My mom's 13 gallon bubble algae Christmas present tank build!

Dragonspainter

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Some of you may have seen my post about a month ago on wanting to grow bubble algae as my moms Christmas present. Well I did it, and this is the build thread for that tank!

This build thread Its not going to be *too* exciting, but given the fact its my first saltwater aquarium I've set up I'm quite proud of it. Plus, its a bit unusual. I gave everyone who gave me supplies/helped me some selenite or horn coral fossils that family collected from rockhounding over the years as thanks. My dad, uncle, all three brothers and I all chipped in for this project. Tank details at the end.

I got Fluval Sea Evo 13.5 gallon tank and CaribSea live fiji sand to start with and then I managed to get some bubble algae, macro algae, live rock, and live water from a local science teacher (This dude has everything from stingrays to lionfish! I need to take my mom back there to see everything!) to speed up cycling to try and get everything done before Christmas. Due to the tank inhabitants I chose (and the fact that one of my saltwater mixes arrived bad) I decided to sick to lower salinity at 1.021-1.022.

Lets get started!

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Dec 6. As you can see not much is going on yet, but I did think the glowing clouded tank look was super cool.

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Dec 7. Next day it cleaned up mostly.


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Dec 7. Much of the bubble algae I was gifted floated around for a few days before settling in the filter or the sand bed.

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Dec 8. Everything had settled down by this point. It kind of looked like a tornado hit but I was quite happy with it.

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Dec 10. Two days later, things are turning green. Some of the Macro algae seaweed-y stuff started to die, but much of it seemed quite happy. Which honestly surprised me considering I was told most of it would die off at first. I didn't lay the "roots" of the seaweed-looking macro algae into the sand bed very well but I liked ow the roots looked and I wanted to see what would happen if I left them uncovered.

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Dec 10. One of my live rocks started getting this strange purple coating on it which was trapping bubbles. Some kind of algae? Most of the bubble algae settled in the center of the tank. Which I now refer to as the bubble algae graveyard.

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Dec 11. The green is increasing ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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Dec 15. Maybe I should clean the glass.... (´・_・`)

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Dec 15. Some strange red fluffy stuff seems to be growing on my Macro algae stems. At first I thought it was some confused overgrown roots from the seaweed-like stuff but now I just don't know. Another Algae? A alien? it does not seem to be harming the macro algae so I left it alone.

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Dec 15. The purple coating on the rock has turned green. Is it happy? Unclear. Its still is holding air bubbles hostage.

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Dec 20. I still not have cleaned the front glass. I am wishfully hoping that some little tag along will clean it for me, but so far I have not seen any. This however is foreshadowing for the future.

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Dec 20. Of course why would I clean the glass BEFORE trying to take pictures? ¯\_( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)_/¯
The slimy coating on the rock seems to have disappeared. Where did it go? No one knows. The air bubbles are now free and the Macro algae still seems quite happy.

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Dec 21. Finally its time to add my first tank inhabitants! I got 12 Opae Ula shrimp (AKA Hawaiian super shrimp) from a local breeder. I needed to acclimate them from half salinity to full saltwater but I ran into a problem. Mainly that I don't have a drip acclimation system. So after some brainstorming I created this monstrosity. The ingredients are simple; a conveniently shaped glass vase that has a rim small enough to hold a upside down water bottle. And then a plastic water bottle. Use a little needle to poke a hole in the lid and base and bam, drip acclimation system! I used a little bit of tape to cover the hole to control flow which turned out to be unnecessary.

Its at this point where I realized the tank was warmer then I expected. After taking its temperature the water was 76 degrees. Turns out covering a aquarium with a box and having the lights on all day raises the tank temperature. Who knew? I was originally planning on keeping it at room temperature. After some research I decided I would add a heater to keep the temperature consistent at night after the lights turned off. But now I had to acclimate the shrimp to the temperature in addition to the salinity.

The answer was obviously more vases.

I used a small square vase to prop up the first vase in the aquarium, keeping its rim above waterline. So if anyone ever questions your random vase collection tell them its for emergency fish purposes. Sadly I don't have a full picture of this setup in the tank for when I was acclimating the shrimp, but I have one later in the post.

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Dec 22. These little dudes are hard to take pictures of. Though it could be due to the fact that I am trying get the camera to focus through two layers of dirty glass. But all 12 are still alive and well! They are enjoying sifting through the added saltwater detritus from the drip acclimation.

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Dec 22 (later that day). They are free.

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Dec 24. My twelve tiny shrimp have failed to clean the aquarium in two days. I decide I need to get some snails on my cleanup crew, but after discussing with a local saltwater fish store I decided against the traditional saltwater snails. I worried my low salinity would kill them. After some research I decide on Nerite snails. I know what your thinking, "Nerite snails? Those are traditional saltwater snails!" And I would respond "Well yes and no. There are actually dozens of species that range from freshwater, brackish, saltwater, and some of them just don't care and do alright in all three. The problem is the different species are poorly documented in the hobby and breeders will label color morphs as their own type of snail, instead of listing the original species." Its almost Christmas eve and I don't have time to wait on shipping for a confirmed snail species. So I ran down to PetSmart and bought three freshwater "Black ebony" Nerites and figured I would give it a try. Only one is truly black (though he has little white circles on front rim of his shell?) while the other two of them had faint yellow spots. No idea on the actual species but I started slowly acclimating them over the course of three days to full saltwater.

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Dec 24. After I started acclimating the snails all my Opae Ula shrimp formed a gang in the back left corner of the tank. I think my flow might be too high but I like to imagine they are plotting against the snails. Its also possible that placing the vase in front of the intake has changed the flow enough to cause them to cluster? I honestly don't know. I also finally cleaned the front glass in preparation for Christmas.

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Dec 24. Much of the bubble algae and dead macro algae leaves in the "graveyard" are slowly decomposing. I'm not super worried about it. It's at this point that I noticed the spindly-tangle-of-dark-green-macro-algae seems to have been increasing in size. Like... it doubled in size in less then a month. I didn't realize until comparing it to previous pictures in preparation for the Christmas reveal. I thought it was just surviving but it seems to be thriving... Even if it has some other stuff growing on it. But I have no time to worry about it much as its present wrapping time!

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Dec 24. I then spent the rest of the day wrapping gifts. I managed to avoid any papercuts only to get one the next day while unwrapping gifts.


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Dec 25 Christmas day (before the reveal.) This strange red thready algae has started to grow on my macro algae. Is it the same as the 'root' algae from before? I don't think so, as its not behaving the same and it seems slightly darker. I noticed some the day before but it has grown significantly overnight.

I like to imagine the tank is just embracing the Christmas spirit and donning some festive colors.

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Dec 25 (before the reveal.) Shrimp gang is still going strong. But three shrimp seem to have gone missing. Did they die or are they elsewhere in the tank? (more on this later)

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Dec 25th (Before the reveal.) Actual bubble algae growth or just remnants of my starter culture? The world may never know. But I do have live bubble algae.

THE REVEAL~

I wrapped the refractometer up all nice and gave it to my mom as a teaser. My mom had no idea what it was. My siblings and I then escorted her to the spare bedroom where I had hidden the tank in and I took off the box covering it. My mom was super surprised. I explained what exactly the gift was and that bubble algae was the largest living single celled organism and her response was "No way." She loved all the algae growth and loved the Hawaiian super shrimp (We has a relative in Hawaii that keeps them and my mom has been wanting them for years.) We spent a long time just looking at all the algae as I showed her pictures of the tank progression. Sadly due to Covid one of my brothers and uncle could not be present for the reveal but I recorded it for them. While I'm not going to share the video directly I will share some screenshots from it. My phone takes good photos but bad videos so the screenshots kind of suck.

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Wee little bubble algae in my moms hand ;u;

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Dec 25 (after the reveal) I consider this present a complete success! But wait... there is more.


Dec 26, 8 pm. I came into the room after dark and turned the lights on and there was all this movement! We crowded in and quickly tried to snap photos of these strange little shrimp-bugs that had shown up.

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After some frantic googling I found out we have Arthropods! ٩(^ᴗ^)۶

They probably had been around in the tank for a while but I just never checked the tank after dark before. While we where watching them interact with the Shrimp to make sure it didn't try to kill them or something my mom noticed one of the little 'pod boys swim into the filter intake. Its important to note that I put a sponge in there to stop the shrimp from getting sucked in to the filter. I decide to take off the filter cover and take a peek in.

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Lo and behold we found the little Arthropod AND my three missing Super Shrimp alive and well in the first filter chamber! They all seemed quite happy so I decided to leave them for now. I want to see if they can get out by themselves or if they are actually stuck. The sponge filter in the next chamber is much thicker (the whole chamber is basically solid sponge) so I don't think they can make it into the final chamber where the pump is located. I don't think they are in any direct danger by hanging out in there but I am wondering if I should discourage this?

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Dec 27. One of my Nerite snails. You can clearly see its not a black ebony color but I love him anyways.

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Dec 27. I was trying to get a pic of this red algae stuff when I noticed MORE BUGS. I have not identified them yet but I am jazzed. More pods!

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Dec 27. Closeup of the red stuff. You guys have any idea what it is?

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Dec 27. I also noticed this white fuzzy thing today. Creature? Algae? Sponge? Any ideas?

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Dec 27. Closeup of the red root ball looking stuff. Again, do you guys know what it is?

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Dec 27. Exposed root contrasting with the red-tready-algae for contrast.

And that's it for now! I will update more as time goes on. I was talking about what else we should put in the tank with my mom and she is open to suggestions! (Right now we are thinking more macro algae and maybe a small shrimp-safe coral?) We also plan to move the tank to its permanent location soon. Identification help is much apricated.
 
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xxkenny90xx

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Looking good! I recall reading your other thread and am happy to see you got it done!

Maybe I missed it but why did you go with the lower salinity? Oh and the red web stuff appears to be cyanobacteria.
 

TriggerFinger

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Very well written post, I hope you keep this thread updated!! Agree the red is Cyanobacteria, it comes and goes for some people. If you ever need more bubble algae then I will gladly send you some; I have a very large “collection” of it!
 

SaltwtrNewb

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What a stangely awsome build! I remember reading your past thread and thinking “this mans is out of their mind, why in the world would anyone try to grow what we are all trying to get rid of! Plus they probs don’t even know you can’t just put table salt in and aquarium” then you did it......... I shall never doubt people trying to grow strange things in saltwater tanks again :)
 
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Dragonspainter

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Looking good! I recall reading your other thread and am happy to see you got it done!

Maybe I missed it but why did you go with the lower salinity? Oh and the red web stuff appears to be cyanobacteria.
Three reasons for the low salinity; One of my two 10 gallon saltwater mixes arrived bad (it was yellow and hard as a brick) which really decided it for me at the time. I also knew I wanted Opae Ula shrimp which are happiest in brackish and I am *hoping* they will breed in the tank if it has lower salinity. Lastly I figure its safer to aim for lower salinity given the small size of the tank, juuust in case we don't top off evaporation as often as we should. So laziness with a hint of sound reasoning?

Very well written post, I hope you keep this thread updated!! Agree the red is Cyanobacteria, it comes and goes for some people. If you ever need more bubble algae then I will gladly send you some; I have a very large “collection” of it!

Ah! that makes sense. It didn't occur to me it could be Cyanobacteria. And hopefully I wont need to seed the aquarium with more, but I will keep that in mind!

What a stangely awsome build! I remember reading your past thread and thinking “this mans is out of their mind, why in the world would anyone try to grow what we are all trying to get rid of! Plus they probs don’t even know you can’t just put table salt in and aquarium” then you did it......... I shall never doubt people trying to grow strange things in saltwater tanks again :)
What can I say, my mom loves weeds! One time she had this pretty yellow plant growing in her garden that she loved and then my neighbor was like "you know that's Dyers woad right?" She ended up keeping it in her garden XD


hi,awesome gift!! great intro,and a heck of a job keeping it hidden til Christmas.. :cool: :)
Thanks! ٩(^ᴗ^)۶
 
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Dragonspainter

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Very interesting!

I think you could do with some more liverock though. Any are fish going to call this home?
I don't think we plan to add any fish, unless there are tiny-shrimp-safe-fish? Maybe some other types of inverts though. We are open to suggestions.

And as a family we rockhound a lot so we actually have quite a few PH neutral rocks I wanted to put in there to make a nice rock scape... but they are all burred under snow right now XD
 

fishguy242

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hi,maybe a yellow/orange/black clown goby? dragonet?? but need lots of pods,constant supply,i know tank is new ,norm would not recommend ,but different style set up here,ruby red is nice color one ;) :)
 
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Dragonspainter

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hi,maybe a yellow/orange/black clown goby? dragonet?? but need lots of pods,constant supply,i know tank is new ,norm would not recommend ,but different style set up here,ruby red is nice color one ;) :)
Some of my small Opae Ula shrimp are about the same size as my large ampopods atm.
 

Tired

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Any fish you add will eat the opae ula. If not the adults, definitely the babies. The amphipods may be a problem, as they can grow out of control in fishless tanks. I wouldn't feed the tank at all, or if you do, feed incredibly small amounts- opae do just fine eating algae and nothing else.

Do not put a dragonet in any 13-gallon tank, even a macroalgae one. Especially not one with so little rock.
 

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