing with this dude.

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Murphs_Reef
4 minutes ago, ECLS Reefer said:

I have a single chromis left from the three I bought last year and I swear he's the most belligerent, hated fish in the tank. He's like the grumpy old hermit that doesn't like neighbors and has to say something rude when he sees them. Every single fish in there has a bone to pick with him. I won't ever buy another chromis after dealing with this dude.

Love the idea of him flipping the bird as he swims past a tang.... 

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12 minutes ago, ECLS Reefer said:

I have a single chromis left from the three I bought last year and I swear he's the most belligerent, hated fish in the tank. He's like the grumpy old hermit that doesn't like neighbors and has to say something rude when he sees them. Every single fish in there has a bone to pick with him. I won't ever buy another chromis after dealing with this dude.

They're jerks for sure! I have no idea what I was thinking buying those guys, haha. I was working in wholesale at the time and I think I had become so accustomed to seeing tons of fish jammed into undersized tanks that I didn't even give the idea of three big chromis in my 40g a second thought... boy do I wish I had, though. 😅

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ECLS Reefer
57 minutes ago, Murphych said:

Love the idea of him flipping the bird as he swims past a tang.... 

I’m pretty sure that’s what he does 

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Sorry to hear the chromis have started to lord of the flies on you, I was hoping to be proven wrong on that one. I have no clue what the magic ingredient is for some to be able to get away with keeping those fish in numbers.

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On 6/30/2021 at 11:17 AM, gena said:

Wow!  Looks fantastic!  I've always loved the Florida Keys biotopes!!!!

Thank you! I grew up in the West Indies, so the Caribbean stuff has always had a special place in my heart. I am glad you enjoy my little slice of the islands! 😁

 

On 6/30/2021 at 12:23 PM, A.m.P said:

Sorry to hear the chromis have started to lord of the flies on you, I was hoping to be proven wrong on that one. I have no clue what the magic ingredient is for some to be able to get away with keeping those fish in numbers.

Honestly the chromis have been playing pretty nice for the past week or two now... I'm hoping that they've once again figured out whatever sort of hierarchy problems they were dealing with for awhile there. I don't have any plans to change much in this tank in the near future (although it wouldn't be the first time that I've said that and then immediately enacted some dramatic changes...), so disruptions to their environment should be kept to a minimum for the time being. Hopefully that will significantly reduce the incidence of chromis-on-chromis violence. 😬

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