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 Reefbuilders, by Jake Adams
Local copy of video here: https://vimeo.com/124146969

“Phosphate does not mean what you think it means” is probably one of the most profound things any speaker has said about this much maligned nutrient in our reef tanks. While PO4 gets a bad rap in our tanks, nothing, not the fish, the corals, the invertebrates, or the microbiology could even begin to happen without some amount of this very essential element for all biological systems.

We know that phosphate can inhibit certain parts of the calcification process in stony corals, recent research has shown that some species of coral can actually grow faster in the presence of higher phosphate concentration. The gist of this talk is that what we know about phosphate theoretically, doesn’t necessarily line up with our experiences and with our practical observations.

Many reefers like to brag about their super low phosphate levels, and a simple search of “phosphate” on this website will reveal a whole cottage industry to dealing, removing, and testing for phosphate. It is true that phosphate can be the root of many problems in home aquariums, and in natural environments, plenty of successful reef aquariums run a much higher than prescribed level of phosphate in their water.

This is a great book about keeping cephalopods in home aquaria. Rich am honored to have several photos in the book, including a photo of Rich taking a photo for the book. Available at Amazon.com

From Reef Threads

The podcast is available in the above links or locally by clicking here

From Reef Hobbyist Magazine

Link to build thread on Reefs.org
Link to original build thread that was accidentally deleted on Reefs.org

 

 

 

From Reefs.com

hen I finally got home, I wiped the glass and everything looked just as good as when I left; all of my automation worked perfectly. Yay Automation.

It seems to me that we hear a lot about automation disasters, but not so much about automation successes. That makes sense because disasters tend to stick with us when we hear about them, and we just don’t talk about everyday successes because well, they are just regular every day happenings. So, here is a non everyday automation success story.

Recently, I had to leave town immediately and unexpectedly  for what turned out to be several family medical emergencies in succession (it was difficult, but everyone turned out to be fine). I was gone for 10 days with no time to prep the tank, though I did franticly arrange with friends and colleagues to move some octopus I am working with to a lab at UC Berkeley. The whole time I was away I thought about my reef tank exactly once on day 4, the first extension of the trip, when my wife and daughter asked me if they were feeding the tank the right way. While in the hospital dealing with emergency room doctors and drama, the back of my mind was not also busily worrying about my home systems, I was able to focus on what was right in front of me.

My advice – automate everything you can on your reef. Not only will it free you from the some of the drudgery of every day maintenance and help keep the system stable over time, but it will give you some piece of mind when you are out of town on vacation or for an unexpected emergency.

From Reefhobbyst Magazine

From Reefs.com

I took a chance on a Live Aquaria Divers Den  Juvie Regal Angel (Pygoplites diacanthus) about 2 months ago. As beautiful as this fish is, it ended up getting an appetite for some of my favorite SPS corals as well as a voracious appetite for my growing Zoanthid collection, so it’s got to go. Easier said than done right?

Catching a fish in a fully stocked, mature reef tank is often a hassle.A net is not going to work because there is too much coral growth in the way. Trying to remove the fish while it’s sleeping is not going to work (unless you are very lucky) because sleeping spots are so numerous and, invariably, the fish picks a spot at the bottom middle back of the tank.  Removing rocks isn’t practical because, since the tank is mature, removing rocks probably means destroying the coral that you have worked to hard to grow. Since the reef is mature, it’s probably fully stocked with fish, so any attempt to use a fish hook isn’t going to work because other fish are going to get the food off the hook before the fish you are trying to catch even knows there is something to strike. Knock-out drugs won’t work either because not only are they hard to get, but even if you are able to squirt it in the face of the fish, the knocked-out fish can sink to the bottom where it is impossible to remove before it wakes up, swims away and laughs at you.

To the best of my knowledge, that leaves one option  – the fish trap. 5 days ago, I pulled out my trusty acrylic trap, the kind with the weighted door that is held open by a piece of monofilament with a suction cup on the end. This particular trap also has another piece of monofilament that you can pull on to slam the door closed quickly instead of simply relying on gravity to trap the fish. I used some electrical tape to affix an old algae magnet to the trap so I can rest the trap on the glass instead of on coral. The magnet also allows me to leave the trap in place  over time without it getting blown around by the current. This is very important because unless you are very lucky and the fish goes right in (I am not lucky), the trap needs to be left in place over time so the fish gets comfortable enough with the trap to actually go in the trap. Of course, the most important part of trapping a fish with this method is patience – and man can that patience be annoying.

Every night, I bait the trap with some Reef Nutrition Mysis Feast and watch patiently as almost every other fish in the tank-Orange-spotted rabbitfish (Siganus guttatus), Radiant Wrasse (Halichores iridis), Multicolor angel (Centropyge multicolor), Potter’s Angelfish (Centropyge potteri), Margined butterfly (Chelmon marginatus), Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens), orchid dottyback (Pseudochromis friedmani), Mimic Saddle Puffer (Paraluterus prionurus) and even green chromis (Chromis viridis) hang out in the trap and chow down – often all at the same time- while the Regal hangs out near the trap entrance waiting for scraps. Every night the Regal gets a little closer to the trap, but doesn’t go in. I may need to catch every other fish that goes into the trap to make the Regal feel comfortable, but not yet. Tonight I moved some Zoanthids into the trap to make it even more enticing. I hope.

It’s really frustrating, but I keep calming myself down reminding myself that patience is the key and it works. Just a month ago, I had to catch two big lunare wrasses out of the 212,000 gallon reef tank at work. It took two weeks of baiting the trap for the fish to be comfortable enough to go in, and when the finally did, I was able to catch both of them in less than 10 minutes. But it took patience. Patience.

Some corals have fallen over, but I am going to leave them for now as not to disturb the Regal. Algae is growing all over the front glass, but I am going to leave it as not to disturb the Regal. So, here I sit, most of the pumps off to keep the food in the trap waiting…and waiting…and waiting…because thats what I have to do.

 

 

From Reefbuilders

This post would be in total fanboy territory were it not for the fact that the Diver’s Den has become a fixture of American reef aquarium culture. Like Reefer Madness before it, for many years LiveAquaria’s Diver’s Den has been the online reefing community’s daily fix for real and window shopping of exotic marine aquarium life. This may be an opinion but it is one that is widely shared.

Read more: http://reefbuilders.com/2011/11/09/heart-liveaquarias-divers-den/#ixzz1ziqUXUUS


Video of a Commersons Angler (Antennarius commerson) ordered from Diver’s Den being all around cool and eating within minutes of acclimation.

I love LiveAquaria’s Diver’s Den. Really. What’s not to love about a vendor that has good customer service where you can go to order reasonably priced, hard to find, healthy, eating, pre quarantined animals that are delivered to your door? This isn’t some fanboy fantasy, but is based on my experience with the company over the years. I have ordered many animals from Divers Den for my home aquariums, and all of them have arrived in excellent health, disease free and ready to eat.

If you don’t know, Diver’s Den is the What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG) wing of LiveAquaria.com. All the animals in the Diver’s Den section are  are held, quarantined, treated (if necessary), and shipped from a state-of-the-art Aquaculture Coral & Marine Life Facility in Rhinelander, Wisconsin – and are not shipped unless they are healthy, eating and fully adjusted to a captive environment to make a smooth transition into your aquarium. I trust the care these animals have been getting so much that I feel comfortable skipping my own QT and putting Diver’s Den animals directly into my reef – though it is really important to note that that is absolutely a risk that I don’t normally take and that LiveAquaria.com recommends quarantining every aquatic animal prior to placing them into the display aquarium.

The Margined Butterfly (Chelmon marginalis), I ordered in 2009 from Diver’s Den arrived safe and sound in its perfect and impressive packaging. I acclimated it to my home system and, as expected, it promptly got its butt kicked by some long term residents a Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens) and a male Blotchy Anthias (Odontanthias borbonius). Since the butterfly came from Diver’s Den, it was fat and sassy and not only able to take the repeated hazing, but it would even defend itself by aiming its dorsal spines at the bullies. By the second day, the C. marginalis was even pecking at the rock for food in between fights. Within a week, everything calmed down, the fighting stopped, the fish shows no signs or marks from the altercations and was eating like a champ. Other fish I have ordered from Divers Den including, a Juvenile Regal Angel (Pygoplites diacanthus), have had similar stories, and corals and inverts from the web site have been healthy and colorful.

I have always been a fan of Local Fish Stores and do everything I can to support them, but the economical issues of the last few years has had a interesting effect on the practices of local reef businesses. The most distressing of these is that there are fewer of LFS in the SF Bay Area; the nearest one that is good is at least 30 minutes away which means the days of getting in the car and hitting 5 stores or more in search of a special animal seem to be a thing of the past. Now, if I am looking for a ‘special’ animal, I do check with the local stores and if they have it I make the drive. If they don’t have what I am looking for, I go to the Diver’s Den easy to navigate and easy to use use website which has a large selection of ‘special’ animals (and information on those animals) that is updated and expanded daily.

Oh, one more thing. Almost all Diver’s Den animals come with a 14 day guarantee. If the animal “doesn’t arrive alive and stay alive for 14 days” they will credit your account of refund your money. I have never had to invoke that guarantee, and from what I have experienced with this company, I doubt I will ever have to.

2002

2003

2004

2004

2005

2007

2007

2008

2008

2008

2008

2008

2011

2011

6/2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3/2013

6/2013

8/16, 2013

August1 16, 2013

August1 16, 2013

1/26/2014

BBC_3244-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3/3/2014 – for the blue lovers and the blue haters

FTS combo sm

 

4/2/14 – ATS screen added

BBC_7147

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8/21/14

FTS Aug 2014-2183

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2/20/2015

22116fts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2/21/16

aaa_8907

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10/17/16

AAA_9189

1/7/17

From Reefs.com

As some of you may remember from my previous article ‘The anatomy of a disaster” http://www.reefsmagazine.com/forum/reefs-magazine/66910-epic-fail-anatomy-disaster.html  I have a penchant for not keeping up on float switch maintenance and ending up with kalk overdoses. Regardless of the failsafes I put in place, I continue to OD on kalk, and guess what, I did it again recently, and I humbly present to you the newest of precautions I have put in place to possibly save my lazy butt from yet another disaster.

The last disaster was really, really bad.

The most current kalk issue was not nearly as bad as the previous one. Last time I lost 95% of my SPS corals, where this time I only lost 2 – though some of them are going to take a month of so to recover completely.

When I caught it, the pH in the tank was 9.7, bad but not immediately kill everything bad. My sump is essentially a 180 gallon tank so when the primary float switch failed about 15 gallons of yummy kalk water was pumped into the tank until the secondary float switch, located about 3 inches above the primary clicked into action.

This time, instead of dumping gallons of vinegar in the system to lower the pH, I tee’d off of the CO2 feed to my calcium reactor and bubbled CO2 directly into the display tank. CO2 is better for a couple of reasons, the most important being the lack of bacterial bloom that results from gallons of vinegar being dumped into a saltwater system. Since the system wasn’t totally crashed, this was very important to me. Another good thing about the CO2 addition is that its effect of lowering pH is very fast and its hard to overdose – just take line out of the tank. Getting the pH down to 8.2 took less than 10 minutes, and the change was startling. Fish that were clearly stressing and hiding came right out and ate. A Linkia starfish that looked to be dead, perked right up. LPS corals started opening up within 30 minutes. I like the CO2 much better than vinegar. Of course, it should be obvious that CO2 can be dangerous for both your tank and you, so be careful and I wouldn’t even think of doing it without a calibrated electronic pH meter.

So what did I do to avoid this avoidable problem in the future. First, I further slowed the amount of water pumping into the system via the Auto Top Off. I also put the ATO on a timer with an on/off cycle of 30 minutes.   The system can still move enough water to keep up with top off, but it takes time to fill it up, and that less time means more time before the problem becomes critical.

The second thing I did was reconfigure the sump equipment so it was all easier to get to and maintain. Easier and neater means faster and better regular maintenance. Now, the switches are right up front, in a dark space and soaking them in vinegar takes a matter of minutes. Easy peasy. I also modified the way the float switches were laid out. Now, instead of 3 inches between primary and secondary float switches, resulting in a 15 gallon addition, there is about .5 inches, resulting in a 3ish gallon addition before the secondary kicks in. Its such an obvious modification that I marvel at my lack of making it immediately upon receiving the float switches.

A modification so obvious that I should have done it long ago (The second set of floatswitches is for the auto fill for water changes)

The third and most important think I did was set up a 4 month recurring calendar event on my computer to remind me to do the regular cleaning.

Will this work? Will I avoid disaster in the future? Only time will tell…

From TONMO and Reefs.com

When you receive a new saltwater animal you don’t want to just dump it into its new home. You want to give it time to get used to any water parameters that may be different from the water in the bag and the water in the tank.The basic idea of acclimation is that you slowly adjust the water in the shipping bag of the animal until it matches the water chemistry of your tank giving the new animal time to adapt to the new water chemistry before release into its new home. Makes complete sense, however, some ‘old aquarists tales’ have entrenched themselves in the e literature and subconscious of aquarists and I think that these ideas are at best a waste of time and at worse detrimental to the health of the animal. Below, I hope to outline reasonable acclimation procedures and present reasons why some of the ‘acclimation myths’ should be abandoned.There are many ways to go about acclimating new animals to your aquarium. Here is my rundown on the basics for a new animal that looks healthy in a bag of relatively clear water.

  • Float the shipping bag in the new aquarium or sump to get the water in the bag to match the temperature of the tank (if the new animal is a fish or coral please use a quaranteen system to avoid introducing parasites to the show tank, but for cephs and other inverts this seems not to be an issue). . This should take no more than 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Remove the bag from the tank and either decant the animal into a bucket (making sure to put something under one side of the bucket to tilt the bucket so the water is deep enough to keep the animal comfortable) or open the bag and clip it to the side of the inside of the bucket. If decanting you will be doing the acclimation in the bucket, if clipping you will be doing the acclimation in the bag. Either way, the goal is to make sure none of the bag water makes it into your tank because it could be ‘infected’ with parasites, but more probably its nasty from having an animal sit in it for 24+ hours.
  • Begin adding tank water to the bag or bucket. This can be accomplished with a cup, or you can siphon water from the tank with an airline hose equipped with a valve or tied in a couple of knots to control the speed at which water is added. General rates of tank water addition are 1/2 cup every 3-5 minutes, or if dripping, 1-3 drops per second. If using a clipped bag you are looking to have extra water overflow into the bucket over time. This process should take 30 minutes to an hour, then move the animal to its new tank.

It should be glaringly obvious that there was no water testing mentioned in the above procedure. This is because, really, once you receive the animal you’ll have to do something with it regardless of the availability of water testing and the above procedure is pretty comprehensive. That doesn’t mean they can’t be useful. Mostly, we are concerned with salinity, pH and temperature so testing those parameters to determine when the tank water and the water the animal is in match can reduce the acclimation time. You don’t want to adjust any of these paramaters too quickly, but you also don’t want to dawdle. It seems that there isn’t much to be done about most other parameters, so testing doesn’t seem necessary except for the ones mentioned above if possible.The other parameter we care a lot about is ammonia, and it is important to note that it is linked with pH. Ammonia can be lethal to the animals, but its toxicity can be depressed by low pH. Over time in a closed shipping bag the pH of the water lowers which is great because the ammonia generated by the biological processes going on in the bag is rendered less toxic than it otherwise might be. However, once you open the bag and let fresh air in, the pH begins to rise and the ammonia becomes more toxic. This is why I suggest temperature acclimating while the bag is still sealed.If the water is nasty when the shipment arrives, if you test and find that ammonia is high, I would ignore most if not all of the acclimation procedure and get the animal out of the toxic soup immediately. Sure the other parameters may be off, but you have to get the animal out of the toxic water. Its a risk, but I feel its one worth talking because you know the bad water in the bag is killing the animal.All of the above can, of course, be modified based on your saltwater common sense and experience. You have to trust you, and no recipe can replace your developed saltwater thumb.The mythsThe biggest persistent myth I see is ‘the longer the acclimation the better’ which has resulted in people going through the procedure for 2-8 hours (in at least once case – over night!). The idea that the animals we are dealing with are fragile is true to some extent, but they are also pretty robust within reason and can deal with reasonable changes in environment. A super long acclimation just isn’t necessary and can be detrimental – ammonia levels can rise, temperature in the acclimating vessel can drop, and the animal can be stressed. Longer is not necessarily better, so either test to make decisions or be reasonable.The other myth I see happening with some frequency is bubbling air into the shipping bag. Sure it seems to make sense – the animal has been in a bag for a long time and the oxygen must be depleted so give it some. However, as we have seen above, this is the exact opposite of what you want to do because the fresh air will increase the pH of the water and will raise the toxicity of any ammonia that surely is in the water.I hope this is helpful, and as always, please let me know if anything is missing or if there are any questions.Finally, here is a link to one of my favorite online vendors acclimation instructions.http://www.liveaquaria.com/PIC/article.cfm?aid=157

From TONMO

Several people have recently asked how I ship cephs, so I thought I would write up what I do and stick it on the blog for posterity. I am hoping to ship some cephs in the next few weeks and if I do, I will try to update this post with photos.

Mostly I ship eggs and hatchling Sepia bandensis, but have used the procedure for juveniles, adults as well as octopus of various sizes – everything is just scaled up. Basically, you stick the ceph in a plastic bag with water and oxygen and seal it with a rubber band. Then you stick the plastic bag in an insulated shipping box and over night it to the person you are shipping the animals to. Details below. Remember describing simple things seems to make them seem more complicated than the really are, so don’t get overwhelmed by the detail!

Supplies

You are also going to need heat packs if the weather is cold or ice packs if the weather is really hot (jump online and check the weather at the departure city and the arrival city before you ship). Use 40 hour heat packs because of the insurance they give you in case the shipment is delayed a day. I like the uni heat available here http://www.amazon.com/40-Hour-Dispos…/dp/B0043XHZGC or maybe from your LFS. Any kind of ice pack will do.

Figure out how many plastic bags you are going to be shipping and of what size. This will determine what size shipping container you are going to need. I have put up to 4 hatchlings in a single 6 inch bag but this often is dependent on the size of the shipping container – if you have a larger container, you need to fill space with more bags, but if you have a smaller container you need to maximize the space you have.

Plastic bags and rubberbands to seal the bags are most easily obtained from a friendly LFS. Get enough to triple layer each bag of water to better ensure the any small leak from a ceph bite or other abrasion is not catastrophic. For hatchlings and eggs I use either small ‘frag’ bags or smal 6 inch fish bags, and if you can get the thicker bags over the thinner, the probability of leaks goes even further down.

You’ll needs some kind of insulated shipping container the size you are going to need. These usually consist of a styrofoam ‘inner’ box and a cardboard ‘outer’ box. You can usually get one from your LFS, though getting the size you want may be difficult, especially if you are shipping only one or two small hatchlings. Some people have used small ice chests with fine results, or made their own by cutting down styrofoam to fit in a smaller cardboard box.

I also put a small piece of macro algae in with the animals so they have something to hold onto during shipping.

Packing tape.

The address and phone number of who the animals are being shipped to (its never fun to fill out shipping paperwork only to find you don’t have all the information you need.

Determine when is the latest you can drop off the package at the shipping company, and try to pack and drop off the animals as close to that time as possible. The less time the animals spend in shipping the better. Also make sure you spring for morning deliver if possible, again, the less time in shipping the better.

Oxygen – I think its important, but some have shipped without it. I always use it. Your friendly LFS comes in handy here, and they will often let you use their oxygen if you have a good relationship with them. I always offer to pay them for any supplies they help me with, but have never actually been charged.

Packing

Fill the first bag with about 40% of tank water. Then add the macro algae if available, and then the ceph(s). Add oxygen to the bag, but don’t overfill because you want the bag to have a little bit of play to expand during time on the airplane with lower atmospheric pressure (most commercial planes are pressurized to 8000 feet). Twist the bag closed making a ‘stem’ that can be folded over itself for an even better seal. Seal the bag with a rubberband or two, making sure that the rubber band has been wrapped many times around the bag making a really tight seal. There is an art to rubber banding these bags, as well as several methods, so if you haven’t ever done it before practice and/or get someone experienced to help. Some LFS may even have a banding machine which crimps a small piece of metal around the ‘stem’ of the bag for an excellant seal.

Place the rubber banded side of the bag in the bottom of the next bag and then rubber band the second bag. This will eliminate any corners a small ceph may get trapped in. While flipping the bag, cuttlefish may ‘hang on’ to the plastic of the bag being exposed to air. No worries, be patient and wait for the animal to let go before proceeding. Seal the second bag with a rubber band. Repeat this step one last time for triple bagged goodness.

Place the animal packed bags into the shipping container and fill any extra space with packing peanuts, more rubber banded bags or any other soft material. The goal is to keep the bag from moving around during transport. Leave space above the bags for heat packs or ice packs.

If using an ice pack place it in a plastic bag and put some newspaper between it and the bags containing animals – direct contact can cause localized temperature changes. If using a heat pack, open the package it came in and shake the heat pack to activate it. Wrap it in newspaper and tap it to the top of the inside of the lid of the styrofoam ‘inner’ box. Heat packs stop working if they get wet, but they need oxygen to work, so don’t put them inside plastic bags.

Put the lid on the styrofoam ‘inner’ and seal lightly with tape. Then put the styrofoam box into the cardboard outer and seal that with packing tape.

Take the packed box to the shipping company, fill out the paperwork, give them money for shipping and have a nice dinner. Keep the tracking number handy so you can obsess over where the package is all night long.

Odds and ends

  • Ship to arrive the next business morning.
  • Never ship on a Thursday or Friday. Saturday deliveries are notorious for going wrong and if they do, the animals will sit until monday, which is too long. If you ship on a Thursday for Friday delivery and something goes wrong, you can end up with the aforementioned Saturday problems.
  • May shippers will deliver to one of their strip mall stores and hold the package for pickup. The advantage here is that no one needs to be home to sign for the package. FedEx uses Kinko’s and UPS has their own stores.

Let me know if there are any questions or if something is unclear and I’ll update the post as needed. I hope this is helpful.

From Reefhobbyst Magazine

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.

 

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 Reefhobbyst Magazine

From Reefhobbyst Magazine

From Reefhobbyst Magazine

From Reefhobbyst Magazine

From Reefhobbyst Magazine

From Reefhobbyst Magazine

 

 

 

From Reefhobbyst Magazine

RHM whatsonyourbottom 62007