20 Gallons of Life, a hand collected Bahamian reef.

Island Reef 242

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Hello everyone and welcome to my 10 gallons of life tank. I started this tank up in the beginning of 2019 in preparation for a 75g. My plan is to eventually use this tank as an observation/staging tank for eventual inhabitants of the 75g, but who knows where or what will be in this tank in the future. I will be using this thread to document and record just about everything that goes on with this tank. I hope you enjoy the ride, we might even learn something.


Story time. To catch you up on the events of the past 6 weeks. If you would like to know more about my history please check out my welcome thread in the Meet & Greet section, there are pictures.

On new years 2019 my cousin said he would be coming by my house the following weekend to collect some things for his saltwater fish tank (I live on the ocean). I have been slowly collecting equipment for a 75g and realized I had everything to start up a small tank, which I wanted to get anyway to use an observation/staging tank before putting stuff in the 75g. So that Saturday 5th Jan I bought a 10g tank for $31. On Sunday 6th my cousin came by and we collected some things along the shore and in an old saltwater pool in the back of my house.

p1.jpg

My Backyard

6/1/19 – Started up 10g tank with natural seawater, gravel size pieces from the beach next door, and some dry rock from the shoreline. I added a orange stripe damsel fish, sergeant major, 2 gobies, 12 baby fish ¼” or less, baby blue crab, a decorator crab, a very small black sea urchin, and about 15 hermit crabs.


11/1/19 – All baby fish are gone, presumed eaten by blue crab. Sea urchin has disappeared.


15/1/19 – Took parameters of ocean and tank. Ammonia in tank is high, cycling in process, all fish and crustaceans are looking and acting normal. Small goby is missing. First signs of diatoms, rocks are not as white as before. A couple empty hermit crab shells.

p2.jpg

Damsel, Goby, Small Goby (MIA)

19/1/19 – Put one mangrove with two leaves and roots in tank. Tank had that “fish tank smell”


20/1/19 – Tank is 2 weeks old. I hooked up one of my Kessil A360WE Tuna Blue lights over the tank and put it on a 12-hour schedule. Put 6 different types of plants/macro algae in tank, Turtle grass, mermaids’ tail, fern macro algae, Shaving brush, Halimedia, and a small ball of chaeto. Crabs immediately went after plants. Blue crab went crazy digging and cleaning through the roots of the shaving brush. Decorator crab went after fern, ate some, chopped up almost all the rest and placed them all over his body, presumably to have as a snack later.

p3.jpg

Checking out the new salad bar.

24/1/19 – Added 2 live rocks, 3 large snails, 6+ small black snails, a small white sea egg, and 2 hermit crabs.


25/1/19 – 11am at work I got a call from my wife, she said that the tank had no water in it. My heart sank. I came home at 1pm to an empty tank and 10g of seawater all over the ground. I filled up a 5gal bucked with seawater and started putting all the rocks in. I figured I could at least save whatever might be on them. I found the white sea egg still alive, so through him in the bucket. Underneath one of the rocks I found the small black sea urchin that I had not seen since the first day, he was still alive to. When I lifted up the last rock I found my 3 fish. The Sergeant Major was resting peacefully on top of a pebble, dead. But, the Damsel was lying sideways on the bottom glass with just enough water to cover half his little body. And to my surprise he was still alive gasping for water. I immediately picked him up in my hands and placed him in the bucket. After a few seconds he got up and swam out of my hands, I could not believe it. The goby was lying next to the damsel still alive as well. I know from past experience that they are indestructible.

Quick side story. A long time ago, at my parents house. I put a old neglected fish tank, that had no visible signs of life, outside on a balcony. It had no filtration or anything electrical hooked up to it. It was half filled with dirty water, rocks and sand. After about a month I decided to clean it out and start a new tank. By now it was only a quarter full of water and had green slime all through it. When I started cleaning it out I saw movement. There was a Goby still alive in there swimming around, crazy. He lived for a while in my next tank, until he jumped out one night.

Anyway back to my empty tank. In the end the only thing that died was the Sergeant Major, I consider myself very lucky. I found out that the tank had a bad seal on the bottom. I took it back to the store and they gave me a new one. The worse part about the whole thing was cleaning up all the water, and that I lost about $100 worth of art paper. Some of my paintings got wet to, but they are on canvas and wood, so no damage was done. I consider this the first time I have ever done a 100% water change. I do not recommend it.


2/2/19 - Just came back from a week long trip to Punta Cana D.R. Had my brother come by once a day to feed my fish and top up the tank. Everything is still alive, but most all of the plants have been eaten. I noticed the white sea egg carrying around the Mermaids tail with bite marks and holes all over it. The fern is gone. Only a heavily manicured bottle brush, some Halimedia, a bit of Chaeto, and the turtle grass is left.


8/2/19 – The decorator crab is missing. I think I see the blue crab eating one of his legs. Not to sure about the future of the blue crab, he is growing fast to.


10/2/19 – I had to clean the glass for the first time today.


12/2/19 – The turtle grass has been uprooted and is floating around on the surface. The Blue crab swims up to catch a ride on the grass for hours at a time. He might have eaten a few tank inhabitants, but he is very entertaining.

p4.jpg

Crab - "Thanks for the carnival ride, when is the roller coaster coming?"

Well now you are all caught up. Some details about the tank, maintenance, and schedule. 10 gallon all glass tank, HOB Coralife Marine Filter with protein skimmer, Kessil A360WE Tuna Blue, and a small temp probe with display screen. I can’t get the skimmer on the HOB to work properly, all it dose is fill the tank with micro bubbles. I top up by hand with bottled RO water. I have test kits, API, but will only test once a month, if I remember. I don’t dose anything, not necessary, now. I mash up some pellets and feed a pinch a couple times a day. I also might do a water change this year, who knows. My goal is to have a low maintenance tank, I like to keep things simple. One day in the future I will add some hardy corals, this is a reef forum after all.

p5.jpg

Just Chilling

If you are still reading this, go back to work. But come back soon, I will try to post updates regularly. And look for my 75g build thread coming soon.


Chris
 
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Ron Reefman

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Chris, what a nice ride! Thanks for sharing. BTW, I love your backyard!!!! :cool:

Some years ago I had a 65g shallow tank (2'x2'x14"). I snorkel in the Florida Keys a lot and collect some. But I also find stuff washed up on the beach where I live near the Gulf of Mexico in SW Florida. Some things can survive for quite a while out of the water but still in a wet environment like a puddle or a wet sponge! The shallow tank ended up with a lot of stuff I couldn't safely put in my 120g DT. BTW stone crabs and blue crabs do grow fast and are serious carnivores. I had a stone crab grow from just a tiny 1/2" baby up to a 3" monster who would eat most anything but the Hawaiian reef lobster!

There are stories about my beach walks and snorkeling in the link down in my signature. Would love to have you join in the discussion!

PC050028 R1.jpg
 
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Island Reef 242

Island Reef 242

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Hi Ron, thanks for stopping by. I have read your threads, very educational and entertaining. Some of the photos from your trips to the keys look very similar to what I see here in the Bahamas. I will absolutely add to your Snorkeling and Collecting thread as soon as I go back in the water, it is a bit cold right now, will have to see if my wet suit still fits.
 
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Island Reef 242

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Update on the last two weeks.

20/2/19 - Caught a small Sergeant Major fish. Damsel is chasing and nipping at him, I am a little worried cause he is so small.

22/2/19 - The white sea egg has eaten all macro algae and started eating the roots of my mangrove, so I put in some sargassum seaweed and he started devouring it. I also added a couple small whelks and bloody tooth snails, lets see how long they stay in the tank.

Yum.jpg

Yum
Tower of snails.jpg

The leaning Tower of Snail


24/2/19 - Went to Rose Island with the family today (a small island about 5 miles of off Nassau with the best beach around). There is a reef literally 20 feet off the beach. I got two rocks covered in coralline algae, a turbo snail, a lettuce sea slug, and a bunch of very small fry as a treat for the fish. The damsel has stopped chasing the Sergeant Major, and the whelks and bloody tooth snails keep climbing out of the tank like expected, will probably through them back.

Lettus eating lettus.jpg

Lettuce eating Lettuce
trubo.jpg

Turbo
Tag your it.jpg

Tag, your it !


25/2/19 - Brian Bethel came over. It was to rough to go snorkeling so we checked the tide pools and shore line for things to put in our tank. I got a rock flour anemone, some more macro algae, a snail or two, and a chiton (we call them Curbs, they make a good salad). I also got a urchin with purple spines, as soon as he went in the tank he covered himself in small rocks.

Hide & seek.jpg

Hide and Seek
snack.jpg

Thanks for the snack Daddy


26/2/19 - Before the curb could reattach to the rock the blue crab got him and made a quick meal. The anemone is attached and moving around a bit, will get a pic when he is comfortable enough to open up.

28/2/19 - Went out snorkeling and got a bunch of cool stuff, but thats for another post

Stay tuned, will be back soon with another update,
Chris
 
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Island Reef 242

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29/2/19 – Went snorkeling, got a couple turbo snails, feather dusters, branching coralline algae, a small finger coral, and a small rose coral to see how they do.

FTS side.jpg

FTS from side, or front, depending on where you sit.

2/3/19 – Went to Rose island. Collected a slate pencil urchin and some type of reef urchin. I now have 5 different types of urchin in my tank. I also got a brittle star, 2 juvenile blue headed wrasses, a Caribbean cleaner goby, a red lipped blenny, a bunch of baby shrimp for fish food, and a small piece of mustard hill coral.

Collection bucket 2:3:19.jpg

Collection bucket

I have noticed my turbo snails were dissipearing, thought it was the blue crab or hermits, cause they are now wearing the snails shells. But I found my other snails were eating them. My lettuce sea slug has gone missing, I think he was eaten.

Snail on Snail.jpg

Snail eating snail.

4/3/19 – Feather dusters not looking to well. I have not seen the big RFA fully open yet, but the baby one looks great. Did a 3.5g water change to see if it will help.

Baby RFA.jpg

Baby RFA.

5/3/19 – Brian gave me a med size RFA. Have not seen the cleaner goby since I put him in.

RFA & Mustard Hill.jpg

RFA and Mustard Hill coral.

7/3/19 – Did some tests and found Ammonia is high and my Nitrates are way off the charts. I assume this is from all the dead snails, lettuce sea slug and possible die off from live rock. I took the feather dusters and rose coral out and put them back in the ocean cause they were not looking well. Then I did 3 consecutive 3.5g water changes while siphoning up as much detritus as I could. During this my large RFA opened up fully, I guess he was trying to catch some of the detritus or he just liked the fresh NSW. I also removed the killer snails.

Tes 7:3:19.jpg

Water change.jpg

RFA 2.jpg

Big RFA enjoying the water change.

8/3/19 – Tested the Nitrates again and they are around 40ppm which is still very high, but is a lot better than before. Will do another test and water change next week. All fish look good, Blenny is coming out more. I have not seen him eat pellets, but he is nibbling on rocks when I feed other fish. Finger and Mustard Hill coral are looking ok, more PE on finger.

FTS March 19.jpg

FTS, sorry about the glare.

Until next time,
Chris
 
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Island Reef 242

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Look what i found :eek:

Mantis.jpg

A Mantis Shrimp ;Blackeye

Yesterday was the first time i saw him, and he is already 2.5" long. Maybe he/she is responsible for some of my missing inhabitants. I was blaming the blue crab for their disappearance but now he is also MIA. You will be missed Blue Crab, he was my wife's favorite inhabitant. I have made a trap out of a 12oz water bottle and put some fish food and a crushed snail in it. As of this morning I have only caught a hermit crab. Hopefully i will get him before he dose any more damage.

Chris
 
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Island Reef 242

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Hello all, it has been a while since i have updated this thread and a lot has happened so i will try to make this quick.

I caught the mantis shrimp and removed him, the trap did not work.

Have done 2 more 50% water changes. Have not tested in a while, but everything looks ok, PE could be better on corals.

The Cleaner Goby jumped out. The Red Lipped Blenny refused to eat, so I had to let him go :( it was the first time I ever caught one. Before I let him go he started picking on the other goby, to the point where he jumped out.

The sea urchins keep knocking down the corals and rocks, might have to glue them down. The rocks, not the urchins ;Hilarious

The branching coralline algae has been dying off and disappearing, I think the pencil urchin is eating it o_O

The larger blue headed wrasse started to bully the smaller one, now he is missing. I think he grew wings and flew away.

I have some really nice pieces of rock that I want to eventually put in my 75g, which I am still putting together. I want to start curing the rocks because they have been out of the water since last summer. So I did it the natural way, I swam out to the reef closest to me and through them in a cave. The Queen Angel that was there at the time was not to pleased ;Meh

Mar Cure.jpg

The way I cure my rocks ;)

This past weekend I added an orange colored RFA that i found. I have been feeding the other ones cut up curbs once or twice a week and they are doing fine. I also added a green banded goby, what I think is a dash goby, and a small surgeon fish. I also found some small bivalves (mussels) in a tide pool. And what appear to be some type of small zoanthids. I just through them in the tank for now. Will try and glue them down when I get some super glue, if i can find them o_O. Will post pictures later.

I am going to try and be better at posting. Not only do I want to share my experiences with you all, I also want this to be like a diary that I can look back on and learn from.

Until next time,
Chris
 
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Island Reef 242

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I did a 50% water change yesterday, the anemones love water changes.

4:17:19 Zoas 1.jpg

Some cool zoas I found.

4:17:19 ?zoas?.jpg

Unknown zoas (I think). I had to glue them down.

4:17:19 surgen & green stripe.jpg

New fish. Bad photo.

4:17:19 Blenny?.jpg

Some type of blenny I found in a tide pool out west.

4:17:19 Reef Urchin.jpg

My reef unchin cleaning the power head. Good photo.
 
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Island Reef 242

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Well, another month has passed and lots of changes have happened, again. Two weeks ago i did a test and my Nitrates where very high, so I did a 50% water change and cleaned out filters. I only have 3 fish left, the damsel which has been with me from the beginning, the sergeant major, and the green stripe goby. The white sea urchin must have died and was cleaned out in 24 hours leaving nothing but its pure white shell. I couldn't even find one of its spines in the sand. My clean up crew is a beast.

Yesterday I went to do a water change and ended up cleaning out the whole aquarium.

I started by cleaning the glass. I have never had a problem with algae, only get a light film on the glass about once a week.

Then I proceeded to take out all the live rock with coral on it. The RFA's, Zoa's, and stony corals. I decided to release the stony corals, the finger and mustard hill ones. I have not had much luck getting them to thrive. The RFA's are doing fine, but only come fully out at night. And the Zoa's are doing great. The dark mustardy color ones have encrusted on the rock and are multiplying, I think these are a type of Palythoas. The neon green Zoa's are doing fine, when they can stay in one place. I have had to re-glue them 3 times.

I then took out the base rock and caught the fish, hermit crabs, snails, sea urchins, and any brittle stars I could find. I put them all in different jugs.

Process 2.jpg

First jug, RFA's and coral. Second jug, some live rock, snails, and fish. Third jug, Urchins, hermit crabs, and brittle stars.

After everything was out I stirred up the sand and the tank went extremely cloudy. Needless to say the sand was full of detritus. Every time I do a water change I blast the rocks and top layer of sand with a turkey baster. I guess I have to do more next time. I then syphoned out the cloudy water whilst stirring it up till all the water was out. Then I poured about 4 gal of NSW in and stirred it up again and syphoned it all out. This was the first time I have ever cleaned my sand bed. Even though I was a bit rough with it, afterwords, I still found a few worms, bristle worms, small brittle stars, and amphipods crawling through the tossed up sand. Which, by the way is a mix between fine sand and coral rubble.

Process.jpg

Everything out of the tank. Base rock on towel. Live rock with coral, fish, and all other living things I could catch in jugs.
The white, urchin skeleton on the towel is all thats left of the white sea urchin :(

I filled up the tank with fresh NSW and went to rescapeing. I had to re-attach some zoa's and paly's that I found mingling around the bottom of the tank. The RFA's came out in full bloom during the whole process, which they do whenever I mess with the tank, trying to grab anything passing by, including my fingers.

Released.jpg

Time served.

I decided to only put half the hermit crabs back in the tank, 7 of the smallest ones. I feel there were to many, and they kept knocking rocks and corals off. I also decided to let the purple-ish sea urchin go, I don't think there is enough food for him, and don't want him to end up like the white urchin. The large black brittle starfish is going as well, I have enough of them already.

After everything was back in and I was pleased with the aquascaping, I turned the filter back on and the tank looked brand new. It only took me 2 hours with my 2 year old son helping me.

Right side.jpg

Right side of tank.

Left side.jpg

Left side of tank.

Full tank shot.jpg

Full Tank Shot.

unknown Hermit.jpg

Unknown species of hermit. I do believe I have seen this same type before, but very large. He enjoys salad.

!!!UPDATE!!!

After a couple hours I went to check on the tank and came across an epic, life or death, battle of Tug-o-war. Somehow the hermit crabs shell was stripped off, and even though the damsel was picking at him and the RFA had him by the leg, he still managed to escape and crawl into the rock work. I hope he manages to find another shell soon.

Tug O War.jpg

What do you say when you stare death in the face ... "not today".

What I have learned this past month.

I need to clean the filter more than every time I do a water change. This, I believe, is the main reason for the high Nitrates.

I also need to stir/clean the sand more often.

I am doing well with the soft corals, but will wait a bit till I add some hard ones again. At least until I get my chemistry stable, and I am more disciplined in my maintenance schedule.

Until next time,
Chris
 
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Island Reef 242

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Well, my tank is a little over 6 months old now, and everything seems to be doing good. Over the last two weeks I have added a few new things, see pictures below.

Neem.jpg

A very cool Branching Anemone, he has moved around a lot. I have seen large ones, about 9 inches in diameter, hidden deep in reefs. Was lucky to find this small one on the edge of a small rock on just off of the reef.

encrusting zoa.jpg

Encrusting Zoas. Found them growing on the rocky sea floor. They stayed mostly closed up the first week, now they are open all the time.

piggy back.jpg

Got this Spotted cleaner shrimp off a giant anemone. In this pic she is holding on to the exoskeleton of a crab that just molted.

2 fish.jpg

Caught these two, a cleaner goby and a juvenile yellow head wrass, off a reef near Rose island. They both disappeared shortly after I put them in the tank. The Yellow head wrass showed up to eat two days later. I still have not seen the Goby.

mush:ric?.jpg

My new favorite coral, some type of Ricordea. It has a greenish glow to it. Isnt it amazing how the UV spectrum can bring out colors that otherwise would not be seen. By the way, I have a Kessil A360WE Tuna Blue over this 10 gal tank, it hangs about 15 inches above the water and is only on 50% intensity and color. If anyone has a recommended intensity and color level for my tank, please let me know. So far everything seems to be happy.

The only other change I did was take out the Damsel fish and set him free. He was one of my first fish, but he was a bully and I blame him for some of my fish jumping out. I have also made a screen top, cause now the Sergeant Major and the Green Stripe Goby are trying to act like bullies.

Oh ya, I was able to catch some amphipods (like 100) with a very fine net they were floating around the reef. And when I was at the beach, the sea was extremely calm, I dug a hole in the sand right along the water line. And found a bunch of copepods swimming in the pool I had made. I put both in my tank hoping they will survive and possibly reproduce. Will have to check at night time to see if i can find any left.

It has been three weeks since I have done a water change or tested for anything, but everything is looking great. I will leave you with a few more pics.

open wide.jpg

This is the widest I have ever seen them open :)

FTS 7:6:19.jpg

Full Tank Shot first thing in the morning. Not everyone is awake yet, and some will be going to sleep soon.

Until next time,
Chris
 
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Island Reef 242

Island Reef 242

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Wow this is neat don't mind if I follow along. This makes me wish I lived near a beach.

Thanks for joining this crazy ride, it has its ups and downs. It is nice to be able to catch stuff for my tank right outside in my backyard. The tricky part is finding animals and species that can coexist in a small glass box.
 

Ron Reefman

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Chris, I posted here back when you were first starting and then I forgot to follow along. Now I just got all caught up and I'll stay tuned in. I see you keep having issues with nitrates getting really high. Since you have easy access to NSW, you should try to do more frequent and smaller (just to make them easier to do) water changes. I too have collected green zoas and tan palys in the Keys. I think if you keep the nitrate level down they will open up for you a lot more. BTW, I have some green zoas I collected and I placed them up high on my rocks under the led fixture. In a couple of weeks they morphed from green with wagon wheel like brown 'spokes' to be a smooth and solid sky blue!

Oh, and the stony coral I think you call mustard hill coral looks a lot like one we see that we call golf ball coral. I think the reason that coral in particular didn't do well in your tank is because it doesn't have any zooxanthellae (algae) inside the polyps so there is no photosynthesis to help feed the coral. Most non-photosynthetic corals are very difficult to keep in a reef tank. They require heavy feeding, usually spot feeding, and at the correct time of day (or night) when the polyps are out. I haven't tried keeping one because all stony coral and all live rock collecting is illegal here in Florida.
 
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Island Reef 242

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When I grow up I definitely want to learn to scuba dive.

Scuba diving is awesome, it takes you one step closer to feeling like you are apart of the underwater world. I was certified when I was 14. But honestly I have not gone in over 6 years o_O. It is just much easier to go free-diving.

fun little tank! keep the updates coming :D

Thanks, will do :).
 
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Island Reef 242

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Chris, I posted here back when you were first starting and then I forgot to follow along. Now I just got all caught up and I'll stay tuned in. I see you keep having issues with nitrates getting really high. Since you have easy access to NSW, you should try to do more frequent and smaller (just to make them easier to do) water changes. I too have collected green zoas and tan palys in the Keys. I think if you keep the nitrate level down they will open up for you a lot more. BTW, I have some green zoas I collected and I placed them up high on my rocks under the led fixture. In a couple of weeks they morphed from green with wagon wheel like brown 'spokes' to be a smooth and solid sky blue!

Oh, and the stony coral I think you call mustard hill coral looks a lot like one we see that we call golf ball coral. I think the reason that coral in particular didn't do well in your tank is because it doesn't have any zooxanthellae (algae) inside the polyps so there is no photosynthesis to help feed the coral. Most non-photosynthetic corals are very difficult to keep in a reef tank. They require heavy feeding, usually spot feeding, and at the correct time of day (or night) when the polyps are out. I haven't tried keeping one because all stony coral and all live rock collecting is illegal here in Florida.

Thanks for the advice and suggestions Ron. Ya, more water changes will help. I also found that i needed to rinse out the filter media in my HOB filter more often, which is just some filter floss on the inside and a sponge on the intake. Those become nutrient sinks very quickly ;Vomit. Will have to try what you suggested with the green Zoas ;). I am not to sure on the name of all the corals I find, will usually look online to find the closest one. Once I get things a little more stable I will try the "mustard hill" coral again. I am also going to try and make up my own frozen food from mollusks, fish, seaweed, and other things. I would like to keep more filter feeding animals like feather dusters and flame scollops, which are all over the place here, but need to find something they like to eat. All I have to feed the tank now is some pellets that I brought back from the US. The fish store down here dose not sell saltwater fish food any more :(.
 

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@Island Reef 242 - Nice thread. I love how it’s built directly from the ocean. I pulled some rocks and used ocean water for my tanks cycling. Can’t say I regret anything about doing that.

My question is: have you ever ran across parasites like velvet, ich, brook, etc? Curious to know if an all-ocean tank can sustain itself better than a tank built from a LFS.
 

Ron Reefman

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@Island Reef 242 - Nice thread. I love how it’s built directly from the ocean. I pulled some rocks and used ocean water for my tanks cycling. Can’t say I regret anything about doing that.

My question is: have you ever ran across parasites like velvet, ich, brook, etc? Curious to know if an all-ocean tank can sustain itself better than a tank built from a LFS.

ScottR, I've been collecting animals from the Gulf of Mexico and down around the Florida Keys almost since I started in this hobby 15 years ago and I've never had any parasites at all. I don't collect many fish at all (too hard to catch). But the few I have collected never brought anything into the tank and I don't really quarantine. I have a small tank I keep new stock in for a few days to watch and acclimate them, but I don't use any 'treatments' in the water. Just water changes. IMHO< fish and other sealife that gets collected and shipped is more likely to have issues due to being under stress for a much longer period of time.

But that's just my opinion based on my limited experience. Other's mileage may vary! ;)

@Island Reed 242, just a note for you. We will be going snorkeling in the Keys this weekend. I'll be doing a lot of updates and photos in my 'Snorkeling & Collecting Discussion Group'. For anybody who is interested, there is a link to it in my signature below.
 
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