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billygoat

Billy's 40g Florida Keys Biotope

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vlangel
14 minutes ago, billygoat said:

 

Thank you both for your kind words! This tank is definitely experiencing some growing pains, but I agree that on balance everything is doing pretty well. I think the brown slime will disappear on its own before too long... I just have to figure out a way to get some macros growing so I can control phosphates.

Have you tried dosing just a little iron?  When my macro algae looks less than lush I add a capful of iron/ 100 gallon of water volume.  Usually it will perk up within a week.

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billygoat
On 1/6/2021 at 5:51 AM, vlangel said:

Have you tried dosing just a little iron?  When my macro algae looks less than lush I add a capful of iron/ 100 gallon of water volume.  Usually it will perk up within a week.

Iron dosing is definitely a good idea, but first I have to get some macros to dose for! My first attempt at setting up a refugium unfortunately resulted in some melted Chaeto... I think I might have been too early with it; the tank wasn't producing enough nutrients at that point to keep the Chaeto growing. Although now that I think about it, I haven't had much success in the past with sump-chamber refugiums in the back of AIO tanks just in general. I feel like the Chaeto never gets enough flow back there, and ends up getting smothered by pest algae. Or maybe I am just doing it wrong? I'm not sure. 🤔

 

I'm thinking over ways to incorporate some macros into the display in case I can't get the rear-chamber 'fuge plan rolling. The tank is pretty crowded already though, so jamming some more macros in might be a bit of a stretch. 😬

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melson

I was just going to ask about your refugium! I took my DIY chaeto reactor down because I found it too be too much of a pain to harvest, now I have a serious algae and nutrient problem I'm working on. I am attempting a chamber refugium now so we will see.

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billygoat
On 1/7/2021 at 7:26 AM, melson said:

I was just going to ask about your refugium! I took my DIY chaeto reactor down because I found it too be too much of a pain to harvest, now I have a serious algae and nutrient problem I'm working on. I am attempting a chamber refugium now so we will see.

Yeah, my refugium was definitely a flop at first. I think it's worth trying at least one more time though. I ought to have enough nutrients now to keep chaeto growing (PO4 tested at 0.10 today 😬), and dosing an iron supplement like ChaetoGro as per @vlangel's suggestion might be the difference maker. I'm going to give it another shot as soon as I can find a vendor with chaetomorpha in stock.

 

In the meantime I've been attacking the brown slime algae with my turkey baster whenever I get a chance, and also increased my water change frequency from twice monthly to weekly. Today I tried to document the daily cycle of cyanobacterial growth on my sand with a pair of morning-and-evening pictures, but my bad phone camera doesn't do the slime much justice:

 

IMG_1602.JPG.b639744ef35bb3228bafb56d8f3b8c8d.JPG  IMG_1607.JPG.caaaac8df58f277c00a630fb57e22b2a.JPG

 

I guess you can kind of see the difference... if you squint a little... 😅

 

The sunlight in the morning was quite beautiful today too.

IMG_1604.thumb.JPG.63b5e1477ec2c491c1b7159a6dad3d10.JPG

 

Here's the latest FTS:

IMG_1606.thumb.JPG.2e9d66820284dfec385b68a0ae51b72b.JPG

 

I also decided that I would get more done with this system if I set some solid goals for myself. So here are my tank goals for the next month or two:

  • Get the refugium going one more time, and see if I can finally get some macroalgae growing in there.
  • Stop fiddling with the lights and flow. I've been tweaking my settings a bit too much recently. I think everything will get more comfortable if I just leave them alone.
  • Normalize my feeding. The amount of food that goes into this tank seems to vary quite a bit from day to day, depending on my work schedule. I want to get into more of a routine.

If I can get reach these goals I think things are really going to improve! We'll see where we're at a few weeks down the line. 🤞

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sublunary

I LOVE that morning sunlight shot. 😍

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lizzyann

I've been out of the loop for a while and just got caught up on your tank! Looks great! That morning sunlight photo is so so gorgeous. And I'm happy to see the maw in there 😝.

 

You don't have a cheap microscope around to check out the brown stuff do you? Back when I had dinos I borrowed an old kid's scope from a friend and it was the easiest way to finally figure out what kind of slime I had. I feel like my dinos took a while to really start to get stringy, though I don't think what you're dealing with looks exactly the same even in the beginning 🤷 

 

I know having low nutrients seems so weird (well my nitrate is at 0, phosphate used to be low too but has slowly gotten higher and now too high). Interesting about the nitrites, I'll have to test mine. I'm thinking about dosing nitrate soon so we might have to compare notes!

 

Edit: went back and noticed it seems like nitrates did finally go up for you... Are they still? Was it just from fish bioload and increased feeding?

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billygoat
15 hours ago, sublunary said:

I LOVE that morning sunlight shot. 😍

Thank you! Direct sunlight only hits the tank during the wintertime and even then only for an hour or so in the morning, so I always try to observe the tank carefully during that time to get a feel for what my animals "actually" look like. 😅 Lightning a tank exclusively with natural sunlight is a secret dream of mine that I still hope to accomplish some day... maybe if I could build some sort of reefing greenhouse or something...

 

14 hours ago, lizzyann said:

I've been out of the loop for a while and just got caught up on your tank! Looks great! That morning sunlight photo is so so gorgeous. And I'm happy to see the maw in there 😝.

 

You don't have a cheap microscope around to check out the brown stuff do you? Back when I had dinos I borrowed an old kid's scope from a friend and it was the easiest way to finally figure out what kind of slime I had. I feel like my dinos took a while to really start to get stringy, though I don't think what you're dealing with looks exactly the same even in the beginning 🤷 

 

I know having low nutrients seems so weird (well my nitrate is at 0, phosphate used to be low too but has slowly gotten higher and now too high). Interesting about the nitrites, I'll have to test mine. I'm thinking about dosing nitrate soon so we might have to compare notes!

 

Edit: went back and noticed it seems like nitrates did finally go up for you... Are they still? Was it just from fish bioload and increased feeding?

Thanks for your kind words @lizzyann! The Maw is indeed still large and in charge. Thankfully I have some more active, free-swimming fish these days so I don't have any concerns about it eating my animals. Although now that I think of it, it did consume an anemone shrimp that I tried out a few months ago... not sure what I was thinking with that one. 😆

 

I do have a microscope that I could use to observe my slime algae more closely! I hadn't thought of that before but it's probably a good idea. It would be tragic if I went through a whole battle with cyano only to figure out months later that I was dealing with dinos all along. Nutrients are indeed up though. I tested nitrates this morning and returned a result of 15-20ppm (Salifert). Seems like a reasonable level, but my phosphates are definitely too high. My theory is that the nutrient see-saw I've been seeing is the result of increased bioload (and therefore increased feeding) combined with a lack of increase in biological filtration - basically I am running the same biofilter that I had on my previous tank, but I'm now running it with twice as many fish. 

 

I have an idea for a rear-chamber refugium basket setup that be a bit more effective. Stay tuned!

 

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billygoat

Here we go: this pre-water-change overhead shot shows the extent of the brown slime algae on my sand (and rocks). This growth peaks by about 11:00am and disappears again overnight.

 

IMG_1608.thumb.JPG.0d915ff2b96e86beebbff01e21bc4d37.JPG

 

So! About that idea for my refugium box.

 

I've noticed a few consistent problems with rear-chamber refugia in the AIO tanks that I've kept so far. The chaetomorpha starts out as a nice crisp ball, but water moving through the AIO's overflow chamber tends to push it into the bottom of the refugium box, causing it to clump up. This in turn restricts the chaeto's exposure to light and causes it to trap detritus, which slows down the flow of water and reduces the algae's access to nutrients. Eventually the wad of squished-up chaeto in the bottom of the 'fuge box gets infested with pest algae and melts. In my experience it usually ends up looking like this: 

 

IMG_0805.thumb.JPG.a16c671b1ef6bcb678c49c843a429a4d.JPG

 

Gross. So what to do about that? Well here's my idea: I'm going to try Ulva instead of Chaetomorpha, and I'm going to do it a little differently. I'm going to affix the Ulva to small pieces of rigid airline tubing and hang it upside-down from the top of the refugium box, so that the flow coming over it spreads the algae out instead of clumping it up. If all goes according to plan it should end up looking like this:

 

ulva.thumb.jpg.79130fd0db169592b97bd01ad0c65297.jpg

 

With water falling in from the top and light coming from the rear of the tank, the Ulva should get better flow (and therefore better access to nutrients) and more even exposure to light than a clumped-up bunch of chaetomorpha ever would. It also won't clog up the bottom of the box since it will be hanging up in the water column. Plus, when I harvest Ulva to remove it from my 'fuge, I can take the cuttings and place them in a nori clip to feed to my cherub angelfish. Bonus!

 

Not sure if this plan going to work, but it seems like it's worth a shot! 🤞

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Firefish15
On 1/9/2021 at 11:53 AM, billygoat said:

Well here's my idea: I'm going to try Ulva instead of Chaetomorpha, and I'm going to do it a little differently.

Well that’s an interesting plan! I had chaeto for a while, and it ended up looking like that photo you posted. 

I also read that red and brown algaes (think Graciliara) have slower metabolisms, so they can survive lower nutrient levels for longer than chaeto and ulva. Might be worth trying something like that too if the ulva doesn’t pan out.

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Tired

A slower metabolism means they take up less nutrients. There's a reason the green algaes are the most commonly used in fuges specifically meant to reduce nutrients. The red and browns can be good for a lower nutrient drain, like for a fuge that's meant as minor nutrient removal and intentional pod housing, instead of major nutrient removal and incidental pod housing.

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melson

Ulva fuge would be interesting!

 

How is your pygmy doing with the new tankmates?

 

I noticed my Pygmy bossing around my chalk bass to a section of the tank. My chalk bass is a huge baby though. Doesn't seem stressed out by it, if anything I'm sure he prefers to be in one spot. It's hard for me to even call it bossing, it's more like playful by the Pygmy.

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billygoat
On 1/10/2021 at 3:48 PM, Firefish15 said:

Well that’s an interesting plan! I had chaeto for a while, and it ended up looking like that photo you posted. 

I also read that red and brown algaes (think Graciliara) have slower metabolisms, so they can survive lower nutrient levels for longer than chaeto and ulva. Might be worth trying something like that too if the ulva doesn’t pan out.

Red and brown algae do indeed survive better at lower nutrient levels, but as @Tired pointed out they are generally less effective for nutrient uptake for this same reason. I'm still considering ways to incorporate reds and/or browns into my main display, as I feel that many commonly available species make for beautiful additions to a natural reefscape. But yes - as far as the nutrient-suctioning 'fuge is concerned, it's basically green algae (Caulerpa, Chaetomorpha, or Ulva) or bust.

 

On 1/14/2021 at 1:02 PM, melson said:

How is your pygmy doing with the new tankmates?

Shortly after I added the chromis there was a bit of displaying and tail-slapping from the pygmy angelfish, but that behavior seems to have entirely abated. All my fish now get along quite well and even hang out together, even at feeding time. The chromis also seem to have settled into a hierarchy of sorts, so I don't believe there is much risk of them suddenly killing each other at this point. They've been in the tank for almost 2 months now, so I figure that if they were going to get violent they would have done it already. 😅

 

As far as tank news goes: my 'fuge plans have been temporarily delayed because there was a shipping problem with my Ulva. Hopefully that will arrive within the next week. In the meantime I picked up a new toy:

 

IMG_1617.thumb.JPG.19e6d333e8db523425bcf925bb877051.JPG

 

This thing reminds me a lot of the Koralia 240 (it's made by the same company, in fact), except it's programmable and about four times as powerful. It's very small and completely silent. The app is a bit awkward but overall I am pleased with my purchase so far.

 

Here are some pictures from around the tank. I did a thorough cleaning of the glass and sand today (and threw out some of the most disgusting filter floss I've ever seen - remind me to change that more often), but don't be fooled - cyanobacteria is still an issue in here. Today's tests had nitrate at ~15-20 and phosphates at 0.09-0.1. I definitely need to get that 'fuge online sooner rather than later, I think.

 

This small gorgonian (Pterogorgia citrina) is loving the new powerhead. 

IMG_1611.thumb.JPG.748cb11124d193f2500dad1435dbfa38.JPG

 

Left-side view down "gorgonian alley."

IMG_1613.thumb.JPG.0fcbf590598a93e929cd4f92c7e2a058.JPG

 

The Ricordea pile from the front, topped by the first gorgonian I ever owned - a beautiful purple plume (Muriceopsis flavida).

IMG_1614.thumb.JPG.1b3f2373c20733a07dab3edd2e0de2ca.JPG

 

More to come tomorrow I think! Thanks as always for reading. 🙏

 

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Tired

Looks great, as always. I wish there was some kind of mini gorgonian- I'd love one for my tank, but I think it'd just look silly, or bump against everything. Gorgonians in picos really need the whole tank to be structured around them looking right. 

 

It's good they aren't squabbling any more, but tail-slapping is a pretty funny territorial squabble, all things considered. My prior tank had a yellowtail blue damsel, and a clown goby. The damsel only ever nipped the goby once, and seemed to pretty heavily regret it (clown gobies have thick, bad-tasting slime coats), but would try to tail-slap it into keeping out of his shell. It took a lot of slapping for the clown goby to move. And I know I've seen a video of a yellowtail tail-slapping a snowflake eel tankmate. 

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billygoat
2 hours ago, Tired said:

Looks great, as always. I wish there was some kind of mini gorgonian- I'd love one for my tank, but I think it'd just look silly, or bump against everything. Gorgonians in picos really need the whole tank to be structured around them looking right. 

Thank you! And you know, if you wanted a gorgonian in a pico you could always get a small frag and just prune it down regularly. Gorgonians are pretty much the easiest corals to trim - you just get a pair of scissors and cut off as much as you like. Most of them take fragging really well; in fact out on the reef there are some species that propagate themselves by relying on storms to break and scatter their branches.

 

2 hours ago, Tired said:

 

It's good they aren't squabbling any more, but tail-slapping is a pretty funny territorial squabble, all things considered. My prior tank had a yellowtail blue damsel, and a clown goby. The damsel only ever nipped the goby once, and seemed to pretty heavily regret it (clown gobies have thick, bad-tasting slime coats), but would try to tail-slap it into keeping out of his shell. It took a lot of slapping for the clown goby to move. And I know I've seen a video of a yellowtail tail-slapping a snowflake eel tankmate. 

The tail-slapping definitely had me laughing, especially since the chromis are quite a bit bigger than the angelfish. The little cherub's slapping days seem to be over, though. I do still see some occasional aggression between my fish, with the most dominant chromis charging the less-dominant ones and the angelfish chasing a tankmate out of its favorite cave from time to time, but I think that sort of thing is pretty much inevitable when you have a bunch of fish in an enclosed space. So far even the worst of what I've seen hasn't amounted to anything more than a few missing scales here and there. 🤞

 

Here's a quick (and now that I look at it, slightly crooked) FTS that I forgot to append to the post above:

IMG_1618.thumb.JPG.a62460515ff8cedffa12e4818937db13.JPG

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Angel Higuera

Very nice. 

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billygoat
On 1/15/2021 at 10:52 PM, Angel Higuera said:

Very nice. 

Thank you. ^^

 

Nothing much to report with the tank so far this week. Everything is going about as well as usual. I installed the Ulva 'fuge but wasn't able to set it up exactly as I anticipated; the Ulva I received was too torn up and ragged to be situated the refugium box in the way that I planned. I ended up just tossing it in the box as you would with Chaeto. We'll see if it fares any better than the Chaeto did.

 

I do have an interesting project in the works though: mangroves!

 

IMG_1622.thumb.JPG.75342150fdd2a732e67c7f677a0be663.JPG

 

Mangroves are something I've been wanting to grow for a really long time, but they never seemed appropriate to place in my reef tank and I haven't liked the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a new aquarium just to grow trees in. For this reason I'd been putting the mangrove project off more or less indefinitely, but when I discovered this large plastic tub in my backyard today the gears suddenly clicked into place: Why not fill it up with saltwater and grow mangroves in here? Of course!

 

This tub was originally designed as a mini-pond for water lilies; it's about 10 inches deep and 22 inches across at the top. I think I am going to build a short stand for it to keep it about waist level, and then toss in a bunch of sand and mud, a heater, and a small powerhead. I should be able to grow mangroves in here quite easily, and if I am careful I may even be able to introduce some live rock and grow some other cool creatures as well! It won't be anything like a traditional aquarium, but I think it would be pretty neat to see anemones and other invertebrates in a strictly top-down setting, like a little captive tide pool.

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Firefish15
20 minutes ago, billygoat said:

It won't be anything like a traditional aquarium, but I think it would be pretty neat to see anemones and other invertebrates in a strictly top-down setting, like a little captive tide pool.

Sounds like a cool project! You could keep a floating view window on hand like they have at coral stores!

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Tired

Sounds like a really cool idea. Maybe you can try some of those RFA babies in it. 

 

Any idea how many gallons it is? 

 

I briefly had a 55-gallon rubber stock tank in my room as a sort of indoor pond. I couldn't really get the whole thing properly lit to grow plants, though, and had some worries about fish jumping out even with the water level kept low. Wound up transferring things to a proper aquarium. A smaller container without fish will probably work much better. 

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billygoat
13 hours ago, Firefish15 said:

Sounds like a cool project! You could keep a floating view window on hand like they have at coral stores!

Great idea! That would be an extra cool touch. 😄

 

7 hours ago, Tired said:

Sounds like a really cool idea. Maybe you can try some of those RFA babies in it. 

 

Any idea how many gallons it is? 

 

I briefly had a 55-gallon rubber stock tank in my room as a sort of indoor pond. I couldn't really get the whole thing properly lit to grow plants, though, and had some worries about fish jumping out even with the water level kept low. Wound up transferring things to a proper aquarium. A smaller container without fish will probably work much better. 

I reckon the tub is somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 gallons or so. I suppose I could calculate it, but the sloping edges make volume math a little tricky. 🤔

 

It'll probably be awhile before the project gets up and running (I need to save up some money first), but I agree - it's a pretty exciting plan. I know just the place to put it too, in front of a big sunny window.

 

Oh and here are some pictures of my actual aquarium as well. 😅 Cyano persists, but I've been managing it a bit better than before.

 

IMG_1625.thumb.JPG.cf83187f8e7608f9b4af365c31058e60.JPG

 

This is my fattest Ricordea florida: about 3 inches across!

IMG_1624.thumb.JPG.a9ca1faa39b765f80fa1ba711cfb4938.JPG

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Tired

Your tank's starting to not have any rock exposed at all. I normally don't like the look of a tank where all the rock is solid coral, but all the negative space in this one makes it. 

 

Is that a baby Maw front and center? 

 

It's probably a good thing your current fish don't perch. Harder for the Maw to eat them. If it figures out how to catch damselfish, I'd start worrying about putting your hands in there!

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kekke1082

Your tank is looking great! Glad that the cyano seems to be under control now. those ricordea look amazing! I can't wait to add a few to my reef! hoping to get a few small ricordea and gorgonia from Gulf Coast Ecosystems soon 🤞🤞🤞

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kekke1082

question for you, the red bubble algae thats in with your ricordea, is that red grape? im thinking about moving mine out of the make shift breeder box refugium i have going. 

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billygoat
10 hours ago, Tired said:

Is that a baby Maw front and center? 

Good eye! That is indeed a tiny Mawling. There's an even smaller one on the backside of that same little rock.

 

So far there seems to be no danger to my chromis or angelfish from the ravening Maw, but honestly it wouldn't surprise me at all if I woke up one day and discovered I'm down a fish. I tried to isolate the Maw in the corner this time around to keep it away from the areas where my fish spend most of their time, but it's a wily creature if there ever was one, and it's definitely eaten things in the past that I thought for sure it would have no business eating. 

 

8 hours ago, kekke1082 said:

question for you, the red bubble algae thats in with your ricordea, is that red grape? im thinking about moving mine out of the make shift breeder box refugium i have going. 

Yup, that's red grape algae (Botryocladia sp.). It came in as a hitchhiker on my original live rock and has been growing in my tank ever since. It's a very pretty species, and a fairly fast grower as red algae go.

 

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kekke1082
On 1/22/2021 at 10:17 PM, billygoat said:

Yup, that's red grape algae (Botryocladia sp.). It came in as a hitchhiker on my original live rock and has been growing in my tank ever since. It's a very pretty species, and a fairly fast grower as red algae go.

 

I just might move mine into my display tank in that case. It stopped shedding "grapes" and seems to have started growing really well it may be happier in a different spot i think my cheato may be choking it out a bit. 

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ererer
On 1/21/2021 at 6:02 PM, billygoat said:

Thank you. ^^

 

Nothing much to report with the tank so far this week. Everything is going about as well as usual. I installed the Ulva 'fuge but wasn't able to set it up exactly as I anticipated; the Ulva I received was too torn up and ragged to be situated the refugium box in the way that I planned. I ended up just tossing it in the box as you would with Chaeto. We'll see if it fares any better than the Chaeto did.

 

I do have an interesting project in the works though: mangroves!

 

IMG_1622.thumb.JPG.75342150fdd2a732e67c7f677a0be663.JPG

 

Mangroves are something I've been wanting to grow for a really long time, but they never seemed appropriate to place in my reef tank and I haven't liked the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a new aquarium just to grow trees in. For this reason I'd been putting the mangrove project off more or less indefinitely, but when I discovered this large plastic tub in my backyard today the gears suddenly clicked into place: Why not fill it up with saltwater and grow mangroves in here? Of course!

 

This tub was originally designed as a mini-pond for water lilies; it's about 10 inches deep and 22 inches across at the top. I think I am going to build a short stand for it to keep it about waist level, and then toss in a bunch of sand and mud, a heater, and a small powerhead. I should be able to grow mangroves in here quite easily, and if I am careful I may even be able to introduce some live rock and grow some other cool creatures as well! It won't be anything like a traditional aquarium, but I think it would be pretty neat to see anemones and other invertebrates in a strictly top-down setting, like a little captive tide pool.

Have you considered starting it as a freshwater mangrove "tank" and then slowly acclimating it to SW when you're ready to add other SW inhabitants? That's what I'm probably going to do. From what I've read, it seems that mangroves grow more quickly in FW than SW, and it's easier to setup and maintain FW than SW. If you give them 6-8 weeks to slowly acclimate, they usually seem to do fine once you're ready to switch to SW.

 

Also, what are your plans for lighting and substrate?

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