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Thread: Chesapeake Bay Oyster Reef Biotope Tank

  1. #31
    DIYFK member HillbillyHomer's Avatar


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    Sweet!

  2. #32
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Juvenile striped blenny, Chasmodes bosquianus
    Click here to enlarge

  3. #33
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    I have a couple updates, one that I meant to say something about last week, as well as something new. I'll start with the new tidbit. A new colony of bryozoans like the snowflake shaped ones that are growing on the right side glass appeared on the left side, almost in the same location. It appears that they prefer the darker areas of the tank. Either that, or I keep scraping them off when I clean the front glass.


    The event that happened last week freaked me out, but I guess that I shouldn't have been all that surprised. Striped blennies are pretty fearless and tough characters in the tank. Even the smallest ones are brave and chase away both the gobies and the skilletfish (although both of the other species will chase them off too at times). But, I never expected this to happen:
    Click here to enlarge



    It occurred in the 20g high tank. Yep, I lost a juvenile blenny due to skilletfish predation. This medium sized skilletfish ate my blenny!!!! I saw it happen. It wasn't a scavenging event. I couldn't believe it. All of these fish had full bellies. I mentioned last week that I gave all of the fish away from that tank, but this one little blenny was going to move to my 20g long tank. All he had to do was make it one more day.



    Anyway, that is something to keep in mind when keeping skilletfish or similar clingfish. They have large mouths, and, although most of what you read about them says that they eat worms, amphipods, small crustaceans, etc., they will also eat fish, even small more aggressive ones.

  4. #34
    DIYFK member HillbillyHomer's Avatar


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    DANG !

  5. #35
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    My feelings exactly. I actually trapped the skilletfish with the blenny in his mouth against the glass with my hand, so I could see if the blenny was still alive or not. The gills had already stopped moving by that time. I was going to try and free the blenny. But, since it was gone, I just let him eat it. This pic was taken after I released the skilletfish from being pinned against the glass. About 4 hours later, the blenny couldn't be seen and the skilletfish was fatter than fat.... The horror!

  6. #36
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    I have some updates on my 20g long. The Ulva is pretty much gone. I'm not sure that the parameters are right from growing macros in this tank (light, etc.), plus, I'm sure that the shrimp and crabs eat some of it. I probably won't add much until I get the main tank set up. I can't tell of the other macro is growing or not. There are some parts that seem to, and others I'm not so sure about. It looks good in the tank still, and provides good cover for the smaller fish, so I'm leaving it in there. The sea grasses have died off, so that experiment ends until I get the main tank set up. I have some cyanobacteria and some green hair algae areas on shells and sand where the most light hits that could be competing with the macros and seagrass for nutrients. Right now, I'm not too worried about this but would like to figure it out prior to setup of the main tank. We will see how that goes. I personally don't think it looks that bad as it still adds color, plus, the crabs and shrimp seem to eat it.

    Both colonies of bryozoans are expanding across the tank glass on either end of my tank, in the darker areas. They look cool.

    One thing that came in handy was the purchase of an automatic feeder to keep my fish fed while I was away on vacation. We couldn't find anyone reliable that new much about fishkeeping, so this was my solution. It worked out OK. The only issue that I anticipated was if the fish would actually adapt to and eat flake food or pellets, since, up until my trip, all they've eaten were live or frozen foods for the most part. My attempts at feeding them flakes were with mixed results. The gobies ate flakes with gusto. Some of the blennies ate the flakes, ingesting some or spitting out some, and other blennies ignored the flakes. The skilletfish ate flakes at times, but not often.

    As far as pellets go, they were a little too big for most of my fish, and for the ones that tried to eat them, they spit them out at first and later kept attacking them until they were bite sized enough to eat them. The blennies broke them up and ate some, and then the gobies would follow behind and eat some of the fragments, while the skilletfish ignored the pellets altogether.

    So, I made the decision to go with flakes in the auto feeder. I had no other choice.

    After returning from my trip, I noticed that all of the fish will eat flakes now. Gobies still eat them with gusto, as do the blennies if they're hungry. If the blennies aren't hungry, they ingest them and sometimes eat some of the "flavors" while spitting out others. Skilletfish will eat flakes at times, but not that much.

    The gobies and blennies all grew and are all fatter than fat. A couple of the gobies grew almost a 1/2" while we were gone (about 10 days), which I thought was amazing.

    Also, I thought that I had only two crabs in the tank, but as it turns out, there are three of them. I've identified two of the crabs as the white-clawed mud crab, a.k.a. the Harris mud crab (Rhithropanopeus harrisii). I'm not sure of the third crab species as it looks different, but, I really haven't had a good look at them. Until now, the crabs have been hiding mostly. Recently, two of them come out during feeding time, and one of those is out foraging even while not feeding. In fact, last night, it was moving all over one of the oyster reef structures all the way to the water's surface.

    From what I've read, they only grow to about an inch or so, and they aren't aggressive toward fish or shrimps. I'd bet they'd eat them if they could catch them, but, so far, I've seen blennies actually land on them and the crabs just move away. They raise their claws if fish near them, but so far, haven't tried to grab any fish. The shrimp seem to be good at avoiding them. I also read that these crabs feast on all types of snails. I don't have snails in my tank at the moment, but if I add them, these will have to be stocked often to keep a population of them.

    Here are a couple videos of my tank.

    The first one pretty much follows the largest blenny of the tank:


    I tried to view the tank in general with this video, bouncing from one fish to another:


    Hope you all like them.

  7. #37
    DIYFK member HillbillyHomer's Avatar


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    Click here to enlarge...sweet...Click here to enlarge

  8. #38
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Here is a video of one of my crabs. I think that this crab is the white-clawed mud crab, a.k.a. the Harris mud crab (Rhithropanopeus harrisii). If this is not correct, I'd appreciate the correct ID. (thanks in advance)



  9. #39
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    We discovered a new critter in my 20g long tank. After feeding some frozen brine shrimp, my daughter noticed a worm-like creature, a little over an inch long, swimming around the glass in the front right corner of the tank, about mid depth. At first, I thought it was a chunk of dead sea grass caught in a current eddy, but nope... Upon closer inspection, it was brownish and had a segmented body, with 2 long antennae or head appendages, and a bunch of legs. It resembled a centipede, so I assumed it was some sort of isopod. It was too fast to get a picture. By the time that I had my phone at the ready, it had scurried back into the oyster reef. It was pretty cool.


    Of course, I had some concern about the potential for parasitism, even though I thought it was probably OK (because if it was a fish parasite, then it would have a host by now especially since it was over an inch long). Anyway, I thought it was pretty cool but it freaked the heck out of my daughter.


    After researching on-line, it looks a lot like the on-line pictures of the elongated eelgrass isopod, Erichsonella attenuata. This species, if correctly ID'd, is not a threat for parasitic activity.


    I will try and get pics and see if anyone can confirm the ID.

  10. #40
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    I have an update for my oyster reef "system". The 20g long that started this thread is still going strong, with 6 small striped blennies, 5 small skilletfish, 5 naked gobies, two new juvenile killifish (probably juvenile mummichogs), 3 white-clawed mud crabs, an unidentified harmless isopod, a bunch of grass shrimp, and red macroalgae. All of the fish are fat and healthy. I tried to add three silversides but that didn't work out. They made it home just fine, which is what worried me the most. They were about 2 1/2" long and looked great in the tank, until the 2" clingfish killed and ate the first one. Another one was harrassed by the blennies and died, then devoured by the gobies and a crab. And the last one died of unknown causes during the night, probably killed by the same culprits. The only issue with the tank is that with the heavy bioload and feeding, cyanobacteria growing some pretty large patches. I don't think it looks necessarily bad, but I'd rather have those nutrients consumed by Ulva which hasn't done well in this tank.


    The 20g high tank that I was using as a holding tank is now set up as a display also. I added a large artificial oyster cultch that I built for my large tank so that it could also grow life and additional bacteria needed to cycle my large tank when I set it up, in addition to the sand. This tank seems to grow Ulva pretty well. I have a small hang on back power filter and a bubble sponge filter in the tank, and two garage clamp on light fixtures overhead with LED bulbs. Cheap and simple, but it works. Over the weekend, my daughter and I went collecting again and found some inhabitants for this tank. We added 6 adult blennies, 2 jumbo skilletfish, 5 adult naked gobies, and two mummichogs to the tank. We had one jumbo skilletfish, a live barnacle, a bunch of grass shrimp, and 3 mud crabs in the tank prior to adding these. When rearranging the tank and moving the oyster shells around, I discovered that bloodworms were living in the tank. Awesome! A natural food supply! I also discovered a tunicate that is alive and well, and is growing much faster than I thought that they would. I think that the Ulva is really responding to the heavy bioload. I have a little bit of cyano in the tank and some hair algae, but the macros (Ulva and a red algae) are doing well. The fish have only been in the tank for a few days and are already feeding out of my daughter's hand. All of the fish were eating mysis shrimp the night that we introduced them to the tank. All are fat and healthy.


    Here's a video of the blennies in the 20g high (sorry about the music, I figured it was better than hearing our clothes dryer running):



    The water parameters of both tanks are great. No ammonia, no nitrites and very little nitrate, so the bacteria and algae are doing their job.

  11. #41
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Feeding the 20g high. It's like a fish mosh pit...





  12. #42
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Quick update: the Ulva in the 20g high is doing well. No die off now and seems to be growing. One thing that I noticed that when it dies off, the large "leaves" tend to break apart and get holes in it. That isn't happening in this tank. I'm not sure about the other algae, but it's hanging on. These fish are all tame, almost too tame, because they don't act naturally, always coming to the front for food, even with full bellies after a meal. If I stay still, they kind of forget that I'm there after a while, but if I move or flinch, they come back and chase the glass again. I guess I'll need to build a blind if I want to see them act naturally. What gluttons! But, the good news is that all of the fish are healthy.

    The tunicate is doing well and the barnacle is still alive. I haven't seen any crabs, but I know that three are in there. It is possible that the fish ate them. I guess I'll have to visit the tank at night and view with a red light so I can see what else lives in there that the blennies haven't eaten.

    Here's another feeding video, featuring mostly skilletfish feeding out of my daughter's hand with the others hanging around for dropping morsals.

  13. #43
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Here's another video of my daughter feeding the fish last night. After the chopped clams were devoured, they skilletfish didn't want to leave her hand!



    I'm not sure what's going on with the large killifish. A white spot showed up the other day on its side. Yesterday, it looked a little better and today even better. Perhaps its own immune system is fighting it off? If not, I'd have to find a way to trap that fish and provide treatment.

  14. #44
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    The naked gobies are exhibiting more color than I thought that they ever would. Some of their fins are trimmed with yellow or red (depending on how the light hits them) and also they get dark and the lighter areas between their color bands get bold white dorsally. Also, in these videos, it's easy to see the difference between the male and female blennies. The males have a blue spot on the front of their dorsal fin.


    I figured out a way to get the fish to almost figure out that I'm not there. I need to build a canopy for my lights. For now, the cardboard box that my glass tank top came in fits perfectly as a temporary solution, placed there when I view the fish and removed when I'm done. I'll try and get a non-feeding video today and post it here. The fish tend to settle down and do their thing after feeding time is over, somewhat. They forage, get into territorial disputes, asserting dominance and challenging the pecking order, moving from one oyster shell refuge to another, chasing opponents...and looking for me.


    But for now, here's another feeding video. Hope y'all aren't sick of my thread. I figure that this thread helps document my progress to my larger goal, the 100g tank once set up. This video is amusing because the fish steal the food away from my daughter twice:

  15. #45
    DIYFK member FLDave's Avatar


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    Voracious little buggers aren't they.....Click here to enlarge

  16. #46
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Yes they are Dave! Especially the blennies, who sometimes bite when we are collecting them. The accidentally bite the hand that feeds them sometimes Click here to enlarge

  17. #47
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Not so good update of the 20g high... The tunicate and barnacle died. I'm bummed, but I expected that to happen. The fish are doing well for the most part. The largest killie still shows a spot on its side, but other than that, seems healthy and eating well, with no sign of distress. Both killies looked great until last night when I noticed that them and a few gobies had beat up tails. I watched them for about an hour after feeding to see who the culprit was, but still don't know. They all pick on each other a bit... blennies chase blennies, gobies chase gobies, killies chase killies, skilletfish chase anyone away from their hiding spot, and they all chase each other a little bit. But, none of them seem to do much damage. Well, except for the smallest blenny. I caught it biting a gobies tail, latching on hard and with a ripping motion. So, maybe I found the culprit. None of the fish go into hiding or seem stressed, so I hope everyone heals and moves about their daily routine.


    The grass shrimp numbers are declining. Other than a couple carpet surfers, most of them probably were prey to the fish, although I didn't witness any predation. The crabs are a different story. I never see them, although I know that they are there, because they leave behind their molted shells. I'll have to check the tank at night to see what is going on. I still haven't done that.


    I figured out a way to get them to behave naturally and not beg for food. Feed them. Duh...!!! But, that alone doesn't work because no matter how fat they are, they still beg for more. So, I set up my temporary "canopy" and also set up a DIY blind using shop clamps, a towel, a bungee cord and a hanger. After a couple minutes, they forget that I'm there. In the video linked below, you can see them acting more naturally. That is, until one of them spotted me moving at the end. Also, in the video, I came to realize that my killies might be a pair. Maybe some spawning activity? Hope y'all like it:



  18. #48
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Update: In my 20g high, the largest blenny, that I thought was a female, revealed the blue spot on his dorsal fin, finally. The spot is hidden with a dark border, but when the light hits it right, it glows. That fish doesn't flare his dorsal fin much, at least until recently. He's king of the tank. The next largest blenny doesn't seem to have a spot, so I think that one is a female. The second biggest one doesn't really flare the dorsal too much, so it is hard to tell if a spot is there. The base coloration is totally different than the larger one. Although, there is a bunch of variation between all of the individual specimens. There is another small female, and the rest are males as they display their bright blue spots all the time. None of the blennies have shown any spawning behavior yet. They're pigs. All they want to do is eat. That said, the largest blenny seems to finally hang around one particular oyster shell for long periods, defending it. But, often abandons it in search of food. He chases all fish away from that shell, but it's hard to tell if it is because he is defending the shell, or just showing them all that he is the boss.


    As far as the Ulva in the tank goes, it's doing well. I feed these fish heavily, so there are plenty of nutrients in this tank. That might explain why the sea squirt and barnacle expired. I don't think it was for lack of food, at least this time. I also moved them so I could observe them, possibly upsetting their environmental needs. They were alive and well before I intervened. I performed a water change after testing the water. There was a trace amount of ammonia, some nitrates and 50 ppm or so of nitrates. Out of about 30 grass shrimp in this tank, only about 10 remain at most, maybe less. I think the missing ones have been eaten. A couple jumped out of the tank. The grass shrimp in this tank hide a lot in the Ulva and Gracilaria, for obvious reasons, so it's tough to get a count. In the 20g long, where there are subadults and juvenile fish, the grass shrimp are always out and about.


    It's tough to tell what sex the fish are in the 20g long as those fish don't seem to have any spot on the dorsal, but they're still a big small, I think. Maybe they haven't developed that coloration yet? A friend of mine who is an expert on Chasmodes says that they develop the spot early in life. If that is true, then my 20g long most likely the fish in that tank are all female. I performed a water change and cleaned out a bunch of cyano. Water parameters were zero for ammonia and nitrite, 30 ppm for nitrates. There are at least 8 grass shrimp out of about a dozen that I placed in there. I know of one jumper, the others may have been eaten.


    The killifish seem to do a courtship wiggle or dance often. I don't know if they've deposited eggs or not. I haven't seen it happen nor have I seen any on the vegetation, although with the appetite of those fish, I doubt they'd last long enough for me to see them.

  19. #49
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    More observations:


    I learn something about their behavior each day. I had some doubts about keeping this many benthic species in a limited environment (even 100 gallons). But, what I've learned are the following:


    - If the fish can handle the nutrient load of feeding them, then they seem to "get along" just fine. They do chase each other, even a little fin nipping. But, the picked on seem to heal up fast, and sometimes fight back. After they get chased, they don't hide in a corner of the tank or behind a filter, they go about as if nothing happened. This is true for all of the species in the tank.


    - After my last collecting trip, all of the blennies and gobies came from one oyster box that is smaller than my 20 gallon tank. I'd say that they can get along just fine in a small tank environment based on that alone. I read so many posts about people worried about multiple blennies in a tank. I suspect that it depends on each species, but these are pretty aggressive carnivorous blennies, and with enough specimens to "spread the love", nobody gets picked on more than the others.


    - Lots of hiding spots is the key, including good escape routes. These escape routes can be crevices in rock (in my case, between oysters in the cultch), through a mat of macroalgae, or within a hiding spot.


    - Sometimes when a blenny gets chased, it simply spins does a lap around an oyster shell enough times that the fish doing the chasing either gives up or loses interest.


    - Skilletfish are fearless. But, I'd say that all of them are not really afraid of each other.


    - I was worried about mud crabs being a threat to the fish. After watching them around the fish, I no longer fear that as an issue. Blennies, gobies and skilletfish often land on them with no reaction from the crab, except sometimes they shoo the fish away with a claw, but do not try to pinch the fish.


    - Grass shrimp live much longer in these tanks than I ever imagined. I thought that they'd be all eaten within a week. I'm pleased about that.

  20. #50
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Quick update:


    Both tanks seem to have an increase in itching/scratching behavior. I don't see any visible parasites, but that doesn't mean they aren't there. It's hard to get a good look at them anyway because they move around so much. In fact, I'd say that there likely have been parasites in these tanks all along. All of the fish have scratched a little since the beginning. It's just more frequent now. So, what to do.


    My assumption is that the culprit is Cryptocaryon irritans simply because freshwater ich doesn't seem to tolerate any salinity. From what I've read, C. irritans doesn't care for freshwater, so my initial plan is to reduce the salinity and perform a long term hyposalinity treatment.


    Currently, the sg is 1.016. I plan to reduce it to about 1.009 and keep it that way for several weeks for each tank. I'd like to have these fish healthy by the time I get the big tank set up.


    These fish are very hardy, so I don't anticipate any problems. The shrimp should be OK, as they are commonly caught at a lesser salinity than what I'm doing. My guess is that the mud crabs will be OK too, but I'm not 100% sure. I doubt the Ulva will make it through the process, but we will see.

  21. #51
    DIYFK member HillbillyHomer's Avatar


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    i hope it works.

  22. #52
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Last night, I dropped the sg from 1.015 to 1.010 in the 20g high, since that tank had the most scratching. The fish behavior changed big time in many ways. First, all of the blennies and gobies went into hiding, including one blenny that spent the night against the glass at the filter intake. All of the other blennies hid in oyster shells. The skilletfish either hid or stuck to the glass, not much different than before. The killifish pretty much behaved the same and even kept feeding.


    I think that it had an immediate effect on the parasites, maybe not killing them, but agitating them because all of the fish scratched even more than before (and that was a lot of scratching before). I have no proof of that other than watching the fish behavior.


    This morning, nothing changed, all of the fish still hiding and the killies doing the same thing. I was a bit concerned about dropping it too fast that I might have hurt the fish. So, this morning, I tried to feed them thinking that if they perked up and ate, all should be OK, and if not...not sure what I'd do.


    So, I fed them a block of frozen mysid shrimp. All of the fish perked up and ate, and many of them took the food right from my hand. They foraged a bit and then they went back to hiding.


    The grass shrimp seem unaffected.


    So, I'll continue at this sg for a week and I might drop it one more point if all goes well.

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