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Reef Madness: Sea Fan, Chromis, and Yellow Tonga Leather
Blithe grew up at the beach in California. She likes fish. She had a Cichlid tank for a long time, but had shut that down during one of her moves years ago. From time to time she had mentioned that she would like to have a saltwater tank sometime... All I did was ask an innocent question at PetsMart in 1997. I asked, "Hey look at all those tanks, is one of those what you were thinking of?"
Whooosh. The saga begins. Research mode. I'm reading everything I can find. Did I mention that I had NEVER had a tank? Five weeks later we bought the contents of another guy's tank, he was going back to Cichlids after running a reef tank for ten years. We got 75 pounds of Marshall Islands live rock, live sand, a beautiful Haddoni Anemone, some fish, a few white polyps, a sickly gorgonian, a Berlin skimmer, and a Chiller.
Mushrooms and Purple Gorgonian But we still didn't have a tank.
We found a 75 gallon heavy duty glass tank at a local fish store that was moving, ($75 "...but it was drilled for 2 overflows, honey!"), and another 20 gallon tank for a sump. Designed and built the strongest stand ever constructed. Way overbuilt. Very heavy. Very time-consuming to build and finish. Bought a ton of stuff: two 175 watt metal halide pendants, all kinds of test equipment, four 240 gallon/hour powerheads, a 700 gallon/hour return pump, a 500 gallon/hour skimmer pump, titanium ground rods for everything, lots of timers, lots of power strips, enough plumbing and flexible hose to build a high-rise, and another 20 gallon tank to use for a quarantine tank. Meanwhile, Brian was holding our tank contents in his setup. And waiting, and waiting.
Finally, we got the new system up and assembled. Six weeks and a couple of hundred hours between the two of us.
Move-in day arrives, and we recruit a couple of friends to help out. To say we were prepared would be an understatement. We show up with four new wheeled extra-large garbage cans for live rock, about ten five gallon buckets with lids, battery powered aerators, a billion square feet of dropcloth, 400 towels, and two powerheads for pumping water. I don't know what Brian thought, but we were in and out of there in about 45 minutes.
Back to the condo in short order, we couldn't believe all the mess. But there's something about seeing live rock spread all over your living room that has to make you smile.
Lobophyton Soft Coral and Mushroom anemones Lobophyton Sp.
Assorted mushroom anemones
Clarkii Clownfish
Despite the well-seasoned contents, the first week our tank turns into a fish-killing machine. The invertebrates are fine, but within days all of the fish are dead. KIA, a Coral Beauty, a Dottyback, and two Pink Skunk Clownfish. Urk.
So we waited for the tank to cycle in again. Then we bought a Kole Tang. It died in four days. Wait more. Then a Black and White Centropyge met the same fate. The Anemone, and all the invertebrates are thriving, but we cannot keep fish for almost 3 months.
So we concentrate on testing and slowly adding invertebrates: A Clavularia Viridis, some Blue Striped Mushroom Polyps, and a Green Star Polyp colony. Meanwhile, the sickly gorgonian recovered nicely, and the small white polyps developed into several thriving colonies of Protopalythoa; they have medium-sized cinnamon colored oral disks with bright green centers.
Gradually, oh so gradually, the tank stopped killing. The first successful additions were a Royal Gramma and three, no two Green Chromis. Why three, then two? Remember the Stichodactyla Haddoni anemone? On the second night one of the Chromis got distracted while feeding, and was blown into the carpet anemone by pump flow. Yum, said the anemone.
This proved to be a pattern, and over the next couple of months the Haddoni also consumed a Blue-spotted Watchman Goby and a Mandarin Dragonet. Urk. Tragic. This, even though we had emplaced a pair of tank-raised Clarkii Clownfish to protect it (really, to protect the tank from the anemone). Finally, we realized that we had to get rid of the Haddoni, so we traded it to a local store for livestock credit.
Today, we have a thriving tank with good diversity. One of the secrets we believe, to keeping the fish healthy is the addition of a Lysmata Amboinensis cleaner shrimp. Though is competes with the fish at feeding time, the cleaning services provided have really helped when Ick has appeared, or when new inhabitants were added. And they are interesting to watch. Highly recommended.
Star Polyps, Gorgonian, Yellow Polyps Left Shelf
Green Star Polyps
Grey Gorgonian with Brown Polyps
Yellow Polyps
Sarcophyton Finger Leather
Coming soon: the tale of the Fish-eating Anemone (sorry no pictures); We finally keep fish alive; and True stories of Hunting Valonia and the quest for Calcium levels. All when I get more time to write.
Good Luck, pRC
Main Tank
1998 Reef Tank Occupants:
75+ lbs Marshall Islands live rock
many lbs live sand
1 large pale green sinularia
1 large blastomusa colony, with (pavona cactus coral on one end)
1 medium cream finger leather (sarcophyton, looks like Sinularia)
1 medium rust/grey lobophyton
1 medium porites with christmas tree fanworms
14 green/blue striped discosoma
4 dark blue knobby discosoma
10 rust/red knobby discosoma
12 metallic green mushrooms, possibly ricordea?
1 medium grey photosynthetic gorgonian
1 medium purple 'tree' gorgonian
1 medium purple 'frilly' gorgonian
1 small yellow 'tonga' sarcophyton
1 gramma loreto, royal gramma
1 centropyge argi, cherub angelfish
1 ctenochaetus hawaiiensis, chevron tang
1 pseudocheilinus hexataenia, six-line wrasse
4 cirrhilabrus rubiventralis, fairy wrasses
1 syncheiropus splendidus, mandarin dragonet
1 ablygobious palaena, banded goby
1 burrowing snapping shrimp
1 green mithrax crab
2 small lysmata amboinensis, cleaner shrimp
3 chromis caeruleus, green chromis damselfish
Many limpets (breeding in tank)
8 astrea snails
Assorted blue-leg and scarlet hermit crabs
Huge number of tiny fanworms on rocks
Some brown bristleworms (working on trapping them, but it's slow)
Some Valonia (hunting it down each week)
Patches of macroalgae
Relentlessly-growing pink, purple, and red Coralline Algae
Top View of Tank shows multiple pendants, flourescents, active water flow.
Current Additives:
SeaChem Reef Calcium, Reef Complete, and buffer; Thiel VitaGold trace/vitamin supplement (1.5 tsp/day); SeaChem Iodine; also using some bagged GAC in the filter tray.