Aquarium Update 17

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.

Aquarium Update 16

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:img_7419The 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. img_5611img_7401I 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.


Montagu’s blenny Coryphoblennius galerita in a Microreef pico aquarium

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:img_2860-2As 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).

Aquarium Update 15

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.IMG_3432IMG_2863IMG_2779 (2)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!IMG_3312IMG_3445IMG_3151

Aquarium Update 14: anemones

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 deadlyIMG_2436 IMG_2191IMG_2165

Aquarium Update 13

IMG_0863It 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.)

aquarium update 12

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.IMG_9139The 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).IMG_9759IMG_9391IMG_9752

aquarium update 11

The aquarium was in desperate need of a make-over (again…). I hauled a ton of rocks over from the beach and stacked them up. (I thought at first that I would need something to stick the rocks together (epoxy, superglue or waterfall foam) but that wasn’t really necessary). I also removed most of the gravel and replaced it with sand. So quite a big change but it really looks a lot better. However, my nice burrowing Red-speckled anemones suffered a bit when putting the sand in, and even after siphoning it off again I could not really find them anymore….hopefully they turn up again!IMG_7849 The aquarium is still a bit bare and I have to go out and collect things that will live on the rocks, such as anemones and seaweeds. However, there is some progress on the seaweed front. There is a bit of Irish moss Chondrus crispus growing spontaneosly from the back wall. There are also some patches of pink corraline algae; which must be Coral weed Corralina officinalis judging from one outgrowing patch. Having this species grow would be great, but they do not seem like fast growers. Chrysymenia wrighti is still thriving on the circulation pump; I remove a bit every now and then, so it acts as an ‘algae scrubber’, removing nutrients from the water. I have placed a couple of other seaweeds in the aquarium, a bit risky as they can die off and start trouble, but I can’t help it. The red Soliera chordalis below has done well before but unfortunately has started to die off a little already (first pic). I have a big piece of a flat red species that has started to grow from nowhere as well (second pic).IMG_7908IMG_7652One day, the aquarium was full of strings of Painted topshell eggs. I noticed when feeding a day later that the water was not very cold: I had forgotten to switch the pump/chiller back on two days previously! So the trick to breed this species is to increase the temperature, although I am not expecting much to happen with the eggs. Either the Thick-lipped or Netted dogwhelks are also occasionally sticking their egg masses to the glass. I placed a chunk of orange Estuarine sponge in the aquarium; this was devoured by Painted topshells and Cushion stars, so it is a good bit of live food to add. I had planted a little washed-up eelgrass plant to see if it would survive and indeed it has grown more roots. (If you want to try this yourself, please always use washed up plants and don’t dig out any, as eelgrass beds are vulnerable habitats.) It would be great to have a second tank dedicated to eelgrass….The little scallop is still happy (see close-up). I have added another filter feeder: a Leathery sea squirt Styela clavata. Butt-ugly, but that is actually fun too. I am trying it out as they are an invasive species and so probably pretty hardy. A Sting winkle seems to like it (but not eat it). I have never seen my two Sting winkles eat anything actually. They move about very slowly, but they have grown.IMG_7651IMG_7914Now the snakelocks anemones are gone, I have added some more fish. I have caught some juvenile Pollack Pollachius pollachius with my net. At first I caught ones that were less than an inch, but they did not survive. Of the six two-inch or so ones I caught, three dissappeared after one day, but the remaining three are going strong. Very nice looking fish! I also caught a little Tompot blenny Parablennius gattorugine (by hand at low tide). It is quite shy, but is increasingly showing itself. A beautiful little fish! I have one remaining Two-spotted goby. The Common goby is doing very well and eats from my hand. I think I’ll go for another little tompot, more Pollack and Two-spotted gobies. Ideally I would catch some Leopard-spotted gobies with a trap when diving, let’s see….The other fish I would like to have again is the Goldsinny wrasse: very pretty and not as nervous as Corkwing wrasse. IMG_7887


Aquarium Update 10

Another short aquarium update (I noticed that the blog has been more about rock pooling recently than aquarium keeping, hence the change in blog header). I had very little time to do much with the tank and have not bothered with water changes or cleaning the mechanical filter. On the upside, there is little algal growth and creatures are generally happy (occasionally eating each other of course). Seaweeds have started to grow spontaneously, see for instance the Irish moss on the Turban topshell on the right of the picture below. On the downside, the aquarium does not look particularly nice overall (the reason I have not included a tankshot). It needs a lot more rocks. Also, the filtration is bad; although the water is very clear, there is quite a lot of debris. This issue is hard to fix, and sometimes I am toying with the idea of getting a larger tank with a sump (instead of dealing with the crappy Red Sea Max back compartment).IMG_6600I will get rid of the sea urchins, as I am not sure the molluscs appreciate getting stuck to them. I have already gotten rid of the voracious snakelocks anemones and put them in a small tank (I will post about that soon). I have added a small scallop (Pecten maximus), which is very cool, and occasionally swims to another spot. I hope it will find enough to eat in the water.IMG_6896So the plan is to get a lot more rocks in. Perhaps I need a second Tunze circulation pump to get rid of debris. Without the snakelocks I can add more fish. Ideally I would like to keep Leopard-spotted gobies Thorogobius ephippiatus (see this old post) but they are extremely shy fish that live subtidally, so that would require a suitable trap and a lot of luck. I would also like more anemones (just like the very nice North American tanks on the Coldwater Marine Aquarium Owners Facebook group, see the links page). I have the impression that larger anemones have a better chance of surviving; perhaps in summer I can find some nice ones when diving. The Dahlia anemone has been eaten by Cushion stars and the smallest Strawberry anemony has been chased throug the tank by Painted top shells, Cushion stars and Snakelocks and now is half dead. So fish and anemones do not always  go well together, the same is true for snails and anemones and (in the case of blennies and gobies at least) fish and snails… Before considering new inhabitants however I need to get the tank looking a bit nicer.

Aquarium Update 9

I have not done much with the aquarium recently. The algae are under control after reducing light levels and times. The Chrysymenia weed is growing everywhere and not looking too pretty. I will have to replace some rocks to get rid of them. My only fish is a Common goby Pomatoschistus microps, who eats bits of shrimp out of my hand. It also attacks Grey topshells when it is hungry. I would like to have have some Goldsinny wrasse and Mullet as they are beautiful and do not seem to fall prey to the Snakelocks anemones, but these species are difficult to catch. I will collect a couple of squat lobsters as they are very entertaining to watch. Ideally Spiny squat lobster Galathea strigosa, as they are among the most nicely coloured animals to be found here. They are not common in the intertidal, although they might be common subtidally (I noticed one in a picture I took of some Bispira volutacornis worms recently). The Goby with a full belly:IMG_5775So for now just a little inventory. Molluscs: Turban- Grey- and Purple topshells, a Sting winkle, Thicklipped- and Reticulated whelks and assorted Periwinkles. Crustaceans: Common prawns and Hermit crabs. Anemones: Beadlet-, Strawberry-, Plumose- and Snakelock anemones and a Red Speckled Anemone. Echinoderms: one Sea urchin, a bunch of Cushion stars, the odd Brittlestar and a nice Seven-armed starfish Luidia ciliaris that I recently found in a rock pool on Castle Beach. This species can grow up to 60 cms and hunts for other echinoderms, let’s see what happens!IMG_5735