Monday, December 29, 2008


I gave my toadstool leather coral a little bit of sunburn on one corner with my new T5 light. I was only leaving all 6 bulbs on for about 4 hours a day. After 3 days the polyps on one corner the size of a nickle stopped coming out. The flesh of the coral also started peeling in that spot. As soon as I noticed the problem I reduced the lighting. I will slowly bring the lighting up to maximum with the following schedule increasing the amount of light the tank gets by one hour each day. The toadstool has already healed with the reduced lighting. Hopefully, the gradual acclimation with this schedule will help the corals adjust to the brighter light.

12/25 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 5 pm, 4 bulbs 5 pm to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
12/26 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 4 pm, 4 bulbs 4 pm to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
12/27 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 3 pm, 4 bulbs 3 pm to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
12/28 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 2 pm, 4 bulbs 2 pm to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
12/29 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 1 pm, 4 bulbs 1 pm to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
12/30 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 12 pm, 4 bulbs 12 pm to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
12/31 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 11 am, 4 bulbs 11 am to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
1/1 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 10 am, 4 bulbs 10 am to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
1/2 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 10 am, 4 bulbs 10 am to 4 pm, 6 bulbs 4 pm to 5 pm, 4 bulbs 5 pm to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
1/3 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 10 am, 4 bulbs 10 am to 3 pm, 6 bulbs 3 pm to 5 pm, 4 bulbs 5 pm to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
1/4 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 10 am, 4 bulbs 10 am to 3 pm, 6 bulbs 3 pm to 6 pm, 4 bulbs 6 pm to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
1/5 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 10 am, 4 bulbs 10 am to 2 pm, 6 bulbs 2 pm to 6 pm, 4 bulbs 6 pm to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
1/6 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 10 am, 4 bulbs 10 am to 2 pm, 6 bulbs 2 pm to 7 pm, 4 bulbs 7 pm to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
1/7 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 10 am, 4 bulbs 10 am to 1 pm, 6 bulbs 1 pm to 7 pm, 4 bulbs 7 pm to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
1/8 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 10 am, 4 bulbs 10 am to 1 pm, 6 bulbs 1 pm to 8 pm, 4 bulbs 8 pm to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
1/9 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 10 am, 4 bulbs 10 am to 12 pm, 6 bulbs 12 pm to 8 pm, 4 bulbs 8 pm to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
1/10 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 10 am, 4 bulbs 10 am to 12 pm, 6 bulbs 12 pm to 9 pm, 2 bulbs 9 pm to 11 pm
1/11 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 10 am, 4 bulbs 10 am to 11 am, 6 bulbs 11 am to 9 pm, 2 bulbs 9 pm to 11 pm
1/12 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 10 am, 4 bulbs 10 am to 11 am, 6 bulbs 11 am to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm
1/13 - 2 bulbs 9 am to 10 am, 6 bulbs 10 am to 10 pm, 2 bulbs 10 pm to 11 pm

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Fragging Xenia

As noted in my previous post my Xenia is spreading like crazy. So, I decided to try fragging some. I read that I should try to pull a piece entirely off a rock rather than cutting it. However when I did this it was like a just squeezed the snot out of it and the foot refused to budge. Perhaps next time I'll try to pry it off the rock with a screwdriver.

From Paul's Reef - Apr 15, 2008

Scissors were closer so I decided to cut a few stalks. I placed them in a small reusable Glad container that deli meat comes in along with some sand and rubble rock. I covered the container with some bridle veil netting and secured it with a rubber band. I'm hoping that some of these will attach themselves to some of the rocks and begin to grow. The pieces I cut off are already pulsing in the container even though they are upside down.

Xenia is too slippery to super glue to rock so it either needs to be secured to the rock by sewing with fishing line or it needs to attach itself on its own. I'm trying the latter approach.

From time to time I still see a piece of colt coral that I fragged rolling around on the sand. It actually looks healthy but it hasn't attached to anything yet. If I see it again, I'll throw it in the container.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Xenia Warrior Princess

Because it tends to open and close its polyps Xenia is a great coral to sit back and watch. The downside of it is that it spreads quite rapidly, almost like a weed. I purchased a single stalk of this Xenia back in April of 2007. It was tiny and came on a shell.

From Paul's Reef

It split not too long after I got it. Once of the split stalks ended up growing on a piece of rubble rock that kept falling off the ledge it was on. I ended up finding a nice spot for it on the other side of my tank. So now I have two colonies growing and spreading.

The colony on the left side seems to be spreading faster than the colony on the right side. Also, the Xenia on the right side is growing taller than the Xenia on the left. This is probably due to differences in current between the two sides of the tank.

The video below shows the Xenia in action. On the right side there are two stalks that have closed up tightly. They will do this from time to time and I have no idea why. They will will do this when I perform a water change probably because of the additional debris that gets stirred up.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Tomato Clown Video

Got some time to record my tomato clown in its bubble tip anemone this evening. I had a lot of problems with each of the video editing programs I tried crashing so I decided this was good enough. Great music, eh.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sleeping with the Anemone

Last night was the first time that my tomato clown spent the night in his new anemone. The previous night it went and slept against the side glass close to my ocellaris where it has always spent the night since I bought him. Last night, however, after the lights went out it stayed in the anemone. It was still there this morning before the lights turned on.

This relationship continues to grow as time goes on. It keeps spending more and more time within, around and even under the anemone. It is now inside the anemone more often than not.

I'm pretty sure that the clown did not take to the anemone right away because the anemone wasn't looking great. It took two months of manual feeding to fatten it up to the point where the clown felt it was a suitable anemone. The anemone really opened up the day after I upgraded my lighting to T5s. It must have looked too inviting for the clown not to dive in at this point.

My advice to people that can't get their clown to host an anemone is to make sure you are pairing the right fish to the right anemone. Not all clowns will host all anemones. Secondly, make sure your anemone looks healthy. Your clown, like every creature, wants a nice home to call its own.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Hosting

From Paul's Reef - Apr 15, 2008

The new lights look great. They really don't look that purple to me anymore. instead, everything else that I used to think looked white, like my computer screen as I'm typing this, looks yellow. My bubble tip anemone appears to like the new lights too. It opened really wide today under the new lights to soak it all in.

Up to this point my tomato clown that I purchased the 1st weekend of November had never gone into the anemone. It would often hang out a few inches above it for a while and then go merrilly on its way. Today was different. All day today the clown kept visiting the anemone. It started getting closer than usual and let a tentacle touch it for the first time that I've seen. It then started getting territorial and would occasionally chase away a green chromis, my firefish and my oscellaris clown.

It would still venture away from the anemone and swim around the tank. There always seemed to be an attraction that would pull the clown back after a few minutes. It would get close again and look at the anemone.

Finally, tonight, it started nipping at a few tentacles. Then, it actually went between a few tentacles and came back out, almost like dipping a toe in a hot bath to test the water. It didn't stay for long but contact was indeed made. It kept visiting the anemone more and more over the course of the evening and making brief contact with it. Eventually it stayed longer and started wiggling and twitching amongst the tentacles. It was almost as if the tentacles hurt it a little bit and it was getting used to it. Each stay was short and lasted only a minute or two at a time and then the clown was off swimming around the tank again.

From Paul's Reef - Apr 15, 2008

Now, the lights have gone out in the tank for the night. I do miss the blue moonlights my old fixture had. Oh well. The clown is no longer in the anemone. Instead it is swimming up against the side glass of the tank where it has spent every night since I bought it. I wonder if it will eventually spend the night in the anemone.

So, tonight it finally happened. This was something that I wanted to observe ever since I got my first saltwater tank in the early 90s. That tank failed and I didn't pursue the hobby any farther until last October. There is just something about observing a symbiotic relationship like this. Way way cool. I love this hobby.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Nova Extreme Pro Review

All day today I waited with the same enthusiasm that the father from A Christmas Story waited for his major award. His award turned out to be a leg lamp. Mine was a lamp of a different sort, a Nova Extreme Pro 6x54W T5HO fixture.

I ordered it from Marine Depot. I found it for about $20 less on Amazon after the fact. Oh well.

I couldn't ask for it to be packaged any better. It was essentially triple boxed. The regular box was wrapped in bubble wrap. The wrapped box was then wrapped in a piece of cardboard.
From Current Nova Extreme Pro

Must be I-talian.
From Current Nova Extreme Pro

The inner box was mounted in the second box and secured with spacers to maintain a gap between the two. The fixture was mounted in 3 Styrofoam spacers within the innermost box.
From Current Nova Extreme Pro

Despite all of the packing one of the bulbs arrived broken.
From Current Nova Extreme Pro

From Current Nova Extreme Pro

I wasn't concerned about the broken bulb because I wasn't planning on using them anyway. However, it was a pain to get the broken pieces of glass out of the fixture. I heard from multiple sources that the Current bulbs should be replaced. My LFS said that their corals lost color and turned brown under them

The reflector is stamped out of a piece of highly reflective material. The reflector surrounds each bulb and reflects the light that goes out the sides of the bulbs down into the tank.

From Current Nova Extreme Pro

From Current Nova Extreme Pro

After installing my bulbs the fixture looked like this:

From Current Nova Extreme Pro

The bulbs from left to right are ATI Blue Plus, Giesemann Aqua Blue+, Aqua Science Special 15000 K, Giesemann Midday, Giesemann Aqua Blue+ and ATI Blue Plus. The Aqua Science and Giesemann Midday were substitutes for a UV 75.25 and GE Starcoat respecively. It turns out that the Aqua Science special looks pretty much the same as the Giesemann Aqua Blue+.

Before placing the fixture on my tank I wanted to take some comparison photos with my 4x65 PC fixture first. For the following pictures I placed the camera on a tripod in manual exposure mode and with manual white balance. This way no camera parameters were changed between pictures.

First, is my PC fixture alone with my supplemental 6500 K bulbs turned off.

From Current Nova Extreme Pro

In the following picture, the supplemental 6500Ks are turned on.

From Current Nova Extreme Pro

Finally, the Nova Extreme went on the tank.

From Current Nova Extreme Pro

Obviously the bulbs I purchased cast a very purplish tint to the tank. They are also much much brighter. Now when I take close up pictures the camera stops down the lens to f/8 and decreases the shutter speed to about 1/125 s. Previously, the lens would be wide open and the shutter speed would be about 1/40 s.

From Current Nova Extreme Pro

Here are a few more pictures:
From Current Nova Extreme Pro

From Current Nova Extreme Pro

The fixture is very solid. The main housing of the fixture is made out of metal and not plastic. The legs, on the other hand, seemed a little flimsy. The manual does not include instructions on how to install the legs. It's not difficult but you need to figure it out on your own. The legs slide in through grooves. To access the grooves the acrylic shield needs to be pulled out a few inches. The shield also slides in on a different set of grooves. In order to get one of the legs on, the center brace needs to be removed since it slides into the lamp on the same grooves used by the legs.

The fans pump out a lot of warm air. Directly under the lamp you can just barely feel some warmth. I don't expect this to increase the tank temperature at all. The fans do make some noise. They are a little louder than the return pumps in my sump.

Despite the broken bulb I'm very happy with the fixture. The quality of the fixture seems very high.

Star Polyps Closed

My star polyps haven't opened since my water change. My mushrooms also look smaller. It's been two days. Not sure what the deal is. All my water parameters look great. Added some carbon last night just in case there was some residual bleach in the rock. All other corals look great. My tooth coral is opening wider than I have ever seen and toadstool looks like it is growing. Still no luck with my open brain opening.

EDIT: The star polyps opened this morning. I also discovered that I created a leak of sorts when I added the carbon last night. I had the sock draped over my HOB skimmer box and it was wicking water and dripping it onto the carpet behind the tank. I noticed that the level of RO water in the reservoir went down more than usual in one night and got curious and heard a drip while investigating. Carpet is a little wet behind the tank. I have a small fan blowing on it to dry it up. Hopefully it doesn't start growing mold. Water and I just don't get along.

New light fixture should be arriving today if the UPS guy can make it through the snowstorm. Bulbs arrived yesterday without any casualties.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I performed a water change two days ago. I switched to Coralife salt from Reef Crystals. I was using Coralife in the summer and then switched to Reef Crystals when I found it at the Drs. Foster and Smith outlet in Wisconsin for $30. I have since run out of RC so I am back to finishing my bucket of Coralife. I've noticed that the Coralife doesn't dissolve as quickly as the RC. It also leaves a coating of crusty scum on the sides of the tank I use to mix and aerate. I've never noticed the scum with Instant Ocean or Reef Crystals but I also noticed it last time I used Coralife.

I received a lot of formerly live rock years ago from someone I work with that ripped down his tank. I bought a 75g tank from him with a stand for $50 or $100. With it he gave me a lot of this rock. It had been dried out for some time. I decided that it was time to bring this rock back to life so I bleached it for a few days and then let it sit in dechlorinated water for about a week. Changing the water every day and adding dechlorinator each time I changed the water.

When I lowered the water level in my tank two days ago during my water change I took the opportunity to add this rock into the tank. It is basically one 5 gallon bucket full of various pieces. I have another 5 gallon bucket in the bleach phase right now that I may add later.

The amount of live rock I had before allowed me to build a low wall in the back of the tank. I didn't have enough to make a nice slope that would allow adding more corals. So, with this new rock I did some aquascaping. I used as much as this white rock for base rock and placed it under my coraline encrusted live rock. A few large bleached pieces are visible at the top but they too will be encrusted with coraline.

Here are some pictures after the aquascaping:
From Paul's Reef

From Paul's Reef

From Paul's Reef

From Paul's Reef

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas is Coming Early

For Christmas my wife is getting me a new light fixture for my tank. Well actually I talked my wife into letting me get it. My current fixture, a 4x65W PC, is just too dim to keep the corals happy. My nitrate level is now barely detectable at <0.2 so lighting appears to be the remaining thing to improve. So here is what I went with:

Nova Extreme Pro 6x54W T5HO

MH vs T5 seems to be a raging debate right now. It appears that T5s are gaining popularity. Metal Halides are a point source so you get a nice shimmering effect in the tank. You also get the most light penetration under the bulb and less further away. They have been around a long time so there is a big following. Haklides consume a lot more electricity and often require the use of a chiller to keep the tank cool.

With the T5HO fluorescents the lighting is more even so it reduces shadows in the tang and allows corals to get more light, in theory anyway. They also run much much cooler. You also have the ability to mix and match bulbs to get the color light you want. I've read and heard that the bulbs that come with this fixture are not great and should be replaced. I've read this and heard it from multiple sources so I ordered bulbs along with it.

This is the arrangement of bulbs I selected from front to back:
ATI Blue Plus
Giesemann Aqua Blue+
Aqua Science Special 15000 K
Giesemann Midday
Giesemann Aqua Blue+
ATI Blue Plus

The Aqua Science bulb was a substitute for UV Lighting 75.25 Bulb 14000K. The Giesemn Midday was a substitute for GE Starcoat. Both of these were out of stock at Aquarium Specialty.

I found this combination of bulbs at Reef Central used in a tank by Wendy. She has a most impressive tank. I figured if that combination of bulbs works for her I'll also give it a try.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

War of the Worlds

Canon Rebel Xti, Canon EF 100mm f2.8 USM Macro

This picture of my Bubble Tip Anemone reminds me of the alien spaceships from War of the Worlds. I'm not talking about the piece of crap Tom Cruise movie. I'm talking about the 1953 classic. Each ship had a "head" that was lit red at the end of a long neck that would look around and fire lasers at overconfident priests.

When I took this picture each tentacle seemed to be capable of independent thought. They seemed to move about independently looking for prey.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Nitrate Update

My nitrate measured well below 0.2 mg/L tonight. The lowest my Salifert kit will test is 0.2. A clear sample would mean 0 mg/L. I was able to detect a very slight amount of pink. It was barely perceptible.

After posting about my rapid nitrate reduction on the 3reef forum and reading the responses I became a little worried that the 6500K bulbs would encourage too much algae growth in the tank. I decided to reduce the "on time" of these bulbs from 9 hours/day to 5. I'll keep measuring the nitrate level and observing the effect of the reduced light on the small amount of algae in the tank and my corals. The Xenia is pulsing extremely rapidly, even at night. I'm concerned it will slow down once the amount of light is reduced. That may not be a bad thing because it is spreading quite rapidly and I'm afraid it may some day want to take over the tank.

I did some aquascaping when I added my dead piece of live rock back into the tank. One of the Xenia colonies got moved a bit. I also created a flat ledge that I moved my open brain coral to that is about mid height in the tank. The open brain hasn't opened completely yet. It expands slightly in the morning but that's it. Now that the nitrate level is down I'm not sure what else to try so I decided to move it higher in the tank where it can get more light. Hopefully, this helps.

Resurrecting Live Rock

Yesterday I put what used to be a piece of live rock back in my tank. I removed it in January because it had an infestation of bubble algae that was spreading. You can read the original post here. It was really a coral skeleton with many branches and a lot of surface area. I bleached it for a few days and rinsed it several times in dechlorinated water. I let it sit out for a couple of weeks. It's now back in the tank. I placed it under some other live rock so it doesn't stand out as badly as it would if were on top. I wonder how long until it is encrusted with coraline.

I also have some old rock that someone gave me from their SW tank years ago when they gave me a used 75 gal tank. I decided it was time to turn the pieces that I could tell were coral skeletons into LR too. Those pieces are soaking in bleach now. Lots of the pieces have dried up hair algae on them. I'm not sure what the other pieces are so I'll probably throw them out.

Friday, December 5, 2008

How to Reduce Nitrates in Reef Tanks by Increasing Illumination

I believe I have reduced the Nitrate level in my tank dramatically from 25 mg/L down to 0.2 mg/L simply by adding four spiral compact fluorescent bulbs from the hardware store. This post describes in detail all the steps I've taken to reduce my Nitrate level. The chart below illustrates my Nitrate measurements and is annotated with the dates of various things that I tried along the way. Click on the chart to enlarge.

From Paul's Reef

I've been recording my tank parameters since July 1st of this year. I have been most interested in reducing my Nitrate level. The Nitrate level in my tank was staying around 25 mg/L for several months. The level didn't go down by reducing feedings to once a day. Finally, I broke down and added a sump and refugium with a deep sand bed on August 2'nd. That really did nothing to reduce my Nitrate level over the course of a month. I added Chaeto algae and illuminated my refugium on a reverse light cycle on 10/9. On 10/25 the Nitrate level was still at 25 mg/L. Around this time I became concerned that my light output may be too low. The tank looked dim compared to my refugium which was lit with a single 6500K spiral CF fluorescent bulb. Perhaps some of the problems I was experiencing were due to low light levels rather than elevated Nitrate levels. Being on a budget I decided to purchase four 26W 6500K spiral CF bulbs from Lowes along with four clip-0n shop light fixtures with reflectors. So, by going the cheap route I was able to add 104W of daylight illumination for about $30. These were installed at the back of the tank on October 25'th. At the same time I ordered replacement PC bulbs for my hood. The replacement bulbs were installed on 10/29. All the while I continued to measure the Nitrate level as shown in the graph above.

The bulb I'm using is shown below. It is a 26W 6500K Bright Effects bulb purchased from Lowe's. It has the numbers BE26T3/D and E170197 printed on the label.
From Paul's Reef - Apr 15, 2008

The picture below shows the bulb and hood clipped to the front of the tank for easy viewing.
From Paul's Reef - Apr 15, 2008

Here is what the tank looks like with the extra bulbs and clip on fixtures.
From Paul's Reef - Apr 15, 2008

So what does the graph show? It shows that four days after installing the four spiral bulbs at the back of the tank over my live rock my Nitrate level dropped from 25 mg/L to 10 mg/L. At this point I installed the new PC fluorescents. Three days later, on 11/1, the Nitrate level had dropped to 5 mg/L. Up to this point this was the lowest I had ever measured. Five days later the Nitrate level was cut in half again and were reduced to 2.5 mg/L. Another 5 days later the Nitrates dropped to 1 mg/L. The Nitrate levels have continued to drop and are now at 0.2 mg/L.

In all the reading I did about techniques for reducing Nitrate I never came across anybody recommending increasing illumination. I read about using a deep sand bed and using macro algae such as Chaeto. I also read about Nitrate sponges and Nitrate coils. I tried the DSB and Chaeto and did not see a reduction. You can argue that I did not try the Chaeto for a long enough time period. True, it's possible that the Chaeto helped. However, I would have expected to see a gradual decline beginning with the introduction of the Chaeto. However, two weeks after the introduction of the Chaeto the Nitrate level stubbornly remained at 25 mg/L.

The chart, however, suggests that the catalyst for the Nitrate reduction was the addition of the cheap spiral 6500K CF bulbs. After the introduction of these bulbs the Nitrate levels literally fell off a cliff. But why?

It is my belief that the algae that was already in my tank took off after the additional lighting was added. The color of my live rock noticeably changed with the increase in illumination. Looking closely at the rock you can see very fine green algae growing over the coraline. This algae is remaining very short and well kept and provides natural grazing food for my tangs. I do not have any hair algae growing that I can see although I did fear this would happen. At times fine bubbles can now be seen over my rock clinging to the fine algae. I'm not sure of the origin of these bubbles. I do not believe they are microbubbles that are captured by the algae. Perhaps they are nitrogen bubbles generated anaerobically in the live rock and trapped by the algae. Perhaps they are produced by the algae. Is it possible that the algae is reducing the flow of oxygenated water to the rock and encouraging anaerobic denitrifying bacteria to thrive.

From Paul's Reef

This fine algae which has a lot of live rock surface area to grown on may be absorbing the Nitrate. The tangs are keeping the algae manicured. One would think that the Nitrate would be reintroduced in the tangs' waste. Perhaps it is but it is being quickly reabsorbed by the algae to repeat the cycle. Is it possible I have created a self-sustaining ecosystem?

Some might suggest the the reduction of nitrate occurring with the additional lighting is strictly coincidental. Twenty years of engineering experience has taught me that true coincidences are rather rare. Usually, there is some causal relationship between the two observations.

I would encourage others with Nitrate problems to try the simplest approach first. There is nothing simpler and cheaper than adding 6500K spiral bulbs from Lowes or Home Depot to the back of your tank. This is certainly cheaper and faster than building a refugium. Having some shop lights clipped to the back of your tank may not provide you with the best look. Eventually, after you are convinced it works, you can build a nicer hood. If your tank responds as mine did you may have the results you are looking for in about four days.

I'd be interested in knowing your experiences. Please send me an email at

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Mushrooms Clones

Here is a macro photo of part of my mushroom colony. These are really anemones and not corals. I've seen them reproduce simply by stretching their foot and leaving a piece behind. It only takes a few days for the piece that was left behind to take the shape of a small mushroom clone.
Canon Rebel Xti, Canon EF 100mm f2.8 USM Macro

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hey Crabman

I received a black Mithrax hitchhiker crab with my first live rock purchase more than a year ago. The most I usually ever see of this crab is a black claw reaching out from under a rock and scraping algae off some other rock and bringing the claw to its mouth. On occasion it gets a little more daring to go after some tasty piece of algae. On these rare occasions some more of its body is visible but never more than half of it. Now this thing has gotten big. Tonight I saw it quickly dash across the ceiling of a cave. It is at least 3 inches across. While stretching to cross the ceiling of the cave I swear it was 5 inches from end to end. It kind of reminds me of a tarantula because it has extremely hairy legs.

This crab is very fast and very very skittish. The slightest movement outside the tank causes it to scurry away - quickly. It is extremely fast. Because it is so skittish it is next to impossible to get a good picture of this guy. These pictures of it attacking my Koralia powerhead are the best pictures I have been able to take of it so far. You need to click on the one above and zoom in on the one above to really see it.

Its claws seem to be smooth on the inside, lacking any serrations. It appears to be built strictly for eating algae. I have read some of the debate about crabs on line that tend to reply that the only place for Mithrax crabs, emerald aside, is in your refugium. I haven't seen this guy do any evil so I'm going to leave him in the tank for now. I don't think I can get him out even if I wanted to. Hopefully, he doesn't develop an appetite for toadstool leathers.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Toadstool Time Lapse

Here is a time lapse vide of my Toadstool Leather going to sleep for the night. The video was composed by taking a picture every 30 seconds over the course of two hours. This coral seems to anticipate the lights going out. It starts to pull in its polyps about an hour before the lights go out. It does the reverse in the morning and extends its polyps before the lights turn on.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Better Get a Bucket

I perform a water change about every two weeks. I replace about 15 gallons per change, or about 20%. Nitrates are looking great at 0.5 ppm but the trace elements need to be replenished. I always use RO/DI water and have been using Reef Crystals since July. I used the last of my Reef Crystals on this last water change and will now be going back to Coralife salt until I finish off that salt. The Coralife for some reason comes in 3 separate plastic bags within the 5 gallon bucket. I'm wondering if they are afraid of the contents settling. The partially used open bag has turned into a big piece of rock salt. I'll have to let it dissolve next time a prepare water.

So, last time I performed a water change I noticed that the new water was noticeably clearer than the old water I drained out of the tank. Don't get me wrong, the water in the tank looks really clear. However, the new water when compared against the old looks clearer and bluer. Judge for yourself.

This picture was taken with the flash. The old water is on the right.

From Paul's Reef

This picture was taken without it. Just for fairness and confusion I took this picture from the opposite side of the buckets. Here the old water is obviously on the left.

From Paul's Reef

Based on the color and clarity difference alone it would seem to me that regular water changes are very important. The difference is probably not merely "wafer thin."

In other news, I added activated carbon this evening. I filled an old sock with it and rinsed it in RO/DI water. I added the sock to my overflow box so I can get the most water flowing through it. I must not have rinsed it well enough because my tank looks noticeably darker now. I never really stopped to think about how much slightly dirty water reduces the amount of light reaching your corals.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Brain Advice

Canon Rebel Xti, Canon EF 100mm f2.8 USM Macro

I sent an email today to Wet Web Media to get some tips on what I can do to get my open brain coral to expand again. I thought reducing the nitrates to 0.5 mg/L and increasing illumination would do the trick. So far it still hasn't opened fully.

They replied within about an hour and a half. Sarah suggested increasing my temperature to 80 - 85F and increasing my specific gravity to 1.025 - 1.026. I had just lowered my temperature slowly from 79F down to 75F hoping that would work. I also lowered my SG from 1.025 to 1.024. I thought the lowering the temperature helped a little at first but it is still being stubborn.

I performed a water change today and nudged the heater up a little. I need to do this slowly. I'm also going to top off for evaporation with salt water to raise the SG back up. By filling my auto top-off reservoir with salt water this change should happen slowly.

Sarah also suggested running activated carbon for a while and to try feeding the coral at night with all pumps turned off. I'm going to give the feeding a try right now. I'll have to pick up some carbon tomorrow.

Star Polyps Growing Up

Canon Rebel Xti, Canon EF-S 18-55mm f3.5 - 5.6

I was able to get a picture of my star polyp colony when the polyps are retracted. Hopefully, you can see how the colony is growing upwards.

This picture was taken on a tripod with only the moon LEDs lit. It does take a while for the polyps to come out after the lights turn on so I could have taken a "day" picture. I just felt like taking a night picture.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Frogspawn Expansion at Warp Speed

I decided to give time lapse photography a try. Using the software that came with our camera and our laptop I took a picture every minute for 3 hours this morning. What I found is that my fish love to be in front of the camera. I really don't have as many fish as you might think I do from watching this video. They really all decided to hang out in front of the camera. Kind of weird. As you can see, most of the coral's expansion occured during the first hour when only the actinics were lit.

Be sure to check back later for Toadstool at Warp Speed.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Star Polyps

Canon Rebel Xti, Canon EF 100mm f2.8 USM Macro

My Star Polyps reside at the far left side of my tank. There they have expanded their colony onto a new piece of rock. I really don't pay too much attention to this colony. I guess this is because it is doing well on its own and I really don't worry about it.

The top of the colony grows upward building upon their old skeletons. Almost like SPS coral. These branches are obscured by the tentacles of the polyps and are only visible when the tank is dark. I haven't been able to take a decent picture that depicts this in any detail.

Over time the polyps near the bottom of the colony shrink away. Perhaps their siblings are blocking their light. The picture below shows the bottom of the colony. This section was once thriving but is now fading away.

Canon Rebel Xti, Canon EF 100mm f2.8 USM Macro

Thursday, November 27, 2008

How Low Can They Go?

Nitrate level this Thanksgiving morning was 0.5 ppm, possibly a little lower. I thought they had stabilized at 1 ppm but they have dropped again. This may be due to the increased output of my skimmer.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Collonista Snails

From Paul's Reef

Lots of these little guys crawling around on my live rock. I thought they were baby Astraea snails but it looks like they are just really small snails called Collonista snails. Supposed to be great grazers though.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bubble-Tip Update

From Paul's Reef

My anemone is looking really good lately. I'm feeding it a piece of frozen Formula One every other day. It's a pain because I need to keep my shrimps (more on this later) distracted while it is ingesting its food. During the day the tentacles are long and slender. At night, after the lights start to dim, the tentacles contract and the bubble tips develop. Right now my four 6500K spiral bulbs turn off at 9:00, the 12000K tubes turn off at 10:00 and the actinics go out at 11:00.

Still no luck with any of my clown fish hosting it. The tomato clown looks at it every once in a while, however, it hangs out closer to the frogspawn more frequently. Occasionally, I see the Tomato nipping at the Frogspawn's tentacles. I've yet to see it swim within its tentacles.

I just noticed that in this picture you can see an extremely small snail in the lower left corner of the picture near the anemone. I have lots of these baby snails in my tank. Don't know for sure if they are baby Astraea snails or some other type but I do see the mature Astraea snails laying eggs from time to time.

So, is it shrimp or shrimps? I always thought that the word shrimp was used for the singular and also for the plural as in Fried Shrimp. They don't give you just one shrimp. But what if I want to describe multiple varieties of shrimp(s)? Is it correct to say shrimps in that case? I had a college professor that always instructed the class to turn in our homeworks. I remember explaining to somebody that that was incorrect. I used the fried shrimp example to make my point that their should be no 's' at the end. I guess it doesn't matter. I'm using shrimps from now on. Later, I need to go brush my tooths.

In a Different Light

From Paul's Reef

Tooth Coral under actinic lighting. Slow grower but one of my favorites.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Spaghetti Worms

From Paul's Reef

From Paul's Reef

This guy truly has a face that only a mother can love. These live all over my sand bed. They also live inside little holes in the live rock. Their little tentacles radiate over the surface of the sand drawing in what bit of detritus or food they can find. My crabs can't walk an inch on the sand without tripping on a tentacle belonging to one of these guys. Someone looking at my tank was horrified to learn that there were worms living all over the place. They are indeed pretty disgusting looking. Occasionally, one will make its way on to the surface of the glass to pose for a picture. They say these guys are excellent sand sifters and are a valuable member of your clean up crew. Just don't tell your visitors they are worms.

Protein Skimmer Gone Wild

My AquaC Remora protein skimmer has been producing skimmate like crazy for the past week. The screen on the input of my Maxijet 1200 that drives the skimmer kept getting clogged with small pieces of Chaeto algae. I got tired of removing the algae so I simply took the screen off. I wasn't able to notice a change of flow out of the skimmer but the amount of skimmate produced went up big time. It now produces as much skimmate in a day as it used to produce in a week. Around the same type I increased the amount of two-part additive (pH/Alkalinity and calcium) I was adding each day. I have since reduced the dosing to the previous level. It's possible that this contributed and it's possible that lowering the temperature contributed. My money is on increasing the flow through the AquaC though.

I'm hoping this helps the skimmer become more effective. When performing water changes I've noticed the old water had a yellow hue to it as compared with new water. Maybe this is normal. After all its used water.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


My refugium is looking really gross lately. In addition to the Chaeto algae there are all sorts of other algae growing. Algae is growing out of the PVC pipe as well as all over the glass. There is also green pond scum growing on the top. Certainly not something I would want to have in my main tank but in the refugium it's fine. As long as the algae is working hard consuming nitrates they are welcome to stay.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Frogspawn: One Year Later

So I was looking through some earlier pics of my reef tank and realized I bought my Frogspawn frag one year ago. Here is a picture of my Frogspawn on November 20'th, 2007. When I bought it it consisted of a single polyp.

From Paul's Reef

Here is how it looked by December 15'th. Still a single polyp but noticeably larger.
From Paul's Reef

This coral spent the first few months in my tank falling of the ledge I had put it on. I finally moved it to a different spot where it calcified base fit snugly. It has stayed in this spot since. (EDIT: You'll be glad to know that Murphy's law is still in effect. The next morning the Frogspawn had fallen out of its nook.) By January 6'th it had split into two polyps.

From Paul's Reef

By April it consisted of four polyps.

From Paul's Reef

It now has grown to six polyps. The sixth polyp is still in the process of splitting. It is well defined but still doesn't have its own calcified base.

From Paul's Reef

This coral has done very well in my tank. It has continued to grow and lived through and even prospered during my high nitrate phase. It has done well under my PC fluorescents even as they aged and dimmed. I would recommend this coral as an excellent starter coral.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


My open open brain coral still hasn't fully opened up. My nitrates are down to 1 ppm. I have replaced my light bulbs and even added more light. So why hasn't my open brain coral responded by opening? It still mostly stays tightly closed up. I remembered that over the summer I raised the tank temperature so that the fluctuating temperature of the house would would have less of an impact on water temperature. Come to think of it, my open brain coral was closed most of the summer. Perhaps it didn't like the elevated temperature. Maybe all it wants is lower temperature water. So, on Saturday, I lowered the temperature from 79 to 77 degrees F. The next day the coral opened up more than I have seen in months. See the picture below.

From Paul's Reef

However, by evening it was deflated again. It's deflated every night when I come home from work. The picture below is how it looks every night and the way it has looked since summer.

From Paul's Reef

The picture below is how it used to look. I took this picture back in January 2008. Unfortunately, I wasn't logging my tank conditions back then so I don't know what my temperature was.

From Paul's Reef

I'll probably lower my temperature a little more this weekend to observe the results. Everything else seems fine with the temperature at 77 deg F.