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!

Tank McNamara, Now In Full Color!

•December 2, 2009 • 1 Comment

*sigh*

Obligatory apology for being busy.  Every time I think I see the end of it…  anyhow.  Fish!  And fish with pictures!  And pretty fish with pictures!  When Matt installed the acrylic covers, the mandarin goby did a display dance for him. Matt took a few shots with his phone —

The mandarin does his little dance. Note especially the part where he is awesome.

The goby never, ever does a display for me.  He cruises the tank with his fins defluffed and his colors are slightly less vibrant.  It’s rather irritating, but I suppose it’s like cleaning the house before guests come over – there’s no reason you can’t pretend it looks this way all the time as long as they don’t check behind the couch.

A Cunning Fish Prison

•November 19, 2009 • 6 Comments

Thanks to three jumpers in 6 months, the 65g is now viewed as a prison with serious security flaws.  I really don’t get it; the 30G is an open-topped tank and there has never, ever been a single suicide, while the 65g has walls of acrylic encasing the jump zones and there’s still a loss every other month.

(air quotes) Schematics (/air quotes) for the new baffles.  With kitten, because this stuff is pretty dry.

(air quotes) Schematics (/air quotes) for the new baffles. With kitten, because this is especially boring even for a fish blog.

I called Matt, my fish dude (who now has his own company), and asked for a couple of new acrylic baffles for the 65g.  These leave every single inch of the top covered except for the openings directly under the MH lights (see Image, ignore math failings).  I’m not happy about this since the point of an open-topped tank is to have unobstructed air and light exchange, and this shoves a cork in the process.  There’s still the issue of the big gaping holes directly under the MH lights, too, and since there’s already so much acrylic lining the sides of the tank it’s not beyond imagination that a jumper would still be able to find his way out from the space that’s left.

It’d be nice to have a jumper-free tank.  Some of the wrasses have caught my eye, especially this little guy, and Christmas is a good time to fit into that category of “hard to shop for” and “has an expensive hobby.”  Not to mention that I’m replacing the Bartlett’s as soon as I can – she was friendly and schooled with Slime-atron.

I’m also considering whether the surviving clownfish should be removed from this tank.  Morticia has been mate-free for several months and has doubled in size since purchase.  If a potential mate was introduced, she’d beat the tar and stuffing out of him for quite some time before deciding if he was acceptable.  Then again, young love always hurts and Morticia’s a clownfish.  It’s almost impossible to kick the clownfish habit.

I Am A Terrible Hypocrite

•November 16, 2009 • 3 Comments

Or: How I ended up with a yellow tang.

Have you noticed the dead air over here?  I’ve noticed the dead air.  I feel terrible about it and I have all kinds of great excuses, like the last time I had a full day off was the Sunday we spent in the hospital, but excuses are the mark of someone who cannot manage her time.*  And all of the time dedicated to fish management has gone to their care, so no worries there – everyone is in the peak of health.  Except for the Bartlett’s anthias, which jumped to its death over the weekend.  I’m going to ask my fish guy to make me an acrylic baffle with no holes whatsoever except an opening directly under the MH bulbs… this is the third time a fish has leapt and there’s something morally wrong about taking a fish from the ocean to crisp itself on the living room floor.

yellowtang

The Yellow Tang, available for purchase at Addictive Aquatics. Along with other tangs. Much nicer tangs... ones that actually look INTERESTING... what the hell was I thinking?

Speaking of moral outrage, there’s a yellow tang in the 65g.  Dear Tang Police – please flame away.  I have neither justification nor defense – I don’t even like yellow tangs!  They are uninteresting monochromatic background fish that remind me of nothing so much as a terrified horse.  (But!)  While browsing the LFS, I saw a yellow tang in a 10G holding tank with a maroon clown for a tankmate.  The clown was twice its size – this tang is smaller than a silver dollar, barely over an inch long.  Apparently there had been a mistake in shipping and a tang too small to be sold safely had arrived with their order.  The MUST SAVE FRAGILE PRECIOUS BABY CREATURE switch flipped, and the guy at the store assured me that the tang would be fine in a 65g tank.

Nothing I’ve said before about my tank being too small for a tang has been negated and all this does is make me look like a cruel idiot.  True to her essential yellow tangness, the fish never stops swimming unless I come near the tank, and then she hides in the rocks.  But oh good lord so tiny!  I used my hand instead of a net when I moved her from the acclimation bucket to the tank, and she was so small it barely covered half of my palm.

Her name is Bambi.  She is dwarfed by every other fish in the tank, even the juvenile clown.  I’ve told Brown that when she reaches 4″, we will have to move to a different house so I can buy her a larger tank.  And some better-looking tangs to be her friends.

* I’m so very tired.

Updates!

•October 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

As you might have guessed from the sporadic updates, Real Life is keeping me busy.  Really, extremely, weeping-in-the-pillow busy.  Still, if I can hold on for just one more week, I’ll be through the worst of it and will have free time again.

So as to not leave this blog covered in a chick dressed as a fish – and let’s all take a moment to reread that and recognize that we certainly do live in Interesting Times – I’m going to take a few moments and do quick status reports.

—In the 14g, nothing lives.  Scorched earth policy has been applied and the tank is all but drained.  I’m going to give the Teabox to my friend in the FBI when she’s reassigned back to the East Coast.

—In the 30g, the peyssonnelia algae has been dominated by the blue anthelia, which in turn has been dominated by a carpet of star polyps, which in turn cannot hope to compete with the SPS coral.  Considering the biological deterrents the SPS is pumping out to stay ahead in this game, it’s only a matter of time before one of them evolves into a James Bond-esque supervillain and buys itself a white cat.  Considering I hate cats, especially drowned cats, I don’t see this ending well.

In the 65g…

McCosker's Flasher Wrasse.  Image from Bluezoo Aquatics, as I don't own one yet.

McCosker's Flasher Wrasse. Image from Bluezoo Aquatics, as I don't own one yet.

— The red slime algae is on its way out thanks to the new canister filter, routine water changes, and decreasing the light cycle.  In another few weeks, the sand should be sparkling white again (I stir it up regularly so the decomposing bits don’t turn into time bombs of hidden toxic gas).

— I’ve finally found the right combination of lights for the best coloration in the “Otterpop” zoos. They look fabulous – green steel skirts around yellow-and-pink centers.  I have to get a clear picture of these things.

    — I have not yet replaced the dead clownfish or the missing member of Slime-atron.  I’m thinking about a reef-safe wrasse for the last fish.  I’m a little wary of this, as wrasses can be jumpers and I have enough problems with fish jumping out of the 65g and I don’t want to enclose every single square inch of the top.  Still, check out the McCosker’s over there.

    Back to work for me!

    We’ve Got Literally Every Girl’s Costume in the Entire G**MN Universe!

    •October 16, 2009 • 10 Comments
    The fact that I already own the shoes should not be taken as a sign that I should buy this thing.

    The fact that I already own the shoes should not be taken as a sign that I should buy this horror.

    Well… I have been looking for a costume but I was planning on Sexy Lobster.

    Screw You, Radio Silence!

    •October 10, 2009 • Leave a Comment

    Blech.  What with this being the most expensive week of my adult life (screw you, car!  screw you, house!), the tanks spent about ten days as a very distant priority.   Lights go on, food goes in, done and done.  Friday night was spent doing a massive equipment breakdown and cleanup in the 65g, and I can look to do the same in the 30g tonight.  We’re talking full-on strip job (hush) with each pump and powerhead left to run during an hour-long soak in white vinegar and scalding water, then breaking down the equipment and going at their innards with a toothbrush before rinsing the dickens out of them for another hour.

    The full cleanup was not due to the ten days of neglect but the cyanobacteria that’s been growing like crazy since I added the Mandarin.  Cyanobacteria – better known by its common name of red slime algae – is a thick coating of crud that grows when the nutrient balance is out of control.  As the tank is set up with more than 200 pounds of live rock, a skimmer rated for 125 gallons, a refugium, seven points of current (two oscillating), and a decent canister filter, red slime shouldn’t even be a theoretical problem.   But I added Tank McNamara and *poof*! We’ve caught the evening show of Ghostbusters 2 in the Bizarro universe.

    Out with the old, in with the new.  Plus this one looks like our coming Robot Overlords, so maybe it will put in a good word for me.

    Out with the old, in with the new. Plus this one looks like our coming Robot Overlords, so maybe it will put in a good word for me.

    I did the usual red slime removal strategies, such as moving the current to cover any stagnant areas and reducing the SPS coral feedings.  When that didn’t work, I thought not replacing the two fish lost a few weeks ago would drop the bioload so the slime would starve.  Nope… for the last two weeks it was growing thicker than ever.

    During last night’s maintenance, I installed a JBJ Reaction canister filter.  I had been considering an ultraviolet lamp to treat the water and kill the algae in the water current, but most of the good UV sterilizers are in-line, which means three hours of swearing and then calling Matt to come over and run it through the plumbing.  There’s also the problem that UV sterilization kills indiscriminately, so the beneficial algae and bacteria and whatnot will also be eradicated (by the by, this is also why you try to avoid adding chemical algae killers to a tank, even though there are several brands that target red slime and leave fish and coral untouched).   The JBJ split the difference with an in-canister UV bulb rated at 5 watts, which is sufficient to kill off about half of the junk that passes through the filter and has the option to be turned off while leaving the filter active after the red slime recedes.  Also, the filter is rates for 150g, so the chemical filtration on the 65g has just been bumped up to yikes.

    I also have two of these.  I took advantage of a sale over at Salty Supply to get my grubby paws on the filter and it was dropped somewhere along the road.  The UV bulb is housed in a protective glass case, and while the bulb was fine the case was shattered.  Since the damage was caused by the delivery service, the company filed an insurance claim and doesn’t need the original product returned.  The delivery service doesn’t want it, either.  So I’ll strip out everything I can use for the replacement filter and offer the cannibalized shell to Matt, who will probably attach an acrylic windmill and turn it into some sort of super-filter which solves world hunger.  Much like the mechanic who can take the rusted-out shell of an old VW Bug and turn it into a Formula One roadster, fish guys who know how to custom-mod their gear are an untapped natural resource.