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LOBOPHYLLIIDAE Reef Hobbyist Magazine



MY REEFING JOURNEY: CREATION OF LIVING ART Ian Cedric Ang runs Fantasy Coral, a coral aquaculture and consulting firm in Singapore. His dedication to keeping SPS is reflected in this 7-foot masterpiece filled with amazing specimens.


HOW TO BUILD AN ALGAE REACTOR Arthur Chang is the CEO of Priime and has been photographing his reef tanks since 2005. See how Art designed and built a high-efficiency algae reactor to address the nutrient export problem for his new tank.


AN ELITE LPS NANO Michael Rice has been the manager and marketing director of Denver aquarium store Elite Reef for nearly a decade. Originally just a propagation system, this eye-popping nano has finally grown into its potential as a full-blown reef.


FRAGGING RICORDEA MUSHROOMS Joey Jones is a passionate reef hobbyist sharing advice and experience on his YouTube channel, The Coral Reef Talk. In this pictorial essay, Joey shows us how he frags his Ricordea mushrooms.


A SUBSTANTIAL LITTLE REEF Eric Schulist is a seasoned nano reef hobbyist from the Twin Cities, with a passion for creative design. This uniquely styled reef tank is an aesthetic statement that only enhances the beautiful corals within.


UNDERSTANDING ALKALINITY, CALCIUM, AND MAGNESIUM Keith Moyle is a 40-year veteran reefer and writer on reef topics. Ground yourself in the basics of reef water chemistry with this clear and concise explanation of the critical fundamentals every reefer must know.


ON THE COVER EXPLORING THE LOBOPHYLLIIDAE Sabine Penisson is a French photographer and author focused on coral reef fauna. What's in a name? Join Sabine for a romp through the ever-changing taxonomic world of one of our favorite groups of coral.

FIRST QUARTER 2018 | Volume 12 Copyright © 2018 Reef Hobbyist Magazine. All rights reserved.


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Cover image by All Delight Corals


BREEDING SUCCESS: CORAL BEAUTIES Kathy Leahy has been raising marine ornamental fish for over 10 years. This article chronicles Kathy's success breeding the Coral Beauty Angelfish in landlocked St. Louis, Missouri.

RHM STAFF President Harry T. Tung Executive Editor Jim Adelberg Art Director Yoony Byun

Photography Advisor Sabine Penisson Graphic Designer Dave Tran Proofreader S. Houghton

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y name is Ian Cedric Ang. I’m from Singapore, and I’ve been a dedicated hobbyist since 2003. After watching the animated movie Finding Nemo, I was fascinated by the beautiful undersea world and decided that I wanted a marine aquarium of my own. My first marine aquarium was a used 4’ × 2’ × 2’ tank purchased from a fellow hobbyist. Unfortunately, that tank was a failure right from the start, as I had zero knowledge about reefkeeping. I was disappointed, but the colorful world of reefs was too gorgeous for me to quit. I decided to equip myself with as much knowledge as I possibly could. I studied the nitrogen cycle, water chemistry, and proper lighting for corals. Sweet Berry


I still remember struggling to understand what alkalinity meant during my early days. When I designed my current system, one main objective was to have a system that was robust enough to last the years it would take to grow a mature reef. Past experiences such as tank leaks, overheating, and overflow-box flooding were all taken into consideration during the planning and construction of this tank. Another objective was to have a large enough tank to collect a wide variety of SPS (small-polyp stony) corals. The design of the aquascape and coral placement had to allow me the flexibility to move corals around for both experimental and fragging purposes. Jaw Dropper

second overflow drain that provides an additional safety feature in case the first overflow drain gets clogged. Water return is provided by an Abyss 200 and AquaBee 5000, which give a total turnover of around 15,000 gal/h. The reason for having two return pumps is simple: if one fails, the other pump would still be able to keep the tank running. Five circulation pumps are used to ensure sufficient flow. Different pumps are used to meet specific flow requirements. For example, the Maxspect Gyre 280 is used to provide long distance flow delivery, while the EcoTech VorTech is used for wide coverage over shorter distances. A custom-built, 4-foot calcium reactor is needed to meet the incredibly high KH and calcium demands of the hard corals. I use Rowalith media, which I have been happy with over the years. The reason I chose a calcium reactor over a balling system is that a calcium reactor allows a hassle-free delivery of alkalinity and calcium over a longer period. The disadvantage of the low pH effluent from the reactor is easily mitigated by delivering the effluent into a highflow area of the sump. Currently, I am using three different kinds of lighting to pamper my light-loving SPS corals: metal halides, T5s, and LEDs. TEMPERATURE I keep my tank at 78.8° F, which I believe is the ideal temperature for the tank to thrive. In my previous systems, I experienced

Home Wrecker (Acropora tenuis)

SYSTEM SPECIFICATIONS Display: 7’ × 2’ × 2’ Sump: 5’ × 2’ × 1.5’ Return Pump: Abyss 200 and AquaBee 5000 (total turnover approx. 15,000 gal/h) Circulation Pump: (2) EcoTech MP40, (1) EcoTech MP60, (1) Maxspect Gyre 280, (1) Tunze 6060 Calcium Reactor: custom unit with Milwaukee pH controller Skimmer: Reef Octopus 3000SS Auto Top-off: JBJ Lighting: (4) 54-watt T5s, (1) 250-watt MH, (1) 400-watt MH, (3) EcoTech Radion G2 Pro, (1) ATI PowerModule (hybrid) My custom-built main display is 7’ × 2’ × 2’. The two main viewing panels (front and back) are made of extra-clear glass. To ensure long term durability and sturdiness, both the top and bottom of the tank are Euro-braced all around. To further prevent the glass panels from warping, two glass-strip braces hold the front and back panels firmly together. The external overflow-box design allows maximum space for aquascaping. One safety feature I added to this current setup is a Reef Hobbyist Magazine


overheating (over 89° F) and a total system crash twice. Some of my prized corals were lost as a result. To prevent overheating, I now use two cooling mechanisms: a room A/C unit and a drop-in titanium coil. If either of the cooling methods were to fail, the other would still keep the tank at a safe temperature. In the event that both cooling mechanisms fail, a safety sensor automatically cuts off the power supply to the lights when the tank temperature reaches 84.2° F. FILTRATION Filtration is provided by a 5’ × 2’ × 1.5’ sump that houses a Berlinstyle refugium system and other life-support equipment, such as the skimmer, return pump, and auto top-off. I believe a thriving refugium is one of the best natural filtration methods, allowing the reef system to achieve a balanced state of nutrient levels. It also encourages live organisms to establish within the system, some of which may serve as a food source for the animals in the display tank. The refugium section is lit using two compact fluorescent light tubes to encourage the growth of macroalgae. Occasional harvesting of the macroalgae is needed to export nutrients out of the system. Jubilee (Acropora millepora)


Mechanical filtration is accomplished with the help of a needle wheel-type Reef Octopus 3000SS skimmer that is constantly churning up a good skimmate. WATER PARAMETERS Temperature: 77–80.6° F Specific Gravity: 1.026 (D&D refractometer) Alkalinity: 7–9 dKH (Nyos) Calcium: 420 ppm (Nyos) Magnesium: 1350 ppm (Nyos) Phosphate: 0.13 ppm (Hanna) Nitrate: 0.5 ppm (Salifert) MAINTENANCE Every week (or twice a month if I am too busy), I do a 10 percent water change. I am currently using D&D H2O salt for water changes. Since I keep a bare-bottom tank, it’s easy for me to siphon out a lot of detritus during these water changes. I empty and clean my skimmer cup at least once a month. TRACE ELEMENTS The proper use of trace elements is essential in maintaining good health and coloration in corals.

Somewhere over the Rainbow

However, I would like to emphasize that over-dosing would give the opposite result and in extreme cases will cause coral death. Therefore, it’s very important to stick to the recommended dosage or even under-dose just to be safe. I have tried a number of trace-element products, including those from Tropic Marin, Brightwell, Zeovit, and Red Sea, all of which seem fine. To achieve consistency, I am sticking with Red Sea trace-element solutions now.

Reef Hobbyist Magazine


Cherry Bomb

FEEDING AND NUTRIENT LEVELS I prefer to have a slightly elevated phosphate and nitrate level in my reef system. Based on my past experience, a slightly elevated nutrient level seems to promote a deeper and more vibrant color in my SPS corals. I have previously tried to keep the nutrient levels near zero, but I noticed the SPS color tends to be pale and washed out. I currently run my phosphate at 0.13 ppm and nitrate at 0.5 ppm.

Walt Disney (Acropora tenuis)

I believe that adequate feeding is a good way of maintaining a healthy reef. I feed my fish using Reef Nutrition TDO pellets once a day. Twice a week, I feed my corals with Polyplab Reef-Roids. In addition, I feed the tank weekly with frozen mackerel eggs to ensure that the animals get a good supply of protein and fatty acids in their diet. CORALS I am an avid SPS collector, and my display tank is dominated by SPS colonies. Over the past 14 years, I have gathered a collection of about 250 different colonies of SPS corals, some LPS, and some softies. Strawberry Shortcake (Acropora microclados)


FISH Blue-eye Anthias Kole Tang Yellow Tang Achilles Tang Flame Angels

Pygmy Golden Angel Green Chromis African Flameback Angel Coral Beauty Flame Hawk

LESSONS LEARNED AND FINAL THOUGHTS My reef tank is like a piece of living art I have created, and as I continue this reefing journey, I try to perfect it every day. There are a few lessons which I have learned and would like to share with my fellow reefers: • If you aren’t sure about certain products, ask around and do as much research as possible. Do not think that there’s ever a magical solution that will give instant results. There never is. • Be patient. What we often forget is that corals are delicate animals that need to be handled with great care and are sensitive to even slight changes. Any sudden shock caused by a change in their environment (such as lighting or water chemistry) can affect their behavior or health and in some cases be fatal. • Learn to respect Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Never leave anything to chance, whether it’s coral placement or electrical wiring. I would like to thank my best friend and wife, Lu Linyu, and my best reefing buddy, Simon Chia, for their invaluable patience and support. Special thanks to Nor Haizal for helping with the tank shoot. Happy Reefing! R

FC Sweetie Pie

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ARTHUR CHANG WHY GROW ALGAE? I’ve been a photographer for a long time, and to me, my tank has always represented a great photo op, so it needs to be kept in a clean, pretty condition. Now that I’ve jumped back into the hobby with a Red Sea Reefer 170, I want to control algae with as little GFO (granular ferric oxide) and carbon dosing as possible. What better way than using a high-efficiency nutrient-export process like growing Chaetomorpha? I will not claim to be an expert on phosphate export, but I do understand that there is a limited amount of phosphates in the water, and organisms such as algae consume them. The idea is to have such an efficient Chaetomorpha-growing solution that it outcompetes nuisance algae for phosphates. Ideally, it could be the only source of phosphate export I would need, and I wouldn’t need GFO or carbon dosing at all.

become a small refugium. But then comes my next concern: light leakage into the sump and coralline algae growing everywhere. In my last system, I had a refugium compartment in my sump, and I mounted a clip-on light to grow chaeto and made sure it tumbled to keep all sides of the algae exposed to light. The problem was microalgae and coralline algae grew everywhere the light reached, even inside the body of my skimmer. My sump looked ugly, even though it was functional. But cleaning coralline algae from inside the skimmer was just too much work. I wanted an algae reactor that would contain the light. The last factor that really pushed me toward an algae reactor was that, if I were to start heavily modifying my sump, it might be even better to just build a DIY algae reactor. “It will be fun,” I thought. Famous last words? Nope, it actually was! HEAT CONCERNS WITH DIY LED LIGHT STRIPS

WHY A REACTOR FOR ALGAE GROWTH? My tank is a Red Sea Reefer 170, and the included sump has no dedicated refugium for growing macroalgae. All you get is a teeny tiny auto top-off reservoir that I’ve seen some people plumb to


There are a lot of DIY reactors out there; most use simple grow lights from Amazon that are wrapped around the reactor. These are then zip-tied or somehow fixed in place, with the LEDs more or less touching the reactor body. The LEDs get very hot, and in

some cases, the reactor body gets damaged by the heat. There are also heat-related problems reported at the connectors and power supplies. The high-end algae reactors on the market, such as the Pax Bellum ARID reactors, seem to focus on the mounting and cooling of the light source. From what I could see from photos, the LEDs in these products are protected in a quartz sleeve that is both more transparent and also helps limit the transfer of heat into the water better than acrylic or other plastic. These are then mounted on aluminum rods that end in a passive heatsink outside the body of the algae reactor. KEY GOALS No Extra Pumps I didn’t want to add an extra pump for this reactor. Some products, like the Skimz reactor, have a built-in pump. The reactor that I wanted to build would have to work in line with my carbon reactor and chiller pump. Largest Reactor I Could Fit and Afford I have the luxury of having a big closet a few feet from my tank to house the reactor. I wanted to add the largest reactor possible. Not only could I increase my total system water volume, but I could grow a ton of macroalgae without needing to trim too often. Without getting into scientific facts, the more chaeto I had in my reactor to absorb phosphates, the less overall phosphates would be left in the water for nuisance algae to consume.

Here is the tank after finishing its 4-week cycle. The rock cycled for 3 weeks before it was placed in the tank. There was no algae after 7 weeks of cycling, with ammonia at 2 ppm.

Good Heat Dissipation I wanted to make sure the heat would dissipate from the LED lights, the reactor, and the system altogether, if possible. I wanted everything cool to the touch. Good Macroalgae Growth The key goal was rapid macroalgae growth. This meant I needed good lights with the proper spectrum, a high clarity reactor body, and the right amount of water flow through the reactor. THE TANK Equipment · Red Sea Reefer 170 (34-gallon display, 9-gallon sump) · AquaIllumination Hydra 52 HD light · NYOS Quantum 120 skimmer · BRS Mini-Carbon Reactor · TECO TR10 chiller, Eheim Jager 125-watt heater · Maxspect XF-130 Gyre pump w/ Advanced Controller · Reef Octopus VarioS-4 return pump · Reef Octopus VarioS-2 accessory pump (for chiller and reactors, all in line) · Apex Jr., auto top-off, LED and pump control, automatic feeder Rock and Substrate · MarcoRocks Key Largo rock (10 lbs) · BRS Tonga Shelf Rock (5” × 7.5” piece) · Tropic Eden Mesoflakes (25 lbs) · MarinePure plate Reef Hobbyist Magazine


The algae reactor is located in the adjacent closet, plumbed between the carbon reactor and the chiller.

Livestock · Circus of Clowns: · (2) Fancy White Extreme · (2) Mocha Gladiators · (1) Fancy White Gladiator · (1) Mocha · (2) Bubble-tip Anemone (4” and 7”) · H. magnifica (3” base, 7.5” expanded) · Geometric Pygmy Hawkfish · Cleanup Crew: · (10) ORA Trochus · (10) ORA Cerith · (6) Scarlet Hermit · (4) Tonga Nassarius · (2) Dwarf Zebra Hermit · Mexican Turbo Snail · Tonga Fighting Conch

Lights I chose LED grow lights that were used by other DIY algae-reactor makers. These grow lights feature red and blue LEDs with the right spectrums to target both chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b growth, which is what macroalgae needs. If you choose these lights, know that they run extremely hot, are not dimmable, and come with 3M adhesive tape that is very weak. Additionally, remember always to be careful when dealing with anything electrical near water. Aluminum Tube I bought a square aluminum tube that was just big enough for the reactor to fit inside with about 1/4” of spare room for the LEDs. The LEDs would be stuck to the inside of this tube, and the aluminum would act as a heatsink to absorb much of the heat produced by the LEDs and also double as a light reflector. The square shape is key for the next part (heatsink), and a tube is a lot cheaper than an aluminum pipe. With a tube, you get thinner walls than a pipe, which is perfectly fine for a heatsink.

THE PARTS Reactor I chose the AquaMaxx XL reactor. The clarity is great, and the overall quality seems to be really nice. The only drawback to this unit is that there are so many screws securing the top.


I found a company that had fairly cheap cut-to-length pieces. I got a 19-inch piece of tube that would cover the body of the reactor but allow the top to be exposed. The material was high quality and cut perfectly to length. The downsides of this tube were that the edges were rough and sharp, it was not polished, and the surface was not

Reef Hobbyist Magazine


uniformly flat. I needed a lot of thermal paste to get full contact between the tube and the heatsinks. Heatsinks A tube by itself would absorb heat, but without fins, it is very hard for it to actually dissipate heat away from the aluminum. When I first installed the lights inside the tube, the aluminum got extremely hot to the touch. I figured that I would need to add some big aluminum fins and was lucky that I had chosen a square tube rather than a round one. I found a company that would ship cut-to-order aluminum heatsinks. I decided to mount 8-inch-long heatsinks on two sides of the tube. This was somewhat arbitrary. I knew I probably wouldn’t need fins all the way down the tube, and two 8-inch heatsinks fit the budget. A small piece of Chaetomorpha is added to the reactor.

Active Cooling Even though the heatsinks would provide plenty of passive cooling, I went the extra mile and got a clip-on fan to help. Since the system would be in the closet, the extra noise would be totally muffled. THE BUILD Finding the Space My tank is only about 1.5 feet away from a closet, so I plumbed my VarioS-2 pump through the floor and up into the closet to run my carbon reactor and chiller. Since there was plenty of space, I plumbed the algae reactor right between the carbon reactor and the chiller. Adding the Macroalgae I chose the cleanest macro I could find and got the smallest size available. Of course, you can get macro from fellow reefkeepers, but you never know what other algae or pests could be hitchhiking.

The light is mounted inside the tube using double-sided tape. The heatsinks were attached to the sides of the tube with a thick layer of thermal paste, and JB Weld epoxy was added along the edges.

Mounting LEDs This was a bit tricky. I had to figure out how to mount the strip to evenly cover the entire body of the reactor. First, I loosely wrapped the lights on the outside of the tube to get an idea of the length required and then used that as a guide. The light strip already had 3M doublesided tape attached to the underside, so I removed the backing and stuck the LED to the inside of the tube in a spiral. Unfortunately, the tape is pretty weak, so I’m sure it’ll eventually lose its grip, especially if I bump the lights when removing the reactor. If I were to do it again, I would probably apply a stronger double-sided tape. Attaching Heatsinks to the Tube To ensure even, passive heat dissipation, I attached the heatsinks to opposite sides of the tube. I used a thick layer of thermal paste between the aluminum tube and the aluminum heatsinks to eliminate any air gaps since they would be detrimental to heat transfer. After applying


The reactor is now nestled nicely into the aluminum tube and plumbed, with the lights on.

The fan is mounted right above the reactor. The BRS Mini Reactor is also pictured.

This is what it looks like inside the reactor with the lights on. Looks kind of sci-fi.

the paste, I added regular JB Weld epoxy on the edges of the heatsink and placed the heatsinks on the body of the tube. Inserting Reactor into the Tube Finally, I slipped the reactor inside the tube. My mockup was a bit tight, so getting the reactor past the LED lights was a struggle. With the top exposed, I then plumbed it in line with my reactor. Mounting the Cooling Fan Next, I added the fan. Since this was a closet, there was a shelf right above the reactor to mount the fan. I keep it on the lowest setting and aim it down onto the reactor.


Control Finally, I control both the fan and the lights using an outlet on my Apex Jr. controller. It is set on a reverse schedule of my display-tank lights to help balance the pH in the evening. ONE-MONTH PROGRESS The growth of the Chaetomorpha has been slow, increasing about 25 percent in a month, with a lot of strands starting to grow downwards into the open space. This slow growth is probably due to the low nutrients in my system. Only in the past couple of weeks have I introduced a bunch of clownfish, and my phosphates peaked at 6 ppm but have been undetectable for over a week. I have a thin film of green algae on the glass, which I remove every other day, and my rocks are looking green, but no other nuisance algae have popped up. WHAT’S NEXT? I will continue to monitor the chaeto growth and start thinning it regularly. My plan is to rinse out the sponge in the reactor every month, and whenever it’s time to trim, I’ll do a water change and rinse the remaining Chaetomorpha in the old tank water to get rid of any other detritus buildup. The goal is to trim half of it each time and adjust the trim schedule to that. Other maintenance includes checking the connections and lights for any corrosion and touching the aluminum tube occasionally to make sure heat is still well dissipated. Overall, this DIY algae reactor is a lower-maintenance and lowercost solution than running GFO or dosing carbon, and I’ve had a great time putting it together. R This full-tank shot shows slightly green rocks but no nuisance algae yet.

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y name is Michael Rice, and it’s an honor to present my personal nano reef to you. My reefkeeping story began when I was a young kid; my mom kept a reef tank in our home, and the hobby has stuck with me ever since. I have been keeping reef tanks of my own for over a decade now and have been happily working in the industry for the past 7


years at one of the top reef aquarium stores in my area, Elite Reef in Denver, Colorado. My 30-gallon reef began as a propagation system for higher-end corals. Throughout the first few years of its life, it housed all the corals you see in it today but exclusively for propagation. These corals were put through countless cut and growth cycles before I

Pink Boobies Chalice

realized I had never seen any of them grown out to large colonies. At that point, the rock went in and this reef’s journey really began. Since then, the tank has been allowed to grow uninterrupted. I began by grouping corals by genus and species to limit coral warfare, which has been a very successful strategy with only a few corals needing to be moved or removed. Unfortunately, this tank had to be relocated several times through the years, with the most recent move only a couple of months ago to bring it to Elite Reef. The tank is a first generation Innovative Marine Nuvo 30 gallon with a first generation Kessil A350w. I run the lighting at 100 percent on the blue channel and about 30 percent on the whites to give a nice blue-biased color that’s always pleasing to the eye. This also suits the lower light demands of the corals I keep. I don’t change out equipment for the latest and greatest as long as I’m getting the results I’m after. Stability is key, which means my tank must wake up to the same lighting, pumps, and other equipment every day to stay on the right trajectory. Providing water movement in the tank is an Aqua Medic EcoDrift 4.0 set to run on wave mode at 50 percent output. These pumps have proven to be both quiet and reliable. A Hydor Smart Level Control auto top-off is fed through a Two Little Fishies kalkwasser reactor to keep up with evaporation, as well as assist with calcium and pH levels. Underneath the stand, I also run two single-pump dosing units from Seaside Aquatics to maintain alkalinity and help out with calcium just a bit. All of this is connected through a Digital Aquatics ReefKeeper Lite, which controls dosing, the heater, and a fan for hot days. I also have a tiny refugium in one of the tank’s Reef Hobbyist Magazine


CM Purple Watermelon Chalice

rear chambers, which is lit by a small Innovative Marine clamp-on LED and houses chaeto. Feeding is a somewhat rare occurrence for this reef, with the primary food being frozen copepods for the corals. Dosing is also a pretty simple affair for this system with Seachem Fusion 1 & 2 going in via dosing pumps every day and kalkwasser being added through the top-off. Dosing is done at 12-hour intervals to increase chemical stability. This yields a very simple and stable system that leads to consistency and the healthy corals you see. I also dose a small amount of Aquavitro Balance after water changes.


You may have already noticed that simplicity is a big part of my mantra, and this especially applies to my maintenance regimen. Aside from the automation of dosing units and kalk reactors, this tank receives a daily glass cleaning and only a 10 percent water change weekly. The daily glass cleaning plays an important role by forcing me to slow down each day and have a good look at the tank. I can’t count how many times I stopped to clean the glass and discovered a quick way to improve my system. My best advice is what I repeated a few times above: keep it simple! Stability is the biggest key to keeping a captive reef thriving, but

Reef Hobbyist Magazine


Mummy Eye Chalice

Meltdown Chalice

Homophyllia australis

what many don’t realize is that we are hands down our systems’ biggest variables. Ideally, you want to arrange your maintenance routine in a way that minimizes the variability you introduce. Automation can be one solution to realizing that goal.


Rainbow Crush Chalice

The bottom line in reefing, though, is to just keep at it. There will always be hurdles in your path, but it’s these challenges that will make you a better reefkeeper. Until next time, keep it simple, and keep reefing! R

Reef Hobbyist Magazine






icordea mushrooms (Ricordea spp.) are some of the most popular mushrooms in the reef aquarium hobby. Much of that popularity is due to the many different colored and multicolored morphs available. Compared to other mushroom corals such as Rhodactis and Discosoma spp., Ricordea can take longer to reproduce and form colonies. But if you’re patient enough to wait and the animals are happy, they will eventually multiply. In the wild, mushroom corals often reproduce by cloning themselves; they either split apart at the mouth, move and leave a piece of the foot behind, or bud new polyps off of the body to form new, separate mushrooms. This process can seem like it takes forever, so if you don’t want to wait for them to reproduce at their own pace, your best option is to frag them.


Many of us like the idea of propagating the corals in our tanks to share with other hobbyists or trade for other corals. Regardless of your skill level, I am going to show you how easy it is to frag a Ricordea mushroom. While some corals have hard skeletal structures that require larger fragging tools (cutters or a band saw), mushroom corals do not. Not only are mushroom corals excellent beginner corals to grow in your reef aquarium, they are also great corals to learn how to frag with. Fragging a Ricordea is easily accomplished with only a few simple tools. First, you will need a shallow plastic container in which to safely place your coral and tank water. You can use Tupperware or any plastic bowl that will be used only with your aquarium.


One of these Ricordea will be removed from the frag plug for fragmentation.


With a clean blade, cut the mushroom directly through the center of the mouth in one motion.


Once removed from the frag plug, the mushroom is ready to be cut.


After the cut, each frag should have half of the old mouth. Reef Hobbyist Magazine



Place your newly cut frags into a plastic basket with rock rubble.

Next, you will need a new razor blade to frag the mushroom with. Be sure to rinse the blade in warm water and wipe it dry with a clean paper towel to remove any manufacturing residue or oil. Using a new, sharp blade every time is important because you want to make a single smooth cut through the mouth of the polyp. If this


Once the two cut pieces heal, they will attach to the rubble.

procedure is done properly, you will end up with two full mushrooms once the cut halves have healed. Mushroom corals can be cut into quarters, but I have had higher success rates and quicker healing times when cutting them in half. As always, wear eye and hand protection when fragging any animals from your tank. After you cut your Ricordea mushroom in half, place the two fragments back into the container of tank water and prepare another container where the two halves will heal. This container will go into your tank. Use a plastic basket or container that has narrow cuts in it and allow it to sink to the bottom of your tank. The cuts allow water to flow through the container, hopefully just enough to keep the frags happy but not so much that it sends your newly cut shrooms floating around the tank. Unlike other corals, you will not be able to glue the new mushroom fragments directly to a frag plug. Mushrooms produce slime as they heal, so glue will not adhere to them. How then do you get a mushroom onto a frag plug? Place rock rubble into the container where the Ricordea halves are healing. As they heal, they will attach themselves to the rubble. The time it takes for Ricordea frags to heal will vary. Most take a week or two while some can take up to a month. Once they have healed completely and look like fully formed mushrooms, you can take the pieces of rubble that the mushrooms are attached to and glue them to frag plugs or simply place them in your tank. Now you have successfully fragged a Ricordea mushroom and can enjoy its beautiful color and vibrancy in additional spots in your reef. If you would like to check out my videos on coral fragging and care, scan this QR code to watch my YouTube channel, The Coral Reef Talk. R





Display: Mr. Aqua 12-gallon tank (35.4” × 8.3” × 9.4”) Sump: Custom ZeroEdge Series 7 Overflow: Dual 1” bulkheads with modified slotted covers Return Pump: Neptune Systems COR-15 Filtration: 7” filter sock and 2 mini reactors for ROX carbon and biopellets Auto Top-off: Neptune Systems ATK Dosing: Neptune Systems DOS Lighting: NanoBox Reef Quad with an Apex adapter LIVESTOCK -Various SPS (small-polyp stonies) -Various LPS (large-polyp stonies) -Rose Bubble-tip Anemone with a Porcelain Crab -Venustus Angelfish


-Peppermint Candy Cane Hogfish -Sunburst Anthias -Royal Gramma -Midas Blenny -Ocellaris Clownfish -Blood Red Fire Shrimp

My name is Eric Schulist, and I have been a saltwater hobbyist for about 15 years. All of my tanks have been less than 20 gallons, what most consider to be nano reefs. My first tank was a Christmas gift shortly after the movie Finding Nemo came out. I had the usual starter fish and enjoyed the tank in our home, but I eventually stumbled across a nano forum. After seeing other hobbyists creating tiny reefs with living corals, I knew I had to try it. This led to a couple different tanks during my time in college and into my first job. Eventually, I ended up with a small 5-gallon saltwater tank on my desk at work. The lone inhabitant was a clownfish that I had

The first version of the 12-gallon aquarium

Peppermint Candy Cane Hogfish

throughout college and was with me through multiple moves and apartments. At some point while cleaning his tiny tank, I got the urge to try creating another nano reef. I bought myself a long 12-gallon aquarium and slowly accumulated equipment to set the tank up next to my desk. My coworkers were always curious about my single clownfish, but people were really fascinated once I started to create a living reef in my office. This tank was very simple, and I only had a few main goals. The maintenance had to be easy since it was at the office, and it had to have a clean appearance since others were going to be seeing it every day. The look I decided to go with was a completely clear aquarium with the least obtrusive internal overflows possible. I also did not want heaters, powerheads, hang-on equipment, or any cords touching the tank. All of the filtration was inside the tiny stand, which housed a standard 10-gallon sump with a filter sock and two mini reactors. There was no room for a skimmer or any other equipment, so everything was kept low tech. Reef Hobbyist Magazine


Sunburst Anthias and Midas Blenny

Robust colors from Vivid's Rainbow Delight


I maintained the tank just by siphoning detritus off the sandbed and doing water changes every week. I had this tank for over 5 years, and it even moved with me to a new office building when our company bought a larger space down the road. This tank was great and flourished nicely for being so low tech. Part of the reason I think it did so well was that I eventually found a balance of fish to nutrient export. I ran a small amount of biopellets without a skimmer and fed heavily. For almost a whole year, in the early stages of this tank, I had very poor luck keeping corals alive. I think I was actually starving them with a tank that was too clean. The corals were very pale and had thin tissue. Once I added more fish, reduced the amount of biopellets, and fed the corals multiple times a week, they started to regain their meaty tissue and vibrant colors. The fish and corals were doing great, but eventually, the urge to upgrade always hits, and I wanted to redo the stand, plumbing, and equipment inside. I wanted to make the outward appearance even better and increase the workable space inside the stand to make maintenance easier. The TV cabinet aquarium stand was showing 5 years of wear and tear with several areas of the particle board starting to swell and peel. I decided the new stand was going to be solid wood, and I love the look of dark walnut. I contacted Jason Langer, a local hobbyist in our reef club (TCMAS), to assist me in realizing my vision. I designed the stand to look similar to the first one but also to address the difficulty I had working inside the cabinet. The finishing touch was a black granite top. Custom-built filtration system featuring a Series 7 sump, two mini reactors, COR pump, ATK, and DOS, all controlled by the latest Apex

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The newest version of the 12-gallon nano in my home office A curious Venustus Angelfish between two of the coral rock structures

I bought a new tank to drill in the same way as the old one. I decided that this version was going to have hard PVC, true unions, and ball valves. I slowly collected all the tank equipment at home and assembled it in the basement over a few months. The office tank was still running at work this whole time, and the plan was to do a full swap of the tank and equipment in one weekend. But once the new tank was fully assembled and water-tested, it just looked so great at home that I decided to leave it there. Instead of swapping tanks one weekend, the livestock was transported home to the new setup. This is now my current tank, and while it has been a bit of a rough transition, I hope it continues to thrive at home. My goal with this tank is to get it back to the level of color and growth I had a year or two ago and maybe even exceed that. Now that I have a family of my own at home with two small girls, I hope I can get them excited about reefkeeping as well or at least foster their interest in the ocean and its well-being for their generation. Until then, I try to always be helpful and answer hobbyist questions on the local Twin Cities Marine Aquarium Society and forums. I’d like to thank Reef Hobbyist Magazine for reaching out to me and letting me share my reef tank with all of you. R

Kydd Pollock




t’s been over 40 years since I started reefing and a few more since my last chemistry lesson, but this hobby has given me a renewed interest in what I thought was an uninspiring subject. Familiarity with water chemistry is paramount to maintaining a successful aquarium, but the subject’s perceived complexity means some hobbyists don’t give it the attention it deserves. In this article, I want to show that it is not necessarily complicated and is well within the capabilities of most aquarists. SUSTAINING LIFE Replicating the aquatic conditions of the seas where our corals and fish originate is a challenge, considering that they are some of the most stable environments on earth. Understanding water chemistry basics and knowing what our tanks’ parameters are and how they interact helps us provide the best possible water quality. If things go wrong, we’ll know the potential causes and be confident in taking appropriate action.

Coral appearance often provides an indication of water quality. | Image by Nick Hobgood


Water is the key to life. Sea water is a mix of dissolved salts, mostly chloride and sodium, at a rate of approximately 35 grams per liter of water. It is measured as salinity in parts per

thousand. One of the first things we learn is that to maintain stable salinity, we must replace evaporated water with fresh water since salts are left behind in the aquarium after pure water evaporates— reef chemistry at its most basic level. Whatever salt you use, water chemistry starts changing from the moment an aquarium is established. Biological processes cause chemical changes; some compounds are depleted while others increase, all of which affect water parameters. As a minimum, everyone should understand the nitrogen cycle before establishing an aquarium. Once an aquarium is cycled, we can assume the filtration will sustain life unless there’s a catastrophic failure. MAINTAINING EQUILIBRIUM Many major and minor elements in salt water are reduced over time, and the rate of depletion is dictated by livestock demands. I want to focus on this aspect of reef chemistry since it’s an area that challenges hobbyists, not because it’s particularly complex but because of the interdependency of the elements in question. MAJOR ELEMENTS Only 3.5 percent of sea water is composed of salts (96.5 percent is water), and of that 3.5 percent, 99.3 percent are the major elements. Let’s explore what this means in practical terms. Alkalinity – Degrees of carbonate hardness (dKH) is a measure of water alkalinity based on the presence of carbonate and bicarbonate anions (negatively charged ions). This provides the buffering















capacity of the aquarium (its ability to resist pH reductions due to the accumulation of acids). In aquaria, where acids are introduced through the metabolic waste of livestock and decomposing organic matter, alkalinity levels can drop very quickly. Natural sea water has a dKH value between 6.5 and 7.0, though levels in the range of 7 to 12 are generally acceptable. A good target value is 8.0 dKH. Calcium (Ca) – Corals need calcium to grow and thrive. Stony corals use it to build their calcium carbonate skeletons, and as they grow, their demands increase, further depleting these levels in the aquarium. More abundant than free carbonate and bicarbonate ions, calcium is also depleted less quickly and has less negative impact on water chemistry when levels drop. Calcium levels are measured in parts per million (ppm) and should be kept in a range of 380–450 ppm, with 425 ppm being ideal. Magnesium (Mg) – Magnesium, like calcium, has two positive charges when in solution. Magnesium ions behave like calcium ions, and corals often substitute magnesium for calcium when forming their skeletons.

between 7.8 and 8.4 is acceptable. If KH values are stable within the acceptable range, it’s not necessary to target a specific number. TRACE ELEMENTS Sea water contains over 70 trace elements, including iodine, iron, and molybdenum, representing 0.7 percent of the total salts. These are also depleted over time as they are utilized by corals and removed by other biological processes and skimming. While not as important as the major elements, trace elements still play a role in water chemistry. This is particularly true in aquaria dominated by SPS (small-polyp stonies), where aquarists strive to achieve the best coral coloration. While water changes will help maintain trace element levels, they are not all depleted at the same rate, so relying solely on this method can lead to individual elements being too low or high. One solution is to dose trace elements, but care must be taken since even the smallest amount can have a significant impact on overall levels. Natural levels of trace elements are very low (iodine, for example, is only 0.06 ppm) and can be difficult to measure accurately, which can lead to overdosing. Remember, you should never add anything to your aquarium that you don’t test for. WATER TESTING Testing provides a snapshot of aquarium conditions and is also used to determine the rate of depletion of elements over time when establishing dosing requirements. I would encourage you to

Magnesium, the third most common ion in saltwater, is one of the most important because it bonds with carbonate ions, allowing more carbonate to be present in the water. This provides the buffering capacity that helps maintain stable KH levels and prevents alkalinity from dropping when calcium levels are increased. Issues with low calcium and unstable alkalinity are often due to low magnesium levels. Magnesium levels should be maintained at roughly three times the target value of calcium. Another consideration is pH (potential of hydrogen), which measures the hydrogen ion concentration of a solution on a scale of 0–14, with values below 7 being acidic and above 7 being alkaline. The measurement scale is nonlinear, and the concentration of hydrogen ions at a pH of 8 is 10 times the concentration at a pH of 7. Aquarium pH will drop naturally due to the acidic Hard corals, like this small-polyp stony, utilize calcium carbonate to build their skeletons. | Image effects of biological by Brocken Inaglory processes. A range Reef Hobbyist Magazine


perform your own tests since it gives you control over the process and also helps to reinforce your chemistry knowledge. Most of the titrant-based kits on the market provide acceptable results, especially where consistency is more important than 100 percent accuracy. Checkers that produce digital readouts alleviate potential color misinterpretation, whereas laboratory testing using inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometry (ICP) provides highly accurate results over a wide range of parameters. MAINTAINING AND ADJUSTING PARAMETERS Having determined our systems’ demands, we can turn our attention to maintaining the appropriate chemical levels and providing stable water quality.

The key is to maintain the ionic balance, i.e., the ratio of magnesium to calcium and the calcium level in relation to the alkalinity. Any given volume of water can only hold a limited amount of solids, so increasing one inevitably reduces another, which in practice means that increasing alkalinity will drive down calcium levels and vice versa. As elements are depleted, they need to be replenished, and failure to do so will result in poor coral health and color, little or no growth, and shortened life expectancy. The three elements used are calcium chloride dihydrate, magnesium chloride hexahydrate, and sodium bicarbonate. If demands are low, such as in fish-only or soft-coral systems, then regular water changes may be sufficient. Otherwise, supplementation is necessary. There are three options: manual dosing (with buffers), automated dosers, and calcium reactors/kalk stirrers. It’s important to bring levels up to desired values manually before commencing a dosing program. Manual dosing using off-the-shelf additives is probably best suited to smaller reef systems or systems with lower demands. Daily dosing can be time consuming, but try to avoid once- or twiceweekly routines, which create a yo-yo effect of depleted elements between doses. Dosing units automate the process by using mixed solutions for the three major elements. Having worked out the depletion rate of a given element, the volume of additives needed to maintain target levels is calculated. The doser is set Dosing unit by Eshopps up to add this amount at regular intervals over a specific period of time, ensuring that appropriate levels are maintained. Calcium reactors are considered a better option for larger systems or SPS-dominated systems with high calcium demands. A calcium reactor consists of a chamber that houses calcium carbonate


media through which tank water is passed. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is fed into the reactor, reducing the pH, which causes the media to break down and release calcium and carbonate ions. Generally, Calcium reactor media Calcium reactor by by CaribSea Reef Octopus a pH controller is used to control the amount of CO2 added to maintain a pH of around 6.5. The effluent, which has an extremely high alkalinity, is slowly dripped into the aquarium to maintain both alkalinity and calcium levels. Control is achieved by altering the rate of CO2 added and the drip rate of effluent returning to the tank. Kalk stirrers utilize a saturated solution of kalkwasser (calcium hydroxide), which is slowly dripped into the tank. Kalkwasser is a reverse osmosis water mix, so the amount that can be added is limited to the volume of water removed by evaporation and skimming. In some cases, this won’t be sufficient to maintain alkalinity levels, so it may be necessary to run the skimmer wetter or use fans to increase evaporation. Kalk is often used as a substitute for top-off water, but if evaporation rates vary, a better option is to feed it via a peristaltic pump on a timer or controller. Kalkwasser has a pH of around 12, so safeguards must be taken not to overdose (faulty floats on auto top-offs come to mind). Kalk stirrers are often used in conjunction with calcium reactors since the high pH of the kalkwasser offsets the low pH of reactor effluent. FINAL THOUGHTS Water chemistry isn’t necessarily a complex subject, though it’s a vast topic. I’ve only considered a few aspects here. Approaching the subject with greater understanding and confidence will lead to improved water chemistry in your aquarium. You might even gain more enjoyment from the hobby and be encouraged to do more research on the subject. R High water quality is critical for delicate fish species such as this Moorish Idol (Zanclus cornutus). | Image by author

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Australophyllia wilsoni | All Delight Corals Images by author except as noted


Exploring the



ome reefers are into the slender lines of Acropora branches, some prefer the shining eyes of zoanthids, others are mad about the psychedelic tints of chalices, but none can ignore the beautiful, bright, and bouncing curves of what we used to know as mussid corals: Acanthastrea, Cynarina, Lobophyllia, and more. Before 2012, there were 15 genera of corals known as the mussid corals; they were some of the most popular corals in the hobby. Then, a study using molecular and genetic analysis changed everything; the Mussidae family was shattered. The family name remained with the West Atlantic genera while the Indo-Pacific


natives were gathered into a new family: Lobophylliidae. Here, we find some of the hobby favorites: the fleshy Acanthastrea, Cynarina, Homophyllia (aka Scolymia), Lobophyllia, Micromussa, and Australophyllia, joined by the ex-Faviidae, Moseleya, and by the not so fleshy ex-Pectiniidae, Echinophyllia, Echinomorpha, and Oxypora. The taxonomic studies even dug down to species level, resulting in many changes in the coral “Tree of Life� as we know it. The Lobophylliidae share common traits such as strong and large septum teeth with well-developed walls. Depending on the genera, they can be solitary or colonial, and polyps show fleshy, thick, and colorful mantles. The collar of the adhesive predatory polyp opens

Micromussa lordhowensis colonies

fully to enjoy the nightly planktonic migration toward the water’s surface. They are also very reactive to feeding when stimulated with food, even in the daytime. A PANORAMA OF LOBOPHYLLIIDAE GENERA Corals of the genus Acanthastrea have short and small (from 10 to 25 mm) corallites with fused walls (cerioid growth shape), making most of the colonies look like encrusting corals. The most commonly found species in the hobby are A. echinata and A. subechinata. Strangely enough, this genus is mostly known for species that are no longer recognized as Acanthastrea. The most famous is Acanthastrea lordhowensis, currently listed under the genus Micromussa (a genus first delimited by Charlie Veron in 2000). Micromussa lordhowensis is a fleshy species with round and full polyps; it has granular, vivid, and often highly contrasting tissue color. Another example? The big and beautiful Acanthastrea maxima is now Sclerophyllia maxima. And what about the bouncing and vivid polyps of the species previously known as Acanthastrea bowerbanki (sometimes named A. hillae as well)? This species is now classified as Homophyllia bowerbanki.

Micromussa amakusensis

Found in an infinity of colors, with contrasting radial or concentric patterns and amazing fluorescence under actinic lighting, these exAcanthastrea can grow quickly, sprouting new polyps each month if well fed. It is a very robust and aggressive group, so sessile invertebrates should not be placed too close. Found in areas exposed to medium water current and down to a depth of about 40 meters, these corals accept a wide range of light exposure and powerful, indirect water flow. Other Micromussa, like the fairly famous M. amakusensis, usually bear 3- to 10-millimeter cerioid corallites. The colonies are

Acanthastrea echinata

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Homophyllia australis

encrusting and relatively massive. In its natural environment, it is found in shallow reef areas where the current and light are strong. The colors vary according to the species, with green, gray, pink, red, and multicolor combinations. Homophyllia is a newly adopted genus created to distinguish the Indo-Pacific Scolymia (Scolymia australis) from its Caribbean counterpart. The now officially named Homophyllia australis is still the same very desirable Aussie Doughnut that was in such high demand worldwide. Whether a “Bleeding Apple” or “War Paint,” I don’t know any aquarist who isn’t impressed with these prized corals. They are found over a wide range, from Southern China to Southern Australia. Many specimens thrive for the first months

Scolymia australis

in captivity but slowly decline and die for no apparent reason. Perhaps they are not really well suited to our high-temperature tanks (exceeding 79/82° F), or perhaps they require seasonal temperature swings. This genus was recently enriched with a new species taken from Acanthastrea: the colonial Homophyllia bowerbanki. Cynarina is another well-known and very desirable genus. While there are two species in the genus, only Cynarina lacrymalis is known to hobbyists, as C. macassarensis (formerly known as Indophyllia) remains quite underrepresented. The delicate and translucent mantle of many C. lacrymalis specimens, usually found in shades of forest to acid green and pink to cherry red, with many Homophyllia bowerbanki | Image by Eliel Roulleau


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Cynarina lacrymalis

subtle variations, are a real delight for the eyes. Widely distributed from the Red Sea to Australia, C. lacrymalis is present on most East African coasts and throughout the Indian Ocean. The large solitary polyp (up to 15 cm) is found in shallow turbid reefs, soft substrates, and lagoons moved by gentle water flow. The species bears strong, broad, and high septum teeth surrounding a deep corallite center. As regards Acanthophyllia, the genus is not officially recognized, and it is still considered a special morph of C. lacrymalis. This taxonomic decision might be surprising, as for once, what hobbyists call Acanthophyllia deshayesiana really looks like a species of its own, with its opaque and wrinkled mantle, growing as a mound when thriving, quite different than the delicately polyped Cynarina. Another species once known as Cynarina, C. vitiensis is now classified as Lobophyllia vitiensis. Lobophyllia is a famous genus in the aquarium trade, now split into at least 20 different species and distributed throughout the Indo-Pacific area. The number of species has greatly increased Australophyllia wilsoni


Lobophyllia flabelliformis

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for all species, take care to avoid sediment on coral mantles, which damages the tissue. A direct placement on sand is not recommended. If you want to place your coral on the tank bottom, place a piece of flat rock underneath the coral.

Moseleya latistellata | Image by Eliel Roulleau

since all but one Symphyllia species have been reclassified under the Lobophyllia genus. Symphyllia wilsoni was reclassified as Australophyllia wilsoni, and the Symphyllia genus was simply invalidated. In aquaria, the most commonly encountered are L. corymbosa and L. hemprichii, both available in a wide variety of colors. If you know only the aquarium coral shape, you may think they are solitary polyps, but Lobophyllia spp. are very large dome-shaped colonies, growing up to 5 meters in diameter (depending on the species) in the wild. The many phaceloid and meandroid polyps possess very long calices and are divided at their top into several heads covered with mantle tissue. The flesh is thick, opaque, and granular, showing many shades of green, tan, gray, red, and purple, with contrasting valleys. It’s this tip of each calice that hobbyists know as their usual “solitary” coral. Lobophyllia is found in protected reef areas and lagoons, so aquarium water flow should be gentle and indirect. These corals prefer moderate and indirect lighting. Moseleya is a lesser-known genus in the aquarium trade, maybe because of its narrow natural distribution and mostly dull colors. Still, being uncommon in the trade, this genus is desirable for aquarists who want an uncommon coral. M. latistellata is almost always the species you’ll find: it consists of small colonies with large and irregular discs. This coral lives in turbid waters on muddy substrates, so dim light and gentle flow is required to keep this coral thriving. PURCHASE, CARE AND PLACEMENT When you are ready to bring one of these corals home, search out a healthy specimen and avoid any damaged or partially necrotic colony. Pay attention to the placement of your Lobophylliidae. These corals prefer gentle flow and typically will not thrive in direct or strong water flow. Under the right conditions, the polyps will expand greatly. Depending on the species, they can inflate up to 7 times the size of the corallite! However,


Although zooxanthellate, these corals appreciate complementary feedings, especially big-polyp species that have large mantles and therefore significant energy expenditure. They usually expand their feeding tentacles only during nighttime in the wild, but in the aquarium, they’ll expand their tentacles even in the daylight during mealtimes if the meals are given at fixed hours. In the wild, they feed on large demersal zooplankton (copepods, amphipods, shrimp, polychaete worms). I recommend weekly targeted distribution of small prey, such as mysids, small pieces of fish, shrimp, or mollusks. The polyps are also capable of capturing leftover fish food and feces. Be careful not to overfeed these corals, especially with large pieces of food. If it takes too long to digest, the food may rot inside the coral. Large members of your cleanup crew, like hermits and large carnivorous snails, can tear the polyps open to get the digesting food inside; they pose a danger to your coral. Lobophylliidae are tolerant corals and fairly easy to maintain if the water parameters remain within acceptable standards. The levels of dissolved minerals, calcium, magnesium, and carbonate hardness should be monitored since the thick skeleton of these corals requires a constant supply, even if growth is fairly slow in most species. So regardless of what you call them, consider giving these elegant animals a home in your reef. R

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Centropyge bispinosa juveniles with adult coloration | Image by Gary Parr

KATHY LEAHY Images by author except as noted



wave of wonderment and excitement came over me on the morning when I saw the first little Coral Beauty Angelfish (Centropyge bispinosa) wearing adult coloration, with purple edges and an orange center, swimming with its siblings in my 40-liter tank. It had been 61 days since the tiny eggs had hatched into impossibly tiny larvae without functional eyes, jaws, or guts. This was the day I knew I had succeeded. I had finally raised a saltwater fish that no one else had raised before. When I started this angelfish project, I had no expectation that I would succeed and had no idea what success would mean. For years, I had bred and raised clownfish as a small business, supplying all the local aquarium stores and some out-of-town stores, as well as one wholesaler. When the market stopped valuing the natural orange and white ones and went wild for the designer types, which have never been my cup of tea, I stopped trying to make money selling clownfish. I started trying to breed


more difficult saltwater ornamentals as a hobby. Small, inexpensive fish appealed to me, and I focused mostly on a variety of gobies, shrimps, and damselfish. At times, I was reasonably successful. Then I met Tom Priscu. He told me that he had Mandarins, scooters, and angelfish spawning in his large tanks, and he could collect the eggs for me if I was interested in trying to raise them. Indeed I was! I had been culturing copepods for some time by then, as I was trying to use them to raise some of the small larvae of Diamond Gobies (Valenciennea puellaris), Coral Gobies (Gobiodon okinawae), and Three-stripe Damsels (Dascyllus aruanus). When newly hatched, these larvae are too small to eat rotifers, the go-to first food for clownfish. Copepods are a more natural diet for them, as they are found among the plankton of the sea, but adult copepods are actually larger than rotifers. It is the eggs and just-hatched nauplii of copepods that are the first nutritious bites on which the tiniest larval fish feed. Live copepods, particularly the smallest ones, such

This newly hatched Centropyge bispinosa does not have developed eyes or a digestive system.

Twenty-four hours after hatch, this larvae is developing, and the yolk sac is diminishing.

Day 3, eyes and gut are fully developed

Day 5

as Parvocalanus crassirostris, require live phytoplankton to survive and thrive, so I was also culturing Isochrysis in my small basement fishroom. Tom started giving me spawns of Coral Beauty Angelfish and Ruby Red Dragonets (Synchiropus sycorax), and I started trying to raise them. At first, I was focused on the dragonets, as it seemed more likely that I would have some success with this species. After all, dragonets had been raised before, but the Ruby Reds were a new species to the trade. The opportunity to raise a species of fish that had not yet been raised in captivity appealed to me. I am an avid member of the Marine Breeding Initiative, an online forum/bragging-rights project for marine ornamental fish breeders. We are awarded points for writing reports on each segment of a species’ breeding stage: spawning, hatching, settlement, and

Day 9

60-day grow-out. More points are awarded for success with a “never before� species. I could quickly file a hatch report on Ruby Red Dragonets because, as pelagic spawners often do, the eggs hatched within 24 hours. I also reported on the angelfish hatching without anticipating that I would be able to go much beyond that. I tried many times to raise the Rubies, came very close to settlement, and failed every time. Meanwhile, I learned more about culturing their food sources: phytoplankton, Pseudodiaptomus pelagicus, and Parvo (Parvocalanus crassirostris). I became more adept at producing large numbers of Parvo nauplii and eggs, the ideal first foods of tiny larvae. Tom continued to give me eggs of both Ruby Reds and Coral Beauties, and I continued to try. I confess that I did not put a lot of effort into the Coral Beauties, as it seemed impossible that I

Day 12, just before flexion

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Day 13, just after flexion

Day 40, post-settlement Centropyge bispinosa with a beautiful fluorescent aqua dorsal stripe

could have success with that species. I was using 60-liter black round plastic tubs (BRTs) for the Rubies and sometimes 6-liter clear plastic pretzel jars when I ran out of room.

settlement and three to adult coloration and size. These three Coral Beauties are now the royalty of my basement fishroom and have a permanent home there.

Then, in one jar of Coral Beauties, I was surprised that I was able to keep a single larva alive for 19 days. Although it eventually died, it had survived far beyond when it would have starved to death if it had not had the right foods to eat. I was so encouraged by this poor dead larva that I vowed to get serious and provide my next batch of Coral Beauty eggs with a better environment, namely, a BRT.

As I was making progress with this species, getting them past first flexion at 13 days and then settlement at 31 days, I was made aware of the history of breeding this species. While I did not set out to do it, I became the first person ever to raise the C. bispinosa species and the first landlocked breeder to raise any of the Centropyge genus. Since then, Tom Bowling of Biota has raised hundreds of Coral Beauties in his large facility in Palau. In contrast, my three were raised far from the ocean in less than 60 liters of artificial sea water.

Success came with the very next try. Many good things happened with this run, perhaps because I have doggedly sought out information and resources to make that success possible and perhaps because I am lucky. Scientific publications, particularly around the intensive production of Parvo by Dean Kline at the Oceanic Institute, Hawaii, were very helpful. Information regarding lighting and water conditions for the larvae were made available to me through my work with the MBI and from Erin Periera-Davison, also of the Oceanic Institute. I had ample phytoplankton on hand, as well as Parvo that produced lots of eggs and nutritious nauplii. I hatched the Coral Beauty eggs in a 60-liter BRT and used more phytoplankton and more intense lighting than I had previously, and I allowed a period of darkness each day to facilitate rest. All these things, as well as Tom’s excellently cared-for broodstock and their high-quality spawn, worked in my favor. I was able to raise four fish past


When confronted with the present reality that the vast majority of the fish species in the oceans have yet to be raised in captivity, one can either see a barrier or an opportunity. There has never been a better time than right now to attempt to breed saltwater fish, even if you don’t live near an ocean. We currently have such incredible resources: artificial salts, copepods and phytoplankton species that are widely available, aquarium stores filled with healthy fish, scientific publications as close as your nearest university library, and the wealth of information on the Internet, including the MBI. There is no longer any such thing as impossible. The next time someone says a thing you want to do has never been done before, recognize the opportunity and give it a try. R


Reef Hobbyist Magazine Q1 2018  
Reef Hobbyist Magazine Q1 2018