Chesapeake Bay Oyster Reef Biotope Tank

Discussion in 'Member Tanks' started by Chasmodes, Apr 28, 2017.

  1. Chasmodes

    Chasmodes Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

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    Hi everyone.

    I have a build thread already, but I guess I should have posted my build in this forum. I don't have much to update since my last post on the other thread except that I'm ready to buy my equipment. Yeah, I've said that before, but, this time it's a go. I'll have everything for my build ordered in the next 2 weeks. I guess since I'll be updating 2 threads, so, here it goes:

    I have been planning and working on this tank several years until funds became short. I'm in a position now that I can resume this build. It is my dream tank using locally collected species, but I'm trying to duplicate as close as possible an Oyster Reef biotope.

    Concept:
    One of my dreams was to duplicate the oyster reef environment of the Chesapeake Bay as best I can without predation. I had a tank and sump built for this a several years back, and almost finished a stand but personal troubles in my life have caused me some delay. The tank is a 101 gallon cube (36"X36"X18"), and the sump/refugium is 36"X18"17". The tank and sump will have live sand from the Chesapeake Bay. I'm shopping for an inexpensive LED that will duplicate lunar cycles, daylight and nighttime lighting transitions and seasonal variances in an attempt to induce spawning behavior. I will not be growing photosynthetic corals in this tank.

    Right now, this will be a fish only tank until the tank is established, then I hope to add a few oysters and perhaps mussels, tunicates, sponges, gorgonians etc. although I realize that I'd have to find some way to supplement feeding. The sump will contain macro algae found in the Bay.

    Animals will be collected from the Bay that live side by side in this environment:
    • Several striped blennies (Chasmodes bosquianus) - striped blenny which will be the feature fish of this tank
    • Hysoblennius hentzi - feather blenny if I'm lucky enough to catch any
    • Naked goby
    • Skilletfish
    • Hogchoker
    • Northern pipefish (will live in the fuge but not until the tank is established)
    • Ghost shrimp, hermit crabs, snails, etc. for clean up crew that live in the Bay, both in the tank and sump
    • just about any critter that comes in on the rocks (fish will not be introduced for 6 weeks after the tank cycles)
    • I may try my luck at some of the other species of fish too eventually, maybe even a spotfin butterfly fish if I'm lucky. Eventually, I'll bring the tank to nearly full salt, but it will be on the saltier side of brackish to start
    Biological Filtration:
    I'll attempt another reefkeeping technique, live rock. However, the rock in my area of the bay typically is composed of clay and is of no biological use. So, my goal is to collect or plant cinder blocks or artificially made live rock (cement based) and build the oyster reef on that foundation. Using Bay substrate and rock when possible will help establish the biological filtration of the tank quickly, so maybe not much cycling involved. This will also bring in some other animals to the tank that hopefully will survive the early days of the tank.

    Ecological Simulation:
    The Chesapeake bay is brackish and the salinity varies based on rainfall and runoff, but these fish have bred in captivity with a specific of 1.015 or so. Temperatures range from winter cold to brutally warm in the shallows of the bay, yet all of these fish thrive in this environment. Chasmodes bosquianus and the other fish are also found in Florida waters, so I don't think that temperature is an issue. Water parameters in the Chesapeake are constanty changing too, making it tough for sensitive species to thrive there. These fish live all year long with temperatures fluctuating from 40's to even upper 80's and salinity ranging from near fresh water to near ocean salinity in the Bay. Even the invertebrate species found in this biotope have to endure severe fluctuations.

    Lighting:
    I'm looking for an LED fixture that will also grow macroalgae if I decide to keep it in the display. At one point, I was looking at the AquaticLife Edge, but am now leaning toward an AquaIllumination Hydra 52 HD. Either way, my goal is to simulate as best as possible moonlight phases and seasonal lighting photo periods to try and induce spawning behavior, so I'm looking for a light that could do that automatically.

    Water Quality:
    The sump will be used to cultivate macro algae for nutrient export along with my version of live rock. I think that most of the invertebrates will be hydroids, hardy anemones, tunicates, oysters, barnacles and mussels, and other filter feeders, but the early stages of the tank probably won't have any of those. Eventually I may use supplemental planktonic feed once the filter feeders are introduced. These inverts don't need as much light. In addition, the bay waters are pretty much mostly murky and filled with nutrients (both natural and, unfortunately, man introduced). Of course, frequent testing and water changes will be in my regimen to make sure that things go well. My main concern isn't so much the inverts here, but getting these fish to breed and thrive. If the biotope works out and I can keep all of these critters successfully, then so much the better Also, my other concerns include making sure that the life in the tank benefits from the amounts of nutrients at any given time (and I will have to chart and monitor what levels are best), at the same time having water clarity good enough to study the inhabitants. Top off water will come via using an RO/DI unit.

    Current:
    Another thing that I'd like to simulate is the tide and water movements, not lowering the water but currents. I'm leaning toward using a Maxspect Gyre. Not only will this help keep the critters feeling at home, frequent current and no dead zones in the tank should help with algae control. There are plenty of algae eating snails and probably hermit crabs too in the bay. I can keep them well stocked in my tank. They should be easy to collect. Hopefully, the fish will leave them alone.

    Other issues:
    In addition to placing DIY rock in the bay, I think that I can also make a basket/milk crate and fill it with oyster shells to collect animals. I'll have permission and two good locations to place these. The oyster shell basket will allow me to easily collect greater numbers of blennies, much more than the netting techniques that I've been using. I may also get more species diversity this way, including invertebrates.

    Another issue surrounds the collection of oysters. In Maryland, I have to be careful to collect in designated areas. Even though they aren't for consumption, I need to make sure that I'm compliant with local laws which change frequently. Another option would be to buy some fresh oysters directly from a waterman, right off the boat. It will cost me some money, but at least I'd know that I'm legal.

    I think that in this system there may not be a wrong way to do it simply because these animals are so hardy. That said, I'd like to find a successful system and give these animals optimal conditions... This system won't have the color and beauty of a reef, but it will have it's own appeal. Actually, the male striped blenny gets extremely colorful during spawning! If that happens then I'll know I'm on the right track.

    The creation of this biotope is a goal, but having an accurate and complete one might be out of the question. The blennies are the feature fish, so those will be my main concern, and that is creating a good breeding habitat with the simulation of an accurate biotope.

    I have no idea what problems I will encounter. Algae blooms are a primary concern, also perhaps parasitism... I have a QT system already in place, so maybe that will help.

    Here are some pics of my build so far:

    Tank
    [​IMG]

    Sump
    [​IMG]

    I need to finish my stand, but that shouldn't take long. The only reason that has taken so long to finish is that I've been procrastinating and using it as a workbench for my FW project.

    I've completed the oyster cultches and reef part of the aquascaping. Below is a pic and a video. This is resting on the left side of my stand, which LxW is the same size as the tank. The measuring tape in the back is the height of the tank.
    [​IMG]


    I basically built each cultch (cluster of oysters) by matching left and right halves of oysters and gluing the halves together, then gluing the whole oysters into a cultch. Then, the aquascape is made by arranging the cultches to get the desired location.

    I also created open oysters with gaps so the fish could use them as breeding or hiding places, gapping them to their preferred gaps (yes, there was a study that determined these). I set preferred gaps for both the blennies and gobies.

    Until my order arrives, I'll be collecting my plumbing parts.

    I'm also building a FW US native local river tank (darters, minnows, shiners, etc.) at the same time, but that will be up and running sooner as I have most of the equipment. One of my holdups to moving forward with my oyster reef tank (other than lack of cash or lack of free time) was that I'm making a DIY rock foam rock wall 3D background and roots for that tank, and my unfinished stand for my oyster reef tank makes for a perfect work bench, LOL. For those that are interested, that build can be found on the NANFA forum, but here's a pic of the background so far (I'm working on the roots, but so far just the frame of those is done, not very pretty yet):
    [​IMG]

    Thanks for following.
     
    Bribri21, Paul B, Ergodyne and 4 others like this.

  2. jsker

    jsker Reefing is all about the adventure R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Leader Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    Great concept on the aquascape
     
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  3. jhaun0211

    jhaun0211 Well-Known Member

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    Steamed or on the half shell?
     
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  4. Bradley Crocker

    Bradley Crocker Well-Known Member

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    Very unique. I like it!
     
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  5. Mike N

    Mike N Well-Known Member R2R Supporter

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    Very interesting and thorough build plan. Thanks for sharing
     
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  6. Chasmodes

    Chasmodes Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

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    Thank you everyone.

    Well, I finally have an update. I've ordered most of my equipment except plumbing supplies and should have them within a week or so.
    • Current: Maxspect XF230 Gyre Generator Flow Pump with Advanced Controller
    • Return Pump: Sicce Syncra Silent 3.0 Multifunction Aquarium Pump (714 GPH)
    • Lighting: EcoTech Marine Radion XR30w G4 Pro LED Light Fixture
    • New test kits
    • RO/DI five stage from The Filter Guys
     
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  7. Chasmodes

    Chasmodes Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

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    All of my stuff that was in stock when I ordered it came in the last couple days, so I'm very excited.

    I need to finish up my other build this weekend, at least the part that I'm using my stand as a work bench for LOL, so I can finish the stand. My old miter saw is junk now, so I need to go out and buy a new one so I can finish the face frame of my stand. I also need to add my laminate to finish the look of the stand.

    I also need to build my water changing station and make room in my basement for the final placement of everything. I'll need to make a hole in my wall between the rec room and the basement for my plumbing, etc.. That might freak my wife out a bit. ;Vamp :eek:

    There was one item that was out of stock, but perhaps I'll get it within a month, which won't hold up anything. If I can't get it from my vendor, then I'll search for an alternative. It's really not a big deal.

    So, making room in my basement will not be an easy task. I have to clean off my current "real" work bench and relocate it, clean off an entire heavy duty shelf of plastic storage containers and relocate it, relocate 2 smaller shelves and all of that stuff, do a ton of laundry to turn the dirty laundry mountain into a managable foothill, and build a stand for my changing station.

    I was planning on making my water changing station totally gravity fed, but I think that I'm going to bite the bullet and buy a pump simply because it will save space, which is at a premium in my basement.

    Who says you can't move mountains? It's possible, as long as it's only laundry o_O

    I also received a new dipnet called "The Perfect Dipnet", which is probably the most durable dipnet that you can buy. I'll be ready to stock this tank big time.
     
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  8. Shep

    Shep Acan Connoisseur Staff Member Team R2R R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Photo of the Month Award

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    Woo! glad to see some update!
     
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  9. happyhourhero

    happyhourhero Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

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    Along for the ride...
     
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  10. mdbannister

    mdbannister Ahh...the Reef Life Staff Member Team R2R R2R Excellence Award SCMAS Member Build Thread Contributor Article Contributor Partner Member 2018

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    Cool! Following!
     
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  11. tyler1503

    tyler1503 Well-Known Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Reef Squad Article Contributor

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    I'll be watching this one!
     
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  12. Uwharrie

    Uwharrie Well-Known Member

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    Really cool
     
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  13. tamama

    tamama Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Reef Spotlight Award

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    First tank using oyster scaping.
     
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  14. Bdrake

    Bdrake Member

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    These are my favorite types of builds. Planning a Florida Gulf reef in the future
     
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  15. Tristren

    Tristren Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

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    Very interesting.
     
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  16. mmw64

    mmw64 Well-Known Member

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    Following
     
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  17. Chasmodes

    Chasmodes Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

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    Well, I've begun collecting fish and inverts for my oyster reef tank. The only problem is that I have work to do on my stand and a lack of time to do it, especially if I'm out collecting critters. I only have so much free time! So, it might be later this fall before I finally get to finish the tank, mostly because my weekends are booked. But also, it's collecting time, the fish are there, and I want them when my tank is ready and cycled.

    So, what I've done is set up and cycled a 20 gallon long version of my reef, with a few of my smaller oyster cultches in there and...fish! I just couldn't wait any more. Now, I have a temporary holding tank that I can enjoy my new fish while I set the big tank up properly. I'm very excited because, up until yesterday, all I had in there were 5 juvenile naked gobies (Gobiosoma bosc) and a small grass shrimp. Yesterday, I went collecting and found a couple juvenile striped blennies (Chasmodes bosquianus) and three skilletfish (Gobiesox strumosus) and added them to my tank. I also added some Ulva sp. macroalgae and some razor clam shells that were prevalent at my collection site.

    The tank looks great, but eventually everything in here will be transferred to the main tank. I'm not sure what I'll do with this tank, maybe either a seahorse/pipefish tank or perhaps a stickleback tank. I also have a 20 gallon high tank cycling now that I may use as a future holding tank.

    OK, enough chit chat, here are some pics:

    Full tank shot, striped blenny in the right foreground:
    [​IMG]

    A striped blenny (right) in a showdown with a naked goby (left):
    [​IMG]

    A naked goby taking up residence under an oyster shell:
    [​IMG]

    I also have a couple videos that I'll share in my next post.
     
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  18. Chasmodes

    Chasmodes Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

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    Here are a few videos from my tank:

    Naked gobies (Gobiosoma bosc) fighting over an oyster shell. It's a test of the nerves, who can do more impressive "push ups" while opening their mouths, flaring their gills and making themselves look bigger. That is, until one gets fed up and chases the other off:


    A very quick view of the smaller striped blenny (Chasmodes bosquianus) ducking for cover. Watch closely because he's quick!


    The larger of my two striped blennies checking out the right side of my tank:
     
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  19. Tristren

    Tristren Well-Known Member Build Thread Contributor

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    The mini tank already looks like a lot of fun. Can't wait to see the full setup.
     
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  20. beastium

    beastium Well-Known Member

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    New idea love it
     
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