The closing of an [anemone- and pest algae-infested] age.
This is a very, VERY long-overdue update. I originally had a draft of a post about my reef back in January, that I worked on here and there over the following months on trying to keep up with the upkeep. Unfortunately, a couple of negative factors were present in droves: 1) I have had a years-long problem with what is called hair algae, given its appearance like grassy tufts of green hair, a problem caused by being lazy and thrifty – I used flake foods as they are cheaper and less of a hassle than frozen brine shrimp (this in turn made the phosphates in the tank shoot through the roof, thus aiding the constant spread of the hair algae foe). This was exacerbated by 2) the infestation of aiptasia, a pest variant of sea anemone that would release 7 egg pods per anemone if it ever felt threatened… which meant that in a true sense, my foe was the Hydra of old, with new heads appearing after I cleaned one or two out. These two headaches were compounded and rendered nigh unbeatable by an extremely stressful and unpleasant spring semester, which often left me too tired to properly focus on schoolwork, much less spend hours meticulously scrubbing every square inch of the tank with a toothbrush (which I did try several times, with the initial clean appearance soon overtaken by the algae and anemones anew).
As such, rather unfortunately, the tank got to a rather bad place, with the water being way too low and the chemicals being out of balance. At the end of the semester, though, I decided to put in a good set of hours cleaning it the right way, doing a big water change, and the like. The good news is, the tank looked VERY clean for a handful of days after that. The bad news is, the shock of being cleaned so well combined with the shock of chemicals being put into the system at too high a concentration (as compared to the low levels of pH, calcium, etc in the unclean past) was enough to kill off some of the hardier denizens of the reef. At that point, I realized that it was time to cut my losses.
Bringing clean light to the benighted tank
Thusly, I decided that it was time to start anew, from scratch and being intentional about doing things the proper (albeit more money- and time-intensive) ways. The first step in the process was to spend, all-told, about 7 hours over 2 days, scrubbing every square inch of EVERY surface (tank itself; heater, impellers, etc) with a toothbrush. This was not a fun process, but as the photo gallery will show, this is easily the cleanest the tank has been since it was first manufactured. In this process, I realized that the anemone infestation was inside of the mechanisms of the impellers and the like, and that although it would cost money to replace them, I would rather be rid of that menace for good, and start completely fresh.
Starting from scratch
As such, a couple of weekends ago my housemate Amber drove me over to the aquarium store, and I picked up the essentials for starting off properly: heater with a thermometer; a over-the-back filter system (which will eventually get transformed into a refugium methinks); live sand and coraline algae-covered rocks. A week into the new system, I also got a pair of impellers to get the circulation of water currents moving in the tank. All of that, and 29 gallons of water plus the salt and other chemicals necessary to get the whole thing started. It took about 3 hours, all-told, to get the system up and running – as the last image in the gallery shows, it is GORGEOUSLY clear and shall hopefully be kept that way in the future!
Tune in a couple of weeks to get a peek at which denizen(s) will inhabit the newly-restarted ecosystem (after the new reef’s biology has had time to settle and balance properly)!