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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