This open brain (Trachyphyllia) has really grown.  The cyano on the gravel there is because I took the protein skimmer out to clean up another tank for a bit.  This tank is usually very clean looking.  I put the skimmer back and this stuff will go away.

This open brain (Trachyphyllia) has really grown.  The cyano on the gravel there is because I took the protein skimmer out to clean up another tank for a bit.  This tank is usually very clean looking.  I put the skimmer back and this stuff will go away.

New Coral Care Guide

I just posted the latest update to the Coral Care Guide.  It includes a full section on filtration and equipment.  You can always find the link to the guide in the side bar.  

A while back I told you I fragged some Zoanthids and I showed you a picture of them while they were still all closed up.  Here they are all opened up.  To learn more about zoanthids and how to care for them visit www.aquaticcastle.com 

I put a different chip in my camera and discovered this picture of a hermit crab that climbed up the wall of the tank it was in.  They don’t usually do that, though they will climb on the rocks.  

I put a different chip in my camera and discovered this picture of a hermit crab that climbed up the wall of the tank it was in.  They don’t usually do that, though they will climb on the rocks.  

The Great Barrier Reef is definitely a place I want to go.  I’m not sure when I’ll be able to but it’s near the top of the list of places for me to see.  I would definitely want to go on the night dive.  Just look at the last picture I posted of the cynarina.  The reef goes through a complete change at night.  I’d want to bring a blue light with me though.  

I disagree with the notion that the reef is the largest living organism.  The reef is not one living thing but a community like a forest.  You can see the Amazon rain forest from space.  The reef is a rock structure though and that you could say is the largest thing ever built by animals.  

I thought this cynarina look extra pretty tonight.  For more information on this coral, visit the Guide the Corals or the store.  Links in the side bar.  

I thought this cynarina look extra pretty tonight.  For more information on this coral, visit the Guide the Corals or the store.  Links in the side bar.  

10 minutes of Fiji reef footage.  The colors are a bit washed but it’s still a relaxing video.  I know some stores sell coral or rock from Fiji.  Now I can see from this video why.  It’s such a densely populated reef there.  

"One gram of the stuff will kill 100 million mice"

Or about 240 people if my math is right.  

Palytoxin is the poison.  It’s the 2nd deadliest poison in the world.  I’ve talked about it on this blog before.  Now here is an article that also talks about it.  

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2011/04/05/world%E2%80%99s-2nd-deadliest-poison-in-an-aquarium-store-near-you/

For the record, when I fragged those zoanthids the other day, I was wearing gloves and safety glasses.  In hind sight, a mask would have been a good idea too.  Palytoxin can also enter the body by touching your lips.  Zoanthids are inflated with water and squeezing and pulling on them can cause them to squirt.  That’s why safety glasses and a mask is a good idea.  Actually a face shield would be good.  You never know when you have the deadly zos.  

Save Energy: Home and Aquarium Climate Control in the Summer

I’m going to get to some practical tips in this post but first I need to talk a little bit about some simple chemical physics. 

Think about how much energy it takes to boil a pot of water till it is dry.  It’s a lot of energy right?  It doesn’t matter whether you are boiling it or if it evaporates, it takes the same energy to turn water into vapor.  This same heat energy must be transferred elsewhere in order to turn the vapor back into steam.  So when water evaporates into vapor and later condenses into water again, it carries a lot of energy from where it evaporates to where it condenses.  I’m going to explain how this happens with your aquarium in your home and talk about what it means. 

I just said that when water evaporates, it takes a lot of heat energy with it.  This leaves the remaining water cooler as the evaporating water pulls heat energy from it.  Just to be clear, water vapor has more energy than liquid water if the two are the same temperature, so in order to make vapor the temperature has to fall unless more heat is added.  This is why sweaty skin can be cooler than the air temperature.  Air that is full of freshly evaporated water also feels cooler.  For example: standing in one of those cool zones in a theme park or next to a humidifier. 

So far, I haven’t identified a problem.  Water evaporates from your aquarium; it cools your aquarium and it cools your home.  So far, your cooling bill should be lower.  Except this isn’t the end of the story on the extra heat energy now floating in your home’s air, nor is it the end of the story about what happens in your aquarium. 

The water vapor from your aquarium comes into contact with the coils inside your air conditioner where it is turned back into liquid water.  All of the heat energy that is in the vapor is transferred to the air conditioner coils and then on to the air flowing out of your AC ductwork.  Now remember, I just said that the evaporation cooled the air in the first place and now the condensation in the AC is acting to warming it back up.  So on net, you haven’t gained or lost anything.  So what’s the problem?

One thing I mentioned above but didn’t elaborate on is that this cooling doesn’t just cool the air in your home; it also cools your aquarium.  In Aquatic Castle’s Coral Care Guide I recommend that you keep your aquarium between 76 and 78 degrees with some acceptance of temperatures outside that range.  If your air conditioning thermostat is set at 73 and your aquarium is evaporating quickly because air conditioning constantly dries the air as it cools, the temperature in your aquarium could easily fall well below 73 degrees. 

Before the temperature in you aquarium falls below 73, or even 76 degrees for that matter, the heater in your aquarium is going to kick on and warm the water back up.  The warmer water will want to evaporate faster and your heater will work harder to keep it warm.  So the bottom line is, water evaporation and condensation is acting to conduct (for lack of a better word) heat from your aquarium’s heater to your air conditioner, causing both your heater and your AC to work more and use more energy.  Also having a higher humidity in your home causes evaporation in your skin to be slower, which will cause you to lower the temperature setting on your AC thermostat which also uses more energy. 

The Practical Tips

To stop this cycle, you can take steps to reduce the amount of evaporation from your aquarium.  This is as simple as covering it and any open water in your system.  The moment you cover your aquarium, evaporation slows.  If you already have a cover and there are gaps in it, closing those gaps down some will also slow evaporation.  You can use something as simple as plastic wrap.  There is more than just your heater that produces heat for your aquarium and you may find that covering it too much will cause the water temperature to climb above acceptable limits.  A Biocube in my living room runs about 4 or 5 degrees warmer than the room it is in which is above the temperature setting on the heater.  Some people who use metal halide lighting may even have to accelerate this evaporative process with a fan because the lights produce a lot of heat and may overheat the water.  If this is you, make sure to put your fans on a timer so they don’t run at night and cause your heater to come on.  A final note: you don’t want to completely seal off your aquarium because your fish will need air to breath. 

The two tier system I made this past winter has about 18-19 square feet of open water and a 200 watt heater.  It puts off about 10 gallons of water a week.  Think of boiling off 10 gallons of water on your stove for how much energy that is.  Today I covered the top tank, reducing the square feet to 10-11.  I plan to cover the sump which will reduce the square feet to 8.  For now I just use plastic rap on the top tank, which I can’t even see without getting on a chair but I plan to make covers for it.  Yesterday, I covered the 30 gal tank with a store bought cover and already it’s dripping with water—which tells me it’s working even with a big gap in the back.   The condensation is only on the front, which tells me I could get a lot more bang for my buck if I put the plastic part on the back and cut out for all of the stuff that overhangs the side.  

Above: You can hardly see the plastic wrap because it’s overhead.

Above: Standing on a chair, you can see the plastic wrap.  

Above: here you can see the water condensing on the front have of the cover for the 30 gal tank.  

I thought this was a creative way to set up a reef tank.  It definitely  looks different than most.  One thing I’d add is a light up high to light up the mountain and the tops of growing mangroves.  

I saw this video on youtube.  I think this is primarily how corals for Aquariums will be harvested in the future.  It’s amazing to see how fast they grow.  When they are in your tank, they grow every day and you have to look at old pictures to tell the difference.  

Thriving toadstool leather.  I pulled this toadstool off the shelves of the aquatic castle store a few months ago because it was shrinking and not healthy.  At the time I knew what the problem was, it needed more light.  When the two tier system was complete, I moved it to the top tank that is only 12 inches deep.  This coral sits directly under the 4 bulb t-5 light in that shallow water and is now thriving.  I just put it back in the store with this new picture.  It’s just a testament to how important knowing what the growing conditions are for your coral.  I didn’t even know it had such long polyps to extend until I put it in this tank.  

Thriving toadstool leather.  I pulled this toadstool off the shelves of the aquatic castle store a few months ago because it was shrinking and not healthy.  At the time I knew what the problem was, it needed more light.  When the two tier system was complete, I moved it to the top tank that is only 12 inches deep.  This coral sits directly under the 4 bulb t-5 light in that shallow water and is now thriving.  I just put it back in the store with this new picture.  It’s just a testament to how important knowing what the growing conditions are for your coral.  I didn’t even know it had such long polyps to extend until I put it in this tank.  

Fragging Zoanthids

Today I made 12 zoanthid frags.  I noticed some of XL zo colonies had some loose frags ready to break off at the edges so I finished the job and glued them to some small rocks.  Between the mushroom madness I blogged about before, these zoos and just general growth off all colonies, the corals in my systems are growing faster than I can sell them.  I’m going to give these 12 frags away with orders over $100.  I fragged some before and put them in the store for $5 to $15, which is pretty cheap but I think the giveaway is needed now.  I’m running out of room.  On a related note, many of the corals in the store are larger than advertised.  

Above, they are disgruntled from me fragging them but they will open up in time and be nice little frags.  You can see the new frags are surrounded by other corals—button polyps to the rear and Chalice to the rear left.   Not all 12 are in this picture, some are inserted between the XL colonies they came from.  

 

Above: These are the ones I fragged earlier, taken shortly after fragging under actinic only light.  This light makes them glow bright colors, more than daylight.  The tank runs under this light for a couple hours each day.  

How Much Does a Small Reef Tank Cost to Set Up?

Winterliu on aquariumforum.com says in this post

 It’s expensive to keep some coral reef

some people told me, if you want to keep some coral and fish, you have to have a suitable tank, some lights, and food, and this and that, you have to spend at least $500,lol, for me , It’s really not cheap, should work harder~~~~
Here is my response.  
It’s easy to spend way more than $500 on salt water tanks. That said, I helped my brother set one up for a bit less than that. He has a 10 gal tank which you can pick up for less than $20, a set of t5 lights from an odysea light for less than $60, a Finex 360 (you might consider an aquaclear and macro algae as a hang on refugium) filter for less than $40, and some sand for $20. A hydrometer for $8. $20 for a Milwaukee PH600. 

$20 for a bag of reef salt, reef buffer for less than $6, phytoplex for $13, marine food for $10, $2 for calibration fluid for the Milwaukee ph600.

Fish, you can get some damsel fish for $4 or $6 each. They are aggressive and will try to kill new fish. Just buy them all at once and only get a few. Make sure they are about the same size.—5 for $25. 4 coral frags for $100. 

Rocks, you can add rocks a bit at a time but to start you will probably want one live rock $20 and some dry rock $25 to start. If you were buying more than frags for the coral, you could buy all dry rock. Larger coral would come on live rocks. 



So that’s,

$168 in equipment and sand. 
$111 for consumable stuff
$45 for rocks
—————————————
$324 spent within about a month or two to get you started. 

There are probably a few things I forgot. The $500 seems pretty realistic for a minimalist tank but that is an expenditure over about 3 months. My brother’s 10 gal tank looks quite nice too. He hasn’t even put coral in it yet. He set it up like 3 months ago. 

Another thing to consider. These are prices for all new equipment. There are often deals on craigslist for cheap used stuff. I recommend you stay 30 gal or less though because a larger tank will be more costly to maintain and to stock.
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Live Coral and Care Instructions at aquaticcastle.com

As I said two posts ago, I pulled a montipora capricornis “off the shelf” of the aquatic castle store to be the next mother colony because a tongue coral killed the first mother colony.  The top picture and bottom left are of the same piece of coral.  It has grown since it separated from the mother colony and I attached it to a rock.  I believe you have seen the older picture before and I recently featured this coral in the a guide to the corals.  It’s the one that once had a mushroom touch it and bleach a spot.  It’s about the same size but slightly less complex that the mother colony was when I got it.  An early picture of the mother colony can be found in the header of aquaticcastle.com

The bottom right picture is the one piece that remains in the store.  You can see this one tangled with a mushroom too.  That’s what the dead spot is on the back.  I’ve moved it to the top tier tank where it is less likely to get moved around and pushed into something that can kill it than in the biocube where it came from.  If you ever buy a piece of coral loose like this, you should immediately glue it to one of your rocks.  I’ve only kept it unattached to a rock in order to allow someone to glue it to a rock already in their system.