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FAQs about Small Marine System Livestocking 17 

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Bio cube 29 stocking     10/4/17
Hi guys,
<Hey Bill>
I’m looking for stocking advice, and hope this is an appropriate avenue. I’ve been reading the faqs and posts but not seeing anything specific to my question (although lots of great advice in the general area!)
<Let's see!>
I have a bio cube 29 FOWLR tank, have removed the bioballs and am instead using a media basket with filter floss, Purigen, and Chemi-pure.
>Good choices<
35 lbs of live rock. The tank has been running for a year, very stable and good water chemistry. The rock provides lots of hiding space and overhangs (although sometimes I feel like there is too much open water above the rock structure, like maybe a third of the tank, and I wonder if I shouldn’t build it up higher for more cover)
<Up to you>
I’ve currently got two azure damsels, one mocha clown, one valenti puffer, one watchman goby. A couple of peppermint shrimp who took care of a Aiptasia problem for me (Yay!), and some assorted small hermit crabs and snails. Everyone seems very happy and well adjusted, although there is occasionally some drama between the puffer and the goby,
<Yes; Toby's can be nippy>
or between the clown and the damsels. But no one seems to be bullied or stressed.
My question is whether you think I’m at carrying capacity for the tank, either biologically or temperamentally, or whether I could introduce another small fish: five line wrasse, dwarf angel, or something else hardy you might recommend?
<Well stated. I do think/consider that this system is (for fish) at capacity temperamentally. You could experiment/try some non-fish life here. Macro-algae, perhaps a hearty "coral" like Mushrooms or Zoanthids>
Thanks for the advice!!
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>
Re: Bio cube 29 stocking      10/5/17

Thanks so much for the quick and helpful response!
<Glad to share w/ you Bill>
One further question: if I want to start exploring macro algae or the tougher corals you mention, is it safe to get started with stock BioCube lighting and the filtration setup I currently have?
Or do I need to upgrade LEDs, or seriously look at protein skimmer/etc?
<The BioCube gear should suffice for these. I would mount them all near the top of your rock to start, acclimate them, then they can be moved down deeper after a few weeks time. Bob Fenner>

Marine and Brackish ideas for a 5 gallon aquarium; RMF/SW       8/3/17
Hey Bob. Just out of curiosity what sort of Marine life would you recommend for a 6 gallon aquarium?
<Mmm; for fishes there are some really small gobies that are neato! Some very fresh live rock... for exploring what comes next. A mix of small, easy-going coral frags... small shrimp, gastropods>
I have some Ideas for small creatures such as freshwater shrimp, but no real clue for marine. Nor brackish. Any suggestions on marine or brackish creatures I could keep in a 5 gallon aquarium?
<Oh! Will ask NealeM to chime in re brackish. He literally wrote a/the book! Bob Fenner>

Difficult Keepers in New System        5/23/17
Good afternoon, team!
Have been researching ad nauseum and will try to cover all the bases--sorry for length. Have a new 24g Nano Cube set up (2-36w CF bulbs, 290gph pump, 160gph powerhead, bio balls and ceramic rings, some activated carbon in overflow, no skimmer). I cycled it with 40 lb. of bagged live sand, 10 lb. of (not so) live rock from LFS, and a cocktail shrimp. Added a neon Dottyback (captive bred, and I know he may end up being only fish in this volume).
I ordered an additional 20 lb. of aquacultured live rock and 10 lb. of live sand from a vendor in FL. Picked it up Sat on vacation and had everything in my tank Sun afternoon (less than 30 hours in transit, rock and all submerged--quality and quantity of life is amazing). I received a clean up crew package with the rock as well as (you know what's coming) some freebies, including some sponges and a flame scallop.

Am attaching pictures-- apologies for size. Sponges were shipped with no air in bags and came with instruction not to expose to air (did my best, but probably ended up with the very tops of the larger ones out of water
briefly just due to size of sponges/bags/ aquarium). Feet of larger two appear to be intact and smaller ones have substrate. Scallop appears to be in great condition and has been moving around.
I've had a small cycle since introducing rock (as expected). The pH has been low since I started the tank (around 7.8) but I haven't messed with it since I thought it would stabilize with the addition of the new rock and I didn't plan on delicate inverts for a good while (haven't started testing Alk/cal/phos yet for same reason).
<Do keep your eye on the/this pH... the new LR is likely lowering still... Needs to be buffered, either through water changes with higher Alkalinity, or small water changes with buffering upward added in excess>
Salt mix is Reef Crystals and I run my water for at least 24 hours with a powerhead circulating. Adding the new rock has triggered a small cycle as expected--ammonia went up to .25ppm yesterday (completed 15% water change) then fell back to 0 and now nitrite is up to .25ppm. Nitrate is maybe 20ppm. Will do another water change in the AM.
So have read extensively about long-term survivability of these filter feeding critters (quite poor) and your general view on their removal from the wild (tend to agree and would not have intentionally purchased) but they are in my tank now for better or worse and I'd like to really make an effort unless you think the sponges are just in too poor condition.
<Hope springs eternal... I'd try to keep all>
I think I have enough water movement (have been also trying to keep them clear of debris), but I know my tank is too young to support these critters just from my sand bed. I ordered some Coral Frenzy and will follow WWM
instruction on blending product and spot feeding,
<Yes; a "soup" of same, blended small crustaceans... a bit of high quality dry food added... pipetted in/around these filter feeders a few times daily... likely with pumps temporarily off... AND lots of water changes...
maybe even daily. Use Nitrate conc. as a measure of how much... NO more than 20 ppm>
but will my critters even accept prepared foods?
<To some extent, yes... may have to feed during lights out...>
I'm eyeing some cultures of live phytoplankton by Algagen but want to be cautious about polluting my small, new system.
<This IS going to happen assuredly. You will have algae, very small plankton/cloudy issues>
Is that my best bet and just increase water changes to compensate?
So basically can the sponges and scallop be saved with the resources I have available, or some that I can acquire quickly?
I kind of like the idea of running a nutrient-rich system with lots of life but don't want to beat my head against a brick wall either.
<Oh yes; I DO understand. And really wish we lived nearer each other... I'd like to visit, kibbutz re>
Thank you all so much for all you do. Have utilized WWM extensively in planning this system (including all the nano eBook downloads) and will continue to support the effort.
Full stock list if helpful:
Neon Dottyback (captive-bred), Stippled clingfish (came with rock package--am hoping Dottyback doesn't harass/dismember), Peppermint shrimp (see above re: Dottyback), Flame scallop. Decorator crab, Larger brittle
star, Tiger tail sea cucumber (am keeping an eye on this guy). Maybe a dozen assorted snails, Nassarius, Turbo~12 blue leg hermits~12 white hermits
<I'd cut the hermits back, way back... to maybe four total. Are not totally scavengers>
<Bob Fenner>

Re: Difficult Keepers in New System        5/24/17
So you're saying there's a chance! Good enough for me. :-)
Game plan:
1) Continue frequent small water changes while system stabilizes (was plan of course anyway given other life in tank). Am hoping as DSB (4"+) matures over next weeks/months frequency can decrease but until then as needed.
It's painless in this size system. 2) Buffer pH up. Haven't needed to do this in previous tanks--off to research methods/products (my favorite pastime right now--the boyfriend is unamused).
<See WWM re Alkalinity and look into my fave line... SeaChem Products, here>
3) Make a slurry of food stuff--Coral Frenzy, pellets, maybe some Mysis,
Reef One, cocktail shrimp... Blend (then soak blender in vinegar, blecchhh). Pipette upstream of relevant critters AM/PM. Wonder how mixture will keep in the fridge?
<Yes it will for a few days (3-5)>
May experiment/use a sniff test before adding.
I'm not overly sensitive about a little algae and grunge here and there if it means the critters are happy. Am not someone who will ever have a bare bottom tank with frags on plastic racks--I like more "stuff." I also like
kibbitzing--let me know if you ever do a conference or anything out this way.
<Oh... where? Aurora... in Riverside, CA? My only for sure scheduled pitches/presentations are MACNA (New Orleans) and Aquatic Experience (Chicago) thus far this year>

Oh, hermits are teeny tiny now, maybe 5mm. Will watch and reduce numbers as needed. All of the white ones came in my sand.
I'll let you know how we're doing in a few weeks/a month. I know this is a fun project because it'll probably be 2018 before I could call it a "success" with potential for failure sooner. But I like projects. :-)
Have a fantastic evening!
<Thank you Laura... Had a dream or two re your set up, livestock last eve... Do want to state more: Would be GREAT if this little cube tank was tied in w/ another bigger system; and/or a large sump/refugium... w/
another DSB, RDP lighting arrangement, macro algae culture... and more.
Would make all that much more stable, easier to keep clean. Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Difficult Keepers in New System       3/25/17

Wish I could go to MACNA but that's one of our biggest weekends of the year at work.
Would be fun road trip from Savannah. Maybe someone will be kind enough to record some of the presentations.
<This is done at least some years... are they available through MASNA? Oh yeah... here's a link to the 2016 ones... including mine: http://masna.org/aboutmacna/macna-2016-presentations/ >
After water change this morning water values have improved. Nitrates are closer to 10ppm (may have overestimated color a little yesterday at 20ppm).
Ammo/nitrite holding at 0ppm and pH remains low at around 7.8. Tested my mix water and it's at 8.2 so the drop is definitely organics in the tank.
After your email and more reading last night I ordered Chemi-Pure Blue, Phosgard, and Seachem's pH buffer and that should be here tomorrow. Red tree sponge had some film on it this AM--I removed the film gently (air
hose suction) and turned the sponge a little since I haven't seen it opening up (orange one is covered in pores/openings). I see a few pores now and no new debris. Little orange ones are completely inert so far.
We are aligned re: wishing this tank could be plumbed to a larger system.
It does rather feel like a refugium looking for a display tank at this point. Unfortunately we're in a third floor apartment so we're limited both by space and weight restrictions.
<Another ahh!>
On that note, I ordered a couple of live colonies of copepods and phytoplankton along with some Chaeto. Figure little critters will help with incidental feedings at earlier life stages and Chaeto will help house the pods as well as export excess nutrients. I don't think this system will have much to eat them directly at this point so hopefully they'll
Happy reefing!
<And you. BobF>

re: Difficult Keepers in New System. Sm reef stkg. f'      5/30/17
An update, and a potentially concerning development!
Have been continuing heavy blended feedings twice a day and things seem about the same so no news is good news I suppose. Still have tons of barnacles and sea squirts that are very active, and I have a yellow tunicate that is spreading so hopefully that's a good sign (pic attached).
Nitrates are staying below 10ppm.
However, during those heavy feedings, I've seen not one, but TWO huge snails that I'm pretty sure are olive snails,
<I agree>
but also look a lot like cone snails. Can you possibly ID? They are huge, around 2" each, and stay in sand bed except during feeding. I'm sure they're doing some damage to my sand sifting critters. If they are olive snails, do you think I can keep one or both?
<I'd leave them for now>
Or will they eat too much microfauna? If cone snails, do I just remove them? I don't imagine it would be responsible to take them to the LFS, but perhaps I could release them on the coast?
<NEVER release anything non-native, NOR kept in aquariums, with non-indigenous species to the wild. Put undesirables in a freezer bag, in the freezer, and put out w/ solid wastes on "trash day". TOO much chance of
introduction of pests, pathogens.>
They're from Tampa and I can drive them to Tybee near Savannah. I don't think I can deliberately kill anything even if it doesn't belong in my aquarium (I mean it's my fault they're there in the first place even if unintentionally).
Hope you are well on this lovely Tuesday!
<Ah yes; thank you Laura. Bob Fenner>

re: Difficult Keepers in New System       5/31/17
Just to clarify, I would never release a non-native or captive-bred species. Only considered with these since I can confirm they are both wild-caught originally and native to the area. Found them on an ID site for Tybee fauna:
http://www.tybeemarinescience.org/naturalist/lettered-olive-snail/ (fun fact--this variety appears to be the official state shell of South Carolina).
<Neat! We have a similar species here in Cal.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivella_biplicata>
Good point re: pathogens though--did not consider cross-contamination. Not worth the risk to our beautiful beaches.
Hopefully with as much food as I'm dumping in the tank no freezer bags will be necessary. They're really neat. It's like snail Jaws when they come up out of the sand.
<And you dear Laura. BobF>

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