My Reef Now A work in progress

Stomatella Snail Hitchhiker

stomatella snail

My latest hitchhiker is the Stomatella snail from the family trochidae which is a harmless herbivore that (according to Chuck’s Addiction) has a unique way of fooling predators. “When attacked or pulled off the glass by us, it will drop a large portion of its foot, much like some lizards that break off their tails in an attempt to keep a predator busy while it makes its escape.”

It looks like a cross between a snail and a slug with a cap-like shell. The shell only covers a small portion of the animal which makes is somewhat vulnerable to predators. Stomatellas are herbivores and feed upon micro algae. They also seem to be multiplying in my tank. We noticed the first one within minutes after introducing a fairly large coral live rock in my tank. Within about 6 weeks we noticed a smaller one. The larger ones are approximately 1″ and the smaller about 1/2″.

You can read all of the details for these snails at Reef Keeping. According to Reef Keeping, “they are quite good grazers, and also reproduce well in aquaria lacking hermit crabs and shrimp predators”.

I most always see these guys at night after the lights have dimmed. They are methodically working the live rock for algae. More pictures are available at Reef Corner.

stomatella snail

Asterospicularia Coral

Asterospicularia Coral

Blue/Purple Asterospicularia is a newly-available “soft” octocoral from Indonesia. I purchased this one from LiveAquaria.com. There are two types: branching and the matting (the picture of mine is the matting). These corals look similar to Xenia, but do not have a pulsing action. The above picture is in my tank after two months (purchased 7/23/14 and picture from 9/12/14) and has probably grown by 20 – 25%.

According to Live Aquaria, these are peaceful corals and do best in a well-established tank. It requires moderate lighting (placed about 1/2 to 2/3 down in my tank) with medium flow.

Like many other soft corals, Asterospicularia contains the symbiotic algae zooxanthellae from which it receives the majority of its nutritional requirements through photosynthesis. It does not require additional food to maintain its health in the reef aquarium, but benefits from the addition of zooplankton. I tend to feed my corals once every 7 to 10 days.

Asterospicularia

Hitchhiker and Pest Identification

zoanthid eating nudibranch

My first destructive pest — Zoanthid Eating Nudibranch. Treat with Two Little Fishes ReVive Coral Cleaner (smells like Pinesol, but is made from natural plant extracts – not iodine) for 30 minutes in saltwater (tank water) dip 30 minutes in a bucket. Re-dip every 2 to 3 days to catch next group of eggs that hatch. Total duration is planned for two weeks.

revive coral dip

9/3/14 – After 1st dip, lots of dead nudibranchs. Two zoanthid colonies that were dipped, opened 80% the next day (probably only 20% open before the dip).

9/6/14 – 2nd Dip – saltwater, 25 minutes. Expanded to include more zoa colonies. Fewer nudibranchs

9/12/14 – 3rd Dip – saltwater, 25 minutes. Expanded to include more zoa colonies. Fewer nudibranchs from 9/6/14 dip. All corals opened nicely within 24 hours.

Resources for Identifying Pests/Hitchhikers

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Reef Tank – from RTAW Reefpedia; everything from Chitons to Coraline Algae to Nudibranchs and Spindle weed.

Chuck’s Addiction Live Rock Hitch Hikers – great selection organized by organism type.

Bubble Tip Anemome Care

rose-bubble-tip-anenome

Definitive source for Bubble Tip Anemones (BTAs): Karen’s Rose Anemones

Suggested feeding (for entire silverside) is every two weeks. See details on feeding.

  • Silversides
  • Shrimp
  • Pieces of scallop

Cut up the food for smaller anemones as they will eat the food, but then just spit it out.

My experience is can feed more often is pieces are smaller.

20140828_184937

 

On-Line Coral and Marine Fish Suppliers

aquarium suppliers

A quick Google search will return dozens and dozens of marine fish and coral e-commerce sites. I’ve certainly not purchased from them all, but have purchased from many different sites. Based on purchase experiences my ratings are summarized here. Please note that I do not have any business relationship with any of these vendors and they have not given me anything free to gain a positive rating. The ratings reflect my personal experience/opinion.

Marine Life

VendorDescriptionRatingComments
LiveAquaria.comOwned by Dr's Foster and Smith - Corals and FishAAAProfessionally packed, excellent communication, quality marine life, detailed acclimation instructions.
Aqua Coral FarmseBay SellerAATop notch packaging, quality corals.
The Reef PreserveRetailer of exotic and rare corals (especially Zoanthids)AAGood packaging, quality marine life.
Reef LoungeeBay Seller and e-Commerce website - coralsAPackaging was okay in a box with styrofoam panels. All livestock arrived alive. No acclimation instructions.
Coral Cove OnlineeBay SellerBLow cost shipping; however, Monti arrived dead.
Blue Zoo AquaticsRetailer of fish, invertebrates and coralsCLow minimum purchase for free shipping. Both deliveries had "dead" wildlife within the warranty period.
Reefs 2 GoRetailer of fish, invertebrates, corals and related suppliesDLow cost, but repetitive dead and incorrect items.

AAA Rated: Live Aquaria

Pros: Large selection, Extremely good and thought-out packaging, detailed acclimation instructions. Everything I ordered was very much alive and opened in the tank within a few hours. I had one question about my order and called Live Aquaria customer support – minimal wait time, very courteous and responsive.

I placed an order large enough to qualify for the free shipping.

Cons: It takes $229.00 purchase to qualify for free shipping. One way to look at this is their prices are very competitive. It is easy to offer free shipping at lower price points if your prices are inflated (subsidizes the shipping cost).

 

AA Rated: Aqua Coral Farms

This is an eBay retailer.

Pros: Packaging is first class. Instead of each coral frag simply packed in a bag, they place each frag stem through the bottom of a small condiment cup (like you find inside a fast-food restaurant). This prevents the coral frag from floating around in the bag and keeps the coral from knocking into the sides of the bag. The frag stays fixed in the condiment cup, with the edges of the coral totally surrounded by water at all times. All corals arrived alive, undamaged and fully opened within 2 hours. I had a couple of questions about the seller’s products – very responsive and helpful.

Cons: Does not always have items available for sale.

 

AA Rated: The Reef Preserve

Pros: Awesome Zoanthids that are hard to find elsewhere. Pricey, but rare. Everything is WYSIWYG. Corals all opened within 2 days. Exactly as pictured on their website. Packaging in styrofoam inside a box, double bagged. Definitely will buy from again.

Cons: None

 

A Rated: Reef Lounge USA

This is an eBay retailer and I later learned they have an eCommerce website as well.

Pros: All corals arrived alive – several different types of Chalice and Zoanthids. Packaging was okay. The box arrived a bit beat-up (which could have been attributed to the shipper). Instead of a styrofoam cooler, they use styrofoam panels. Prices on eBay were very reasonable.

Cons: No acclimation instructions and would prefer a styrofoam cooler which is more protective. With that said, everything arrived alive.

 

B Rated: Coral Cove Online

This is an eBay retailer. They are a newer seller and based on the responsive nature of their customer service, I expect their shipping practices will improve as they gain more experience.

Pros: All Zoanthids arrived alive. A montipora arrived dead, but the seller was very responsive and offered to replace the item. Excellent customer service.

Cons: The Monti arrived dead. Zoanthid polyps were quite small compared to other suppliers.

C Rated: Blue Zoo Aquatics

Pros: Good selection. They have a WYSIWYG selection. Packaging is good quality. Acclimation procedure as well as an acclimation kit are provided in the shipment.

Cons: Two purchases and four problems. On my first order, the Elegance Coral did not make it. Now, with a little research you will learn that the Elegance Coral has about a 50% mortality rate (depending on which resource you believe). Bottom line, is that it’s not the easiest coral. I sent the picture to Blue Zoo and with no questions asked they said they issued a credit…..but, it is not a credit, it is a coupon. Their DOA policy on their website states they issue a credit. What’s the difference? You can use a credit as a form of payment, just like you would a credit card. A coupon reduces the purchase price. Why does this matter? If you spend $140 with Blue Zoo Aquatics they offer free shipping. A credit would not impact your total price calculation, but would act as a form of payment. Because they treat the credit as a coupon, it reduces your purchase price and it the price falls below $140 you know are required to pay for shipping. If you know this when you make your purchase, then you can make an informed purchase. Unfortunately, their website is misleading and I really wish they could correct this. When I emailed them, their reply was:

Shared Risk – Even when everything is done right, there will always be a few fish that die, even if no reason can be determined. We know this, so we are willing to help share the risk and cost of aquarium fish ownership with our customers by giving merchandise credit for qualified losses.

No Cash Value – Our livestock coupons may be used for merchandise replacement only, and since they have no cash value, they do not count toward our free shipping promotion.

It is worth noting that all Blue Zoo livestock credits have a one year expiration and this can be extended upon customer request. Usually within a year, customers are able to justify the shipping by ordering a few more things and spreading the shipping cost across those items.”

I can’t say that these are unreasonable policies if you know them. Unfortunately, their website does not explain any of these details as part of their warranty/return policy.

The third problem…..when I placed the second order to use my coupon, my purchase price was large enough to qualify for a free Zoanthid frag. It arrived DOA. And, problem four….the first coral that I purchased which included a free pest: the infamous Aiptasia Anemone. Fortunately, I noticed it immediately and used my Dremel tool to cut the coral in two pieces and discarded the pest.

 

D Rated: Reefs2Go

When I started ordering corals on-line it was from Reefs2Go. The shipping was free with $89 purchase and I was making small purchases, so this was very economical. Also, they almost always have a sale on Zoanthids which makes their per/polyp pricing extremely competitive.

Pros: Price. Low prices and if you live in Florida, only $89 in purchases gets you free shipping. Pricing is quite an attraction until you learn it is a perpetual purchase to use your credits.

Cons: Dead or incorrect marine life in almost every shipment. They offer you a store credit, so you end up in a perpetual shopping spree with them just to use all of your dead animal credits. Also, there are many items on their site that seem to be permanently “sold out”. Off and on problems with their website. Sometimes works fine and other times not so fine; for example, when I was trying to review my account to see how many purchases I had made, their site kept taking me to a blank FedEx page instead of letting me review the items on each order. The only store that I have purchased from where Zoanthids arrive dead. Their website will state a 2″ x 2″ coral and you will receive less than a 1″ x 1″ coral. Also, be prepared to receive items that are different from what you purchase. No problem, they issue you a credit and you now have to shop/spend again in order to keep the shipping cost reasonable with respect to your total purchase price. Over 10 purchases and always problems. Now, if you call the store and threaten to refuse the charges on your credit card, they will offer a refund. This is the only reason I rated them a D instead of F. I have stopped shopping with them.

 

Marine Equipment

One note: I don’t have a AAA rating for suppliers who do not ship live marine life.

A Rated: Marine Depot

I’ve made several orders generally including supplements and a AquaC Remora Pre-Skimmer For Cobalt MJ1200 Powerhead.

Pros: Competitive prices, wide selection, quick shipping and I’ve never had any issues. As an additional benefit, if you sign up for their Newsletter you will get the occasional “how to” or “informative” marine video.

Cons: None

 

A Rated: Dr’s Foster & Smith (owners of Live Aquaria)

I’ve made several orders including supplements, other marine suppllies and aAquaC Remora Series Protein Skimmer Remora-S.

Pros: Competitive prices, wide selection, quick shipping and I’ve never had any issues.

Cons: None

Critical Water Parameters

corals

Best article on key parameters at Reef Keeping.

Key parameters (source: Reef Keeping)

Water ParameterTarget RangeSeawater
Alkalinity7-11dKH 7dkh
Calcium380 - 450ppm420ppm
Magnesium1250 - 1350ppm1280ppm
Phosphates< 0.03ppm<0.005ppm
Salinity1.0261.025 - 1.027

 

Alkalinty/Calcium in Balance Calculator

reef saltwater calculator

Great article on Nitrites with detailed explanation.

How To” Guide to Reef Aquarium Chemistry for Beginners – What Chemicals Must be Supplemented

Detailed explanation on The nitrogen cycle, PH, Ammonia, Alkalinity, Nitrites and Nitrates.

Specific Gravity and Salinity Explanation.

 

 

My Reef Now Introduction

20140828_184914

My Reef Now is a record of what I’ve learned and a reference to what I need to know (that I can’t always remember). My Reef Now acts as an easy-to-use, look-up reference for information I have researched and want to access again quickly in the future. There are lots of great reef tank resources on the web and my favorites are listed here. I guess it’s my personal log for my experiences, references and lessons learned.

If this site saves you any time then great and if not, thanks for stopping by. I always welcome comments as it’s always good to gain the lessons from those with experience.

florida ricordia mushroom coral

Aquarium Setup

  • Tank: 29 Gallon
  • Protein Skimmer: AquaC Remora Series (HOB) Protein Skimmer with Drain and Cobalt MJ-1200 pump. MAINTENANCE: 1) Clean foam tower twice a week. 2) Clean water pump every 2 to 3 months. 3) If skimmate reduces even after cleaning foam tower and water pump, make sure to clean slime/build-up on internal baffles where collection cup mates. Lesson Learned!
  • Refugium: CPR Aquatic AquaFuge 2 Medium Hang-on Back Refugium w/ Pump, Light & Stand
  • Flow: Jebao WP-25 Wavemaker with Controller, 800gph-2000gph
  • Lighting: Maxspect R420R (RAZOR) LED Lighting System