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My 90-Gallon Reef Aquarium - Snapshot History

Overview Equipment Livestock Snapshot History

July 21, 2011

August 15, 2008

This is my first snapshot of the system. I had just filled the display with all the live-rock and livestock from my old 55-gallon system the day before. Only the top-most live-rock was covered in corraline; this was the live-rock from my old system. The rest, which was the majority, was new.

If you look carefully, you can see two small Crocea Clams placed very close to the top. In the top-left you can also see my Royal Gramma; I actually transported this fish to the new tank while it was hiding the rock behind it. In the bottom-left you can also see some green Rhodactis mushrooms that were actually originally sold to me as Ricordea mushrooms!

All of the live-rock in the refugium was new. They were basically all the smaller pieces I had received. At this point I had only added some Chaeotomorpha algae from my old system. I had only a small 12" power compact light to put over the refugium - it was the same light I had used on the much smaller refugium in my old setup.

September 19, 2008

This is the system immediately after cleaning it up from Hurricane Ike. I had actually removed and scrubbed all of the live-rock and replaced everything almost perfectly back to its original position. The coralline algae had really started taking over before the crash, as it does it most new systems. I didn't replace or clean the sand bed at the time because it looked okay, but in retrospect I wish that I had.

I lost all of the coral and fish in the crash and had to remove everything. The refugium though was largely unaffected and I didn't see any loss in macro-algae or snails. It's difficult to tell from the picture, but at this point I had already upgraded to a 24" T5 light fixture.

November 11, 2008

About two months after the crash I had already added two fish: a Yellow Tang and very small Blue Hippo Tang. I had also re-stocked on snails and added a few corals: a brown Candelabrum Gorgonian and two small colonies of zoanthids. I had also added a very nice Derasa Clam that I picked up locally. All of these new additions resulted in a strong diatom bloom that would take quite some time to dissipate.

The refugium was picking up a nice coat of coralline algae, probably due to the new lights I had added. I also added some small fragments of Halimeda at this time (some of which is visible on the refugium powerhead!).

December 18, 2008

At this point I added about a dozen different Gorgonians. I reserved the right side of the tank for non-photosynthetic specimens, to make target feeding easier. I also added some Monticap frags and a new Maxima Clam (bottom-left). In retrospect, I placed this clam far too low in the tank given the strength of my lighting fixture.

It was at this time that I began dosing a number of filter feeding foods (for my new Gorgonians). Based on what happened in the coming months, I suspect that I over-did it. I also added two big fish: a Masked Rabbitfish and an Orange Spot Rabbitfish. The shaded outline of the Orange Spot is visible in this picture if you look very carefully.

In the refugium, I found that a small sprout of Caulerpa had really taken off. Given that my Chaetomorpha was not growing much, I decided to leave the Caulerpa alone. You can also see my ill-conceived attempt at keeping a Red Mangrove in this picture. I had to remove this specimen after a few weeks as it literally had no where to grow.

January 13, 2009

This was the high-point of the hard cycle I induced by adding too much too quickly. I had added three more fish: a Whipfin Fairy Wrasse, a Black Cap Basslet, and a Six-Line Wrasse. The Six-Line was an addition that I really grew to regret as it would prevent me from adding any further small fish (with one exception).

Its difficult to see in this picture, but it was at this point that I added my Idaho Monticap frag. Naturally, I made the mistake of buying it locally and paying a premium for a very small piece.

This snapshot was an important milestone for me as I finally upgraded the refugium light fixture to a 48" unit. I was forced to do so because I had accidentally dropped the previous 24" fixture into the water whiling performing some maintanance. You can see the stark contrast in coralline development on the live-rock.

If you look carefully at the bottom-right, you can see a few specimens of Shaving Brush and Mermaid's Fan that I was trying out. The Shaving Brush never did well, but the Mermaid's Fan was an inteteresting story. Although it never grew, it actually sent out three new shoots around it. These miniature Mermaids' Fans did well for a few weeks before also losing out to micro-algae.

May 19, 2009

At this point, I was recovering from my cycle. I hadn't added any new fish and the diatom bloom was nearly completely gone. I had also removed all my non-photosynthetic Gorgonians and dramatically cut down on the filter-feeding food I was adding. It was around this time that I noticed that my Monticaps were growing significantly faster then my Gorgonians.

I was also trying my hand at two new ORA Millepora frags which I had carefully glued to small pieces of live-rock and an ORA Red Planet frag which I made the mistake of gluing to a large piece of live-rock. Additionally, I had moved a few of the Gorgonians around to put them in better water flow.

In the refugium, I had an explosion of Halimeda growth. I really liked the look of it, so I aggressively trimmed all Caulerpa away from it. I also started developing a red "Cotton Candy" macro-algae problem, which I solved by adding some Mexican Turbo Snails.

August 16, 2009

It was at this point that I upgraded the lighting fixture on the display tank. Unfortunately, I didn't slowly introduce the new brighter lighting. This caused some of the corals to brown and it took a couple of weeks for them to recover. I also added a new Twinspot Hogfish. The Six-Line tried to harass it almost immediately but the Twinspot just chased it off with very little concern!

I had also upgraded the water-flow in both the display tank and the refugium by adding more powerheads. I increased flow about 2.5 times in the display tank and 2.0 times in the refugium.

Unfortunately, I had allowed the Caulerpa to overshadow the Halimeda over the previous weeks and this caused to Halimeda to suffer. Before taking this picture, I very aggressively pruned back the Caulerpa. I didn't want to completely remove it though as I felt it was the fastest remover of nutrients.

I also switched out the bulbs in the refugium to get a more reddish look. I thought this helped balance out the bluish look of the display tank.

November 26, 2009

Not much had changed for this snapshot. Some of the Monticaps had grown slightly larger and I had adjusted the positioning of a few powerheads. If you look carefully you can see all eight fish in this picture. Such a bio-load actually resulted in an explosion of Chaetomorpha macro-algae in the refugium. In fact, some of the smothered Caulerpa was looking pale so I removed a lot of it.

March 20, 2010

By this time I had removed most of the Gorgonians and had added a few small SPS frags. This was also when I added my Dendrophyllia colony; you can see it in the shade of my Idaho Grape Monticap. Feeding it required angling a turkey baster around the Monticap.

After observing poor polyp extension on both my Australian Duncan and Dendrophyllia colonies, I trapped and removed my Masked Rabbitfish, suspecting that it was the problem. Although I never caught it nipping at the corals in my presence (it was still a very timid fish), polyp extension improved after I removed it.

After pruning back some of the Chaetomorpha in the refugium, I found that the Caulerpa was back in full force. Unfortunately, I had allowed the Chaetomorpha to shade the Halimeda for too long, and the Halimeda went sexual - releasing spores into the water column and disintegrating.

December 31, 2010

This snapshot was taken almost 10 months after the previous. I had become extremely busy with my final year of University and the tank had suffered because of it. I removed my Orange Spot Rabbitfish, as it had become too large. The Blue Hippo Tang had very mysteriously disappeared, and I never found any of its remains. In their stead, I introduced a Majestic Angelfish, a Flame Angelfish, an Eibli Angelfish, and an Orange Shoulder Tang. Once again this was a lot of fish for the size of the tank.

The Monticaps had grown very large, but had lost some of their color. I suspect this was due to the high bio-load. The Green Apple Monticap, in particular, had begun to encrust over the ORA Red Planet Acropora forcing me to move the latter. In the above picture, it is magnetically attached to the back panel in the top-right.

Because of the size of the fish in the tank, I had removed some of the live-rock on the left. I felt that this would give the fish more area to move around in. However, it took almost a month for the fish to become comfortable with the change and begin utilizing the open area!

By now, the refugium had become dominated by Caulerpa. I had actually removed the last clump of Chaetomorpha because it was coated in coralline algae. On the bright side, having so much Caulerpa appeared to make my Splendid Mandarin more comfortable with being out in the open. I'm not sure if it actually preferred Caulerpa over Chaetomorpha, or if the change in behavior was just a coincidence.

January 29, 2011

This is a snapshot of the setup the day before I had to tear it down. Not much had changed except that I had pruned the Caulerpa back twice.

The tear-down actually took three days. On the first day, I removed all of the unessential equipment: the calcium reactor setup, all of the monitors, and the auto top-off reservoir. On the second day, I had the help of the local fish store that I was actually selling the setup to. We removed all the live-rock and coral, lowered the water level and caught all the fish, cut all the plumbing, and moved everything to the store's pickup truck. It was a strange feeling to see the room without an aquarium in it! I cleaned out all the equipment that night and let it try overnight. The next day I just dried and packed everything. It actually took me a couple of weeks to get out of the habit of constantly checking on the aquarium!

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