Sunday, December 30, 2007

Send Out the Clown

Yesterday started off like any other day. All my fish seemed happy and doing well. They all ate in the morning. I got the camera out and took some macro pictures of my fish and coral. I took a picture of this Ocellaris clownfish.

Within a few hours it was laying on the bottom of the tank. I picked it up and looked at it and noticed that its stomach seemed a little swollen and pale. I put it back in the tank and it swam sideways under some live rock. There has been no sign of it since.

So what happened? I didn't use the flash so I know I didn't stun it. So how can a fish that looked so healthy end up dead a few hours later? Could it have gotten stung by a coral? Could it have eaten a bristleworm? I have no idea. I'll bring a water sample to the pet shop today to make sure everything is okay. I have noticed that my Xenia isn't looking that great these days. It has stopped pulsing and looks kind of thin. Perhaps I need to start adding some iodine.

Update: I had my water tested later that day. 0 nitrites, 0 nitrates, pH 8.2, calcium 360ppm. Except for the calcium being a little low the water conditions are perfect. I have been dosing with Oceans Blend two part calcium. However, it is recommended that I dose before the lights turn on to avoid pH spikes. Well, I've been sleeping in turn my time off of work. Since the lights are on a timer they have been on by the time I wake up so the calcium hasn't been added for a few days. I also picked up some iodine at the pet store. I'm supposed to dose 3 cap fulls each week. We'll see if the Xenia starts to look better.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Asexual Reproduction Update

On December 2nd I wrote about how my mushroom anemone looked like it was propagating by stretching and splitting off a piece of its foot. Well, that's exactly what it did. A piece did split off and now it has formed its own mouth. Usually, it is obscured by the mother anemone. You can see the child in this picture before the mother fully expanded.

Here is a picture taken this morning. Note the small mushroom anemone with a mouth.

Here is a picture of the same anemone while dividing.

Bubble Anemone on the Move

Last night I bought a green bubble anemone and placed it on a piece of live rock. I bought it while it was attached to a small piece of live rock. The owner of Beyond the Reff couldn't get it to detatch from the rock so he included the rock with the anemone. On the way home it detatched from the rock. It was a long ride home; about an hour. This morning it moved to the side of the rock. It looks like it is moving out of the direct light.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bubble Anemone

When I was a kid, probably in high school, our family drove from Chicago to Washington state and Oregon. One of the most memorable parts of that trip was exploring the tide pools along the coast. The tide pools were full of life and full of pink anemones. This was the first time I has seen such a creature and I couldn't get enough of them. It blew me away that these were animals and not plants. Up until that time I thought all animals pretty much had arms legs and eyes, usually in twos no less. This anemone thing was completely alien and it fascinated me. I was touching them in the tide pools and was amazed at how its tentacles would close around my finger. Looking back I know that it was this experience that sowed the seeds of my fascination with coral reefs and the life that inhabits them.

Since that time I always wanted a reef tank. In that tank I always wanted an anemone of my own. That dream has now come true. I am now the proud owner of a green bubble anemone.

I have two Ocellaris clownfish in the tank. I'm hoping that they will host this anemone but I'm not that optimistic. In the wild tomato clowns host this anemone. We'll just have to wait and see.

In other news it's been close to two months since I have had my tank up and running. The coralline algae is still growing and spreading across the tank. Here is a picture of my heater which was purchased new for this tank. As you can see the coralline is spreading like crazy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Is it too early to start another tank?

I really love this hobby! I love observing the growth of my corals, crabs, shrimp and fish. Even the snails are interesting. One of them is eating all of the hair algae that has grown on one of my filter tubes. My yellow tang won't touch the stuff but somehow a snail found its way there and hit the mother lode.

All that I can see and do with a reef tank is great. However, there is a fish I have always wanted even lusted after. That fish is the Picasso Triggerfish.

The Hawaiian name for this fish is Hu-mu hu-mu nu-ku nu-ku a pu-a-'a which supposedly means fish with a pig-nosed face. I prefer Picasso or even the scientific name Rhinecanthus aculeatus . I really don't think that the female triggerfishes would be happy if they knew they were being compared to pigs in Hawaii. Incidentally, when I read the Hawaiian name of this fish to my family at home my daughter started singing a song from High School Musical. Apparently, their is a song about this fish in High School Musical that was deleted. Hmmm, I wonder why.

I digress. I love this fish but I can't put it in my reef tank because it will eat my shrimp and pretty much anything else that will fit in its mouth. The only alternative is a second tank. Sounds like something to do early next year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Growing Tongue

I'm glad to report that my tongue coral is growing. It has new clear polyps along the edge where it was cut to make a fragment. It also has clear new polyps along the bottom.

Over the weekend I happened to notice that the flesh polyps of this coral were pretty retracted and stiff. They were so stiff they weren't swaying in the current at all. All of the polyps were green instead of brown. Then, all at once, the flesh seemed to expand and all of a sudden the coral moved. It didn't move much. Just a millimeter or two. But it did move. Then, the coral turned brown again and the polyps slowly fully expanded. I'd like to know if anyone else has ever seen this.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Live Rock Hitch Hikers

One of the pieces of live rock I bought yesterday has about 5 or 6 Christmas Tree worms or Horseshoe worms. I'm not sure which yet. These frighten more easily and retreat into their tubes more than the one I already have. I first noticed them when I saw movement on the rock when I approached the tank. There are 2 or 3 larger red ones and some very small ones that look gray right now. I'll post pictures soon.

Monday, December 3, 2007

More Live Rock

I bought 15 more pounds of live rock today. Unfortunately, these pieces aren't as nice as the first batch I bought. Although they are light and have a lot of surface area a lot of the coralline algae appears to be dead and white. It was hard to tell this in the store because the rocks are only under actinic lights. They still look nicer than most of the live rock I have seen at other stores. In two months these will likely be completely covered by colorful coralline algae again.

The white spots I noticed on my tang yesterday are gone today. Hopefully, it will stay that way.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Yellow Tang

My yellow tang has been eating like a pig. So much so that I have throttled back and didn't supply any nori today. I'm concerned that I am overfeeding. I have a small patch of red algae covering a patch of sand. The tang has also now started to take both frozen and flake food. I guess he has learned from his tank mates. I noticed a few white spots on it yesterday. This morning the spots were gone. However, tonight they are back again. I have seen this before on my Royal Gramma where the spots have come and gone. Hopefully, these too shall pass.

Asexual Reproduction

The largest mushroom false coral I have, I believe, is about to generate a clone of itself. For the past couple of weeks it has been stretching its foot along the surface of the rock. The foot started to pinch off at one point. Now it has stretched and pinched off so far that there is just a small strand of flesh between the farthest point and the parent. See the picture below.

I'll keep an eye on this. I'm curious to know if the child will move farther away from its parent or if it will stay put right where it is. I would like to see some of these move onto other rocks. I have no idea how I would move one though.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


My cleaner shrimp molted yesterday or the day before. It's old shell was sucked up against a filter intake. This is the first time I noticed this shrimp had molted. My peppermint shrimp looks much bigger than when I got it so I'm sure it has molted several times. Since it is more of a recluse I never noticed it. I had purchased two peppermint shrimp but I still have not seen both of them at the same time since the day I bought them. I'm going to have to assume that one of them died.

In other news I went to the Asian market yesterday and picked up some nori. So far the yellow tang hasn't touched it. I guess he wants his lettuce back. While there I picked up some Japanese gummy candy for myself. I bought the strawberry and muscat (grape) varieties. They are really good actually. The descriptions on the packages are what cought my eye.

"Kasugai's strawberry gummy, made from fresh strawberry juice is a very delicious gummy. Please have fun time with this strawberry gummy."
"Its translucent color so alluring and taste and aroma so gentle and mellow offer admiring feelings of a graceful lady. Enjoy soft and juicy Kasugai Muscat Gummy."
I need a cigarette.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Invasive Polyps Vanished

It has been a little over a week since I bought my Yellow Tang and Frog Spawn Coral. During that time I also picked up a rock with button polyps. Since I made these additions my supposedly invasive Clove Polyps have completely disappeared. See my previous post on the polyps. I noticed that at one point the polyps were no longer expanding and only the stalks were visible. Now, there are none to be seen anywhere in the tank whereas previously they were on about 4 or 5 pieces of rock. I had my water tested today and there were no nitrates, nitrites or phosphates present in the sample. So, they didn't die off because of degrading water conditions. I made no changes to the lighting either. So what caused them to die off? Is it possible that the Yellow Tang ate the Clove Polyps? Did the other corals in the tank out-compete the Clove Polyps for nutrients? Even though the Tang picked at the rocks a lot I never saw it eat these polyps. Also, since the stalks were visible for a while it seems unlikely they were eaten. Perhaps they only like the conditions of an immature tank. I may never know. I'm just happy they didn't take over the tank.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tug of war

I just observed an underwater tug of war. I fed Formula Two frozen food tonight and a piece fell on the sand bed right next to my tongue coral. A hermit crab saw it fell and ran to it about as fast as a small hermit crab can run. The crab grabbed it and started pulling it away from the coral. The meal wasn't as easy as the crab thought it would be because the coral was also pulling it. It was holding the piece of food with the tip of a tentacle. The crab pulled and pulled and stretched the coral's tentacle. The coral eventually let go and the crab got its meal. Feeling sorry for the coral I dropped another piece of food right in the center of it. It reacted by holding it with the tips of several tentacles. It retracted the tentacles in the area around the food and moved it to a mouth. The "lips" of the mouth surrounded the food from all sides engulfing it. About five minutes later there was no sign of the food at all. I knew that some corals would eat in addition to getting their nutrients from Zooxanthella but I never knew how it was done. What a cool thing to observe.

Romaine Lettuce

Since I bought my Yellow Tang last week I have had a piece of Romaine Lettuce clipped in the tank as a supplement. It was completely ignored by the Tang until yesterday. When I came home from work only the "skeleton" of tougher parts of the leaf remained. My kids reported that the tang was eating it non-stop. I have yet been able to get the tang to eat any flake or frozen food I have provided. It does graze pretty much non-stop on the live rock. Even before it started eating the lettuce its stomach started filling out nicely so I knew it was getting enough to eat. I do need to make a trip to an Asian market to pick up some nori which is dried seaweed which is supposed to be better for the tang than lettuce. In the meantime the lettuce will do.

Water Change

On Sunday 11/25 we performed the third water change. It had been close to three weeks since the last water change and my Xenia wasn't pulsing as much as it usually does. I had about 12 gallons pre-mixed to a SG of 1.023 and heated to a temperature of 78 deg F to match the conditions of the tank. Since I recently had some surgery I had to have my wife lift the buckets of water. I wonder how long I can use the surgery as an excuse? Hopefully, through the winter shoveling. ;-)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Darwin and Snails

The Astraea snail obviously didn't evolve in a fish tank. I have had to rescue countless snails that have somehow fallen off the sides of my tank. The snails always fall with the shell side down. Kind of like toast always falling with the butter side down. (Yeah, I know the Mythbusters disproved this). Once upside down the snails cannot turn themselves over. They'll try for a while. They'll stretch as far as they can to reach something solid but usually they can only grab sand. They will eventually give up and retract into their shell and pray that they will be noticed before they die. Usually my son notices them and I have to reach in and put it back on a rock. Surely this happens in the wild too. However, in the wild, the shell must protect them from death more often than it entombs them. I wonder how these snails would look if they evolved in an environment with vertical walls over sand.

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

On Tuesday 11/20 I made a trip to Beyond the Reef in Schaumburg Illinois for a Yellow Tang. This store is about 15 miles away but I made the trip since they had a larger selection of Yellow Tangs than my closest LFS. It seems like every time I visit a store I walk out with something I really didn't plan on getting just yet. This time I walked out with Yellow Tang and a Frog Spawn coral fragment. I couldn't pass up the coral. It was $25 (cheap for coral) and looked beautiful. It looks so much like an anemone and it fluoresces with a nice green color. It's also supposed to be quite hardy - a good starter coral.

Yesterday, I made a trip to my LFS for some frozen food. I walked out with Formula One, Formula Two and a rock encrusted with green button polyps. I couldn't pass that one up either. I have been keeping all of my receipts to figure out how much this hobby is costing me but I haven't mustered up the courage to add it all up yet. After I handled it I found out that the button polyps secret a toxin. A warning on the Marine Depot website states the following: "Caution should be exhibited when handling these corals however as they emit a powerful Palythoa Toxin. If the toxin (less than 10 grams) enters the bloodstream through the smallest cut on your hand you can get very sick and this is known to even cause death. If you have flu-like symptoms without a fever and you handled these corals bare handed you may want to seek immediate medical attention." I knew this hobby would kill my checking account but I didn't actually think it could kill me! I guess I'll have to use gloves from now on.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pictures and More Pictures

Tongue Coral with Mushroom Anemone

Royal Gramma and Common Clown

Green Chromis

How Do Xenia Pulse?

I'm sitting here recovering from surgery observing my tank. My Xenia is swaying in the current and happily pulsing away. Back and forth it sways opening and closing its polyps over and over. Its my understanding that nobody knows why it does this. What I want to know is how it does this. Does it have muscles? Does it somehow change the hydrostatic pressure in its polyps to open and close? Its amazing how tightly it can close its polyps when it wants. This happens when it is disturbed by my shrimp. A Google search has revealed nothing about the mechanics of how it does this. I would like to know how something without a brain can do this. Send me a comment if you know the answer or have a theory.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

My Cleaner Shrimp has Hung its Shingle

My cleaner shrimp is now hanging out in a particular corner of the tank. The fish somehow know he performs a cleaner service. The shrimp makes a meal out of parasites that live on the fish. The fish get the benefit of having the parasites removed. A true symbiotic relationship. I have seen my Royal Gramma, at least one Green Chromis and one Clown stop in for a cleaning. This evening he was doing a lot of business so I had my camera at the ready. The Royal Gramma does have one or two white spots on it. He turned out to be a repeat customer.

Emerald Crab Dead (or not)

I saw what I thought was left of my emerald crab sucked up against the intake of one of my powerheads this afternoon. I was not able to recover the corpse as it slipped behind some live rock and I lost it there. However, a few hours later I saw another emerald crab in my tank. This one had two claws whereas the one I bought was claw-challanged as it had only one. Is it possible that my Emerald Crab molted? Do they molt like shrimp? Did I see the molted shell up against the powerhead? If crabs do molt would it generate a new claw in the process. Or, perhaps, did I have a second Emerald Crab hitch-hiker in my tank all along? The world may never know.

Well, a Google search revealed that Emerald Crabs do molt. Also, when crabs molt they grow new limbs. If they lose a limb or claw it regenerates in the next molt. I continue to learn something new every day. I so love this hobby. There is so much to observe and so much to learn.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Coralline Algae

Yesterday I noticed some small pink circles of coralline growing on my filter tubes and power heads. I also noticed some small white circles on the glass. So, after a month of setting up my tank I am seeing coralline algae propagating throughout it. This is good! I've been waiting for it show up. This is a sign that may tank is healthy and established. The books I read said it would take about eight weeks to show up but I got it in four.

My recommendation to others is to make sure you use RO/DI water in your tank. Don't skimp on this. Water is the most important thing you add to your tank. Make sure it is the highest quality possible and phosphate and nitrate free. You can get some good RO units on eBay for about $100.

My second recommendation is to get good quality live rock and live sand. The rock I bought was heavily encrusted with lots of colors of Coralline and macro algae. I put 40 pounds of rock and 60 pounds of sand in my tank and added two clown fish within two days. I never saw an ammonia spike. My tank was instantly cycled.

Now I can't wait for my back glass to become heavily encrusted with the pastel colors of Coralline.

Even Exchange

I've been looking for my sandsifting starfish for the last few days but I could never find him. He was always burried someplace. Last night during dinner I saw him, her or it crawling up the glass. Since I decided it is best not to have it in my tank I bagged it and took it back to Exotic Aquatics, my LFS. They took it back for store credit with no problems. I walked out with a couple of mushroom corals/anemones growing on a piece of rock.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Impulse Buys

Yesterday we went to Giordano's pizza for dinner. They have the best stuffed pizza I've ever tasted. Chicago is famous for its pizza and we're very proud of that distinction. When my wife and I were dating in college we were fortunate enough to have one close to her school in Oak Park. Now we're fortunate enough to have a LFS close to our favorite pizza place. So, we had to drop into Exotic Aquatics after dinner just to take a look around.

We ended up leaving with a Xenia coral fragment and a sand sifting starfish. The Xenia coral in the right conditions will pulse. This means it opens and closes its polyps to generate current across the colony. Mine isn't quite pulsing at this time. It waves and moves in a way that suggests there is something going on besides current causing the movement. It is really cool to watch.

As the title of this post suggests these were impulse buys. When I came home I found out that the starfish isn't recommended for reef tanks because it will eat everything in my live sand bed and turn it into a dead sandbed. Once that occurs the starfish will die of starvation and I'll be left with a sandbed devoid of life. Hmmm. Since this doesn't sound like a good thing I guess I'll have to take the starfish back. In the future I'll have to refrain from making anymore impulse buys. But what the hell, isn't life more interesting when it doesn't follow a script? Just my $0.02.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Tongue Coral on The Move

My piece of tongue coral is looking better. I thought it was as good as dead but it is looking healthier today. I moved it to the top of some live rock to see if getting more light would help. It didn't. The polyps stayed completely retracted while it was there. I then moved it back to the sandbed but in a different spot. This time close to the front glass. I also brought a water sample to my LFS for testing on Wednesday. They said my water was perfect. No nitrates, nitrites, ammonia or phosphates were detectable. My salinity was perfect and my pH was at 8.1. He said it was perfect but I would prefer if it was a little higher. I reduced the temperature of the tank from about 79 deg F to 78. Yesterday, the polyps started to come back out. Albeit, only half way. Maybe my temperature is too high. The problem is the temperature goes up whenever the lights are on. I figured if I kept the temperature on the high side the temp of the tank would be overall more stable.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Second Water Change

Yesterday, I performed my second water change. I replaced about 7 gallons which is roughly 10% of my tank capacity. It was more than 10% of the water since the tank contains live rock and sand. However, since I'm not Archimedes I didn't measure how much water was displaced when I added them so I really don't know how much water is in my tank. Oh well.

My piece of tongue coral isn't looking that good today. The polyps are extended only about halfway. Was it the water change? I let the salt mix in the new water for about a day and made sure the temperature and specific gravity of the new mix matched that of my tank. I'll give it another day and if the polyps are still not fully extended I'll move it to the top of a piece of live rock so it can get more light.

The red stringy algae is still present on the sandbed. I guess the technical term is red slime algae. I thought stringy sounded better than slime. What do I know? Anyway, it's still there in about the same quantity. It is also now showing up on the filter intake tubes. It hasn't overtaken my live rock or coral yet so I'm not overly concerned. I just need to keep an eye on it.

The fish, crabs and shrimp are looking great. I still haven't seen both peppermint shrimp together yet since the day I bought them. So I still don't know if I have lost one.

My bubble algae appears to be spreading, albeit slowly. The emerald crab I added to control it doesn't seem to care about it. He goes for the hair algae instead. Not only does he not touch the bubble algae, it turns out that he is missing his right claw. He was this way when I bought him. I guess I should have taken a closer look at what I was paying for. Doesn't he realize that the $0.89 hermit crabs were bought to eat the hair algae. Somebody needs to tell him I paid $10 for a hairy bubble algae eater not a hair algae eater.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

What are these things?

The live rock I bought supposedly came from Bali Indonesia. Several of the pieces of my live rock have some small brown polyps growing on them. Each polyp has eight tentacles that I can now see are somewhat feathery. If they are touched with the handle of my net, the tentacles retract into the stem. They seem to be spreading or perhaps more are just popping out of the rock the longer the tank is set up. Initially I was concerned that these were Aptasia anemones. However, they are too small to be aptasia and anemone tentacles aren't feathery.

Here are some pictures.

So what are these things and do I need to worry about them taking over the tank? I described these to someone at a LFS and he thought they might be Clove Polyps, a type coral. A goggle search found some pictures that look similar but not identical.

Can these be a type of stinging hydroid. Some pictures I found of hydroids also look similar.

Perhaps these are feather dusters. If anybody knows please comment.

I submitted a question to the Crew at Sara replied saying that they are probably some kind of clove coral and that they can be more invasive than aptasia or hydroids. She said I should destroy them before they get too comfy in my tank. Below is my email including her comments in [square brackets].

Clove polyps, hydroids or feather dusters- octacoral ID 11/03/07
Hello Crew,
[Good evening, Sara here.]
My tank has been running for three weeks with live rock that my LFS says came from Bali Indonesia. Several of the pieces have colonies of polyps growing on them and they seem to be spreading. I'm hoping you can tell me if these are something I need to worry about and ultimately remove.
At first I thought they might be Aptasia but I have ruled that out.
[Good thought, they're not aiptasia.]
I'm now thinking that these are either clove polyps or some sort of
[Well, the fact that they have eight tentacles per polyp is a big hint.
Thus, I would conclude that it is an octacoral of some sort.]
I guess it is possible they are feather dusters but I doubt that.
[Agreed. Not feather dusters...]
Each polyp is brown and has eight feathery tentacles. [good observation] The tentacles retract into the stem if they are touched with the handle of my net. The polyps are less than .25 inches in diameter. I'm not sure if these will actually sting me so I haven't touched them with my
Any help with ID'ing these and letting me know if and how these should be removed would be greatly appreciated.
[They're some kid of "clove coral." Unfortunately, some hitch-hiking clove corals can be as much a pain (if not more of a pain) than any hydroid or aiptasia. I've battled some that got into my aquarium for over a year now. I don't know if yours will be quite as invasive or relentless as mine have been, but if I were you, I wouldn't take any chances. Unless you really like them, I'd suggest you try to kill them off now before they get too settled in. Start with kalk. If that doesn't work, try vinegar. If that doesn't work... uh, there's always NaOH as a last resort (but that's very corrosive stuff, so try not to mess with it if you don't have to).]
[De nada,
Sara M.]

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Week Three

Tomorrow will mark the third week my tank has been filled with salt water. So far things are going very well with the exception of the loss of the one Green Chromis. I have seen some Hermit Crab carcases floating around but these may have been war casualties. From time to time I see an elusive Peppermint Shrimp. I haven't seen the two at once since I added them to the tank so I guess I may have lost one at some point and don't even know it.

I changed my lighting from a Coralife 260W 4 bulb PC fixture to an Odysea 260 W 4 bulb PC fixture. The latter fixture includes 8 blue LED bulbs to simulate moonlight. However, the reason I replaced the fixture was price and color. The Coralife fixture cost $299 from Petco. The new fixture cost $125 after shipping on eBay. Since I bought the Coralife fixture less than 30 days ago Petco took it back no questions asked. Also the Coralife fixture was silver and the new one is black which matches the tank and stand better.

The brown diatom algae has been completely gone for about a week now. I noticed yesterday that I am starting to get some red stringy algae on the sand bed. In the morning after the lights have been out the algae seems to subside. However, by the end of the day the red algae is stringy again. I'm not concerned since I understand this is the natural progression of tank cycling. Below is a picture of the red stringy algae growing on the sand bed.

Yesterday, on the way home from work I stopped at Beyond the Reef and picked up a fragment of tongue coral. This is a long polyp stony (LPS) coral but it is supposed to be very hardy and a good starter coral. At $20 the price was right so I bought it. It took about an hour or two for the polyps to fully extend after adding it to the tank. I put it on the sand bed which is the recommended place for this type of coral. I just love watching the polyps waiving in the current. I wasn't aware of the red algae when I bought the coral since I noticed the algae for the first time. I'll have to be careful to make sure the red algae doesn't get out of hand and overgrow the coral. Here is a photo of my tongue coral fragment.

Today I picked up a cleaner shrimp. It is supposed to be a good idea to keep one or two of these in a tank. Fish will come to it to have any parasites picked off of them by the shrimp. The shrimp gets a tast meal.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Now is as good of a time as any to list what is keeping my tank's inhabitants alive. Here is the list in no particular order.

72 gallon bowfront all-glass aquarium with stand.
48" Odyssea 260 Watt Power Compact Light from the Fishman on eBay.
40 pounds of live rock. Will add more later.
60 pounds of Caribsea live sand.
1 Emperor 400 filter.
1 Emperor 280 filter.
1 AquaC Remora protein skimmer (used from Ebay).
1 Maxijet 1200 powerhead for protein skimmer (purchased new).
1 AquaC preskimmer/ bubble eliminator for the Maxijet 1200.
1 250W Marineland Stealth heater.
Instant Ocean Salt.
100 GPD Reverse Osmosis + dual DI canisters from Pure Water Club.

The preskimmer is somewhat of a pain. It is very sensitive to changes in water level and it seems like I am always adjusting the height. Also, a Green Chromis swam into it once. As soon as I turned off the pump he swam right back out. Do you think that maybe he saw Finding Nemo?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

More Livestock

I had planned on going to the Morton Arboretum today to take some fall foliage pictures with our Canon XTi. However, the morning was cloudy and the forecast called for rain so I put those plans on hold. I suggested we head into the city to visit the Shedd Aquarium but my daughter turned her nose up at that idea since we were just there (in January). So, I decided that it was time to add more livestock to my tank and off we went to Beyond the Reef in Schaumburg, IL. Let me tell you, Beyond the Reef is a really nice LFS. All they stock is saltwater fish, corals and supplies. We probably spent an hour there admiring their wares. My daughter even said, and this is a quote, "Why should we pay to go downtown to the aquarium when we can come here for free."

We bought a Royal Gramma and an Emerald Crab. I bought the Royal Gramma because it is simply a beautiful fish. The emerald crab, well it's anything but beautiful. It's green and it's legs are as hairy as a french woman's. I bought the crab because rumor has it that it will eat bubble algae. I have some that hitchhiked into my tank on two pieces of live rock.

The tank seems to be doing great. The snails have eaten most of the non coralline algae off of my live rock and glass. These guys really work hard. Check out this picture of my glass. It is completely covered with snail bites.

The colors of the rock seem to be more vibrant now. I have some desirable looking macro algae mainly growing on one rock. This rock also has a lot of red coralline plate algae growing on it.
The only thing I'm not happy about is my peppermint shrimp. I haven't seen either of them for about a week. I can only assume at this point that they are no more. Edit: My son spotted one of them just as I was typing this. Weird.

I have two worm hitchhikers in this tank that I've seen. One is a small Christmas Tree Worm.

I've read that they are really not recommended for aquariums so we'll see how it does. It is really cool to see how quickly it can retract into its tube. If you want to see how quickly they can retract check out this video on YouTube.

I also have spotted what I think is a Spionid worm. It basically lives in a tube in an empty shell. It literally reels out two sticky antennae, sometimes one at a time, and snags the sand. It then reels the antennae back in and eats whatever plankton it happened to get. The shell eventually fills up with the sand that it reels in. Here is a picture of it. If you look closely you can seen an antenna sticking out of the white tube in the shell.

I can't wait to add to this tank. I would like to get a yellow tang, a six line wrasse, and one or two cleaner shrimp. I would also like to add some soft corals so I better not add too many more fish.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

If at first you don't succeed...

Still in "pain" over the loss of the Green Chromis I took a water sample to Exotic Aquatics, my local fish store (LFS). Everything tested perfectly. Ammonia - zip, nitrite - nil, nitrate - goose eggs, pH - a perfect 8.2, phosphate - not a trace. My water conditions were described as perfect. Must've been a fluke. Perhaps he was attacked in the middle of the night by some unknown creature that lurks in the shadows of my tank. So I decided to replace my Green Chromis. He is in his bag acclimating to his new home as I type. I hope this one decides to live longer than a day or two.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Well, it was inevitable. I've lost my first fish. A Green Chromis has perished. I couldn't find it this morning when I turned on the lights. When I came home from work I found it on the sand in the back of the live rock. It's gills barely beating. When I moved the rock it swam out. However, since it was swimming in a style resembling somersaults I knew its minutes were numbered. I knew it wouldn't recover. The only thing left to do was sacrifice it to the porcelain god and hope that with this sacrifice the rest of the fish would be spared. At least this was only an $8 fish. This is why you start with the cheap fish. Yes, all of you fresh water enthusiasts 8 bucks is as cheap as it gets. I did measure ammonia and nitrites. The ammonia is somewhere between 0 and .1 mg/l. It's so hard to read the color. Nitrite is at 0 mg/l. Good bye Green Chromis. We loved you.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Couldn't resist adding more

Yesterday (day 7) I couldn't resist expanding the reef. Ammonia and nitrate measured zero so I figured what the hell. I always loved the green chromis so I bought three of them. They like to school so they are more comfortable in groups. They are a lovely fish. In the back of the tank they look green while in the front they appear blue. Their color always seems to change based on the way the light reflects off of them.

I also purchased ten more hermit crabs and ten more snails. Even though I only paid for ten of each the guy at Exotic Aquatics gave me about 20 or 25 crabs and about 15 snails. He also gave me an assortment of empty shells for the entrepreneuring crab that wants to move on up to a bigger shell.

One of the empty shells didn't turn out to be empty at all. It was home to what I think is a Christmas Tree Worm.

There was also a tiny Brittle Star hitchhiker no bigger than the the diameter of a pencil eraser from tip to tip in the bag of water. My youngest son spotted it and saved from what would've been a ride down the drain. We released him into the tank and he drifted until he, or she, was able to grab a rock. It then disappeared. I doubt we will ever see it again.

Today is day eight. Green algae is now starting to grow all over the glass. The brown algae seems to be slowing down but that may be due to the crabs turning over the live sand and the snails eating it off of the live rock.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Crabs, Snails and Hernias Oh My!

Last Friday, day five, I added ten small blue legged hermits, one large red hermit and five snails to the tank. The red crab, who my boys call Mr. Crabs in honor of Sponge Bob's miser boss, pretty much sits around and does nothing. The blue crabs and snails are always hard at work cleaning the tank. The snails are quite effective at removing the brown algae that has started to grow on the live rock.

Yesterday I prepared for a water change by making a new batch of salt water. Somehow I must've lifted a bucket wrong because a short time later I noticed I had a hernia. That's just fantastic. I didn't feel a thing when it happened so I don't know for sure if that's what casued it. However, the bucket was the only thing I lifted in the last 24 hours. So now my new found hobby, my new obsession, is going to require me to go under the scalpal. Everyone talks about how expensive this hobby is. Has anyone factored in the cost of surgery? Looking on the bright side, at least my deductable is paid off.

Yesterday, on day six, I measured ammonia and nitrite levels. Ammonia is at 0. Nitrite is at .1 ppm.

Today, day seven, I noticed some small patches of red algae growing on the sand bed in the middle of the brown.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Brown Algae

This is day four. This morning one of my clown fish looked like it was close to death. It was plastered flat against my skimmer's overflow box and was barely moving. When I reached in for it, it swam away like nothing was ever wrong. Weird.

Also, when I turned the lights on this morning I spied numerous "bugs." Some were crawling. Some were swimming. I even spotted a tiny snail scooting across the sand bed. It appears that the tank really comes alive in the dark.

When I came home from work this evening I found my formerly pristine white sand bed to be brown in large spots. The brown algae bloom has begun. Not a sign of it this morning at all. Now I have large patches of it on the sand. I can also see that my live rock is starting to turn brown in spots too.

I haven't seen either of my two peppermint shrimp now for 24 hours. My youngest son loves shrimp and wanted to name them fried and popcorn. Should I worry? Wait. I just saw one.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Day Three

My tank has been inhabited for three days now. So far so good. No deaths that I know of anyway. My two common clowns swim all over the tank. My two pepermint shrimp, well I don't know where they are. I saw one this morning. I know they are mostly nocturnal so I'm not too worried. Ammonia and nitrite are both at 0.

I love looking at the live rock. I bought my live rock from Birds and Beasts in Crystal Lake, Illinois. At $8/lb I overpaid. However this live rock had more life on it than I have seen in any other pet shop. It is totally encrusted with Coraline algae and some red and green macro algae. It is also much more porus than the rock I have seen at other local fish stores.

What is that anemone-like thing in the center of the picture. I'm told that it isn't the dreaded Aiptasia pest anemone. Could it be Nausithoe cf. punctata which is the polyp stage of a jellyfish? Whatever it is I have hundreds of them all over my rock. Hopefully they don't become a problem.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Saltwater Redux

It's been thirteen years since I had a saltwater tank. It was a miserable failure. I dreamed of a living reef with soft corals and thriving anemones. Instead what I got was a thriving crop of hair algae. Every few weeks I had to remove all the rocks, lace rock I believe, from my tank and scrub them with a toothbrush. The only fish I managed to keep alive were two common clown fish. That was until we moved. They died an undignified death in a Styrofoam cooler in my foyer and that was the end of my tank.

The tank actually sat empty in my family room for at least a year, maybe longer. I kept threatening to resurrect it but never did. I was haunted by the brushing of the rocks and the cost of all the fish I lost.

Eventually the tank became a freshwater tank. Our water supply is extremely hard so I even failed at that. I then figured out that African cichlids thrive on hard water and converted the tank over to an all African cichlid tank. The tank was nice. It was colorful but in my mind I knew it didn't come close to a salt water tank. Oh, I tried to convince myself it did but I knew what I wanted all along was to go back to a saltwater tank.

The Flood

One weekend I came home from working out and walked into my laundry room to find my feet in about an inch of water. The washing machine had overflowed and leaked under the walls into our family room. I dried as much of the carpeting as I could but, unfortunately, the 55 gallon cichlid tank was in the middle of the flood. Within a few days the room stunk to high heaven and the carpeting had to be replaced. The only way to remove the carpeting was to move the tank. I happened to have a 75 gallon tank in the basement that I had just bought for $50 from a friend. I set it up and moved the the cichlids there. The carpet was replaced and the previous location of the tank in the family room remained vacant for almost two years.

Scratch the itch

The vacant spot in an alcove in the family room had to be filled. As of last week it is home to a 72 gallon bowfront All Glass aquarium. On Saturday October 13'th, it was filled with RO/DI water and added countless cups of Instant Ocean. On Sunday I purchased 40 pounds of live rock and 60 pounds of live sand and placed them in the tank. It took about a day for the tank to clear up from milky white after the sand was added. On Monday I replaced the two clown fish I lost 13 years ago. So far so good. Today, I added two Peppermint Shrimp because I freaked out about all of the Aiptasia that I may have just added to my tank with that live rock.

This blog will document my progress on this tank. I'll post pictures. I'll share my successes and failures. Hopefully, the failures will be far and few between.