30 July 2012

Corals, Fish & Invertebrates!

After 2 months of tank cycling and steadily improving water quality, we made our first additions to the tank.  On our way back from camping in Acadia, we stopped by AquaCorals in Fairfield, Maine.  Peggy, the owner was absolutely wonderful!  After giving us a tour of the nicest reef tanks I've ever seen, she worked with us to pick out a collection of 6 soft corals to start with:
This is a red colt coral, a specimen I really enjoyed in my last tank.  It waves beautifully in the current and can get quite large.
Metallic green neon polyps are also a carryover from our last aquarium, where they did very well and spread like wildfire.
The cabbage leather coral is probably one of the hardiest corals out there and can also get quite large.
This is a new one for us….the orange ricordea which fluoresces orange with a green mouth under out blue LED lighting.  I placed it low in the tank, away from strong currents and hope it will spread up the coral slope.
Here is another first for our tank, green zooanthids.  These corals and their related palythoas contain palytoxin, one of the most toxic substances known.  For my fellow chemistry friends, its structure has been solved as:
Apparently, some Hawaiian Islanders with serious anger issues, discovered smearing paste made from these corals on a spear tip would ruin your enemy's whole day.  

Finally, I added a striped Xenia to the collection.  We had a pulsing Xenia in our old tank, which was a favorite.  Peggy also introduced us to a skunk cleaner shrimp which we brought home.
This interesting little fellow actually sets up a little "service station" for the fish where he picks dead scales and parasites from the fish.  I saw him actually stick his appendage inside of the gill slits of a fish to remove something from the fish.

We also decided to add some very small livestock to the tank a couple of days later when we saw some good looking livestock at great prices at the PETCO in Nashua, NH.

Our first addition is this Canary Blenny, also known as a fanged blennie due to the venomous fangs in the fish's lower jaw.  A docile fish, it apparently bites the inside of the mouth of the larger fish swallowing it, inflicting enough pain to have the predator spit the blenny out unharmed!  I've noticed our swims around peacefully except for nipping at nassarius snails in the tank.  It leaves the nerites and ceriths alone, but goes after the nassarius.
3 extremely timid pajama cardinals were added to our tank.  They seem to like to school together, suspended motionless in the upper water column.
Finally, we added this tiny fellow, a sharknosed goby.  He is another cleaner fish who is already spending his time sucking stuff off of the Canary Blenny.  When not engaged in these activities, he perches on rockwork throughout the tank and at feeding time is an absolute pig in gobbling brine shrimp close to his size.

Now we wait for a while to watch how the water quality responds to new additions and I will slowly turn up the LED lighting over the next couple of weeks to acclimate the corals.

08 July 2012

Cleanup crew arrived.

Ordered some snails from Reefcleaners.org and they arrived two days ago.  They were acclimated by simply floating bags in the DT water to acclimate temperatires for 20 minutes than placed in the tank.  Reefcleaners does not suggest doing a water exchange drip before introduction, just the thermal acclimation.  The new additions were:

66 dwarf cerith snails
24 nassarius snails
20 florida cerith snails
30 nerite snails.

After two days they seem to be moving all over the tank.  A number of the dwarf cerith seem immobile ner where they were placed on the sand and so may be dead.  Nitrate has also moved up to 5 ppm from near zero so some may have perished.  We'll see what the week brings as far as nitrate and skimming.

The work I did on the skimmer was very helpful as well.  For the first time it filled the skimmate tank in only 4 days!  I'll cut back the make-up air to get finer bubbles and see whether it is possible to dry the foam out a bit.  I'm hoping a week of good skimming will help bing down some of the nitrate levels.

01 July 2012

Month 1: Ready for Cleanup Crew

After 4 weeks of operation, the water quality of the tank has improved enough to consider addition of a cleanup crew.  As of today, thhe DT parameters are:
Specific Gravity:   1.026
Temperature:  79.9 oF
pH: 7.92
Ammonia:  0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 0 ppm
Carbonate alkalinity 7.5 dKH (134 ppm)
Calcium: 460 ppm
Magnesium: 1470 ppm
Silicate: 0.03 ppm
Phosphate: 0 ppm (Salifert)
Strontium: 0 ppm
Iron: 0 ppm

I toyed with the idea of adding some soium carbonate to increase my pH and hardness but both of these parameters seem to be increasing over the past 4 weeks so I will just let hte buffer set up naturally with CO2 from the air and increased circulation.

Speaking of increasing circulation, I added a Tunze 6095 Turbelle nanostream to augment circulation from my Vortech MP20 powerhead.  I interfaced the Tunze with an APC module on my Reefkeeper Elite system and after a number of small glitches, has it circulating at 60%/30% flow at 2 minute intervals.  The glitch is that the APC module cannot be programmed through the RKE head module.  Instead, I have to connect up using a borrowed laptop and program the pump with MyReef Software.  They say it will be fixed in some future software update.

As far as the tank itse;f is concerned, I passed through a diatom bloom and have seen lots of green hair algae which we've been cleaning off.  It seems to be coming back slower and I've decided to order some cleanup snails to keep it under control.  Hopefully, these will be in the tank by the end of this week.