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Thread: Chesapeake Bay Oyster Reef Biotope Tank

  1. #1
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Chesapeake Bay Oyster Reef Biotope Tank

    Hi everyone. I have been planning and working on this tank several years until funds became short. I'm in a position now that I can resume this build. It is my dream tank using locally collected species, but I'm trying to duplicate as close as possible an Oyster Reef biotope. I'll post more about how I achieve the build later, but since this is a DIY Decorations section, I thought that I'd start out with what I've done to build the reef. I still need to purchase some equipment, and I can't proceed with setting up the tank until I finish my 75g native stream tank background and roots because I'm using the unfinished stand as a work bench, LOL (works great) Click here to enlarge


    Concept:
    One of my dreams was to duplicate the oyster reef environment of the Chesapeake Bay as best I can without predation. I had a tank and sump built for this a several years back, and almost finished a stand but personal troubles in my life have caused me some delay. The tank is a 101 gallon cube (36"X36"X18"), and the sump/refugium is 36"X18"17". The tank and sump will have live sand from the Chesapeake Bay. I'm shopping for an inexpensive LED that will duplicate lunar cycles, daylight and nighttime lighting transitions and seasonal variances in an attempt to induce spawning behavior. I will not be growing photosynthetic corals in this tank.


    Right now, this will be a fish only tank until the tank is established, then I hope to add a few oysters and perhaps mussels, tunicates, sponges, gorgonians etc. although I realize that I'd have to find some way to supplement feeding. The sump will contain macro algae found in the Bay.


    Animals will be collected from the Bay that live side by side in this environment:
    Several striped blennies (Chasmodes bosquianus) - striped blenny which will be the feature fish of this tank
    Hysoblennius hentzi - feather blenny if I'm lucky enough to catch any
    Naked goby
    Skilletfish
    Hogchoker
    Northern pipefish (will live in the fuge but not until the tank is established)
    Ghost shrimp, hermit crabs, snails, etc. for clean up crew that live in the Bay, both in the tank and sump
    just about any critter that comes in on the rocks (fish will not be introduced for 6 weeks after the tank cycles)
    I may try my luck at some of the other species of fish too eventually, maybe even a spotfin butterfly fish if I'm lucky. Eventually, I'll bring the tank to nearly full salt, but it will be on the saltier side of brackish to start

    Anyway, this video is my latest inspiration for my biotope build:


    The next posts will show how I build the oyster cultches that will form the reef, followed by the near finished product. I still have some finer detail to add, but I have a video showing what it will look like in the tank.

  2. #2
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Here are pics of the tank and sump:
    Click here to enlarge
    Click here to enlarge

  3. #3
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    The first step to making the oyster cultches was to obtain oyster shells. I don't eat them, so I went to restaurants or had friends get them for me. Some restaurants will give them to you. I also bought some from the grocery store and shucked them myself. Either way, depending on how old they are, they will stink as life on them dies off as well as little bits of remaining oyster material decompose. For the oysters that I shucked, I saved the oysters and froze them for future fish food.

    After obtaining the oyster shells, the next step was to divide them by left and right halves and put them in separate containers:
    Click here to enlarge

    Then, the next step is to match the shells up so that the original halves are together. It's a dirty, smelly and tedious task when you have bushels of oyster shells. It's fun to watch TV and do this in the family room, but be prepared when your family members push back about the smell!
    Click here to enlarge

    I used rubber bands to keep them together until it was time to glue them. So, after matching them all up, then it was time to glue them together. My glue of choice was Gorilla Glue. I'd dampen halves with a moist cloth, then run glue around the edges of one halve, then rubber band the entire oyster together, then set that shell aside for the glue to dry and then on to the next shell:
    Click here to enlarge
    Click here to enlarge

    As it turns out, blennies prefer spawning in empty shells with a specific gap that happens to be about the same width of a clothes pin. I glued a bunch of shells like this to provide lots of hiding and breeding spots:
    Click here to enlarge
    Click here to enlarge

    After gluing all of the shells together, it was time to glue them into cultches. I used PVC pipe to form a structure to glue to for the larger cultches. This turned out to be more challenging than I first thought, because you still have to make it look realistic, not so random that it looks fake, but not so organized that it looks fake. And, they don't necessarily fit together like puzzle pieces. Still, although frustrating at times, it was fun. It took a lot of time to do this. Like I said in another thread, it isn't so fun waiting for glue to dry!
    Click here to enlarge

    Note: I decided in the end not to use the egg crate box as structure...
    Click here to enlarge

  4. #4
    DIYFK member FLDave's Avatar


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    "Outside the Box"............I love it......Click here to enlarge

  5. #5
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    My workbench was actually my tank stand covered in wax paper to keep the glue off of it. The stand still needs to be finished, but for the time being, I'm using it as a workbench again to build my 75 gallon stream tank background and roots. Once I'm done with that project, then I'll finish the stand and set up the tank. The surface of the tank stand on it's side is 36"x36", the same dimensions as the tank bottom. So, you can get an idea of how I built the aquascape a piece at a time. The measuring tape is 18" tall, the height of the tank:
    Click here to enlarge

    A bucket of matched and glued oyster shells, ready to be fitted and glued to the reef cultches:
    Click here to enlarge

    Progress:
    Click here to enlarge
    Click here to enlarge

    And the reef is just about done. All I need to do now is add some finishing touches, like a few mussel clusters, a couple clams, etc.
    Click here to enlarge

  6. #6
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Here is a video of what it will look like in my tank. As I said before, imagine the plywood as the tank bottom and the measuring tape showing the tank height:


    Thanks for following. I'll share details on the rest of the build later as I progress. First, I need to finish the 75g FW background so I can finish my stand and stop using it as a workbench, LOL.

  7. #7
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by FLDave Click here to enlarge
    "Outside the Box"............I love it......Click here to enlarge
    Click here to enlarge Thank you Dave!

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    DIYFK member HillbillyHomer's Avatar


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    Click here to enlarge

    Click here to enlarge... You dont eat oysters...Click here to enlarge

  9. #9
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by HillbillyHomer Click here to enlarge
    Click here to enlarge

    Click here to enlarge... You dont eat oysters...Click here to enlarge
    Click here to enlarge Well, I can eat them fried. But steamed or raw ones have the texture of snot (yuck), make me wanna blehhhh... Click here to enlarge

  10. #10
    DIYFK member FLDave's Avatar


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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Chasmodes Click here to enlarge
    Click here to enlarge Well, I can eat them fried. But steamed or raw ones have the texture of snot (yuck), make me wanna blehhhh... Click here to enlarge

    Click here to enlargeClick here to enlarge

  11. #11
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Update. I've ordered most of my equipment except plumbing supplies and should have them within a week or so.

    • Current: Maxspect XF230 Gyre Generator Flow Pump with Advanced Controller
    • Return Pump: Sicce Syncra Silent 3.0 Multifunction Aquarium Pump (714 GPH)
    • Lighting: EcoTech Marine Radion XR30w G4 Pro LED Light Fixture
    • New test kits
    • RO/DI five stage from The Filter Guys

  12. #12
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    While I'm working on getting this tank set up, I set up and cycled a 20g long. I added some of my smaller oyster cultch structures and some shell material for the bottom. I was worried about how the Gorilla Glue would look that I used to bind the oysters into the cultches, but actually, while underwater, I like the look. It almost looks like a bryozoan colony Click here to enlarge

    This tank now houses 5 small gobies, 2 striped blennies, and 3 skilletfish as well as a bunch of ghost shrimp and Ulva macroalgae. Oh, and one tiny hitchhiker rock crab. Everything in this tank will eventually move into the bigger tank. Anyway, here's a full tank shot and a short video of one of the blennies:

    Click here to enlarge

    Here's the striped blenny, Chasmodes bosquianus:

  13. #13
    DIYFK member Warfie's Avatar


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    Excellent job! Thanks for documenting the process so skillfully too!

  14. #14
    DIYFK member booth2010's Avatar


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    I like the build so far. IDK if you have use the Sicce Syncra Silent pumps before but they are amazing. I used the 3.5 on my 40 breeder reef tank for a year and am using it for a DIY 5g canister filter now for my 110.

  15. #15
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Thanks guys!

    Ryan, I own the Sicce Syncra Silent 3.0 pump and will be employing it as my return pump from the sump to my 100g display tank. I haven't tried it yet, but my research leading me to the purchase convinced me that it was the way to go.

    For this tank, if I need more filtration, I'll add a sponge filter, but so far, everthing seems find. Ammonia and nitrite were zero last night, nitrate at 50 ppm. I think the Ulva will bring that down to zero soon. The microalgae has been disappearing since I added the Ulva, so I'm pretty sure that the Ulva is outcompeting the microalgae. I've been keeping up my water changes and will continue to do so until the tank is well established. By then, it will be time to move these critters to their new home and convert this tank to another species tank (either pipefish/seahorses or sticklebacks).

    What is weird is that I feed pretty sparingly, but the fishes bellies are stuffed! I added some live mud to the system along with the Ulva, so maybe they gorged on micro foods from that stocking?

  16. #16
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    I added more oyster shells that I collected to the structure. They're complete shells (left and right halves) still connected, and fit perfectly in the nooks and crannies of my structure, and provide a ton more hiding spots. I also added 2 more tiny blennies to the system. Because of the added hiding spots, there is a lot less agression between the blennies, almost to the point that they tolerate each other and sometimes hang out in the same oyster shell together...at least until the more dominant one shoos the other off. I also added some sea grass (I think widgeon grass, but haven't ID'd it yet).

    Video:


    Full tank shot:
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails IMG_7897.JPG  

  17. #17
    DIYFK member FLDave's Avatar


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    BeautifulClick here to enlarge

  18. #18
    DIYFK member HillbillyHomer's Avatar


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    Click here to enlargeClick here to enlarge

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    DIYFK member Meep's Avatar


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    That turned out great... I love how it just looks like an empty scaped tank initially, then the random fish moves, then another, then another...

  20. #20
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Thank you Meep. Initially, I wanted to put at least one fish to occupy the mid to upper part of the water column and not have all benthic species. But, you're right, there's no lack of activity, so I think that I'll wait on that until I move everything to the larger tank.

    If I'm lucky enough to catch a tropical stray, perhaps a spotfin butterflyfish or a juvenile striped burrfish, then I'll add that to my species list for the larger tank. I considered adding a stickleback to this tank, but have read that they're very aggressive. Since I've never kept a stickleback, I think that I'll pass on them for this biotope and maybe keep them in this tank after the change over. Maybe make a species tank for a few of them.

    I can't wait for work to end every day now so I can go home and watch my fish Click here to enlarge

  21. #21
    DIYFK member Stryf's Avatar


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    nice work, looks good.
    2300 Gal pond: 7 Koi, 2 Goldfish, 2 Catfish
    125 Gal: 1 Reticulated Stingray, 2 Bala Shark, 3 Neon Tetra, 1 Glo Fish, and several guppies.

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    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    I had about at least 15 grass shrimp in my tank and the number seems to be about half of that now. I saw the largest blenny attack and kill a small grass shrimp this past Wednesday just after I approached the tank. These fish are well fed. What I've noticed is that these fish recognize me as providing food and become very active, almost to the point of a feeding frenzy, when they pretty much attack anything that moves. It's not just the blennies, but all of the species seem to do this. Well, before I could drop any food in there, one of the small grass shrimp became a quick meal, killed by the biggest blenny but ultimately swallowed whole by a thieving skilletfish.

    Well, yesterday, it happened again. I didn't capture the crime in progress, but I did manage to film all of the fish conspiring in the cover up to hide the evidence:


    I also have some pics of some fish that I caught last week. These are larger adult striped blennies that are currently in a 20g high aquarium.
    Click here to enlarge

    Click here to enlarge

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    This striped blenny and skilletfish shared this oyster shell for about an hour without incident. In my other tank, that doesn't happen much. I'm sure if they were breeding it would be a different story:
    Click here to enlarge

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    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Here's another video of my fish feeding on the grass shrimp that they killed. At first, I wasn't going to publish and post this video, but I watched it again this morning and thought that it was pretty cool.

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    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Last night I took a few more pics focusing on the "other life" that is appearing.


    This colony of hydroids (I think) is growing on the right side glass back in the corner of the tank. It started out as a small star shape and is now about an inch across. There was another one early on that I scraped off of the back of the tank, not knowing what it was, then this one appeared:
    Click here to enlarge


    Shot of the corner of the tank:
    Click here to enlarge


    There are hydroids growing all over this widgeon grass, and a pretty long flowing colony shown by the arrow, with a naked goby photobombing my effort:
    Click here to enlarge


    The fish perch all over this grass and don't seem bothered at all by the hydroids. The blennies seem to pick at them when they're browsing for food. I don't think hydroids are their favorite food, but they sometimes spit them out and sometimes ingest them.

    This blenny was photobombing my attempt to capture a good shot of the long flowing hydroid. The picture of him looked too cool not to post Click here to enlarge

    Click here to enlarge


    I don't know that this is. I doubt they're hydroids because I don't see tentacles or polyps. Maybe bryozoans or macroalgae? Anyone know? They're popping up on some of the oyster shells that I recently introduced.
    Click here to enlarge

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    DIYFK member Meep's Avatar


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    I can't help with any of the hitchhikers as I don't have much experience myself, but they do fascinate me...

  26. #26
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    As long as the hitchhikers are harmless, I love to see them grow and fill out the tank. My goal is to move my biotope more toward an ecosystem as time progresses as much as possible. I can spend hours watching my fish, but when you add tons of other life in the tank, it's even more interesting.

    Someone on another forum thought that what I think are hydroids could actually be bryozoans too. That would explain why the fish perch on them and aren't bothered by them in the least.

  27. #27
    DIYFK member HillbillyHomer's Avatar


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    Click here to enlarge Originally Posted by Chasmodes Click here to enlarge
    My goal is to move my biotope more toward an ecosystem as time progresses as much as possible. I can spend hours watching my fish, but when you add tons of other life in the tank, it's even more interesting.
    Click here to enlargeClick here to enlargeClick here to enlargeClick here to enlarge

  28. #28
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    I took a couple interesting videos. Hope you like them.

    Feeding frenzy:


    Skilletfish Antics:

  29. #29
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    Here's a blenny pic for today. This is the largest striped blenny in the 20g long tank. It's grown almost a half inch in the last month and is almost 2" long now:
    Click here to enlarge

  30. #30
    DIYFK member Chasmodes's Avatar


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    I've got quite a few changes. First, in the 20g long, I added some red algae and it looks great. Also, the widgeon grass that I put in last time didn't root, so I tossed it. I brought some more home that had some roots and planted it, so we will see. I meant to bring home some substrate but didn't do that. I caught 7 more blennies, kept the three smallest and added them to the tank. I also added more oyster shells to create more hiding places for the additional blennies. I also added more grass shrimp.


    Here is one of the blennies that I brought home:
    Click here to enlarge



    Here's a FTS of the 20g long:
    Click here to enlarge



    The red macro and the new widgeon grass:
    Click here to enlarge



    In the 20g high, I gave away all of the fish. I did, however, bring home the biggest skilletfish that we've caught yet and added it to this tank. It is currently the only fish in the tank, hanging out with a bunch more grass shrimp and three hitchhiker crabs. I also added a big bunch of the red macro and a bunch of Ulva.


    This is the jumbo skilletfish in my photo tank that I brought home and put in the 20g:
    Click here to enlarge



    Here's a really good view of the specialized fins that the skilletfish (and clingfish) have that allows them to use suction to grip oyster shells, glass, and even fingers Click here to enlarge
    Click here to enlarge



    Here's a current look of the 20g high:
    Click here to enlarge

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