My Little NPS Experiment

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I have been delaying making this thread for a while, but I finally got the encouragement I needed. The fridge was full and the bottle of bubbly that has been in the back for months had to go. After a couple of glasses and a reminder from [email protected] I remember the real reason I should document this is so future reefers can learn from my successes and avoid my mistakes. Also if you happen to like wine (or ice wine) and are in the Niagara region, check out Colaneri. Unfortunately I don't think they export much, but their wines are some of the best I have ever had.
7.jpg


Like most build threads this story starts off with cycling a tank and a trip to the LFS. It probably differs when I mention that this was during a lock down and I was picking up two NPS coral, sign unseen.
When I arrived at the LFS there was a "free coral" included with my order.
9.jpg


8.jpg

They mentioned that the corals had been there for a long time and seemed pretty keen on selling me a Yellow Finger Gorgonian they also had. Since this was my first NPS coral I refused, I really couldn't take the deaths of that many corals on my hands if I failed.... Turns out this was really good. It wouldn't have fit in my tank anyways.

After getting home I did a really long acclimation (I think it was about 6 hours). The coral were packed at a salinity of 30 ppt, so we had a ways to go to get up to my 35 ppt. I poked a hole in the bag, hung it in my tank, and every 15 minutes added some more tank water.

*Note: You will find I do not do any of the normal dipping and quarantine most reefers are doing. Currently I have been lucky and only got really awesome hitchhikers from coral. I may change my mind after having to deal with a serious pest. Also I hope to use this tank in future as a quarantine/long term observation tank. I love some of the things than come on coral, but have found (in another tank) it can take up to 6 months to notice some hitch hikers.

During the acclimation time I was busy looking into Randy Holmes-Farley's DIY calibration solution (link) for my salinity meters.... because how could there be a 5 ppt difference between our tanks. This was my first time encountering hypo salinity.

The free Sun Coral had some serious tissue loss going on and the other one was starting to lose tissue in some spots. The Red Finger Gorgornian was in decent health, but had oddly small polyps. I suspect this was from under feeding. The LFS gave me a sample of the food they were using and said how much they were feeding their 100+ gallon tanks. Shortly after I was feeding 6-8 times this for a pico tank.
That said I will be going back. They were really nice, are close by, and answered the questions I asked quite well. I suspect the issues with these coral may be due to the hardships of Covid (and NSP coral being hard to keep in mixed tank). I will reserve my judgement for more "normal" visits.

After acclimatization I set the Sun Corals on some of the rocks and super glued the Gorgonian to a small rock. In this setup I experimented with feeding, but had little success. It seemed they did not want to open up and the the food was quickly diluted. They stayed in the tank for a few days until I noticed my nitrates and phosphates were trending up quite quickly.
At this point I had the tank setup as a light side / dark side. One end had grow lights and the other was dark. I had spent a couple of weeks ghost feeding brine shrimp to verify that I could handle the feeding for NPS coral.
At this point I was either experiencing the delayed decay of the previous food... or the new LFS food was seriously more potent.

Fortunately I had not glued anyone down (to anything to large), so I pulled the coral and setup a pico tank for them. I setup two 2.5 gallon (10 L) tank with a heater and power head for them. I started doing a tank transfer every 24 hours and then cleaning the other tank. At this point I was feeding huge amounts trying to get a feeding response.
10.jpg

I was mostly target feeding a paste made from the LFS food (dried food with mixed size and ingredients) to the Sun Coral, then after 15-30 minutes turning on the flow again. I hoped the proceeding cloud would feed the Gorgonian.

This seemed to work okay. The Sun Coral could occasionally been seen to have consumed some of the food sitting in the pits of its polyps. The Gorgonian was hopefully doing okay... I didn't see the polyps catching much or any of the food, but at least it was getting a way higher concentration that when it was at the LFS.

In the process of trying to correct the issue with the main tank I added an external skimmer, switched to main tank to being entirely a refugium, upgraded the lights, added a biopellets (Siporax), added filter socks, added more powerheads, and added a 2.5 gallon "display tank". Essentially I turned a pico tank into the display and made my main tank an algae farm.
1.jpg

*Note: this is a newer picture. The pvc pipe on the skimmer was more recently added to fix overflows.

Shortly after the improvements on the main tank I ran life and missed one of my daily water changes. This caused a serious decline in the Sun Coral. I lost a couple polyps on the one and most on the other. Shortly after this I transferred them to the main tank and prayed I had things more under control in it.
At this point the one Sun Coral was declining and the other was mostly gone, with 2 tiny polyps hanging in on the bottom...I haven't had the heart to check if they are still there. It will be a miracle if they make a comeback.

In the main tank I setup timers to have three feeding periods in the pico/display tank. At this point all flow would stop and I could target feed the sun coral. After about 15-30 minutes the powerheads would turn on and swirl the food around. This seemed to help the Sun Coral catch more and feed the Gorgonian. After about 2 hours the return pump would turn on and flush the pico tank into a filter sock (change about every 48 hours).

Shortly after switching to this setup I added frozen seafood to the mix. I think this was a real turning point. I got a bunch of raw squid, shrimp, little neck clams, and PEI mussels from the grocery store and blended them. After this I packed them fairly flat in ziplock bags and now break off a chunk to feed each day.
I mix a bit of the LFS food, Reef Roids, frozen Seafood, and Red Sea Reef Energy AB+ into a jar each day to target feed. This soaks / defrosts in the fridge and gets fed at the same times each day.
5.jpg


While things aren't looking great, the Sun Coral is bulging and capturing food at meal times and the polyps on the Red Finger Gorgonian seem to be catching a lot of food. Hopefully things continue to keep improving.

My upcoming plans / battles include:
- finding a custom / odd sized tank to replace the pico (after things stabalize)
- battling phosphates (nitrates are dropping quickly, but phosphates are still high)
- automating feeding

I am hoping to eventually replace the plastic 2.5 gallon pico with something larger and glass so that I have room for more coral and a better view.

While nitrates recently have dropped into a good range I still have high phosphates. It seems I am shortly going to have to shortly start dosing nitrates and/or reducing my lighting schedule. I also seem to have finally found the right amount of PhosGuard to slowly drop phosphates.
I also dropped Reef-Roids from my food mix and am thinking to add some Reef Nutrition Oyster Feast in soon.

Eventually I need to setup automated feeding. I am hoping that once the Sun Coral are able to extend their tentacles I can reduce target feeding and do more broadcast feedings to the tank. At this point I am going to proceed with setting up to dose my food mixtures to the tank and hope that will be able to work for most feedings.
 

Suohhen

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Wow this has been quite the undertaking but that makes the success all the sweeter. Very nice writeup, I love the honesty about your experience, and 'unconventional' practices. I also have mad respect for your honesty about what issues you had with the LFS because these are typical things that I sometimes wonder how many people recognize like hyposalinity which seems to be far less common these days at least for coral but I can't even remember the amount of times I have received fish in the mail that were under 30 ppt, probably the biggest reason I stopped buying online. Yet they were fair with you and I can absolutely respect supporting those who treat you honestly.
I will definitely be following along. What is your idea for auto feeding?
 
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58e970b2-3f88-4897-87ba-5

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Wow this has been quite the undertaking but that makes the success all the sweeter. Very nice writeup, I love the honesty about your experience, and 'unconventional' practices. I also have mad respect for your honesty about what issues you had with the LFS because these are typical things that I sometimes wonder how many people recognize like hyposalinity which seems to be far less common these days at least for coral but I can't even remember the amount of times I have received fish in the mail that were under 30 ppt, probably the biggest reason I stopped buying online. Yet they were fair with you and I can absolutely respect supporting those who treat you honestly.
I will definitely be following along. What is your idea for auto feeding?
Thanks. It is turning out to be a lot more work than I was expecting. I sort of assumed the Sun Coral would be healthier and easier to feed.

I am not entirely sure on the auto feeder yet. Planning to do a bit of experimentation later to see what works best. My main question is how long will my food last when refrigerated.

If it lasts a while I may try having a bunch of containers in a thermoelectric cooler above the tank. Can hook up some small pumps to flush a container of food into the tank for each feeding.
If the food needs to stay frozen to last a reasonable amount of time this may be harder.

I am also planning to eventually try adding some dry food and stuff from Reef Nutrition into the mix. I expect those will be simpler where a regular auto feeder or dosing pump could be used.
 

Suohhen

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Thanks. It is turning out to be a lot more work than I was expecting. I sort of assumed the Sun Coral would be healthier and easier to feed.

I am not entirely sure on the auto feeder yet. Planning to do a bit of experimentation later to see what works best. My main question is how long will my food last when refrigerated.

If it lasts a while I may try having a bunch of containers in a thermoelectric cooler above the tank. Can hook up some small pumps to flush a container of food into the tank for each feeding.
If the food needs to stay frozen to last a reasonable amount of time this may be harder.

I am also planning to eventually try adding some dry food and stuff from Reef Nutrition into the mix. I expect those will be simpler where a regular auto feeder or dosing pump could be used.
It's funny how that happens. I have never had any nsp but doing the tank transfer method during quarantine while trying to get things fixed in the mt is never fun and you have the added joy of having to create balance in a high nutrient non conventional setup. I can only imagine.
It is definitely far preferable to get them on dry food but that has its own challenges. I wish you the best!
 
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58e970b2-3f88-4897-87ba-5

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Great write up, I thought I could deal with nitrates and phos. but failed and lost all my nps, good luck and following. :)
Thanks and sorry to hear about your NPS.
Have to say I love your tanks and pictures. Seeing them always reminds me how much more I have to learn about reefing (and photography).

Right now it is sort of feeling like I may end up running some sort of phosphate media indefinitely. I am not looking forwards to having to play the balancing game with that.
I am also planning to switch to GFO after I run out of PhosGuard. Sounds like it may be a bit less aggressive and potentially safer to run long term.
 

najer

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Thanks and sorry to hear about your NPS.
Have to say I love your tanks and pictures. Seeing them always reminds me how much more I have to learn about reefing (and photography).

Right now it is sort of feeling like I may end up running some sort of phosphate media indefinitely. I am not looking forwards to having to play the balancing game with that.
I am also planning to switch to GFO after I run out of PhosGuard. Sounds like it may be a bit less aggressive and potentially safer to run long term.

Yes to managing the phos, I have half a tub of phosguard somewhere from about 7 years ago as it is a harsh drop, my little tank has no mechanical filtration but now is bulking out with corals as export. :)
 

dennis romano

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Here is my NPS tank. Starting a NPS tank from scratch is very hard. If you do critters that take larger food like cerianthis anemones, sun corals and dendros you stand a better chance. Sponges like red trees stand almost zero chance in a new tank. My tank is over twenty years old. They feed on the microfauna in an old tank. Never get a sun coral that is receding. I have tried to save several from different stores with no luck. My tank gets fed several times a day with different size foods from phyto up to mysis. Fine food is broadcast while larger food gets target fed. Overfeeding is normal but in a small new tank, it is deadly. My tank gets cloudy at feeding time but is crystal clear within an hour.
IMG_1287.jpg
 
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58e970b2-3f88-4897-87ba-5

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Yes to managing the phos, I have half a tub of phosguard somewhere from about 7 years ago as it is a harsh drop, my little tank has no mechanical filtration but now is bulking out with corals as export. :)
That is awesome. I'm wishing I had no mechanical filtration to deal with today. Changed out a nasty filter sock and my skimmer mod is showing signs of failure.

Am I remembering correctly that you have an Oxydator in your little tank?
Thinking I will eventually get one and also start running a bit of carbon. Those will hopefully help keep the water a bit clearer.
 
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58e970b2-3f88-4897-87ba-5

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What are your plans with the algae tank?
I am going to eventually put some macro algae in it and do a bit more work on the aquascape. I am thinking once things get a little more stable I will head up to FragBox and see what they have. I really want to try some Dragons Breath.

I am pretty sure at this point anything nice will just get overgrow with Green Hair Algae and Calothrix (cyano).
 
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58e970b2-3f88-4897-87ba-5

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Here is my NPS tank. Starting a NPS tank from scratch is very hard. If you do critters that take larger food like cerianthis anemones, sun corals and dendros you stand a better chance. Sponges like red trees stand almost zero chance in a new tank. My tank is over twenty years old. They feed on the microfauna in an old tank. Never get a sun coral that is receding. I have tried to save several from different stores with no luck. My tank gets fed several times a day with different size foods from phyto up to mysis. Fine food is broadcast while larger food gets target fed. Overfeeding is normal but in a small new tank, it is deadly. My tank gets cloudy at feeding time but is crystal clear within an hour.
IMG_1287.jpg
That tank is amazing!

Thanks for the advise. I was pretty sure filter feeders like sponges would not work in my tank yet, good to hear I got that part correct.
I am planning to hold on new NPS additions until I get things more stable and start to see some growth. For now I will probably just play around with trying to setup some help feeding, getting a bit more bio diversity in the tank, and seeing if I can get a bit of macroalgae growing in addition to my GHA.
 
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58e970b2-3f88-4897-87ba-5

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Quick update on how things are going.

Did a bit of cleaning, water change, and renovations. The Green Hair Algae seems to be getting more established and winning out over the cyano lately. (photo from after vacuuming tank)
IMG_0539.jpg

I also removed a baseball sized clump of GHA that was attached to an airline hose. I previously pulled it from another tank to try to seed this one. I would call that part super successful.
With the new rock layout I can now get the scraper all the way across the front.

The coupling between the skimmer cup and pvc pipes is starting to leak.
Fortunately it looks like I won't imminently have puddle on my floor again... assuming the collection cup drain works and coupling doesn't break.
IMG_0540.jpg


It is a bit hard to see, but I am finding the skimmer has a nice spot for running media bags in it.
I put a new bag of PhosGuard in it today. I will try to get a better photo of this at some point.


I also swapped up how my pump and filter socks were arranged.
I previously had a 4" pipe with the pump in the bottom and filter sock above. The skimmer outlet also poured into the filter sock with this. It was a pain to change the socks though.
I now have the pump for the top tank in a glass jar and friction holding the filter sock on the pipe. The skimmer is not using the filter sock anymore.
IMG_0542.jpg


Now for the important part. Sun Coral was doing decent today, but wasn't as extended as my last update. Hopefully a water change and fresh bag of PhosGuard helps.
IMG_0543.jpg
 

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That is awesome. I'm wishing I had no mechanical filtration to deal with today. Changed out a nasty filter sock and my skimmer mod is showing signs of failure.

Am I remembering correctly that you have an Oxydator in your little tank?
Thinking I will eventually get one and also start running a bit of carbon. Those will hopefully help keep the water a bit clearer.

Yes I have the mini oxydator in the puddle and an A and D in the big tank, I would never run a tank without them now.
 
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58e970b2-3f88-4897-87ba-5

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I took apart the skimmer tonight and found the issue. The pvc pipe was a tight fit into the collection cup. Looks like the little bit of play that was allowed, rubbed a hole in the “flexible coupling”.
DFF9D84B-9C72-4496-8E61-1ECECF58A081.jpeg


@Sleeping Giant gave me some tips on how he was keeping his Aquamaxx HOB 1.5 in line a couple days ago. Pretty sure this what he described:
ED001B5B-4994-49E9-AF5F-00114138C654.jpeg

So far it looks like it is keeping the skimmate off my floor. Fingers crossed it doesn’t fail overnight.
If it doesn’t work I may have to go back and ask for the picture he offered to take for me of the setup....or just try duct tape.

In super exciting news I think the “dead” Sun Coral is bouncing back. It is really hard to see at this point, but some of the flesh that hung on is showing what look like tiny polyps on it.
461577EB-B89A-4086-990D-8BEE73E53C93.jpeg

I hope I’m not imagining those, but it will be really cool if it manages to pull a comeback.
 
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58e970b2-3f88-4897-87ba-5

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F97AAC67-2C84-4EB6-81DE-A5BF4AEB304F.jpeg

C3464FFD-247C-44E4-B456-97D98FFAC699.jpeg

Currently experiencing an invasion of Munnid Isopods and rise in nitrates.
Not sure if this should be attributed to the skimmer being offline or the Isopods eating algae.
Until the skimmer is ready I am planning to do more frequent water changes to keep nutrient levels in check.
Backup plan is to add bio pellets back in.

B768877E-B16B-4E27-B3E6-B3098B5C7959.jpeg

I grabbed some electrical outlets to add to the stash of controller parts.
Also finally received the optical water level sensor, minus any documentation for wiring. Hopefully it is fairly standard.
Still not quite sure what I want to use for mounting and a case though. Seems like a problem for after the skimmer is built though.
 
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03FAA6EA-594D-4AD6-975C-035FCD4A0E8C.jpeg

94DEE0E9-C184-4EE9-91B4-5B03165E9D1E.jpeg

The skimmer is finally assembled and undergoing some fresh water testing.
So far it is going well. Only some minor drips from the joins. Hopefully tomorrow I can glue things together and they will stop.

I had to lengthen the body a bit. I initially cut it to be a bit above the height of my aquarium, but later decided I want to run the pump and plumbing into the Aquamaxx HOB body. It is a bit higher, but using it should tidy up the aquarium a bit.

F2E6666E-B8BB-41D4-BB10-696700CBF158.jpeg

I’m not sure the pictures do it justice. It stands a bit over 5ft tall.

CB3F2CA3-8F2E-41FC-87E9-FD6FC705237E.jpeg

I am also planning to run it in a bucket to help with cleaning. I should be able to disconnect the union on the drain pipe to lower the water level and make it easier to move.
This became a serious concern after the last test when I dumped skimmate on my head while moving the prototype.
That is a mistake I will never make again.
 

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I have been delaying making this thread for a while, but I finally got the encouragement I needed. The fridge was full and the bottle of bubbly that has been in the back for months had to go. After a couple of glasses and a reminder from [email protected] I remember the real reason I should document this is so future reefers can learn from my successes and avoid my mistakes. Also if you happen to like wine (or ice wine) and are in the Niagara region, check out Colaneri. Unfortunately I don't think they export much, but their wines are some of the best I have ever had.
7.jpg


Like most build threads this story starts off with cycling a tank and a trip to the LFS. It probably differs when I mention that this was during a lock down and I was picking up two NPS coral, sign unseen.
When I arrived at the LFS there was a "free coral" included with my order.
9.jpg


8.jpg

They mentioned that the corals had been there for a long time and seemed pretty keen on selling me a Yellow Finger Gorgonian they also had. Since this was my first NPS coral I refused, I really couldn't take the deaths of that many corals on my hands if I failed.... Turns out this was really good. It wouldn't have fit in my tank anyways.

After getting home I did a really long acclimation (I think it was about 6 hours). The coral were packed at a salinity of 30 ppt, so we had a ways to go to get up to my 35 ppt. I poked a hole in the bag, hung it in my tank, and every 15 minutes added some more tank water.

*Note: You will find I do not do any of the normal dipping and quarantine most reefers are doing. Currently I have been lucky and only got really awesome hitchhikers from coral. I may change my mind after having to deal with a serious pest. Also I hope to use this tank in future as a quarantine/long term observation tank. I love some of the things than come on coral, but have found (in another tank) it can take up to 6 months to notice some hitch hikers.

During the acclimation time I was busy looking into Randy Holmes-Farley's DIY calibration solution (link) for my salinity meters.... because how could there be a 5 ppt difference between our tanks. This was my first time encountering hypo salinity.

The free Sun Coral had some serious tissue loss going on and the other one was starting to lose tissue in some spots. The Red Finger Gorgornian was in decent health, but had oddly small polyps. I suspect this was from under feeding. The LFS gave me a sample of the food they were using and said how much they were feeding their 100+ gallon tanks. Shortly after I was feeding 6-8 times this for a pico tank.
That said I will be going back. They were really nice, are close by, and answered the questions I asked quite well. I suspect the issues with these coral may be due to the hardships of Covid (and NSP coral being hard to keep in mixed tank). I will reserve my judgement for more "normal" visits.

After acclimatization I set the Sun Corals on some of the rocks and super glued the Gorgonian to a small rock. In this setup I experimented with feeding, but had little success. It seemed they did not want to open up and the the food was quickly diluted. They stayed in the tank for a few days until I noticed my nitrates and phosphates were trending up quite quickly.
At this point I had the tank setup as a light side / dark side. One end had grow lights and the other was dark. I had spent a couple of weeks ghost feeding brine shrimp to verify that I could handle the feeding for NPS coral.
At this point I was either experiencing the delayed decay of the previous food... or the new LFS food was seriously more potent.

Fortunately I had not glued anyone down (to anything to large), so I pulled the coral and setup a pico tank for them. I setup two 2.5 gallon (10 L) tank with a heater and power head for them. I started doing a tank transfer every 24 hours and then cleaning the other tank. At this point I was feeding huge amounts trying to get a feeding response.
10.jpg

I was mostly target feeding a paste made from the LFS food (dried food with mixed size and ingredients) to the Sun Coral, then after 15-30 minutes turning on the flow again. I hoped the proceeding cloud would feed the Gorgonian.

This seemed to work okay. The Sun Coral could occasionally been seen to have consumed some of the food sitting in the pits of its polyps. The Gorgonian was hopefully doing okay... I didn't see the polyps catching much or any of the food, but at least it was getting a way higher concentration that when it was at the LFS.

In the process of trying to correct the issue with the main tank I added an external skimmer, switched to main tank to being entirely a refugium, upgraded the lights, added a biopellets (Siporax), added filter socks, added more powerheads, and added a 2.5 gallon "display tank". Essentially I turned a pico tank into the display and made my main tank an algae farm.
1.jpg

*Note: this is a newer picture. The pvc pipe on the skimmer was more recently added to fix overflows.

Shortly after the improvements on the main tank I ran life and missed one of my daily water changes. This caused a serious decline in the Sun Coral. I lost a couple polyps on the one and most on the other. Shortly after this I transferred them to the main tank and prayed I had things more under control in it.
At this point the one Sun Coral was declining and the other was mostly gone, with 2 tiny polyps hanging in on the bottom...I haven't had the heart to check if they are still there. It will be a miracle if they make a comeback.

In the main tank I setup timers to have three feeding periods in the pico/display tank. At this point all flow would stop and I could target feed the sun coral. After about 15-30 minutes the powerheads would turn on and swirl the food around. This seemed to help the Sun Coral catch more and feed the Gorgonian. After about 2 hours the return pump would turn on and flush the pico tank into a filter sock (change about every 48 hours).

Shortly after switching to this setup I added frozen seafood to the mix. I think this was a real turning point. I got a bunch of raw squid, shrimp, little neck clams, and PEI mussels from the grocery store and blended them. After this I packed them fairly flat in ziplock bags and now break off a chunk to feed each day.
I mix a bit of the LFS food, Reef Roids, frozen Seafood, and Red Sea Reef Energy AB+ into a jar each day to target feed. This soaks / defrosts in the fridge and gets fed at the same times each day.
5.jpg


While things aren't looking great, the Sun Coral is bulging and capturing food at meal times and the polyps on the Red Finger Gorgonian seem to be catching a lot of food. Hopefully things continue to keep improving.

My upcoming plans / battles include:
- finding a custom / odd sized tank to replace the pico (after things stabalize)
- battling phosphates (nitrates are dropping quickly, but phosphates are still high)
- automating feeding

I am hoping to eventually replace the plastic 2.5 gallon pico with something larger and glass so that I have room for more coral and a better view.

While nitrates recently have dropped into a good range I still have high phosphates. It seems I am shortly going to have to shortly start dosing nitrates and/or reducing my lighting schedule. I also seem to have finally found the right amount of PhosGuard to slowly drop phosphates.
I also dropped Reef-Roids from my food mix and am thinking to add some Reef Nutrition Oyster Feast in soon.

Eventually I need to setup automated feeding. I am hoping that once the Sun Coral are able to extend their tentacles I can reduce target feeding and do more broadcast feedings to the tank. At this point I am going to proceed with setting up to dose my food mixtures to the tank and hope that will be able to work for most feedings.
You should try selcon, it's amazing
 
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