Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 

What’s an Aquarium Without any Fish?

A reef.

aquarium-large.jpg Back in October I started cycling the tank with 100 lbs of live sand and 100 lbs of live rock. (For those unfamiliar with reef keeping, live sand and rock refers to sand and rock (duh) that are chock full of microscopic critters, worms, and who knows what all. It acts as a biological filter, breaking down waste products into non-toxic form. One of the fun parts about cycling a reef aquarium is watching to seee what kind of critters hitchiked in with the rock and sand.
hitchiker-featherduster.jpg
For example, here is a tubeworm, called a featherduster because of it's distinctive crown. There are probably 20 of these things throughout the tank, which is pretty cool, snce they cost between 10 and 20 bucks apiece at the fish store.

In December, after testing the water and making sure the chemistry was right, I went out to the fish store and bought a bubble coral.
bubble-day.jpg
This coral is pretty neat. It contains a type of algae that produces food for the coral through photosynthesis, but the coral is also a carnivore, eating a small piece of shrimp every couple of weeks or so. What's really cool though is what happens at night.
bubble-night.jpg
The coral collapses all the bubbles, which are filled with water, and extends feeder tentacles that can catch and pull food into the mouth.
The bubble coral is a stony coral, which means it pulls calcium and other minerals from the water to form a hard supporting structure. You really can't see it in the pictures because in this critter, it's underneath the animal.
To keep the bubble company, I also transferred two corals from my small aquarium.
candycane-day.jpg

First a trumpet coral, AKA a candy cane coral. Like the bubble coral, it has the photosynthetic algae, and will also eat phytoplankton or small shrimp. Also like the bubble coral, it's a stony coral, but this time you can actually see the skeleton.
candycane-night.jpg
Like the bubble coral, it too collapses at night, although not as dramatically, and extends feeder tentacles.

mushrooms-day.jpg
Second a mushroom coral. Unlike the previous corals, a mushroom coral is not a stony coral; it's classed as a soft coral. Like the others though, it feeds through a combination of photosynthesis and feeding.

Since then, I've added a rock with some polyp corals, and now that the system is stable, I plan on adding some more corals and other critters. I'll keep the pattern up for a year or so, letting the system gradually adapt to each addition until the reef is done.

Then I'll get a new aquarium and start all over again.
Posted by Rich
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