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My Nano Reef Part Three

Last Updated: 6/21/08

A lot of death ensued. On 5/26/08, I removed the dead mushroom coral after it fell to mush (that stunk pretty bad!). Some good news though - I found a tiny feather duster worm attached underneath the zooanthid colony.

The morning of 5/27/08, I brought some water from my tank to work to test on the fancy pH meter there; it said only 7.92! Yet, the home test kits were saying high 8's! On 5/27/08, I changed out 2.5 gallons. Before I did that, I pipetted a little "Coral Frenzy" food to the two surviving corals. I do not know if they ate it. The salinity of the tank was 1.023 while the make up water was 1.024. The pH according to my dry test kit was 8.4 in the tank but 8.6 by the dip sticks. The make up water was 8.6 by test kit and 8.8 by dip stick. The alkalinity was 175 ppm in the tank and 300 (too high) in the make up water. There was no nitrite or nitrate by dip stick.

I have five hermit crabs of four species. As you know, all the snails (all 14) died (all but one instantly). As for the corals, the mushroom and LPS corals died and fell all apart. The zooanthids and star polyps are doing well. Then, the worst news - Crusty died on 5/28/08. Crusty was my black and white variant of the Ocellaris clownfish. Not only was he very rare but a $50 fish. You can read more on him on my clownfish page as to what I think happened.

The morning of 5/28/08, the pH of the tank using my work pH meter was 7.95! I brought some more accurate (but old) dip sticks from work. The morning of 5/29/08, I got 7.8 by work dip stick and 8.9 with the fish (sold at fish store) dip stick. How can they be so far apart? The pH dilemma was driving me nuts so I bought my own pH meter.

On 5/30/08, I got my pH meter that night. I stole some calibration fluids from work and calibrated the pH meter. It said 8.41 in the tank! That is good, not ideal but good! That night, I made up a batch of RO water.

On 5/31/08, I changed out another 2.5 gallons of saltwater. I used a toothbrush to try to scrape off some of the sheets of dead diatoms on the live rock. Under the sheets was trapped nitrogen (from the live rock nitrification). It looked nasty. The diatoms have died since I am using RO water and also a phosphate and silica remover in the filter. Diatoms love silica, and my well water has a ton. The tank is now mostly free of live diatoms but dead ones are still all over. Now, the green attached algae and hair algae are growing well (without any snails). I took out the gaudy hydrometer from the tank; it was never accurate anyway and now so covered in algae that it was hard to read. I can see a lot more of the tank now! I put a feeding ring in to the tank because when I feed Nemo, the food flies all around the tank; this holds it in one place longer for him to eat.

The test results before the water change on 5/31/08:
Temperature - 80.5 degrees F in the tank; 80 degrees F in the make up water
Salinity - 1.0235 by refractometer in the tank; 1.024 by hydrometer and 1.023 by refractometer in the make up water
pH - Ok, keep this straight! The pH of the tank was 8.4 by dry marine test kit, 8.8 by dip stick, and 8.13 by pH meter; the pH of the make up water was 8.2 by dry marine test kit, 8.4 by dip stick, and 8.02 by pH meter! The pH was a bit low in the make up water so I added more buffer; it re-tested at a pH of 8.11.
Alkalinity - 150 ppm in the tank, 125 in the make up water (low, before I added more buffer, not re-tested); both tank and make up water tested at a very high 300 ppm by dip stick though!
Ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate - all 0 by dip stick; I did not do the 30 minute dry tests but would if I got a positive reading (did not the first three weeks I was testing it the long way)
Calcium - 315 ppm in the tank, 337 ppm in the make up water (which claims to give 450 ppm!); the tank needs 412 to 450 ppm to sustain corals!
Magnesium - 1200 in the make up water (should have 1288 to 1320 ppm).
Phosphate - <0.3 ppm in the tank (the test kit will not read very low levels accurately at all)

So, things are looking up water chemistry wise. The remaining 5 crabs, 1 fish, and 2 corals are doing well. I wish I could say the same for the 14 snails, 1 crab, 1 fish, and 2 corals I killed. ;- (

Update 6/5/08. I have some good and bad news.

First, for the not-so-great news. I have two surviving corals. The zooanthids are doing pretty good although it looks like the ones closest to the light may be dying while the ones hanging over are more open. My starburst polyps were/are my pride and joy, fully open, very happy. But, when I came home yesterday, they had fallen off the live rock and landed on their soft parts on the substrate. The purple reef epoxy came un-stuck. I kneaded up some new. It was sticky while dry but once I put it in to the tank to try to stick the corals back up, it really does not stick. I toothbrushed off where I was sticking it and tried to get the coral to stay but it kept coming off. I'm afraid I touched the tender parts of the coral trying to get it on there. There is now so much epoxy that it is gaudy but I have it wrapped around the rock the polyps are on so hopefully it will not come off again. The epoxy is still holding on the zooathids but the other two corals' (the ones that died) epoxy never stuck. I bought some reef glue but after I got it, I read it can only be used to set out of water for sticking coral to little things out of the water. About half the polyps opened that morning but only partially. Within a few days, they seemed to be mostly recovered though.

The good news - the third time was the charm with the snails. I went to a different store and got one huge cerith snail, two margaritas, and two nassarius snails. Unlike the last two batches of snails, these guys were very active in the bag. I went back to work with them and brought them inside (120 degrees F in the car!). That store guy said all he ever does is float and dump, and I should do that! I decided not to. I floated for about 30 min while doing other animal/fish chores, then drip acclimated for an hour, then re-floated in ziploc bags for 20 minutes. This time, I checked the salinity, pH, and temperature of the snails' water versus tank water. When I started, my tank pH was 8.02 but the water in the bags was pH 7.93 in one and pH 7.90 in the other! So much for store water being the perfect 8.2! It was too low! The salinity in my tank was 1.024. The two bags of snails were 1.026 and 1.0245. One was pretty high! After drip acclimation, the snails were at pH 7.96. I had to do a water change to allow for the drip so I made 2.5 gallons of new saltwater at a pH of 8.16 and 1.024 SG. I lifted the snails out in to the tank. They moved right away! For the first time, I had moving snails in my tank! The margaritas and huge cerith are very slow. The nassarius, or one of them anyway, thinks he is speed racer! His foot is four times the surface area of his shell. I had no idea they were that fast! He has been in the sand with snorkel up, sliding down the glass like an amusement ride, and driving around. So, I think my previous snails died from acclimation problems (changes) and not from the tank itself.

On the way home from work on 6/6/08, I stopped at Petco and bought a firefish. I asked my niece to name him. She named him Jose. The first night, Jose hid in the live rock, in crevices I did not know were even there! Maybe that is where the hermit crabs keep hiding as I rarely see some of them. By the end of the next day, Jose was out in the open most of the time. Nemo saw him at least a dozen times and only swam towards him a few times but Jose was too fast. So, they seem to get along. Both only want one thing - to eat. They are both begging for food!

My new pages on the marine snails and firefish are:
Marine Snails

I took a video of the two fish on 6/7/08:
Movie - 1818 KB mpg movie of Nemo and Jose.

When I changed out 2.5 gallons on 6/7/08, the test results were as follows:
Temperature - 78 degrees F in the tank, 80 degrees for the make up water
Salinity - 1.0235 in the tank, 1.024 for the make up water
pH by pH meter - 7.93 for the tank, 8.04 for the make up water
pH by dry pH test kit - 8.2 for both
pH via dip stick - 8.4 for the tank, 8.2 for the make up water
Alkalinity by liquid test kit - ~150 ppm for both
Alkalinity by dip stick - 300 ppm for both
Ammonia by dip stick - 0 for the tank
Nitrite by dip stick - 0 for both
Nitrate by dip stick - 0 for both
Nitrate by dry test kit - 0 for the tank
Calcium - still only 375 ppm in the make up water even with some liquid calcium added (higher than last time though)
Phosphate - Hard to read low on the test kit but it is less than 0.3 ppm (need to see down to 0.05 ppm so I need a better test kit)

On 6/9/08, while looking at the zooanthids, I discovered another tiny little feather duster worm! This one is much smaller than my "big one" (which is tiny). The big one is mostly brown while this new one is clear with white, like a snowflake! Either I just did not notice him before, or he has just grown back his crown (gills, feathers, food catchers) which they often shed from stress or injury (both of which could have occurred when I got the colony).

On 6/14/08, I changed out 2.5 gallons of water again. Eventually I will stop posting that weekly event, probably once I stop testing most things since they will become constant. I am still tweaking how much buffer and supplements to add. Here are the results of the tests I did:
Temperature - 78 degrees F for the tank and make-up water
Salinity - 1.023 by refractometer for both; I will have to add a little more salt next time.
pH by pH meter - 7.88 in the tank, 8.18 in the make-up water (I put in more buffer this time).
pH by dip stick - 8.4 in the tank and 8.8 in the make-up water
Alkalinity by liquid test kit - 125 ppm in the tank (low) and 187.5 ppm in the make-up water (better since I doubled the buffer from 1/8 of a teaspoon to 1/4
Alkalinity by dip stick (only a dip stick would believe those results!) - 300+ ppm for both
Nitrite by dip stick - 0 for both
Nitrate by dip stick - 0 for both
Calcium - Even though I put in 6 drops of calcium supplement instead of 2, the concentration in the make-up water was even less than last time - 360 ppm!
Phosphate using a new lower level test kit - ~0.3 ppm which is bad!!!! I doubled the RowaPhos in the filter bag to remove more phosphate, changing out what was in there (so double the recommended amount). This may explain the tons of algae.

I was dismayed to discover that Jose the firefish is now missing half of the end of his tail! I do not think Nemo did it or the crabs (although possible). Perhaps he got it sucked in to the filter intake? I hope he recovers!

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