The Lightning Project

The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project

Browsing Posts tagged Birdsnest Coral

Yes, made it a point today to check how things are going in my own “super [fish] bowl”…that is the Ecoxotic cube tank that holds the Lightning Maroon.  I’ve been Vodka dosing lately and it certainly seems to be helping the corals show their ideal colors, although the Green and Purple maricultured ORA Gonioporas really have not been doing well (meanwhile the ORA Red is growing like crazy, and my Aussie Pinks are putting on growth too…the Aussie Greens, I’m not sure).

At any rate, when I check water last week my nitrates were down to 5 PPM.  Lately I’ve switched my in-house salt use; since most of my tanks are not reef tanks, it made no sense to be putting in extra cash on reef-grade salt.  So, I’ve been mixing 50% Reef Crystals with 50% Instant Ocean.  I’m continuing with regular partial water changes as well as the vodka, iron, iodide, and Reef Plus.  The biggest thing I’m noticing is that I’m once again having pH swings that trend low – a quick pH test confirmed my probe is not out of adjustment.  This is all happening with daily doses of C-Balance 2 part (6 ML each).  So, where are things sitting today, on Super Bowl Sunday?

pH (Apex) – 8.06
pH (Seachem) – 8.0
Alkalinity (Seachem) – 2 meq/L
Nitrate (Salifert) – < 5 ppm
Calcium (Salifert) – 420 ppm
Magnesium (Salifert) – 1305 ppm
Phosphate – was going to test it as I’ve never bothered…test kit defunct.

Calicium and Magnesium look fine, so I’m thinking I just need to tweak the Alkalinity a little bit…so maybe a dose or two of either Seachem’s Reef Builder or Reef Buffer ought to do the trick and knock off the low end pH overnight.  Overall, I’m pleased with the results of my low-level routine Vodka dosing – colors on the Seriatopora have dramatically improved.

Nothing special to report on the Clowns…they just keep acting like a pair but no eager reproductive activity.


I did some digging and found that I DID have an Aquarium Systems Phosphate and Nitrate Test Kit sitting around – I bought this back when I lived in Chicago, so I know it’s old.  But there’s no expiration date on the kits, and as far as I can tell, they *seem* to work.  The results?

Phosphate (Aquarium Systems) – 0.4 ppm
Nitrate (Aquarium Systems) – < 10 ppm (gradations on this test are 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 – the resolution is pretty coarse)

It’s been a while since I sat down and checked my water chemistry.  The corals are growing for the most part, and growing well.  Color still seems to be trouble, and in the last month, algal growth on the glass has picked up the pace.  With the pH probe on my Apex routinely starting to warn me about the pH hitting 8.5 (and shutting down all my lights to stop the rising pH) I finally sat down tonight and did some testing.  This time, it was quite clear that things were out of whack, for while my Apex was reading 8.50, the Seachem liquid test came back around 8.2.

And this is why you should keep the pH probe calibration solutions on hand.  I actually had to clean the probe with some vinegar, but once that was done, I got down to recalibration.  It’s an easy process, well explained in the Apex manual.  When it was done, my pH came out at 8.13; much more in line with my liquid test.  Of course, I’d been holding back on my C-Balance 2 part dosing due to pH “riding high”, but I may have been relying too much on the probe.  The water quality checked out like this after calibration.

pH probe – 8.13
pH (Seachem) – 8.2
Alkalinity (Seachem) – 2 meq/L
Calcium (Salifert) – 420 ppm
Magnesium (Salifert) – 1270 ppm
Nitrate (Salifert) – 50 ppm

Wait, yes, seriously, the nitrates have shot up to 50 ppm.  Great.  That very well could explain why my Hot Pink Birdsnests are brown, my Sour Apple Birdsnests are lavendar, and my Red Pocilloporas are looking more yellow with purple polyps (I call them Red Pocilloporas, but they came to me as a Red Birdsnest, and it seems that they’re growing without problems right into the Sour Apple Birdsnest, so the jury is out on what genus this coral belongs to right now!).  I did add a frag from John Coppolino, a very special “Hulk Milli” Acropora milleopora.  I’ve just been curious to see how other SPS will do under the Ecoxotic LEDs as well as whether the Foureye Butterfly would take it out or not.  So far it’s sitting there, and has obviously darkened, no doubt a direct result of the high nitrates.

I’ve been doing very low level Vodka dosing for a while, but perhaps not to the volume and consistency I should be.  Of course, I’ve also been pumping the tank full of food in an effort to push the clowns to breed.  Looks like some water changes are unavoidably in their future.

And that’s all there is to say about the Lightning Project right now.  It is still very much a waiting game.

It has been a LONG time since I tested the water on the Lightning Maroon’s tank.  The Birdsnest Corals are all growing, some quite rapidly.  I already hacked off a dozen+ frags on the “Sour Apple” Seriatopora as it was starting to shade out smaller corals.  The pH swings I was experiencing seemed to have lessened in severity.  While the pH probe seemed to be still getting valid measurements, it seems a calibration may have helped.  Part of the issue may have also been temperature related – installation of an Air Conditioner in the room helped temperature more in check, which may have slowed photosynthesis a little, and been one more thing to help reduce the pH extremes  that the Apex was reporting.  Finally, I reduced the frequency I was dosing C-Balance 2 part, but I may have to step it back up after getting these readings.

pH (Seachem) – 8.1
pH (Apex) – 8.22
Alkalinity (Seachem) – 2.5 meq/L
Calcium (Salifert) – 360 ppm
Magnesium (Salifert) – 1170 ppm
Nitrate (Salifert) – between 2 and 5 ppm

So, probably a water change and staying a little more on top of a daily C-Balance dosing regime ought to keep things in line.  Frankly, I was surprised the Nitrates weren’t higher, but perhaps the very low-level Vodka dosing is doing the trick?

It’s been almost 4 months since the Ecoxotic was set up for the Lightning Maroon…and some SPS!  Overall, I’ve been very, very pleased with the tank.  Unlike some of the other smaller tanks on the market, I love how easily and brilliantly this one cleans up.  Being glass, I can take a razor blade to it if the algae gets out of control.  Using 7th Generation Glass Cleaner, I can deal with some really nasty salt drips and spills.  But perhaps the best part is how wonderfully the stand cleans up.  Once Ike turned me onto Cabinet Magic, well, this tank can be restored to showroom quality in minutes.  The only thing I can’t clean up is the back plastic filter box; the moment it got coraline algae growing on it, I couldn’t get it off even with a safe-for-acrylic algae pad.

One of the questions I got a lot was about the skimmer.  People want to know if the built in skimmer really gets the job done.  Well, what can I say other than “it works”?

Of course, that was only a couple days after cleaning.  You should see it after a few weeks  – the sludge in the riser tube gets sickly.  Noise?  Well, it’s not whisper quiet – most all of the noise comes from the skimmer churning up the air.  Everything is pretty sealed up, pretty quiet, and since there are no fans on the lightning, well, this tank runs at a respectable and reasonable level of noise.

Of course, the thing people really want to know is how are the LEDs at growing coral?  Well, they are pretty darn good at growing the corals I’ve thrown in there.  The Birdsnests are branching like crazy, so light is clearly not an issue.  Still, color has been an issue, even on the Birdsnests.  Most of the Birdsnests browned out pretty much on introduction, but after a couple months the color was starting to come back.  At night, with the actinic Stunner Strip, and corals that are dull are popping.

Well, it turns out that there was a reason that Ecoxotic refined the Panorama units to include more blue.  It seems that the actinic blue wavelengths are important not just due to the florescence they create, but they also help actually develop the overall general coloration of the corals.  You see, while I really like the “white light” look, it’s good for growth but not so much for color.  Of course we kinda already knew about that, which is why no one runs 5500K bulbs anymore, let alone 10K by themselves!

Part of the solution?  MORE BLUE!  And so begins the a step-by-step addition of a second actinic stunner strip and an all blue Panorama module.

Here’s the stock Panorama setup – one actinic Stunner Strip and four of the Gen 1 Panorama Modules.  ALL of the photos before, during, and after, were photographed on manual settings so Shutter Speed (if I recall correctly, 1/60 on tank shots, 1/200 on light shots), White Balance (probably set at none or fluorescent..can’t remember now), Aperture (3.5 on full, 4.5 on closeups) , ISO (400 on tank shots, 200 on light shots?), all are identical to give a true comparison.

Step 1 – reposition the existing stunner strip to the open space on the left.  Take the cover off the pigtail and daisy chain on the second stunner strip.

Step 2 – Mount the second stunner strip in the far right space.  This was done using the clips and 3M double sided foam tape, as I did with the first one.

Step 3 – disconnect, and reroute the connection on the stunners to run on top of the Panorama modules.  Cap off the pigtail on the second stunner strip and tidy up the loose end with the included cord clips.

Step 4 – install the Stunner Strip Reflectors.  Now, seriously, these are a no-brainer…they just clamp on and are good to go.  I’m not sure how much more the add, but the certainly don’t hurt things.  Then again, look at how much more things *pop* once the reflectors are installed.

Step 5 – break out the all Blue Panorama unit.

Step 6 – Install the Panorama unit in the middle spot.  For this, I once again just used 3M double-sided foam tape.

And there it is.  “More Blue”!

Of course, it’s hard to say just exactly what the difference is until you see the before and after, side-by-side.  Before is on the left, after is on the right.  Again, the settings for all of these were the same, so the difference is accurate as seen.

So overall, things are looking good and I expect they’ll only get better.  I should again point out that corals were growing well under the stock lighting – this additional blue is to see how much more color I can bring to the mix via lighting.  Here’s some closeups after pimpin’ out the lighting a bit…

This is a bright red birdsnest I got from Frank, a local reefer.  Already shifting purplish after a couple days under the LEDs.

I believe Morgan called this one a Sour Apple was a minty seafoam with orange base, but here…well, it’s looking lavender.

The ORA Red Goniopora is lookin’ sweet!

The Alveopora is lookin’ sweet too!

Under the overhang, I’ve placed some Balanophyllias…they grow like weeds, got ‘em from Tiffany and can be traced back to a Diver’s Den offering on  I’ll keep sayin’ it – NPS is the new SPS!

That about wraps it up for the moment!  My next project – a third introduction of the little male PNG Maroon to the Lightning…will this be the time it works?

Pre / Post Water Tests

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I’ve been watching the tank these past few weeks and looking at coral health. I probably should be keeping track of actual water changes, but I haven’t. The other night, I did one and reserved the water for a pre-water change and post-water change test comparision. Here’s how things shook out.

PRE water change:

Specific Gravity (refractometer) – 1.025
Alkalinty (Seachem) – 4.5 meq/L
Magnesium (Salifert) – 1470 ppm
Calcium (Salifert) – 460 ppm
Nitrate (Salifert) – approximately 7 ppm

POST water change:
Alkalinity (Seachem) – 4 meq/L
Magnesium (Salifert) – 1485 ppm
Calcium (Salifert) – 470 ppm
Nitrate (Salifert) – approximately 5 ppm

What I can’t quite figure out is why Calcium and Magnesium have jumped so much higher.  I’ve been dosing LESS with the C-Balance 2 part as pH has routinely been hitting 8.4 for brief periods, and have dosed maybe twice now with Seachem’s Reef Advantage Calcium instead.  That along can’t account for the drastically higher levels.  I’m wondering if either uptake has dropped off.  I say that, but some of the Birdsnests seem to be putting on a lot of growth and finally starting to color up.  Another working theory is that I opened a new box of Seachem’s Reef Crystals salt.  I wonder if maybe the formulation of the new batch is different than the prior batch.  If there’s inconsistencies there, a couple water changes could certainly be all it takes to dramatically alter the baseline chemistry of the tank.

I’ll have to keep an eye on things further.  Very, very curious.  I don’t yet have the coral coloration I want, especially out of the Birdsnests.  I’m also continuing to have a few bleaching issues with the various Favids in the tank, which I think stems from aggression between corals combined with an increased “bulldozer” mentality on the Lightning Maroon’s part – I consider that a good sign for the Lightning Maroon.  It was never a digger…none of my “male” Maroond dig.  The females however do.  Is this a sign that a sex change is underway?

Testing the waters….

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It’s been a while now and things are going well in the new Ecoxotic tank.  Between our son getting sick, me watching him because of it, and somehow still pulling more than a full work week, and then getting sick myself, I’ve been distracted from the project so being “patient” was easy.

I gave the water a test on Saturday morning, February 12th, 2011.  pH = 8.1, Free and Total Ammonia 0 ppm, Nitrite and Nitrate 0 ppm, and total alkalinity was at 1.5 meq/L.  Hit it with a dose of C-Balance two-part which brought the alkalinity up to 2 meq/L.  Still low, but easily fixable.  Having a little free time, it was time to call in some payment on the last 4 juvenile Black Ocellaris I had traded to Morgan at Cosmic Aquatics.  The trade of course, was for my seed corals  – “one frag of each kind of Birdsnest you have”.

In some cases, “frag” meant 4″ colony in Morgan’s mind.  I returned from my trip to Superior WI with a full on colony of a Green with Purple Polyps and Pink Tips Seriatopora histrix, as well as a several inch branch of  Pink with Purple Polyp version of the species.  I also brought back 1 small and 1 larger fresh frag of “Sour Apple” Birdsnest, Seriatopora caliendrum.  My fourth birdsnest, ironically, was a piece of a Birdsnest I had given to Morgan when he opened up his shop; my Iowa Ponape Birdsnest, which is currently considered S. hystrix but at least one author has mused it might be something else (like Seriatopora dentritica).  I chuckle because I think I’ve given pieces of it to several people in the Duluth area and yet I no longer had it myself.

Still on my “wishlist” for Birdsnests are an actual hot pink with white growing needle-tips S. hystrix.  I know they’re out there, I owned one for a couple years, but lately, most hot pink birdsnests I’ve seen around are dirty brown-pink.  I’ll also set aside a spot for the classic ORA Green form of S. caliendrum – it’s a stunning coral when grown out.

The coral fun doesn’t stop there, because I also traded some spare stuff for a Tricolor Clavularia and “Hulk” Green Clavularia.  These large and colorful clove polyp varieties are some of my favorites, and they were placed in lower light areas where I hope they’ll do well.  I’ve had both in the past, but killed both off with my normal “high nitrates” due to many breeding fish all being stuffed with food.

All of the corals were dipped with Seachem’s Reef Dip before being placed into the tank.   I was surprised to see that some small feather dusters that were growing at the base of a Birdsnest made it through the dip unscathed.  I know the naysayers will say this has NOTHING to do with the breeding project and yup..they’re right.  It has everything to do with keeping my wife happy though – for the first time since I set it up, she said it was starting to look “better”.   That’s definitely a step in the right direction…best thing I could hope for when I wanted to bring the Lightning Maroon up from the basement to live with us on the first floor.

So first, here’s some shots of the tank as set up Saturday evening.  Note that I’m playing with camera settings and Photoshop corrections to get real-looking images.  I’ve found that photographing this tank when lit up is difficult, primarily due to all the different light coming from the room, outside (if during the day), with or without onboard flash (I have a remote flash somewhere stashed away…probably should break that out).   Any shots without Flash, but otherwise automatic settings on the D5000, wind up being very purple-hued, which I’ve tried to handle in Photoshop for the time being.

Ecoxotic Reef Progress - 2-12-2011

Ecoxotic Reef Progress - 2-12-2011

Ecoxotic Reef Progress - 2-12-2011

Ecoxotic Reef Progress - 2-12-2011

The other interesting thing I picked up from Morgan was a half dozen Stomatella sp. snails, probably Stomatella varia.  These small snails are actually closely related to the Trochus, Astrea and Turbo snails we’re all familiar with.  Stomatellas have this nice habit of readily reproducing in the aquarium environment without any special care or intervention, provided of course that there aren’t predators that would eat them.  They stay small and are nocturnal, which means they can get into small crevices and places larger cleanup crews can’t, all the while staying out of the way during the day when you dont’ want to be looking at 50 snails on your front glass.  These made the perfect third snail species addition to my sustainable, all captive-bred cleanup crew.

Stomatella sp. - 2-12-2011

Stomatella sp. - 2-12-2011

So that’s what I did on Saturday.  I’ve been watching the water quality and dosing with C-Balance.  It looks like I might have a very slight level of Nitrite, so I haven’t pulled the trigger on the clownfish swap just yet.  As last week was my birthday week, I also treated myself with just a wee-bit of my birthday cash to some additional frags that arrived today, Tuesday, 2-15-2011.  More on those in a little bit.

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