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Chris's Pico Pest Reef! (New Orchid Dottyback!)

Chris's Fishes

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Chris's Fishes

Hey guys!


So, I recently had a disaster in my hobby. My apartment had to be treated for pests, and I was required to remove all of my tanks from the apartment during treatment. During this time, I ended up losing about half of my livestock - including my beloved Peacock Mantis Shrimp.



I do really miss having a mantis shrimp - they such cool little creatures. Very interactive, inquisitive, and always getting into some sort of trouble in the tank. Reminds me of my puffers, in some ways! But I don't think I want another peacock right now - I want to try a different species. One I've had my eye on for quite a while.

The Wennerae Mantis, Neogonodactylus wennerae!




These guys max out at around 3", and are perfectly suited to small tanks. They're smashers (meaning they have modified claws to break open shellfish), just like my peacock was, but with much less power. These guys are able to hunt down crabs, shrimp, and snails, but are going to struggle to crack open anything with a thick shell.

I went to my LFS today, and picked up a 5.5 gallon Seapora glass tank for $16.99. It's a nice tank for the price - Seapora makes nice stuff, IMO. I rinsed it out, just to get any dust out of it, and this was it.




Next, I decided to paint the back black, since the tank wasn't going right up against a wall. I taped off the rim of the tank with duct tape, cause that's all I had lol.



I just use some Krylon Black Acrylic paint and a roller for this. I prefer spray painting but I don't have an area to do that here, so rolling paint on is the best I can do. It looks fine from the front side of the tank, but usually looks kind of "meh" from the back.




First Coat:




did three coats total, which got me a decently opaque surface. This is what the tank looked like, pre-fill:




I added some sand from the Peacock Mantis tank, which has long been dried, but not cleaned. I'm hoping all that dead gunk in the sand will help get us a strong cycle in this tank. Whenever I filled it the first time, I ended up getting milk, basically. Gotta love aragonite.




I had just used plain freshwater to fill that time, though, so I drained the tank and added in the rock. I'm using a piece of marco dry rock that I had from a previous tank, a piece of well-seasoned rock that's got some life already on it (although, not much algae due to being in a bucket), and a piece of rock I got from the LFS. I got this particular rock for a reason - but that's gotta be a surprise.

Whenever I refilled the tank (with saltwater this time) I was careful to do it slowly to minimize cloudiness. The powerhead I bought (Aquatop MCP-1) was way too strong for this tank, and was blowing water around. So, I pulled my Koralia Nano 240 out of my 10 gallon QT, and switched them around. Each tank is better off, I think. Then, I tossed in a preset heater and a thermometer, and we're off to the races!



I'll update this post tomorrow, and tell the story of why I picked this rock, and what the extended plans are for this tank.

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You should join the nano reef contest that is just starting.  It would be easy to dump it in  a bucket and get the empty pic of tank with a coffee cup.  It is fun to be in the group and I always learn things as the contest progresses,


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Chris's Fishes
18 hours ago, kimdawg said:

You should join the nano reef contest that is just starting.  It would be easy to dump it in  a bucket and get the empty pic of tank with a coffee cup.  It is fun to be in the group and I always learn things as the contest progresses,


I'll consider it! I'll likely be breaking the tank down here in a few weeks to add in some PVC burrows for the mantis, so I assume I could get the pic then? I know that latest entries are December 1st - is it breaking the rules if I have the tank running for a few weeks without officially entering the contest? Just to make sure I don't break the rules! I could probably tear it apart tomorrow if I absolutely had to...


16 hours ago, Clown79 said:

I'm sorry you lost your mantis. They are so beautiful and an amazing animal.


Looking forward to seeing your pico and why you chose that rock🙂

They really are amazing! I thought they were just cool before I owned one, but after caring for one and interacting with one, I'm convinced they're one of the more unique animals we're able to keep in home aquaria. It always draws attention, too - anytime I posted on freshy forums, the mantis threads were always lively!




13 hours ago, debbeach13 said:

Hi Good luck with the new set up. If you want to check out the contest and some early entries do a search of 9to5. There is the contest thread with the RULES and about 10+ entries already.

Thank you so much! I've always loved your tanks, by the way! I read through your unofficial 365 thread the other night while researching ideas, and loved it!


Alrighty, so last night (after my last post) I realized that I had put the "special" piece of live rock in upside-down - oops! I flipped it over and re-arranged the scape just a tiny bit. Here's a FTS:




If you didn't notice, the reason I chose that particular rock is the fact that there's three chonky aiptasia living on it, and some red slime, to boot. The girl in the store gave me the weirdest look when I asked for the rock and declined her offer to treat it with Aiptasia-X - pretty sure she thinks I'm crazy, now!






Believe it or not, despite me owning several marine aquariums, I've never actually had these guys, and I've always been intrigued. I know that they're basically the devil, but that's kind of the point of this tank, right? Now, if I could only find someone who had Majanos...


The other piece of live rock (on the right) I chose because it's covered in these micro feather dusters. Not a pest by any means, and I love having them in my tanks. However, they do reproduce like crazy, and I figured they fit the theme fairly well. Plus, it's always fun to see where they pop up next! You can see some old, dead tubes on the piece of dry marco rock in the middle from it's last tank deployment.




I'm hoping to find some Majanos, but haven't had luck so far. I think they're gorgeous, personally. I'm also thinking some Yellow Polyps, Brown Palys, Caulerpa Prolifera, Caulerpa Racemosa, and maybe some other fast-growing macros might find a good home here. I'm always open to suggestions, too!


And in case it isn't obvious, I'm pulling some inspiration from @Islandoftiki's pest tank from years ago.

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11 hours ago, Chris's Fishes said:

Thank you so much! I've always loved your tanks, by the way! I read through your unofficial 365 thread the other night while researching ideas, and loved it!


Thank you! That tank and that contest was a lot of fun. All of the contests really bring the community together. So many creative ideas plus people pushing the limits of what you can do with a tank. I think this new contest will see a lot of limits pushed. Your entry photo must be posted by Nov. 30th. 

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Chris's Fishes
7 hours ago, debbeach13 said:

Thank you! That tank and that contest was a lot of fun. All of the contests really bring the community together. So many creative ideas plus people pushing the limits of what you can do with a tank. I think this new contest will see a lot of limits pushed. Your entry photo must be posted by Nov. 30th. 

I'll likely be entering, then!


On another forum, someone made the point that the Aiptasia are likely to eventually take over the tank. That is the point. I'm personally not a big fan of manicured scapes - to each their own, they look nice, but they're not for me. I'm simply stocking this tank and maintaining water quality, and leaving the rest to the inhabitants. If the Aiptasia begin to wipe out a coral, I'll simply frag the coral (if I want to keep it somewhere else), treat it for aiptasia in QT, and let the Aiptasia wipe it out in this tank. If I end up with an Aiptasia Garden and a mantis, so be it.


The big guy up front was enjoying the sunlight this tank gets in the morning:


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Chris's Fishes

Alrighty, just placed an order from Reef Cleaners for:


Brown Button Polyps
25 Assorted Hermits

10 Dwarf Ceriths
5 Nerites
10 Zig Zag Periwinkles
Pencil Cap Macro
Caulerpa Mexicana
Cactus Caulerpa


Not all of this is going into this tank, but a few hermits, snails, button polyps, and the two Caulerpa species definitely will be.


Had someone on another forum try and tell me that reefcleaners was a "horrible website". I just facepalmed. 🙄

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Chris's Fishes

Noticed a few things in the tank today.


For one, I'm starting to get the lightest patches of diatoms around the tank. To be expected, for sure. Another pest, I guess? 🤔


For two, the red slime has spread overnight. I'm now seeing long strands of it coating things in the tank. You can see it in between these feather dusters:




For three, I'm seeing more and more pods in here. At any one time, I can look into the tank and find one within seconds. A great sign! They look to be of the non-coral eating variety, so that's good. I'm also seeing some other hitchhikers - namely, little tiny white worms that have appeared all over the tank. They're not flatworms, but are more like white spaghetti worms. Strange! I haven't been able to get a pic yet - they're teeny.


And, finally, the Aiptasia are getting bigger and are gaining a tiny bit of yellow around their mouths. This guy in the back in particular has gotten huge:



hat was with the pump off - when it's on, his arms stretch a good 4" across that rock. I'm glad I got a species with at least a little color and long, flowy tentacles! Some of them are short, stubby, and brown/translucent. Not as fun to look at.


Oh, and I fed one a piece of mysis shrimp. I recorded it, but I think I'm going to gather footage throughout the week and post it all together on the weekends, to avoid unnecessary links. Here he is with his tentacles in his mouth, though!


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Chris's Fishes

A couple of the Aiptasia began looking angry yesterday - no clue why. All three are definitely more shrunken than usual. The tank tests fine...




I added an airline to the tank to try and help break up the surface scum, and hopefully that helps.

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Chris's Fishes
20 hours ago, LazyFish said:

They tend to realy spread and flourish in heavily fed nutreant rich tanks. Same with majanos...maby get you some cute little ball nems too? They can become pests in some systems.

Ball nems are actually mushroom corals, right? That might be cool, if I ever found some!


Reef Cleaner's order came in today!


As usual, it looks as if the mailman played a few rounds of football with the box. It's amazing that this is the quality of service that we consider acceptable.



Inside, I found a cooling pack (they ship from Florida) and an insulated bag. When I've done large orders from them in the past they've shipped everything in a styrofoam cooler, but this entire box weighed less than three lbs.



Here's the Cactus Caulerpa - a decent portion, although some of it has melted back:



Caulerpa Mexicana:






I ordered 10 dwarf ceriths and got a million, as usual:






I've got a few more to upload, but I hit my 25 MB limit and am too lazy to resize these pics right now, lol. I'll post pics of stuff in the tanks tonight!


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Chris's Fishes

Here are the pics of everything as of today:


Brown Button Polyps are coming around:



Pencil Cap:



Caulerpa Mexicana:



Cactus Caulerpa:



Expect a video on the tank later tonight or tomorrow!

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Chris's Fishes

So uh... I just got home, and was looking in the tank. Noticed some diatoms growing, which makes sense because I dosed the tank. Then, I look down and see THIS:




It's got feet tubes like starfish and sea urchins do - is it a cucumber, perhaps? I guess it had to hitchhike in on that rock!

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Chris's Fishes

I got the cucumber ID'd as a Florida Sea Cucumber. He'll be going to live in another tank soon.


I topped this tank off for the first time today - just 1 liter, which really isn't so bad for a pico. The tank had evaporated up to 1.027-1.028, which is a bit high - I mixed the tank at 1.026. I was aiming for 1.025. Whenever I decide to do a water change, I'll be correcting that to 1.025. For now, I'll maintain the 1.026.




Everything is doing well, I think. We've definitely hit diatom-time, but I knew that was going to happen when I dosed that Iron. Oh well! The Cactus Caulerpa I put into the back of the tank has some hair algae on it, but only part of it - makes me think that bit may be dead. Otherwise, while I've not seen any obvious growth on any macro, I've not seen rapid deterioration, which is relatively common after shipping. It's been successful, I think!




Oh, and the Button Polyps seem to be loving life, too.


If you look closely, the polyp on the bottom left actually has more speckling around the mouth than the others do. Looks like a slightly different morph! Cool. Definitely worth like $6.



Cell phone pics, but you get the idea.

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Chris's Fishes

Seems to me that things are settling in.






I'm seeing new growth out of the Caulerpa Mexicana, and the diatoms seem to have receded.

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  • 2 months later...
Chris's Fishes

So, unfortunately I've lost the majority of the macros over the past month or so. I feel as if the lack of feeding and competition for nutrients from the cyano and nuisance algae may have played a role - as well as the hermit crabs, and their tendency to uproot the planted macros I had. All that remains is some Cactus Caulerpa, which may be going through anther round of die-off now - I'm unsure.


The tank hasn't received much maintenance - a couple top-offs, and one 25% water change. Water parameters are all in line, although I suspect all the nutrients in the tank are just caught up in biological growth - all the algae, cyano, and Aiptasia.


A couple weeks ago, members here on N-R helped me decide that a good centerpiece invert for this tank would be a Gaudy Clown Crab, since they're known to eat zoas and palys and stay under 2". Plus, they're naturally toxic due to them ingesting palytoxin, so they're more likely to be spotted hanging out in the open rather than in a rock crevasse somewhere. However, it'll likely be a while before I'm able to get one, since the only source I can find that has them is ReefCleaners, and they're listed as seasonal.


So, since I was getting bored of the tank as it was, I decided to go pick some critters up from the store yesterday. I actually had planned on getting a small damsel and a peppermint shrimp, since both are considered pest-like, depending on who you talk to, but they didn't have any damsels. So, I picked up a tiny Orchid Dottyback instead, and went ahead and got a peppermint shrimp as well. I'm aware that Dottybacks have a reputation for murdering inverts, but I thought it'd be okay due to the size difference.


Unfortunately, the shrimp died right after acclimation. I'm not sure what happened - I acclimated it normally, and nothing seemed amiss at first. It was a bit pale coming out of the bag, but I assumed that was just due to the stress of the move.


The dottyback has done well, though. Still super shy, but I've gotten it to eat some baby brine shrimp. Forgive the out of focus video and dirty glass - it looked fine on the camera LCD, so I didn't notice till I went to edit it 😕



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Chris's Fishes

Looks like he may have a spot of ich - I can't tell if it's sand or not. I've got copper on hand if I need to treat, though, so no biggie.




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Chris's Fishes

No spots or anything this morning - I think that may have just been some sand on his side yesterday. Regardless, I won't cross-contaminate with other tanks, since I didn't QT. I hadn't been cross contaminating anyway, since I can see 2-3 dozen aiptasia on the rockwork and glass without even searching.

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Chris's Fishes

The Dottyback has been way more active today. He's really livening the tank up!




He found the perfect little hole in the rock for a burrow. He's been busy!


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Chris's Fishes
2 hours ago, debbeach13 said:

He is very busy cleaning his hidey hole. I had one and loved that he was not afraid of my established clowns. He hung out with them and sometimes sleep with them at night. 

Glad to see that someone else kept one with other fish! I've always been afraid of dottybacks because of how nasty they're supposed to be. I know Orchids are supposed to be the least aggressive, but still.


So far, I've been really impressed with the little guy. After I got him, I was afraid I'd never see him out in the tank - he's so small, and there are many, many place where he could disappear into the rockwork. He's been visible almost 24/7, though!

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