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A Nearly Closed Clownfish Ecosystem

Discussion in 'Damsel / Anemone Fish' started by MasterOfReason, Oct 18, 2010.

  1. MasterOfReason

    MasterOfReason AC Members

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    I would like to propose a new community project or rather describe a project I intend to undertake and allow any and all that are interested participate in through species selection and other means.

    Every project needs a goal so I will state mine.
    To create a nearly self sustaining self contained Biotope type aquarium.
    The ecosystem I would like to replicate is the Caribbean.
    I do not want to preform frequent water treatments or changes.
    If possible I would like to eventually introduce at least one clown fish and one anemone.

    Current supplies and steps so far...

    I bought a 20 Gallon tank (I know this is less than half the recommended size for saltwater tanks the size of my house along with finances forced this constraint.)

    It came equipped with a standard 18" florescent overhead light and a power filter which circulates the water very well through two C size filters and two paddle wheel looking filters. (I am new to aquariums this is my first tank other than a brief adventure as a child, If someone becomes interested in this project and teaches me the nomenclature and jargon I will adjust my terminology accordingly.)

    I then sought the help of a seemingly reliable employee of a mall type pet store and bought 20lbs of "CaribSea" sand. (Google it if your interested in the microbial inhabitants I think its a nationwide brand) and a 10lb live rock according to the man at the pet-store this particular rock had been established in a Caribbean environment tank for over a year. (I do know he took it out of such a tank and that it is beautiful covered with at least 4 or 5 obviously different mosses and algae) and 5 more pounds of plain lace rock. last but not least the pet-store employee strongly suggested (to the point of giving it to me for free) that I introduce one freshwater molly he said it may even survive but its primary function is apparently to introduce additional ammonia.

    On the advice of the pet-store guy I replaced my light with a 20k light (he suggested a 50/50 light but they were out of stock and he said this would work (nearly as well) since my tank gets some indirect sunlight anyway.

    I finally bought a 50w tank heater (got it home and found that for a 10 degree change above room temperature in a 20 gallon tank 100w is recommended but I will add another heater later if needed) and a floating thermometer.

    So I came home and added 7.5 cups of salt to 15 gallons of distilled water stirred ... added the sand the rocks and my fish... this is day one.. I will soon have a test kit so I can monitor PH, Salinity and other chemical questions you may have.

    Challenges:
    Species Selection:
    It would seem to me the first question is species selection and introduction times. From what I have read and am beginning to understand is the first species introduced are invertebrates. Also I have learned that there several small invertebrate species probably already living in my sand.
    For the more visible ones...

    In my readings I have found a supposed rule of thumb that says you should have one invertebrate per gallon of water but others have said this is for very small specimens and will cause you to have to remove them overtime... So I am still unsure of population densities. One blogger who has a 20 gallon Caribbean tank (it was never disclosed how self sustaining his tank is suggests only 5 specimens)

    In any case for species of invertebrates I was considering
    Astrea Snails http://www.reefcorner.com/SpecimenSheets/astrea_snail.htm
    Hermit Crabs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caribbean_hermit_crab
    and possibly a Peppermint Shrimp.

    I would greatly appreciate any feedback suggestions or ideas that could add to the biodiversity or sustainability of this project.
    Are these decent species choices?
    How will I know when its time to introduce them?
     
  2. Haydn24

    Haydn24 Boo!

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    So you have added fish? Have you read about cycling a tank? Do you have a refractometer to measure salt salinity? it should be at about 1.024...
     
  3. Ace25

    Ace25 www.centralcoastreefclub. com

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    Way to many things wrong IMO... just about every part of that post. I don't even know where to start to be honest.
     
  4. Haydn24

    Haydn24 Boo!

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    :iagree:
     
  5. MasterOfReason

    MasterOfReason AC Members

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    I have read about tank cycling and was against adding any fish as I understand the live rock needs to be cured... however as I said the pet-store guy (probably not the best source so I came here) practically insisted that I add this molly with the understanding that it will probably die... supposedly to increase the ammonia production and support beneficial bacteria creation.... didn't make a lot of sense since everything I read said the curing of the rock itself will cause an ammonia spike... but the tiny little fish was free... and is alone... I don't intend to add any fish until the water conditions are more correct.... as far as the salinity I do not currently have a hydrometer but will tomorrow..

    Also I forgot to mention in the original post that I added a bottle of Bio-Spira which is supposed to reduce cycling time some.
     
    #5 MasterOfReason, Oct 18, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2010
  6. Haydn24

    Haydn24 Boo!

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    Please just google how to start a saltwater tank and read read read everything untill you understand it all.
     
  7. MasterOfReason

    MasterOfReason AC Members

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    I have read and am currently reading and expect to continue reading for a long time but there is a huge amount of information. I am currently learning about the nitrogen cycle... and how the majority of the organisms on my live rock initially will die during this cycle process creating an ammonia spike... then Nitrosomonas bacteria will enter the system turning this ammonia into nitrites then a second nitrobacter bacteria will enter the system converting this to nitrates. Apparently this is the point where most people intervene in the nitrogen cycle and perform frequent water changes to eliminate this however algae seems to consume nitrates as food and some algae are even asthetically pleasing to me. Also plants apparently consume nitrates. Anyway I get that fish could be as much as 6 months off or even longer... but I do believe that what I am attempting is possible... I do know how to use Google. Its how I found this forum for instance. I was hoping this could be a resource for discussing this project. If your only intention is to point to my ignorance which I have made no pretense of denying then you sir are less than helpful.
     
  8. Haydn24

    Haydn24 Boo!

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    Sorry.
     
  9. Fishfriend1

    Fishfriend1 Fishlover Extraordinaire

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    Ok, im going to try and help you out here:My stuff will be in red

    You will want to add the hermits first, about 1-2 weeks after your tank has been fully set up (all the live rock is in it, filters are in place, sand is in place). It will take those first 1-2 weeks for your tank to cycle.
    Next, about a week after the hermits are in, you can put cheaper fish in, like green chromis. Not damsels, they are to aggressive.
    About a week after your first 1-2 fish have been in the tank, you can finally put in you main fish.
    Any inverts like shrimp will have to wait for another month after the fish went in. By then, the tank should be plenty stable for them.
    You will not want to add any anemones for 6 months to a year. Anemones need stable, mature tanks to survive, and will not make it in a tank under 6 months old. i recommend a bubble tip with plenty of light, it should do well, but still, research more and before you get the anemone start a thread here to ask if its time or not.

    Now, obviously, no one told you about hitchhikers. Hitchhikers are all sorts of little critters and things that come in with live rock. All live rock is garenteed to have something come in with it, thats why its live rock.

    Now, some hitchhikers you want to look out for are Glass Anemones, they do not host any kind of Clownfish, reproduce quickly, and of left along to long, can tank over a tank and become a threat to smaller fish. To get rid of them, buy a peppermint shrimp, they consider glass anemones to be a delicacy, most of the time.

    Also be on the lookout for Mantis Shrimp. They can become a threat to inverts or fish, depending on what kind they are. I dought you will get any of those, they would have been taken out of a display tank.

    There are also many beneficial hitchhikers, they wont harm your tank, and will even help it improve. Things like pineapple sponges (little white cone-like growths on LR)are filter feeders, they will not threaten you fish.

    Bristle-worms are a type of scavenger. They will not attack your fish unless you fish is small and sleeping and they are big and starving. The more of them, to more you overfeed your fish.

    And then there are all the others. Everything from small crabs to small fish and even shrimp and corals can come in with LR, so no adding fish until you are pretty sure whats living on you live rock.

    Do you know what skimmers are? They remove excess nutrients from the tank, and will help stabilize your tank. IDk if they need a sump or not, im no expert with skimmers. BTW, sumps are smaller (or bigger) tanks used to increase total water volume and for extra filter mediums. A 20 gal tank can have a 30 gal sump, which would increase the total water volume to around 30 gallons (you will not fill your sump up all the way, if the power goes out it needs to not overflow). Im not an expert with sumps either, so you will have to do the research yourself.

    Here is a site where you can look at diff fish, inverts, and coral/anemones and see what the prices are and how big a tank they need:
    Fish:
    http://www.liveaquaria.com/product/aquarium-fish-supplies.cfm?c=15
    Inverts:
    http://www.liveaquaria.com/product/aquarium-fish-supplies.cfm?c=497
    Corals:
    http://www.liveaquaria.com/product/aquarium-fish-supplies.cfm?c=597

    I do not recommend corals for you, not until you have some experience in fishkeeping and saltwater.

    Good Luck, hope this helps you!
     
  10. MasterOfReason

    MasterOfReason AC Members

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    I am extremely grateful for your input... This is exactly the kind of help I have been hoping for. Most of what you said confirms what I have been reading.

    I want to readdress a few questions. For instance, I thought invertebrates were added before fish. Also I am researching to find a hardy strain of mushroom to add in between 1 and 3 weeks depending on my cycle progress. I was told they were also introduced before fish. Though I haven't had time to research this yet.

    Also I am hoping to avoid direct feeding by establishing a stable food chain which I think will be possible if I never have more than one or two fish. I am doing research on this but between the amount of algae and plant growth with the introduction of live blood worms and a few other feeder type proteins I am hoping to avoid the changes in water quality caused by feeding. (it will hopefully be more subtle and due to population growth and retractions)

    Finally I am happy to report I am getting coraline algae (the pink stuff) and The white conical calcium looking formations and long haired green algae so far on my live rock.
    I also bought a water test kit and though I know levels may vary greatly over the next few weeks the initial values look like this.

    pH 8.2
    Temp 76
    Nitrites 0.5
    Nitrate 10
    Ammonia 0.5
    Salinity 1.022 (1.023 - 1.025 is ideal for my live rock)

    I know these tests don't mean much as they will in a couple of weeks but I thought it might be good to know what I'm starting with.
     

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