A Normal Evening At Home

•January 23, 2010 • 4 Comments

Ornery little bugger broke the skin.

Me: The clownfish keep biting my arm!

Brown: Take your hand out of the tank.

Me: This hurts, show some sympathy.

Brown: Take your hand out of the tank, dear.

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Stuff In My Tank – Frogspawn Coral

•January 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment
Frogspawn coral

Frogspawn coral closeup, image by Diogo Lopes

Livestock Type – Coral.   A large polyp stony (LPS) coral from the genus Euphyllia, specifically the divisa and paradivisa species.

Common Name – Frogspawn.  Gets its name from the tight clusters of polyps that are similar to clusters of frog eggs.  Commonly confused with other members of the Euphyllia genus, especially hammer coral (Euphyllia ancora), as appearance and care is similar.

Care Level – Moderate.   Frogspawn need adequate lighting and space to grow, can be fickle about water flow, and benefit from target feedings.  Otherwise, they are among the low-maintenance LPS.

Environmental Impact – Low.  Branching frogspawn grows multiple heads outwards from a single base. Hobbyists will trim its size by breaking off one of the heads and will often trade the fragged head to the store or to a fellow hobbyist.

Should I Put This In My Tank? – Frogspawn makes a stunning accent piece.  It comes in a range of colors, from pearl white to vivid purple-green.  When fully expanded, the coral will sway in the current and the movement adds a sense of life to the tank.  Unlike many stony polyp corals, frogspawns do not need intense lighting.   However, it does have specialized requirements and can encroach on other corals, so this should not be an impulse buy.

Does It Play Well With Others? – No.  Frogspawn deters encroachment and predation by stinging invaders.  Frogspawn should be separated from all other coral and care taken to ensure that it will not touch competing livestock when fully expanded. This includes sweeper tentacles, which can be longer than the tentacles forming the body of the coral and are extended to catch prey and deter encroachment.  They also consume meaty foods, so some of the wild livestock (e.g.: mysid shrimp) might be ingested accidentially.

How Will This Species Piss Me Off? – If you are careful with placement and maintenance, a frogspawn is a low-stress coral.  You will need to remember that they are carnivorous in addition to photosynthetic and if you forget to feed them meaty foods they will gradually deteriorate; if you do feed them frequently, they will grow rapidly and might exceed the space you’ve left for them.  There are diseases specific to the Euphyllia corals which can wipe out single heads or the entire colony.  They are also vulnerable to sudden environmental changes and require stable calcium levels in the water to thrive, but these conditions are common of many stony polyp corals.  Some species of fish, such as dwarf angels, might pick at the soft tissues; clownfish have been reported to host in frogspawns, sometimes damaging the coral in the process. There are associated health hazards in keeping frogspawn (see below).

Onyx hybrid clown hosting in frogspawn. Photo by The Grim Reefer at Nanoreef.com

What Can I Expect To Spend? – Single heads of frogspawn are a frequent trade-in and are found throughout aquarium stores.  The cost for these will depend on size and color, but it is unlikely to exceed $20 to $25.  If you are asked to pay more, consider shopping online where you can get wider variety in colors for a few extra dollars.

Where Can I Buy It? – Almost any aquarium hobby shop will have at least one head of frogspawn in stock.  Local hobbyists might also have a head they will frag for you in trade.  Online vendors have the best selection; beware of photographs taken under nothing but actinic or blue LED lighting, as frogspawns have a lovely fluorescent coloring and “what you see is what you get” should often include “after I’ve just turned out the main lights and lit this sucker to make it pop.”

Any Health Hazards? – Yes, they sting and burn exposed flesh.  I have two frogspawns, one in the 30g and one in the 65g.  The frogspawn in the 30g has 10 heads and I burn the everloving crap out of my arm when I move around it in the tank.  Sometimes the burns are so bad they look like an acute attack of poison ivy; this includes the itching and the weeping.

… And An Even Sadder Post

•January 21, 2010 • 2 Comments
mccosker's flasher wrasse

The uncrispied, de-linted version of the McCosker's Flasher Wrasse

The new wrasse ended up on the floor late Tuesday.  If you count such things in dollars instead of lives, that is now $90 worth of fish that jumped from the tank in one week.  A closed top tank, mind you… argh.  I’m guessing the acrylic top might be contributing to these deaths as a fish that jumps on an angle will hit the plastic and flop around until he either drops back through the hole or off the side of the tank to crisp himself on the carpet.  I tested the water parameters to see if a nitrate spike was enticing them to jump but, no, the little buggers are just suicidal.

I’m thinking that a barrier should be erected instead of enclosing the top; I’m wondering what mechanics would be required to run a three-inch tall acrylic baffle along the four-inch gap between the lights and the tank lid.  It would probably be God-awful tacky but I’m really sick of these deaths.

There has been one note of good news, however.  I was sure that Morty (formerly Morticia) of spousal abuse fame had risen up and slain his mate, as Merlin had gone AWOL over the weekend.  I did a massive water change yesterday just in case it was nitrates, and found Merlin perfectly healthy and stuck in the overflow (the covered overflow, mind…).  I reached in and netted her, and Morty was overjoyed to get her back.  They’ve been inseparable since.

Happy Post Becomes Sad Post

•January 17, 2010 • 2 Comments

I was writing up a nice happy post about how I broke down part of the 30g yesterday and traded in 26 pounds of live rock covered in star polyps for a Bartlett’s anthias and a McCosker’s flasher wrasse (it was a spectacular rock), but came out to find the anthias dead on the floor.  As this is how I lost the first Bartlett’s anthias, I will not be getting another.  The top of the tank is fully enclosed except for an opening directly under each MH bulb, so there’s nothing else I can do to prevent this.

I am bummed.  Also, WordPress is not letting me upload pictures of a Bartlett’s anthias.  Maybe you should go watch him in the meantime.

The Trials and Tribulations of Sex Identity

•January 8, 2010 • 4 Comments

(clownfish style)

coral reef off of Australia

The ocean: Spitting in the face of conservative ideologues since FOREVER.

Remember that part in Jurassic Park when they discovered the raptors were breeding because the genetic tinkerers had used frog DNA and some species of frogs swapped gender?  It happens all the darned time in the ocean.  And correct me if I’m wrong, but while we’ve always been told that everything is genetically female until there’s a Y-chromosome added, the gender change is as likely to be female-to-male as it is to be male-to-female.  Heck, they’ve even observed female-to-male behaviors in coral.

Clownfish are part of the other group, the male-to-female group.  They are protandrous hermaphrodites and each is born male.  Unlike harem fish such as  anthias, where one bright and colorful male has multiple female partners, clownfish form mated pairs.  There are some exceptions – I’ve heard that larger reef tanks and wild reefs can support multiple groups of clownfish pairs and that these become fish gone wild! sex-wise – but usually it’s two males plus six months equals one male one female.

I bring this up because one of my clownfish juvies in the 65g died back in… October?  Gomez and Morticia were pairing up nicely.  Morticia has been around for a goodly while now – she was the replacement for a member of the very first clownfish pair introduced to the tank when it was first established last April.  Morticia is a true perc (Amphiprion percula) and I got lucky with her, as true percs tend to be a little more expensive and she was sold to me as a false perc (Amphiprion ocellaris).  I didn’t know she was a true perc until she matured and her colors deepened.  She is exceptionally pretty.  Somewhere back in her breeding stock was a black perc, as she’s got dark black bars and is a rich orange-gold.

She is also now a he.  I held off on getting her a mate after Gomez died as introducing a new clownfish is always a gamble.  Morticia is still young enough to be male but was becoming a dominant female (she was bigger in size and Gomez was submissive to her).  As she was the the established clown in the tank, I assumed that any smaller clown put in the tank would remain male and she’d continue to grow as female.

Glennz clownfish design is AVAILABLE AS A SHIRT OR LAPTOP SKIN!

I AM WOMAN, BITCH!*

Nope.

Merlin was introduced about six weeks ago.  When I bought him, Merlin was a tiny but healthy false perc male, and I thought he was small enough to not give Morticia any grief.

Nope.

I’ve never seen anything like it.  Merlin was half her size but he beat Morticia senseless within a week.  The following week, Morticia disappeared from the tank and I thought he had killed her.  Then I caught a glimpse of her every so often caught in the smallest, least accessible nook in the rockwork.  Her fins were in tatters and she had open wounds in her sides.  Merlin had stuck her in a prison and he beat her when she tried to escape.

Then, Merlin started letting Morticia out to eat.  It was amazing to watch, practically a Nature documentary – Merlin would literally escort her out of her prison when I fed the tank, make sure she had gotten a tiny amount of food, and would (again) beat the snot out of her until she retreated back into the rockwork.  He’d then resume guarding the hole to make sure she didn’t leave until the next feeding.

A week after that, Morticia was out of the rocks and swimming near Merlin, but was displaying submissive behavior like crazy.  Submissive clownfish swim on their sides and “twitch” when a dominant fish comes near them and Morticia seemed to suffer an ongoing seizure.

So she’s now a he.  I’m not sure if Morticia was ever a true female or was just leaning that way, but Merlin is now larger than Morticia and is definitely female.  Morticia’s fins have started to heal and (s?)he is now swimming in the open, never more than a couple of inches away from Merlin.

If this had occurred in humans, the authorities would have been called.


* Pssst!  That adorable clown-pie design up there?  It can be purchased and worn.

Crap, We Might Be Moving

•January 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Okay, it’s a new year.  Let’s get the fishes back in motion!

New year, new clownfish. I've had this picture on my desktop so long, I can't remember where it came from.

His New Year's resolution was to be adorable. Done and done.

The tanks are in great shape, thanks to plenty of free time and lack of money to add new livestock.  Nothing encourages tank stability as much as being completely flat-ass broke — if the only improvement you can make is to maintain what you already own, what you already own ends up looking spectacular.  Still, it’s been raining here almost non-stop since September and Santa was good enough to bring us a new roof, so the fish can stay warm and dry.  Or warm and un-electrocuted, whatever.

Unfortunately for them (but fortunately for us), we might be moving within the next year.  Brown loves his job so we’d stay local, but we’re looking for a house in a different area of town.  This is the Perfect Storm for a reef tank, and I have two of the darned things.  If we needed to move long distances or if we were to move immediately, it’d be a no-brainer because I’d have to break them down, sell off the livestock, and start from scratch.  A planned local move is all sorts of inconvenience because I can hang on to some or all of the livestock if I manage my time and resources.

(And there’s the little voice that keeps saying: Moving will be a great opportunity to buy and set up that 220g reef with dual overflows you’ve always wanted! but that’s a given.  Also: see the part about being flat-ass broke until we pay off this roof).

Oh, and we have to get the kitchen floor replaced if we want to show the house.  It’s the original linoleum that came with the house and while peeling and huge gouges all the way to the concrete are fine with us, they won’t do us much good at the negotiating table.  As the 30g is smack-dab in the middle of the kitchen, odds are that if I have to get rid of one reef, this is the one to go.

I don’t want to give up the 30g.  It’s been a headache with the peyssonnelia and the bubble algae and the worms and the lighting and the countless other junk, but it’s also an amazingly healthy established reef.  The fish are huge, the coral thriving, and the sand stays bright white naturally.  Self-cleaning sand is something of a holy grail in a reef — I don’t know where it came from and I don’t know how to duplicate it.

photo by hotronrex

Frogspawn under actinic lighting.

*sigh* Practically speaking, the 30g  should be broken down.  Since the really cool thing about reef tanks is that your investments can literally grow over time, I’ve been putting together a livestock list to do some price comparisons.

The most valuable livestock is the mated pair of black clownfish.  They are over three years old and the female is more than four inches long.  A mated pair of young juveniles goes for $140 so I could easily ask two to three times that for an adult pair.

The Euphyllia paradivisa is probably the next most valuable livestock.  Frogspawn coral are pretty common but mine has ten heads and is frighteningly enormous.  I’ve seen large frogspawns go for $100 and up, but I’m not sure how many people are looking to spend this much on common livestock.  Fragging it down to single or double heads would likely be the best way to move it, and at $30 to $50 for a small frogspawn it would increase the profit margin.

Nothing else in the tank could be considered a big-ticket item, unless you count the life rock encrusted with softies.  There are blue and green mushrooms, some (ha!) lovely star polyps, some (ha hah hah hah!!!) blue snowflake anthelia, along with a dozen varieties of zoanthid and branching SPS.  With the exception of the SPS, I think these would be fragged down to smaller pieces; the SPS should be scraped off of the rock and moved to the 65g, then sold later.  Some of the SPS is getting rather large and the unique blue-greens and purple-greens would probably sell for $100 and up if I let them encrust to frag plugs.

Anyhow, just organizing my thoughts for the next year and trying to get DigiClown back on a normal schedule.  More this week when Stuff In My Tanks resumes.

WARGH!

•December 7, 2009 • 5 Comments

Thanks to No1smitty for bringing my nightmares to larger-than-life.There’s a critter that lives in aquariums – its common name is the spaghetti worm, for obvious reasons.  It bores into the rockwork with its butt and lets its long feeders hang in the current and collect food.  I have a couple dozen of them (almost everyone does), and when I clean the tank I suck them out with the siphon.

Something I just learned about spaghetti worms… if you get one on your finger, it will try to bore into your finger.  And this is a fairly painless process for at least a minute or so, because it was working a goodly way inwards and downwards when I finally discovered it.

Then there was screaming.

I’m going to go boil my hand again.  Tah!