When it rains it pours: another feature in print! A while back, I was contacted by Chris Sergeant who had a plan to write a piece for Practical Fishkeeping Magazine on rockpool inhabitants, to be accompanied by a short interview with me about my native tank. As coldwater marine tanks represent less than 1% of all aquaria this would be a nice ‘niche’ article that could introduce this part of the hobby to other aquarists. The issue arrived at my doorstep today, and as the blog name is mentioned, I thought I’d better write a quick aquarium post!
I have not been posting much about my aquarium lately (click on the ‘aquarium update‘ tag at the bottom of the page to see relevant older posts). This is in part because the aquarium on the whole has been ticking along nicely and in part because covid meant I have not been diving or visiting different beaches much this last year and so have not introduced many new inhabitants. There are a few changes though: in the photo above you can see a mermaid’s purse of a bull huss (or nursehound) shark that my son found washed ashore, tendrils tied to a suction cup. The gestation period is up to 11 months, so let’s see what happens! I have also reintroduced prawns, as they are active and really pretty when you look up close. I have also added a scallop, but need to relase it sometime soon as it is not able to filterfeed properly. The bit of kelp tied to the pump has been surviving (it would go too far to say thriving) for quite some months now. Although the beadlet anemones have spawned quite a few offspring, I am going through a phase where many are wasting away. I have no idea if this might be a disease or if this batch of anemones has just reached the end of their natural lifespan.
I have posted a bunch of tank pics below. For more info on my tank please have a look at the July issue of Practical Fishkeeping (which also features reminiscences on rockpooling by editor Nathan Hill). I promise to post more regularly about the tank here on the blog though, and also on instagram. Please also see the Links page for other relevant blogs and websites. Anyway, I am very honoured to appear in ‘PFK’; a true institution when it comes to the aquarium hobby in the UK!
It has been over 20 months since I last posted about my Cornish native aquarium, so high time for a quick update with a few iPhone pics. In short, everything has ticked along nicely and nothing major has happened. Grey Top shells keep the glass pretty free of algae, I do not think I have ever had to clean the tank myself this year. I tried to keep a small piece of Dead Mans’ Fingers but it unfortunately perished. I think this mainly had to do that I was not able to attached it to the rock (using elastic bands). If I could get my hands on a piece already attached to a rock I think it would work.
My main goals is to keep some new species of anemone, and I will try to find some soon when diving. Currently, I still have the Daisy-, Dahlia-, Beadlet-, Strawberry-, Red Speckled- (see pic above) and Snakelocks Anemones. The Beadlets are producing lots of babies, some of which already have grown up to half the size of adults. I have each of the two Snakelocks colour morphs and both anemones have divided in two and grown quite a bit (see pic below). There are at least ten other species I could collect, and it would be great to have a whole collection. Anemones are generally easy to keep and very pretty! I feed them a few times a week with frozen foods such as artemia and I also handfeed them with bits of defrosted shrimp.
My Cornish Suckers (a species of clingfish) are still in there, but I only see them when feeding. I am reluctant to add more fish, as the tank has become a bit of a death trap with all the anemones! I have a common starfish, a few cushion starfish, some netted dogwhelks and a sea urchin. I will add some small prawns again as well since they are quite beautful and always on the move (and if they end up as anemone food, well, that is fine too). Occasionally, I add a random find to the tank, see below a colonial seasquirt on a shell I found on the beach and a shell with some Seabeard hydroids (Nemertesia antennina) attached that I picked up during a dive.
Hardware-wise, I am very happy with the Red Sea Reefer 170 and my AI Prime LED light. The LEDs are operating at very low capacity though, I use less than 10% of the output I think. I use a skimmer, but do not have biological filtration in the sump and rely solely on the gravel in the tank. I have a separate chiller loop going in and out of the sump. The tank currently is kept at 16C, which is not supercold for a coldwater tank, but it avoids problems with condensation (and saves some energy). My water changes involve a walk to the quay at the end of my street with two 10L jerry cans. I try to do a water change once a week but I do not always succeed. So hopefully I will be able to add some interesting species to the tank soon. Finally, watch this space for some very interesting coldwater aquarium news early next year…..
P.S. click on the ‘Aquarium Update’ tag on top to see all old posts on my aquarium
I replaced my old Red Sea Max 130D tank last December with a new Red Sea Reefer 170 tank. I was not entirely happy with the design of the old tank (see this old post) and I was thinking of a new aquarium with a sump, and then my retrofitted LEDs stopped working: I was practically forced to buy a new aquarium! It is much better to have a sump to have a large skimmer in, the glass is much clearer and the (separately bought) AI prime LEDs are great (with seven different individually adjustable colours). I had a long day switching tanks and found three clingfish alive and well. I released my ballan wrasse as it was before the christmas break and I did not want to let it go two weeks without food. In the following weeks, I managed to collect some more anemones, I now have Snakelocks, Strawberries, Beadlets, Daisies, Redspeckleds and Dahlias. It is my aim to collect maybe ten or so more species this year when rockpooling and diving and turn it into a proper anemone tank. I probably won’t add any fish or big inverts as they could fall prey to the anemones. I have added some snails to help keep the algae under control, unfortunately after a a superclean first two months some green hues are starting to appear so I will add some more. These are two hasty shots; a proper update is soon to follow!
I started this blog mainly to document keeping a temperate marine aquarium; browsing back I see that that was more than four years back already! (see this introduction). Over time, I became more passionate about rock pooling, snorkeling and diving, specifically about seaweeds and photography, and blogged less and less about my aquarium. The aquarium had its ups and downs, as coldwater aquariums tend to be a bit more trial and error (coldwater marine aquariums do not consist of relatively slow growing stony corals as in tropical marine aquariums and house much more (higher order) diversity than tropical or cold freshwater aquariums). Also, I am a lazy man. The last aquarium update was from last November and the aquarium did not look that great, but I have lately spend more time on it and it looks much better now, so here a quick new post.I bought an upgrade Red Sea Max pump (much better) a while back, and more recently a Tunze 9001 skimmer (MUCH better than the stock skimmer, removed years ago as it was so noisy). The only problem is that the pump is so powerful that the water does not get sucked fast enough in the back compartment and it starts to run dry, I need to think how to fix that. The water is very clear though. I only have Cornish suckers as fish at the moment, and it might not be safe to add other fish as there are quite a few anemones at the moment. I have collected a bunch of Daisy anemones Cereus pedunculatus whilst diving (these are very common here in Flushing). I feed all my anemones small pieces of defrosted prawn by hand, these little ones respond very well to that and I hope they will grow much larger. I also collected some more Redspeckled anemones Anthopleura balli(below). David Fenwick kindly gave me an oyster with many Jewel anemones Corynactis viridis attached (crappy pic, sorry). These did relatively well for a while when feeding fine dry foods (sold for reef aquariums) but they were bothered by the squat lobster and cushion stars and I put the oyster back in the sea (I was also worried the oyster might die and cause a huge nitrogen spike). As an experiment I removed a few jewel anemones with a scalpel and superglued them to frag plugs but they did not survive. Ah well, that might have been a first, so worth a try. With a smaller, dedicated aquarium with better filtration (to deal with many small food particles) it must be doable to keep these. At the moment there are several species of gastropods, a cute little clam, mussels, Snakelocks- Dahlia-, Beadlet- and Strawberry anemones, a small Hairy crab, Cushion stars, green urchins and a Common starfish. The echinoderms seem easiest to keep of all. I actually put the common starfish back as it was picking of all my snails which I need to keep algae in check (and are interesting in their own right of course). I added a Cushion starfish with six legs though (‘Dave’). Hopefully I can find some more anemones when diving over the summer and who knows experiment with seaweeds again.
It has been more than five months since the last update on my Red Sea Max 130D so high time for nr 16. I have bought a media basket to force the water more through the filtration material, which cannot be a bad thing, but otherwise have done very little. I have not been diving as much as I wanted, and still have not gone to any of the deeper sites where I perhaps could have found some Dahlia anemones, larger Brittlestars or other interesting things. I have a red seaweed growing from the rocks; it has encrusted all rocks in a deep red colour and grows out of in a bit of a lettuce-shape. At first I thought it was the invasive species Grateloupia but the shape and colour are a bit different, I will enquire at the Seaweeds of the NE Atlantic facebook group what it is. I have some green algae but they grow in tufts that can be easily removed so I cannot complain really. Below a shot of the tank, it does not look great but there you have it:The anemones are still so-so. I think that plumose anemones need very fines foods and water changes, which I do not really do and as a result they are often closed and not growing. The strawberries and beadlets still don’t do as well as they did, no idea why. My Red-speckled anemones (Anthopleura ballii) on the other hand do great and are my favourites. Below a photo of a specimen I collected at a good low tide in Flushing this week and one in my aquarium that has grown quite a bit. It fluoresces in the middle. I have some squat lobsters rummaging around as well as a cool hairy crab. I have got rid of prawns as they are so aggressive! Every time I opened the hood and stopped the pump, they came swimming to the top, legs tickling and scraping on the plastic and attacking my fingers. They are part of the reason that my fish have not fared too well. I had some Pollack for a while but they eventually succumbed. I believe my flow is on the strong side, and with an occasional missed feeding and less energy, the prawns and anemones will not tolerate any slip up! I caught some Sand smelt (see here for two videos) with my big net from the quay but these formed a meal for other inhabitants within the day. I caught a Topknot (by hand) (see here) but that disappeared after a while too. I have two or three Cornish suckers that do well though. As soon as I feed they stick their noses from under rocks and dart out to catch some defrosted shrimp but otherwise you hardly see them. I was lucky to catch a bright green juvenile Ballan wrasse Labrus bergylta of the quay which does great (they are not as nervous as the more common corkwing wrasse). I caught another individual (I only ever caught three) but the first one started picking on it, changing from bright green to a more subdued marbled green. I was not in time to release one of them and the second fish died unfortunately.
Already a while back I ordered a tiny (‘pico’) aquarium from US-based Microreef, which has a beautiful range of aquariums, especially acrylic tanks which are suited for temperate setups due to their insulating properties. The acrylic tank I ordered was only two US Gallon (7.5l) and came equipped with an IceProbe chiller fitted in a HOB (Hang On Back) filter. The IceProbe is a type of peltier chiller, working very differently from larger conventional compressor-based chillers. I must say that when I first tried it out, the temperature did not drop by that much. Since I first wanted to set up a temporary tank with rock pool critters anyway, I did not bother switching it on. I will have to fiddle around with it some more though. Below a photo with an iPhone to show just how small this tank is:As a first experiment, I caught three Montagu’s blenny Coryphoblennius galerita from the pool described in the previous post. (See this dainty little fish in its natural habitat in one of Thomas Daguerre’s short clips here.) I decorated the tank just with some pebbles and found a tiny (<5 mm) prawn as a hitch hiker. As a light, I used a cheap Arcadia stretch LED. The fish (and prawn) readily fed on frozen foods and generally were quite active. Below a short clip with the largest individual (still less than an inch in lenght) showboating. I have since released the fish as the tank and filter did not do that well with the heavy feeding. I have to think about a new setup, especially with the chiller working and critters that would not be suited to the larger tank (about which I will post an update next).
It’s been a few months since I posted about the aquarium. I mentioned in the last update that the tank is a bit empty and this is still the case. Worryingly, several of my anemones (multiple species) have been wasting away, with a small portion of the tentacles first disappearing before they succumb to hungry Cushion stars. I suspect this is a pathogen of some sort; a remote alternative possibility is that the rummaging urchins damage them when passing and I have removed a few just in case (a shame, as they seemed to do really well). I have posted a photo of one of my oldest strawberry anemones in very bad shape (and with a lurking Cushion star near). Nothing I can do about it, I hope it stops! Next a picture of a Dog whelk Nucella lapillus and a Common starfish eating a Turban top shell Gibbula magus.The two stock pumps (and their replacements) had gone a long time ago and the only circulation through the back compartment was caused by my eheim pump connected to the chiller. To get more filtration capacity and flow, I ordered a Red Sea Max replacement pump (£70!!). Handily, it came assembled with reversed in- and outflow outlets, causing the back compartment to flood and water spilling out of the hood onto the electrical sockets. Luckily I could switch it off quickly and nothing bad happened. The flow is much better now. I removed the skimmer as I do not use it (last time I did the pump sounded like it was giving up the ghost anyway). The photo shows the interesting inhabitant I found when removing it after such a long time, a tunicate. I placed the filtration bag in the large back compartment, less through flow but easier to work with (sorry this is getting a bit too involved for the non-aquarium keepers…). Lastly, I prised open the hood and cut the wires of the two fans as they were noisy and with half of my LEDs on the lowest dimmer level, overheating is not an issue. I currently have no seaweeds placed in the aquarium, but a couple of red species are appearing spontaneously, which is the best way. I will set free my two gobies when going on holiday soon. I added three Cornish suckers Lepadogaster lepadogaster recently and, as I feared, have not seen them after, hiding between the rocks (two of them with some worm pipefish on the last snap collecting in Falmouth). Hope to add some interesting new beasties later in summer!
A short update on the aquarium; I have collected some more anemones and hope to collect a lot more now spring has started (I went for my first dive of the year this Friday; it was really nice to be back in the water but the visibility was really bad and it was only 9 degrees!). I do not have a decent full tank shot (FTS as it is called on aquarium fora…) but decided to post some quick iPhone pics anyway. The first photo shows three species: top left is a Diadumene cincta or lineata, bottom left a Dahlia anemone Urticina felina and the two on the right are Strawberry anemones Actinia fragacea. Next a Plumose anemone Metridium senile followed by a white variety of the Red-speckled anemone Anthopleura ballii. I feed the anemones a couple of times a week by hand with pieces of defrosted shrimp. The anemones readily take up the shrimp, especially the Dahlia anemone is very quick to grab food and close up. The Plumose anemones are more difficult as they are often closed (they slowly open up when they sense food in the water but often they don’t) and have very fine tentacles not suited to feeding on larger particles. They would be better fed with zooplankton from a turkey baster but I have been too lazy to do that. When they are fully extended they are beautiful, white or orange but often they are flat as a pancake and shift shape a bit, leaving behind pieces of tissue that sometimes develop into tiny anemones. I have some beadlet anemones and a small orange and white species I am not sure of too. There are a whole bunch of other species (I can recommend this excellent guide) and many are very beautiful (see here for a gallery of photos by Paul Kay). The plan is to try to find more Dahlia anemones, as these come in many colour variations, but they are not very common in the rock pools here. A common species when snorkelling in the Helford is the Mud sagartia, which would also be nice to have. I am doubting about getting some Snakelocks again: they are very pretty and I could get the commensal spider crab as well, but they are also quite deadly…
It has been a while since I last posted an aquarium update. I have not done too much with the tank and at the moment it is looking so-so. I have introduced some Beadlet anemones which are doing fine and have produced some tiny offspring. I managed to remove a dark red Dahlia anemone from a rock during my last dive which is also doing well. After freeing the Tompot blenny, the two strawberry anemones have come out of hiding and are looking bright and happy again. I have a Plumose anemone that is hardly ever open. All the echinoderm species are doing well. The Spiny starfish have grown a lot: the largest one in the picture from September now is as big as my hand! The Pollock seemed to do well but nevertheless died (without leaving a trace of course). These more pelagic fish are not as hardy as the wrasses, blennies and gobies. The light is at a low level and so the seaweeds are not surviving for long. I had almost no algae, but feeding the anemones and fish with defrosted shrimp has caused thick green algae to start growing. I sometimes drop in some more Grey topshells to fight this but they are probably rapidly eaten by the starfish…It is very tricky to get the balance right! I need more light for seaweeds, more snails to combat algae and so probably need to ditch any large starfish (and maybe some of the fish) that eat the snails. I would like to get more anemone species as most species (not all) seem easy to keep and are beautiful: more Dahlia anemone colour variants, some Red-speckled anemones (which were accidentally buried under the sand, I still regret that!) and Daisy anemones…next year! (Btw, click this Aquarium Update tag if you are interested in previous aquarium-related posts.)
It has been a while since I last posted an aquarium update; I have been a bit busy and have not done much with the tank recently. I have not done any water changes, never use the skimmer but have had zero algae because I have kept the light level low. I have experimented a bit with various seaweeds but nothing thrived. The Chrysemenia was doing well growing on the Tunze pump but disappeared overnight. Kelp always does well when attached to the pump. The tank is still a bit bare so no ‘full tank shot’ but some inhabitants below. I collected some Parasitic anemones Calliactis parasitica attached to an empty shell figuring that a not so pretty species might be actually quite hardy. Turns out they just stayed a bit limp and I therefore returned them to the sea.The Tompot blenny is a real character, very alert and always hungry. If you stick your finger in the water he immediately comes and nips it. The small scallop remarkably survived over the summer (remarkably because there is almost nothing to filter from the water) but the hungry Tompot ate it in the end (like most other snails). As the snails were not going to last long anyway, I introduced two small Common starfish Asterias rubens and two small Spiny starfish Marthasterias glacialis. They are usually hidden but that makes it extra fun when you spot one. The Cushion star Asterina gibbosa of course remain unperturbed and are always on the prowl. I noticed a tiny offspring (<2 mm).