Moorish Idol: ideal way to startup tank for them?

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Stefaan F

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Moorish Idols (Zanclus cornutus) are my favorite fish by far (bad choice, I know).
I have never kept a single one due to their reputation.
And I would REALLY like to keep one or multiple long term...
I will have a 1000 gallon tank (320,5x120x95cm or about 11'x4'x3') comming in about 3 weeks time, and would like to try keeping Moorish Idols in there.

So now my Question, what would be the ideal way to start up a tank for these fish?
I have read the article 'Keeping The Mysterious Moorish Idol', but it is mostly about how to introduce one in your already running system.
I never found articles/experiences where a tank was built to their needs and stocking it safely always with the moorish idols in mind as the primary fish.

So what would be ideal?
Should I just start it up like normal with safe fish, and introducing one or multiple moorish idol after 2 or 3 years?
Or should I take this opportunity with a new large tank and try a different aproach.
I was thinking:
- Let the tank run dark, curing the rock 2 months, also introducing sponges.
- then lights on and introduce coral, invertebrates and a few functional fish (no fish that compete for food or space with moorish idols)
- Intoruce the moorish idols after 4-6 months, and after the proper quarantine
- When they are well established and feeding well, introduce the rest of the stocking:
The more peaceful tangs like tomini, yellow eye cole, blonde naso?, group of anthias, maybe navarchus angel,...
No sohals, zebrasomas, or other fish with sometimes bad characters

Or another option:
- Let tank run dark, afterwards sponges, coral, invertebrates, but no fish.
- Introduce Moorish idols as the first fish after 4-6 months, without quarantine (only 1x freshwater dip), and get them directly from wholesale without any sellers in between
Only check if they are fat and healthy, fresh from the reef.
This may reduce stress as no quanantine procedures needed, no 40G cramped spaces for months.
And This way I may have more time to get them eating, and they only need to adapt once....
Then watching them closely for 2 months before adding the rest of the fish, who of course will need full quarantine.
This could be seen as a light non medicated quarantine as they are the first and only fish in the tank.

And how many Moorish Idols? I could put in 5-8 in a 1000 gallon, and see how they do? If they get agressive after some time I'll take some out.
But maybe in this large a tank it can be done, as 2 may keep fighting but if 1 out of 8 is the boss and picks on the rest, everyone gets 1/7th of the agression.

I am very curious of your opinions!
I would like to try it the best way possible, and have a lot of patience if needed.
 
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Stefaan F

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Have you ever kept an ocean in your home?
You could be right, it could be impossible to keep moorish idols long term 10 years+ in anything except an ocean.
But you could be wrong too, and if you are wrong, what would be the way to achieve that 10 year goal?

Just saying, 20 years ago a lot what is now normal was impossible back then...
Who knows in 20 years we are breeding Moorish Idols in captivity and no more have to be taken from the wild as the tank bred ones have a much higher survival rate.
 
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Zionas

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I think in a 1000 gallon you may not necessarily have to build your tank around then but I’d go as far as saying add them early on to get them feeding. They’re peaceful so add a few peaceful fish (that are eating well) before them to hopefully wean them onto your prepared foods.

Not sure how their group dynamics work, unfortunately.
 

Storm Trooper Reefer

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You could be right, it could be impossible to keep moorish idols long term 10 years+ in anything except an ocean.
But you could be wrong too, and if you are wrong, what would be the way to achieve that 10 year goal?

Just saying, 20 years ago a lot what is now normal was impossible back then...
Who knows in 20 years we are breeding Moorish Idols in captivity and no more have to be taken from the wild as the tank bred ones have a much higher survival rate.
Is this your first salt water tank? I like your ambition. But there is more to it than some videos and posts
 
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Stefaan F

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Is this your first salt water tank? I like your ambition. But there is more to it than some videos and posts

This is not really my intent of this topic, to be interrogated if I am qualified enough to try and keep Moorish Idols. I believe I have more than enough knowledge and experience to give it a very decent chance to be sucessfull if at all possible.

The intent of this topic is to find people who had the fish share their experiences, good and bad, and share their observations what might be the cause of all the problems with this fish and if there are ways they believe could be more sucessfull with them. And if started from scratch, they believe one method or another would have a higher succes rate.

I refuse to believe it is impossible to keep them long term. The only question for me is what their requirements are and how much of a specific environment they need. And the more I know in front, the faster I have the answer.
 

ReefHog

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I made sure mine was eating at lfs before I bought him. I QTd mine along with a Copperband for two weeks with CP. (I always QT with more than one fish as I find that the fish tend to act more normal than when by themselves) Then into a new tank with Prazipro and then a month observation. He's been in my 220 mixed reef for a year now. This reef has been up for six years and most of the Gulf live rock in it is over 20 years old. Hes always hanging with the Copperband, his best friend since QT. He eats anything I put into the tank and is not afraid or skittish of anything. In fact, I recently set up a large fish trap to catch a Tang that has been getting to be more and more of a bully and the Moorish Idol kept swimming into the trap to check it out as I was setting it up. I do have sponge growing on the rocks in the shaded places. I also incorperate sponge into his diet with Mid Jersey Pet supply food, Hikari Mega Marine Angel and Panta Rhei Nouri Sponge pellets. He loves algae sheets as well. Along with the already mentioned, I feed three to four times a day as its my understanding that they have a very high metabolism. I would have a variety of foods ready before you purchase one including live black or white worms & live clams. Mine went on a few hunger strikes during the 45 day QT process and switching the food got him back eating. I'm not sure how long he will last as I've heard they will one day out of the blue stop eating and die, usually around two years, but he's doing great so far and is one of the most active fish in the tank and seems very happy.
 

saltyfins

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This is not really my intent of this topic, to be interrogated if I am qualified enough to try and keep Moorish Idols. I believe I have more than enough knowledge and experience to give it a very decent chance to be sucessfull if at all possible.

The intent of this topic is to find people who had the fish share their experiences, good and bad, and share their observations what might be the cause of all the problems with this fish and if there are ways they believe could be more sucessfull with them. And if started from scratch, they believe one method or another would have a higher succes rate.

I refuse to believe it is impossible to keep them long term. The only question for me is what their requirements are and how much of a specific environment they need. And the more I know in front, the faster I have the answer.

"Keeping The Mysterious Moorish Idol" enter that into the search bar.​

 

MichaelE

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Well, they aren’t terribly difficult fish to be honest. The main problem is that a lot of them take an absolute beating in the supply chain and when they reach our tanks they don’t get properly feed.

A tank like that shouldn’t pose an issue, just make sure to have a lot of flow and open spaces for it to swim in.
I would definitely go with real live rock from the ocean as the micro fauna and flora will be of great benefit to it.
Feed 4+ times a day and make sure to include a lot of algae and sponges.

Keeping multiple idols usually fails in about six months or so, however I’m not sure in that size of a tank.

Here’s my current one, fat frank, being a pig as always

https://www.instagram.com/reel/CNzXSz9HnLR/?igshid=1d5xzydi81hle
 
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Stefaan F

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Well, they aren’t terribly difficult fish to be honest. The main problem is that a lot of them take an absolute beating in the supply chain and when they reach our tanks they don’t get properly feed.

A tank like that shouldn’t pose an issue, just make sure to have a lot of flow and open spaces for it to swim in.
I would definitely go with real live rock from the ocean as the micro fauna and flora will be of great benefit to it.
Feed 4+ times a day and make sure to include a lot of algae and sponges.

Keeping multiple idols usually fails in about six months or so, however I’m not sure in that size of a tank.

Here’s my current one, fat frank, being a pig as always

https://www.instagram.com/reel/CNzXSz9HnLR/?igshid=1d5xzydi81hle
Amazing specimen!

Did you have any trouble starting him to feed?
In my situation, would you put him in first after running a few months without fish, or add him later on when the tank is more established?
 

Paul B

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You could be right, it could be impossible to keep moorish idols long term 10 years+ in anything except an ocean.
But you could be wrong too, and if you are wrong, what would be the way to achieve that 10 year goal?
Actually no one with a home aquarium has kept one for anywhere near 10 years and they were one of the first fish available in the 70s when the hobby started as I had them then. Here is a page from my Log book then.



To keep them I spent quite a few hours with them in the South Pacific and the longest I kept one was 5 years. Not that you can't do better but it isn't just me, it is everybody. We haven't learned their secret yet and they are one of the most common fish in the Pacific.

What I did for the 5 year old I kept is I built a feeder. It was a small open container like a dish. Glued to the side of it I had a 3/8" tube going up to the surface. Just above the tube I had a funnel. Over that was an automatic feeder.

Also going into the funnel was a small trickle of water to push the food down.
4 times a day the feeder would deposit some pellets into the funnel and the Idol would see the pellets fall and anxiously wait for it to get into the dish and he would greedily eat them.

Before I fed the pellets I put some Cod Liver oil on them because I don't think pellets are good enough.

Besides that I fed the fish live blackworms almost every day and here in New York I discovered a type of sponge that grew on floating wooden docks. I would collect it and freeze it. My Idol would almost jump out of the water for it.

I couldn't get it in the winter so I had to collect enough to keep for that time.
Yes it was a pain to keep that fish healthy but he was. 5 years is awful but for that fish, it is almost a record.

In the sea they eat rotting vegetation and sponges as you can see here. Nothing but Idols and urchins. This was I think Hawaii.





This is Bora Bora.


This was my 5 year old. That is a 100 gallon tank.

 
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Stefaan F

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Well, that is already quite an amazing achievement.
I think I read your experiences of collecting sponge somewhere a few years ago, guess I'll start looking for a good source of sponge in my area!

I don't even know if Moorish Idols biologically can reach 10 years +.
They are mass spawners, and this article shows there is a lot of predation during spawning events:


"their spawning is unknown. It is clear that at our study sites many MI ascending from the reef to spawn are eaten by sharks during the process. There are two stages to the predation event, an initial feeding frenzy lasting several minutes followed by a period of slow attrition of the remaining MI found schooling at the surface. During this time, currents carry the groups along or away from the reef. Qualitatively only a small number of fish are seen returning to the reef after ascending, perhaps only 10% of individuals return to the same reef area. The remainder are presumed eaten by sharks or when far off the reef in open water drifting to end up far away from the reef area where they ascended, their possible return to the reef not noted and fate unknown"

If this is the case in the whole population and not region specific, It could well be that they are just not evolved to live that long because of the way they reproduce.
 
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MichaelE

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Amazing specimen!

Did you have any trouble starting him to feed?
In my situation, would you put him in first after running a few months without fish, or add him later on when the tank is more established?
No, provided the right environment and a healthy specimen they aren’t difficult to get feeding.
It depends on your overall stocking plan for the tank. Obviously it’s better to let the tank get established but if you are planning on a bunch of mean tangs like an Achilles or boisterous angels I would put it in before them.
And I say again, don’t start with dead rock.
 
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Stefaan F

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No, provided the right environment and a healthy specimen they aren’t difficult to get feeding.
It depends on your overall stocking plan for the tank. Obviously it’s better to let the tank get established but if you are planning on a bunch of mean tangs like an Achilles or boisterous angels I would put it in before them.
And I say again, don’t start with dead rock.
In my current 175 gallon tank I have a decent amount of sponges, I think I have seen at least 5 different species.
I am thinking to start the 1000 gallon with dry rock and put the liverock from the other tank in to transfer biology.
Would that be ok?
 
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Paul B

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The remainder are presumed eaten by sharks or when far off the reef in open water drifting to end up far away from the reef area where they ascended, their possible return to the reef not noted and fate unknown"
The places they come from are teeming with sharks, mostly the South Pacific.
I took this in Tahiti and at the very bottom of the picture in the center you can see a moorish Idol. They are very common.

 

Zionas

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I’m sure they can reach a lifespan of 10+ years. It’s just that I don’t know of anyone with a 10+ year old Moorish Idol. They’re sort of like the love child of a Tang and a Butterfly, both families known for having fish that live over a decade or even two.

Who knows? You might be the first.
 

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I think the most import thing is handling and time from collection until it reaches your aquarium. And of course great water quality. Longest idol I had was 8 years. I got it as an adult directly from a diver in Hawaii so I'm sure it was probably closer to 10. Ate everything. Probably the best eater I've ever had. He passed away from some bacterial infection. Best to get them young and the sooner since they were caught the better.

I've got another one that I got as a small and started proactively treating with copper and Prazipro as soon as I got it. Was eating Hikari small mysis within a day and within 2 weeks started eating Omega one and Cobalt Spirulina flakes. Great water quality and lots of water flow. He is now eating pellets also. They have small mouths. I feed small and as often as I can.

I'm more and more convinced a lot of these "difficult" fish is more the result of poor capturing, parasites, handling and being starved for weeks at wholesalers. It also helps to have a large variety of foods to temp them with. Some fish just don't like certain foods. I have female gold nugget clownfish that doesn't care for Hikari mysis, she prefers flake. But another female GSM loves it. I had a powder blue that refused to eat until I put Omega flake food in. That got it going.
 

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Mine showed up on my doorstep....wrong order from the vendor so I had no choice but to keep him. Our tanks been up for 2 years. We have some natural sponge but he doesn't seem too interested. Did great in QT for 4 weeks. Has always been a great eater. A pig if I'm being honest. He and my Dory are best buds. He left my coral alone for about 3 months and is now wiping out my zoa's and palys even though I feed a ton. Frozen 2x a day, formula 2 pellets 2x a day and all the nori and algae he could want. I also put glucan in the food mix and that has kept all my fish healthy. It's been 6 months so far and he's tripled in size. Nice and fat. I also know they can be doing great one day and be dead the next so who knows. I'm just enjoying him while I have him. Good Luck!

D61EBD5E-976E-42DB-81BC-F52AD8BBF06E.jpeg 44F97137-5CBA-46FD-B864-D1DAF6F64BDD.jpeg
 
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