Friday, July 27, 2007

Reeftopia, Part II

I arrived to work early one Monday morning before the lights were turned on and peered into my tank to see how everything was doing.

To my dismay, a 4-inch piece of galaxea had swept an entire corner of the tank clear of all life. It looked like some sort of strange alien creature that extracts the blood of its victims.

I became even more distraught when the lights finally came on. My bubble coral—positioned a good 6-inches from the galaxea—now had spots of discoloration all over its tentacles.

Fortunately, the alien’s “sweepers” receded once the lights were on. I scanned the rest of the tank for signs of destruction but the problem seemed isolated to that desolate corner.

I decided to educate myself on this particular coral’s behavior in order to get to the bottom of things.

One of the most important things I learned was that planning your reef in advance can play a key role in the success of your tanks’ inhabitants.

After learning of its aggressive nature and ability to kill of other coral, I decided my best move would be to remove the galaxea entirely. I sliced the specimen and distributed it among the other reefers in my department.

Weeks passed. I moved, restacked and repositioned the live rock and coral in my tank at least twice a week, if not more. The one rock I started with soon multiplied into several to accommodate all of the new life I introduced to the tank.

I dug deeper into the hobby, learning the ins and outs of each individual coral in my aquarium. Next thing I knew, I had collected more than 20 small coral specimens. Which was cool, but…

I was in a constant state of worry. Coral keeping was entirely new to me; I often felt I had gotten ahead of myself. All of this life was solely depending on me for survival and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for my newfound responsibilities. I never worried this much in the past, nor had I changed an aquarium’s aquascape so frequently.

I began receiving compliments on the tank, specifically on the variety of life I had assembled. I was stoked because despite its small size, the tank had proven a satifactory home for each and every new inhabitant I introduced. I hadn’t experienced any deaths or destruction beyond Mr. Galaxea’s tentacles of terror. I was very particular with water changes and additives so water quality was never an issue.

In fact, it seemed as though each specimen was growing and thriving.

I learned that lighting was a key factor in keeping a reef community healthy. My tank was equipped with a Coralife Dual 18-watt PC fixture, but I was considering an upgrade. I had seen a few modified nano tanks and found I could no longer resist the temptation.

A handy colleague showed me how I could fit another bulb in the reflector of my Coralife fixture so I immediately purchased an extra ballast, bulb and a small fan. I modified the fixture that evening with a hacksaw, screwdriver and drill.

After the mod was complete, I noticed the light in the tank was significantly more vibrant. I hadn’t realized up until that point how much lighting can affect the appearance of corals.

Some specimens that were somewhat dull in color before were now a completely different shade. I was confident the extra light would help the zooanthelia but was stunned at how quickly it flourished under the new conditions.

I was surprised how reactive the corals were to the small 18-watt increase in lighting. I remember feeling that I’d finally settled with a tank configuration I could live with. The large bubble coral now had plenty of room and I began the zooanthid garden I had long been envisioning. And neon green frogspawn perched in the corner where the galaxea once lived.

Everything was in harmony. That is when I was notified it was time to pack up and move the tank.

We were going to a new home…