Print Story HITCHHIKER!
Diary
By nightflameblue (Wed May 05, 2010 at 11:08:40 AM EST) (all tags)
We have a hitchhiker.

Anybody not into the aquarium thing will dislike this entry. I'm warning you now so we don't waste each others' time.



I went and picked out some live rock for the new salty yesterday. Got one big piece and two smaller pieces of interesting shape. They really didn't have any rubbly sized stuff so I had to skip that for the moment. Which, honestly, is fine because the three pieces I got were big enough for the main area. The hang-on needs to run as an actual filter for a few days to clear up the sand and won't have room for the rubble I wanted to stick in it until after that's over.

So, I get out the toothbrush and a bucket of fresh salt mix and start working over the new rock last evening. I picked off anything obviously dead, scrubbed anything that looked loose, turned them every direction and let the dirt and debris fall away, shook them in the water, and let gravity work for me when it could. Then I set them up in a way where they looked as OK as they could look. The tank is so tiny it's tough to get much open space with even the little bit of rock I got. I did my best to keep things far enough away from the viewing panes that I can scrape them easily as it grows in. Good enough.

So, I go get the bag of aragonite I've had sitting in the shed for about five years now. Told you I'd been planning this for a while. Anyway, I set it up and dump some out into a bucket to rinse a bit and get rid of the worst of the fog effect, then go to the tank with the bucket of wet sand. What do I see but a little starfish floating around loosely.

I grab him out quick and check to see if he's alright. He's hard, but his limbs still appear to be moving. I hold him carefully to the side-glass and let him sit there for a second. Suddenly, he gets a grip and speeds off towards the back of the tank. Well, speeds off in 1/4" starfish terms. I figure he's cool and get back to my sand.

This is where it gets disturbing. I was warned a million times to just do it and try not to let the cloud bother me because no matter what I do it's gonna happen. I did OK for the first five or six cups. By the time I got done I was thoroughly disgusted. Can't even see into the tank. Looks like a tank full of milk. Bah.

I set up the filter pads and put them in to help clear up the mess, then fill the tank back up to just under the rim with fresh salt mix taken from my newly set up mixing tub in the back room. 5.5 gallons of water + 6 pounds live rock + 2-3 inches aragonite sand and suddenly an empty glass box becomes a biologically active world.

I guess the truth is, even with the milk effect, this is the point where I realized it's actually happening. Yes, it's small. Yes, it has a long ways to go to be what I want. But there's a marine tank in my house and there's something visibly alive in it.

I got up early this morning and looked everything over right away. Filter is still working, despite the sandstorm. I could start to see the outlines of the rockwork through the murk with the tank light on. And there, in the upper rear corner of the tank, is my little hitchhiker, the starfish. He's gliding along slowly, clearing a path through the dust on the glass as he moves, little arms reaching and stretching as he sweeps and crosses seemingly huge gaps with barely perceptable movements of his little core.

I swept a turkey baster over the rock I could see to get rid of the worst of the dust covering it. Then I did a quick 1 gallon water change to clear up some more of the murk and fog. I'll probably do that a couple times a day until things settle in a bit better. Also, hopefully that'll keep the cycle from killing off my little starfish. Though, he probably went through a lot worse than what'll happen in my little tank in the curing vats at the LFS, I'd rather be safe than sorry.

My damn test kits didn't arrive yet, so I won't actually know what's going on chemically for another few days. That's one place the LFS fails. I'm not paying $75 just to test the nitrogen cycle and another $75 to test ph, calcium and alk. No guys. You're good, and I'll happily pay fair prices for the service. I won't do a three times markup for it on something basic though. So, I'll do small changes every day until I get my test kits and hope things are settling OK.

The next step is to replace the stock light with something a bit more white/blue spectrum and more intense. LED setups are all the rage these days it appears. A little more up front expense for way less heat, and WAY less power usage. If you build it yourself, it's not even that much more than some of the older high-powered light systems. This plus this plus a little aluminum to wrap around the outside and some quiet fans and I should be all set. Oh, and a hook system to suspend it from somewhere.

Cause I need more projects!

I'll try to get some pictures for the few aquarium folks around here once the water clears up. The rock is surprisingly pretty for just being cured. Coraline algae everywhere.

Another item on my list of things to try is being mentally checked this morning. It is a bit of an ongoing one, but it is ongoing and outside of planning. Which is a good feeling.

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HITCHHIKER! | 20 comments (20 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
My ex wife and I had a marine tank for a while by notafurry (2.00 / 0) #1 Wed May 05, 2010 at 12:24:33 PM EST
I loved it but it was officially my ex's tank and she didn't have the temperament for it. Might get back into it some time but not until the toddlers are a little older, I think.

The tank was a 40 gal octagon; I built a pillar of live rock in the middle, covered almost three quarters of the tank floor and tapered almost to a point a few inches below the top. Lots of invertebrates, some starfish and crab, a few small clownfish and blue damsels for pretty. LED lights weren't available yet but would have been really nice, the tank was a bitch to keep the temperatures down.

The octagons by nightflameblue (2.00 / 0) #6 Wed May 05, 2010 at 12:49:04 PM EST
I had a thirty octagon that was a regular old freshwater. That thing was horrible to keep temps consistent from top to bottom. No matter how much circulation I had going on, it never seemed to be enough to get a flow going top to bottom or vice-versa. Course, the thirty was ridiculously tall and skinny.

I've been really impressed with the change in lighting even just over the last two years or so. Especially for smaller tanks, it's incredible the amount of variety that's available.



[ Parent ]
The 40 wasn't bad by notafurry (2.00 / 0) #7 Wed May 05, 2010 at 01:34:47 PM EST
It was relatively squat compared to the 30, one of the reasons we bought it instead. I put a pump in the center of the rocks with a tube from the top to the inlet; the result was a strong current out from the bottom through the rocks and then swirling up the tank. There was about a half-degree difference, not more than that, between top and bottom, and that I think was entirely due to the light.

Damnit, now I'm missing that tank.

[ Parent ]
Look at the bright side. by nightflameblue (2.00 / 0) #8 Wed May 05, 2010 at 01:47:10 PM EST
If you start over now you have all that new technology to play with.

[ Parent ]
Are you going to name it by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #2 Wed May 05, 2010 at 12:26:10 PM EST
Patrick?


Not a big Spongebob fan. by nightflameblue (2.00 / 0) #5 Wed May 05, 2010 at 12:46:31 PM EST
Just enough of one to get the joke. I'm sure Mrs. NFB will name it once she sees it. She tends to do that with any animal that strikes her fancy.

[ Parent ]
A 10 gallon marine? by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #3 Wed May 05, 2010 at 12:28:20 PM EST
Too small. You're gonna be adjusting salinity daily...

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

Not so far. by nightflameblue (2.00 / 0) #4 Wed May 05, 2010 at 12:45:08 PM EST
I did about three days running with nothing in it but water. Salinity stayed really stable. That small of a tank it's all about either containing evaporation, or having good top-off procedures. Low heat lights will help me out tremendously.

And it's 5.5 gallons. Yes, I'm completely aware of the inherent fear some have for the small tanks in the marine world. I have several things in my favor. Patience and knowing the pitfalls from years of studying other people's small systems, some as small as 1/4 gallon has left me with a long list of ideas to fix most any snag that comes along. Time will tell of course. My biggest fear, the constant evaporation problem, hasn't happened yet. We'll see once I move to the real lighting system I have planned if that remains a non-issue.



[ Parent ]
5.5gal? by ReallyEvilCanine (2.00 / 0) #15 Thu May 06, 2010 at 05:17:18 AM EST
You've got a marine tank set up in something smaller than a Solomon champagne bottle? Patrick may be OK but as soon as you manage to squeeze an actual urinating fish in there you'll need to adjust salinity every hour or so.

My brother had a 500+gal marine tank for years (sometimes fishes, sometimes coral) and still had to test and adjust almost daily.

the internet: amplifier of stupidity -- discordia

[ Parent ]
No fish. by nightflameblue (2.00 / 0) #16 Fri May 07, 2010 at 11:13:35 AM EST
I'm pretty well certain fish will not happen in this tank at all.

Larger tanks these days use electronic controlled top-off systems to keep salinity steady all day. While that's possible in smaller ones, gravity feed top off is usually suitable. If I end up needing adjustments at all.



[ Parent ]
Don't get me wrong: marine tanks are TEH AWESUM by ReallyEvilCanine (2.00 / 0) #18 Fri May 07, 2010 at 11:29:04 AM EST
But they require a fuckton of work, and oddly enough, the smaller the tank the more work required. Keeping a 20-liter tank running requires more effort than a fucking baby and there's zero chance of it helping you out when you retire.

the internet: amplifier of stupidity -- discordia

[ Parent ]
I'll agree with the work part. by nightflameblue (2.00 / 0) #19 Fri May 07, 2010 at 11:50:40 AM EST
But it's not like my other pet life forms require zero work. I seem to be a glutton for that sort of thing. Something about livestock just draws me in.

I do know I've poured more effort into this 5 gallon over the last week than I have the thirty gallon fresh tank in the last month. Eventually that'll go down to a salinity check every day, and a water change once a week, but I've planned out the work for the first six weeks for years. I guess I'm just saying, yeah, it's work. But it's work I was ready for.

And I'm doing the hard one first. If I can pull this off, the plans I have for a larger system will be a snap.



[ Parent ]
exciting by 256 (4.00 / 1) #9 Wed May 05, 2010 at 04:59:54 PM EST
my wife used to be big into aquariums before I met her. I never much cared for them one way or another. But now we have an 80 litre brackish tank and I'm really digging it.

Best of luck to the starfish.
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I don't think anyone's ever really died from smoking. --ni

Brackish? by nightflameblue (2.00 / 0) #10 Wed May 05, 2010 at 05:19:04 PM EST
What type of livestock you keep in there? I used to really dig some of the brackish puffers, but couldn't ever get myself to go that route.

[ Parent ]
when we first got it by 256 (4.00 / 1) #11 Wed May 05, 2010 at 05:39:07 PM EST
we tried to do it with one green spotted puffer and colombian sharks.

but the puffer assassinated one of tge sharks and the died of unknown causes after about three months. we got another puffer and it only lasted two weeks before just dropping dead. apparently they're particularly known for failing to thrive.

anyway, we gave up on the puffers and now we have a very happy tank with colombian sharks, mollies and archers.
---
I don't think anyone's ever really died from smoking. --ni

[ Parent ]
we did a brackish with mollies by LilFlightTest (2.00 / 0) #13 Thu May 06, 2010 at 12:11:04 AM EST
they reproduce like crazy...
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if de-virgination results in me being able to birth hammerhead sharks, SIGN ME UP!!! --misslake
[ Parent ]
not when you have colombian sharks by 256 (2.00 / 0) #14 Thu May 06, 2010 at 01:07:24 AM EST
we see fry occasionally. never for more than two days in a row though.
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I don't think anyone's ever really died from smoking. --ni
[ Parent ]
I've heard rumors by nightflameblue (2.00 / 0) #17 Fri May 07, 2010 at 11:15:08 AM EST
that Mollies converted to marine end up being crazy on reproduction. Damn near common guppy levels. Plus they're supposedly great marine algae controllers.

[ Parent ]
certainly seemed to. by LilFlightTest (2.00 / 0) #20 Fri May 07, 2010 at 04:39:12 PM EST
i ended up trading some of them to my LFS. Everybody likes cheap mollies.
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if de-virgination results in me being able to birth hammerhead sharks, SIGN ME UP!!! --misslake
[ Parent ]
man by MillMan (2.00 / 0) #12 Wed May 05, 2010 at 08:17:15 PM EST
if I were setting up any kind of permanent residence I would definitely get a marine tank.

"Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no libertarians in financial crises." -Krugman

HITCHHIKER! | 20 comments (20 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback