Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Marine diary chapter ten

Feather Duster, Notaulax sp
Feather Duster, Notaulax sp

After the brief encounter with the blue Devil, I decided that it was time for me to expand my horizons and attempt to keep something completely different in my tank. I figured since I didn't have much success with choosing a new fish for the tank, I was going to attempt to keep some feather dusters. I found them to be interesting creatures, and all the literature I found said they were extremely easy to keep. The LFS had a nice selection of them in and I picked out two nice big ones with colourful feathers. One had a nice black and while pattern and the other was a reddish brown that gradually changed to black the closer to the mouth of the duster it got. I asked around a bit to find out how to keep them, and everyone assured me that I should just burry the tube in the substrate and leave them alone.

I brought the new tubeworms home with me and acclimatized them like I would any other invert and then buried the tube with the end of it sticking out of the crushed coral. After a couple hours, the worms started to emerge from the tube and every time they stuck their crown out, one of my fish decided to investigate and the worm would promptly retreat back into its tube. Having just had problems with aggression in the tank I began to seriously wonder if I made yet another poor choice of inhabitants and was considering the possibility that I would have to return yet another creature to the LFS. I decided to wait it out a while longer since the fish weren't actually harassing the feather dusters, they merely appeared curious to see what these new creatures in the tank were. I decided to leave everyone alone overnight and in the morning if the feather dusters still couldn't come out of their tubes without having some fish startle them once again I would return them to the LFS and be happy with what I already had in the tank to date.

Much to my delight, the next morning the feather dusters were showing their plumage and weren't even startled by the fish swimming by. I was very happy with the new additions and enjoyed watching the tubeworms popping in and out of the tubes throughout the day. It's amazing how quickly they can retract into the tubes when startled!

Everything was going smoothly in the tank, water quality was still pretty good with the exception that the nitrates were slowly rising and I figured that I would have to make a larger water change to get the levels down to levels within the more acceptable 20 to 30ppm range. By this time I decided that although the caulerpa added interesting plant-like growth to the tank, it wasn't nearly as good of a nitrate reducer as the hair algae was, but at least it was a lot more manageable. By this time the people at the water store were beginning to wonder about the 15 gallons of water I would go through each week. When it was time to do the larger water change I purchased my usual 15 Gallons of water, brought it home, emptied it into the salt mixing container and proceeded back to the water store to refill my water jugs once again. When the clerk saw me back for another 15 Gallons of water within 20 minutes of leaving the store, her curiosity got the best of her and asked if I was having a party or something at home since I already went through so much water. I told her that I was using the water for my fish tank and she looked at me like I had lost it! I began to explain about the hair algae problem I had in the tank, the contaminants found in regular tap

water and how some of these things affect marine life. As I was having an intelligent conversation with her comparing the quality of water from our tap, in the oceans and in my aquarium it slowly dawned on me that 6 months ago I wouldn't have been able to tell you what the salinity in the ocean was let alone any other water parameter. I was overcome with an awesome feeling of pride realizing what I had already learnt from my tank. Since there wasn't anyone else in the store at the time and I obviously was interested in the water that I was purchasing for my tank, the clerk took me into the back room and showed me the different systems she had installed for just RO water, RO/DI water and the water distiller. She briefly explained how each of the systems worked, the advantages and disadvantages to the different systems.

The first unit I saw was the distiller and was impressed with it since it was suppose to give 100% pure water, however there was a slight downside to the system since it used copper cooling coils to change the steam back into water. Since the steam is in such a pure state that it ran the risk of dissolving copper into the water form the cooling coils. I didn't like that idea and thought it was too risky since everything I have read about marine tanks indicated exactly how toxic copper is to marine life.

Next we went to the RO system and I found out that the quality of RO water varied as the pre-filters and membrane aged. With a new membrane and new filters you can get water that is about 95% pure and that she changed the pre-filters every month and membrane once a year. The waste water to good water ratio on the large systems that are commonly found in water specialty stores get about a 2.5:1 ratio of waste water to good water compared to the 4:1 ratio of smaller home sized units.

She explained to me that the DI part of the system wasn't used all that often unless someone specifically asked for it since it's not a good idea to drink RO/DI water on a regular basis. However the DI portion of the water is able to remove a lot more contaminates that can make it through the RO process giving you 95% to 99% pure water and she thought since I was concerned about water quality in my tank I should consider using the RO/DI water instead. I inquired about the additional cost and found out it was only an extra 50cents so I decided to switch to RO/DI thinking the better the water before adding salt, the better off it would be for my tank.

Back at home I proceeded with a large water change in the tank, then called a friend up (who doesn't have any interest in aquariums whatsoever) and enthusiastically proceeded to tell him all about my exciting trip to the water store and everything that I learned about water quality. He patiently waited until I was finished my excited retelling of the trip then calmly stated "That's nice!" in that tone of voice someone uses when they think the other person is completely nuts but doesn't really want to offend them! That's when I realized that I took my hobby to a whole new level, I was becoming one of those people who bored others to tears talking about something that has little to no meaning or interest to anyone else and only another fish keeper could understand!

After hanging up the phone with my friend who just couldn't understand my interest in these little facets of this wonderful hobby that have seemingly no relevance to everyday life, I decided to entertain myself by feeding the feather dusters. Since I wasn't certain if I had enough food floating around in the water column for the feather dusters to live on, I decided to attempt to target feed them with the Microvert that I had got for the smaller feather dusters on the rocks. I filled a long pipette with some of the Microvert and attempted to slowly move as close to the worms? mouth as possible to squirt some food at it. After a few failed attempts of the worms suddenly retracting, I was able entice them out of their tubes and was able to squirt a little bit of the food towards them. Much to my delight, they responded by stretching towards the food and then rapidly retracting back into the tube. After a few minutes they would come back out until I squirted a bit more food towards them once again. I think I got a little carried away that first time and used a lot more food in the tank then I should have, but it was awesome watching the worms feeding that I couldn't stop myself! It was so interesting to watch!

Michelle's Marine Diary
By Michelle Stuart

Chapter - one:
Making a start.

Chapter - two:
Finally set up,

Chapter - three:
Cycling the tank,

Chapter - four:
Oh no, algae.

Chapter - five:
The importance of acclimatizing

Chapter - six:
Making some adjustments

Chapter - seven:
The rocks are alive

Chapter - eight:
They're just sleeping!!!

Chapter - nine:
Just one more fish

*Chapter - ten:
Pure water

Chapter - eleven:
War is declared

Chapter - twelve:
The art of skimming