Richard Ross: The Right Kind Of Lazy | MACNA 2017

Phosphate. Nitrate. Detritus. In an effort to create perfect boxes of coral, reef keepers worry an awful lot about these kinds of things – but do we really need to? According to prevailing wisdom, my 15 year old home tank should be a cess pool, but it isn’t, it is a thriving SPS dominated mixed reef.

Local copy here

From CORAL May/June 2017 pp 32-33, Article by Daniel Knop

Rich talks to Gary and Christine about dealing with a reef tank when you travel a lot for work

Click this ReefThreads link to see the entire show

 

reefthreads

We’re back for the 280th time. Our guests this week are Matt Wandell, Richard Ross and, for the first time, Nick Yim, from the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences. Lots of subjects this week, but the big one is the new twilight-zone display at the aquarium and what it’s like to dive deep for new species. If you enjoy the show, please tell others. Download the podcast here, or subscribe to our podcasts at iTunes. Also, follow us on Twitter at reefthreads.—Gary and Christine

 

Click below for a local copy of the file.

bzr
Rich Ross talking to Frank Reece talk about field work, science and big tanks. Click here to listen.

From ReefsMagazine

by Richard Ross

In the last nine installments of Skeptical Reefkeeping we have looked at varied topics from phosphate to marketing to fallacious lines of reasoning to communication. One of the through lines all along has been the idea of anecdote, and generally, why it isn’t to be trusted. In this installment of Skeptical Reefkeeping, we are going to take another look at anecdote, try to understand why we are dependent upon anecdote in our hobby, and discuss some of its power and how to make it more useful. 

A Brief Reminder to Set the Scene

Skepticism is a method, not a position. It can be defined as a method of intellectual caution and suspended judgment. As a Skeptical Reefkeeper, you decide what is best for you, your animals, and your wallet based upon critical thinking, not just because you heard someone else say it. The goal of this series of articles is not to provide you with reef recipes or to tell you which ideas are flat out wrong or which products really do what they say they do or which claims or which expert to believe. The goal is to help you make those kinds of determinations for yourself while developing your saltwater expertise in the face of sometimes overwhelming, conflicting advice.

These two Dr. Seuss fish have not yet jumped out of their tank, but that doesn’t seem like a reason to jump to the conclusion that these fish aren’t jumpers.


What is Anecdote Anyway?

From Skeptical Reefkeeping – Are you sure that that thing is true, or did someone just tell it to you? (1) Merriam-Webster defines anecdote as “a usually short narrative of an interesting, amusing, or biographical incident.” More hardcore, Ron Shimek says, “Anecdote is unsubstantiated or unverified observation generally made by an unqualified observer who often really doesn’t know what they are looking at.” Essentially, an anecdote is someone telling you what they think happened. The problem with most anecdotes, besides the observation and conclusion being suspect, is how quickly, with no real support, they can be converted to facts. This conversion can have a real and detrimental cost in both animal’s lives and your money.

More »

From The Coral Triangle, The 2011 Hearst Philippine Biodiversity Expedition, A California Academy of Sciences Special Publication
Originally published in ReefsMagazine.com and on this site

From CalAcademy.org and AdvnacedAquarist.com

When I tell people that we’re in the field collecting saltwater animals for display and research at the aquarium, most of them imagine that the actual catching is the hard part. In reality, the hard work starts after we collect the animal.

Keeping animals healthy in the field—and then healthy while en route back to Manila for a 14-hour flight to their new home in Golden Gate Park—entails an entire slew of life-support equipment (LSS). We have that stuff at the Academy, obviously, but right now we’re out in the field. Where it’s too hot. Where there isn’t a store to buy what we need. Where we have to constantly battle a continually moving colony of fire ants that appeared right where we set up our equipment.

Fortunately, all the pre-planning we did to prepare for this is paying off. Want the laundry-list of what came with us on the plane? Two 200-gallon More »

From CalAcademy.org and AdvancedAquarist.com

There are two Academy groups currently in the Philippines for the 2014 Biodiversity Expedition: one from Research, and the other from the Aquarium. Though we’re staying at different locations, we collaborate when we can, like tonight.

It all started with a 90-minute night dive at Anilao Pier to try to collect a Bobbitt worm—a creature that lives in the sand, has jaws like a bear trap, and might be several meters long. It shoots up with lightning speed to catch fish and other animals, yanking them down into the muck like something out of a nightmare. In the 1990s, Academy Senior Curator Terry Gosliner named the Bobbitt worm after Lorena Bobbitt (and her legendary attack on her husband), and Academy crews have been trying to collect this animal both for display and for our preserved collection ever since. One look at the photo shows you why catching this animal isn’t easy, but take a look at this video for an even better demonstration.

Tonight’s effort was unsuccessful, though I did get my hand on one of the worms—yes, my hand. My wife is less than thrilled More »

From CalAcademy.org

RichRoss_final1

Checking in for a 14-hour flight is always a good time. Checking in for a 14-hour flight with 11 items (three suitcases, five Action Packers, two bags, and Steinhart Director Bart Shepherd’s guitar) between three people is an amazingly good time.

We started planning for this expedition in earnest five weeks ago, and considerable effort went into making sure our bags were under size and weight limits—a not insignificant task when equipment needed for the expedition includes Bobbit-worm catching devices, a series of newly designed hyperbaric chambers (for decompressing fish hand-collected below 300 feet), a ton of SCUBA and rebreather gear, and myriad other critical items needed to collect and ship live fish and corals from the Philippines back to Golden Gate Park.

As it turned out, our packing efforts were worth the time we put into them, as all of our luggage was deemed to be within weight limits. Sadly, though, there was one piece of luggage that stayed in San Francisco because it couldn’t be hand-carried onto the plane, More »

Ret Talbot and Richard Ross

From Reef Hobbyist Magaizine
From Ret Talbots blog – 
My latest article, co-authored with friend and colleague biologist Richard Ross of the Steinhart Aquarium, published yesterday in Reef Hobbyist Magazine. In some ways, it represents a departure from my regular beat, and I thank editor Jim Adelberg for the concept and invitation to write the piece.

 

From Reefs Magazine

by Rich Ross and Chris Jury

The Editors Note: In Skeptical Reefkeeping IX, Rich Ross is joined by our old friend Chris Jury as they try to come to terms with the “impossible” yet confirmed PO4 readings in Rich’s gorgeous reef. The analysis is thorough, thought- provoking, grounded in science and suggestive of a far more complex picture regarding PO4 and its role in our aquariums.

There are many standard parameters in the reefkeeping world that aquarists strive to match in their home reefs – water quality, light spectrum and intensity, and water flow, just to name a few. Rarely do we stop to think where these standard parameters come from, and even more rarely do we consider calling into question the utility of these parameters. This can lead to aquarists ‘chasing numbers’; tweaking water parameters to hit a standard goal. Often times, people think that hitting a magic number will inherently result in a better, healthier tank. In the past few years, dealing with phosphate in saltwater aquariums has become one of the most talked about ‘must control at all costs’ parameter, and in this installment of Skeptical Reefkeeping, we will look at some evidence which calls into question the reliability of testing, the generally accepted target phosphate concentration, and general control of phosphate in reef aquariums.


Rich’s 150 gallon display, on a 300 gallon system, is running a phosphate level of 1.24 ppm, a level at 24.8 times higher than the often recommended .05 ppm. Photo by Richard Ross.

More »

August1 16, 2013

August1 16, 2013

For more  pictures, starting from 2002, click here

From Reef Hobbyist Magaizine

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The Majano Wand in action – photo by Tim Wong

Pest anemones can be worse than a piece of popcorn stuck between your teeth; they annoyingly consume all of your attention, they multiply quickly, sting animals you like and it seems like no matter what you do to control them, there are always a few that appear impervious to any attempt at eradication. As part of the anti pest anemone kit the Majano wand is an easy to use, quite effective and cathartic way to deal with pest anemones in a reef tank. More »

From Reefs.com

Acropora cervicornis sperm/egg bundles about 40 minutes after emergence.

Biologists from The Florida Aquarium, Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences,  Moody Gardens, Disney’s The Seas, and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium have gathered at the Coral Restoration Foundation’s facility in the Florida Keys to continue to expand our understanding of the sexual reproduction of the areas endangered Acropora cervicornis and Acropora palmata corals. More »

From Animal Movers

Animal movers moved coral from Birch to CAS. You get to see me in a wet suit.

From Reefs.com

The last year has seen a lot of heated discussion and possible legislation regarding the Marine Aquarium trade. In these discussions everyone seems to have data on the numbers of fishes that move through the trade, but the sources of that data often somehow seems ‘iffy’. Today a new paper was published in the open access journal  PLoS One (making scientific papers available to anyone for no cost!) that examines a years worth of US marine fish import paperwork to present a clear picture of how many fish of what kinds are actually being imported into the country. The 9 page paper  by Andrew Rhyne et al, available here, not only presents useful information, but also gives a great overview of the process of importing fish into the US as well as addressing some invasive species concerns. I expect in the coming weeks there will be a lot of themselves. Finally, actual data is available, and anyone that has ever entered into a discussion about the sustainability, ethics or responsibility of reefkeeping should take advantage of it.

 

From Reefs.com

Last December when Koji Wada of the renowned Blue Harbor visited the Steinhart Aquarium he was kind enough to bring us two stunning Halcuriascarlgreni anemones. From Japans deeper, cooler waters, these anemones are jaw droppingly bright and colorful. Currently, they are being kept at 66 degrees in our Nautilus exhibit and both animals seem to be getting along just fine with each other. The Halcurias are being fed thawed frozen mysis via ‘Julians Thing’ every other day, and we hope they will be so happy and full of food that we will have more of them in the near future.

From Springerlink

From Reefs.com

Larval damselfish from eggs laid in the Steinhart Aquarium's Philippine Coral Reef exhibit. These will be sent to the University of Florida's Tropical Aquaculture Lab as part of the Rising Tide Conservation project. The lines in the top left are millimeters.

This week Amblyglyphidodon ternatensis eggs and larvae collected at the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences were shipped to Florida as part of the Rising Tide Conservation project.

Rising Tide Conservation was started by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment to make breeding and rearing of marine tropical fish economically viable so that there are alternatives to collection. It quickly expanded from a program focused on breeding and rearing fish in display facilities to one focused on integrating efforts of display aquaria, the hobbyist industry, and academia to create a platform for the promotion and dissemination of information related to marine tropical fish aquaculture. Large scale tropical marine fish aquaculture has been held back by four specific hurdles: difficulty in egg production, difficulty in larval rearing, use and production of an appropriate live feed, and most importantly, the difficulty in clearing these hurdles in an economically viable manner. Transfer of capabilities identified in this program to commercial producers is critical for the success of this initiative.

Rising Tide Conservation is an effort to reduce commercial collecting of reef fish by promoting captive breeding. This program provides a lifeline for reef populations by providing source alternatives. Many attempts to raise marine tropical fish have resulted in small successes. Rising Tide is an effort to move these advances to more widespread use.

For more images of the eggs and larvae please scroll down.

 

Amblyglyphidodon ternatensis eggs on Acropora. The adult fish lay their eggs on areas of Acropora skeleton that they strip of flesh. This fragment and eggs were collected in California and shipped to Florida as part of the Rising Tide Initiative.

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01. August 2011 · Enter your password to view comments. · Categories: Corals, Uncategorized

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Text by Matt Wandell, Video by Rich Ross – Posted Jun 20, 2011 04:00 PM on Advanced Aquarist’s blog
Since our last update we’ve been able to observe mating several times, and Academy biologist Rich Ross has captured it on video.

Ornate Ghost Pipefish spawning and ‘birthing’ at the California Academy of Sciences, June 2011.

As reported earlier on Advanced Aquarist, the California Academy of Sciences’ Steinhart Aquarium has a pair of Ornate Ghost Pipefish (Solenostomus paradoxus) on display which have released larvae in captivity. Since our last update we’ve been able to observe mating several times, and Academy biologist Rich Ross has captured it on video.

Check out the video below to see the entire process of ghost pipefish reproduction–from mating, to a close up look inside the female’s pelvic fins where she holds the developing eggs, to larval release. So far we have seen the female release between 20-50 larvae every morning for the last 8 days, followed by mating with the male as soon as we place them back together. Is this typical behavior for the species, or an artifact of captivity? Does she hold eggs and larvae of different age in her pelvic fins at the same time in the wild?

Before you go rushing out to obtain a ghost pipefish or two, you should be aware that the vast majority of these amazing animals collected for the aquarium trade die before ever reaching their intended destination. Those that do make it are often extremely weak from the journey. The individuals described here were carefully collected and shipped by Steinhart Aquarium staff from a shallow seagrass bed in a small Philippine bay to a display tank in San Francisco within less than 36 hours. Along the journey, they received several water changes and were always held in enormous containers. It is our firm belief that this extraordinary level of care during shipping is necessary for these fishes to arrive alive and in good health.

From the California Academy of Sciences

First sunset after the first day in the Philippines

After a 14 hour plane flight and a 3 hour drive, Steinhart Aquarium biologists Bart Shepherd, Rich Ross and Matt Wandell arrived at Club Ocellaris and were treated to a breakfast of garlic rice, eggs and French toast. After filling our bellies, we suited up, went diving and have been on the move ever since. The first night, after a spectacular sunset,we dove on a stony coral dominated site called “Dead Palm” (apparently there used to be a dead palm tree under water). At the end of the dive we encountered something that we never imagined we would run into, never mind on the first night – Acropora sp. corals spawning. Thousands of egg/sperm bundles released into the water by branching corals filled the ocean with a peach colored ‘snowstorm’ rising towards the surface. Many screams of excitement could be heard under water. We collected some of the spawn, and after email discussions with friends from project SECORE (SExual COral REproduction – http://www.secore.org/ ), we tried to mix the gametes to harvest and settle ‘baby’ corals.  The effort was not completely successful because Acropora corals cannot self-fertilize and we couldn’t collect material from multiple corals. Regardless, the experience was worth the effort, and sets the stage for future work.

The collection of coral fragments has been moving along well, and we are getting ready to pack up the first shipment back to the Academy. We have been collecting fragments that have naturally detached from mother colonies, or harvesting small fragments from the growing edge of large colonies.  The parent colony should quickly heal and show no sign of disturbance within a week or so.

Traditionally coral fragments are collected and either glued to something (rock, a concrete disk, or a plastic plug) or left loose and stored in some kind of rack land in a holding tank. This presents a a couple of problems with water flow and water quality.  It also can cause shipping problems, as the coral either sits unsupported in the shipping bag, or is rubber banded to some Styrofoam (both of which can stress the coral and involve additional handling). Inspired by the work Ken Nedimyer is doing in Florida at the CRF (Coral Restoration Foundation –http://www.coralrestoration.org/ ), and after prototyping the system in the Philippine Coral Reef at the aquarium, we placed our coral strings about 50 meters off shore.

Coral fragments waiting for shipment to CAS

This system keep the fragments up in the water column with good water, flow and light until we are ready to ship them. For shipping, we simply snip the middle of the zip tie chain ( leaving the rest in place for future use) and attach the coral to another zip tie looped through some Styrofoam. This way the fragment is suspended in the shipping bag, and it will be hard for it to bump the sides or bottom, which can cause damage. The lines themselves are silicone airline tubing strung between repurposed plastic water bottles (floats) and dive weights (sinkers). Additional lines can be added to an existing float to quickly and simply extend the system. It seems to be working well and we are anxious to hear how the corals arrive at their new home in San Francisco.

Last night we spent two hours muck diving collecting cephalopods and seeing amazing and bizarre creatures, but we are out of time so that will have to be covered in a future blog as we are off to Manila for meetings and shipping.

Richard Ross, Bart Shepherd and Matt Wandell.

Steinhart Aquarium staff are currently in the Philippines surveying the reefs that serve as inspiration for the 212,000 gallon Philippine Coral Reef exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. The most surprising part of the expedition so far–a coral spawning event on the first night dive.

Many corals reproduce by releasing millions of eggs and sperm into the water in coordinated events. What better way to ensure you’ll find a mate than triggering a mass orgy? The coral gametes are positively buoyant and collect at the water surface, where fertilization takes place. Within a few days the fertilized eggs develop into what are called planula larvae, a small sausage shaped stage of the coral which has the sole task of finding and settling on a suitable location where the coral colony will spend the rest of its life.

For public aquariums interested in displaying corals in captivity, spawning events are a big deal. The collection of millions of potential coral fragments can be accomplished in a sustainable way with no damage to the existing coral colonies. An initiative of public aquariums and coral reef scientists called SECORE (SExual COral REproduction) collects gametes from spawning events and carefully holds them until they are fertilized and ready to settle in captivity. SECORE’s tireless work in the Caribbean has resulted in thousands of captively grown fragments of the critically endangered stony coral Acropora palmata.

On the second day of the Philippine expedition Steinhart staff collected several hundred egg and sperm bundles from two yet-to-be-identified spawning Acropora spp. Tending to the fertilized eggs is a delicate task, but we hope to have fantastic news of settlement in the next few days.

Update

During the Hearst Expedition, biologist from the California Academy of Sciences witnessed Acropora spspawning (video below). They collected the spawn and are attempting to get it to settle while in the field.

 

 

From TONMO

The 212,000 gallon reeftank will soon be getting new additions - photo by Tim Wong


Scientists from the California Academy of Sciences have launched the most comprehensive scientific survey effort ever conducted in the Philippines, documenting both terrestrial and marine life forms from the tops of the highest mountains to the depths of the sea. They will be joined by colleagues from the University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, the Philippines National Museum and the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, as well as by a team of Academy educators who will work to share the expedition’s findings with local community and conservation groups. The expedition, which will conclude with a symposium at the University of the Philippines on June 8, is funded by a generous gift from Margaret and Will Hearst.

“The Philippines is one of the hottest of the hotspots for diverse and threatened life on Earth,” says Dr. Terrence Gosliner, Dean of Science and Research Collections at the California Academy of Sciences and leader of the 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition. “Despite this designation, however, the biodiversity here is still relatively unknown, and we expect to find dozens of new species as we survey the country’s reefs, rainforests, and even the ocean floor. The species lists and distribution maps that we create during this expedition will help to inform future conservation decisions and ensure that this remarkable biodiversity is afforded the best possible chance of survival.”

The expedition’s shallow water team will conduct most of their research off the coast of Batangas Province on Luzon Island, in an area called the Verde Island Passage. Past research by scientists from the California Academy of Sciences and other institutions has suggested that this area is the “center of the center of marine biodiversity,” home to more documented species than any other marine habitat on Earth. However, many new species remain to be discovered—Academy scientists regularly find at least one new species on every dive in this area. During the expedition, the participating scientists will conduct side-by-side surveys of marine protected areas and non-protected areas to help the government determine how successful their current conservation plans are at fostering biodiversity.

“The expedition’s results will help our government better promote integrated coastal resource management,” said Malcom Sarmiento, Director of the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. “The data they collect will also help us decide if and where to establish new sanctuaries.”

Of particular interest to the reefkeeping community will be the Steinhart Aquariums additions to the expedition. From May 10 through May 26 2011 Bart Shepherd, Richard Ross and Matt Wandell will survey and document the dive sites that served as the inspiration for the Steinhart Aquarium’s 212,000 gallon Philippine Coral Reef exhibit. They will also will responsibly collect coral, cephalopods and other invertebrates for captive propagation, research and display at our Golden Gate Park facility. As the the only public aquarium permitted to collect stony corals in the Philippines, the three are excited to obtain these unique species for study, captive culture research, and to display for visitors. California Academy of Sciences staff and our Filipino colleagues are able to support aquarium trade needs with minimal impact. Look for new additions to the Coral Reef and Rainforest exhibits.

For more information, please see http://www.calacademy.org/science/hearst/


Coral fragments collected in PI by Steinhart biologists in 2009 have grown to more than twice what is pictured here. In 2011, more coral will be collected for culture, display and sharing with other institutions.

by Jake Adams, video by Richard Ross

From Reefbuilders

There’s truly no better way to start the week than by transporting yourself to an imaginary place by watching an awesome reef video. Last week we had the Cozumel Dive video on an actual Caribbean reef and this week we have another great clip, this time by Richard Ross of the Steinhart Aquarium. Having seen and visited this exhibit many times, this video taken from the other side of the glass is by far the clearest view of the awesome fish population of this large reef exhibit. It’s particularly fascinating to see how the whole population of reef fish schooling together, regardless of species. Rich’s choice of music helps to set the tone for this super chill look at Steinhart’s awesome collection of reef fish, we’re really loving that one male Lamarck’s angelfish which appears multiple times in plain view.

From Reefhobbyst Magazine

From Reefbuilders

 

Reefbuilderss has asked contributors to recount their MACNA 2010 experience – its my turn, so here goes! My MACNA 2010 really started when I arrived at the hotel at 11:55 pm on Thursday night. I expected to go to the room, go over my talk and get some much needed sleep (the day had started out at 5 am and involved sitting on an alligator, but that is a different story). When I got to the hotel, I was pulled over to a large group of reefers before I even got to check in. Then I got pulled to the hotel bar where there was an even larger group of reefers. When I finally got to my room at 3:30 am, I knew this MACNA was going to be great and as I drifted off to sleep I dreamed of friends, the Saturday night Manhattan Reefs’ party, and the fabulous reef related info that was going to be coming my way over the next few days. There was a lot to get to, and I didn’t have time to get to everything or everyone I wanted to, but here is a smattering of my highlights of the show.

Probably the biggest excitement for me was the in-person updates on the PNG SEASMART program. I have been lucky enough to dive in the area where the program is taking place, and was excited when I first heard about it because the area is really chock full of diversity. At the same time I was worried because the program was using some of the same sounding green/local/sustainable rhetoric that seems to come with start-up collecting stations but that rarely pans out.

But it seems like PNG SEASMART is really making a go of being successful by sticking to its initial promises. Educate and train the locals in sustainable Total Allowable Catch limits and non destructive collection methods. Less volume, more value (to quote a recent meme). Local ownership and management. Involving PNG government in every aspect of the project so it can be built intelligently for the long term. Provide transparency and information to the hobbyist so everyone can see the reality of the project. The local PNG-ers at the show were fun, approachable and enthusiastic. David Vossler was eager to engage in conversation about how to do things better. They even invited anyone who wants to get over to PNG to come see what they are doing. The program isn’t perfect yet, but from what I have seen so far, PNG SEASMART has a real shot at getting it right.

The standout talk for me was FIJI: TEN YEARS AFTER THE CORAL APOCALYPSE, by Dr. Bruce Carlson. This talk chronicled several areas of reef in Fiji that were hit hard by the 1998 bleaching event. Video of 30 meter line transects year after year showing the damage to reefs by bleaching events and their astounding ability to recover in 10 years or so was really informative and inspiring. Not only video, but data! I love data! Data about how many coral species and what area they cover and how those ratios change over time after bleaching was some amazing work and great documentation (early in recovery there are more coral species with less overall coverage, later in the recovery there are fewer coral species with great overall coverage).  Most interesting was seeing the damage that storms can do to these reefs. Seeing a thriving area of reef one year, and a desolate plain the next after a storm really drove home for me how dynamic natural reef systems are. The upshot of the talk is that reefs can recover from storms and bleaching events, but if these kinds of events occur too often, there could be real problems.

The Marine Breeders Initiative (MBI) held the first ever roundtable discussion about captive breeding and getting animals to market. The event was well attended, interesting and informative. While it wasn’t long enough to really get into the meat of the discussion, it was a wonderful was to set the stage for this kind of important, ongoing in person discussion – which is very different from the equally important continuing online discussion.

A highlight for me on a purely personal note was both the attendance and reaction to my talk on Cephalopods. It was well attended (something I was trepidatious about given the talks that were going on at the same time) which is very exciting to me – a hard core ceph fanatic. What got me through, was getting a completely unexpected round of applause for showing captive mating and a captive Flamboyant hatchling. I was honored to be speaking at MACNA in the first place, and even more humbled that people were excited about my recent work.

If you are luckily like me, you live in an area with a thriving reefing community. Local clubs bring people together, share ideas and get everyone involved going in a good direction. However, after a time, that direction can get a little unidirectional and we can forget that other approaches are really important, that perspectives different from our own, or our locality, have merit. Attending a MACNA with attendees from across the country and around can really give you a reality check and open your eyes to possibilities. MACNA 2010 had everything I could have wanted. Did I get to see everything and talk to everyone? No, but there’s always Des Moines next year.

Thanks to everyone involved in making the show happen, vendors, speakers, attendees, photo bombers, party hosts – especially the hosting club ORCA. I hope you are all lying around recovering bathed in the glow of a job well done and in the appreciation of the greater reef keeping community.

From Reefbuilders

Those corals are at the northern point of Lambumbu Harbor on the Northwest (leeward) coast of Malakula in Vanuatu. This photo was taken by Chris Maupin during daytime spring low tide which occurs during Austral winter.

In an effort to make Jake’s head explode, I like to write about all the mistakes I make with my home reef system. Even though they may seem embarrassing, everyone makes bone head mistakes, and I think we all learn by hearing about others mistakes. Pretending they didn’t happen helps gives us a false sense of security, so here is how my day started at 5:15 am.

After dreaming about Chris Maupin’s photo above of corals exposed at low tide, I woke up to get ready for work, went downstairs and something sounded wrong in the area of the tank. With a sinking feeling I took a look and the water level in the tank was about a third lower than it should be – meaning the top 6 inches of my reef, a whole lot of coral, was exposed to air just like in the photo above. Ran under the house to check the sump and it was half empty. Ran back upstairs and looked behind the tank, stepped in water, and started flipping switches so the pumps that were running dry could have a break. Turns out I had left the valve that fills my experimental auto feeder open and the tank drained overnight. What a nice thing to wake up to three days before a two week vacation. At least it happened at night when the lights were off and the fans weren’t running.

I have written a lot about being prepared for disaster, and luckily I take my own advice to heart.  I went back under the house, flipped a switch and delicious, mixed, heated and aerated salt water from the 200 gallon reservoir I always keep filled started filling up the system. Within ten minutes I had circulation restored and began cleaning up. I didn’t have much water to clean up because, as planned,  it all went down the piping hole in the floor into the crawlspace under the house. I turned on all my circulation to blow the mucus off the corals that had been exposed. Most of the corals looked no worse for the wear, but we’ll see about the Seriatopora and Archohelia when I get home tonight (I expect them to be beaten but will recover). I even made it to work almost on time.

Moral of the story, corals are amazing and can do well for a while even when exposed to air, planning for the worst makes your life easier, add an emergency overflow drain into your autofeeder (if it fills with via a pump),  and know that mistakes will always happen (mine seem to happen about every two years).

From Reefhobbyst Magazine

From Reefbuilders

Most reefers have a ton of tools laying around to manipulate corals, make frags and retrieve lost items from the bottom of the tank. Tweezers, hemostats and clippers have become an important part of reefkeeping. Annoyingly, they are often kept out of reach, or worse, rested on top of the tank where they can rust or worse – bumped into the tank breaking corals on their trip to the sand. A magnetic tool holder is a cheap and easy way to avoid these issues. The can be installed out of the way in the canopy or in the stand, keeping reefing tools secure and out of the way. I put one of these magnetic strips above my tank years ago and its one of the best things I ever did. You can even slap a small metal wire basket to the magnetic strip for storage of odds and ends like superglue and algae scrapers. There are a variety of magnetic tool holders available – click here for the one pictured at right.Keep your metal reef tools handy and out of the way

 

From Reefbuilders

This deep reef tanks rock wall is on the left side of the tank, making it feel like the wall extends upwards and like there is more water space than there actually is

Reef Aquarium ‘Rock walls’ have gotten a bad rap over the past , as Adam Blundell recently pointed out. This reputation is not necessarily undeserved as there are plenty of rock walls that are unappealing, flow stopping, detritus collecting piles of ugh. Quickly stacking rock against the back wall of a tank is not something we advocate or enjoy looking at. However, with a tiny bit of thought and effort, its not all that hard to make unique and interesting looking rock wall reef aquarium. Continue reading to learn more about two creative reef rock walls on display at the California Academy of Sciences.

 

The reef rock walls were constructed the same way in both tanks – a bottom plate and back wall of fiber grate onto which rock is affixed with underwater epoxy and cable ties. The fiber grate armature prevents the rock structure from touching the walls of the aquarium, allowing water to move around and under the wall. Instead of filling up the back wall of the tank, these tanks use the empty space on the back wall to create a feeling of depth and openness. In the case of Matt Wandell’s ‘Deep Reef’ tank pictured above, the rock wall is on the left side of the tank, instead of the back wall. This allows for good, fast vertical flow against the rock wall that not only brings food the non photosynthetic corals, but gets the anthias all swimming in a very natural vertical orientation.

The Rhinopias exhibit is one of mine, and the rock wall is in one of the back corners of the tank. This tank has intermittent high flow to help the SPS thrive, but also has ‘eddy’ spots to allow the display fish spots to hang out. The point is that rock walls are not bad things in and of themselves. If you are willing to spend a little time planning the build instead of just stacking rock, you can make a rock wall, well, rock.

 

This rock wall is in the back left corner of the tank giving a visual focal point.

 

From Reefbuilders

One of the advantages of working at the the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences has is being able to care for, and observe so many different animals that we might not be exposed to anywhere but a public aquarium. For instance, we display not one, but two Rhinopias Scorpion fish. These venomous fish are not overly abundant in the industry or the wild, and they don’t have the best track record in captivity, often living for less than two years and then dying mysteriously. We thought very hard before committing to putting them on display, and decided we would give it a go when two of them, a Rhinopias eschmeyeri and a Rhinopias frondosa (though there is some debate as to their being different species), became available last November. Since going on display they have been eating well, shedding regularly (normal behavior) and challenging guests to spot them among the corals.Even though we have been thrilled at our success with these fish so far, we never expected to find what we found in the tank a week and a half ago – an egg raft. The eggs were hard to spot, being almost completely clear, and they may mimic a comb jelly to prevent predation. Apparently these are the first Rhinopias eggs that have been laid in captivity. We assumed the eggs were infertile, but were surprised to see development on the day after discovery, and even more surprised when they hatched. At the time of writing, we have collected two batches of eggs and larvae are still alive after 8 days. It has been amazing to watch the larvae develop through the microscope, growing fins, a mouth and a gut where none existed before.Raising larval marine fish is tough, so every day they survive we are thrilled, and, though we aren’t done with this batch yet, we hope that we can build on this experience so that if more eggs are produced we have a better chance of getting them through the larval stage. Special thanks to Matt Wandell, Matt Pederson, Frank Marini, Andrew Berry, Gresham Hendee and Reef Nutrition for their support and advice through this ongoing process.

It’s every reefkeepers worst nightmare: opening the front door to the house and smelling the pungent smell of the shore that the Yucatecans call ‘lodo’. While pleasant near the ocean, that smell in your house means something has probably gone wrong with your reef. As you rush through the house to the tank you hope you won’t find the milky mess of death that your nose is telling you you will find. Sometimes you are lucky, and the smell is a container of frozen shrimp or macro algae that you left on top of the tank to fester easy-bake-oven-style under your metal halide lamps. Sometimes it is worse – much worse. Last December, I came home to that smell, and it wasn’t light baked shrimp or algae; it was the much worse.

BEF (Before Epic Fail)

First a little backgroundI have a 150 gallon show tank in my living room, mixed reef, but primarily SPS. I love it, and it contains several personally collected pieces. It was a featured aquarium in Advanced Aquarist in 2004. In late 2005 I took it down for a month while we had some work done on the house giving me the opportunity to make it into a in-wall tank with a mini fish room (really just storage) behind it.

The 200 gallons of sumps/coral farms are under the house in a 40 inch crawl space, that, while annoying to move around in, keeps the noise, mess and humidity out of the house. Also, because the crawlspace is cool in the summer, my need for a chiller is very much lessened. The crawl space also gives me room to store all my reef ‘junk’ and allows me to keep 150 gallons of mixed saltwater on hand at all times, which always seemed like a good idea to me.

The rigged out uber-redundant crawl space

In 2006 I got nailed by monti eating nudies, which meant pulling all the giant monties and either dipping them or throwing them away. In 2007 I got the brunt of the AEFW plague when dealing with the wee beasts meant pulling all your corals and dipping them or throwing them away (now its easy to live with them). All this rigmarole meant that I was constantly wishing the tank was 6 months more along so that it could make another appearance as a featured aquarium in Advanced Aquarist. Last November, I started talking about how the tank was finally maturing, how I was removing smaller colonies to get rid of that fruit stand look that tanks go through when stocked with frags and mini colonies. A video Jake Adams took of my tank was posted on youtube. I started fragging to shape the colonies and to stop them from growing together. Then, December came and along with it, the Epic Fail.

A little more background

I love basic automation and redundancy. I don’t run a controller because I don’t like the idea of a single point of failure. There are 4 circuits going to my reef system with lights and pumps and heaters distributed over the different circuits. There are Penn Plax air pumps that come on in a power outage for oxygen and circulation. There is one Vortech with a battery backup. There is a modded maxi jet on a UPS. DI water collects in a 10 gallon reservoir to limit the amount available for possible overdosing, and then is pumped into the Kalk reactor by a pump triggered by a float switch (not valve), and the float switch has a second float switch just above it in case the first float switch fails. The effluent from the Kalk reactor gravity feeds into the sump. The skimmer’s external collection bucket has a float switch on it that controls the skimmer so if the skimmer goes nuts it can only pump out 5 gallons from the tank before shutting off. I also have a pump in that external collection bucket so I don’t have to lug around nasty water – I flip a switch and away it goes.

All in all, I feel my system is pretty sound and able to handle almost anything that isn’t a major disaster or power failure (and yes I have a generator and a power inverter). We get minor power outages sometimes (as I write this, there was one last week) and thus far everything works just fine. Usually the only way I know there was an outage is by the blinking clocks – the tank just chugs along.

It has been important that my system takes care of itself for the most part because my wife’s major hobby is exotic vacations, which means we can be away from the tank for 3 weeks or more at a time. I used to fret about being away for so long, even though I had done pretty much everything I could to automate daily tasks, and had a posse of reefing friends checking in to make sure all was well. I still fretted until my wife gave me the best piece of reekeeping advice ever – ‘assume that you are going to come home to coral soup’. So, every time I leave the tank I make sure my corals are backed up in other people’s tanks, I say good bye to everything, and I go enjoy my vacation and don’t think about the tank. I believe that this advice had the effect of prepping me for coming home to coral soup at any time, and when I finally did, I was able to function and try to control the damage.

Every reefers nightmare


The horror, the horror

I got home Saturday evening, and smelled the smell of the sea. I rushed to my reef but couldn’t see very far into the tank. Some of the fish I could see were being blown around but not moving on their own. Going through my head were lists of dead animals…the double headed Scoli I got at Midwest Frag Fest…the S. wilsoni I got at MACNA…the Picasso Clowns…the Radiant wrasse…colonies that were finally ‘big’. For a minute I stood there frozen in grief. I put all that aside when I saw my pH monitor – 10.5. I knew regardless of what had caused the crash, if I was going to save anything I needed to get that pH down immediately.

I took 150 gallons of water out of the system, put 150 gallons of new water right in, and started filling the container with RO so I could mix more saltwater. That 150 gallon container I keep filled with mixed saltwater had been helpful before, but at that moment it was critical. Sadly, the pH barely moved. I remembered that vinegar would bring down pH. I had a little vinegar in the house, and it brought the pH down, but not enough, so I rushed out to the store to by more. I believe all in all I added a full gallon of vinegar to the system before the pH dropped to 8.6, and some of the fish looked less dying than they had before. I then added new carbon, a nu clear canister filter with a pleated micron cartridge and diatomaceous earth (DE) and ozone. I finally went to bed fully expecting everything to be dead in the morning, and decided to take no rash action, removing nothing from the tank for at least few days to give everything the best possible chance of recovery.

1 day AEF (after Epic Fail)

I woke up, and still couldn’t tell what was going on in the tank because it was still cloudy, but a little less stinky. All that vinegar was probably causing a massive bacterial bloom. Once another 150 gallons of water was ready I did another water change, changed the carbon, rinsed the pleated cartridge and put in fresh DE, posted my tale of woe on a couple forums, and tried to ignore the tank for the rest of the day.

2 days AEF

The next day the tank had cleared enough that I got a decent look at what was going on inside. The ‘true undata’ seemed to look ok, but all the other SPS were white – it was like looking at a show tank from 1982. Some of the fish that I would have sworn were dead were actually alive. Most of the LPS were still sucked tight to their skeletons, so I had no idea what was going to survive.

3 days AEF

The water cleared enough after another 150 gallon water change to take some photos that didn’t look like a tank of milk. More of the fish seemed to be gone and I was braced for a gradual die off of everything else.

4 days AEF

The water clarity was almost back to normal, and it looked like most of the fish made it. One clown, 3 chromis, a hybrid PBT and a mandarin had died, but the Picassos, the radiant wrasse, the flame wrasse, the swales basslet, the remaining pair of mandarins, a home-made banggai cardinal, the cleaner shrimp and the harlequin shrimp pair all were alive and seemed fine. I even fed them and they all ate. I had no idea what to think about the corals.

7 days AEF

As it turned out, every acro was dead as were most montis, poccis, the duncans and I was prepped to lose all the chalices as well. Hanging on were the undata, the double headed scoly, the dendro, some acans, and cespitularia (it had actually grown in the days AEF). I grabbed a 5 gallon bucket and filled it with acro skeletons, but left everything that didn’t have algae growing on it in the tank. My wife pointed out that the tank didn’t really look that bad as tanks go, and that it indeed could have been worse.

24 days AEF

About two weeks later I did a water test and everything came out normal, so I bought a yellow tang to help with any sneaking algae problems. About a week after that I added some ‘canary’ acro frags and they did well. Some of the corals I thought were goners, but that I didn’t remove, came back – most notably the S. wilsoni. Some of the chalices were down to 1 mouth but hanging on.

7 months AEF

The reefing community was nothing but supportive and two months AEF I started adding corals en masse. I got two great boxes of mini colonies from Liveaquaria.com, and tons of frags from local friends. Never was I happier that the attitude of my local reefing community is one of giving your corals away. After 7 months, the tank was a healthy fruit stand again, and about a year later I have to prune colonies back so they don’t fight and I am starting to think about removing corals just to make room.

So, what happened?

Even redundancy in design won't prevent human error

It was all my fault.

I did several stupid things at the same time. First and foremost, I worked on the tank when I was in a hurry (even though I know better). Instead of going to see Mitch Carl speak at Bay Area Reefers, I was going to a production of ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ with my wife and daughter. We were running late, and just before we left, I added fresh Kalk powder to the Kalk reactor, then I raised the float switch on the auto top off to bring the salinity down a little, and, because I was in a hurry, I left the pump that drains the skimmers external collection bucket on. Then, I left for 7 hours. So, 2 cups of brand spanking new Kalk powder were washed into the tank by the auto top off, and, as if that isn’t enough, any Kalk powder that would have been left was pumped into the tank because once the skimmer started going crazy there was nothing to stop it because the drain pump was on. Had I not been in a hurry, I would have thought those three stupid actions through and not done them. All of this was preventable, and a Sanjay Joshi truism is proven again – “the person running the system is the system’s single biggest point of failure”.

My family was particularly helpful on the discovery of this disaster. Essentially, they asked if they could help, were politely told no, and then got out of the way. I am so lucky to have Libby and Kalin both understand what ‘focus’ means, and to know the best thing to do when someone is focused is to leave them alone so they can get stuff done.

What changes have I made to the system?

Since the Epic Fail, I turn off the auto top off when I add Kalk to the reactor. After the powder is mixed, I turn it back on and make sure that the system doesn’t need too much top off at that time. I also have added a ‘turn past’ timer to the skimmers external collection chamber’s drain pump. When the container is full, I turn a knob that turns on the drain pump, but turns it off again in a few minutes. Of course, I know that neither of these changes are foolproof and in no way will protect my system from me doing dumb things in the future.

If proper and swift action is taken, recovery from disaster is possible


What did I learn?

Despite my overriding the precautions I put in place, my forethought served me well. I had most of what I needed to deal with the disaster on hand – mixed salt water, DI resin, salt mix, carbon, a big canister with a clean pleated cartridge and vinegar. Without those things, this disaster would have been much worse. I can’t imagine how I would have felt coming home to coral soup but not being able to do anything about it because the LFS were all closed.

I learned that fish and animals are way more resilient than we might think. I had corals I was sure were dead recover completely, but if I had tossed them, they would be gone.

Hopefully, I finally really leaned the three main rules to avoiding disaster:

1) If you are in a hurry, don’t do anything to your system.
2) If you are about to leave the house, don’t do anything to your system.
3) If you are distracted, don’t do anything to your system.

In conclusion

I hope this tale of utterly preventable disaster helps you avoid a future reef keeping disaster yourself. I thought a long time about writing this article before I actually put fingers to keys because the majority of articles on reef keeping are about success. Everyone loves pretty pictures of thriving corals and fish, but more importantly, people don’t like to dwell on failures. Failures make people feel bad. Failures make people look bad. People especially don’t like to advertise their failures. But, I think the failures are just as, if not more, instructive than the successes, and think we need more discussion of the dumb things we do so we end up doing less of them. If we own our failures, it seems everything is better for everyone.

I look forward to showing of pictures of my thriving tank in about six months when it is lush and full, unless of course, I pull another epic fail.

From Reefbuilders

I have been fortunate to attend several frag events around the country this year, but none gets me as excited as the Bay Area Reefers (BAR) regional fragswap. Last weekend there were no guest speakers, no vendor booths, and best of all, no money changing hands for corals. There is a small entry fee to help pay for the infrastructure, and each participant is required to bring at least 3 frags of different  strains. The format is an actual ‘swap’ where people bring corals in deli containers (they don’t leak, you can see through them, and they are reusable), check in, and the frags are then grouped by type on tables in picking area. There are 10 picking groups of about 10 people each, numbered, a-j, to which participants are randomly assigned. When the picking begins, groups are allowed into the picking area for 2 minutes and are allowed to pick one frag from the tables. After about 3 or 4 times through all the picking groups, the number of frags goes up to speed things along.
There is also a raffle to help pay for the event and to promote local LFS sponsors (and many of those sponsors actually participated in the  swap), and the numbers are called during the swap so everyone gets there corals home in a timely manner. The club has put together basic care sheets, and sells essential fragging equipment for just above cost, including glue, salinity standards and povidone frag dip. The focus of the event is not on getting, but on giving, and it is not uncommon for people to bring 10, 20, 30 0r 40 frags to the event and competition to bring the most of the ‘best’ frags is friendly but fierce. And we aren’t talking schwag corals. Lots of the LE de jour
and other cool stuff available through the first couple times through all the picking groups. There is even a list of corals that don’t go into the event proper, but onto a free table, because they are too common. Sponsors donate frags and the club even has a prop program to help fill out the tables. All in all, there were about 100 people at the event and over 600 frags. Super awesome, and I cant wait until the next swap in February.

From Reefhobbyst Magazine

From Reefhobbyst Magazine

From Reefhobbyst Magazine

From Reefhobbyst Magazine

 

 

 

From Reefhobbyst Magazine

RHM whatsonyourbottom 62007

From Advanced Aquarist

July 2004 – Richard shares his awesome 150 gallon tank with us this month.

I began reefing in the 80’s when algae covered rocks were thought to look good and bio balls were the end-all of water quality control. After working in several LFS in LA for 5 years, I moved to the SF Bay Area and took a hiatus from the hobby. When my wife and I were lucky enough to buy our first house I jumped back in with a 50 gallon and labored to catch up with all the new information that had become available. I was very happy with the tank, but always thought about doing something bigger and better.

Tank Shot: 2004

Tank Shot: 2002

Click here for a Shockwave time lapse of Richard’s tank.

My chance came in 2002. My wife was pregnant and we decided to move a whopping 5 blocks to a bigger home that would better suit our growing family. And, of course moving meant NEW TANK. The situation worked out perfectly because we had two months to prepare for the move, and I was able to use that time to design and collect the components for the new system. Best of all, beneath the new house was a 40 inch crawl space with great access, so a remote sump was high on the list.

Being on a budget, I searched the Internet for used equipment, and based my system around what I found. I knew I wanted a bigger tank, and soon I found a 150, 5x2x2, drilled with overflows and perimeter bracing (I love perimeter bracing because it allows you can put all kinds on stuff right by the tank where you need it). I also got a used Euro Reef CS-3, some used 250 watt DE pendants, a used Ampmaster 3000, and a used 180 acrylic tank for the sump. All these were significantly less money than the same items new, so if you have the time, searching for used equipment is the way to go.

A custom-made stand and canopy were a must because the old tank was rigged with temporary solutions that seemed to always become permanent, and the room it was in was slowly taken over by the kudzu-like growth of reef equipment…it drove my wife crazy. The stand and canopy were the single most expensive purchase for the new system: red oak, 30 inch high stand, 16 inch high front opening matching canopy – mmmm pretty. I now completely believe that a good looking stand and canopy are a must because they make your tank look like showpiece rather than a cobbled together hobby.

I wanted to locate the tank in our living room because that’s where I spend most of my relaxing time, but there really wasn’t a good place for it. I considered another room, but knew I wouldn’t be happy with it there. I posted diagrams of the house on RDO and asked for input. There was a perfect wall for the tank, but in that wall was a door to a bathroom. Someone suggested I move the bathroom door, an idea I never considered. This strategy had the added benefit of allowing me to access the back of the tank from inside the bathroom. So a contractor friend and I moved the door, reinforced the floor under the tank, and began the move-in.

Set up for this system officially began in August of 2002. The first order of business was moving the old tank to the new house (the move actually went very well, only needing 2 friends and 20 containers for livestock…and the result was almost no losses). The livestock stayed in the 50 gallon until the new system was up and stable, which was pretty quick because almost all the live rock came from the old system and any new rock had been curing for months at the LFS. In the third week of August I moved a couple of LPS and softie frags over and they did well, so over the next two weeks I moved everything over.

Two years later, the system is flourishing, (knock on wood, we all know how quickly that can change!) allowing me a constant stream of frags for sale or trade to other hobbyists.

Philosophy

My idea about how the system should work was based largely on the idea of ‘a little bit of everything’. In building this system, I have tried to incorporate the best techniques from the reefing world. In my opinion, this includes:

  • The biggest show tank possible.
  • A big, remote sump for macros and coral farming. I think the benefits of a big sump are huge: stable temperature, stable water quality, hidden mess (which, from the pictures, you can tell is important) and no noise in the living room. I am currently thinking about adding a 300 gallon tub to the sump as cheap additional water quality insurance because I have the room under the house.
  • An over tank refugium to keep the in-tank supply of pods stable for the fickle fish.
  • A medium sand bed mainly because I like the look of it, and I like the stability it provides. I also regularly ‘storm’ the sand with a power head to help remove detritus build up.
  • A big skimmer running wet to take out the nasties quick.
  • A calcium reactor for the stability and peace of mind.
  • Good lighting that will allow the keeping of practically anything.
  • High water turnover rate and strong, random circulation.

Automate everything possible – timers for lights, temp controllers for fans, auto top off, auto skimmer shut off – because it is more fun to look at your tank than to spend time doing menial tasks.

Water Circulation

  • Ampmaster 3000 as return, feeding 2 1 inch Sea Swirls located in the front corners of the tank.
  • Mag 9.5 on a SQWD closed loop, entering tank in the bottom back corners. The pipe into the tank can be rotated so the direction of the output can be changed.
  • Mag 7 running a SQWD, one output to the above tank ‘fuge, the other I move around the tank depending on where I think more circulation is needed.
  • 2 power heads on an MVT wave maker to eliminate dead spots, and one large power head, also on the MVT to act as a ‘surge’ across the top of the tank.
  • Currently adding another Mag 9 and SQWD for additional circulation.

Lighting

  • 2 250 DE PFO mini pendants, running 20K X bulbs
  • 2 250 DE PFO mini pendants, running 13K Geisman bulbs
  • 3 48 inch super actinic VHO bulbs, two in front and one in back
  • DIY moonlight with 8 LED’s
  • The lights come on staggered. At 10:30 am the VHO’s come on, then the 20 K’s at 11:00 am. The 10 K’s come on at 2:30 pm and go off at 8:30 pm. The 20k’s go off at 9:30pm and the VHO go off at 10:30. The moonlight comes on at 10:30 and goes off at 1am.

Additional Equipment

  • Euro Reef CS-3 skimmer
  • 2 350 Watt Won titanium heaters, one in an overflow, one in the sump.
  • 100 GPD RO/DI unit
  • DIY Kalk reactor
  • DIY Calcium reactor

Rear of tank

Full tank shot

Sump in crawl space

Above tank refugium

Failsafes

I am a little bit of a redundancy and anti flooding freak. My auto top-off has two float switches: one for low water, one for high. The return pump is on a float switch in the main tank in case the 1.5 inch overflows clog. The ‘fuge pump is on its own float switch and has 2 drains to the main tank, one above the other in case of clogging.

DIY skimmer auto shut off, so the skimmers stops foaming when its external collection container is full.

All power cords are clearly labeled; so it is easier to trouble shoot something over the phone.

My one vulnerability right now would be in case of a catastrophic power failure. Eventually I will acquire a generator of some kind; in the meantime, I employ several Penn Plax battery powered air pumps on the tank and the sump that kick on if the power goes out. I also have a 600 watt inverter in case of longer outages.

Maintenance

I feed PE mysis and Cyclop-eez every day. I occasionally feed Golden Pearls and flake food. I’ve tried using other supplements, but was unconvinced by the results.

I clean the interior surface of the tank with a magnetic cleaner every couple of days using a magna scraper when coralline is present. I use vinegar on a paper towel to clean the exterior surface of the tank, particularly if guests are coming over..

Once a month I harvest Macros from the sump.

At least once a week I check to make sure that all the pumps the house and all the reactors under the house are working properly.

I add some salt to the sump when the 5 gallon skim mate container is full.

Due to the large volume in the system, I don’t perform regular water changes, and I do generally run carbon and at least one polyfilter. However, I will occasionally do a water change when I get worried, when I ‘steal’ water from this system for my other tanks, or if something looks unwell.

Aquascaping

The basic layout for the tank consists of two distinct pinnacles, with some shallow rubble between them. I arranged each pinnacle with multiple swim- throughs for the tank denizens, as well as overhangs and cavelets to shelter some of the shyer tank-dwellers. I use the vertical surface of the back and side tank walls for additional aquascaping, and to provide the illusion of depth of field.

As the tank has matured, I’ve encountered the happy problem of having the space between the two pinnacles close organically. While this “crowding” disturbs my minimalist friends, I see the changing landscape in the tank as being part of the fun, and content myself with only minimal intervention. I do harvest frags when they threaten other corals, or when a colony simply gets overwhelming. But for the most part, I let them do their thing. Of course, when a cool new frag comes into my possession, I somehow always find a way to place it!

I have also come to look forward to the occasional rock shift or slide, as it gives me the opportunity to re aquascape making me feel like the tank is new again.

Livestock

Fish

  • Purple tang
  • 3 Bartletts Anthias
  • 3 chalk bass
  • 2 black perculas
  • 1 Yellow Watchman Goby
  • 2 garden eels
  • 4 various pipefish
  • 1 psychedelic mandarin
  • 7 blue eyed cardinals – the coolest fish ever!

Blue eyed cardinals

Goby on open brain

Inverts

  • 2 fire shrimp
  • 2 cleaner shrimp
  • 3 sexy shrimp
  • Various snails, tubeworms, tiny brittle stars, and cucumbers
  • a host of ‘pods

Corals (P = propagated, WC = wild Collected)

SPS

  • Purple/blue tortuosa (P)
  • Blue stag (P)
  • Blue table (P)
  • Purple, green, and orange digitata (P)
  • Blue, green, neon green, orange, and red capricornis (P)
  • Pink, purple Millepora (P, WC)
  • Pavona (WC)
  • Porites and worms (WC)
  • Green Slimer (P)
  • Mycedium (P)
  • Echinophyllia (P)
  • Hydnophora (P)
  • Yellow Turbinaria (WC)
  • Tricolor (P)
  • Asst sps frags (P)
  • Deep water acro (P)
  • Efflorescens (P)
  • Blue tipped acropora (P)

Blue tip acro

Left side

Pavona

Purple digi

Side view

Left side

Middle

Bubble

Open brain at night

Polyps

Umbrella

LPS

  • Pagoda Cup (WC)
  • Metallic Green Frogspawn (WC)
  • Bi colored frogspawn (WC)
  • Hammer coral (WC)
  • Green Candy Cane (P)
  • Red Candy Cane P)
  • Pink Candy Cane (P)
  • Green Tubinaria (WC)
  • Red Green brain (WC)
  • Green Bubble (WC)
  • White Bubble (WC)
  • Elegance (WC)
  • Heliofungia (WC)
  • Red Scolymia (WC)
  • Multicolored Cynarina (WC)

Softies

  • Encrusting Gorgonian (P)
  • Purple Gorgonian (P)
  • Green Star Polyps (P)
  • Clavularia (WC)
  • Yellow and green open brain (WC)
  • Various Zooanthids (P)
  • Green tree (P)
  • Colt (P)
  • Assorted mushrooms and Ricordias (P)
  • Xenia (P)
  • Umbrella Leather (P)
  • Yellow Tonga Leather (P)
  • Green Toadstool (P)

Other

  • Green and Blue Maxima clams (WC)
  • Rose Anemone (P)

Odds and Ends

  • I decided not to clean up all my equipment before I took photos for this article. I am always more interested in seeing how people actually ‘work’ their systems than sanitized pictures for display.
  • I am not a stickler for the Latin names of my critters, especially corals because they are so hard to id correctly – for instance, it looks like my “Bay Area” tortuosa is actually gomezi.
  • I don’t try to maintain a particular kind of biotope; rather I choose corals I want to look at.
  • I try to buy propagated corals as often possible, I frag and trade both privately and to LFS, and if I am buying a Wild Collected coral I like to split it with at least one other reefer.

Thanks to RDO and Advanced Aquarist for their support over the years, and for including my reef as a featured aquarium.

More information on this tank and my cuttlefish project can be found athttp://www.stickycricket.com/aquarium.