Cyprinodont Posted January 31 Share Posted January 31 Hello! This will be my first reef journal (though not my first tank journal). So let me get some background out of the way. About a year ago the owner of my LFS that is about 5 minutes from my house, and that I had frequented for the last 5 years since moving to my current city, approached me offering me a job since they had a recent opening and he likes to hire customers over strangers. I had just started another full time job but after a little deliberation and conversation I accepted the job covering for one of the full time employees on Sundays. Now! The reason I say all this is that prior to starting my job there, I had basically zero experience, and very little knowledge or interest in the saltier side of this hobby. I am (was?!) A die hard planted tank lover, most of my tanks were set up for the plants, and the fish came later. I had eyeballed some macro algae tanks but that's about as far as I got towards considering salination. I knew the way that led, thousands of dollars in equipment, hauling buckets, $200 for a square inch of colorful rock, crusty salt creep slowly devouring your home and family. Our store is pretty evenly split between fresh and salt, as is our local fish keeping community (with the fresh side leaning towards African cichlids and not planted tanks or nanos, my specialities!) And as I started working there, I became increasingly nervous when someone standing near the reef tanks started getting an inquisitive look on their face. I avoided the entire salt side of the store for fear of being asked a question and revealing my ignorance. My coworkers helped me learn and soon I could tell SPS and LPS apart, but I am a person who needs to dive into something, get way in over my head, and then dig my way out to learn (as I'm sure many of us are) Which last August led to me starting my first ever salt water aquarium to finally see what is up with all of this. So yes, unfortunately I didn't have the forethought to start this journal when I started the tank so much of the most exciting and ugly parts of me flailing wildly will not be captured live, but I will attempt to give a riveting recollection. The philosophy with this tank was threefold: 1- To be a testing ground for me to experiment and learn about aspects of the saltwater hobby like corals, macro algae, more diverse selection of invertebrates. 2- To test whether my methods translate from freshwater to salt. I enjoy low tech tanks, low equipment count, and a focus on strong ecosystem vs artificial nutrient export. So this tank does not use much more equipment than I would use for a planted tank. 3- To look good and be enjoyable! Yeah it's an experiment but an experiment in making a good looking tank, after all I want to be able to translate this experience to advice to my customers to make their tanks better. And this tank is right next to where I spend most of my time at home and in a public place so it's got to look good and be neat and tidy equipment-wise. Now let's get to the system itself. Tank: Regular glass 20 long, just a tank that I had. Back sides and bottom were painted black with krylon fusion spray paint. Light: Nicrew marine LED light bar, think it was like $50. Not a huge fan of this light from a usability standpoint and the built in timer is maddeningly terrible, but it makes enough photons so far. Filtration: Seachem Tidal 35 HOB, on the flip side I have been a hug fan of this little guy for the price point, I'll have to make a whole post on why I like this filter vs the Aquaclears we use on many tanks at work later. Just running filter floss mostly, sometimes poly pads or carbon but mainly this is just mechanical (the tidal has a built in surface skimmer also) and flow. More Flow: Aquaclear power head, it's way too big (size wise not power) for this size tank but it's something I had, and this is a budget tank as all my tanks are. These are great powerheads though, it's also my mixing pump when I mix salt water, and I can attach a media chamber to run chemical or more mechanical filtration if necessary. Heater: 150w glass heater that I had, this will almost certainly get replaced first out of anything because I'm not sure I trust it, though I've used these same ones in freshwater for years with no issues. Rock: Around 20lbs of seasoned live rock from the dark sumps at my work, some of these pieces were probably cooking for years. A mix of Marco rock and caribsea life rock mostly. I attribute most of my current success to the bio diversity I brought in with these well seasoned rocks and this tank would likely still be a mess if I started with dry rock. Sand: 10lb Ocean Direct carribean sand. I liked how this looked and wanted to test the bio diversity claims, I only have about an inch thick layer. I enjoy how it's a mix of grades and shell and rock fragments. Not sure how I would test if the live bacteria claim worked but it very well may have contributed. After all of that it looked something like this: And I was ecstatic. My back hurt from carrying buckets I mean c'mon, buckets! I've been on the python life for nearly 5 years it's been so long since I carried buckets of water around my house. But I was excited. Working at a fish store has its advantages when it came to procuring livestock and after a 3 week cycle I added the first intentional inhabitants, 5 blue legged hermits. The only hitchhikers that I had previously seen were the tiny feather dusters covering the rocks from the sump and some nuisance algae. The week after that I added 6 Cerith snails and a red mushroom (I believe it's a discosoma but I'm still very new to coral taxonomy). We did it, we had a coral. Let's see if it survives. The tiny little rock island started to look sad and I figured that the majority of our bio filtration is going to be happening in the live rock so since I had only started with 10lbs this is when I added more to bring us up closer to 20lbs. This is also the end of the honeymoon fresh clean tank stage and the beginning the first ugly stage. Orange diatoms had already begun to show on the most well lit parts of the sand and rocks, some variously brown and green colored dusty films had taken their turns on the back and sides glass (front kept diligently scraped with a tiny magfloat) but now every type of ugly (and horribly beautiful) single celled photosynthesizers made their war on the virgin rock surface and sandbed. Bryopsis made the first move, blooming an actually lovely flowing lawn across the back glass mostly, the orange diatoms still claiming the sand and most of the rocks, though GHA had begun to contest the rocks as well. These simple eukaryotes fought their petty land squabbles as I watched in bemused horror until the big bad arrived, the prokaryotic terror, cyanobacteria herself. In a nice twist from my experience with this stinky astroturf from freshwater systems, this time it was a nice velvety red. This is nowhere near the peak of it before I decided the experiment had ended and murdered it overnight with chemiclean. At it's worst that entire rock on the right would get covered in a sheet overnight as well as the entire back wall which you can actually see in this picture. I had also added a GSP frag as well as a green mushroom. The red mushroom as you can see in the center seemed to actually enjoy the messy tank and started making a clone off of its foot around this time. The chemiclean completely worked and the cyano was annihilated and has not shown it's roguish face again yet. After that, stability seemed to begin to set in as well as the army of pods that I saw after the lights turned off got to work devouring the diatoms, stomatella snails also made an appearance at this time and chomped down most of the green algae. With everything looking good and parameters stable for 2 weeks, the first and so far only fish were added. A pair of skunk clown fish, not much larger than an inch when purchased but observed at my work for those 2 weeks while I waited for the tank to stabilize and I knew they ate well and were free of any obvious disease. This is not exactly a quarantine because they were also in a system with other animals but it was an extended period of observation and they would also be the only fish in this tank maybe ever. I do not endorse the idea that just seeing a fish at the store for a few weeks is quarantining if it shares water with other fish and you are not in constant observation. But I trust my coworkers. This is a current picture but I don't have a good one from when they were added. They still don't have settled names so I'd take suggestions on that, I usually don't name my freshwater fish as I usually keep schooling fish or ones that are not remarkably charismatic. I am quite in love with these two and I could watch their interactions with each other and me for hours and often do. Still not quite sure which one is female or if they have to be larger to even differentiate but one is slightly larger and their fins are yellow-er than the other one whose fins are clear. Idk if that's relevant. Everything is honestly pretty clear sailing since then, my only struggle is that as I have added more frags, usually taking one home with me after every Sunday shift, they and the remaining GHA that I allow to grow on the back and side glass only suck up all the nitrates and phosphates from my feeding (which is not light!) And a few of my corals had halted growth and a bit of color loss. I think I have mostly balanced that out though and as I'm writing this every single coral in the tank looks great, nothing that I have added to the tank has died yet besides a small hermit that somehow climbed up on top of a toadstool coral and got stung to death. The current coral stock list in order of addition is: Red mushroom Green mushroom Green star polyps (that have doubled in size in 2 months, now I get it!) Purple rhodactis(?) mushroom Purple star polyps Long polyp toadstool leather Fire and Ice zoas (took a long time to acclimate, finally starting to look happy) Unknown clearance frag, possibly a mushroom? Will post more pics of all corals but especially this one to hopefully identify it. It's also possibly bleached but idk? It has good color it's just very light and translucent. Kenya Tree Rainbow Clove Polyps Medium sized overgrown frag plug colony (there are at least 2 frag disks encrusted in there) of encrusting montipora about 2" diameter that I swear has been growing in our discount frag rack since I set this tank up in August. I believe it is possibly sunset montipora, it's pink/orange flesh with green polyps. Has done well and had good polyp extension since being added to the tank this Sunday. This is my most experimental coral as I have entirely stuck to soft corals and corallimorphs up to this point. Hoping it goes well and my coworkers assure me this is an easy SPS that many people consider a nuisance in high end reefs, which sounds great to me. I have a huge soft spot for weedy, aggressive, unpicky organisms, flex those evolutionary adaptations! Well I've almost certainly typed more than enough to hit post so we will make that the end of entries 1-5 of this journal with hopefully many more to come. Next will be better pictures of the corals, and you can rest assured that nearly every Sunday there will be a new addition until there is no more room in here. Thanks for reading! 6 Quote Link to comment
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