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My Nano Reef Part Four

Last Updated: 8/9/08

On 6/16/08, I went back to Mr. Coral. I bought three astrea snails (they called them astrea turbo snails but they are not turbo snails), one more cerith snail, and one more margarita snail. I also got six corals. They were a rock with two species of zooanthids (orange and green) and two little feather dusters too. Then, there was a tiny piece with one mushroom and two smaller ones (that probably will not survive) as well as these two "things." They look like snails except they never move, just a hard shell affixed to the rock. I cannot figure out what they are. I got another Duncan LPS coral like the one that died last time. I got my first SPS (short polyp stony) coral. He said it was a Pavona but looking on-line, mine does not look like those. I just love my star polyps so the guy "fragged" me off a nice piece of star polyps. Finally, I got a nocturnal sun coral that has an orange tube and yellow polyps that only come out at night. That guy must be fed because he has no symbiotic algae like most corals. I put him sort of in the cave on the floor. For more on the corals, see my coral page. In addition to the six corals and five snails, I also got an emerald mithrax crab which was not a good idea! You can read his story on my mithrax crab page. He was exiled to a three gallon tank which is on this page.

I floated all of the above animals for about 20 minutes, drip acclimated for an hour, and then floated just the snails and crab again for 15 minutes before putting them in to the tank. While they refloated, I epoxied in the corals. Everyone has done well this time. I took a lot of photos but have not had time to deal with them.

When I acclimated the new animals, I go the following test results:
Specific gravity - 1.023 in the tank, 1.024 in the make up water, 1.025 in both sets of water from the store (corals put in to one bucket and snails and crab in another).
pH - 7.94 in the tank, 8.21 in the make up water, 7.68 in the snail and crab water, and 7.77 in the coral water. So much for this store getting their pH to be ideal! I guess low pH water is more common than I thought for saltwater.
I have fed the corals and other animals with some frozen marine foods. They have a lot of minute particles. The corals seem to like them and close on the particles. It is hard to feed them well but try not to over pollute the tank. The new snails are better algae eaters and are doing a good job. One problem is the little trails of feces though that they leave all over!

Along with these corals came some hitchhikers. First, I found a few planaria (flatworms). As long as they do not overpopulate, they should be okay. Then, on 6/19/08, I found a snail! It is smaller than the ones I bought but a good size. I do not know the species but that guy was fast! I have not seen the bristleworm again that hitchhiked with my first corals.

I found out the macroalgae growing on my original zooanthids may be halimeda.

On 6/21/08, I set up the three gallon Eclipse tank for Grabby the crab. See this page for more on that. I used two gallons from the 12 gallon tank for the new tank. I changed the usual 2.5 gallons out of the 12 gallon tank but could not clean as much since I took water off the top. Here are the test results for what I tested. You will see I am testing less and less since I do not have the time. The first batch of make up water was for the 12 gallon tank and the second for the 3 gallon tank (plus some extra in case I need it ready).

Temperature - 79.3 in the tank, 79.2 in the first batch of make up water, 78.5 in the second batch of make up water.
Salinity (specific gravity) via refractometer - 1.023 in the tank, 1.024 in the first batch of make up water, 1.025 in the second batch of make up water.
pH via pH meter - 7.85 in the tank, 8.34 in the first batch, 8.25 in the second batch.
pH via dip stick (only a dip stick believes this) - 8.4 in the tank, 8.8 in both make up waters.
Alkalinity via dip stick (not accurate) - 300 ppm for all (I know from experience that is high but no time to do the other test)
Nitrite and nitrate via dip sticks - all negative.
Phosphate in the tank - somewhere between 0.1 and 0.2 ppm.

On 6/22/08, my brother was looking at my reef tank. I was nearby. He said, "Hey, I found another animal!" I figured it would be one I have seen since I stare at the tank way too much. Yep, it was new and big enough to see. What was it? At first, I counted 8 legs and thought maybe a brittlestar (which are usually good). When I looked again, I counted 12 "legs" which meant they were not legs but rather "arms." I was an aipistia! They are the scourge of marine tanks. These tiny anemones multiple like weeds and can cover the tank in short order. Since they are anemones and can move around slowly, they sting. They will sting corals, fish, and even people. So, he had to go. I knew it was a bad move but I tried to suck it up with my turkey baster (that I use to feed the corals). It was not letting go of the rock. So, I smushed it. That was the wrong thing to do because sometimes the parts survive and each becomes another anemone. I have not seen another one since, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that it is gone.

A few days later, I saw my "free" snail again. Since he was reachable, and I was worried that he too might be "bad," I decided to pick him out and put him in the three gallon tank which could use a few tiny snails anyway. Well, I grabbed the snail, and it fell in to two parts! Huh? The front end fell to the sand and drove away while the rear stayed on the glass (I removed that). I later looked on-line. It seems that the species Stomatella varia will drop its rear when attacked by predators (like me). They are good to have (the "best algae eater you can't buy" the site said) so I will not bother him again.

On 6/28/08, I changed 2.5 gallons in the "12 gallon" tank and 0.5 gallons in the 3 gallon tank. I thought that the cerith snail ate my macro algae but he had just pushed it down. I am surprised the snails have not eaten it yet. The big star polyp colony seems to have started to grow in to the rock. I want it to grow but I have heard they can take over so I do not know if that happens, if I should trim them (and move the cuttings at least at first) or uproot and move the SPS coral and/or Duncan LPS coral. Both of those are doing well but not spreading/multiplying as of yet. It is too soon for that. After the water change, I put in some "reef bugs" but very little. The night before, I saw lots of little zippy things in the tank so I guess there are a lot of micro-animals in the tank. Here are the water chemistry results for the day.

Temperature (based on the pH meter which also reads temperature; each thermometer is so different so not comparable really): 77.3 big tank, 77.8 small tank, 77.9 make up water.
Specific gravity via refractometer: 1.0235 in both tanks, 1.024 in the make up water.
pH via dip stick: 8.4 in the big tank, 8.8 in the make up water.
pH via pH meter: 7.92 in the big tank, 7.73 in the small tank, 8.21 in the make up water.
Alkalinity via dip stick: 180 in the big tank, 300 in the make up water.
Alkalinity via wet test: 137 in the big tank (way low), 225 ppm in the make up water (a little high but since it was low in the tank, that was okay).
Nitrite and nitrate via dip stick: Zero in the big tank and make up water.
Calcium in the make up water = 345 ppm (still too low! I am adding more supplement).
Phosphate: Less than or equal to maybe 0.03 ppm I think; for the first time, an acceptable value! I have to add fresh RowaPhos weekly to keep it down.

I have tons of new photos but still have not had time to deal with them!

The big star polyps closed up after that water change and did not open for four days! While they were shut, I got to watch two fixed worms do their thing. I think they are spionid worms. They have little tubes and two "feelers" which they stick out to grab food. They are built in to the star polyp colony and not visible when the polyps are open.

On 6/29/08, I also saw a larger amphipod in the tank along with tiny little zippy things, planaria, and a little bristleworm (different than the first one I saw). It is apparently quite busy in there! Luckily, I have not seen any more aipistia. Not luckily, I also have not seen the Stomatella snail again.

On 7/5/08, I changed out 2.5 gallons in the 12 gallon tank and 0.5 gallons in the 3 gallon tank. I only tested pH and temperature via the pH meter, specific gravity via refractometer, and used the dip sticks. The 12 gallon tank's water was 77.6 degrees F with a salinity of 1.023 and a pH of 7.86. The 3 gallon tank's water was 78.2 degrees F with a salinity of 1.024 and a pH of 7.63. The make up water was at 76.7 degrees F with a salinity of 1.025 and a pH of 8.19 (both the targets I want for the tank). The dip stick on the 12 gallon tank said pH 8.4, 300 ppm alkalinity, 0 nitrite, 0 nitrate. The dip stick on the make up water said pH 8.8, 300+ ppm alkalinity, 0 nitrite, and 0 nitrate. I do not really believe the dip sticks but they give me some general idea without any time expense. I probably will not use them weekly anymore.

On 7/6/08, I got some live rock and two margarita snails for my 3 gallon Eclipse tank. I got one one pound piece and four other pieces totaling a pound (one dead brain coral, one dead clam, and two smaller rocks). That night I saw a large bristleworm in the live rock. For the 12 gallon tank, I got two new corals: a pineapple brain coral and a xenia, both very small.

On 7/12/08, I did the usual water changes. The 12 gallon tank was at 78.0 degrees F, 1.024 specific gravity, and a pH of 7.96. The 3 gallon tank was at 78.3 degrees F, 1.0245 specific gravity, and a pH of 7.82. The make up water was at 78.8 degrees F, 1.0245 specific gravity, and a pH of 8.21. I only used the refractometer and pH meter.

I am 90% sure that my larger cerith snail has died as it has not moved in two weeks.

I have seen a few more interesting species in my tank. My live rock used to put out a ton of bubbles, mostly nitrogen trapped in the algae. The tank has little regular algae now except on two of the walls (that I do not scrub down so the snails have food). So, the live rock is not making air bubbles as much. People I spoke with insisted I had bubble algae. But, it was just air bubbles. Then, on 7/18/08, I found real bubble algae, about five bubbles of it. I took a photo which I will put up later. When I cleaned the tank on 7/19/08, I scrubbed the algae off with a toothbrush and tried to suck it up with my mini gravel vacuum. The problem is that the tank is just too small, and I am too big. So, it was hard to work it right. I hope I got the bubble algae sucked up. Ironically, the best bubble algae eater is the emerald mithrax crab, and Grabby is exiled to the 3 gallon tank for fear of him eating the corals and feather duster worms. Another new animal I found was bizarre. It was worm-like but stripped and living in the zooanthids (the big bunch). It could pulse out, fatten itself, and then completely vanish seemingly in to the tissue of the zooanthids themselves. I am not sure what it is but think is some kind of worm. I just hope it is harmless. I also think I finally saw the stomatella snail again (or it was something else weird); I gently pushed on it with the magnetic algae cleaner because I could not see it well, and it fell to the floor.

When I did the usual water change on 7/19/08, the main tank was at 78.8 degrees F, 1.024 SG, and pH 7.88. The 3 gallon was at 79.0 degrees F, 1.024 SG, and pH 7.86. The make up water was at 77.4 degrees F, 1.025 SG, and pH 8.20. I also re-tested the phosphate in the 12 gallon reef; it was less than 0.1 ppm but the test kit really cannot read reliably below that.

On 7/24/08, I found a CRAB in the tank! For full details, see this page. That night, I also finally saw the stomatella snail for sure; boy is he strange!

A few days earlier, I also discovered what I think is a sea squirt. Here is a photo from 7/26/08.

On 7/26/08, I changed out 2.5 gallons of the tank. I got the crab out of there. See his page above for details on how I did that. I tried to remove more bubble algae, half a dozen or so new ones. The main tank was at 78.9 degrees F, 1.024 SG, and pH 7.81. The 3 gallon was at 79.7 degrees F, 1.025 SG, and pH 7.85. The make up water was at 77.8 degrees F, 1.024 SG, and pH 8.14.

On 8/8/08, I wrote up a HPLC Conductivity Detector report for anions at work. In addition to running samples for work, I ran my well water and RO water for anions. Here are the results in ppm (parts per million) for the well water first and then the RO water. In parenthesis are actual values (which may actually be zero but I am measuring the noise of the chromatogram) when the sample had a result lower than the LOQ (limit of quantitation). Not detected = nd.:

Fluoride (F-): 0.078 and <0.008 (0.002, nd)
Bicarbonate/Carbonate (HCO3-/CO3-2): Not quantitated, peak in the well water though, not in RO water
Chloride (Cl-): 3.352 and 0.356
Nitrite (NO2-): <0.016 (0.002, nd) and <0.016 (0.003, nd)
Nitrate (NO3-): 13.857 and <0.703 (0.028)
Phosphate (HPO4-2): <1.283 (0.480) and <1.283 (0.011, nd)
Sulfate (SO4-2): 1.901 and <1.103 (0.011, nd)

I was surprised our well water (not city water) has some fluoride and as much chloride as it has. It also had a good amount of bicarbonate/carbonate (cannot tell the two apart on the scan), probably around 3 ppm in the well water (I did not run a quantitative standard for bicarbonate/carbonate that day). The well water does not have much phosphate at all but more than the recommended amount for a reef tank. The well water has more nitrate and sulfate than phosphate. I was really surprised the nitrate was so high; it does not even register on my test kits at home but was the dominant peak on the chromatogram. The RO water removes pretty much all of the tested anions from the well water but not all of the chloride (assuming the sample was not contaminated from home to work, transported in sample cups from work).

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