Special Considerations for Soft Coral Placement

Pulsing Xenia, a wanderlust of a coral, requires some forethought on your part to keep the colony only where you want it in your aquariumIn discussions of coral placement in reef aquaria, topics such as spacing between colonies, distance from the light source, level of water flow, sweeper tentacles, and coral chemical warfare (allelopathy) often predominate. But there are special considerations beyond these that one must take into account when determining the best placement for certain soft corals and polyps. Here are just a few examples: Major tissue expansion and contractionWith many of the SPS corals, the difference in the size of a colony between its expanded and contracted state tends to be fairly negligible. On the other hand, with certain soft corals, such as Sinularia, Lobophytum, and Sarcophyton leather corals, this difference can be quite dramatic, with colonies in their fully expanded state easily doubling or tripling their size when contracted. The degree of a colony’s expansion can vary not just based on daytime/nighttime, but also the system’s lighting, water flow, water quality, and other factors. If you don’t take this into consideration when placing a new colony in your system, a neighboring colony that has plenty of “elbow room” (corals have elbows, right?) today might be overshadowed tomorrow. The cascade effect Some soft corals have a nice compact tree-like growth habit when they’re relatively small, but as they grow, they tend to become more loose and top-heavy and then ultimately lie over, oftentimes cascading down the rockwork (depending on where they’re situated, of course).

Wishing I’d Chosen a Wider Marine Aquarium

Consider using the widest aquarium your space and budget will allowI wouldn’t exactly say I have major regrets about choosing a standard 125-gallon tank for my current marine aquarium system, but if I had to do it all over again, I might go in a slightly different—rather, slightly wider—direction. For the benefit of any salties out there who are planning a new setup, I thought I’d share why I think going with a wider tank might have been a better choice. First I should specify that aquarium dimensions are typically given as length x width x height, with length representing the side-to-side measurement and width representing the front-to-back measurement. This always throws me because to my way of thinking, width should describe an object’s measurement from one side to the other. After all, when I look at my reflection in the mirror, I don’t think to myself, “Wow, my belly sure is getting long!” And there’s a reason ABC’s old sports anthology series wasn’t called The Long World of Sports.But I digress. This aquarium—which is 18½ inches wide (counting the trim)—has been operating for the better part of 10 years and functioned as a FOWLR system for most of that time. The tank serves as a room divider, separating the great room in my home into two distinct sitting areas, and is viewable from three sides. I only recently converted it to a reef tank after tearing down my 75-gallon system, which, as I’ve mentioned in prior posts, had become largely overrun with green star polyps and pulsing Xenia.

Signs You May Need to Lower Your Reef Tank’s Bioload

The maximum level of acceptable bioload is unique to each system based on a variety of factorsThe bioload in a reef aquarium increases through both the acquisition of new specimens as well as the growth/reproduction of established livestock. So, unless fish and corals are dying in significant numbers (which they shouldn’t be unless there’s a major problem), the bioload in any reef system is usually trending upward. While it’s exciting and rewarding to see our tanks bustling with life, we all know there is a certain threshold beyond which a system contains more organisms than it can reasonably sustain in good health. Unfortunately, there’s no alarm on our tanks that sounds when we’re approaching or surpassing that threshold. There are, however, certain signs that tell us it might be time to back off the bioload by rehoming a specimen or thinning coral colonies.Here are just a few examples: Stubbornly high nitrate/phosphate levels We can’t prevent our livestock from producing waste (not even with little corks!), and we can only limit what we feed our fish and invertebrates to a certain extent. So if your nitrate and phosphate levels remain stubbornly high despite doing everything in your power to minimize nutrient import and maximize its export (using RO/DI-purified tap water, employing a quality protein skimmer, performing copious water changes, etc.), there’s a good chance your system’s bioload is simply too high. Stubbornly low or unstable pH The more animals you have respiring and producing waste in your tank, the more rapidly buffering compounds in the water will be used up (in other words, the lower the alkalinity, or the water’s ability to neutralize acids) and the harder it will be to maintain an appropriately high and stable pH

The Use of Negative Space in the Reef Aquarium Aquascape

Marine aquarium aquascapes are evolving to favor more open, irregular aestheticsOne of the more interesting developments in the reefkeeping hobby, in my opinion, has nothing to do with the latest, greatest gadget or advance in water-quality-management methodology. Rather, it’s an evolving aesthetic in aquascaping. Bored with the traditional monolithic stack of rocks propped up against the back pane and consuming much of the tank’s volume, modern reef hobbyists are starting to appreciate and experiment with the use of negative space—the open areas around the rockwork—when planning their aquascapes.The towering, uniform “wall of rock” has given way to lower-profile aquascaping with irregular, broken topography, allowing open channels and swim-throughs, caves and overhangs, islands, etc. And this trend makes perfect sense. Artists have long known the value of striking the right balance between positive and negative space in their compositions. With our reef systems essentially being living works of art, it stands to reason that the aesthetic principles guiding the works of painters and sculptors can only make our aquascapes all the more visually appealing. This aquascape features a broken topography and plenty of open sand What’s different about exploiting negative space in reefkeeping versus artwork is that it has both practical and aesthetic value

Reef Threads Podcast #246


A little purple nephthea.

We return once again. This week we talk about salt, Gary’s new Live Aquaria t-shirt, the Reef Savvy Dream Tank giveaway, the Internet as a research tool, placing corals, and Level 1 and Level 2 fun. Download the podcast here, or subscribe to our podcasts at iTunes. Also, follow us on Twitter at reefthreads.—Gary and Christine

Sponsor: Rod’s Food
Rod’s Food website

Internet research
Is the Internet a Viable Resource for Marine Aquarium Research?, Jeff Kurtz, Saltwater Smarts

Coral placement
Need help with coral location, gam3ovr, Reef Central


 

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