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Another 'ex' salty returns to the fold.

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Freedom Dwarf

Another couple of days have passed.....

The clowns are picking at some of the Caulerpa - some of which is beginning to grow, other bits are still green but not showing much promise.

Still no sign of Jack yet. I'll have to give the tank a good rake through and clean when I do a water change and hopefully wake him up or find a body.

Lara the BCS has lost her right claw in a moult yesterday. Maybe something disturbed her and she threw it off in defense. lol. Anyways, she is growing another stump and she might just have another claw on the next moult with a bit of luck.

Dipstick (our HSC) has finally shed the last bit of shell by her Telson! It's been quite an ordeal for her and taken the best part of 8-10 weeks from start to finish and I'm sure some of that has been quite painful for her.
With our regular hand feeding I'm hoping she'll pick up a bit more now.... we'll just have to wait and see.

I think I'll do another 30% water change at the weekend and clean up some of the algae off the rocks so it looks a bit cleaner. I'm also going to rake the gravel in search of Jack and hoover up some of the debris that gets kicked up.

It must have got cold last night - I actually saw the heater come on briefly!!
At least I know it still works! lol.


YOU'RE MAD!!!!!!!!! LMAO, well done so far matey! You're breaking loads of the so called 'rules' & getting away with it! I used to have a system 20 'odd' years ago the same as yours with undergravel filter (no live rock 'cos I hadn't heard of it!!), I had Clown & Picasso Triggers, Longnose & Copperband Butterflies a Powderblue (which never EVER got whitespot!!) a Radiata Lionfish plus various damsels & a Cleaner Wrasse (thrown in for good measure!). Everything lived well & lasted until I sold the lot (toooooo much whinging from my 'EX' wife, thank god my present wifes totally different!). The only thing I'd be worried about is the temperate nature of your locally sourced 'stuff'!

Andi [thumbup.gif]

diver 807

very interesting read ,I kept marines about 25yrs ago using your system but had so many losses I gave up.started again dec 2008 ,and so far all ok.using the berlin method

Freedom Dwarf

Just a short update -

I am sorry to report that despite our best efforts to hand feed our horseshoe crab she was found dead at the bottom of the tank yesterday morning. [sad.gif]

We couldn't see anything obviously wrong with her but she was definitely dead.
She fed well on Sunday evening so it was quite a shock to find her body on Monday morning.

As Tim has said in another thread, these are difficult critters to keep and it may be something as simple as lipids or other essential things missing from her diet.
I don't know if we'll buy another one just yet - I think I might have to read up a bit more on HSC diets but so far I haven't found much outside the commercial side of things.

And we still haven't found Jack!! [confused1.gif]

Freedom Dwarf

Another day has gone by so I decided to do a water change.....

We cleaned up some of the coral and rocks and we carefully checked every nook & cranny and sifted through the sand but we can't find any sign of Jack at all. I can only assume that he either disintegrated or the river shrimp picked him clean when he died.
I have to assume he died as we haven't seen him for nearly 2 weeks now and there's no sign of him anywhere [sad.gif]

Another casualty to add to the list.

Freedom Dwarf

Quickie update -

Our BCS has moulted and is now sporting a nice new claw and ready to take on the world! :))

Sweep, the green monster (brittle star), has taken to sunbathing on top of the corals instead of hiding underneath them during the day. It's been doing that the last few days... I wonder why? They are supposed to be nocturnal and its always been one for coming out at night or at feeding times.
I have no idea why its doing it during the day now. [w00t.gif]

Apart from that, everything is hunky-dory and doing fine. [thumbup.gif]

Freedom Dwarf

Another week has gone by with no really nasty things to report.
The tank is doing well - even in this heat wave we're having.

The purple & black feather worm has re-grown its lovely crown and although its only half what it was at the moment it's certainly good to see it recovering so well.

I'm happy to report that the Caulerpa (both the flat-leaf and feather varieties) appear to be growing at long last. I guess a lot of that is due to having a little Nitrate and phosphate in the water column and having the lights on for 12-16 hours a day.
Some of the periwinkles are cleaning the algae off the rocks with surprising efficiency!

Just out of interest, I have never used LR and don't have any in my tank as yet and don't really plan on buying any. Apart from the natural inhabitants and bacteria of the very porous rock, what else makes it so special? I have natural rocks (white coral skeleton) in my tank and that is now 7 months 'matured'... so does that mean that it'll eventually 'evolve' into the equivalent of LR? After all, it'll be teeming with bacteria inside and out and it has algae growing on it..... so, apart from some small critters (good and bad) that might come with LR, isn't it the same thing? If not, can someone explain to me in very simple English why it isn't?

I was toying with the idea of adding a Regal Tang to the group but I think I'll do a bit more experimenting first (more about that in a minute).
Instead of that, I looked into getting a Porcupine fish. I've had one before and it wasn't a problem; but in those days my tank was much much bigger and he had lots of room. This time round I only have a small 220 litre tank and doing a bit more research I think one of those is not appropriate for this setup. They can grow quite big and they like crunching on mollusks and corals and shrimps and apparently they often have a taste for starfish. That means I couldn't really keep inverts or corals if I were to have one and I really want to keep a mixed community tank.
So, after a bit more thought, I've decided to get a small group of 5 Chromis, a red starfish and an African Midas Blenny for a splash of colour. With the stock order there are 10 assorted frozen food packs and 500 live river shrimp for food and some nori from the supermarket.

Now.... about the next experiment (yes, another one!). :-:eek:
I've spent more than 12 hours of constant research looking into the Pro's and Con's of the dreaded "Vodka dosing". There are good and bad points as far as I can see and there are merits in it's use. From the hundreds of reports and posts I've read about it, I think I'd like to give it a go and I'll post in here on my progress.
But before I embark upon something quite so drastic, I'm going to arm myself with a shed-load of test kits and a spare 10Kg box of salt just in case I need to do an emergency water change or two if it goes horribly pear-shaped.
My last 'experiment' with using local stock proved quite successful considering what I had in the tank and only the local crabs have been returned unharmed back to their natural habitat. This next experiment is quite dangerous in many respects but seeing as I don't have a reef tank with £000's of corals and LPS/SPS and other very delicate inverts I can 'afford' (and I use the term in its very loosest sense) to have a go with it.
I'm sure many of you out there will follow my progress with intrepidity and horror but once my test kits and my skimmer arrive I'll put it into action. The vodka is arriving with the shopping tomorrow and my skimmer is in the post. It's not an expensive skimmer (change from £16) and because I don't want the hassle of changing the airstones regularly it's an electric venturi type. I know there are much better (and more expensive) skimmers on the market but I have no intention of spending a fortune on kit; I just can't afford to splash out on expensive stuff as I have other more pressing things that take my meagre income like eating and paying the rent! I want to enjoy my hobby, not spend a mortgage or an inordinate amount of my pleasure time just to keep it going - if it ever comes to that, it's time to pack it in! The idea of a hobby is to enjoy it and make it a pleasure to follow; not suck all my time and money into a black hole like a crack/cocaine habit!!
The whole point of this experiment is to run a mixed system in 'bio overload' mode and see if I can make it a success. If it works, it'll save me a small fortune in salt (for water changes) and time and I'm hoping the tank will be a little better to look at because of the numerous inhabitants to view and enjoy.

Unfortunately, the skimmer is coming from Hong Kong so I reckon it could be 2 weeks or more before it gets here. But when it does, I'll be ready to go.

That's this week's blog.

Watch this space!! [thumbup1.gif]

Freedom Dwarf

Thanks for the nudge Chris. [011.gif]
Well that's how this thread started - as an intro and a nubie to TSB.
Perhaps you or another mod can shift the whole thing to another more suitable thread elsewhere?
Would be a shame to break the continuity so far.

I had a thought after I wrote the last blog and had a cuppa, I think it might be a good idea to explain to others what my understanding of the vodka dosing technique is all about and why I'm undertaking such a big risk.
And being a person of few words (who am I kidding??? lol), well, at least uncomplicated words and simple expressions, I might be able to get other people to understand it as well - without all the mumbo-jumbo that frequently gets tangled up in it.
I don't have a BSc in biology or chemistry or anything else for that matter; but I am a fairly well educated person and I do follow programs such as The Open University and I'm quite happy following such manic topics as Quantum Physics, Chaos Theory and other such diverse subjects that include the solar system, marine biology, AI theory & robotics, the animal world, ancient cultures and nucleonic isotopes to name but a few.

So here goes -
As I said in my previous blog, the whole point of this experiment is to run a mixed community system in 'bio overload' mode. And what does this mean exactly?? To me, it means the ability to stock MORE things in my tank (fish & critters) to look at and admire than I could normally expect to keep and doing that with LESS maintenance than it normally would to achieve it! Simple. Or is it??!?
We all know that overloading the bio capacity of your tank/system (ie, too many fish & critters) causes immense problems with very toxic substances such as Ammonia, Nitites, Nitrates and general nasty water conditions that kill our beloved wet pets. We don't mean to do it - its just human nature to cram as much as we can into what space we are using so we can see them all. Too many means it becomes self-poisoning and they die; too few and we wished we put a few more in. Its a catch-22 situation that requires either a very strong will not to overdo it or a LOT of very expensive equipment and damned good husbandry to keep everything in a status quo so as not to tip the balance.
That's where the 'vodka dosing' method comes in - it helps to maintain the balance when we aren't so meticulous with our husbandry or don't have the resources to keep throwing at it or as in my case, want to keep more than you really should without exerting undue stress on our pets. When you read up about it, the subject often devolves into a BA Masters chemistry lesson to explain what's going on so you understand it all so you have half a chance of being successful. I'm willing to bet that more than half of us aquarists get lost in the explanation and as a result we either do it horribly wrong and kill everything or we just can't grasp it and we give up before we've begun.
To try to explain it and what it does, I'm going to attempt to draw an analogy (comparison) with keeping chickens. [002.gif]
A nice good chicken farm lets their chickens run wild in a field and collect what eggs they can find. That's all well and good but you only average about 2 or 3 chickens for every 15-20 square metres and your egg yield is not so impressive. To collect your eggs and feed them is a long walk all over the field. So when you look out over the field it looks very nice and serene but you'll see more grass and fresh air than chickens but you know they are well looked after and they are happy. To keep more chickens you need a bigger field as well as more food for them. This is like the well organised but not overstocked and sensible marine tank - very clean, nice to look at, but not a huge lot to see in the space it takes up.
Take the opposite extreme - the battery hen farm. All the chickens are crammed together in little cages stacked on top of each other in long rows. Easy to feed, easy to wash the cr*p from the concrete floor, hardly a walk to collect loads of eggs and all you see are hundred and hundreds of chickens without even having to look around. Your average is about 15-20 chickens per square metre of space so you've got heaps more chickens in a tiny itty-bitty bit of space. The problem with this is that many many chickens die because they are so overcrowded and they poison themselves by eating their own poop because the ones in the cages above them are cr*pping all over the food the lower ones are trying to eat. This is akin the to overstocked tank that is in bio overload state. The bacteria and various other means we have to filter and clean the water just can't cope with all the waste products from our fish and critters and as a result they often die.
This is a common mistake for beginners and even some who consider themselves quite adapt at keeping (usually freshwater) fish. Marine setups are quite different to coldwater, pond and tropical freshwater fish in very many aspects and quite often where a mistake or overstocking can be overlooked and rectified easily in the freshwater critters it is often a catastrophic and fatal situation for the salty counterparts.
The vodka dosing method is something like picking an in-between situation. Think of it as putting your chickens in a big barn with hay and straw shelves. A lot more chickens per square metre, still lots of eggs and lots of chickens to look at but not so far to walk and a whole lot easier to feed.
This is like being able to keep a whole lot more pets in the same tank, not so many water changes and not such big ones either; overfeeding isn't quite such a big problem and most people who use the vodka method actually encourage a little over-feeding. So your husbandry regime doesn't have to be so strict and certainly nowhere near those who keep a ULNS reef tank.

How does it work??
Without going into reams of chemistry, what is happening in simple terms is you are using vodka to rocket-charge and over-feed your bacterial friends that do all the water cleaning and purifying of your water. When there is plenty of super-rich food all around they multiply exponentially like proverbial rabbits and there's an explosion of bacteria to chomp through all your fish and critter's waste products and so keeping your over-stocked tank pristine clean and there's very little (if anything) left over for algae to grow all over your tank.
Why vodka? Simply put, vodka is a fairly pure distilled liquid and its packed full of organic carbon compounds (ethanol) and free radicals and literally floods your bacteria with food. Almost any alcohol can be used but we use vodka because it's the purest form of the stuff that can be bought cheaply and doesn't add anything else to your tank such as artificial colourings or flavourings that you might find in whiskey or rum or brandy etc.
So why doesn't an over-stocked tank provide the same thing? I had a little trouble understanding the logic behind this one. As far as I can make out, it has a lot to do with timing. For your friendly water-cleaning bacteria to cope with that sort of bio load it takes time for them to adjust to it and multiply to sufficient levels to deal with the crud and by that time your stock has died or reached the point where it is fatal and they can't be saved - its almost identical to cycling a brand new tank. Apparently, by some complex chemical bonding, vodka to our bacterial friends is like being injected with a love potion and then given a sugar rush so they can cope with the extra energy being used and go on a food and sex binge!

The chain reaction is vodka over-feeding our friendly detritus-eating bacteria so they can deal with a substantially big rise in bio load.

There are two parts to setting up this 'vodka dosing' regime.
Just like we do when we judge how much to feed our pets at the beginning, you have to go through a period of several weeks of gradual adjustments so you know how much your particular tank actually needs to cope with your particular bio load - every single tank setup is different. This is done by continuously testing the water by gradually adding very small amounts of vodka daily (usually by 0.1ml) until the bacteria starts to starve itself by population explosion - too many bacteria and not enough detritus to eat.
Then you cut your vodka dose in half and keep monitoring and making small adjustments where necessary until you reach a balance of bacteria to bio load.
It sounds very simple and I guess it is in essence. But like so many things with marine tanks, everything must be done with meticulous caution otherwise it'll be a total disaster and it will more than likely wipe out your tank. As I mentioned before (and I can't stress this enough), every single tank setup is different and has to be dosed, tested and monitored individually. Even if you have two identical tanks, they have to be done separately and independently from each other because the critters in one tank will live and behave quite differently to the critters in the other tank.

If you want to read up on how to dose a marine tank with vodka, try this link written by Nathaniel A. Walton (Genetics) and Matt Bjornson (Stony_Corals) and read about it(http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2008-08/nftt/index.php). It has some good before and after pictures and it was one of the easiest documents to understand. This this dosing method that I will be following in my experiment.
I spent many hours researching this (over 12 hours solid and I read quite fast) and a lot of info came from numerous forums such as ReefCentral.com, ReefKeeping.com, TheReefTank.com, ReefAquariumGuide.com, extreme-aquatics.com and many many others.

To quote something from the beginning of the article in ReefKeeping.com -
"The main purpose to dose organic carbon is the reduction of excess nutrients in the reef aquaria. The two main nutrients reduced from organic carbon addition are nitrate and phosphate molecules (NO3 and PO4 respectfully). The reduction of phosphates, in turn, allows for enhanced calcification and growth of corals. Additionally, lower NO3 and PO4 have the added benefit of reduced nuisance algae, both bubble and hair".... and it goes on from there.

I hope this rather lengthy but simple explanation will tempt others to have a go. I can't vouch for it's success or failure or how easy or hard it is to actually achieve the end results - I liked the end result and that is essentially why I'm willing to take the risk with the little stock that I have.

More to this saga in later episodes...... [drool.gif]


Have copied topic for you into the large tank diary section.

I will lock this topic now so that you do not get confused.

A Warm :-o to TSB
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