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.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Brittle Stars

Tonight, after all lights but my actinics turned off, I was looking closely at my tank. After a minute or two I spotted a small white Brittle starfish. A few seconds later I saw another very close to it. I looked in another part of the tank and I saw yet another. Within a few minutes all of my kids were looking and we saw about 5 more. It appears that they are all over the place. They are all very small, no larger than a nickle from foot to foot.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Put Your Best Foot Forward

This piece of Xenia is getting ready to split again. It has grown a foot and will soon plant it on the rock. The piece of coral will then split between the new foot and the old one. A new piece of coral will grow from the site of the old foot.

From Paul's Reef

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More Starfish

Lots of starfish sightings this weekend. Looks like the small starfish I've seen and described yesterday are Asterina Starfish. Looks like some people say they will eat some types of coral. I haven't seen them doing anything nefarious just yet so I'll let them be.

For the first time I saw one of these guys on the front glass. I slapped on the macro lens and started taking pictures. On Saturday I said I wasn't sure these guys were actually starfish. Now it's pretty obvious they are.

From Paul's Reef

I was hoping these guys would grow up to be a really nice big colorful starfish. Looks like these buggers will stay tiny.

I also got a glimpse of a white brittle star. The picture is very poor. It's the best one I could get before it disappeared in the rock. It's near the center of the picture below. Not much to look at right now.

From Paul's Reef

Saturday, November 15, 2008


A while back I described my attempt at dividing a mushroom and my Colt coral. I had mixed results.

First the good news. The diving of the mushroom worked out well. The mushroom next to the shrimp in the picture below is the clone. All you need to do is slice off the disc and leave the stem. Place the disc on a new rock and hold it in place with some bridal netting from your local craft store. Wrap a rubber band around the netting to secure it. Let it sit there for 3 or 4 days until it attaches to the new rock. That's it. This was very easy to do provided you can hang on to the piece you cut. The first one I cut slipped away. Somewhere in my tank I may have another one growing.

From Paul's Reef

Here is another picture. You can see the clone above the parent colony.
From Paul's Reef

Now to the Colt coral. This didn't work out so well. I should only done one piece but I tried several. Each of these failed. The problem with the Colt coral is that it is too soft and slimy. The toothpicks I used to stab them and secure them in place eventually worked their way through the soft flesh of the coral. The coral would then float away. I also tried to loosely rubber band the pieces to a stone. No matter how loose I made the rubber band it eventually worked its way through the coral and it would float away. I'll have to do more research on this and try again. I would also like to figure out how to divide my Xenia. It's growing like crazy.


I discovered a new starfish in my tank today.

From Paul's Reef

I have no idea what kind it is. All I know is that it didn't hang out in that spot for long.

I have several other things that I'll call starfish for now although I'm not really sure if they are true starfish. I have at least a half of dozen of these guys in my tank. They kind of move like starfish but they are very small and their "arms" are different lengths. They are pink in the center and white on the outside.

From Paul's Reef

One of these guys is in the center of the picture above. To the left of it is my anemone in its shrunken state. You can see the pink tips of its green tentacles.


From Paul's Reef

Well, I've managed to keep my cleaner shrimp away from my anemone during feeding time. The problem is my Fire Shrimp has now figured out how to get a free lunch. At least it brings him out front where he can be seen.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to Feed an Anemone

My Bubble Tip Anemone is looking better now that I have started feeding it again. It doesn't always have the bubble tips but they usually appear at night once the lights start to dim. I had stopped feeding for two reasons many months ago. The first reason was that my anemone would move after it was fed. I figured it didn't like to be fed so I stopped feeding it. The second reason is my cleaner shrimp would descend on the anemone and stick its claws inside of it and pull out the food.

When I started feeding it again I had to keep my hand in the tank to chase the shrimp away until the anemone was done eating. I soon got tired of keeping my hand in the tank for 15 minutes. My new approach is to simply pay off the shrimp to buy protection for the anemone. Instead of using one chunk of frozen food I now use two. The first goes to the shrimp to keep it occupied. The second goes to the anemone. This arrangement keeps everybody happy.

Still no luck getting a clown fish to host it though.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Reducing Nitrates

I haven't performed a water change for about a week and a half and nitrates are still around 2.5 ppm as measured with a Salifert test kit. It's hard to see in the picture below but the sample color is closest to the 2 ppm color.

From Paul's Reef

One thing that is really nice about the Salifert nitrate test is that once your sample is <= 10 ppm you can use the kit in low range mode. To do this you simply match the color my looking through the side of the vile and then simply divide the number of the closest color by 10. In the example below the closest color is 25. So my nitrate level is 2.5 ppm.

From Paul's Reef

Getting my nitrate to this level has taken a long time. I'm still not sure what finally worked. Was it the deep sand bed, the Chaeto algae, the algae growing naturally in my refugium or the new light bulbs? The most recent change was the lighting. After I replaced my bulbs is when I saw the nitrate level drop below 10 ppm.

One other variable I forgot to mention is that I ran out of Kent Marine Tech-I that I was using to supplement Iodine. I ran out about a two weeks ago, about the same time I replaced my bulbs. I originally started supplementing because my Xenia were not looking good. Right now they are pulsing faster than I have ever seen and rapidly dividing on their own. I will not add iodine again unless I see things degrading again.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tomato Clown

From Paul's Reef

I purchased a small Tomato Clown over the weekend. I'm hoping that it will host my Bubble Tip Anemone. So far he is ignoring it. I also have an Ocellaris Clown that also ignores the same anemone.

The anemone itself doesn't look great. He has shrunk considerably since I purchased him last December. He probably suffered under my dimming lights. I also never fed him because early on it seemed like it would move if I fed him. I started feeding him yesterday after doing additional research.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Quite the Week

There was a lot of action in the tank this week. Here is the week in review.

I upgraded my lighting.
I may have observed my Tooth Coral spawn.
My nitrates finally dropped to under 5 ppm.
I divided my Colt Coral and a mushroom.

It's been a while since I posted. Here is an overall tank picture:
From Paul's Reef

Divide and Conquer

My Colt coral has grown huge. After giving my two sons haircuts yesterday I decided it was time to prune back the coral. Hopefully I can get the clippings to grow on some rubble.

I pruned a few small branches back with scissors. Actually, they are the same ones I used to cut my kids hair. I then stabbed each cutting with a round wood toothpick and secured each of them to a piece of rubble or live rock.

Here are a few of the clippings:

From Paul's Reef

From Paul's Reef

From Paul's Reef

And here is where one of the clippings was cut from its mother:
From Paul's Reef

I think on a few of the clippings I may have stabbed the coral too low. The toothpick looks like it has been pulled through the base of at least one of the clippings allowing it to float away. Hmm, looks like I need to develop the technique a little more.

I also divided a mushroom. I sliced the head off of one and secured it to a piece of live rock with bridal netting and a rubberband. Look for a picture soon. The mushrooms have begun taking off in the last few weeks. They started growing more rapidly before I upgraded the lighting,

From Paul's Reef


My Nitrate level has finally dropped! I measured it at 5ppm yesterday with my Salifert kit. I remeasured this morning and got a reading between 2 and 5ppm. Finally!

So what finally got the Nitrates to drop?
1. Reduced feeding to once per day. I have been doing this for months so probably not too likely.
2. Deep sand bed. The deep sand bed was installed the first week of August. Does it really take three months to cycle?
3. Chaeto algae in fuge. Hmm. It's only been in there for about a month.
4. The lighting in the fuge. The lighting is causing algae to grow on the glass. All of the algae is full of bubbles. Could this be nitrogen? Also now seeing some bubbles in the sand. I saw this earlier when I was keeping the fuge lit. The bubbles went away when I stopped illuminating the fuge.
5. The lighting upgrade for the main tank. Can there be a relationship?

My Frogspawn, Xenia and mushrooms are doing very well. My Xenia keeps splitting on its own. I now have about 4 stalks on both sides of the tank. They pulse like crazy even with current flowing across them. My open brain has not been opened for months. I'm hoping that the combination of improved lighting and lower nitrates entice it to open soon.

Spawn or Just a Burp?

So perhaps my tooth coral is digging the new lights. Perhaps it was happy that I fed it a few Mysis shrimp. I'll never know for sure. One polyp of my tooth coral (the right one in the picture below) let loose a cloud of something last night. Was it sperm, eggs or just a big burp?

From Paul's Reef

I noticed this last night as I was observing my tank. The 12000K fluorescents had turned off about half an hour earlier and just the actinics were on. By chance I happened to look at the tooth coral and saw it let go of the cloud. Before it let it go it looked like there was some material hanging out of the mouth. Afterwards, the polyp shrunk down a bit.

New Lights

How often are you supposed to replace your light bulbs? After a year I started to suspect that perhaps my problems are not entirely due to elevated nitrate levels but instead due to reduced lumen levels. I have an Odyssea 260W power compact fluorescent fixture. I decided I needed to supplement my lighting so I decided to purchase some 4 23W 6500K spiral compact fluorescent fixtures from Lowes along with 4 the clip on shop fixtures. Unfortunately a metal halide fixture is not in the budget at this time. I mounted these on the back of the tank. The additional light that these provided was very significant. In fact they seemed brighter than the bulbs on my PC fluorescent fixture. So I searched the Internet and found replacement bulbs from Aquatraders. The Odyssea replacement bulbs were about $7 each in 4 packs. I purchased 4 12000K bulbs and 4 Actinics. I received the bulbs in a little under a week last Wednesday the 29th and installed them.

I replaced the right half only and did a comparison. There is no comparison between the old and the new. The old 12000K bulb was much more yellow than the new bulb. The old actinic was much dimmer and so much less purple than the new. I replaced the other half and reset the timers to reduce the on time to avoid shocking and bleaching the coral by changing the light intensity too quickly.

I know have 4 timers. The bulbs are turned on and off at different times to try to replicate the changing light intensity throughout the day.
Timer 1 - Actinics - On 9:00 am, Off 9:00 pm
Timer 2 - 12000Ks - On 10:00 am, Off 8:00 pm
Timer 3 - 6500Ks - On 12:00 pm, Off 4:00 pm
Timer 4 - Fuge 6500k - On 6:00 pm - Off 9:00 am reverse light cycle.