Making the tough call (fish v. coral)...

Discussion in 'Unique Corals' started by uniquecorals, May 15, 2014.

  1. uniquecorals

    uniquecorals Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2006
    Messages:
    3,317
    Likes Received:
    488
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    As a coral vendor, I receive tons of phone calls from fellow reefers about their tanks, their corals, their successes/failures/ideas…Lots and lots of questions. I love it. Sometimes I can’t believe I do this for a living...I mean, at 11:00 AM, I should be talking about more grown up stuff, right? Nah.

    Craziness.

    Anyways, one of the most common questions I receive from fellow hobbyists is what I think about them taking the risk keeping a certain type of fish in their reef tank. Usually, it’s that beloved Angelfish, ultra-cool Butterflyfish, or cute Blenny that the customer saw on Diver's Den (love you, Kevin!) or the LFS and simply cannot resist! The question is always the same…”Can I keep _______ with my Acan collection?" My first thought is, “How the heck would I know?” I mean, it kind of puts me in a weird position of giving a reefer “permission” to put his insanely expensive coral collection at risk. I just had this discussion with a customer yesterday, so it’s fresh in my mind. And of course, as a fish lover, I have my opinions on the subject. However, as a coral vendor, I have mixed feelings. And I don’t want people thinking that I say “Go for it” every time because “I can sell ‘em more corals when she rips up his collection!”…So, this simple question becomes quite a quandary! I deal with this all the time. It’s the fine art of balancing what you want to keep with what you currently keep- and it requires planning, risk-taking, and sometimes, an outright gut-check as an aquarist.


    2012-07-24 06.23.23.jpg
    "...or that 'Superman Millie?' What to do?"


    Let’s face it, to keep a fish that is a known “coral-sampler” in a reef tank takes a special breed of hobbyist- one who values his favorite fish over his love of corals. I think it’s a matter of balance, really. I mean, if you just have to keep a Chaetodontoplus conspicillatus in your reef aquarium, you are certainly going to have to accept the fact that some collateral damage to your corals may occur. On the other hand, if you love your “LE” Chalice colony more than some $4,500 Angelfish- just let the idea go (But what dork would choose a coral over a fish? Not you, right? Sheesh!!).

    Or, you could compromise.

    Woahh! “Compromise”-a word that we don’t often use in reefkeping. What does THAT mean? It simply means that if you want to keep that potentially coral-munching fish in your tank stocked with prized corals, no one is going to feel sorry for you if the fish takes out your entire Zoa and Paly collection. On the other hand, if you accept the fact that some corals will be nipped, and restrain yourself from keeping the ultra crazy collectible corals in the tank with your Centropyge debelius, you can make it work.


    UC1andhalfinch-ultra-acan-lord-128.jpg
    Is this really a compromise?


    Learn to love the more commonly available varieties of easily captive-propagated coral, like Pocillopora, which can more readily and affordably be replenished when they get wacked by your Angelfish. Oh sure, there are a lot of hobbyists out there that will indignantly scream, “Why expose ANY corals to the potential of being eaten by a fish?" Well, true…I can’ t say I have an answer, other than we need to accept the responsibility for our decisions and be comfortable with the ethics of them. The other alternative is to create a classic Fish Only with Live Rock (FOWLR) tank-the ultimate expression of marine hobby compromise, IMO.


    Of course, you can also alter your husbandry a bit and simply feed the crap out of your favorite fish to keep them satisfied most of the time, hopefully limiting snacking incidents as much as possible. Idea for you: Spend some time on sites like fishbase.org and see what stomach content analysis of wild-specimens of your dream fish reveals about their diets, and try to provide that item if possible. If it’s small, free-swimming and tasty, chances are good that live-food vendors like Reef Nutrition have something like it available for the hobby. On the other hand, if a significant percentage of the fish’s natural diet is live coral polyps (as opposed to coral mucous), you’ve got to make that most difficult of calls for a reefer.


    FTSLeftside.jpg
    You're Mark Poletti. Your reef tank is epic. Do you buy that Butterly? Mark? Mark?

    Oh, and let’s be candid about one thing, ok? - With few individual exceptions, there is little likelihood that a fish for whom coral comprises the majority of its diet will suddenly switch to an exclusive diet of Tetramin (I call it the "Moorish Idol Paradox"), but it may certainly learn over time to accept other foods as a substitute. Look at the wonderful work that was done with Orange Spot Filefish by my man, Matt Pederson. I mean, the guy was breeding them and getting them to accept mysids and other foods as the bulk of their diet! Now I’m not saying that you’ll get your Centropyge nigriocella to thrive on freeze-dried Tubifex worms, but I am saying that you can certainly experiment with a wide variety of available foods while the fish is in quarantine (oh yeah- you’ve heard of that process, right?). Or, you could simply get really good at propagating “feeder” Pocillopora (Whoah- Marketing idea!)! There is almost always an argument that can be made for experimentation. Almost.


    UC3inch-aussie-purple-pocillopora-88.jpg
    "Feeder Pocillopora?"

    To summarize this nonesense, it’s really a matter of weighing your personal interest and love of corals versus your love of fish. For many of us, the choice is clear, and one will always win out over the other. To others, the choice is not so clear-cut, and we’ll make the call based on our willingness to accept the risk. If that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a Centropyge boylei comes along, you really have to decide if you-and your aquarium-are up for the challenge and risk.


    peppermint_angelfish600.jpg
    Make the call before Copps does...And be sure to pay the mortgage first!


    Have no regrets. Because if you don’t make the call, John Coppolino will! And he’ll be the first to tell you it was an easy decision, too!

    You may not be able to keep everything you want in your reef system, but you can keep most of it! Usually…Okay, sometimes…um, probably..

    Till next time,

    Stay wet…
    Scott Fellman


     
    Last edited: May 15, 2014
    Tags:

  2. Eienna

    Eienna Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2013
    Messages:
    5,393
    Likes Received:
    206
    Location:
    So. Cal, USA
    I want a Majestic Angel like crazy...but knowing what they can do to corals...I think I'll pass...
     
  3. TJ's Reef

    TJ's Reef Well-Known Member R2R Excellence Award Moderator Emeritus

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2013
    Messages:
    2,354
    Likes Received:
    67
    Location:
    Everett, WA
    I went the 'Compromise route' this time around on current 125g. Having a fairly mature tank with abundant Coral growth (including four large Pocillopora colonies) I have been able to keep two Centropoge Angels from Hawaii, a Flame and Fishers without any real/noticeable damage EXCEPT a recent Favites colony the size of a baseball that they have nearly decimated. With a very large mass of Pocci, Milli and Birdsnest Corals the sampling gets distributed out to the point of a non-issue. I do feed quite heavy out of necessity being 24 fish in there. I think that's why my Corals grow so fast.... a whole lot of fish poop!

    Eienna, the P. navarchus/Majestic is also my favorite of the large Angels as well and will add one when/if I go BIG REEFTANK in the future.

    FTS from this morning, the unfortunate Favites colony front center under Yellow Tang
    [​IMG]

    Cheers, Todd
     
  4. mdbannister

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

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2012
    Messages:
    20,277
    Likes Received:
    10,250
    Location:
    Ontario, California
    Great article, Scott! Been thinking about this lately. I know some reefers keep things like large angels in beautiful reef tanks. I've been wondering how they manage to pull that off. Any thoughts on minimizing the risk in such situations?
     
  5. reeffirstaid

    reeffirstaid Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2012
    Messages:
    449
    Likes Received:
    58
    Location:
    Maryland
    Scott,

    I made the call when I entered the hobby ... I value fish way, way more than coral and I have a long line of dead corals at the hands of hungry fish. I've got a known coral eater in my tank right now, a Queen Angelfish, and it's loves many species of corals. That's why I plumbed a 50 gallon frag tank into my system, which holds corals only. Good write up! BTW that acan you shipped me is very nice!
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2014
  6. reeffirstaid

    reeffirstaid Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2012
    Messages:
    449
    Likes Received:
    58
    Location:
    Maryland
    bannister, IME managing large angels in the reef works on a scenario by scenario basis. I've had a host of large angels in reef aquariums over the years. One of my best tenants was a Majestic Angel, who was big and beautiful and never bothered a thing. I also kept a Blue Face Angelfish, which never bothered a thing. A host of angelfish in between bothered a lot. You really have to be willing to take risks and learn what the fish will eat. My current Queen Angelfish will eat nearly any species of LPS coral. I don't have a single LPS coral in my main tank, for this reason. Some species of SPS, like Pocillipora, with large (for an SPS) swaying polyps, it will devour.

    Acropora and montipora however, it ignores. Any species of clam, it devours, so no clams. Any noxious soft coral, it won't touch. You have to do this with each angelfish you keep, even dwarf angel species. The bummer hits when they are newly introduced to a tank, that may, or may not, be populated with species they eat.
     
  7. stunreefer

    stunreefer Reef Hugger R2R Supporter Photo of the Month Award Platinum Sponsor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2007
    Messages:
    2,841
    Likes Received:
    530
    Location:
    Under Da Sea
    One thing to note regarding adding "risky" fish with corals is the size and health of corals in the aquarium... a tank chock full of frags is no place for a potential coral picker. A nip here and a nip there will certainly result in the demise of frags quickly. Have that same fish in a tank with large, established healthy colonies and it's a whole new ball game.
     
  8. uniquecorals

    uniquecorals Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2006
    Messages:
    3,317
    Likes Received:
    488
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Sleep well, my friend....:)
     
  9. uniquecorals

    uniquecorals Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2006
    Messages:
    3,317
    Likes Received:
    488
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    My kind of tank! Thanks for sharing, Todd! And see, feeding to keep your Angels from munching your corals actually ends up helping the corals with the fish waste! Love it!

    -Scott
     
  10. uniquecorals

    uniquecorals Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2006
    Messages:
    3,317
    Likes Received:
    488
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Thanks, md- I think you're seeing how right here...The real trick initially I think is simply making sure that whatever questionable fish you drop in is regularly eating prepared foods, and eating well...I really thank that's your first potential key to success..

    -Scott
     
  11. uniquecorals

    uniquecorals Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2006
    Messages:
    3,317
    Likes Received:
    488
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    I love your solution! That's the way a hardcore reefer does it!

    Scott

    P.S. - Glad you like the Acan!
     
  12. Aquaph8

    Aquaph8 Love The Fish R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award Moderator Emeritus

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2011
    Messages:
    8,907
    Likes Received:
    288
    Location:
    Tucson, AZ
    I've had it go both ways. My Regal doesn't touch anything but the Mitratus butterfly took giant bites. I agree with Stunreefer, large colonies help. It's also a good idea to have a fish trap and practice using it. I couldn't imagine a large reef tank without angels and butterflies, best personalities of all fish IMO and that's coming from a wrasse hoarder. Well written as always Scott.
     
  13. uniquecorals

    uniquecorals Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2006
    Messages:
    3,317
    Likes Received:
    488
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    I love the idea about "practicing with a fish trap.." A great idea!

    In fact...bonus points to whomever steps up and puts up a nice blog-sized post here about using a fish trap/getting unwanted fishes out of your reef...A good collateral topic, IMHO!

    -Scott
     
  14. fishroomlady

    fishroomlady Well-Known Member R2R Supporter R2R Excellence Award

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    2,631
    Likes Received:
    86
    Location:
    Milford, OH
    another great write-up! so where do you fall out on the fish side or coral side Scott? I'm definitely on the fish side and because of that, I have to limit what types of corals I can keep - it's a conscious choice :)
     
  15. uniquecorals

    uniquecorals Well-Known Member R2R Supporter Gold Sponsor

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2006
    Messages:
    3,317
    Likes Received:
    488
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    It sounds downright blasphemous coming from a coral guy, but quite honest, I've always loved fish..Almost no contest...LOL I do love coral, but a tank full of cool fishes speaks to me more if it's done correctly (that's the tricky part, IMHO). So, I'll always take a chance with fish in a reef system. That being said, we don't sell a ton of fishes at UC, because, well, quite frankly, our primary market is coral. We still need to work fishes out in a manner that is consistent with the practices, ethics and systems that we use for coral. We "dabble" at the moment, but we built out a very nicely equipped fish system with robust water quality management systems in place to handle way more capacity than we've ever had...We intend to utilize it. So, you'll see a gradual evolution here...stay tuned.

    -Scott
     
  16. ngvu1

    ngvu1 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2014
    Messages:
    2,114
    Likes Received:
    949
    Location:
    Orange County, CA, USA
    Have 2 tanks.
     
  17. mdbannister

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

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2012
    Messages:
    20,277
    Likes Received:
    10,250
    Location:
    Ontario, California
    Bumping this thread again to revive this conversation. Good thoughts to be explored!
     
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page

Loading...