Idea for an estuary/ larval plankton tank.

Ishai Thatcher

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Hey y’all, I’m currently in the process of setting up my dream system. So far it is gonna be 5 tanks total, all plumbed together. tank 1- 4x2x2 medium and large reef fish, predators, sps dominant. Tank 2- 32 gallon community reef invert tank with lps and bta’s. Tank 3- filter feeder tank, gorgonians, sponges, clams, flame scallops, feather duster worms, seahorses and pipefish. Tank 4- 10 gallon Xenia tank with a frog fish.
The last tank is where it gets interesting. I have this idea for a sort of estuary like environment- mangroves, decorative macro algae and whatnot. I was wondering if I could set this up as a zooplankton and phyto plankton nursery where I could place larvae and fry of any of my fish or inverts that breed and see who survives. I was thinking like super slow water movement through the estuary, or none. Just have water moving inside it and occasionally let it run with the whole system to feed the other tanks. I understand I will probably have to culture the phyto outside the estuary. But you get the concept. Any ideas if this could work?
 
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CuzzA

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It's called a refugium. Yes it will work. With slower flow more detritus will settle and increases the probability of creating a nutrient issue on the whole system so keep an eye on it. Some macro algaes can reproduce and spread to the rest of your system, others have been found to be toxic to corals so do some research. There's always a battle on natural reefs between coral and algae.
 

vlangel

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I have a 3 tank system all plumbed together and there are some wonderful aspects to it and some challenging aspects. The display is a 56 gallon column aquarium ( 30" x 18" x 24") with about 15 small/medium fish, (blennies, gobies, clownfish, cardinal fish, firefish, royal gramma and a tomini tang ). The sandbed is tiered in 3 levels by live rock retaining walls to create different heights for the different coral which are predominantly softies and LPS. The deepest part of the sandbed is probably 7" for denitrification.

It then gravity flows down into a 30 gallon refugium ( 24" x 12" x 24"). This tank also has a deep sandbed of about 6-7". It has a little live rock, differing macro algaes, shoal seagrass, grass shrimp, peppermint shrimp, a fighting conch, some reef crabs, a converted molly and currently a watchman goby who will be moved to the 56 when he is big enough. The purpose of this tank is to be a nursery for pods and shrimp larvae to feed the display. The flow is slower as it is 400 gph from the return pump only most of the time. (unless I have an Aquaclear filter for carbon or floss running).

Finally the last tank is a 20 gallon long sump tank (30 x 12 x 12) with 2 chambers. The first chamber is for the gravity overflow from the fuge to drain into the sump. It is large enough to house a protein skimmer but currently I am not using one as the macro algae take up the nutrients very effectively. The 2nd chamber houses the submersible return pump and I also use it to acclimate new fish when I buy them so they can adjust to my systems water conditions without being harassed by tank mates. This aquarium system has worked very well for me since my design is set up to be high nutrient.

I do see a potential problem with you keeping seahorses in your concept however. Seahorses are very susceptible to bacterial infections. Detritus must be kept at a minimal in any aquarium system that they reside in or fibrio a strain of bacteria that flourishes and is fueled by detritus will cause gut, skin and gill infections in the seahorses. Also seahorse tanks are generally kept at 74 degrees or lower to discourage the growth of pathogenic bacteria but that is not ideal for sps growth. The one possible way that I could see making seahorses compatible is to only feed them live food. When they eat live food only they can live in warmer water more in line with reef tank temperatures. You may still run the risk of skin and gill infections but if you keep their specific tank clear of detritus it might work but I say that with caution. Having kept seahorses myself for over 5 years I can tell you that they are very charming pets but it is heartbreaking to lose them because their needs were not given enough priority.
 
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Ishai Thatcher

Ishai Thatcher

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It's called a refugium. Yes it will work. With slower flow more detritus will settle and increases the probability of creating a nutrient issue on the whole system so keep an eye on it. Some macro algaes can reproduce and spread to the rest of your system, others have been found to be toxic to corals so do some research. There's always a battle on natural reefs between coral and algae.
I know it’s a type of fuge. My main curiosity is just if I’ll really be able to culture a lot of plankton in there for larvae. And what strains of copepods amphipods and other stuff I should use.
 
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Ishai Thatcher

Ishai Thatcher

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I have a 3 tank system all plumbed together and there are some wonderful aspects to it and some challenging aspects. The display is a 56 gallon column aquarium ( 30" x 18" x 24") with about 15 small/medium fish, (blennies, gobies, clownfish, cardinal fish, firefish, royal gramma and a tomini tang ). The sandbed is tiered in 3 levels by live rock retaining walls to create different heights for the different coral which are predominantly softies and LPS. The deepest part of the sandbed is probably 7" for denitrification.

It then gravity flows down into a 30 gallon refugium ( 24" x 12" x 24"). This tank also has a deep sandbed of about 6-7". It has a little live rock, differing macro algaes, shoal seagrass, grass shrimp, peppermint shrimp, a fighting conch, some reef crabs, a converted molly and currently a watchman goby who will be moved to the 56 when he is big enough. The purpose of this tank is to be a nursery for pods and shrimp larvae to feed the display. The flow is slower as it is 400 gph from the return pump only most of the time. (unless I have an Aquaclear filter for carbon or floss running).

Finally the last tank is a 20 gallon long sump tank (30 x 12 x 12) with 2 chambers. The first chamber is for the gravity overflow from the fuge to drain into the sump. It is large enough to house a protein skimmer but currently I am not using one as the macro algae take up the nutrients very effectively. The 2nd chamber houses the submersible return pump and I also use it to acclimate new fish when I buy them so they can adjust to my systems water conditions without being harassed by tank mates. This aquarium system has worked very well for me since my design is set up to be high nutrient.

I do see a potential problem with you keeping seahorses in your concept however. Seahorses are very susceptible to bacterial infections. Detritus must be kept at a minimal in any aquarium system that they reside in or fibrio a strain of bacteria that flourishes and is fueled by detritus will cause gut, skin and gill infections in the seahorses. Also seahorse tanks are generally kept at 74 degrees or lower to discourage the growth of pathogenic bacteria but that is not ideal for sps growth. The one possible way that I could see making seahorses compatible is to only feed them live food. When they eat live food only they can live in warmer water more in line with reef tank temperatures. You may still run the risk of skin and gill infections but if you keep their specific tank clear of detritus it might work but I say that with caution. Having kept seahorses myself for over 5 years I can tell you that they are very charming pets but it is heartbreaking to lose them because their needs were not given enough priority.
Ok no seahorses in the estuary, ill just keep them in the gorgonian tank. Any ideas For species of copepods and whatnot that would be super easy to culture in the estuary?
 
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CuzzA

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I know it’s a type of fuge. My main curiosity is just if I’ll really be able to culture a lot of plankton in there for larvae. And what strains of copepods amphipods and other stuff I should use.
I think you would be hard pressed to find a whole lot of options when it comes to purchasing pods to seed a refugium (maybe a handful and some species sold are not benthic), while the addition of real ocean collected live rock, like TBS Saltwater, will likely add a nice variety of species including tunicates, sponges, feather dusters, gorgonians and algaes that will appreciate the dirtier conditions of a refugium. Coral frags might add some species too if you don't dip and clip your purchases off plugs (I don't recommend that). Frankly I would just get a few pounds of TBS rock and sand and let it do its thing. The nice thing about that route is you'll have a ton of really cool bio diversity instantly and being a quasi separate system there will be little concern for the common pests like gorilla and stone crabs. Let them live in there. Don't forget to pick up a red led light too, because real live rock comes alive at night.
 
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Ishai Thatcher

Ishai Thatcher

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I think you would be hard pressed to find a whole lot of options when it comes to purchasing pods to seed a refugium (maybe a handful and some species sold are not benthic), while the addition of real ocean collected live rock, like TBS Saltwater, will likely add a nice variety of species including tunicates, sponges, feather dusters, gorgonians and algaes that will appreciate the dirtier conditions of a refugium. Coral frags might add some species too if you don't dip and clip your purchases off plugs (I don't recommend that). Frankly I would just get a few pounds of TBS rock and sand and let it do its thing. The nice thing about that route is you'll have a ton of really cool bio diversity instantly and being a quasi separate system there will be little concern for the common pests like gorilla and stone crabs. Let them live in there. Don't forget to pick up a red led light too, because real live rock comes alive at night.
I didn’t know you could still get real live rock imma check it out! Thank you!
 
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Ishai Thatcher

Ishai Thatcher

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I think you would be hard pressed to find a whole lot of options when it comes to purchasing pods to seed a refugium (maybe a handful and some species sold are not benthic), while the addition of real ocean collected live rock, like TBS Saltwater, will likely add a nice variety of species including tunicates, sponges, feather dusters, gorgonians and algaes that will appreciate the dirtier conditions of a refugium. Coral frags might add some species too if you don't dip and clip your purchases off plugs (I don't recommend that). Frankly I would just get a few pounds of TBS rock and sand and let it do its thing. The nice thing about that route is you'll have a ton of really cool bio diversity instantly and being a quasi separate system there will be little concern for the common pests like gorilla and stone crabs. Let them live in there. Don't forget to pick up a red led light too, because real live rock comes alive at night.
They no longer ship anything out because of Covid. I do have some Fiji mud though! That might have something.
 

CuzzA

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Ahh, I haven't spoke to Richard in a little while. I should give him a shout. I know he was passing the business on to someone else and covid airline shipping with the reduced flights certainly makes things tough.
 
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Ishai Thatcher

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Ahh, I haven't spoke to Richard in a little while. I should give him a shout. I know he was passing the business on to someone else and covid airline shipping with the reduced flights certainly makes things tough.
It’s sad stuff. You think the Fiji mud might have any spores of sponges and feather dusters or anything?
 
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vlangel

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Ok no seahorses in the estuary, ill just keep them in the gorgonian tank. Any ideas For species of copepods and whatnot that would be super easy to culture in the estuary?
I really do not know my copepods at all. I had 6 different species sent to me once by a seahorse keeper who cultured them for the health of her seahorse tanks. I added them all to my tanks but this was years ago and I have no idea what I still have and what would be the most beneficial for your system.
 

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