Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Marine diary chapter seven

Maldives Clownfish, Amphiprion nigripes
Maldives Clownfish, Amphiprion nigripes

After finally getting the Grape Caulerpa in the tank, it was time to once again wait to see what happens in the tank. At this point the tank has been up and running about 4 to 4.5 months and I was extremely tired of harvesting the hair algae from the tank. The Green Chromis and Yellow Tailed damsels were doing well and I was enjoying watching them swimming around in the tank. Up until this point everything seemed to be running smoothly in the tank except hair algae and since I had dealt with it for so long, it was beginning to despair that I would never see the end of the horrible stuff.

Around this time, I began to notice that there were some really interesting things popping out of my live rock here and there. Much to my delight I saw a few small feather dusters with white caps starting to show up here and there in the tank. I would spend hours looking around the tank to see how many there were. I believe I counted close to a dozen on the rocks and wondered what to do with them. What did they eat? Are they good or bad for the tank? The books that I had didn't really have all that much information on these neat little creatures. The closest thing I could find was a bit of information on their larger relatives the Hawaiian feather duster. I found out they were filter feeders and ate small particles of food that float around in the tank.

Fearing that these poor creatures would starve in my tank, since I couldn't see anything floating around in the tank, I went to the LFS to see what kind of food was available for these small creatures. Much to my delight, I found a Kent product called "Micro-Vert" This consisted of mostly green water and fine phytoplankton particles designed for use with filter feeding inverts. Great! This was just what my creatures needed.

It was at this point that I began to have this sneaky suspicion that going to the LFS was starting to become a bad idea. They had so many animals on display and such a wonderful variety of Marine fish that I wanted to take them all home with me! While browsing the marine section I spotted this absolutely wonderful, brilliantly coloured pair of Percula Clownfish. I instantly fell in love with them and just had to have them. The water parameters in my tank were within all the tolerable limits, they had been fairly steady for the past month so I figured and most importantly, the cycle was complete. I figured it would be safe to add a couple more fish to the tank, so I flagged done a member of the staff to find out if Jake was in, but unfortunately he was on vacation for the next couple of weeks. The sent me to the person who was temporarily in charge of the Marine section and I asked him for the Clowns. He asked me how long my tank had been up and running and if I was having any problems with ammonia or nitrite. I replied that the tank had been running for over 4 months and that there haven't been any signs of ammonia or nitrite for over a month. He was satisfied with the answer, bagged up my two new charges and off to the cash I went.

When I got home I slowly acclimatized my new clowns and while those were being acclimatized, I decided to feed the feather dusters some of the Micro-Vert I had just picked up. Now I found the instructions on the label a little bit vague basically saying feed as required! Having never feed feather dusters before, I found it a little difficult to know what was required in the first place. I decided to play it safe and only added a few tiny drops to the tank and see how everything reacted. The feather dusters had been in the tank over 4 months now and I hadn't feed them anything until then, so I figured they didn't really need all that much to go on.

When I added those few drops of the Micro-Vert, my tank just came alive! I had creatures coming out of the rocks like I never believed possible and most of them were worms and small crawling bugs of some sort. I had no idea what these things were and why there were so many of them in the tank and if they should even be there or not! This is definitely not what I expected! I nearly went into a panic because suddenly my tank seemed infested with bugs and I had two brand new fish nearly acclimatized for the tank. Do I still add the fish? Do I try to get rid of some of these bugs? Why did they suddenly come out of the rocks now of all times? Why couldn't they have done this before I had gone to the LFS?

Ok, time to step back and think calmly for a moment. I had a cold water tank for a number of years prior to setting up this tank. I had played in ponds and gathered numerous bugs to feed to my cold water fish without any problems. Although I hadn't seen any bugs like the worms and crawly things that came out of the rocks, I did know that there were always some sort of life in lakes and ponds that the fish use as a food source. So, after thinking things threw a while, I decided that these bugs could stay in the tank at least until I knew a little more about them. In the name of research though (AKA another trip to the LFS) I figured that I should attempt to collect a couple of the different types of bugs as samples for my research efforts. It'll be a lot easier showing someone one of these creatures then trying to describe it!

Once I decided to collect a sample of the life that was oozing out of the rock, I quickly got a spare container I had from the kitchen and reached for the net. I quickly found out that thinking about gathering a couple samples was a lot easier said then done! The crawling things disappeared instantly and I quickly gave up on those. However I still had a chance with the worms. They were crawling on the rock and it was nearly impossible to try to catch them with a net, so in my hand went and I grabbed one of the nice big bright red worms!

The best advice I can give is ?Do NOT attempt this stunt at home!? It felt like my hand and arm was instantly lit on fire! Those small innocent looking creatures pack a nasty punch! After hopping around the apartment for a little while cursing and trying my hardest not to cry too loudly, I ran to the medicine cabinet and got out some strong disinfectant (iodine based) and proceeded to soak my hand in it for a while. I can't tell you how much time went by before the pain started to abate, but it seemed like an eternity! Whatever you do, do NOT pick up bright red worms! They hurt! I mean a lot!

Needless to say, I abandoned my attempt to gather a couple of those worms and if they were a bad thing for the tank, then that was just too darn bad! There was no way I was going to attempt to remove them again. I released the clowns into the tank. At this point my enthusiasm for watching the tank was forgotten and the clowns had to fend for themselves for that day. I hoped they would be all right, but my mind was a little preoccupied with pain. I turned the lights out on the tank and spent the rest of the day soaking my hand in iodine.

Later I found out that the worm I had attempted to pick up was aptly called a Fire worm. They are not extremely common in a marine tank, but the odd time you get lucky. There are traps that can be purchased and I would highly recommend they be used. They are one of the most potent bristle worms that you can find and under no circumstances should it ever be touched. The best treatment for such a sting would be to us ammonia to kill the bristles and to put your hand in the hottest water you can stand for as long as you can stand it. This will kill the bristles and prevent them from working further into the skin then they already are.

Since then, I have accidentally touched some other types of bristle worms in my tank and most of them don't hurt very much. The most common worms I have in my tank feel like you have a bur on you skin and a slight tingling but nothing that can't be dealt with. Use caution when you touch stuff in your tank! A lot of marine life contains some sort of toxin and you never know how you are going to react. In all honestly I should have went to the doctors for treatment. There are some lessons you do not want to learn the hard way! I have no idea what happened to that worm, as I haven't seen it in the tank since, nor do I really wish to dig around to find out!

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