Chiller

After a year and a half of running a supposedly cold water aquarium at room temperature (usually above 20C), I have finally bought a chiller! I found it very hard to choose between the several available brands, with mixed messages on forums about noise, ventilation and size. In the end I decided on a D-D DC300 chiller; however, the supplier was out of stock and suggested to take the 750 Watt model instead. As it was not that much more expensive and as running a larger chiller at shorter intervals is more econonomical (and also after a year of indecision I of course could not just wait for a couple of extra weeks), the D-D DC750 chiller it was. I ordered an Eheim compact +2000 pump (1000 to 2000 l/hr) to go with it online and got some insulated tubing from my local stoner hydroponics guy. When the chiller arrived it was a lot bigger than I thought. I placed it in a kitchen cabinet out of sight, and hopefully hearing, and with help from friends drilled two holes in the wall to the living room, to lead the tubing up to the tank:

IMG_8466(I still have to drill holes in the surface for the two electric cables.) The chiller is set at 17C, which results in about 14-15C in the aquarium. With a lower temperature setting, ‘tank sweating’ (condensation) occurs. So the temperature is still at the upper end of native tanks, but I think (hope) it might make the difference for some species of algae and some sublittoral species. The chiller only comes on about four times per 24 hours for a half hour and the noise is not too bad. The inside of the cabinet heats up quite a bit, but I think it should not be a problem. I had planned to fit the outflow through one of the two holes drilled in the back compartment for the two Red Sea Max pumps, but the tubing was too stiff/the compartment too small to make the angle. I have now just tie-wrapped the tube into the tank:

IMG_8465I still have to find a proper solution to close the two holes, as I do not want the water to be sucked into the back compartment that way (bypassing the filter/skimmer). I have set the pump at 2000 l/hr which (with the loss because of chiller and tubing) is still not very strong (the two RSM pumps had a combined 1100 l/hr). I might re-install one of the original pumps to get some extra flow directed at the water surface. Next project: finally installing my LEDs!

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!

new inhabitants

Last weekend I went for a bit of snorkeling off Pendennis Point to catch some new inhabitants of my tank: some Snakelocks anemones and a Leach’s spider crab (just one for a start). Although it was overcast and late, it was nice to be in the water. I was lucky to straight away find a diving knife, this helped me to cut of some kelp housing snakelocks. I took a perforated plastic Lidl bag with me in the water to serve as a net for the crab, low tech but it worked fine. The tricky thing was to get the snakelocks from the kelp afterwards (I did not want a load of rotting kelp pieces in the tank):

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With some finicking I could get the anemones off the kelp and on the rocks or gravel. The Leach’s spider crab (decorated with small pieces of red seaweed) quickly hid behind a rock. However, after two days it was accustomed to its new surroundings and found a place underneath one of the anemones right in the front of the tank:

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A fresh start

After having the aquarium almost empty over summer, I finally got round to start it up again. I reinstalled the Tunze nanostream, went back from the finer, brown Maerl gravel to normal, coarse gravel and collected some new rocks (slate I think). I looked for these on the middle shore; on the lower shore they are covered with the barnacles and limpets that I do not want and on the high shore they have not yet been eroded by water and have very sharp edges. Still have to get used to the new look. Now on to collect some animals!

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new lighting

My new 55 watt fluorescent Philips daylight lamps arrived last week. The first picture shows the two standard 10.000 K actinic lamps that come with the Red Sea Max 130D; the second picture shows the two new daylight lamps. I found he light coming from the actinic lamps always looking rather harsh, but the daylight lamps looked awfully yellow. I decided to compromise between photosynthesis and aesthetics and go for one of each type (third picture):

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As you can see, the Wireweed and Dudresnays whorled weed are doing very well.

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The 10.000 K lamp (top) and the 6500 K lamp. Contrary to my expectation, the temperature dropped using the new lighting: from 25C to 23C, good! I have ‘planted’ some Furcellaria lumbricalis, let’s see what it does:


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Yesterday I discovered a big patch of Bushy rainbow wrack Cystoseira tamariscifolia on Castle beach in Falmouth (I noticed that this seaweed grows quite high on the shore at this location). I should have brought a small plant back to test with the new lighting (and lower temperature and salinity) but I reckoned it would be best to wait a bit until I have a chiller as well to get all conditions right. Hmmm, maybe I’ll go back today…

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disturbing data

Allright, I finally have a thermometer. I ordered it online and it turned out to be way to small (not helped by the addition of the arcane Fahrenheit scale…). Anyhow, my water turns out to be 25 degrees (Celsius)! This is a couple of degrees warmer than I thought, and not exactly characteristic of British Seas. I will have to save money for a chiller…

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I also bought a hydrometer (cheaper than a refractometer) to measure salinity. This was even more of a shocker, the salinity was literally of the scale! >40 g/l instead of the 35 g/l or so of ‘regular’ seawater!

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I have recently started to change water more frequently, which means I have not been topping up evaporated water with distilled water but instead replacing this water of 0 g/l salinity with seawater of 35 g/l salinity. Stupid. Tomorrow I will take back distilled water from the lab for a good water change (gradual of course). My temperature and salinity values demonstrate that rock pool critters are quite hardy: all my fish and anemones seem to be doing just fine. However, who knows these high salinity levels might have caused problems in the aquarium for some of the seaweeds collected from the lower shore…

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Actually, recently one organism died a week after I put it in the aquarium, probably because of the temperature and salinity shock, the beautiful Dahlia anemone Urticina felina (not a very good photo):

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more seaweeds

I had to remove the False eyelash weed from the aquarium; some bits were looking fine but in general a substantial amount of the branches had died off. Perhaps this is what normally happens in nature, only in rock pools any dead material is quickly washed away and so it goes unnoticed. I had to make some water changes to get rid of the debris which required some healthy exercise bringing buckets of waters down from the quay. Although it was windy and cold, I could not resist the urge to have a look at my local beach in Flushing last Saturday, hunting for some more seaweeds. It was noticeable that one particular seaweed had started to grow everywhere: Dumont’s tubular weed Dumontia contorta:

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Slightly slimy and impossible to remove from the rock without ending up with a hand of loose strands. I therefore have placed a large pebble with one small plant in the aquarium just to see how it goes. I found small plants of Solier’s red string weed Soliera chordalis again that did well in the aquarium last year, as well as a whole bunch of other red seaweeds that I have trouble to identify (not the first one, that is Bunny ears Lomentaria articulata):

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To test whether they are able to grow in the aquarium, I have placed them in an old floating fish fry box I had lying around:

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tank update

Time for an update on the tank. Switching to two lamps instead of one looks good but has not brought the iridescence of the Bushy rainbow wrack back. I could not resist putting a new specimen in. Iridescence is defined as the property of certain surfaces to appear to change color as the angle of view or the angle of illumination changes. Left: viewed from below, right: viewed from above.

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I noticed that the underside of the rock the weed was attached to harbored a nice little strawberry worm, but before I could photograph it, the large rock goby gulped it down. It is noticeable that the fish have full bellies after putting in a new piece of seaweed, which is no surprise as there is so much growing on and in it.I have seen the very cute amphipod Caprella acanthifera which looks like a tiny, marine cross between a praying mantis and a caterpillar, but since they did not come not near the glass I could not get a good shot. I have seen one Cushion star Asterina Phylactica as well, which looks nicer than the light grey Asterina gibbosa I have. I also noticed a couple of Cerithiopsis tubercularis (3-4 mm):

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The tank is completely full of snakelocks anemones, hundreds maybe:

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In the foreground an Idiotea isopod; there are many of these sitting on seaweed branches and occasionally swimming around, although most of them will probably be eaten by now. Finally, three seaweeds have started to grow from the pump outlets. Dudresnay’s whorled weed, a fine purple weed and a broadleaved red seaweed. I have placed adult plants of the latter species (30 cm or so)  in my aquarium before, but these were quickly eaten. It is either a type of laver or dulse, but I am not sure. It has also settled on the glass, but seldomly grows ‘leaves’ on there. Growing in the water current protects the weeds from predation from shrimps, let’s see how big they can grow!

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trouble in paradise

A very corny title indeed but wordpress recommended trying to come up with catchy post titles so that’s my excuse… I was very pleased with the way the tank looked after my first serious session of aquascaping. My satisfaction of course did not last for too long. First, I noticed that the water turned cloudy the next day as the result of a bacterial bloom. I quickly changed two buckets of sea water and turned on the skimmer (the Red Sea Max stock skimmer makes an unholy noise and so is usually only on at night (if I don’t forget)). This seemed to help and the water turned clear again within two days or so. I had not expected a bloom to occur, as I added seaweeds (removing nutrients) rather than animals (adding nutrients), plus I had not been feeding frozen artemia for a while. Anyway, this problem has been solved. It is probably better next time to change the tank in multiple steps rather than making wholesale changes. I next noticed the Harpoon weed starting to whither. This has happened before so it was not a real surprise. A close-up of the Harpoon weed when it was still looking good:

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Some Slender-beaded coral weed made it into the aquarium attached to other weeds. As expected, this weed also died and turned white:

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I next noticed that the branchlets of the Red grape weed turned from a dark purple-brown into a fresh green. Although pretty, that this was not a change for the better was obvious when upon touching the plant many of the branchlets were shed. I removed this plant before this debris would clog the filter.

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The main thing that disappointed me though is that the Bushy rainbow wrack steadily lost its iridescent colors and turned into the brown of the other Bushy wrack species. The fact that I had bright blue, green and purple in my aquarium was the most amazing thing about it. Before and after pics:

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I reckon this has to do with the light spectrum not being right. The colors are reminiscent of the Jade vine from the Philippines. Its coloration is the result of two pigments, malvin and saponarin, being present at a specific ratio at a specific alkalinity (wikipedia again). Both Jade vine and Bushy rainbow wrack seem to be fluorescent to my non-expert eye, although a quick search on google did not give me anything on fluorescent plants. Anyway, I will make it my goal in life to find the light conditions that bring back these colors!

To properly experiment with any seaweed it will be desirable to be able to vary the light spectrum and intensity. Probably the best way to go is LED lights, although I am not very knowledgeable about lighting yet and it is all quite complicated (LUX, PAR, micro-Einsteins, Kelvin ratings…) It is also not clear to me if (affordable) LED options are on the market that actually allow you to adjust the light spectrum. I will ask around on some forums. It could also be that the light intensity is not right; I have only used one of the two fluorescent T5 lamps provided with the Red Sea Max 130D as I found the lighting too bright when I started. However, now the tank is full of seaweeds, more of the light will be absorbed and it might not look like I have a tanning bed in the living room. I will pop the other light in and see. The RSM lights are so-called 50/50 lamps that give 50% ‘day light’ and 50% ‘actinic’ (blue) light. Who knows some extra actinic light will help. I need to read up on the subject. There must be other factors as well. For instance room temperature might be too high for some species (this reminds me I need to buy a thermometer!). The Bushy berry wrack, False eyelash weed and Wireweed seem to be doing OK though. Here a picture of Wireweed:

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The tank a week after planting:

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some serious aquascaping

With the seaweeds collected, it was time to plant my aquarium. This time I took a more serious approach, I planted lots. Many of the seaweeds had bits of rock attached to their holdfasts which made it easy to anchor them in the gravel. Two of the weeds I tied to rocks with a piece of elastic band, easy peasy:IMG_1981

View from the left side. False eyelash weed Calliblepharis jubata in the front, tall Wireweed Sargassum muticum and in the middle some coarse brown sea weed which almost looks like a dead conifer. This is probably Bushy berry wrack Cystoseira baccata: IMG_1990

An expanded view, on the right some Red grape weed Gastroclonium ovatum, in the middle the red pluck of Dudresnays whorled weed Dudresnaya vertillicata that I already had:

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A goby amidst the False eyelash weed lying on top of what may be Purple claw weed, I am not sure:

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The magnificently coloured Bushy rainbow wrack Cystoseira tamariscifolia covered in green Snakelocks anemones Anemonia viridis. In the foreground the pink Slender-beaded coral weed Jania rubens and Harpoon weed Asparagopsis armata.

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A close-up of the Bushy rainbow wrack. Other plants were bright green or purple. I never knew that seaweeds existed with these iridescent colours. In fact, when I glimpsed one for the first time in a rock pool I disregarded it because I thought it was some seaweed covered in oil slick! These weeds are also have a very cartilaginous texture which give them more of an animal-like appearance.

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I discovered several small whitish Sea lemon nudibranchs Archidoris pseudoargus, very cool.

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