Here We Go Again – Part 1

“I never know what to give you” says my wife at almost any gift giving holiday or birthday! The reply, “anything will be great as long as it comes from you”, great husband retort and very safe. So I usually get great stuff that I really don’t need… but then again I asked for it.

So this year, for my May birthday I started in late March, leaving Foster and Smith catalogs laying about with the page corner turned over and the item circled. I left them on the table, in my wife’s chair, on the dinner place mats, in the library (bathroom) and on the bed stand.

The item, a Aquapod Nano reef system 12 gallon tank. I decided to start another salt water aquarium after my last one of 10 years. My last one was a fish only 44 gallon tank with a few anemones and some “live rock” and a couple of weird stuff like a Sea apple, that killed all my fish! I never could understand why they called it “live rock” I didn’t look any different from “base rock” other than being three as much. Neither the live or base rock had any action to it or any animals living around on or in. But except for the instance with the Sea Apple the salt water tank was a success with most of the fish dying of old age after many years.

However, I lost interest because nothing bred, nothing died, it was just the same fish week after month after year. I soon gave all the fish away, sold the dead coral and other salt water stuff and turned the 44 gallon tank into a planted 56 gallon bow front fresh water tank with a great trade.

So with great anticipation my birthday arrive with out the usual questions of “what do you want”. What did I get, clothes. With much tack and couth, I inquired, “didn’t you notice the catalogue laying around?” With the answer being, “ya I got tired of moving it, why?” The tank ended up being ordered for Fathers day!

The tank is great. It is a square 12 gallon glass tank with curved corners full hood with 1 27 watt actinic white bulb with a cooling fan, one blue actinic 27 watt bulb and two LED moon lights. All lights have a separate switch so you can simulate dawn, noon, dusk and night lighting. The tank also comes with a 150 gallon per hour in tank hidden filter with moveable weirs.

I started of by filling the tank with R.O. salt water and about 1″ of live sand. So much has changed since my last foray into salt about 16 years ago. The lighting alone has made Reef tanks so much affordable. “Live sand” was new to me. So, I asked my good friend Jake Mang over at the Fish Place for a quick course. Live sand is an Aragonite product with millions of nitrate reducing bacteria. The sand insures a faster and safer initial cycling and better bio-filtering once established.

The sand will also increases the buffering capacity of your aquarium and stabilizes the pH. It will also discourage the growth of unwanted algae. After about a week I noticed the tank water level going down. So I started to check for leaks. Sure enough there was a small drip in one of the back corners. So I decided to let it leak,( into a pan) until it stopped. About a inch down from the top the dripping stopped. I emptied out another couple of inches and re-silicone the corners, waited 48 hrs and re-filled the tank.. So far it is still holding. The tank stood that way for about two weeks. Again I went up to the Fish Place looking for some “live rock”. Well at least this hasn’t change much thru the years, the rock offered was still dead! I opted for a great piece of rock in one of the fish tanks that had two great looking Discosoma sanctihomae, St. Thomas false coral.

These look a lot like an anemone, but have short tentacles and only one mouth opening. They were about two inches in diameter and about two inches tall. They are brown to tan in color about half the time but at feeding tile they turn a lighter green. Are great find and about the same price as a like piece of “live” dead rock. So, the tank stood this way, with the live sand and the two St. Thomas false coral for about a month. When I turn off the light at night and just have the LED moon lights on the Discosoma starts to fluoresces a bright lime green. I decided to look in the phone book to see if there were any saltwater only stores in the area and found two, Salt Water Paradise in Tonawanda and the Reef Creation in Cheektowaga. Liz and I decided on the former.

The store is located on Main St. in Tonawanda and is owner by Joe and Annette Kosak. They have a very nice shop with several tanks of fish and several more with various live coral and competitive prices. They also offer fully cured Live Rock from the Fiji Islands that is actually live! Who would have thunk! Each piece was loaded with all sorts of coralline algae in purples and green, different types of macro algae and on the two pieces I selected a couple of Ricordia and a red sea squirt and several orange sponges. We went home and placed about 12 pounds of rock in the tank. That night when we turned off the lights I had to go back in the office about a half hour later. That’s when I noticed all the fluoresces in the live rock. The tank shimmered in greens and light blues. The tank was almost prettier with the moon lights than with the lights on. The following couple of weeks we really found out how Live this rock really is. Small clams and oysters started to open and a small brown mantis shrimp made a brief appearance before diving back into its hole. A couple of small snails came to life along with several bristle worms were seen at feeding time. A couple of rock anemones came out, along with some limpets. Liz and I sit for a hour or so every night and spot new things, all this in a small 12 gallon tank.

I was starting to have a slight hair algae problem along with algae growing on the sides of the tank. We went back to see Joe and couple of weeks later and bought a few blue footed hermit crabs and four turbo snails and that stopped the algae problem. Both Joe and Annette are very helpful and always ready to give advice.

Liz and I stopped at the Reef Creation in Cheektowaga and was
very impressed again at the selection of corals especially from Australia. The shop is very neat and clean with many large tanks of fish and corals. He has a four or five foot square tank about 12 inches deep loaded with some of the most exotic corals I have ever seen for sale. Still not really sure what I’m doing yet and having a tank in operation for only 6 months we decided to go with a 4″ piece of green star polyps and a stand of zoanthids. The green stars wave in the current of the water and are a zooplankton eater. The Zoanthids are like small brown anemones with green interiors. The seem to eat anything that they can catch as long as its small. Like I said the tank has been up and running for about 6 months and we have bought our first and maybe only fish, a one inch orange tailed blue Damsel. While watching the fish to make sure he is compatible with the other fauna in the tank we spot a small porcelain crab and a nudibranch that finally decided to show its self. Now even Liz is talking about getting a larger tank, not to be able to buy more fish but so we can buy more live rock and be constantly surprised to see what comes out next. With this tank I am again revitalize in a whole new aspect of the hobby and this may very well be the first of many installments.

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