Aquarium Update 7

Long time no post, just been too busy! The aquarium is doing reasonably well at the moment, especially considering the fact that I have not done any water changes since the last update and I have added a bunch of new organisms. I have added two Beadlet anemones Actinia equina. They are a dullish brown (except for a nice blue band around the base); I have not found the bright red or green individuals yet. Very similar but more striking are Strawberry anemones Actinia fragacea of which I have collected three. They are voracious, I could easily feed them a shrimp a day. The same goes for the Sea scorpion. I am afraid of sticking my hand in now as it comes after me! Time to let this buddy go. This will also give me the opportunity to add some other things such as squat lobsters.IMG_4825I have taken a break from experimenting with seaweeds and am focusing on anemones instead. I have added a bunch of small Plumose anemones Metridium senile that I scraped of the side of a pontoon. Weird fellas, they can fill up with water to be quite large, or just reduce to a crumpled little pancake. I have four white ones; I could only find very small ones of the orange variety and these were all devoured by Cushion stars (interesting). I’d like to have a large orange one as well, but I have to wait half a year until I can go diving again (they are very common in deeper water).

IMG_4812On the sheltered, silty shore of Flushing I found two small anemones attached to rock and half buried in the maerl sand. My excellent Seasearch Sea Anemones and Corals guide told me they were a Daisy anemone Cereus pedunculatus (uniform greay with many very short tentacles) and a Red speckled anemone Anthopleura balli (purplish and speckled, for a better picture of a different colour variant see this old post). Both quickly half buried/half nestled themselves under a rock so only the tentacles and the mouth are visible. They take pieces of shrimp and so hopefully they’ll be able to grow; these species should reach a decent size: IMG_4721

IMG_4729My friend marine biologist Chris gave me a snakelocks anemone that he had cured from its symbiotic algae. A very cool, bright white individual but it has returned to its original purplish colour so it must have taken up symbionts again. The snakelocks I already had, grew big, split into two and grew some more. Interestingly, one of the individuals seems to be turning from the green- to the purple colour variety:IMG_4828So six anemone species in all. I would really like to have some Dahlia anemones, they are very colourful, large, and not uncommon (old pic here). I need to go anemone hunting at a good low tide soon (I have not been out in ages).

I had the Chryseminia seaweed growing attached to the Tunze for a while and it worked OK, but it looks a bit messy and so I will remove it. However, I see that little Chryseminia plants have started to grow from the rock in many places (see top picture). I have to give the glass a weekly clean (with a tooth brush) and the rocks have turned a bit too greenish recently. I have noticed however that near the Snakelocks anemones, tufts of filamentous algae have appeared, as the grazers do not want to come too close to their tentacles (this reminds me of a work by an ecologist friend of mine who studies how seedlings can be protected from grazers when growing close to thorny shrubs, I’ll have to tell him of this observation!).

There has been some snail mortality. I mainly have Grey top shells but there are less than half of them left. I do not know why, part might be predation (which is not all bad as at least they serve as food for other inhabitants). I need to collects some more in any case. The Netted dog whelks are doing well. They are usually hidden below the sand, but as soon as they smell a defrosted shrimp, they come up like a Shai-Hulud. Their plowing through the sand is definitely good in preventing mats of diatoms to appear. Their little cousins the Thicklipped dog whelks are also doing fine. They tend to creep up the Daisy anemone to steal its food. I still have a Sting winkle Ocenebra erinacea which moves slowly but is very pretty. There are a variety of other species such as Blacklined- and Rough periwinkles. The best species however are the truly sublittoral large Turban top shells Gibbula magus (some of which have died as well, one of the shells has been taken over by a hermit crab, wich are also doing fine):

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seaweeds in the aquarium Part II

Time for the second post on the topic of seaweeds in the aquarium and I will write a part III as well.

4. What conditions are right for seaweeds?

The short answer is: I don’t know yet (and they will vary for different species). I have some clues that add up to a longer answer though. Obviously light is an important factor. Most tanks come with actinic (blueish) light representative of deeper waters. The seaweeds I collect are from shallow water (rock pools) and so are adapted to whiter daylight (as in freshwater planted tanks). I have played around with lighting (see this post) but not in a very systematic way and so am not too sure about what wavelength and intensity is best. Another factor that is important is sufficient wave action. Before I used a Tunze nanostream to create extra flow, I noticed that detritus and algae could settle on seaweeds, see this picture of Serrated wrack Fucus serratus taken from an older post:

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High nutrient levels could benefit some microalgae more than they benefit macroalgae (seaweeds) as is the case for plants in fresh water aquariums and could lead to problems. Another factor that must be very important is temperature. I do not have a chiller and my tank is around 25C (higher than room temperature because of the lighting). Seaweeds from rock pools must have not much problems tolerating this temperature for hours on end, but many might have a problem with it for months on end. I therefore will probably buy a chiller next year…  One very interesting parameter that I have not yet seriously considered is CO2. CO2 can be a limiting factor in photosynthesis, that is why many fresh water aquarium keepers add it (in gas or liquid form) to promote plant growth. I found a very interesting article on the role of CO2 in reef aquariums by a very clever chemist named Randy Holmes-Farley. It could be that CO2 is limiting for seaweeds in my aquarium as well and I’ll definitely need to do some pH tests to find out whether this could be the case. The article lists a table with relative rates of photosynthesis at pH 8.7 compared to pH 8.1 for a number of seaweeds. This is 57% for my favorite seaweed Bushy rainbow wrack Cystoseira tamariscifolia. Very interesting stuff indeed and I shall investigate!

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aquarium update: snails

Time for an update. The five Snakelocks anemones have settled and are doing very well (I have fed them some defrosted shrimps which they quickly devour). The Leach’s spider crab was sitting happily under one of the anemones until it decided to move behind a piece of slate and now does not show itself much anymore. Perhaps this has to do with a prawn I introduced, although I have not seen any scuffles. I have to see what I’ll do about this. If it is really shy then I perhaps have to choose between keeping it or introducing fish. In any case I have seen it munching on some algae and a dead Cushion star and it seems to do OK.

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The main problem I have is the dreaded return of algae…There is quite a diversity of them: fuzzy green ones, darker green blotches, slimy purple ones, brown diatoms and more. All interesting organisms surely but I do not want them to take over the tank! I have used food sparingly and used the skimmer most nights, but now have also removed my daylight lamp, to leave a single actinic lamp (see this post about lighting). I still have to get used to this new look, but less light must surely help. Most interestingly, I have enlisted the help of 80 or so grazing snails. Mainly the Common periwinkle Littorina littorea and the Flat top shell Gibbula umbilicalis but also some other species, including two very small Painted top shells Calliostoma zizyphimum. I never had many snails in my aquarium, as they were always eaten by Shannies, but hopefully they will survive this time. I will dunk in a lot more snails, and keep an eye out which species does best. A Flat top shell (picture taken using my olloclip macrolens for the iPhone):

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One returning encrusting red algae is actually a seaweed, with new ‘leaves’ growing from the round crusts. I suspect it is Devil’s tongue weed Grateloupia turuturu. I have been scraping it off the glass, except from the corners where the scraper is of no use, but will let the rest sit and see how it grows:

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I also noticed that Sea lettuce Ulva has started to grow from the slate. The aquarium does not look that nice yet, but with the new animals there is plenty to watch in any case!

castle beach

Although cold and rainy on the bank holiday Monday, the weekend weather was glorious (and low tide was ‘low’), so it was off to Castle Beach in Falmouth:

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To me this looks as good as a coral reef! Loads of Harpoon weed Asparagopsis armata, Thong weed Himanthalia elongata and Oarweed or Tangle Laminaria digitata (there are two similar kelp species, but these remain more erect when above water my guide tells me). Also quite some of my favorite Bushy rainbow wrack Cystoseira tamariscifolia shining blue:

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Also iridescent: a tiny (<5 mm) Blue-rayed limpet Helcion pellucidum. Normally found on Laminaria kelp, this one sat under a rock:

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Especially on the middle shore, there was quite some change in seaweed composition, with lots of Ulva and similarly bright green, slimey algae in the rock pools. The abundant Shore clingfish Lepadogaster lepadogaster had been laying eggs under rocks everywhere:

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You can even see the embryo eyes, I am very happy with my olloclip macrolens (although photography in the bright sun is difficult, especially if you do not want to disturb the animals/eggs too much). There were a couple of quite big Edible crabs Cancer pagurus around. The combination of a trembling crab and a trembling hand resulted in a sub-optimal macro photo of its carapace but it is still a neat pattern:

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Strangely (and mostly, annoyingly), the second pump of the aquarium broke down before the weekend and I ordered two new ones. The aquarium has not improved without filtration of course. I will be traveling quite a bit over summer so I will not experiment much with it in the near future.

new sand

Welcome to this most obscure of blogs, my dear reader. The aquarium is a bit of a mess at the moment for a variety of reasons. First of all there are a lot of algae growing; I have a bag with Rowaphos hanging in the back compartment to remove phosphates but this does not seem to help much (I have had good experiences with before though). Second, one of my pumps broke and so filtration runs at half capacity. Third, the mixed success of planting many different seaweeds has left loads of detritus in the tank. I have made large water changes which helped a bit. An additional tank for experimenting would be nice to have… Fourth, I have been unlucky with some of the seaweeds: the Wireweed grew really well, but the large size meant it caught a lot of the current and was easily dislodged. The Dudresnay’s whorled weed Dudresnaya verticullosa was growing really well (see here) but broke off from the rocks and could not be replanted:

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I could not attach the fine red seaweed (see last post) either and did not want to have it floating around so I have removed it. My nice red seaweed streaming from the pump outlet, most probably Devil’s tongue weed Grateloupia turutu (as the name indicates, another invader from the Pacific), broke of. A crap picture of both weeds:

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I changed the white gravel with finer, beige Maerl gravel (Cornwall’s equivalent of coral sand, see previous post) here placed in a bowl for contrast:

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I released my Shanny as well as the largest of the two Rock gobies. The former attacked to many of the snails (it was getting a bit of a mollusc graveyard) and the latter was just too voracious in general. The final straw was seeing it swimming around with half a Worm pipefish sticking out of its mouth (I still have a bunch of those). The Shore rockling did not survive, but I caught a glimpse of the Shore clingfish when I removed some of the rocks from the aquarium. The juvenile albino Edible crab (if that’s what it is) and the European sting winkle Ocenebra erinaceus I recently caught both still do well, as is a juvenile Shore crab Carcinus maenas:

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The Netted dog whelk Hinia reticulata is not one of the most impressive looking snails, but they do very well in the aquarium, burrowing and moving around:

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I am not sure whether replacing one of the actinic lamps with the daylight lamp was such a great idea, the tank looks too yellowish now, especially with the Maerl sand…However, I will stick with it and see whether it helps future attempts to successfully keep Bushy rainbow wrack Cystoseira tamariscifolia (i.e. to retain it’s iridescence). If not, I’ll go back to the original lighting. I will not do too much with the aquarium in the near future as I want to get rid of the algae first. There are not many critters in the tank, which should help (I have only introduced a nice big Snakelocks anemone Anemonia viridis recently). I will do some more water changes and order a new pump. Only then will I slowly start experimenting with seaweeds again.

I am still unsure about the chiller, but with the weather getting warmer it might be more than just a luxury to have one. Apart from the price, it standing on the floor next to the aquarium with tubes sticking out is what I don’t like about the idea though. It will also not be silent, but perhaps I could get away with disabling the noisy hood fans, resulting in an overall quieter aquarium. The stripped-down tank (note that the red encrusting algae/seaweeds at the top of the tank have died (turned white) as they were exposed for a couple of hours when changing water):

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