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.