Chris's 5.5 Gallon Pico Pest Reef!

ChrissFishes01

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Hey guys!

So, I recently had a disaster in my hobby. My apartment had to be treated for pests, and I was required to remove all of my tanks from the apartment during treatment. During this time, I ended up losing about half of my livestock - including my beloved Peacock Mantis Shrimp.


I do really miss having a mantis shrimp - they such cool little creatures. Very interactive, inquisitive, and always getting into some sort of trouble in the tank. Reminds me of my puffers, in some ways! But I don't think I want another peacock right now - I want to try a different species. One I've had my eye on for quite a while.

The Wennerae Mantis, Neogonodactylus wennerae!

These guys max out at around 3", and are perfectly suited to small tanks. They're smashers (meaning they have modified claws to break open shellfish), just like my peacock was, but with much less power. These guys are able to hunt down crabs, shrimp, and snails, but are going to struggle to crack open anything with a thick shell.

I went to my LFS today, and picked up a 5.5 gallon Seapora glass tank for $16.99. It's a nice tank for the price - Seapora makes nice stuff, IMO. I rinsed it out, just to get any dust out of it, and this was it.


Next, I decided to paint the back black, since the tank wasn't going right up against a wall. I taped off the rim of the tank with duct tape, cause that's all I had lol.


I just use some Krylon Black Acrylic paint and a roller for this. I prefer spray painting but I don't have an area to do that here, so rolling paint on is the best I can do. It looks fine from the front side of the tank, but usually looks kind of "meh" from the back.


I did three coats total, which got me a decently opaque surface. This is what the tank looked like, pre-fill:


I added some sand from the Peacock Mantis tank, which has long been dried, but not cleaned. I'm hoping all that dead gunk in the sand will help get us a strong cycle in this tank. Whenever I filled it the first time, I ended up getting milk, basically. Gotta love aragonite.


I had just used plain freshwater to fill that time, though, so I drained the tank and added in the rock. I'm using a piece of marco dry rock that I had from a previous tank, a piece of well-seasoned rock that's got some life already on it (although, not much algae due to being in a bucket), and a piece of rock I got from the LFS.

Whenever I refilled the tank (with saltwater this time) I was careful to do it slowly to minimize cloudiness. The powerhead I bought (Aquatop MCP-1) was way too strong for this tank, and was blowing water around. So, I pulled my Koralia Nano 240 out of my 10 gallon QT, and switched them around. Each tank is better off, I think. Then, I tossed in a preset heater and a thermometer, and we're off to the races!


If you noticed the three chonky Aiptasia on the piece of rock on the left, good job! They're our first inhabitants for this tank. I'm going to be keeping a variety of "pests", and when I saw this rock in the store, I knew I had to have it. The LFS lady offered to kill them off the rock for me, but I told her I wanted them. She thought I was crazy! It also has a healthy helping of red slime, and lots of little pods and feather dusters on it.


Believe it or not, despite me owning several marine aquariums, I've never actually had these guys, and I've always been intrigued. I know that they're basically the devil, but that's kind of the point of this tank, right? Now, if I could only find someone who had Majanos...

The other piece of live rock (on the right) I chose because it's covered in these micro feather dusters. Not a pest by any means, and I love having them in my tanks. However, they do reproduce like crazy, and I figured they fit the theme fairly well. Plus, it's always fun to see where they pop up next! You can see some old, dead tubes on the piece of dry marco rock in the middle from it's last tank deployment.


I'm hoping to find some Majanos, but haven't had luck so far. I think they're gorgeous, personally. I'm also thinking some Yellow Polyps, Brown Palys, Caulerpa Prolifera, Caulerpa Racemosa, and maybe some other fast-growing macros might find a good home here. I'm always open to suggestions, too!

I'll be removing the rock scape and adding in some PVC tunnels for the mantis in a week or so. I didn't think about it until the tank was already wet. Oops.

 
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ChrissFishes01

ChrissFishes01

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I'm sorry for your loss! This new start is really cool though. I'm really interested to see how this tank progess because I want to do something similar in my next build.
Thanks! I'm enjoying it so far. The Aiptasia are kinda cool to watch, actually. Lots of movement.

On another forum, someone made the point that the Aiptasia are likely to eventually take over the tank. That is the point. I'm personally not a big fan of manicured scapes - to each their own, they look nice, but they're not for me. I'm simply stocking this tank and maintaining water quality, and leaving the rest to the inhabitants. If the Aiptasia begin to wipe out a coral, I'll simply frag the coral (if I want to keep it somewhere else), treat it for aiptasia in QT, and let the Aiptasia wipe it out in this tank. If I end up with an Aiptasia Garden and a mantis, so be it.

The big guy up-front is enjoying the little bit of natural sunlight this tank gets.

 
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ChrissFishes01

ChrissFishes01

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Alrighty, just placed an order from Reef Cleaners for:

Brown Button Polyps
25 Assorted Hermits
10 Dwarf Ceriths
5 Nerites
10 Zig Zag Periwinkles
Pencil Cap Macro
Caulerpa Mexicana
Cactus Caulerpa

Not all of this is going into this tank, but a few hermits, snails, button polyps, and the two Caulerpa species definitely will be.
 
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ChrissFishes01

ChrissFishes01

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Noticed a few things in the tank today.

For one, I'm starting to get the lightest patches of diatoms around the tank. To be expected, for sure. Another pest, I guess?

For two, the red slime has spread overnight. I'm now seeing long strands of it coating things in the tank. You can see it in between these feather dusters:

FD cropped.JPG


For three, I'm seeing more and more pods in here. At any one time, I can look into the tank and find one within seconds. A great sign! They look to be of the non-coral eating variety, so that's good. I'm also seeing some other hitchhikers - namely, little tiny white worms that have appeared all over the tank. They're not flatworms, but are more like white spaghetti worms. Strange! I haven't been able to get a pic yet - they're teeny.

And, finally, the Aiptasia are getting bigger and are gaining a tiny bit of yellow around their mouths. This guy in the back in particular has gotten huge:

Aiptasia.JPG


That was with the pump off - when it's on, his arms stretch a good 4" across that rock. I'm glad I got a species with at least a little color and long, flowy tentacles! Some of them are short, stubby, and brown/translucent. Not as fun to look at.

Oh, and I fed one a piece of mysis shrimp. I recorded it, but I think I'm going to gather footage throughout the week and post it all together on the weekends, to avoid unnecessary links. Here he is with his tentacles in his mouth, though!

Aiptasia Eating.JPG
 
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ChrissFishes01

ChrissFishes01

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i cant send some meadowlands leaches
That would truly make it a horror-themed tank, lol!

Huh. Are you sure the single strands in the pic are slime? The little red dots in the string make me wonder. :)
I'm fairly positive - it's begun to cover the pump and there are several strings around the tank. Definitely looks like slimy cyano to me! What were you thinking it might be?
 
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ChrissFishes01

ChrissFishes01

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@HarrisonAquatics With that awesome rock you got, I was thinking along critter lines. 'Course, when I had cyano, I never looked at it that close! ;Joyful
It has that same odd consistency that cyano does! Plus, it all started spreading around at once, making me think it's probably just slime!
 
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ChrissFishes01

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The Aiptasia are looking a bit unhappy tonight - the guy in the back is open, but not as open as he has been. Water tests fine, and I mean, they're aiptasia, so what would they care anyway?
Aiptasia.JPG


I did find this tiny guy on the sandbed, and he looks like a tiny aiptasia:
Aiptasia 1.jpg


I know aiptasia can reproduce as hermaphrodites, but can they also reproduce sexually with eachother? If so, that might make sense as to why they're all closed up.
 
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ChrissFishes01

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I got my Reef Cleaner's order in yesterday! Everything came in healthy, and it seems even the macros had minimal shipping die-off.

As usual, the box looks like it got thrown out of the mail truck as it sped by:
Box - Copy.jpg


Inside, I found a cold pack and an insulated bag:
Box 2 - Copy.jpg


Hermit Crabs:
Crabs - Copy.jpg


Cactus Caulerpa:
Cactus - Copy.jpg


Caulerpa Mexicana:
Mexicana - Copy.jpg


Dwarf Ceriths (I ordered 10 and got 30 lol):
Micro Ceriths 2 - Copy.jpg


Nerites:
Nerites - Copy.jpg


Pencil Cap:
Pencil Cap.jpg


Zig Zag Periwinkles:
Periwinkles.jpg


Brown Button Polyps:
Polyps.jpg


Everything has been in the tank for nearly 24 hours now, and I plan to take some pics after dinner. Everything seems to be doing well, I think - about half of the button polyps have opened up, the pencil cap is still rigid (not limp), the Caulerpa species only had about 10% die-off in the bag (I've had them come in completely melted in an otherwise good shipment), and I haven't seen any DOA snails or crabs. A couple empty crab shells, but no bodies.

I dosed a bit of iron and fed some Repashy Grub Pie (food for the inverts/nitrogen for the algae), since this tank was pretty pristine.
 
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ChrissFishes01

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Alrighty, here are the macros and the polyps I got yesterday!

Brown Button Polyps:

Cactus Caulerpa:

Caulerpa Mexicana:

Pencil Cap:

I'm not 100% convinced that placements are final. I like where the Pencil Cap and Button Polyps are, but the Caulerpa species are likely going to get moved. There's more Cactus Caulerpa behind the rockwork that came in kind of ugly, so it's gonna hang out there until it recovers. I'm thinking about simply supergluing the Mexicana to some shells and letting it attach to the rockwork - I know the mantis is going to uproot it. Also makes me worried about the Pencil Cap - hopefully that one doesn't get dug up, long-term.
 
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ChrissFishes01

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Have we met? ;)

Looking good! Those button palys will open up in no time.

Do you plan to grow out the macro algae in the back while also keeping the pest coral? Or will it be more pest coral than algae?
Looks as if we have! I thought that might have been you, the thumbnail for the thread looked awful familiar!

I was just talking to a friend about this, (@Mhamilton0911 ) actually - I think you may have been right that eventually this tank will become rather inhospitable to coral, with the Aiptasia (and hopefully majanos) I'm trying to stock. I'm still going to try a few frags out and see how they do, but I actually see this tank becoming more of a macro-dominated setup, with plenty of pest nems on the rockwork, and maybe a few frags here and there. Then again, I've also been a bit concerned that the future mantis inhabitant will just uproot all the macros if I add him before the macros have really established themselves... so who knows! We'll see what happens. I've got plenty of tanks to spread stuff around (after a thorough sterilization...) if I need to.

Neat! What about some Asterina?
Not a bad idea! Not something I'd usually consider a pest (unless you get the coral-eating variety), but a good idea. I might have some in one of my rubbermaid totes that's just holding LR. I'll have to check :)
 
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