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Florida/TWA Biotope stocking questions - 02/08/2019
Hello Crew! Hope this email finds you well.
I am in the planning stages of a Florida/TWA seagrass meadow and patch reef biotope tank. I'd like to get the details and stocking selection done before starting to buy the equipment to help this go more smoothly and avoid impulse decisions.
<Good idea.>
The tank will be in the 65-75 gallon range. There will be a seagrass "meadow" (Thalassia) on one side of the tank, and a patch reef on the other side. I'll be getting South Florida and Tampa Bay aquacultured live rock for the patch reef, especially since this is the only way to get stony corals from this area. Then I will also add (as needed) gorgonians, Ricordea, Discosoma carlgreni, Zoas, and a selection of macroalgae including calcareous macroalgae that will grow "rooted" in the substrate.
<"as needed" - ? Why would any of these be "needed?" And with respect to gorgonians, I would not recommend them. They are very difficult to keep, especially in smaller systems.>
And some shrimp, snails, etc. as cleanup crew, and several rock flower anemones (Epicystis crucifer). I will also be seeding the tank with pods, copepods, live mysids, etc.
As you know, the seagrass requires a very deep sandbed. I'm planning on at least 9 inches deep.
So I figured with a sand bed that deep, it would be good to put in fish who can take advantage of this.
<Not necessarily and not initially.>
First fish in will be a small group (3-4) of Jawfish, either Pearly, Blueheaded, or Dusky juveniles. They will be the only fish for at least several months.
<These should be the last to be added (unless you plan to keep the system without fish for a long while). The seagrass will take some time to take root. If you add the jaw fish before the seagrass is well rooted, they are liable to tear it up. Do read this lovely article by Sarah Lardizabal:
So what other fish might be included? I am considering some Blue Dartfish (Ptereleotris calliura), Seminole gobies (Microgobius carrii), or similar fish.
When the seagrass meadow matures, a few pipefish or small seahorses would be a nice addition.
<Let me ask you something... have you ever seen a set up like the one you are describing? Have you ever seen seahorses and pipefish kept in a 65-75g system along with Jawfish, puffers, filefish, rock anemones and all? I do encourage you to read at length about all, starting here:
Is it likely that they would hang around the seagrass area rather than the reef area?
<They will likely hang out wherever they perceive is the best place to hide... and you will be crossing your fingers the whole time that they don't get blown into all those rock anemones at the other side of the tank.>
Other fish in consideration are a Lancer dragonet (but only after the tank is mature), a Slender filefish (Monacanthus tuckeri), Sharpnose puffer (Canthigaster rostrata), and/or Apogon quadrisquamatus, A. binotatus, Malacoctenus boehlki (Diamond blenny).
Sharpnose puffer is of interest because help keep seagrass healthy by grazing on it (also because I like them). Lancer dragonet is because I love dragonets, and this is the only one I could find that is native to
this biotope. Slender filefish is interesting, stays small, and more reef-safe than the other filefishes. The Cardinalfish/Diamond blenny can be kept as commensals with Corkscrew/Condy anemones which is cool, like a TWA clownfish set up. (Note: note planning on getting ALL of these, just looking for good possibilities).
Oh, and a question about corals. Obviously I will not be having any Acropora cervicornis in my tank, but is there another coral that would be a close look-alike? There are lots of Acroporas in the market but I want that golden brown color, and the majority of the Acros for sale are very colorful (not a bad thing but I am going for an authentic look here). Any specific suggestions?
Also I will not be including fire coral as I am afraid of it taking over the tank, plus I tend to become allergic to stinging things. Thinking of substituting Heliopora caerulea for the fire coral as the look is quite
similar but doesn't go out of control.
<See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/blue,pip.htm>
Thoughts? Suggestions? Criticisms? Thank you so much for your help, which will certainly help me avoid making bad mistakes on this setup!
<Well, my first thought is that you need a bigger tank. Second thought is, go slow my friend. If sea grass is your thing, focus on that first. You're going to need quality lighting and have you thought about water movement yet? Do read that reefkeeping article, and also here:
*Joanne White*
Sara L.>

Indo-Pacific Lagoon Biotope      12/12/17
Good evening crew!
<Hi Chris>
I'm planning an Indo-Pacific lagoon biotope tank, and I wanted to run my ideas by you.
<Excellent. I wish more people chose to do biotype setups.>
I have spent many hours so far on the site, can always spend more!
<You can never learn too much!>
First, some information. The tank is a standard 75 gallon, with a 20 gallon sump. I am currently still in the setup phase,  having just added salt water and 100 pounds of fine substrate (around 1.5 to 2 inches in depth). I will be adding around 50 pounds of base rock and rubble, and an as-yet unplanned quantity of live rock. The rock is mostly
structured into 2 bommies, with plenty of space to hide and swim. The return pump is a Blueline 30HD-X,rated for 1110 GPH, plumbed to three separate spray bars in the display tank. I'm using an Eshopps X-120 skimmer, rated for 75 gallons with a heavy bioload. Tank lighting is a Fluval LED bar, 59 watts at 25000K, directly on top of the aquarium.
Additional flow is created by 4 Koralia powerheads, rated at 1500 GPH each, two of which are on a Wavemaker, alternating flow.
<So far so good, you have clearly made a solid plan.>
As far as future livestock plans go, I wanted to have a peaceful community type setup, mainly featuring Cardinalfish. I was thinking about having a school of 7  or 9 *Ostorhinchus compressus* or *Ostorhinchus cyanosoma.* The other livestock I was considering was a single *Salarias ramosus*, <Ah the starry blenny. I have written interminably about this but I always like to mention what a great fish these blennies are along with their close kin.
Industrious, interesting-looking, and so much personality. They always end up being a favorite despite their (ahem) lack of what a lot of people consider to be beauty. Fascinating behavior will go a long way towards your enjoyment.>
a pair of *Signigobius biocellatus*,
<Ah the Two-spot blenny, different feeding habits than the other blenny, more likely to get along due to this. another interesting customer behaviorally.>
a pair of *Stonogobiops nematodes* with an *Alpheus randalli*, <Classic pairing of pistol/snapping shrimp and goby, also interesting to watch.>
or a single *Stonogobiops yasha* with an *Alpheus randalli*.
<Same. I personally would simply go for the Starry Blenny but it's up to taste and I would not include both options, as you mention.>
I know that in all probability, they cannot peacefully coexist, which is why the Starry Blenny is likely not going to make the final cut. I have also been thinking about a centrepiece fish, but have not decided what it might be, or even if my tank will support more than the cardinals and gobies. Just today, I learned of the *Calloplesiops altivelis*, or marine betta, but I believe they might be too aggressive and/or hunt the Cardinalfish.
<I wouldn't, especially with crustaceans. I don't know that it would go after the cardinals but may target other inhabitants. It's very instructive to check Fishbase.org in these cases and see what stomach contents a fish
has been seen to have. They are also one of those fishes that, in my experience, like to hang out where they are out of sight. Interesting animal but not one I'd consider a centerpiece. Many, many choices for this so definitely look into what kinds of smallish fishes you'd like that would be a safer bet. Flame Angels might be neat or some other colorful eye-catcher found in the area.>
Other invertebrates will likely include Nassarius snails. I wanted to have an area of sea grass or macro, though it is difficult trying to find regional species for sale. My best bets so far are Sargassum, Caulerpa sertularioides, Halophilia ovalis (hard to find) or Thalassia testudinum.
<Will have to look online. I have found some odd stuff via online auctions.
A note about Sargassum...I have had it grow quickly, beautifully, then  crash hard and die off and make a mess. Cool to have if you can get it but keep an eye on it. I got mine on some live rock incidentally. It could be
worthwhile to consider that if you are after that sort of algae. As side note, if you plan on a biotype tank, vegetation/macroalgae is mandatory in my view. It is a key step in transforming your standard "garden style"
aquarium into a more accurate slice of the real thing. It's omni-present in nature but how many times have you seen a home aquarium with a holistic, complete look vs. a someone barren, artificial rock-only setup? Down the
road, it would be neat if you wrote us with a follow-up with some pics!>
Corals will be limited to a few species, likely gorgonians or Sarcophyton, probably not both. I would be adding the shrimp gobies and shrimp first, followed by the cardinals, and lastly the Twinspot goby. Corals are way down the line, at least a year of stable tank operation before I add them.
<Sounds great and that slow and easy approach is hard to stick to but infinitely rewarding.>
I don't currently plan on dosing anything, though I hear it can be helpful to dose iron, nitrates or phosphate for the macro. Test kits will be ordered! Thank you for your time and input, I greatly appreciate all that you do, and all of the information you have here on WWM. Chris C.
<My two cents worth (which may be controversial) is to keep to a water change regiment with decent salt and use that in place of additives unless you have a very particular reason. Maybe calcium for clams, which I also recommend as a possibility for your setup. I'm my humble opinion, many people jump towards additives as a matter of course as if they are required on the same level as a skimmer or salt. Don't add what you aren't testing
for and skip a given additive unless you can observe a specific reason that your inhabitants would benefit noticeably. Hope this is useful! -Earl C.>

Boston/Massachusetts Sea Life    1/4/14
I am considering going to college in Boston (no, not Harvard), and if I do, I would really like to set up a biotope of local sea life. I plan on collecting the fish/corals myself. Anyways, I was just wondering if any of you have ever dove
<Dived... dove is the past tense of jumping off a boat or such>
 in the area and could maybe tell me about the local sea life there;
particularly creatures/corals which would be appropriate for a nano tank (I was thinking about using the 18"x18"x12" tank from Micro Reefs). Pictures would be great, if anyone has some. Thanks!
<I don't know; but there is at least one "reef club", the Boston Reefers:
Whom I would be joining. Bob Fenner>

Bay/Estuary Invertebrates- substrate issues    11/19/13
I'm currently in the "planning stage" of my next tank- a 20 gallon biotope modeled on San Diego/Mission Bay.
<I live in the town; have collected here>
 Among others, I'd like to keep some ghost shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis).  In the wild they dig interconnected burrows up to 3ft deep, however I understand this is a function of living intertidally (they can go to the bottom of the burrow and then into deeper water when the tide drops).  I intend on giving them 8-10" of substrate, however their natural substrate is a mix of very fine sand, silt, and mud, much of which is anaerobic. 
<Yes; folks used to collect this animal in/about the channel at OB...>
My question is this- how would I provide such a deep, fine substrate without causing water quality issues related to anaerobic decomposition?
<Mmm, not much; given it's collected naturally; and you take the time to siphon off, replace, recant... till the bit of upper water is more or less clear. You may want to fashion some sort of faux tunnel, channels so you can see the life here>
The uppermost level of the substrate would be well oxygenated from the other inverts (local Nassarius and Cerith snails) and the shrimp burrows would allow water to travel to the bottom of the substrate but I worry about sulfide buildup in this system.
<Mmm, I wouldn't... what are your plans for circulation, filtration?>
 If it helps, my planned substrate is going to be 50% natural silt/mud from the bay (to seed the naturally occurring microfauna) and 50% of the finest grained aragonite sand (I know it deviates from the biotope, but the buffering capacity is a plus and I think that going 100% natural substrate would guarantee problems from anaerobic decomp given the high levels of organic matter present).
If the shrimp habitat proves to be impractical, I'm just going to do a 3-4" substrate and leave the shrimp out of the tank.  Thank you in advance for any insights you can give on this topic.
< Can be done... I'd go ahead w/ your present plan. Bob Fenner>

Re Atlantic / Caribbean Biotope 9/1/12
Hello James,
<Hi John>
Thanks for your reply. I am sorry to hear about the Blue Tang & 4 eye Butterfly. Happy to hear though about the FOWLR as being OK for a biotope.
Some years ago, Mr. Fenner wrote an article about Atlantic Salt Water fish.
Do you know where I can get a copy of that article? I kept the magazine for a long time, but threw it out, when I broke down my tank.
<Is this the article?  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/twafwgv1.htm>
Thanks for your help.
<You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)>
John from Jersey
Re Atlantic / Caribbean Biotope 9/1/12

Hi James,
<Hello John>
Thanks for the link. Indeed, this is the article as I remember it.
Have a great weekend.
<And you as well.  James (Salty Dog)>
John from Jersey

Stocking List Sanity Check    5/25/12
Hello Crew,
Have recently settled into my first home and am in the final planning stages for setting up my new tank.  Unfortunately I had to sell off a  lot of my equipment and give away most of my livestock before the move.  On a positive note, this does allow for a fresh start.
<Ah yes>
I was planning on doing a biotope themed tank.  After much research, I have chosen some related species from the New Caledonia area to model my tank after.  The display tank is a 75g drilled tank (48"x18"x20") above a 38g sump/refugium (36"x12"x20").  I do plan on actively growing macroalgae in the refugium on a reverse light cycle as this definitely helped on my last set up.  The sump will also house the automatic top off, carbon reactor, AquaC EV-120 protein skimmer, heater, etc.  I will need to buy a new light fixture for the display and am really torn on purchasing a new LED fixture.
 I have been a fan of T5 in the past due to the fact that you can tailor the light to specific needs by simply changing the bulbs.  Have you had any success or experience personally with keeping light loving inverts under LED lights?
<Ah yes... "time marches on"... you can search, read on WWM re>
The plan for the tank is somewhat different from what I usually see.  I am a minimalist at heart so I plan on only arranging live rock on one half of the tank.  On that side I would like to grow out a nice colony of Acropora and possibly a plating Montipora.  Closer to the sand, I would like to add one other type of coral that does well on the substrate in a high light, high flow area.  Any suggestions are more than welcome.
<Mmm, books on Noumea underwater...>
 The tank will transition from the live rock with crushed coral and aragonite substrate, on one side, to an oolitic sand bed of about 6" with some live rock rubble, on the other.  I would love to house a Long Tentacle Anemone on this half of the tank.  I should be able to provide around 20" of real estate for the anemone with its preferred substrate.  I am hoping with this amount of space, and an active use of carbon, that issues with allelopathy will be quelled.  I would really like to show piece this specimen along with a mated pair of Pink Skunk Clowns as the nem gets large enough.  I know they can both live happily singly, but I am very fond of symbiotic and commensal relationships so often found in the oceans.
The stocking list for the rest of the tank is: one Blue Watchman Goby (Cryptocentrus fasciatus),two Pink Skunk Clownfishes (Amphiprion perideraion), two Purple Firefish (Nemateleotris decora), and three to five Blue Green Chromis (Chromis viridis).  As far as other inverts, I would have various snails for a clean up crew, Acro crabs to show the commensal relationship with the Acropora, and an Alpheid shrimp to pair with the Goby.  I'm hoping this will provide a nice mixture of fish, each with a different niche and swimming pattern, without being over stocked.  From the research I've done all of these animals would be found together in the same habitat in the wild.
<Sounds very nice>
I tried not to go into too much detail with any unneeded information.  Just wanted some clarification from some with more experience than I.  Any suggestions on equipment, stocking, or general husbandry for listed animals is much appreciated.
<As you and I have the "sail" vs. "motorboat" mentality re gear, there's not more I would add in that regard... I might add a small ozonizer (and leave on permanently) or a small ozonizer of quality to do the same (O3 production and what it involves)>
 I have done quite a bit of research but would just like an overall opinion on my final concept.  I know there is only so much that can be done in a captive environment, but as an avid diver I would like a little more than some fish in a see through box to help pass the time on my surface intervals.  They tend to get a bit long here in the Mid Atlantic.
<Mmm, there's always reading, chatting, spiffing up ones image-work twixt dives>
Thank you all for your services and knowledge,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Stocking List Sanity Check; Noumea biotope      5/29/12

Thank you for the reply Bob.  Much appreciated as always.  I have been doing much research on the proposed ozonizer and its pros and cons, as well as LED technology.  In my research for another species of low lying coral for the substrate I also started researching the different species of Tridacnid clams to replace said coral.  The fun never ends! Hope to deliver some good news on the tank soon.  Thanks again, Mike
<Welcome! BobF>

Cool website – 05/13/12
Bob and Neale (and everyone else)
This is a pretty slick website that shows distribution of terrestrial animals and a lot (but not all) fish.  It's quite interesting to see where guppies and Sailfin mollies can be found, as well as a little disturbing to see how few places have desert pupfish.
Close the dialog box that shows up when you first enter the website, but you might want to view the navigation videos linked in the text the first time you try the site.
Rick Novy
<Thanks for sending this along Rick. BobF>

Marine biotope aquarium, design, stkg.     1/5/12
Hello I'm currently in the process of developing a stocking list for my 72 gallon bow-front aquarium. I have decided that for my system I'm going to try and replicate the natural habitat where the sand flats of the ocean floor begin to change into a reef. I'm plan on create a large mound of rock in one corner of the tank and have it slope slowly down leaving about a fifty fifty ratio of sand to rock. I also have numerous small rocks that I was hoping to have partially cover in the sand that I would place coral frags on so they could colonize the rock; hopefully producing the appearance of rubble that has fallen of the reef and also a little color to the sand bed. I was also hoping to grow some algae in the sand to more accurately portray the environment. could you please give me some ideas of fish, coral, and types of algae that could be kept in this aquarium and fit the theme. any help is greatly appreciated
Sincerely, Alex Romer
<Best for you to either peruse books depicting such areas... by geography, as they're quite different one area/place to the next, or even better, actually go/visit one or more such habitats and see for yourself. I'd like to share an attempt at urging a friend in the dive/content trade to modify his in-print works to provide something like what you're asking for. Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/rsbiotopes.htm
This is a survey/example piece re the reef flats of the Red Sea. It details what you ask for (species found there), but also offers hints as to habitat. Bob Fenner>

65 Gallon Set-Up, Reef     5/17/11
Hello Crew,
This is my first time writing in although I have referred to your site many times with my many random ideas & questions. My reason for writing you today is twofold. First, I would like to share with you the hardware that I have picked out to set up my system & see if there is anything that I missed along the way & if there are anymore suggestions you'd like to offer. Second, (I'll probably include this in a follow up email after your reply) I would like to get your opinions & help on some stocking suggestions for my tank. I plan on doing a Philippine Reef Biotope. I have some ideas that I'd like to get a second opinion on. I'm the only one of my friends/family that is into this hobby so a sounding board would be nice.
So, a little background ... I started my marine addiction with a 29 gallon tank, but quickly realized it would not house anything I was truly passionate about keeping & the animals always come first in my book, so I was not about to try my luck with overcrowding a small tank. I have since turned my 29 gallon into a custom sump/fuge & upgraded my display tank to a "Reef Ready" 65 gallon. My equipment is as follows: 2x Vortech MPw10wES/AquaC EV-120 powered by a Maxi-Jet Utility 3000/2x BRS reactors for carbon & GFO each powered by Maxi-Jet 900/Return pump is another Maxi-Jet Utility 3000. I am using a JBJ TrueTemp Digital Controller with a 500W Finnex Titanium Heater Element. The element sits in the return portion of the sump & the remote temperature probe is in the display tank.
The fuge contains a DSB of about 7" of oolitic sand & is lit by 2 5000*K spiral bulbs on a reverse light cycle.
<Mmm, don't "turn on" the GFO reactor till you have a reason to. Will otherwise deprive chemoautotrophs of nutrients>
Finally, my lighting for my display tank is where I have the most freedom to change things. I purchased the 36" AquaticLife T5HO fixture of the 4 bulb variety. (Wishing I had gone with 6 now) The fixture came with 2 "actinic" bulbs
<Trade at least one of these out for more "white">
& 2 10k bulbs & also has the moonlight LED feature with built in timers.
Now the all important lighting question(s). I would like to upgrade my bulbs to a combination of 2 Giesemann Aquablue+ bulbs
& 2 UVL AquaSun 10K bulbs. After researching rather extensively I do not feel it necessary to incorporate any "actinic" only bulbs.
<This is so>
I would rather put my 4 bulbs to better use! Do you feel this is a viable lighting combination?
<Can, could be>
If not, what would you change if it were over YOUR tank?
<As stated above>
I plan on keeping a few Acropora & other SPS corals, a few softies & even some display macroalgae. All indigenous to the Philippine Islands as I am striving to recreate a biotope to the best of my ability.
Here's where it gets fun! :) There are 3 timers built into the fixture.
One controls the moonlight LEDs, another controls the bulbs in positions 1 & 3, (currently actinic) & the final timer controls the bulbs in position 2 & 4 (currently 10k.) The default program that comes on the light fixture is 10 hrs: moonlight - 1 hr: complete dark - 1 hr: actinic only - 10 hrs: actinic & 10k - 1 hr: actinic only - 1 hr: complete dark - back to the moonlights. Is this lighting schedule sufficient?
When I upgrade the bulbs would you suggest any changes to the schedule?
<Just as stated>
Finally, what bulbs would you place in positions 1 & 3/2 & 4?
<Either 1 or 3 as the only "blue">
Bulbs 1 & 3 come on first followed by bulbs 2 & 4. I was thinking the Aquablue+ bulbs should come on first followed by the 10k bulbs but I have thought about it until my brain hurt. That's why I'm emailing the experts.
<This is what I would do>
Thank you in advance for taking out the time to help a fellow hobbyist.
Hope I didn't make it too confusing for you.
<Not at all. Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: 65 Gallon Set-Up, lambda, P.I. stkg.    5/21/11

Thank you so much for your reply. I will take your advice on the lighting scheme & use a 3:1 white to actinic ratio on my light fixture.
<Is what I would do... or skip the actinic/s altogether... use part of the time, intensity of the Moonlight LEDs you mentioned last for the "blue" colouring, beginning and end of daylight times>
As mentioned in my previous email, I am currently finalizing my plans for my Philippine Reef Biotope & would like you to have a look over my proposed stocking list. I have always been a fan of commensal relationships that can be portrayed in the home aquarium setting & plan to display this in a few areas in my tank. As always your thoughts & advice are welcome. After all, that's what I'm here for!
65G Reef Ready w/ 29G Sump/Fuge
-Amphiprion ocellaris (currently have 1 juvenile from a local breeder)
-Chromis viridis (I would like multiple specimens of this Chromis for overall tank movement. How many would you suggest?)
<In this volume, just 3 or 5 if they're small>
-Oxycirrhites typus
-Stonogobiops nematodes
-Synchiropus picturatus (ORA Tank Bred specimen only)
-Lysmata amboinensis
-Lysmata wurdemanni
<? From the Atlantic; I'd likely skip>
-Alpheus randalli (to pair with Stonogobiops nematodes)
-Entacmaea quadricolor (hopefully my tank bred ocellaris will accept it. I have a local source for aquacultured specimens)
-Various Acropora corals & other SPS corals with commensal crabs.
-Some type of red gorgonian to make the Longonse Hawkfish feel at home I realize that housing BTA's & SPS's in the same system isn't usually advised, but I'm hoping the minimalist approach I will be taking with the aquascape will give them plenty of separation. I'm also hoping that the fact that the BTA will be an aquacultured specimen will help greatly with it being happy in the tank & not moving around. Any thoughts or suggestions on the stocking list would be greatly appreciated. I'm trying to iron out the last few details before I continue.
<Acclimate the Anemone through water interchanges while it is in captivity (or the SPS alternatively)... You've read re such methods for reducing the intensity of Cnidarian allelopathy?>
One small request, I noticed on the Biotope FAQs on WWM that Scott F is quite the biotope specialist & self proclaimed biotope geek. Is there any way I could get an email to contact him directly with some of my more menial questions that I would rather not bore you with? :)
<I will cc ScottF here; he's become very busy in recent years... but will likely see something sent to him directly>
Thanks in advance. Enjoy your weekend!
<Am down in Costa Rica for a couple weeks, surfing and diving... Oh yes, very enjoyable. Cheers, BF>

Stocking a Lagoon Biotope -- 08/05/09
Hi again Eric / WWM Crew
<<Hi Wayne>>
I was hoping I might garner some assistance with a biotope plan for my 90 gallon display since I am in the process of total redesign anyway (re: previous emails).
I was thinking of an Indo-Pacific, lagoon biotope to go with my pair of Amphiprion percula.
<<I see >>
I have about 100 pounds of live rock and approximately 60 lbs of sugar fine aragonite sand.
<<Assumedly you are researching your chosen biotope re how it should 'look' in order to provide an accurate representation>>
I have an assortment of corals which I bought from a fellow reefer, but I think I would like to
try selling some so that I can only keep a few of the more appropriate ones. Would you be so kind as to make a few species suggestions for fish,
<<There are many species of fishes that inhabit lagoons...many of which also inhabit the outer reefs and are associated/thought of this way in the hobby. So, while choosing fishes for this biotope from most of those commonly available to the hobby is indeed accurate, the 'look' of these fishes may not be that different from the average 'mixed reef' display. If 'I' were to try a lagoon representation, I might limit my fish choices to several specimens (where possible/compatible) from just a few species'¦perhaps small gobies and damsels'¦and maybe a pipefish species>>
<<Perhaps some soft corals on the rock, and a scattering of free-living Fungiids (plate corals) on the sand>>
and macroalgae
<<Mmm, adding macroalgae to a display can be a gamble as many can become invasive'¦I would avoid any Caulerpa species for this reason. Chlorodesmis fastigiata (Turtle Weed) might prove interesting here'¦or a Halimeda species...or maybe even Ulva (Sea Lettuce). But I would pick one or the other and avoid mixing macroalgae to avoid the interspecific competition>>
that would suit my 90 gallon (48"W x 24"H x 18"D) well? I know that surfing the internet for pictures etc. could be a source for ideas,
<<Indeed'¦and necessary re your biotope research>>
but I would also like some suggestions that are coloured by the experience of some reef hobbyists.
<<I am a huge fan of biotope representations for reasons of grouping animals from the same oceans and from the same reef niche to allow providing of environmental conditions suitable/necessary for all (my own display is an Indo-Pacific patch reef)'¦but I don't have all the answers here. I've provided some suggestions/opinions, but do research other sources/the Net for a wider range of input before making your final decisions>>
Thank you,
<<Happy to share'¦ Eric Russell>>

Re: Stocking a Lagoon Biotope -- 08/06/09
Hi Eric,
<<Hey Wayne>>
You said '<<Assumedly you are researching your chosen biotope re how it should 'look' in order to provide an accurate representation>>'. You have presumed correctly and I am trying to see how this biotope should look but besides random snorkeling and diving pictures that people have posted from various areas while they were on vacation etc in regions of the Pacific Ocean, I am not having a lot of luck locating accurate information on the "look" for the biotope.
<<I do understand'¦ Unfortunately there seems at present to be a dearth of information in the hobby re. Aside from the NET, do consider 'dive' literature as a source for investigation. Dive mag.s can have some quite good 'scenic' shots that can be used as reference'¦and there are some 'coffee table' books out there that can also prove useful>>
Perhaps my search parameters aren't properly refined (or I'm being too picky about the accuracy) but the materials I'm finding aren't helping me much with real details.
<< Your search terms may be too specific'¦you likely need to do some thinking/searching 'outside the box'>>
Do you have a source you would recommend besides the almighty Google search engine?
<<As stated'¦ Dive mag.s, books/mag.s on underwater photography'¦on the NET, some of the 'travel' sites might have some useful photos>>
The clownfish are already on the list, so presumably most others in the damselfish category wouldn't be suitable due to aggression/territorial behaviour.
<<This is a possibility>>
Is that correct?
<<I would consider this accurate, yes'¦given the size of the system>>
As we had discussed earlier, I am hoping to add a watchman goby (our LFS supplies "blue spotted" I believe) but unfortunately I cannot seem to locate a shrimp to pair it with as our LFS and other online suppliers (without attempting international shipment from suppliers) don't stock or list any of the cohabitating species.
<<It's best to obtain a Goby and Shrimp that have were collected already paired up whenever possible'¦just putting the two together in a tank does not guarantee symbiosis'¦though it does sometimes happen>>
I will continue to research the Turtle Weed and corals that you have suggested in the interim.
<<Very good>>
As always, the advice and opinions of yourself and your colleagues is much appreciated.
<<As it is our pleasure to share>>
Best Regards,
<<Cheers'¦ EricR>>

R2: Stocking a Lagoon Biotope -- 08/14/09
Hi Eric,
<<Howdy Wayne>>
I cannot seem to find any Fungiids for sale through the LFS or etailers from Canada, so it looks like I won't be able to add any of these to my system.
<<Hmm'¦possibly a 'seasonal' item'¦>>
I have been looking at possible fish to add (in time, and not all of these) and I was hoping to obtain your comments/input on my list.
<<Be glad to>>
Gobiidae: (would it be possible to keep more than one species or a group of the same species?)
<<It is'¦ Research the individual species re their compatibility to help make the best selections, but I do think you could keep a pair to a small group depending on species>>
Yellow watchman - Cryptocentrus cinctus
Randall's Goby - Amblyeleotris randalli
Green Clown goby - Gobiodon histrio or Yellow Clown goby -
Gobiodon okinawae
<<These last three can easily be kept in pairs and groups in my experience, and are fascinating to observe as such'¦but they can also be very hard on small SPS frags/colonies due to their branch-hopping and polyp nipping habits>>
Firefish - Nemateleotris magnifica (perhaps too timid for my current occupants - Percula clowns, Coral Beauty, Sixline wrasse, cleaner shrimp)
<<Indeed'¦ These sweet tempered little fish (conspecifics aside) suffer terribly around aggressive/boisterous tankmates. Often slowly starving or declining from stress until one day they just disappear>>
Yasha Goby - Stonogobiops yashia
Diamond Goby - Valenciennea puellaris
Blenniidae: (Most likely only one blenny would be possible, correct?)
<<Yes'¦and as a matter of opinion, I do not consider 'any' Blenny species as 'reef safe'>>
Bicolor blenny - Escenius bicolor
Canary blenny - Meiacanthus atrodorsalis
Midas blenny - Escenius midas
Lawnmower blenny - Salarias fasciatus
<<This last often starves'¦due consider whether your system is large enough/has enough natural occurring alga to sustain it>>
I was also wondering if you had any comments on the Chromis vanderbilti.
<<I did think about this genus after our last exchange. This particular species can be hard to find, but is a bit smaller than most of the other Chromis species available and maybe even a bit more peaceful'¦a worthwhile pursuit here I think (perhaps a small grouping of 5-7)>>
The information I've seen on the internet indicates that a group of these may do well in my tank and perhaps may cause my Amphiprion percula to feel a little safer and come out of the corner of my tank more often.
I plan on re-scaping my rock and adding some overhangs for the gobies and clowns.
<<Very good>>
I also think I am going to avoid the goby + pistol shrimp pair because I'm afraid the pistol shrimp may go after my wife's cleaner shrimp "Gaston".
<<That wouldn't be good [grin]>>
I would also still like to consider one larger fish, but I am unsure of what to consider that is "reef safe".
<<Do realize this is a relative term'¦no fish is truly so>>
The Kole tang is still under consideration,
<<A good choice for your system>>
but I'm just not completely sold on it.
<<Mmm, then perhaps Acanthurus japonicus or Acanthurus pyroferus... Ctenochaetus tominensis would also be a good choice for this size system, but can be more difficult to keep>>
Thank you,
<<Always welcome'¦ Eric Russell>> 

R3: Stocking a Lagoon Biotope -- 08/15/09
Hi Eric,
<<Hi Wayne>>
Most of the info I've found on the C. cinctus indicates it will be aggressive to other shrimp gobies and it seems that the A. randalli is known to accept other shrimp gobies but not likely another of the same species.
<<Agreed, it is best not to try two of the same species here unless found as a mated pair'¦other than the Clown Gobies which in my experience tolerate/do best as a group with adequate space/resting places>>
This seems unfortunate as I think I would have liked one of each of these two species. Your reply indicates "these last three can easily be kept in pairs and groups in my experience". Were you referring to the A. randalli, G. histrio and G. Okinawae or the C. cinctus, A. randalli and the clown gobies in general?
<<Just the Clown Gobies>>
What do you think the likelihood of the clown gobies causing damage to my Duncan's coral and zoanthids would be?
<<Unlikely, though 'branching' SPS corals would provide a more 'natural' habitat for these small fishes>>
From the descriptions of their personalities, I think they would be a great addition, but I don't want them to be too destructive on my favourite corals. My LFS is listing the C. vanderbilti as available at $12 each, so I was thinking those are going to be on the list.
<<An excellent price>>
Perhaps a group of 7.
I am removing the blennies from my list and will keep the Kole tang or the A. pyroferus as possibilities depending on the number of gobies I will be adding. Would my system be big enough at 4' wide for the A. pyroferus or would I have to find it a new home by maturity?
<<Should be fine'¦only slightly larger than Zebrasoma flavescens at maturity>>
So in summary, the following list is what I believe I'm looking at for livestock:
1 x Centropyge bispinosa (already in place)
2 x Amphiprion percula (already in place)
1 x cleaner shrimp (already in place)
1 x Pseudocheilinus hexataenia (already in place)
1 or 2 shrimp gobies C. cinctus/A. randalli (to be determined with your kind assistance)
<<With the addition of the tang (keeping bioload in mind)'¦maybe it's best to stick to one or the other, rather than both>>
1 x G. Okinawae (if it will not be too rough on my corals, likely this species for the sake
of colour!)
<<A social species'¦I would get a trio>>
7 x C. vanderbilti
1 x C. strigosus or A. pyroferus (depends on bioload at this point)
to be added last
1 x brittle star (don't have an ID on this one, already in place from a fellow reefer), but
he's not a green!
On another note, I've found that someone is killing a lot of my snails and I need to get some more! I think that it is most likely my left-handed hermit crab although it is possibly the blue legs, red legs or scarlet reef ones.
<<Is likely ALL of these>>
From my understanding, the red leg and left handed hermits are the more likely culprits though.
<<Any of these you listed will kill snails for their shells>>
I've had Cerith, Nassarius, Astrea, Bumble Bee and Margarita snails so far with the
Cerith and Margarita ones disappearing the fastest. What snails would you recommend the most for their utility role?
<<Nassarius and Cerith>>
My needs are typical with substrate detritus removal and algae on the glass needing some additional control. Once again, you have my thanks for your assistance.
<<A pleasure to share, mate'¦ EricR>>

Biotopes and Water Circulation in Closed Systems   2/25/09 Dear Crew: <Benjamin> Confused here, as usual. No tank yet, just trying to do my homework and plan as best I can. High water circulation seems to be touted as the ultimate goal for a closed system reef aquarist yet there seems to be a sizable number of species that thrive on slower flow rates. <Yes and yes> Please point me to the articles, or perhaps explain in terms of actual functionality how these seemingly contradictory facts play themselves out in an actual tank setup. <Don't know where you might find this information specifically... on the Net... Better for you to spend some time in a library: http://wetwebmedia.com/litsrchart.htm> Lets say, for example, a biotope common to slow moving currents and a biotope with fast current needs. I plan on a tank that turns over its volume 15 to 20 times per hour. What biotopes would that suggest? <? That you investigate your possibilities... A particular area geographically? Depth, topography, habitat, "key" species... Many places to start. Bob Fenner> Thank You, Benjamin

Caribbean biotope stocking plan Planning a Spicy Caribbean Biotope System! 6/5/08 Howdy Crew! <Hey there! Scott F. in tonight!> Finally managed to get a much bigger tank. After placing sand, the internal volume (not counting rock) will be 130gal, with a quite sizable sump/refugium. Besides the return (which runs to a SCWD), I'm also running a closed loop with a Quiet One 4400 (with headloss it's running about 700 GPH). After the rock is in and everything is cycled I will likely be placing a Koralia, Vortech, or something else in there for added flow. <Good idea!> Anyways... I've been spending a week or two a year in the Caribbean, and this last trip to Cozumel gave me some extended bottom times that allowed me actually sit and observe, rather than just drifting by in an effort to see everything. This has led me to deciding on a biotope, rather than a selection of fish and corals from all over. <Excellent! I'm a huge fan of biotope systems. There are numerous advantages to creating such a system, among them decreased allelopathic competition, a more "familiar" environment for animals, and a far more unique display than the usual "garden reefs" that we are so used to seeing!> For corals, I plan on having various Zoas, Ricordea/Mushrooms, Brain Coral, Purple Seawhips, Golden Rods, and some others that are easy to take care of and that wave around a bit. I'd also like to have some sponges, like the Red Balls, but have yet to attempt any. <Sponges do have some specialized husbandry requirements, so do read up on the specific needs of the species that you intend to keep. Consider limiting your coral selections to just a few species.> Fishwise, I've got an extensive list. Numbers wise, I'm sure this will have to be trimmed down some, but I'm more worried about introduction order. Would really appreciate some advice there. But, on to the list! 4-5 Blue Reef Chromis 3 Pygmy "Cherub" Angels (I do have some experience with harems) <I've always been a big fan of monogamy, but whatever floats your boat...!LOL Introduce 'em last> 2 Yellowheaded Jawfish (mated pair from a friend) 1-2 Sharp-nosed Puffers (they're actually pretty comedic!) <Do rethink them if you're going with small, peaceful species.> 1 Red Lip or Diamond Blenny 1 Royal Gramma (I'd like more, but they fight so much...) <You can keep them in groups with enough rockwork for them to hide under and establish territories, and aggression is general dispersed among the group without too much bloodshed, in my experience.> 2-4 Neon Gobies 1 Blue Tang (gotta find an adult with a yellow tail! Seen 'em!) <Do re think the Tang- they need a lot of physical space in order to live long and healthy lives. Think small fishes!> 1 Longsnout Butterflyfish (one of my favorite! Hard to find for sale though) or Spotfin or Reef <Good luck- neat fishes if you can get 'em...> I'd also like to have a small Golden or Shy Hamlet. Other maybes include 3-4 Flamefish, Chalk Bass, Bicolor Damsel (the pretty variety, jerks, but entertaining). Might also reduce the list in order to have a Porkfish or Queen Angel. It's really a shame that the Cowfish and Boxfish all get so big... <All nice fish, but you need to think about the stocking limits of this aquarium- unfortunately, you can't have it all! The Queen Angel, although beautiful, is best enjoyed in the wild- this fish simply gets HUGE and is just not a good choice in anything less than a HUGE aquarium (ie; a public aquarium), IMO.> Inverts: Usual assortment of stars and hermits. I really had a good time watching Sexy Shrimp, but they're lunch for so man fish that I don't think any would survive without an Anemone (which I am not fond of at all). No Banded Coral Shrimp or Sally Lightfoots, as in my experience they are too aggressive. <With small fishes, they can be a nuisance at times. Best to follow your instincts on this one.> I am tempted to put in a Frogspawn. <Umm...wrong ocean, babe!> I have access to a pretty amazing colony that has multiple colors mixed in the same heads! No, seriously, the colors are not separated into distinct segregated heads, there are literally pink and green tentacles mixed on the same head. Pretty wild, but out of the Caribbean biotope... <I was just giving you a hard time. Of course they are out of place in a Caribbean biotope, but it's all a matter of how "authentic" you want to go with your biotope. They are VERY aggressive corals that can nettle other species, so do keep this in mind when considering stocking your system with one of these specimens. Provide large spatial separation between the Frogspawn and other corals.> Related, this trip I saw a HUGE number of Pipefish, but not where I normally find them. The currents were rippingly fast in the Palancar area, but there were large deposits of seagrass bits and pieces in slack areas. There were many different species of Pipefish in these areas, and even scouting out the sandbeds nearby. I was shocked to find a trio cruising the sand at 125', picking at all sorts of tiny critters, not a bit of cover in sight! <Neat observation...could make an interesting biotope aquarium in and of itself, huh?> Near-shore Seahorses have apparently been carried away in recent months, and I didn't see a single one. There were more lizards in the water than Seahorses... <Lovely...> Anyways, many suggestions or advice would be appreciated! Thanks, Darby <Well, Darby, I think that you're on the right track with this biotope (okay- the Frogspawn...I dunno about that one!), and it could be a unique display. A few thoughts here: I'd try to limit both the number of coral species and fish species. For example, keep maybe two or three coral species maximum, perhaps just two. Also, consider limiting the fish species as well. I'd consider keeping a group of several Royal Grammas (like 5 or more), a few Hamlets, and perhaps that trio of Centropyge. With good aquascaping, you can create a tall vertical reef structure on one side of the aquarium, with a large overhang, which will provide a very natural setting for the Gramma colony. You might even get the chance to observe breeding behavior. If you leave on side of the aquarium almost devoid of rock, you could create a sandy rubble area in which the Jawfishes could construct their burrows. You could create a very unique display in with small fishes and a few corals! Think about it!> p.s. The Catalina Goby fry that I passed to a friend a couple of years ago have been spawning with others. My buddy is now attempting to raise them in commercial quantities, but having some problems. He's also a bit too proud to seek concerted advice, as he doesn't want anyone to get the jump on him. Ah, the failings of ego... <Neat to hear! Good for him and for the hobby! Thanks for sharing, and be sure to send me some pics of your system when it gets going! Could use some for my MACNA biotope presentation! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>  

Re: Caribbean biotope stocking plan Caribbean Biotope (Pt. 2)   6/7/08 Thanks for the advice Scott! I do appreciate it. <I'm happy to be of service! Thrilled that you're considering biotope modeling for your aquarium!> Keeping the types of corals low is going to be tough for me. I guess I'll go with the purple photosynthetic gorgonians (for movement and color, as well as cover), Zoas, and maybe one of the encrusting brains (hard to find, but they look great under blue moonlights when they open up at night!). This should give a pretty good color variety with the green and red/orange sponges. I'd really like some of the purple sponges, but from what I understand they aren't very hearty in captivity. <They can be touchy, categorically. You will need to research the specific sponge that you plan on keeping to see if it is viable in captivity.> The way this tank is built, the closed loop comes into the back wall almost in the center. With a 5" sandbed, it's closer to the bottom, so I built a horizontal spray-bar out of 1" pvc, painted black (using Krylon Fusion, supposedly marine safe. Please let me know if otherwise!) to help hide it against the black background, until the coralline algae takes hold. Because of this, my aquascaping plan is to create a pair of rock pinnacles in the center of the tank, allowing the fish to more room to swim (in racetrack laps if they wish) and for the alternating flow of the SCWD to have some effect. <I like that aquascape idea...it breaks up the usual "wall" of rock that we construct, and provides the addition of multiple territories for fishes.> As I don't have the rock yet, I do not know whether there will be a bridge between them, or if they'll be individuals, but it should present enough sand bed for the Jawfish to be just about wherever they want. <I would not build a "bridge"- let them stand without touching each other for maximum effect.> I'm not sure if this scheme cuts down on hidey-holes or not, but there'll be plenty of ledges. I do like the idea of having separate "zones" like you suggested, and this was my plan when I was going with a 90gal Long (I was going to have a reef zone, rubble zone, sand zone, then seagrass zone, over the course of 6' of length). I'll seriously ponder keeping the rockwork on one mostly one side, but want to be sure that it doesn't look unbalanced/awkward. <It is a different sort of aesthetic than we're used to, but you will find it to be quite attractive and interesting over time!> I'm surprised that you suggested more than 1 Hamlet. I figured that, as bass, they'd be much more prone to predatory action in a group than solitary. That was the reasoning for having a shoal of Blue Reef Chromis; the Hamlet may get them to shoal, but they'd be too big for him to eat. I saw one while diving with a juvenile Cherub Angel in it's mouth, and though I wasn't happy about it, that's nature... I wouldn't want a repeat in my tank! Would Golden or Shy Hamlets be more appropriate? <I like the Indigo Hamlet, myself. I do need to backtrack a bit- I must confess that I wasn't thinking "Hamlet" when responding to your query. You are right- one per aquarium, in most cases. I was thinking about Serranus tortugarum, the "Chalk Bass", for some reason. You can keep a small group of these guys in a large aquarium.> I like the idea of multiple Royal Grammas, as they're colorful and fun to watch. One of the few fish that actually hangout upside down! <Yes- and they do surprisingly well in groups if you have a rockwork for them to shelter in and under.> As for the harem... well, I was young and... I mean, er... <Heh, heh- I couldn't resist!> From what I've seen with others who have had Cherubs in groups, it is apparently good to start with 5 all at once, as you'll likely loose at least 1, and another will likely become a "superfluous second banana" who can be removed, leaving the 3 breeders. If you just go with 3, you may end up with only 1, as there's no guarantee on gender if there is territory to claim as individuals. Guess I may be writing up a report all this at some date, if it works. <You got it- this is really the best way to start multiple Centropyge in an aquarium. Introduction of modest sized groups of juveniles is the way to go.> Big fish will stay out. They were just a pipedream anyways, as I know where they belong. ...sigh... It'd be nice to have a system though where you could have a Queen Angel, Queen Trigger, some large Cowfish and Filefish, and maybe a ray or two. Man, it'd have to be HUGE! Guess that's what the ocean's for... heh heh. <You hit it right on the had, Darby...Think SMALL!> Thanks again, Darby <Best of luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Re: Caribbean biotope stocking plan 6/10/08 Caribbean Biotope (Cont'd.) Hiya Scott, <Hi there!> Chalk Bass! Hadn't even thought of them as an aquarium species! I think it's probably because most that I've seen were laying tight against the reef, or in crevices. They are somewhat attractive, though I can't remember seeing any in any LFS. Hmm, I'm sure a direct supplier in Florida would be the route. Better research them a bit. <Yes, they make fine aquarium fishes!> The Indigo Hamlet certainly is a handsome fish, but not the color combo I'm looking for. I think a nice bright yellow Shy Hamlet could be a nice "visual piece". <Ahh, I hear you. It's important to choose types and colors of fishes that please you!> The tough part is visualizing the tank beforehand. I mean, before I was angling towards a blue-fish based tank, with a few brightly colored accent fish, but now it's a bit yellow. <Again- no right or wrong here. It's just a matter of personal preference.> I say that, but who knows what the temperament of the Royal Grammas will be? I've had some that were very active and always out, and some that tended to be much more shy... <The personalities of these fishes do vary widely. However, they are quite sociable in groups, once a social hierarchy has been established. With enough hiding places and a large enough group, you'll see fascinating social interactions.> Here's another question: I've seen some Dendrophylliids (no, not the 'tree lovers') in several places in the Texas gulf and Caribbean. Though they are an introduced species, their coloration certainly would add a splash! Do you think they'd be proper for a Caribbean biotope? Thanks again, Darby <Well Darby, I'd have to say that they are not appropriate. However, there us no "law" that says that you need to follow certain stocking guidelines. It's all about your tastes and goals for the system. If you're a purist, you'll only utilize animals strictly found in the biotope that you are attempting to replicate. If you want to take a little "geographic liberty", it's your call! Enjoy! Regards, Scott F.>

Re: Caribbean biotope stocking plan/cycling Stocking and Cycling Live Rock 6/13/08 Yo Scott! <Right back at ya!> One last question (for now!): <No problem.> I'm planning on purchasing some live rock and sand that are ocean cultured. I know this can be iffy, as there could be some BAD hitchhikers. I plan to allow for a long cycling process in order to watch out for them. <Yup...It's never a bad idea to quarantine all newly purchased livestock before placing it in the display aquarium.> However, with the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate spikes that occur during cycling, I am afraid that putting nice rock with all kinds of life on it (and some die-off as well) at the same time as everything else will kill off all of the good stuff. <Well, you generally want to cure live rock in a separate vessel. There will be significant die off before the populations of micro and macro fauna on the rocks rebound.> The question is: Should I cycle the tank with base rock and some live sand, then incorporate ocean cultured sand and rock later, hoping it won't spike too badly, or should it all go in at the same time? Thanks again! Darby <I typically will cycle my rock outside of the display, to minimize the impact of the die off that inevitably occurs during this time. Then, it's a simple matter of adding all of the rock that you intend to use at one time. There are certainly other ways to approach this, but that's my technique. Alternatively, you could consider using some of the "dead" rock that is available on line now, such as Marco Rock, which is much less expensive than "live" rock, and will recruit desirable life forms and algae over time, particularly if you add some "live" rock along with it. Something to consider, I think! Best of luck with your efforts! Regards, Scott F.>


Building a Banggai Biotope! (Biotope Aquarium Concept) 5/18/08 Hi! <Hey there! Scott F. in today!> You all have a wonderful resource here, and I've spent many happy hours combing through it while trying to plan my newest aquarium project. I have a 75-gallon aquarium that I'm converting to saltwater (I already have a 29 with a pair of clowns and a couple of Sarcophytons, so I have a little saltwater experience). <Glad to hear that!> I've always wanted to do a saltwater biotope tank, using only (or as much as possible) captive-bred or -propogated fish and inverts. <You're talking to a fellow biotope freak here! I'm speaking on the topic at IMAC in Chicago in a couple of weeks, and at MACNA in Atlanta in September. I'm such a dork about it that I'm working on a book on the subject, too!> After a lot of thought, I've tentatively settled on doing a habitat for adult captive-bred Banggai cardinals, with captive-propogated Montipora digitata (apparently they are found in these corals as adults, according to an IUCN report I found). I already have three frags of the digitata that appear to be thriving in my 29G, so I thought I'd stick to fish that are found cohabitating with it in nature. However, most of the resources I've read indicate that Banggais are aggressive towards conspecifics as they mature and pair off. I'd love to keep a small school of these beauties (and my LFS, which is usually reliable, claims I can if I start off with juveniles and keep a harem with just one male after they mature). At the same time, I want a peaceful, happy tank. So, finally, here are my questions: 1. How many adult Banggais could I keep in a 75G? <Ahh.. the million dollar question, really! "Conventional wisdom" on these fishes is that they do not do great in groups in anything less than an aquarium of 100 gallons or more. They tend to form small social hierarchies, and aggressiveness can be a real problem. If you're going to attempt to keep a group, I agree that you'd want to start with juveniles. I think it would be appropriate to keep odd-numbered lots of these fishes (for example, groups of 3-5) to help disperse aggression as they pair off.> 2. If the answer is something like "One" or "A pair", what other (small, peaceful) fish would be appropriate in this biotope (that is, a shallow reef habitat dominated by M. digitata)? I like Chromis viridis and can get them captive-bred, but they seem to be found among Acropora, not Montipora... <Wow- a REAL biotope enthusiast- I'm impressed! I'd recommend small, peaceful fishes, such as Blennies, Gobies, small Flasher Wrasses, Firefishes, and Assessors. With a bit of research on sources such as fishbase.org, you could find out the specific niches on the reef where these fishes are found.> 3. Would any plant life, like Thalassia turtle grass or Halimeda, be appropriate? I know M. digitata is sometimes found in grassy areas. <Yes it is. I would consider seagrasses. Thalassia is great, but it does grow rather slowly, and requires a very deep (like 5"-6" or more) sandbed to root and grow properly. You might want to consider a less demanding species, such as Shoal Grass (Halodule) or Stargrass (Halophila), both of which grow quickly once they establish, and can get along in shallow (3"-4") sandbeds, in my experience. Halimeda is a good substitute if you can't obtain seagrasses, but it's best to attach to rocks as opposed to planting in the substrate. If you really want to try something unique, you could attempt to grow some Mangroves, and encourage their roots to extend downwards into the aquarium. They grow amazingly slowly, and will require that you leave your aquarium's top off. As an alternative, I have seen some amazingly realistic synthetic Mangrove roots for sale at various e-tailers, particularly in the UK. This could form the basis of a very unique display!> 4. Finally, are there any other organisms that might be appropriate (such as additional coral species, or motile inverts like Lysmata cleaner shrimp) for this biotope? <You hit it on the head with your coral selections. Heliofungia would be another coral you might find in this biotope as well. You could also consider some Diadema Sea Urchins, which have long spines that juvenile Banggais tend to huddle among. This would be amazing to see in a captive situation! These fishes are also found among sea anemones, but I would not recommend them unless you are up for the challenge posed by keeping these animals. Yes, small shrimps would be very appropriate for this display (though not too small-or they'll become a menu item!), as would other small crustaceans, as well as Echinoderms such as starfishes. You could even consider creating a simulated pier piling, which would depict the setting in Indonesia where this fish was "rediscovered" by scientists in 1994//lots of possibilities here!> I apologize for the extreme length of this message, but I've been doing literally hours of research online and in my personal reference library, and there just isn't a lot of detailed information, it seems, about marine biotopes. <This will change, if I have anything to say about it!> I'd love to pull this one off if I could. I appreciate any help you folks can give me. Thanks so much! :) Kristina <Well, Kristina, I hope that I've given you a few items to think about. You're off to a very interesting start...You HAVE done some great research, and I'll bet it pays off with a beautiful display! Best of luck to you in this endeavor, and keep my informed about your progress! Regards, Scott F.>

Re: Banggai biotope questions 05/20/08 Planning a Banggai Cardinal Biotope (Cont'd.) Scott F., I just wanted to thank you for your response to my Banggai biotope questions. <Glad to be of assistance!> You gave me a lot of great ideas--including the one about creating an artificial pier piling. (However, as much as I strive for accuracy in my biotopes, I think I'll skip the privy that this one originally came with!) <Yeah..I can make all sorts of off opportunistic bathroom jokes, but I think I'll pass on that one.> Your suggestion to include wrasses was a good idea--they apparently are found with Halichoeres, Chromis (wish it was C. viridis!), and Pomacentrus species when they occur in seagrass beds. (now I just have to try and figure out which ones--off to Fishbase's country lists I go) Since I'm trying to stick to CB fishes, I'm also considering a Cryptocentrus leptocephalus with commensal shrimp for a tankmate. <Try a Halichoeres chloropterus. Gets a bit large, but it's a cool appropriate fish, IMO.> Haven't started setting up yet (that comes in the next week or so, then on to the cycling), but I'm still gathering information. I found a place that actually sells the seagrass that Banggais associate with, Enhalus acoroides. <Wow! That's a very cool store!> Still trying to find information on its care in captivity. I'm crossing my fingers that it's not one of the finicky varieties--I'll ask the supplier when I call them. <I have not personally worked with this species of seagrass. However, my friends who have tell me it's no more difficult than Thalassia, which means it's not impossible...just a bit slow to get established. If it IS indeed like Thalassia, which I do have experience with, it will take a bit of time to get going, then really settle in.> I'm just excited that it's available! I've done a search on Wet Web Media but haven't found any information on this particular species--do you know anything about it? I've emailed the supplier but haven't heard back yet. <I'd check on the website/blog of my personal seagrass guru, Sarah Lardizabal- seanursery.com. She has an outstanding bunch of personal information on seagrasses.> I also did a Google image search and found some great images that provided some more inspiration--especially this one. http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/habitat/ead/whatsnew.htm That, I think, is what I'm going to model my aquarium after, as soon as I identify all the critters in it. <Nice!> Would zoanthids be out of place in this setup? Eric Borneman mentions that one species of Zoanthids (usually in shades of green, orange, red, or yellow) is found on M. digitata. I have a nice colony of green-tentacled zoas with orange mouths on a dead fragment of some kind of branching coral that I might like to add. <Not at all. I have seen Zoanthids in seagrass areas in nature.> Also, I have a nice crop of Halimeda (the larger kind that roots in the sand and volunteers all over the tank--I think it's discoidea?) that I might like to split up in order to add to the Banggai display, maybe near the corals--would that be accurate, do you think? <I believe it would...You could anchor some of it on the rocks, and maybe mount a few segments in the sand, where it would be interspersed with seagrasses. This is quite authentic. Although often found in large, monospecific stands, seagrasses are often found interspersed with macroalgae.> Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for all your help. Sorry for going on and on, but I'm really getting into this and having fun with it. That, and I tend to be a little obsessive. I'll try not to bug you all to death with questions. Thanks again, and I'll look forward to that biotope book coming out! Kristina <My pleasure, Kristina. I'm pretty excited to hear of your project. Should be really cool. I'm making a concerted effort to get the book finished and out this year. It's coming along nicely, but I'm always eager to see pics of hobbyists' aquariums. That's what it's all about! Good luck and keep me posted! Regards, Scott F.>

Re: Banggai biotope questions 05/21/2008 Banggai Biotope Hey, Scott. <Hey there again!> Thanks again for all your help. <Glad to be of assistance> As it turns out, I won't be able to get that seagrass after all--not without an importer's license and a 100-kg minimum order (!). I'm dedicated, but not that dedicated (or rich). <I hear you...Too bad, it would be neat to see rare seagrasses make it into the hobby. But it is encouraging to hear that there may be a source of unusual seagrass species.> But I just don't think a Banggai biotope would look right w/o the Enhalus acoroides, so I've decided to go with a Sphaeramia nematoptera biotope instead, with captive-raised S. nematoptera and propagated Porites cylindrica. <You are a biotopic purist...Very impressive! Of course, you could always take a bit of "creative liberty" in the planning of this aquarium and use just about any species you desire..I won't tell! But I admire your hardcore ethic!> I really like the looks of both animals and think they could make a beautiful display together. <They sure would. Plus, it seems like poor Pajama Cardinals are always consigned to being "beginner's" fish, crammed by themselves into nanos. I think it would be fun to set up a tank especially for them. I think I could also have the advantage of being able to keep a small school, since they're apparently not as prone to inter-species aggression as the P. kauderni. <Excellent points all around. These fishes seem to have become somewhat of a forgotten species of Cardnal fishes since the introduction of the Banggai to the hobby. I think that they will make a fascinating display in the aquarium that you are planning!> I'll keep you posted on what I end up doing and include a picture, if you'd like. <Yes, please do!> In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or ideas (stocking, layout, etc) for this new biotope, I'd love to hear them. I'm off to check out more diving websites and Fishbase profiles. Thanks again! Kristina <Well, Kristina, the biotope you are contemplating could be stunning. I still think it would be cool for an aquarist to attempt to keep Cardinalfishes with some Long Spined Urchins, similar to what you see in the wild. Alternatively, I'd love to see a marine Paludarium setup for these fishes-A simulated "shoreline", with the aquarium half to three quarters full of water, and rockwork extending out of the water. Real or synthetic mangrove roots could extend into the water from the "shoreline" , which can be planted with many different tropical ferns and other plants. In the water, you could go with macroalage, such as Halimeda attached to the rocks or substrate, and you could attach specimens of Pocillopora or colorful Zooanthids to the mangrove roots. Other coral candidates would be Fungia, and, if you are up to the challenge, the difficult Elegance Coral. Tankmates could be some of the hardier Pipefishes, and perhaps a few "Scooter Dragonets". This would be a challenging aquarium to assemble and maintain, but the display would be extremely unique, IMO. I'd like to see more hobbyists try such systems. Wow- now I feel the urge to set up another aquarium! Do keep me posted on the development of this system, and please send pics! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>


Patch reef biotope questions -04/11/08 Hello again Crew, <RA> Today I received in the mail Natural Reef Aquariums by John H. Tullock. <Ahh! A very nice work> I've chosen to have a patch reef biotope. My tank is nearly finished cycling, and such a biotope I could easily form, plus, I love having thick sandbeds. I have a few questions concerning possible occupants. 1. Do Bubble-Tip Anemones live here? <... on patch reefs? Mmm, yes... in the tropical West Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Red Sea...> 2. If so, are Maroon Clowns commonly hosting them there, or is there a different species? <Premnas and others do... posted on WWM: http://wetwebmedia.com/clownfis.htm> 3. Does Chlorodesmis ever grow in these biotopes? 4. How 'bout Botryocladia? <Yes, yes> Well, I hope I get some good answers. I've had really good history with you, but I hope someone with diving skills and/or other biotopic knowledge will answer this. These are really vital to my entire setup. TIA, Random Aquarist <Know from books and visits... RMF>

Re: patch reef biotope questions Beginning a Biotope Aquarium - 4/12/08 Hello again, <Hey there! Scott F. in today!> Well, I re-aquascaped, turning my rock wall into two rock piles. <Awesome! Anything but the wall...Tear down the wall!> I have a smaller one against the left side of the tank and a larger (2x size) one that faces the front and extends for about 60% of the tank's length. I have a large area of sand between the two piles, which is a major part of the design. I wanted to see more sand on the bottom because this is, of course, on a beach. I both looks natural (for a pile of rocks) and looks like it will be much more accommodating for my BTA and macros. I'm very pleased. <Glad to hear that! Sounds like you're thinking "outside the box" here!> Anyways, I have a couple more questions if you'd be kind enough to answer them. <I'd be happy to!> 1. Would it be natural to have a seagrass bed in the sand? I haven't seen any rubble zones that have grass beds. I'm thinking of using Thalassia hemprichii and/or Halophila ovalis. <Actually, there are many different regions in the Indo Pacific where you will find small seagrass beds intermixed with rubble and open sand. It would definitely be natural, IMO. Both of the Seagrasses that you mention can be a bit challenging, yet both should work. I do recommend a deeper sandbed with Thalassia, as it does tend to do better in a deeper (4-6" minimum), richer sandbed than Halophila, which can thrive in sandbeds as shallow as 2-3 inches, in my experience. Do expect a bit of die-off with both of these species as they establish themselves. Ultimately, they will begin to put down roots and new leaves will emerge. Patience is essential!> 2. If I have the go-ahead for seagrass, what exactly do I call my biotope? A lagoon? Patch reef? Seagrass bed? Rubble zone? <Hmm...really depends on what you're feeling, I guess. You could accurately refer to it as a "rubble zone with an associated seagrass bed". Not a sexy description, but accurate nonetheless! More important is what you do with this biotope! Please do forward pics to us once this system gets going; I love to see biotope systems! In fact, I'm talking about biotope aquariums at both IMAC and MACNA this year, so I'd love to see what you've accomplished! The biotope approach is a unique and enjoyable way to create memorable aquarium systems!> Thank you so much for all of your help. I would really be lost without your help. TIA, Random Aquarist <A pleasure to be of service! Good luck on your adventure! Regards, Scott F.>

Native marine fish; selection, maintenance    2/8/08 I'm aware of all the information that you guys have on saltwater related topics, however, I can't find anything here or anywhere else about keeping native marines from the Gulf of Mexico. <I see.> I tried collecting some when we went to Florida on vacation last year (we live in mid-Missouri) but I lost all but two barnacles and a couple of clams due to the fact that I accidentally put them in front of a heater vent (I could have killed myself for doing that, as it wasted all the shrimps, decorator crabs, juv. blue crabs, snails, hermit crabs, sand bugs, and a sea hare that I found). <This is usually the prime reason people lose native fish -- overheating. Read a book on the marine fauna of where you're collecting, and aim for species that are on the cooler end of their natural range. These species will tend to tolerate room temperature conditions well. Fish that prefer cold conditions but happen to stray into warmer water tend to be much less resilient So a fish that inhabits the Gulf of Mexico but ranges as far north as, say, North Carolina would be better than an Arctic fish that has its southernmost range at South Carolina.> I also had a nightmare trying to find fish, although I did catch one 3"-4" saltwater catfish (Arius sp.) and what I believe to be some sort of kelp fish 1-1/2"-2" (I didn't have time to identify it because I left my identification book back at the condo). <Hmm... Ariopsis/Bagre spp catfish are very robust fish in public aquaria. I'm not sure what you mean by "kelp fish". Presumably a wrasse or porgy of some time. Again, hardy and basically easy to keep, but like to get large. For native fish aquaria, from personal experience your best bets are small tide pool and estuarine fish, because these have evolved to tolerate extremes (and rapid changes). Gobies, blennies, killifish, and so on tend to work well. Pufferfish are good, too, but they do need a lot of oxygen and excellent water quality. Triggerfish do very well in aquaria. Certain flatfish also work well, but they're nocturnal and a bit fiddly to get settled down (though I had a very tame Atlantic Plaice that ate trout pellets!> However, neither one lived more than a day, because I forgot to bring air pumps. So now I'm trying to prepare in advance for next time. So here are my questions: What species are suitable (yes I know, the kelp fish would have gotten too large, and I also know that fish like gobies and pipefish are suitable, but I couldn't find them)? <Almost the best fish to start with are killifish, livebearers, gobies, and blennies. Most are small, hardy, and omnivorous. You can often obtain live specimens mail order from biological supply houses; Cyprinodon killifish for example are very widely used as lab animals, even if they're never traded as pets. A lot of aquarists have no idea there are marine killifish, but there are.> What temperature would be right for them? All the articles on keeping temperate marines are talking about fish from up North, not fish from around Florida. <A difficult question to answer, though I refer you to my comment above. The problem is that in temperate zones fish are adapted to vary temperatures. Arctic species, for example, will live in shallow water at low latitudes during the winter, but move into colder, deeper water in the summer. Conversely, subtropical/warm temperate species might only appear in northern parts of their range in the summer, and either die off or migrate south when it gets cold. For example, here in the UK we have triggerfish around the coast, but its too cold for them to breed even in summer, even though they happily feed and grow. When winter comes, most of them die, only to be replaced in spring with more triggerfish that drift in with the Gulf Stream. This underlines the fact that temperate zone marine communities are much more complex that coral reef communities which largely stay the same all year around. In any case, your temperature options will be limited if you don't have a chiller. At room temperature in a cool part of the house (say, the basement or garage) you might have a tank that's around 15 C in winter but over 20 C in summer. That'll be fine for subtropical/warm temperate fish like triggers, but deadly to coldwater scorpionfish. As I've said, you really need to cut according to your cloth. If room temperature is all you can do, then carefully select species that will tolerate this. Many will, luckily, but not all. Beadlet anemones, killifish, gobies, mullets, blennies, shore crabs, pistol shrimps, mantis shrimps, Crangon and Penaeus shrimps are all among the things I've found to be very hardy.> What species am I likely to find over sand with a little bit of seaweed (various species ie. Caulerpa, and a little Sargassum weed along with a host of others that I couldn't identify.) <Macroalgae are a difficult thing to maintain in aquaria without good lighting, and lights generate heat, and heat messes up your coldwater aquarium. So there's a good argument for avoiding macroalgae. That said, much of the Sargassum weed community will do well in room temperature aquaria, being adapted to mild rather than cold water.> What would be the best way to catch them, a seine? <Yes, or traps of various sorts. Crabs are easily caught with baited lines, but I'd warm you against catching crabs because they are incredibly destructive. Prawns and shrimps are much better, and very durable. You may even be able to get live specimens as fish food (we can here in England, anyway) and these do astonishingly well in aquaria. Bait shops may offer some shrimps and worms suitable for use (though ragworms (Nereis spp.) and the like are highly predatory). It's a good idea to get the biological filter up and running using this "junk" stuff before going after the really nice things.> I now have six battery pumps for bringing the fish home, anything else you would suggest? <Collect in summer, or at least when it warms up. You want the fish/critters to be adapted to warm water conditions prior to collection. In winter time, if you dump stuff into a room temperature tank, it'll be very stressful, likely fatal.> Any help you can give will be GREATLY appreciated. Thanks, Brandon <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Reef Butterflyfish in a Gulf of Mexico Reef Biotope Aquarium   1/11/08 Hey WWM - <Chris> Bob Fenner helped me with planning my 90g setup about two years ago and I have a follow-up question. I have a 90g tank setup as a Gulf of Mexico reef biotope and I would like it to look as natural as reasonable for a hobby tank. I modeled the fish and corals based on information using the Flower Gardens Sanctuary, the Reef on-line database, Fishbase, and of course here. The tank is two years old and is teaming with detritivores, and unfortunately, also Aiptasia; I am working on that though. The tank also has encrusting pink sponge everywhere. The tank will feature all Pacific facsimiles of TWA corals: 3 Montastrea (or at least the closest Favia's that I can find), 1-3 Porites and 1-2 Scolymia; as of now I only have the Montastrea. While, I am limiting myself to five or so corals, I have had one of the Montastrea/Faviids fragged to make it look like a larger head and hope that it will grow and fuse into a larger head with the appearance of encrusting a reef. My first question some time back was regarding Atlantic Blue Chromis. Thanks to your advise, I have a group of 5 Chromis approaching one year old; 5 survived out of 6, but all appear healthy, active and feeding, even the runt. <This is a very laudable success... C. cyaneus is not generally easily kept> I attribute the short term success to having ample hiding spaces for everyone, heavy feedings of frozen food daily (twice daily when I am home) and maintaining a healthy population of detritivores, copepods and amphipods. <Ahh!> The remaining fish stocking plan for the aquarium is the Reef Butterflyfish (Chaetodon sedentarius), a pair of neon gobies and a Bicolor Damsel. My question is specific to the Butterfly. I am finding conflicting reports on whether this fish is 'reef safe' or not. <Mmm, does pick a bit... in the wild... but I think you will be fine here> There is limited information specific to this species. The little information there is states both, that the fish eats smaller invertebrates, such as segmented worms, and then that Butterflyfish in general eat corals. <I don't agree with this statement... w/o some qualification of what is meant by "generally"... there are several Chaetodontids that eat no live coral whatsoever...> I know that some Butterflyfish eat some coral polyps, <And indeed, there are several obligate corallivorous species> but that is more species specific and less generalized to the whole group. According to Fishbase, Chaetodon sedentarius prefer to feed on eggs of Abudefduf saxatilis but also on Polychaete worms, shrimps, amphipods and hydroids. Now I don't have a source of Sergeant Major Damsel eggs laying around (my supplier never came back after the hurricane ;) ) however my daily feedings include DT' Oyster Eggs, albeit a much smaller particle size. Living in south Louisiana, if  generic fresh fish eggs would be appreciated, I can provide. Shrimp and amphipods I have covered as my frozen recipe includes frozen brine shrimp, plankton, Mysis shrimp and Cyclops (all SF Brand, no additives). Not sure what to do about hydroids; would that include Aiptasia by chance? <One can hope... but I'd be stocking a few Lysmata wurdemanni...> Now hopefully 'shrimp' does not include Coral Banded Shrimp, <Does not> but if it does, so be it. Now based on the Fishbase statement, I would be under the impression that corals would be "safe", but I understand there is always chance or personality and randomness. <Well-stated> So would the Reef Butterfly likely be a good citizen in my tank? Would you recommend a single or a pair for a 90g tank. Thank You. Chris Sanchez New Orleans <I'd be sorely tempted to try two... have seen this species singly and paired in the wild... about equally. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Re: Reef Butterflyfish in a Gulf of Mexico Reef Biotope Aquarium 1-11-2008 Thanks. Doing some additional research while awaiting your response, I stumbled across a chapter regarding Reef Behavior of Butterflyfishes, in the book by Paul Humann and Ned Deloach titled Reef Fish Behavior, which is a supplemental publication to Humann's three part series regarding Florida and Caribbean fish, corals and invertebrates. <All excellent works> Excellent references by the way. I wanted to share this information with the site. A paragraph details dietary habits of all seven of the TWA Butterflyfish, the following excerpt applies to the Reef Butterflyfish: "Although the Caribbean Butterflyfishes, all in the genus Chaetodon, eat anthozoids, primarily from hard and soft corals and zoanthids, each species tends to have its own favorite foods... Reef Butterflyfish, C. sedentarius, and Spotfin Butterflyfish, C. ocellatus, live slightly deeper, generally near high-profile reefs, where they dine on tubeworms, hydroids and small crustaceans, including shrimps." So, I get from this that they will pick at corals. <I concur... from many dives, personal observation> Do you think this will be occasional picking or destructive? <The former... if there's sufficient food otherwise, a good bit of live scleractinian biomass, I don't think there will be obvious damage at all> Also, since the majority of the tank will be LPS, I suspect these will be safe, especially since they are mostly open at night. I wonder about the Porites and Gorgonia. The Gorgonia I picked up overtime to get me started with reef keeping but are not really part of my master plan, they can go if need be. The Porites are part of my stocking plan, do you suspect there will be a problem? Or is it more of a case where the Reef Butterfly will pick at the corals if I fail to keep it properly fed? <This last. BobF> Thanks again. Chris Sanchez New Orleans

Reef Flat Biotope  11/13/07 Hello Scott Fellman, <WWM's resident Biotope Geek (or just resident geek?) is here!> You helped me to decide on a biotope of a reef flat. <An excellent choice! A fun biotope to replicate!> I am moving towards that direction and am including a link to Michigan Reefers, a website forum I use. My screen name is Spanko as you read through it. <I soo want to make of-color comments about your screen name! But I won't- and I promise to stick to the job at hand!> Hope you enjoy where I am so far and I look forward to any and all critique from you or any of the other crew members. <I'd be honored to!> Thank you for your help thus far and I will keep you posted as time goes on. Hopefully time will be kind to my tank and the biotope I am trying to create. OOPS forgot the link. http://www.nano-reef.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=134535&st=0&gopid=1331380&#entry1331380 Best regards, Henry G. Mello <Well, Henry- I am impressed with the thought that you've put into the system thus far. I'll do my best to offer some ideas and not screw it up for you! First off, I like the fact that you are depicting a biotope and selecting a small number of species. Too often, hobbyists go for the "fruit stand" look of dozens of frags of various stony corals all over the place, with every inch covered. Not only does it look unnatural, but it is downright goofy, IMO! Selecting a few choice specimens and allowing them to grow is an excellent approach, particularly in a nano tank like you are running. If it were me, I'd probably limit the species selection to one Acropora, one Montipora, and maybe one Pocillipora species. The less competition, the more potential for success! An I'd be inclined to skip the clam, unless much larger potential quarters await. Ohh- and the rockwork should be nice and open- allowing for future growth of the corals. use as little as possible to achieve the look you desire. No rock walls-please no rock walls! Argh! In regards to your lighting- I am a big fan of 10,000k lighting. It has a balanced, aesthetically bright look to it, and corals grow well under it. Actinic is really an option based on your tastes. Some people find all 10,000k-illuminated aquaria a bit "washed out" (then again, some people like peach fuzz, pork rinds, and eggplant-so tastes can vary), so the use of some actinic will keep them from having a breakdown of sorts. I prefer all 10,000k myself, but it's your call. As far as the fishes are concerned, the Talbot's Damsel is a beautiful fish, but you could have some aggression issues in an aquarium of this size. They can be a bit crazy at times, so I'd start with small ones, added all at the same time to maximize the opportunity for success. I tried an all-Damselfish aquarium a number of years ago (now referred to as "The Great Damsel Massacre of 1996"), stocking a medium sized aquarium with about 20 small Damsels. Net result was one very mean, very ugly survivor (yep- it was a Domino-the ugliest one!) and feelings of guilt that haunt me to this day! At night- I have dreams...the Damsels are coming, and they all have cans of Tetra Min Guppy Food and...ok- never mind! Seriously, do approach with caution. A really cool idea might be to stock with a few small, peaceful fishes like the cute "Highfin Blenny", Atrosalarias fuscus, or other small, reef-flat associated fishes, such as Gobiodon okinawae, the "Yellow Coral Goby". Or, you could cheat a bit in the fish department (I won't tell anyone!) and sneak in a trio of Yellow Assessors (Assessor flavissimus) or a Firefish (like Nemateleotris decora)in there as peacful, interesting, and colorful alternatives. Just a thought if you're not dead-set on being absolutely faithful to nature in the fish department. Well- I'm rambling on here- but you get the idea. Your plan seems good...just don't overstock, an please don't "over-species". Limit the animal choices and you'll see larger, happier and healthier specimens! best of luck, and keep me updated! Regards, Scott F.>

Biotope stocking question   10/22/07 Dear Friend, <Yo!> I had written earlier on setting up a biotope tank and Bob had responded. <Back with you Ranjith> I have started the setup and had a few questions regarding stocking The tank would be a 120 gall with sandy DSB of 4 inches (is that enough or 6 inches?) <Either will/would work...> The biotope is basically on the Lakshadweep reef. <Ah, yes> There theme will focus on corals primarily and on a FEW select fishes. Corals would be 10 odd types of Zoanthids, Mushrooms and two or three individual pieces of other soft corals only. Maybe leather, hammer, bubble corals? <Okay... should be fine in this volume, started small, well-spaced...> I plan to keep other inverts like a few dozen snails, some sponges, <Do take care in researching these... by species... for suitability, feeding...> feather dusters, cleaner shrimps etc. There will be zones of well lit to shadowy areas to suit each item. All stock will be belonging to the Lakshadweep only. <Okay> After much research I was able to get some fishes that were reef safe, attractive as well as from the location. Can I have the following fishes? 1. Main focus in fish would be a Dwarf Lion fish (Dendrochirus zebra) (will this guy chomp my cleaners or other fishes?) <May ingest these if hungry, yes... and they fit in its mouth...> 2. 4 yellow tangs (how much of macro algae should I keep in the tank as a side dish munchie?) or should I go for the "Acanthurus lineatus"? <Yellow tangs... are not found in the Indian Ocean for one... a Clown Tang could work... as the Alpha fish here... this is not an "easy" tang species to keep... I have seen some very nice ones that were trained onto Spectrum Food (by Pablo Tepoot himself)... Otherwise, this species often dies from lack of nutrition> 3. 2-3 Fromia starfish (assume there will be plenty of detritus from my lionfish?) <Mmm, don't eat this...> 4. 4-6 cleaner shrimps (will they survive the lion?) <Too likely to be inhaled> 5. A pair or trio of dwarf multispinus angel. Reef safe? <To a large degree, yes> That's it. No more fish. If you think any of the items is not compatible, please be outright frank. Best for me and the critter that way :) Would also be great if you could suggest replacements or better tankmates if you feel like bumping off any of the above :-)) Cheers and Thanks Ranjith <If the Shrimp aren't too expensive to replace, this mix should be fine. Bob Fenner>

Re: Biotope stocking question  10/23/07 Dear Bob, Couple of further questions. Hope am not buggin you :) When you mentioned that the coral population would do in this volume, did you mean that this would be the top max or am I having room. <Is about maximized... With growth, it will be too much in a few years time> The idea is not to add more. Rather to ensure I have a low livestock to water volume ratio. <Understood, and agreed> Ideally, it would be good to know that there is additional room as the Lion can be pretty messy and the soft corals would be noxious. <Yes> Sponge variety would be the staghorn sponge. Is that having any ominous warnings? <Need to have scientific names Ranjith... Common ones can be very misleading> I don't plan to feed the sponges specifically except zooplankton (Cyclops eeze and ocean nutrition coral food maybe 2 times a week) <Might be okay... depending on species... some poriferans derive a good deal of their nutrition via photosynthesis, some others have food size, type specificities that are hard to accommodate in captive settings... the use of "refugiums" is urged...> Coming to the fish Are you saying the "Dendrochirus zebra" can eat even my tangs and dwarf angels? <If they are small enough relative to the size of the Dwarf Lion's mouth, yes indeed> Shrimps are a risk I agree but tangs? Since he is a dwarf species, I thought this will not be a problem with Centropyges and tangs. <These other fish species "lie down" at night... to "sleep"... are easily found, ingested then> I plan to add him the last and maybe at 2 inches size. <Oh! This should be fine then> The idea is to have a predator in which will get the others to shoal. And also reduce aggressiveness in the tangs and dwarf angels. <I see> Next regarding the yellow tang. I got the list from this website "http://lakshadweep.nic.in/depts/forest/corals_&flora.htm" It does have the yellow as well as the regal tang. <... I don't see Zebrasoma flavescens listed here. What species are you referring to/calling "Yellow Tang"? Perhaps a juvenile... THE Yellow Tang of the west you can read about here: http://fishbase.org/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=6018&genusname=Zebrasoma&speciesname=flavescens> I thought this was authentic since the website is a govt. site. <Heeee! Please... learn to trust yourself, be skeptical to slightly cynical re a/the "government"... Are "just humans"... with their own agendas> Will a pair of regal tangs do instead of the clown tang? <Mmm... I would NOT place these two or two of the genus Acanthurus period in this volume> Also, will tangs graze my live rock to death (figuratively)? <Doubtful. Though will graze down palatable forms continuously> I don't fancy tearing down the rock structure to replenish with new liverock. I am the one that will fiddle initially till set. Then no changes to structures for a cpl of years. <Not to worry> Then on to the seastar, Sorry, I think I mistook the Linckia to the Fromia. I was thinking that since the lion would be making a mess, I would need a strong detritus feeder. <Ah, no... better to rely on good circulation, filtration...> In the posts you mention the blue one is the one that feeds on detritus but is not recommended. <The type of "detritus" is not fish wastes...> Will the lion and the tangs not defecate enough to sustain him? <Not what Linckias, Asteroids consume...> Will the "multifora" or "guildingi" do better? Or is it best to only consider the Fromia Indica? <I would try a genus Fromia star... NOT Linckias> Cleaner shrimp are 10 USD a piece here and very difficult to obtain. I guess that needs to be only one, the lion or the shrimp. <Okay> Any suggestions other than the lion for a focal point? <I think the Lion will be fine for this...> My only worry is the spines which are dangerous not only for the fish but to me as well. I did once; only once dwell on the thought of a dwarf lion harem heheh. Then gave it up as I will have no place for anything else and damn risky for me when maintenance is done. Cheers Ranjith <I see... Bob Fenner>

Re: Biotope stocking question   10/24/07 Dear Bob, Thanks for the prompt response. Ok. If it is gonna be too much crowding when they grow, then I will cut down on some of the inverts (corals) Better that way than fighting to maintain it :-) <Yes> Another thing is that the bubble and hammer are LPS right? <Yes... for what use this designation is...> Could you suggest some soft coral that is found in the Indian Ocean? I tried looking for soft corals but came up with zilch :( <See the works of Phil Alderslade...> It looks like, ppl here consider only hard corals as corals. <I consider only Scleractinians and Alcyonaceans to be corals... such is not the case in the west where some non-Anthozoan Cnidarians are even labeled as such...> Regarding the yellow tangs, I checked fishbase.org as you mentioned and they have it in their database for India. Of course they do not mention the Lakshadweep area. <But do mention India en toto> Also the website I gave you is not very organized but the "Zebrasoma flavescens" species is mentioned. You will get it if you do a "CTRL+F" and search for the name as keyword. <Really? Again, have been diving about in the Indian Ocean... this particular Sailfin Tang is NOT found there period. However, there are other Acanthurids that have all-yellow juveniles... I suspect this ID is spurious... that the folks are referring to another species> Seagrass or seaweed would be out of the question I guess with tangs? :) <Mmm, no... would be of benefit... I'd grow some species, rotate in/out... perhaps in a tied-in refugium> Regarding the sponge Halichondria and Haliclona is the one I was looking at. Hopefully identical looks are not there in other sponges as identification by local collection agents is next to impossible. Do you think the lion's presence will encourage any shoaling or reduce intra species aggression? <Don't think it will affect much either way> Cheers and thanks again Ranjith <Welcome my friend. BobF>

Re: Biotope stocking question  10/25/07 Dear Bob, <Ranjith> Ok. Thanks. I will check on Phil Alderslade's work. <The one popular work with Katharina Fabricius is strongly recommended> Regarding me having been to Lakshadweep for diving, Heheheheheheheheh. Guess what, I can NOT stay afloat for long; forget about swimming and diving but, surely have a vivid imagination and have seen a few documentaries and movies <Ah, good... and the floating will no doubt come with age, trying...> :-) Thanks for the help anyways, will surely come back when my setup is done with pics. <Real good> You have a wonderful week ahead and a weekend thereafter. <And life for you> Cheers Ranjith <Bob Fenner>

A "Biohead" in The Making! (Biotope Aquarium Enthusiast!) - 10/01/07 Hello Scott here I am again. <Glad that you're back!> It looks like my project is getting closer to a go as I am working with a LFS to return my softies and LPS for store credit. He says he also has a source in the Philippines for aqua cultured SPS so I will be working with him on that when I am ready. <I'm glad that you're looking towards aquacultured corals; so important for the long-term viability of our hobby.> My questions for you today are: *Are there any fish possibilities I am overlooking for this biotope. Ina 29gallon of course I am limited by the size. I am currently looking a picking from a list of Damsels, Flame Hawkfish, Geometric Pygmy Hawkfish. <I like the Pygmy Hawk...a really small fish, but a nice addition to an aquarium of this size. Damsels would be appropriate, but their aggressiveness in this sized aquarium can be a nuisance. How about some Blennies and/or Gobies as well? Excellent, appropriate choices for this biotope and aquarium size.> Also are any of those listed not found on the reef flats? <Well, these fishes are found in a variety of biotopes and reef locales, but they are commonly found on reef flats.> *What motile inverts should I be looking at to keep with the theme? <Various urchins, Starfish, Sea Cucumbers, small crabs, and many others.> *I have a T. Derasa currently. As you remember I will be going bare bottom. Is this clam in tune with the theme and if so will it survive on the top of the rockwork without any sand? <I can survive in a variety of reef environments, but it's typically found on outer reef edges, as opposed to reef flats. T. maxima might be a more appropriate choice for a reef flat environment, IMO.> I am doing an abundance of research on this mostly on the net but these few questions I cannot seem to answer for myself so I am again tapping your knowledge. I hope you don't mind. <No problem...there is a lot of information out there if you use a little creativity in searching, so keep at it and you'll find all sorts of cool stuff!> Thank you in advance for any additional information that you can provide me. This is really starting to be a fun project; I hope I can pull it off. Best regards, Henry G. Mello <I have no doubt that you will pull it off...and it should be great! Best of luck and keep me posted! Regards, Scott F.> A Biotope Is Born (Planning a Biotopic Display) - 09/22/07 Hello WetWebMedia crew. <Scott F. here today!> I have had the pleasure of your help before in setting up my tank. I am going to ask for it once again. <Sorry...only one answer per person...Nah- just joking! Ask away!> My Oceanic Bio-cube 29 gallon is now about 9 months old. It is doing great. <Good tohear> The requisite fishes and corals are a hodgepodge of different things that I have come to like and feel that it may be a problem in the future with chemical warfare as they start to grow out. <It will be in the long run...> Rockwork is a wall of sorts. <ARRGGHHHH!!! Something I'm rather opinionated on! TEAR DOWN THE WALL!> I am tired of it. <GOOD!> I am tired of islands of rock. I am tired of valleys of rock. <Hmmm...that takes care of the other 1/3 of standard rockscape configurations used in the hobby...LOL> I like the look of reef shelves. Those areas of the reef where the bottom has a layer of rock on which is attached Monti cap, Acro, varied encrusting SPS and a column of water over it where schools of fish swim. <Very cool...I've seen what you are referring to!> So my question to you all, what would you think would happen if I took all of the nice but mismatched (as far as where they are normally located in the wild) corals in my tank out. <Ohh, if you do that, darn-they might start thriving...LOL> I would then take all of the sand and fish and motile inverts out. I would save the rock but spread it out across the bottom of the tank leaving spaces in between, bare bottom, no sand. <Well, you had me until the "no sand" part...I understand the desire to keep BB aquariums for some people, but IMO, sand just completes the aquascape.> These spaces would be for flow and whatever small fish that I would get in the future, and that reside on a reef shelf like this, to swim through. <Nice idea. I've seen Japanese aquariums set up in a similar manner to a very nice effect.> Those fish I am finding could be Neopomacentrus, Pomacentrus , Chrysiptera, and perhaps Neocirrhites and Oxycirrhites. <Interesting, colorful mix of small fishes. Stock 'em carefully in this 29 gallon system. Look for a "Geometric Pygmy Hawkfish (scientific name escapes me right now) for this system. A great small fish.> I would be placing the base rock about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way up the entire bottom to create a mounting platform for coral. Maybe even far enough up to cover the bottom sump inlet so that it pulls water from "underneath" the shelf. Then start to add Monti caps and Acros and encrusting type corals that research would tell me (after I did the research of course) live in this environment. <I'm loving the fact that you did your homework on this...If I saw you in person I'd give you a big hug....A fellow Biotope geek! This is my current obsession, too. For those who aren't familiar with the term "biotope aquarium", this is nothing more than an aquarium designed to replicate representation of a specific environmental niche found in nature. The fishes and invertebrates in the aquarium would be representative of the species found in nature in the same niche.> Now knowing already that this type of reef shelf has the most turbulent varied flow on it I could make this happen with a couple of Korallia's up top pointing at each other. Then perhaps one of the very small Tunze power heads right at the bottom glass to push flow through the base as I would not have to worry about blowing sand all over. <OK- you're giving me one of the only reasons why you should consider bare bottom...lots of flow in a small aquarium...I'll cut you some slack :0 > I already have lighting that consists of 2- 10k daylight, 1- actinic, and 1- 50-50 PC light for a total of 144 watts in a tank that is 19" deep and where the light is in a hood that sits tight on the tank. I currently have some Monti Cap and encrusting Monti that are growing well is this light. The bottom "floor" would probably be about 4 or 5 inches deep so the coral would start off being mounted there and growing upwards. It would transition from lower in one of the front corners to a little higher in the opposite back corner just to give it some visual affect. I would like to add a tabling Acro, and maybe a Porites Rus that pillars as the center piece coral. <Neat. I like the variation in height. If done right, it adds visual interest and depth.> So my question(s) are: 1. Is this doable in the configuration I am trying to relate to you? <Certainly. I'm thrilled that you're trying it. I do wish that you were doing it in a larger aquarium, of course, but it can certainly be accomplished in this system.> 2. Would the Hawkfish be able to survive in the amount of turbulent flow I am looking to create and are they truly an inhabitant of these reef shelves? <I've kept Hawkfish just fin in situations with lots more flow than what you're proposing without any problems whatsoever. Rest easy.> I hope I have made this explanation of my thoughts clear enough for you to understand and that you can give me your opinion(s) and suggestions. <Sounds wonderful, really. I am a huge fan of biotopic modeling (in fact, I'm writing a book on it and speaking on the topic at clubs!), so you "go me at hello"! Seriously, this will make a very unique setup. I love the fact that you are limiting your fish and coral selections to just a few species. A system like this, if properly maintained and not overcrowded, can be a real source of pride and an inspiration to fellow hobbyists! Go for it!> Thank you for always being there. <A pleasure! Do take pics and send them to me when you get this system up and running. I'm always looking for pics of unique biotopes for my presentations, and this one may be quite different!> Best regards, Henry G. Mello <A pleasure! Regards, Scott F.>

Re: A Biotope is Born (Cont'd.) - 09/23/07 Thank you Scott, very informative and it sounds like I got a biotope geek for may answer. <Or just a geek, as the case may be...> On the subject lighting for this project. I have an Oceanic 29 gallon bio-cube. I have the lighting upgraded to the following: 2 10 K's 36 watts each. 1 50/50 36 watts. 1 actinic 36 watts. Total 144 watts. This lighting scheme is currently growing out some Monti Cap, and some encrusting Monti very well. Would this suffice for what I am planning? I would not be opposed to running all four lights as 10K's if that would help. <I'd be inclined to run all of the lights.> I really like the closed top and don't want to do an upgrade to MH for fear of boiling the water. (oh yeah and the expense) However I will if I need to. What do you think? <Agreed...I really don't think that you do. In a relatively shallow aquarium, with good feeding and a healthy fish population, I think that you should be fine with the lighting regimen that you are proposing.> Thank you again for the great answer the first time and I promise to send you pictures of this if\when it comes to being, but only if you promise to notify me when your book is done so I can obtain a copy. Best regards, Henry <Thanks for the kind words, and I'll certainly let everyone know when this project is finally completed! Do send those pics! Regards, Scott F.> 75-Gallon Marine Wish List - 09/07/07 Hi fish crew, <<Howdy Rick>> Believe me, I've done hours of reading and research to come up with my "wish list" for the 75 gallon (30 gallon sump - DSB & Gracilaria) I'm presently setting up (AquaC EV120 skimmer c/w 100mg/h ozone "potential"). <<Very good to know>> Every time I think I have my list figured out, I read an "experience" from someone with a very similar situation that didn't quite work out (of course knowing there are never guarantees). <<Indeed>> Therefore, I'll throw the list to you hoping for some feedback. <<Will be my pleasure...>> Purple Tang, <<I consider this size tank very marginal for this fish>> Cherub Pygmy Angel, <<A good/hardy choice>> (2) Ocellaris Clowns (hoping to host with a rose or maroon quadricolor), <<Mmm...if planning to keep an anemone, this system should be modeled around this animal...i.e.- no sessile inverts, compatible/suitable fishes, exceptional water quality, etc.>> and a Royal Gramma. <<Another very good choice for this system/this size tank. Hmm...omit the Tang and the Clowns/Anemone (okay...about half your choices thus far [grin]) and you have the beginnings of a very nice "Atlantic" biotope system...though will take a bit more research to find/select a particular "niche" to replicate. Have you seen Richard Harker's excellent article on replicating natural marine/reef habitats in the latest edition of Aquarium Fish International? (such articles should be required reading for all...in my opinion) If I may indulge for a moment... I believe the success of marine hobbyists would increase at a geometric rate if we would pay more attention to attempting to replicate actual/natural environments with the appropriate associated livestock, as opposed to stuffing everything that piques our interest in to a transparent box "chock-full" of rock>> Couple Blue-Legged Hermits and maybe a small Fromia and a couple Cleaner Shrimp. Honestly, I'd prefer not to have the anemone, if I could get the clowns to host with an LPS... <<Does happen, but is risky for the coral. The Clownfish's attentions often cause damage to the fleshy tissue of the LPS from being abraded against sharp skeletal structures. If you decide upon a FO/FOWLR system, the Clownfish can be kept without any type of "host" organism quite well>> I'd feel better with a few LPS in the tank as opposed to an anemone and another Cnidarian battling in only 75 gallons of space. <<Am much in agreement>> As always, your expertise is greatly appreciated, <<Always happy to share my opinions...>> Rick from Edmonton. <<Regards, EricR from Columbia>>

New Reef Setup   9/4/07 Dear Friend, <Howdy!> I have gone through many of the FAQs and articles on the various areas concerned with a new setup at WWM. However, I was unable to find a couple of items. Please could you help me out with some details and advise. <Advice? Sure> I understand the effort you guys take to reply to tones of mails hence, sorry for the long mail in advance. <No worries> I plan to setup the following Tank size: 5L X 2D X 2H using 12mm glass. Volume should be around 120G? <Closer to 140 before displacement by gear...> Play sand mixed with beach sand 1.5" substrate. Live rock only (no base rock) around 80-100Kgs Biotope: Indian Ocean (Lakshadweep islands) with 2 boulders forming a 16" deep gorge around 2-4" wide. I like this idea but not fixated on it. <I like it!> A bit of LR rubble around the twin boulders and turtle/sea grass bed on the other side. Boulders would be drilled LR mounted on PVC pipe (schedule 80) frame. (how can I fasten the PVC frame since my substrate is gonna be 1-2" only?) <Will show or you can make deeper in the back where the rock is stacked? Do drill holes in the pipe to allow some water circulation> Lights 2 Philips CFL 55W cool daylight straight pin (12 hours) and 2 Philips TL05-20W actinic (14 hours). They should be around 6500K I think? <Sounds good> 1 lunar simulator http://www.fishbowl-innovations.com/product/moonComputer <Nice> Plan to replace in 10-12 months period. Cooling: I plan to use a 1/4 HP Hailea http://www.hailea.com/E-hailea/product-1/HC-300A.htm Or a 1/5 HP Hailea http://www.hailea.com/E-hailea/product-1/HC-130A-1.htm <Mmm, I would go with the 1/4> Would it be better if I got a 1/10 HP unit and used it to complement the existing 1/20 unit? <Mmm... for?> The smaller one could be used to draw from 32C (max in summers) to 30C and the larger 1/10 can then reduce from 30C to 27C? <Oh! I see... likely unnecessary... I would only use the larger horsepower unit.> Which approach is better you feel? <Not to use a back-up as such> The JBJ Arctica stuff is gonna BREAK my budget :( <Yes... plus the ongoing electrical consumption> Am currently using the 1/20 HP version for my existing tank (80 Liters) from the last 4 months and its easily accommodating. <Oh! Impressive> Water movement: I want to reduce pumps and the problems they bring along. Thus, I will use only 1 return pump and one chiller pump. <Good. We are in agreement> Plan to have one 5 Gal CSD on top of the tank (6" above tank lights). Design is tall model and should be around 15" tall. This would get filled in by an Eheim 1060 external pump from the sump of 50Liters. Will this Eheim model be able to pump to around 6 feet height? <Mmm, yes... the maximum head given is ten feet...> Outlet is 2" PVC and inlet is 1.5" PVC. <No need to be any larger than Eheim discharge plumbing diameter> Overflow is 2". Is there any way I can reduce the micro bubbles? <A collector arrangement with media in it to allow the bubbles to coalesce before going onward> Plan to use marine plywood (12mm thickness?) with reinforced seams and entire inside surface coated with aquarium silicon after assembly to make the wood water proof. <... I would NOT use Silicone for this purpose... Doesn't really adhere well to wood... Perhaps fiberglass cloth and resin... or other structural material other than wood> This will be in a wooden cabinet with Styrofoam used to deaden noise. (Will this do? as noise IS a factor) <Maybe> I also plan to have either of the foll from the opposite side to create random currents against the surge. <?> a. Another similar surge on the opp side b. Tunze Nano stream powerhead (on a timer running continuous during day to simulate stronger waves) at night only the surge fires. Maybe I could time this to match the lunar cycles? <Perhaps> Since the main reef structure is only a twin boulder which would be on the side, should I only use one surge blowing toward them? <Should be fine> Twin overflow drilled as 2" holes on the back of the tank with rigid PVC strainer and bulkhead (http://www.marinedepot.com/ps_ViewItem~idproduct~FT1167.html ) connecting to flexible PVC tube. <Mmm, okay> Will it be a better idea to keep the overflows at different levels? <Slightly, yes> I plan to take a direct feed from the overflow to the refugium around a ?" outlet from the overflow. <Do take care not to run too much flow through the refugium itself...> Filtration 50 Liters sump with skimmer (wonder if you could suggest any good but inexpensive one) <Posted... likely either a AquaC or EuroReef...> 100 gm.s Carbon filtering changed once a month. Am planning to reduce the quantity of carbon to keep the iodine in but want the chemical warfare contained. <Good idea. You've been reading...> Will it be better to use the full ? Kg bag only on weekends? <Mmm, I'd leave in all the time... maybe overlap their replacement... 1/2 every month...> No other filter m media will be used but, I will keep 2 chambers in mind while making the sump for future use :-) Refugium: I plan to use my current tank (80Liters excluding rock and sand) which is successfully running from last 4+ months as the refugium. <Okay> I plan to reduce the live rock from this from current 30Kgs to around 10Kgs with a DSB of 8". The flow in.out of the refuge would be rather slow around 50LPH using a ? Inch hole with a fine particle level strainer to keep the nutrients in. Will this affect the pods etc? cause I occasionally want pods or plankton to reach the display as live food. <Should be fine> Critters would be 20 odd snails, Caulerpa, sea weed, and other macro algae. Maybe a few serpent stars? <I'd leave out the stars... too likely to be too predatory> Feeding plan: Cyclops eeze, Ocean nutrition nano coral food 2 times a week with Selcon or RedSea coral vitamin. Prime reef flakes daily http://www.marinedepot.com/ps_ViewItem~idproduct~ON2155.html Phytoplankton 2-3 times a week http://www.marinedepot.com/ps_ViewItem~idproduct~EV2222.html http://www.marinedepot.com/ps_ViewItem~idproduct~TL3151.html Shredded shrimp and or shellfish 2-3 times a week (from local fish store) Is there any other good product I can get? (shipping would take time as I live in India) <Try Spectrum pelleted foods... really... Completely nutritious and very palatable> Livestock I plan to keep low light demanding corals and inverts along with a few SMALL fishes. Fish would not be more than 10. (Already have 2 A. perculas, 1 two color blenny, 1 firefish, 1 flame angel. Couple of shrimp (already have 1 cleaner shrimp) Based on the biotope, Can you suggest some good corals? I understand the really cool ones are not photosynthetic and need to feed them. I think this should not be a problem as I do the same for my polyps, mushrooms and cup coral currently. <I would take a look/see at the biotope (books, a dive trip or two) and make your own list of what you see in this microhabitat> Can you suggest some good SMALL fish? <Ditto> I tried searching for stuff but was unable to get much on biotopes. Please do let me know if there is any URL or such which describes biotope examples. <Have been diving across the other side of India and to the south in the Maldives... but not yet over to Lakshadweep islands... but would look at books, the Net... for ideas... Tools like Fishbase.org for ideas on what is there naturally> Additives and Testing Potassium iodate for iodine Magnesium (what is the chemical component one uses for MG?) <Most folks add some Epsom, MgSO4... Magnesium sulfate> Calcium (using red sea Kalk) For first 2-4 months, Weekly test of ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphate, PH in addition to the items in additives. Then reduce it to once a month slowly over period of 2 months. Water changes would be once a month with 10% made from Taikong or red sea sea salt made and kept for 24 hours. Cheers and thanks again Ranjith <Sounds like a very nice project indeed! Bob Fenner>

Re: New Reef Setup, biotope...    9/4/07 Hello Bob, Thanks for the response. <Welcome> You mentioned " collector arrangement with media in" <Yes... to aggregate the small bubbles...> How do I do this in a surge? Will it not affect the surge power? <Mmm, need to discharge the water from the surge underwater...> Will it be in the surge box or in the display tank end of the siphon pipe? <Neither likely here... if there are micro-bubbles in the water going into the surge bucket itself, you can add the collector/media at the discharge point there> Also you mentioned to use fiberglass cloth and resin... or other structural material other than wood for the surge box. <Sorry for the lack of clarity. What I mean/t is that IF you're using wood, I WOULD use fiberglass cloth and resin... OR if not using wood... for instance glass, you could use Silastic... the surge "bucket" can be fashioned of any chemically inert material> Any idea what? Because fiberglass cloth or resin is probably something I would mostly not get in India easily :( <Really? Well... a "polythene" (Polyethylene here) drum of some sort would do nicely> I picked up some research material on the net that lists out the detailed names of the species found in Lakshadweep :)) Guess I will pick from that. <Is a very nice place from what I've seen...> I have tried to attach two images from a research done. Please glance at them. They are tables of the water parameters in the Lakshadweep taken in 2001. One funny point I see in the research is that the reef temp is 29 to 31C on an average. <Smokin' as they say in the west> Can corals survive and flourish in this temp range? I do remember reading in some book "reef secrets" by a well known author that some places do indeed have this temp range. If so, and I can afford to keep the temp at around 29 or 30, and then my need for a chiller is dramatically reduced. <Mmm, not most species, well or long... 86 F. I'd make as the uppermost value... 30 C.> Worst come worst I can use my existing one which as per the specs is *supposed* to support 220Liters and bringing temp down 10-12 degrees C. <Sounds good> Since summers reach 32-33 here, It should be able to bring down 500Liters (double its capacity) by 2-3 degrees C?? and I could use a couple of fans blowing across the surface also to reach the needed pull down?? Cheers Ranjith <Maybe... you might have to turn your lights off during the hottest weather. Bob Fenner>

Planning a Marine Biotope Aquarium  7/31/07 Hello, <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> Well, I've been thinking a lot about how I'm going to stock my tank and what changes I might have to make. Let's break it down. <Sounds decidedly "M.C. Hammer- like"...LOL> First, my current tank info. My tank is 86g (48"L x 16"W x 26"T). It has a 36g sump (30"L x 15.5"W x 18"T). I have about 2" of Arag-Alive! Fiji Pink sand in my tank, along with 125 lbs of Fiji LR. <Nice looking substrate!> Originally, I wanted a Fiji lagoon biotope setup. I planned to have a BTA, a pair of Maroon Clownfish, some Chlorodesmis fastigiata, and snails. I still want those things, but now I'm looking into more fish and coral. <I'm falling in love, here!> Now I'd like to have a pair of Maroon Clownfish (Premnas biaculeatus), a pair of Firefish (Nemateleotris magnifica), and 2-6 Citrinus Clown Gobies (Gobiodon citrinus), a BTA (Entacmaea quadricolor), Turtle Weed (Chlorodesmis fastigiata), some Acropora for the Clown Gobies, and maybe some bubble coral (Plerogyra sinuosa). <Interesting mix!> Is there a location/biotope where all of these species coexist? <Good question. These fishes, inverts, and algae are found in a variety of Indo-Pacific locales. Even though many share overlapping distribution, they may not be found together in one spot, however. Consider the niches that each fish inhabits. The Firefish, for example, are found in the areas that you are interested in, but possibly at varying depths from say, the Clown Gobies. A great research tool for biotope geeks like us is the ichthyological resource fishbase.org. By searching a bit deeper on fishbase about a specific species of fish, you can find out diet, ecology, etc. And, of particular interest to me- you can find out the depths and locations that various type specimens were captured. Really interesting stuff when you are working on assembling a biotope system. Keep in mind, however, that there is no "rule" when assembling such a system. Sure, the goal is to create an assemblage of plants and animals from more-or-less the same ecological niche, but it IS open to some interpretation on the part of you, the hobbyist. You can create a system that is absolutely exact, with only animals and plants found in a specific location, depth, and situation. Or, you could assemble a system of animals from more-or-less the same region, but perhaps from slightly different depths or parts of the reef. You can go as hardcore as you'd like to go when doing this- that's the fun of the hobby! As always, practical considerations come into play: Mixing stinging cnidarians, such as anemones, in a smaller system with corals, is potentially problematic, and allelopathic issues can arise. Predatory fishes are simply going to eat their prey items, even if they are found together in the same niche! Compromise is required even when attempting to replicate a specific biotope.> If so, how would I arrange my rocks to display that biotope? <Try something a little different, such as a few low aggregations of rock with space in between, instead of the usual "rock walls" that are so pervasive in the hobby! Tear down the wall!!! Perhaps even one larger mound of rock, with a craggy, open structure, and sand areas all around, with some seagrasses or Fungiids sprinkled here and there on the substrate for interest. Or, if you are truly daring- no major rock structures at all...just a few pieces here and there on the sand. There are endless possibilities. I highly recommend looking at web sites catering to divers and dive resorts. many have pictures and virtual tours of the areas they serve, and you can get great inspiration from these pictures!> Do any of those biotopes contain sand beds in which grow Oar Grass (Halophila ovalis) or Paddle Grass (Halophila decipiens)? I don't think sand beds get 2" deep in most biotopes, so I need a biotope that does. <Man- you know how to hit my hot buttons here...There are many parts of the Indo-Pacific where you might fine seagrass beds adjacent to smaller reef structures. The beauty of Halophila is that you can keep it in a slightly more shallow sandbed than other seagrasses, such as Halodule or Thalassia. A depth of 2"-3" can work fine if it is properly enriched. There is some good information on this topic now. Do check out an article by friend and seagrass expert Sarah Lardizabal on these species in a back issue of Conscientious Aquarist on line from last year. She's got great info. on these plants, and can also be found on various hobby forums promoting macroalgae and seagrasses. She'll be at MACNA in Pittsburgh talking about seagrasses, which is sure to be interesting. I will be "on the road" this year at a few club events and at IMAC, promoting the biotope concept, too- and I do talk about seagrasses extensively in my presentation. The idea of keeping seagrasses is a relatively new area for hobbyists to explore, one that can rally be fun. In fact, the whole idea of marine biotope aquariums is a refreshing change from the usual "garden" assemblies that we see so often in the hobby. Dare to be different, and you can inspire others! Man, you're getting me excited when I hear about your biotope plans!> Well, that's all I'm wondering at the moment. <That's it? Sheesh.. Just kidding.> If you have any pictures of the biotopes you suggest, I'd really like to see them for reference. <Well, I assembled a personal collection of biotope pics, that I've saved on my computer for reference only, because many many of them are copyrighted material from photographers and researchers and cannot be reproduced without their permission. Nonetheless, lots of information and photos are free to look at on line, and you can find all sorts of interesting stuff. The big "idea" here is to look into resources other than hobby ones. Research websites, dive travel websites, and even some conservation websites have great pictures and information on various biotopes to study and geek out on (like I do!). Do some searches on Google, etc. of the region that you are trying to replicate...you'll find more stuff than you can imagine! Eventually, there will be hobby resources for this information- trust me!> Thanks a whole lot for reading all of this. <This will change, my friend, if I have anything to say about it!> I hope you can answer most, if not all, of my questions. <Well, maybe not all the answers- But I hope that I pointed you in the right direction to find a lot of cool information. It's out there.> Have a nice day. Sincerely, Random Aquarist <And you do the same! Regards, Scott F.>

Stocking question, outer reef wall Pacific biotope   5/30/07 Hi All, <Michael> I've learned so much from your site. I've used it extensively in setting up my main tank, and the results have been very positive. I'm now ready to take another step. I'm linking-up a 60 gallon tank to my existing 400 gallon system (640 including the sump). The existing system is a Pacific, fore reef biotype, and the new tank will be a deep, outer reef wall that is fed via a surface overflow from the main tank. The lighting on the new tank will be very subdued with a PAR of 150 at the top of the tank and 55 at the bottom. The tank will be aquascaped with a large central cave. My stocking plan includes the following: Qty. Common name, scientific name 4 Yellow assessor, Assessor flavissimus <Mmm, no more than two here> 1 Longnose hawkfish, Oxycirrhites typus 1 Purple firefish, Nemateleotris decora <I'd have two of these... much more natural behavior, enhanced survivability> 4 Filamented flasher wrasse, Paracheilinus filamentosus <1 male...> What are your thoughts on this plan? Is the stocking level appropriate? <See above> Would it be appropriate for the biotype I'm trying to represent? Would some other species be a better choice? Do you foresee any serious conflicts? <Time for us (you and I) to go on out for a dive adventure... I strongly suggest this and/or a careful viewing of pix, kinetic images of the proposed biotope for input> Thank you for your advice! Regards, Michael <Bob Fenner, who is serious>

Small Shallow Water Bio-tope   2/4/07 Hello Crew, <Hi...> I am setting up a 55g SPS tank to act as a visually appealing grow out tank until I have the funds for a 240g that is still in the early planning stages. <Ok.> It is filled about 3/4 high with a lot of live rock, and has a 6" DSB. It has to be at least 120 lbs. of rock (got a good deal). <A lot.......> The filtration consists of an Aquaclear 110 (just for carbon), 4 Maxi-Jet 1200's, and an AquaC Remora on order. <Cool.> The lighting consists of 2 175w 10k AB's. I would like to keep 1 or 2 Tridacna crocea in the bottom of the tank attached to a piece of rock in the sand bed). I would keep the power heads high in the tank to avoid disturbing the clams, but would the undetectable nitrates and the amount of light at this level be less than desirable? <Should be plenty of light for this size tank. Utilize water changes (weekly 10%) to control nutrients.> Thanks, Jeff <AdamJ.>

Clown Trigger in a FOWLR? III - 07/03/06 Words of Wisdom... Eric, <<Matt>> Having "digested" your previous response, and having given consideration to the practicalities of "mixing" large predators with b'flies (in terms of water quality required, food types offered and regularity of feeding, and so on) I think it might be better (for me, not generally speaking) to stick with one or the other. <<Intuitive of you...and would serve all fish keepers in "general" to make these considerations (and more) as well.  I strongly feel that keeping fishes (especially "difficult" species) becomes easier when they are kept in "natural" groupings, e.g. - not mixing fishes from different oceans, keeping fishes together from the same type environment or niche (high light levels vs. low light levels, shallow water vs. deep water, and with similar habits (active fast movers vs. slow deliberate feeders).  I'm not saying hobbyists can't be successful to the contrary, just that it's easier (on both the aquarist and the fishes) when the setting is more "natural" to the fishes>> I have enough info to ponder the pros & cons of a lionfish only tank, hence my query will concentrate of a b'fly type system. <<Okay>> I have also discounted the idea of a trigger in the interest of being able to have a decent clean up crew (stars & snails mainly). <<Mmm, do consider this...I have a 5" male Bluethroat trigger (Xanthichthys auromarginatus) in a large reef system.  He shares this tank with two species of Lysmata shrimp, serpent stars, Asterina starfish, Turbo, Cerith, and Nassarius snails...to my knowledge he has never touched any, or even shown an interest...though you'll notice I don't keep hermits so I don't know how he would react to these>> I think the clean up crew is probably even more important to keep down levels of dissolved organics, as will the inclusion of a macro algae refugium (obviously skimmers, and LR etc will all be included). <<Excellent>> If I go for a b'fly set up, I would opt for a pair of Chaetodon semilarvatus, and hence I would probably opt for a Red Sea biotope, so I can keep the s.g. nice and high as recommended by Bob in the "Best B'flies from the red sea" article. <<Indeed...I love biotope displays>> In such a set up, realistically how many b'flies could I get in there? <<Hmm...fewer than you would like <grin> >> I was surprised by Bob's recommendation of allocating 20 gals per fish - at which rate I could put up to 9 b'flies in a 180. <<A "generalized" statement no doubt...other factors to consider as well...adult size, temperament, etc.>> I know this guideline should not be taken literally, so I tried to improvise and extrapolate a realistic stocking rate taking into account the species I am considering. <<Ah, very good!>> Hence, with the Semilarvatus being quite big I was counting them as the equivalent of 2 fish each (i.e. Semilarvatus = 4 equivalent fish = allocation of 80 gals). <<Mmm, a very subjective issue...but I would go with 120 gallons as a minimum for two of these fish>> But that still allows for 5 more b'flies! <<Mmm...>> From the "The Best Butterflyfishes From the Red Sea" article, I chose 4 other species I like (in order of preference): 1 no. Chaetodon paucifasciatus 2 no. Heniochus intermedius 1 no. Chaetodon auriga auriga My feeling is that this would be too many, and would not be very interesting color scheme (i.e. all yellow / black / white). <<Agreed on the "too many", but the "color scheme" would likely not be much issue once you saw them in the display>> Hence, my idea has evolved to part two of my question - could I keep a Maculosus angel, together with the pair of Semilarvatus, and a single Chaetodon paucifasciatus.  In Bob's book he recommends "at least 100 gallons of uncrowded habitat to themselves to fare well" for a Maculosus - so my logic is: 2 no. C. semilarvatus       =    40 to 80 gallon allocation 1 no. P. maculosus          =    100 gallon allocation 1 no. C. paucifasciatus     =     20 gallon allocation Total = 160 to 200 gallon allocation. The system is a 180, and will be aquascaped so as to best suit the inhabitants (pending your advice). Does this seem like a reasonable proposition? <<Bob should correct me if I misinterpret, but "100 gallons of uncrowded habitat" reads to me as 100 gallons of open free swimming space, unhampered with by live rock, etc..  To me that would seem to say a 180 is just about right after "careful" aquascaping...but sans any other large fish like the Semilarvatus butterflies>> The order of introduction (and size) would probably be: C. paucifasciatus probably a good 3", then the pair of semilarvatus at 3"-4" medium size, then finally the maculosus as a baby 2" specimen. <<Proper species selection aside, you'll do well to obtain all these species in the 3"-5" range...selecting your larger/smaller specimens within that range>> Do you think this is a reasonable proposition? <<I'm very hesitant about including the Maculosus angel with two Chaetodon semilarvatus in a 180...I would choose "one species or the other" as the prominent display fish, and build the display around/to suit that species>> Would the inclusion of dither fish be a good idea? i.e. half a dozen green Chromis. <<I think so, yes (the Blue-Green Chromis- Chromis viridis, to keep with the Red Sea theme)...will add some visual interest as well>> I wouldn't be pushed either way about the Chromis, but if would benefit the general well being of the system, I would include them. <<Won't hurt>> Sorry for writing such a long email - but I wanted to give all the relevant info. <<No worries mate...helps me to help you>> Thanks again for your help. Matt <<Is my pleasure, EricR>>

Biotope Display - 03/01/06 Hello, <<Howdy>> I've recently become more interested in presenting my aquarium as an authentic representation of a specific area of a reef, <<Me too!  My current system is a representation of a Fiji shallow-water rubble zone.>> and would like to know if the livestock I currently have would ever occur in the same general location. <<Mmm, easy enough to do with the fish...look them up on fishbase.org re their geographic distribution.  Better yet, enter a search by location (one of several search options on the site) and pick your fish from those listed.  But let me state, building a biotope display is more an exercise in research, stock selection, and tank design.  You don't just take an existing tank and "label" it a biotope from "such and such region" based on what is in it.  Likely you will need to make some changes to your stock list, maybe even to your aquascaping, if you wish to have a true "biotope" display.>> For corals, I have: Trumpet, Fiji Leather, Mushrooms, Finger Leather, Frogspawn, and Button polyps. <<These too can be researched, though it will take a bit more effort than the fish.  You'll need to ascertain the family and genus names first, then start your searches here: http://whelk.aims.gov.au/coralsearch/coralsearch.php ... I think what you have listed could/would be found in the same region, but not necessarily in the same "specific area" and most certainly not at the same depth on the reef.  When talking a "Biotope" reef display, you should narrow your goal to a specific "niche" on the reef (reef crest, lagoon, back reef, fore reef slope, cave, reef flat, etc., etc.).  And maybe even narrow down that focus to what you would find within a couple square feet (a mono-specific display), such as what might actually fall within the "footprint" of your tank.>> Livestock is 2 skunk clowns, 3 green Chromis, 2 skunk cleaner shrimp, a serpent star, and various hermits/snails.  55 gallon lit with 2x150w HQI. <<Mmm, okay...a high light environment then...as in "not for mushrooms".>> If this collection represents anything occurring in the wild, what would be a few more species to continue with? <<You need to decide on a theme/niche and research your choices re.>> Any of the wrasses? <<Very likely, yes.>> I'm assuming stick with soft corals, or are hard and soft corals found in proximity to each other? <<Some, but it is usually wise to go with a preponderance of one, and a "sprinkling" of the other.>> Any good specific resources for this subject? <<Don't I wish!  A couple of the hobby authors have "touched" on the subject but there is no dedicated literature that I am aware of.  A good bet is to peruse Dive books and "coffee table" books for pictures from your chosen geographic/theme/niche.  Searches on the Net can also provide some material.  Though many of the sites will want to charge you to view/download their pics you can still find a few useful images for free.>> Thanks again guys. <<Regards, EricR>>

Biotope Display II - 03/02/06 gen. and Fiji... Eric - thanks for the response. <<Very welcome>> Do you have a list of the organisms in your rubble zone system? <<Corals are mostly acroporids, with a few "brain" and "trumpet" corals in the lower reaches of the tank.  Fish have been selected based on location information gleaned from fishbase.org (no Red Sea or Atlantic specimens here) and includes one endemic specie, Siganus uspi, the Bicolor or "Fiji" Foxface.>> Know of any photos of Fiji area biotopic aquariums (or really any biotopic aquariums)? <<Not really, no.  I think (hope) more on this topic will be forthcoming as it gains in popularity, but right now, information is sparse and hard to find.  'Nilsen & Fossa' devote about ten pages to biotopes in their book 'Reef Secrets', and while it makes good reading, I was still a bit disappointed with it.  As it stands today, you will have to do most of your research in non-hobby type books, magazines, etc..  Which still leaves you to determine/figure the "mechanics" for creating/building your system.  I think biotope tanks are very worthwhile and rewarding...but require much more of the aquarist in the planning and design stages.>> I have high lighting, but I want to keep mostly soft corals with a few hard corals...does this narrow a potential zone down any? <<Indeed... a rubble zone (Fiji or elsewhere) can be home to a very wide selection of organisms, most of which require very high light and good water flow.  I remember seeing a picture (in 'Reef Secrets') of a boulder, surrounded by rubble and a patch of sand, that was home to more than a dozen different species of both hard and soft corals.  The yellow Fiji leather coral you said you have is a prime candidate for this type environment, as would be many acroporids/montiporids/Pocilloporids and more.>> Thanks again <<Regards, EricR>>

Gulf of Mexico Patch Reef Biotope  - 2/4/2006 Hey crew,    <Chris>   Great compilation of work on the website.  I wanted to get some expert opinion on a Gulf of Mexico Patch Reef Biotope I am putting together.  The biotope is pretty specific and some of the fish I am interested in are not very common in trade so there is limited information.      The inhabitant list was put together from J. Tullock's book "Natural Reef Aquarium" in the Gulf of Mexico Chapter, and supplemented with some research data available from the Flower Garden Sanctuary.      First, some background on the setup.  The tank is a 90g AGA and will have 2x250W MH with 2x110 VHO actinic.  Skimmer will be most likely an AquaC EV120 or equivalent Euro-reef.  Sump return will be 30g and only be a Mag7 (450 gph estimate) return but tank circulation will comprise of 4 Seio's for main tank circulation (I will attempt to simulate strong tidal flow).  I will have some small 'auxiliary' powerheads to blow water between the live rock pillars (described below).  The tank will have a chiller and I will experiment with keeping the temp around 78-80.      I plan on using a 4.5" live sand bed, and about 150 lbs of Haitian Lettuce Coral Rock, stacked in pillars, not a wall, to create large crevices between the stacks with an open area slightly off centered (away from the Mega-Flow unit) and the top 9 inches of water clear of rock.      I want the livestock to feature sponge, tubeworms, fanworms, Christmas tree worms, corals (limited avail here but mostly Gorgonia, large polyps and Porites) fish (see list coming next) and inverts including peppermint shrimp and blue-leg & scarlet reef hermit crabs.  Most of the Porites will end up being Pacific varieties similar to Gulf species. Would also like to include a brain or two but may end up with the same fix as for the Porites.      The detail I am hung up on a the moment is the fish list; I have the list broken into two parts, the ones I know I want and the ones I would like to select 1 or 2 more from.      First, the fish already inclusive of my list include: a mated pair of Cherub Angel, a shoal of 3 blue Chromis, a Swissguard/peppermint Basslet & a Seaweed Blenny (or Redlip if Seaweed is not available).  This is a total of 7 fish.    <And about all I would try to fit here>   I have compiled a list of other suitable fish for the biotope, but they have issues they require me to seek further advise as to which one(s) is/are suitable with my biotope and not going to be a threat to my peppermint shrimp or tree worms.      This list includes the Redspotted Hawkfish (Amblycirrhitus pinos ~4" adult), <Will/would eat your shrimp...> the Beau Gregory Damsel (Stegastes leucostictus ~4" adult) <Too mean...> and the Bluehead Wrasse (Thalassoma bifasciatum ~7" adult).    <Really needs more space... to allow for stocking of sub-males, females...>   The fish are listed in my order of preference.  One of my problems in searching for information on the hawkfish and the wrasse is most information I find pertains to Pacific species with similar common names.      Let me know what you think...      Thanks for your suggestions,   Chris Sanchez <I do wish for folks of your caliber of investigation design public displays. Thank you for sharing your plans. Bob Fenner>

One Last Sanity Check - 09/02/05 Hola Crew... <<Hi John...yep, EricR again.>> My Fiji biotope is about to become reality.  The 150 gallon display tank (48x24x30) and the 45 gallon refugium mounted underneath in the stand (30x18x20) have been circulating plain old tap water for two days while I sort out the flow pattern in the display tank using neutrally buoyant strips of confetti. <<neat!>> Three tubs of 200 gallon Tropic Marin Pro-Reef salt and a brand-new 55 gallon plastic trash can are at the ready to begin the process of establishing what I hope will become a vibrant community of life. <<Exciting...ain't it>> I think <deep breath> I'm ready to take the plunge. <<Ahh...the anticipation is electric...>> Fortunately, my local HD (Brunswick, GA) had aragonite play sand in stock and I was able to get four bags for less than twenty bucks. <<Lucky...haven't seen it around here in SC for more than a year.>> Using 1" PVC pipe and 90 and 45 degree elbows I have made  some sturdy stands to firmly hold live rock pieces just above (hopefully at the top of) a six inch DSB. <<Not necessary IMO, but okay.  I prefer to put the rock on the bottom of the tank and then add sand, but your method is fine...and preferred/recommended by some.>> Here's the plan I want to float <heh> by you.  I want to drain all the tap water from the system and refill it with salt water mixed to 1.025 SPG. <<Again fine, but not necessary.  I would merely add salt mix to the existing water.>> Then, one week later I want to get 50 pounds of uncured live rock and 50 pounds of live sand from Fiji via an e-tailer, along with a handful of Chaeto for the refugium and put them in all at once to start the curing cycle.  There will be a six inch DSB in both the display tank and the refugium, with a reverse lighting cycle from the display tank for the 'fuge. <<excellent>> I have an AquaC Remora Pro protein skimmer and a pound of charcoal in the raw water receiving chamber of the refugium.  I know I will probably need another hundred pounds of live rock, but the budget, she won't stand in one month :-) <<Be careful with how much rock you add.  Keep the rockwork open and don't get hung up on "filling the tank" with rock.  Sometimes less is more.>> The additional live rock will be added in 20-50 pound bunches over a couple of months, after a curing period in a separate container. <<Ahh, good>> Once the system has cycled, nothing goes in without first spending a month in quarantine! <<Very good to hear my friend!>> My decision to use uncured rock and sand came from a desire to create a Fiji biotope with the maximum diversity of organisms as is possible given the unavoidable losses in shipment. <<Yes, understood...did the same thing myself.  Be aware the process can/will be nasty/smelly.>> Some 'nasties' are inevitable, but that's all part of the diversity of life. <<Most likely in the form of nuisance alga.>> Questions arise: <<ok>> 1) Should I wait on adding the Chaeto until the ammonia/nitrite/nitrate cycle has stabilized? <<Not at all.>> 2) Should I use the tank lights while curing or keep it dim in there?  The Chaeto in the 'fuge will definitely need light, but what about the display tank ? <<Keeping the display dark while curing the rock is fine...even desirable.>> 3) Once the water has cycled I want to add a 'pod collection from IPSF to the main tank and assume they will spread spontaneously to the refugium and begin happily making more 'pods in the Chaeto shelter...is this a realistic approach? <<It is, though I would do the reverse...add the culture to the refugium and let them spread to the display as the 'fuge is where your base population will need to establish.  Although, since you will be leaving all fishless for some months this point may be moot.>> I'm planning on nothing but inverts in the system for the first 3-4 months to get the ecology firmly established before adding hungry predators. <<All good.  But be aware, the "inverts" will be as predacious as any fish.>> Lastly: 4) IPSF seem to like Ulva algae to promote 'pod replication...is it compatible with Chaeto or will allelopathy wars break out in the system ? <<Best to use a single specie of macro algae, like everything else you put in this tank, the alga too will compete for space.>> The completed biotope will have Fungia (sp), Zoanthus (sp) and Briareum (sp) for corals, Lysmata wurdemanni and Lysmata amboinensis with Calcinus elegans inverts, maybe a Linckia laevigata or Astropecten polycanthus sea stars (not sure about these) and finally Pterosynchiropus splendidus, Sphaeramia nematoptera and Pseudocheilinus hexataenia for the 'fishies' SWMBO wants to see swimming around. <<My wife likes the fishies best too.  Okay, a few comments... The shrimp and especially the hermits will be hard on any emerging life on your live rock, and I'm not even sure those hermits fall in to the broad category of "reef safe".  As for the stars, I would replace the Linckia specie with a Fromia specie...much easier to keep/more appropriate for captivity...and "don't" get the sand sifting star...will decimate the biota in your sand bed in short order.  Now to the fish...the tank will not be ready/mature enough for the mandarin for a year or more...the Pajama Cardinals are an excellent choice and perfect for the selected biotope, as is the sixline wrasse, but be aware the latter will become the terror of the tank and will make it very difficult to add similarly sized/shaped fish down the line.>> I think she will be surprised that the display tank will only have 4-6 fish! <<Mmm...look in to Siganus uspi (Fiji Foxface)...is endemic to Fiji, will grow to about 9" thus making a very nice "centerpiece" fish, and if anything like mine, will be very peaceful/well behaved.  Some consider the Foxface to be inappropriate for reef tanks, but I consider it worth the risk and haven't regretted my decision for a moment.>> Still trying to track down the right herbivorous snails from Fiji, just need to do more research. <<Wouldn't bother...just get whatever is easily/commonly available (likely from the Atlantic I know, but of small matter.).  I'm partial to Cerith and Nassarius snails for help with detritus.  I consider herbivorous snails a waste of money, and you will find the Astrea specie to be little bulldozers knocking all your corals out of place.>> Thanks again to the crew at WWM for hosting such a great resource, along with all the 'virtual' hand-holding.  I appreciate your assistance, along with your sage advice. John <<I look forward to hearing of your progress.  EricR>>

Re: Asian theme aquarium 8/19/05 Hi in searching for marine fish of Asia for a themed aquarium, i found your site.  very interesting and lots of helpful information.   the help I'm looking for is some basic ideas for types of fish, inverts and possible coral for a very large aquarium with a protein skimmer, chiller and sand filter.  if you could give me suggestions as to what animals would make an eye appealing aquarium would be greatly appreciated.  also, if you have any other themes for an aquarium would be great too. thank you for your help Natasha <... Perhaps looking through books with pix in them that cover the area you're interested in... There are thematic titles that cover underwater life per geography as well... Bob Fenner>

Stocking a Biotope Tank Hello again, <Hi there! Scott F. with the follow up today!> I suppose I should have given the scientific name for the lion I was looking at. It's the Pterois radiata, but I suppose that will also outgrow a 75 gallon. <Yep - this is too large a fish to sustain in that sized tank for anything approaching its natural life span> My LFS said those fish would be fine in there, but I think they might just be trying to get a sale. Another option I was looking into was a biotope for Hawaii or Fiji. What fish would you recommend for either?  Thanks! <Wow! That's a tall order to fill. Tons of options! I'm partial to Hawai'i, myself, so I'd work on a biotope of fishes from the Islands. I'd be inclined to choose small, colorful and interesting fishes, such as wrasses and gobies. Look at the Pseudocheilinus species, such as P. octotaenia or P. tetrataenia (the Eightline and Fourline Wrasse, respectively). You could also try some cool gobies and blennies. I like the Firefish, Nemateleotris magnifica, a great little fish. Although rare in Hawai'i, they are present in these waters. If your tank is large enough, you could even consider a smaller Butterflyfish, like the Longnose, Forcipiger flavissimus. Other candidates from both of the regions that you are contemplating are very well covered here on the WWM site. Do some searches and you'll find tons of good info! Good luck!  Regards, Scott F.>

Helfrichi Firefish 10/28/04 I plan on keeping a biotopic setup with Nemateleotris helfrichi. <outstanding... one of my fave fishes. I have kept more than a few for years. Hardy with the right (peaceful) tankmates> My tank is 800 l (200 gal) and will have 4 in line refugia of 200 l (50 g) each. my question is what fish and invertebrate live in the same niche and occur in the same geographical regions and will peacefully co-exist with the Dartfish? Thanks Huig <this is very exciting to hear you interested and willing to do the research and set up a proper tank for this/any animal. My advice to start you on your journey is to go to fishbase.org... see the geographic distribution of the species (and so many more links on the species splash page with info on diet, reproduction, etc)... then carry that info to the library for field guides. Better still... check out the outstanding regional/field and dive books at seachallengers.com for some outstanding additions to your library. A good field guide will tell you much about history, niches and possible tankmates. Anthony>

- Red Sea Biotope - Hello! I was hoping to get a an opinion on my  desired stock list for my 135 fish only system.  Ultimately here's what I'd  like to have: -Klunzinger's Wrasse (in  already) -Chaetodon Semilarvatus x2 (in  already) -Volition's Lion -Porcupine Puffer (Diodon  holocanthus) -Sohal Tang -Emperor Angel -Sulfurus Damsel x3 -Blue Throat Trigger (Sufflamen  albicaudatus) -and if possible I'd like to squeeze in  a Snowflake Eel somewhere <That's going to be a very busy tank.> All fish will be Red Sea specimens. I was thinking I could add them in the order listed,  and introduce the Sohal and the Angel simultaneously. <Perhaps although both will outgrow this system.> I was planning to add one fish or group of fish every three to four weeks with setbacks based on availability. Obviously, with list I just laid out, I  plan on upgrading eventually. <Consider upgrading first.> Question is... if all fish come in medium to medium-small sized, by the time I'm fully stocked will it be too much for my tank with top notch skimming, filtration and water flow? <Likely it will be too much before you get to the end of the list.> How many months or years estimate until I need a bigger tank... and ultimately how  big will it need to be? <To complete this list, you will need a larger tank immediately.> Other question is with this list, is there  anything I should just leave out in order to prevent the loss of some fairly  pricey livestock? (like maybe the trigger). <Not really, it would be an impressive display, but before laying out all the cash for this list, I'd put it into the tank first, build the stock list second.> It's just a lot of fish that  have the large and in charge personalities. <All the more reason for more room.> I've also read on numerous  accounts that in captivity the Emperor Angels don't develop the bright colors people buy them for, and I don't want that to be me. <It's all about the system they are housed in - these fish get at least the size of your head and need room to roam.> I've never seen one that grew up in captivity so I'm not quite sure just how big they end up being,  and how close to nature's colors I could come with a proper varied diet. <Have seen them pretty large and well colored and look just about as good as they look in the Red Sea, but only in the largest of tanks.> I  don't want to buy a fish that isn't going to flourish, and with that in mind  would you recommend another angel? <Not if you want a Red Sea biotope - the Emperor is the one to have.> The Sohal also seems controversial. <No controversy really - these fish get even larger and live in the mostly surge zone on the reef - have been to the Red Sea and these guys are the kings of the reef. Without something approaching their natural habitat, they get very cranky.> I've read every FAQ and more on that fish and I'm still not sure how aggressive it will end up being, or what size tank it will end up needing. <It could be argued that a 240 wouldn't be large enough.> Based on the on-site article it seems like it would work well with what I'd like to do. <I don't agree.> I'm open for criticism or suggestions for anything I didn't mention, and appreciate your input more than  you would ever believe. <Consider keeping the fish you have currently and add perhaps a lyre-tail Anthias or two which are also Red Sea darlings.> I thank all of thee much for your contributions to the marine culture... I'm hooked on WWM. Thanks! Scott <Cheers, J -- >

- Red Sea Biotope, Follow-up Hehe...whoops :).  Sorry about  the stray email.  Ouch - dream-crusher! <Sorry... am not trying to crush your dreams, but rather bring them to reality.> Three  fish in 135 gallons just seems so...empty. But point noted.   If my three fish were full grown with two Anthias I'd have 26 inches worth  of fish or so...a "full load" for 135 gallons (including two plate sized  butterflies in a relatively small tank). <Keep in mind that the X number of inches per gallon rules rarely hold up... it's not a safe way to plan a tank.> However that's not really  what I want, nor what I have at the moment.  What is the minimum tank size  that could handle the load in your opinion...physiologically and  psychologically? <Probably a 240.> If it's a viable stock list, and you say it is... I'm  going to do it. <And I would too given the space - it's a nice list, although I'd like you to consider dropping the Sohal tang... these grow to the size of a racquetball racquet and just won't work out long term in anything short of a massive system with real wave surge.> I've been planning this for months and I'm not going to let a few hundred gallons of water deter me.  I am curious why you'd be so against adding any more fish to my tank at this point however. <The other fish you list can get large enough to cause social issues very quickly, and stress from over crowding will spell trouble.> I've got maybe 9 inches worth of fish. <Again, a bad way to look at things.> Bearing in mind that I will upgrade sooner than later, what's the harm in bringing in some of the less aggressive fish like the lion or the puffer? <First, I wouldn't term the puffer as non-aggressive, and second something about "the best laid plans..." Very few people who plan to make these upgrades actually make them... real life issues tend to get in the way. Is why I recommend making the upgrade first.> At the worst, it's an extended pseudo-quarantine in a killer tank. <And that really isn't that bad of an option.> At best it's a great home for a  smaller sized fish and a nice acclimation into captive sea-life before entering the big tank with the big fishies.  Or not...? <Consider it... this would be an impressive tank and I don't want to give you the idea that it's a bad plan... just in the tank you have currently, you'd have trouble.> Thanks for your  input! Scott <Cheers, J -- >

Red Sea Biotope and a shoe-horn 4/30/04 Hi crew <cheers> I'm setting up a 240 gal reef right now, all equipment is top of the line. I'm taking my time and doing it right, I'm wanting to set up a red sea biotope. <excellent to hear... do be realistic about stocking though... there are some monster wrasses, triggers, tangs, etc. that are not too chummy <G>> I've been reading everything I can find about the red sea and had a couple stocking issues. One fish that's going in it since I already have it and there's no way I'm getting rid of it a Powder Blue Tang. Rest of the list would be something like this, this is the dream list I have seen some of these fish mixed but not all, Sohal Tang Naso Tang Purple Tang <Ughhh... the sheer number of tangs is painful to see/read... not only for their unnatural mix in the confines of a space that they would never tolerate each other in in the wild... but for the fact that a 240 is not large enough for a Naso or a Sohal, let alone both. The Sohal far and away is not a conscientious choice with regard for its adult size... not to mention sheer power, activity and aggression (they can be brutal)> Imperator Angel Regal Angel Fridmani Pseudochromis Blue Flavivertix Pseudochromis and a pair of clowns, any from the Red Sea? <With the Emperor angel and even regal to some extent... the 3 tangs above plus your powder blue plus, an Emperor and regal angel are waaaaaaaaay too many fish for this tank (or a tank twice this size) if you are to treat them responsibly and allow for growth to anything near a full adult size. The sohal is the real deal breaker here... they get huge and mean. Some would say they are public aquarium species only> and that's about it for fish I've been reading like mad but it just seems it depends on who I talk to on if these fish can be in the same tank and what size of tank any help would be great and what order should I stock these fish? <this is a no-brainer, Will. Just go to fishbase.org, add up the cumulative potential adult sizes assuming you intend to give them good food, space and water quality... and then try to reckon 10' worth of fish in a 2' wide tank X 8' long. Leave out the Sohal and Naso and I can live with the rest. Or... Nix the bully Sohal and Emperor and enjoy the same plus a more peaceful tank> Thank You for your time. Will <add the regal angel and all the smaller fishes first... leave the purple tang (and Emperor if so) for last assuming you take my above advice. Please do stock this tank with a vision for success and fish health/life longer than a 1-2 year plan (crowding or stunting from specimens bought small... no rationale). Best of luck, Anthony>

Reef Biotopes 11/27/03 Hello again Anthony!  I hope you don't mind another round of 'tope questions <G>.   <my pleasure> While researching biotopes to mimic for my display I've been under the impression that "biotope" meant limiting my selection of corals to a single specific family; e.g. Acroporids. <not at all my friend... or rather, not only in this manner. A biotope aquarium is simply a collection of naturally occurring tankmates. It can have more than one species to be sure... more than one family (although don't get too frisky here). Start by avoiding corals that would never occur at the same depth (like deepwater mushroom corallimorphs and Porites cylindricus). Of course, do not mix corals from different oceans!> I bring this up because I found a "rubble zone" biotope (Sulawesi) which depicts a boulder surrounded by sand expanses and coral rubble.  The boulder is populated by (if memory serves) 13 different types of hard and soft corals.   <sounds very handsome> So, is the issue of allelopathy driven by mixing corals from different oceans, the unnatural confines of an aquarium, a bit of both? <yes, both indeed... more on the aquarium though (unnatural confines... small volume of water)... but also remember that even naturally occurring neighbors are still conducting chemical warfare. We are simply trying to minimize it (not stop it... impossible) by avoiding excessively noxious species (soft corals and algae) or very unnatural neighbors which will amplify the dynamic and damage> If corals originate from the same region (lets say Fiji), are they more compatible in the aquarium?   <too general... focus on a niche like shallow water in Fiji... or a mud flat in Fiji. There are coral species occurring in niches/depths that would not see each other in Fiji any more than they are likely to see an Atlantic species. So do be more focused here> As I write this I have the nagging sensation that the confines of the aquarium are the limiting factors that would preclude "mixing" corals in the display.   <agreed> I guess I'm just asking you to confirm what I think I already know.   <confirmed <G>> I found the rubble zone a fascinating biotope but suspect that without the "hundreds per hour" water changes of the natural reef, it just isn't a practical mix for the home display.  Thanks for all you do.  Eric <indeed difficult to mix many species in most any sized aquaria when are water flow is pale and water changes are weak by comparison. You will fare better to specialize a bit my friend. Best of luck! Anthony>

Reef Biotopes Hello Crew!  I'm looking for a bit of a "kick-start" in the right direction.  I'm building a very large reef system (approx. 450 gal.) and about five months ago when all this started Anthony pitched to me a very convincing argument on the merits of "reef biotope"  versus "reef garden". As a result I did a bit of research; as well as some reflection on my own past reefing experiences, and made the decision to go with a biotope display.  As stated, I've been building the system for about the past five months going very slowly allowing time for research, experimentation, equipment selection, more research............  I added water, sand, and home-made base rock about two weeks ago and want to get the 'fuge and live rock (what kind?!!!)\ < right now I think Eva rock is the best out there> growing, but won't be adding fish, large inverts, etc. for another six months (taking Bob's advice on letting things mature).  My dilemma is I still haven't settled on a region/Island on which to base the display.  I want a SPS biotope and I am leaning toward a forward/upper reef slope display (8000gph+ tank turnover currently provided).  I've discounted the Philippines and Indonesia due to current collection practices; I've been considering Fiji Islands, Sri Lanka, and Coral Sea.  I've done "Key Word" searches but have found little on biotopic displays from these regions.  I have Anthony's "Coral Propagation" book and his and Bob's "Reef Invertebrates" as well as Eric Borneman's "Aquarium Corals" (Reef Secrets, Nilsen and Fossa, is on the way) which all address biotope displays but offer little on selection of same (please, no rock throwing. I'm not finding fault with these writings, I understand this was not the scope of these books).  My main concern is to pick a region with large biodiversity that is available to the aquarium trade  (aquacultured of course when available).  I don't want to settle/gear-up for a specific 'tope and then find I can't acquire specimens.  Can you offer any tips for researching reef aquarium biotopes?  Can you offer any insights to specific biotope displays?  Am I being too nebulous? Thanks for your consideration - Eric <try Natural reef aquariums by John Tullock he give some info that I think will help you good luck Mike H> <Mmm, and the "Reef Guides" by Helmut Debelius, various "Coffee Table Books" give good clues, pix... as do "Diving Books" that are about a given region... there are MANY of these... can be searched online. Bob F>

Re: Reef Biotopes III 12/3/03 Thanks for the input Anthony!  Most helpful as usual.   <always welcome> Rest assured, when I reference a particular geographic to depict I'm also confining selection to a particular "niche" as you explain.  I think I'm finally starting to get my head around this biotope methodology as it pertains to captive reef systems; hard vs. soft, shallow vs. deep, exclude competing macroalgae, etc. (not trying to over simplify).   <understood and agreed> What about SPS vs. LPS if lighting/flow conditions are similar/can be met?  Thanks again! Eric <you can include both in a given natural biotope display. 'Tis possible. Many digitate Montipora and Acropora formosa for example (a common aquarium species) are commonly found at great depth and can be kept with LPS species like Cynarina, Scolymia and some Euphylliids. A deeper water Indonesian reef niche in this case. Anthony>

Biotope Research Once again I need your advice and wisdom :-) <Glad to be of service! Scott F. with you today> I'm planning a large (8 feet) biotope reef display and need a kick-start in the right direction.  The tank will be viewed from two sides and rather than the usual "rock wall" I'm considering a patch-reef type setup (several small random mounds, possibly an arch) with specimens native to the Fiji Islands or maybe Sri-Lanka. <A nice, refreshing change from the "wall"!> Preliminary research indicates the Fiji Islands rate in the top 10 of the 80 or so countries with reefs for "biodiversity"? <Amazing diversity there...> I want an SPS biotope; with clams if they fit, and am looking for a region with a large selection of choices/species (please forgive my ignorance if I misstate).  Any advice/opinions? <I think that Fiji or the Coral Sea are excellent biotopes for modeling in aquaria. "The Modern Coral Reef Aquarium" (Vol. 1) by Nilsen and Fossa has an excellent review of various regions and their diversity. There is also a nice series of "Coral Reef Guides" by the same authors (I believe...not 100%) that "highlight" various regions and their endemic life...Very interesting stuff. You can also do a lot of research on the 'net by doing keyword searches for the regions that you are interested in using the search engine of your choice...> Also, I know www.fishbase.org is a great resource for identifying fish from different regions for biotope displays, but what about corals/clams? Thank You, Eric <"Giant Clams" by Daniel Knop is a great source of information on these animals, and you can find a lot of good stuff on Tridacnids on the Clams Direct website. The owner, Barry, is a friend and a great guy who really knows a lot about these animals, and will be happy to help...And he supplies great specimens! Good luck in your search! Do keep in touch and send pics of your project as it evolves! Regards, Scott F>

Biotope Displays --- Excellent! - 8/22/03 Okay Anthony, been doing more research and I'm convinced.   <excellent to hear, my friend> But I must say I find it strange to have been in the hobby for awhile now and having dealt with many LFS and doing more than casual reading on the subject, I don't recall hearing much until now about the ills of "reef garden" setups.   <not too surprising... most LFS are not "in the know". Few invest in educational trips to the national trade shows and symposiums to get current advice/wisdom. They simply get caught up in the business of work/the everyday and then years slip by. If you are not going to these shows yourself (like MACNA... the top gig, this year at www.lmas.org), or actively participating in your local or regional aquarium societies... then you are at the mercy of outdated books and mag.s (months to years old info at the time it is printed)> Your arguments and those of others make perfect sense to me and probably explain why I've always only "just managed" to maintain my reef.   <exactly... and a very common scenario> And even then my success would "peak and wane" (could never keep clams for more than a few months, gave it up), most likely do to the chemical warfare being waged in my system.   <yep... quite correct> So............. must choose.   <biotope displays are truly more natural if not attractive and always more successful> Does your book provide info on lighting setups for the differing systems?   <hmmm... no recipes for specific tanks... just the data/ingredients for you to assemble your own collection. The former would not be possible for how many thousands of reef animals are available> Can you recommend any that would?.   <just focus on a group at first (soft corals, LPS, or SPS, etc)... then pick out some fave families within the group (like a gorgonian biotope). You certainly can cheat with a few oddballs... but on a 10 to one ration... not a 50/50 split ("garden reef")> What I've been able to find provides generic "reef type" (i.e.- garden?) recommendations.  What would you recommend for SPS/clams based on the dimensions of my tank?  This is my first acrylic tank and I'm a bit concerned about using halides.  Is this warranted? <not at all.... for a very effective and long-term good value: look at double ended 10K HQI lamps. Even lower wattage ones would be fine (100, 150, 175)> How about choosing which organisms are compatible (again...your book?)?   <Eric Borneman's too for coral pics ("Aquarium Corals") and our co-authored new text ("Reef Invertebrates" Calfo/Fenner) for non-cnidarians> I've ordered Bob's book (TCMA) as a start to updating my seemingly antiquated library.  Thanks again for the enlightenment!  Eric <very glad to hear your response... hope to see you at some of the aquarium society shows. Best regards, Anthony>

Biotopic presentation attempt hello Bob- <Chris today> I have a 75 gallon reef tank that is trying to simulate a lagoon habitat. The tank has been up for about 4 years, the first 3 it was mainly a fish only setup. There are about 75 pounds of live rock including the rock in my 25 gallon refugium (which is full of amphipods). I have several soft corals, an Acropora SPS coral, two clams and Caulerpa. The live rock has plenty of coralline algae on it and the nitrates are close to zero. Here are some questions that I have: 1. Is it necessary to install a protein skimmer? (I do 10% water changes per week and have tried to pick species that thrive in more nutrient laden lagoon waters) <Necessary, not absolutely. A good idea? Definitely, even if it is only run periodically, it can help reduce organic compounds (such as terpenes) that will be released by the coral in the system.> The fish that are in the tank are as follows: 2 percula clowns 1 mandarin goby 1 yellow goby 2. I wanted to add 1 or possibly 2 tangs. I was thinking either a hippo or a Sailfin or both. Do you think this is a good idea? <The tank is rather small, I wouldn't attempt one of these very large fish, much less two> Thanks,  Miguel <best, Chris>

Biotopic Research! I've read all of the articles and FAQ's about fish and coral selection and I have information overload. <Entirely possible! Scott F. with you today!> I'm setting up a 55 gallon reef tank, and I want to create a stocking list and stick to it as it has been suggested to do.  There is an enormous amount of information out there and I'm having trouble getting my arms around it all. <Yep- the octopus definitely has an advantage on that, huh?> I would like to make a regional biotopic presentation, but I can't find a resource that lists fish or corals that are compatible regionally, AND what groups of fish/corals (particularly corals) exist together at various depths (for compatibility and lighting reasons).  I am looking for lists of fish and corals grouped by region and water depth, and even suggested stocking examples.  That will give me a starting point, then I can take the list and look up the pictures, diet requirements, aggressiveness, etc and narrow it down further. <Ahh- a cool idea! There are a number of interesting resources on line for this information. You can start with fishbase.org, which provides a lot of information on the biotopes of the fishes listed. You can also find good stuff on the Bishop Museum Hawaii) site, which has a terrific index of species and where they were collected, how deep, etc. You can also access published professional surveys and studies of regional biotopes, such as this one on Hanauma Bay:  http://cramp.wcc.hawaii.edu/Study_Sites/Oahu/Hanauma_Bay/Fish_Data.asp >    I realize that I am probably oversimplifying this and is a wide open question, but I would appreciate some direction or suggestions for resources that may address this. Thank you, Randy Jones <Nope, Randy- you're on the right track! I've spent hundreds of hours over the years doing this with keyword searches, such as "Marquesan Coral Reefs", "Lagoonal Ecosystems", "Palau Corals", etc, etc. (and I've managed to spend a little time "on location" as well! There is a ton of great information on biotopes out there (some of it on diving web sites- along with awesome pictures!) to help you. You may have a few dead ends at first, but somewhere out there, you'll find an obscure web site with a thesis by some Australian ichthyology student addressing exactly what you're looking for! Also, you can stay within hobby materials, starting with some of the wonderful "Modern Coral Reef Aquarium" volumes- particularly Vol. 1, which has great biotope stuff, and you can continue with books like "Natural Marine Aquariums" by John Tullock, which addresses specific biotopic presentations. Wow- you're getting me so stoked that I want to set up a new biotope system...How about a search under "Samoan Back Reefs" to get started...? Good luck! Send pics of your completed project! Regards, Scott F>

Biotope Ideas! Hi, Scott, <Hello again-Marc!> Thanks for all the ideas and comments. I love the Polynesian lagoon patch reef idea. My wife and I took a 10 year anniversary trip to French Polynesia a few years ago. It was very nice and I know exactly what you are talking about. <Yep- you wade out about 20 yards into any given lagoon....Love it! And it seems like the longer you stand there quietly, the more fish and inverts emerge! Did that on Moorea, and it was always a fascinating experience!> It would make a great reef. I'm not sure a 55G pentagon would do it justice though. It'd be nice to try with a square tank some day that was a bit larger, maybe 100G. <Yep- that's kind of my thinking> Wasn't sure how many purple Firefish you thought I could get away with. Also you mentioned lots of rocks but do they also need sand to burrow in? <Well, in a tank of the size that you're considering, I think that you'd want to stick with a maximum of 3 specimens. Often times, what happens in "multi-Firefish" setups, is that one fish will take the "alpha" position, and basically beat the heck out of the others, many times resulting in fatalities. I have seen this work if all the fishes are added at the same time, and are all small specimens. Also, if your tank has plenty of rocky areas for the fish to retreat to, this is a huge help. I have kept Firefish for years- and I personally have never seen them burrow into the sand. This, of course, does not mean that they don't...but I haven't seen it! I'd still utilize a sand bed, though! It'll be a toss up between the Caribbean, the blue-spot or the purple Firefish. Decisions decisions ;-) Marc <I know where you're coming from! The Caribbean fore-reef idea with Royal Grammas is really a neat concept. You could build up a really steep "ridge" of rock on one side of the tank, and then have some gorgonians on the opposite side. Run 2000k fluorescent, or heavily-actinic pc's, and you will have a cool setup! Another idea that I've been dying to try is a seagrass lea tank, set up for pipefish and seahorses...Tons of possibilities there. Or, even a mangrove habitat with cardinalfish living amongst a tangle of roots...Wow! I wanna set up another tank! Catch up with me at the next MACNA! We can talk about ideas for biotopes for hours! (In fact, a group of us did...it was awesome!) So many ideas out there! I hope that you have a blast with this project! Let us know how it turns out! Regards, Scott F>

Biotope Bound! Hi, All, <Hi there! Scott F. with you!> You guys are so helpful, I thought I'd run this by you. Hope the long post isn't too much trouble but I'm looking for inspiration. No hurry needed on an answer; this is a long term project. If several of you wanted to comment, why that would be just super-peachy-keen ;-) I've had to give up for now on my dream of a large angel fish tank. Don't have the space for a sufficient size tank. <I'm proud of you for holding back!> So, I'm thinking of getting a tank to match my 55G corner tank instead and rather than a reef hodge-podge, I was thinking of more of a biotope display. Any suggestions for suitable biotope ideas or comments on the ones I have below are greatly appreciated. I don't want a chiller on this tank so nothing cool water (although someday, I'll put together an Oregon tidepool tank from stuff I can collect myself. ;-) <Sounds cool! (no pun intended) > Octopus: my 4-year old son loves these. But my reading indicates these are very difficult plus require cooler water so I'm thinking this is a non-starter. However, if someone has thoughts on keeping (and acquiring) a tropical octopus of a modest size, I'm curious to hear about it... Not sure if I want a tank based on such a cryptic critter though... <These are demanding animals that require perfect water and very stable conditions...I'd pass> Similarly, a ribbon eel tank sounds interesting but they also seem nearly impossible. Maybe some of the easier, smaller eels. (BTW the tank would be custom built and so could be made snug enough for eels or octopus or other sneaky fellows.) <I've seen people do a garden eel tank with a deep sand bed...Interesting idea- again- these are somewhat difficult animals to keep...probably a no-go, IMO> Mantis shrimp: 55G seems over kill for one of these since I assume I pretty much can't keep anything else motile with it. But some of them sure are pretty. I suppose an opaque partitioned tank is a possibility (can you imagine the mantis busting through my acrylic if it was clear ;-) <Hey-somebody has to like these things!> Seahorse on one side and mantis on the other. Would a mantis-tank partition qualify as a refugium? <nah- it's a predator, and a refugium is supposed to be a predator free area...> Wouldn't guess they'd prey on the refugium-class stuff. Maybe LR in the mantis side, eel grass for the seahorse, refugium down below. I'm thinking dwarf farm raised seahorses (I've kept these before). <That would be neat- but they'd get lost in anything over 10-15 gallons, IMO....they're tiny> Or maybe pipefish; some of these are much easier than seahorses. All the Doryrhamphus sp. I've tried ate frozen Mysis from day one. Pretty hardy, too (pipefish only tank, though.) <Another cool idea- though I've never considered them "easy"!> Blue spotted Jawfish: I'm thinking deep sand (reading suggests they like 6" depth; maybe with an undisturbed DSB in a refugium underneath). <That's a nice idea> Maybe half of the tank is sand front and a steep rock wall in the back for LR filtration. I'd need to figure out some way to cement, peg or tie the LR together to make it steep enough that much of the tank is sand bed. Any thoughts on  how many blue spots I could get away with? Reading suggests more than one could be a problem. I've seen two together; not sure if they were a pair. Can anything else fish-wise be kept safely with the Jawfish? <Sure- lots of mid-water swimming fishes. If you want more than one Jawfish, why not contact Marine Center to see if they can get a pair?> Your FAQ seems to suggest these are best in a species only tank but some Chromis above would be nice to round things out. <Yep!> A Caribbean forereef tank. Maybe deeper water with no photosynthetic stuff or perhaps shallower with some of the photosynthetic gorgonians (I've had good luck with these). I'm thinking another steep wall with a number of royal grammas (how many would fit a 55G do you think?) and maybe a C. argi. Or some black cap Basslets. <I like this idea- I'm a Pacific "snob" myself, but I love grammas! Try like 3 or 4 small ones together, all added at once> If it is with photosynthetics, maybe run a return from near the front to get good current across the rock wall for the gorgonians. Think a surge is required for these? <It would be awesome, but not necessary for most, IMO> Maybe an eelgrass tank with some garden eels and other lagoon critters. Not too inspired on this one in terms of what else to put in here. Maybe a star fish. I assume queen conch will eat my eel grass. Not sure where to acquire eel grass. <There are a few places on the "net. They need very deep sand beds, though> Maybe something built around a display of purple Firefish if I could keep more than one; don't know much about their natural home, though, except that it is deeper water I believe. <Yep- lots of rocky caves and hiding places> For all, I'm thinking of a large sump with refugium partition (for this size stand). Probably leave the back of the stand open except for a structural post so that I can get a big sump in. Possibly with a screw-on back for noise control. I'll need to research the appropriate arrangement of pumps, skimmer and refugium but I'm sure I can make something work. <Be a good DIYer- you can do it!> This is a long term project; the wife isn't ready to let me spend the $$ on another tank just yet ;-) Of all the ones I came up with the Caribbean fore-reef or the blue-spotted Jawfish (if more than one is possible) sound most interesting. Possibly, purple Firefish if their natural biotope is interesting. <I agree on all three! Another idea- Polynesian lagoon patch reef- basically a big mound of live rock in the center- high intensity lighting...some small damsels for color, a few gobies.....very cool idea...> In case any of you have exceptional memories, I've called my old corner tank a 45G but after reworking the math with Bob's handy formula adjusted for the pentagon size, I think it is a 55G. <A bonus!> Thanks for any critiques/suggestions, Marc <Wow Mark- you got me a stoked...Let me know if you have other thoughts...I have more ideas...but not enough room here! I wanna set up another tank now! Good luck Sounds like FUN! Regards, Scott F>

Biotope Research Sites Bob and Co., I am just beginning set-up on a 75 gallon reef tank and would like to consider doing a biotope type set-up with this one. <Excellent!> I also have two 10 gallon mini-reefs. Any ideas on good websites to hit for research information? I am especially interested in Solomon island, Hawaii or Caribbean but have not decided anything for sure. Still reading, reading and more reading! <I don't know of any websites off hand, but let me suggest a few good books. There are a ton on the Caribbean. Paul Humann's series, "Reef Fish", "Reef Creature", and "Reef Coral" are all excellent. I also have "Shore Fishes of Hawai'i" by John Randall, very good.> Thanks, Angela <>< <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Rubble Zone Tank Hi Bob, <Hello Madison> How was your Indo trip and MACNA? <Fabulous on the first, and just back and shaky from driving to and fro to/from MACNA... it was very nice> I've been thinking about the rubble zone tank... I'm not sure if it can work. <Why not?> If I take 1" of sand and then throw in rubble found in dealers tanks and hammer live rock into little pieces to create rubble over the bottom of the aquarium, what would be my biological filter. <Yes...> Not the sand, it will not be a DSB. A DSB would not work with rubble everywhere, it needs to be open. There would not be as much live rock as in most other tanks, so the rock isn't going to do it. If I did it this way, would I just be creating a great environment for algae blooms and Cyanobacteria to thrive in? <Not likely> If I didn't put the rubble in and went with a 4 - 6" DSB, well, it  wouldn't be a rubble zone anymore. Any thoughts on making a rubble zone work? <As they say in the Nike ads, "just do it"... am sure the rubble by itself and likely with deep sand would be fine> Do you still have jet lag? <You are like myself... "para" sympathetic, yes... still not "caught up"... and suffering for it. BF> MM

Video clips request Pete, Jason, Zo, Joe, Jack... need/want a few seconds of video and a means to have folks view it from WWM on the series of three "marine biotope" pieces am penning (see note, space for insertion here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/rsbiotopes.htm) What will this entail? Can Pete generate clips? How do I/we load (onto WWF server I take it) and what public domain sorts of software can we provide link, tool to download to actually watch?  Bob F, with big dreams, small abilities>

They're Topes Fool! Jas, am at a quandary/pause re biotope pc.s.... Pls grant your input re... shall I/we include detailed coverage (as in to species) for the more/most common, available, useful species? Like the little boxes mit pix on most of WWM? Pls take a look at this bit: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/rsrfslopebiot.htm Whatchyou think? More detail... pix and husbandry notes per species or stick with what's outlined there and just fill in? Bob F

Biotopes Hello Anthony Thanks for the quick reply, I assume you don't sleep much (time difference). <you assumed correct <G>> I know there is little written about the biotopes I'm interested in. so I probably need to some experimenting of my own as you suggested.  <that will be so very exciting!> I already had plans for 7 empty 170 l(45 g) and a 5 7Ol(20 g) tanks. I'm trying to buy a house so this plans will have to wait. but 2 tanks have been set up for the Amblygobius rainfordi and I'm going to try and cultivate some copepods.  <excellent... be sure to keep a good mass of macroalgae or seagrass to encourage them... fine silty/muddy substrate for the grasses may also help> to feed the soft corals in my cave/reef tank. and I'm trying to raise the fry of Blennius pavo (or whatever name it listens to the systematics never seem to agree) is a Mediterranean species).  <my friend Dr Sallie Boggs may be able to help if you have questions... she favors blennies and gobies and has spent much time in the Mediterranean: alotafish@attbi.com> cause in summer they spawn every 2 weeks. and until now I couldn't keep them alive for longer than 3 weeks. my previous attempts to cultivate copepods weren't successful as I wasn't able to obtain a sufficient quantity to actually use the pods as food. and as I am a firm believer in obtaining knowledge prior to start anything I try to read everything there is to find. <very wise and admirable!> so here is my question: do you know off a manual for copepod culture cause the literature I read only gave results of production methods and not describing the methods. <sure...talk to the folks at Florida Aqua Farms. They have written a manual about plankton culture and they sell kits for many species (although I'm not sure of copepods specifically). Reach at http://www.florida-aqua-farms.com/ > thanks for your time <best regards, Anthony Calfo>

Biotope Hi Bob: Welcome back to the States! <Steven Pro answering queries this evening.> I was wondering if you could provide some answers to some questions I have regarding soft corals and where they are found on a natural reef. I am gradually building up a system with captive propagated soft corals, such as Xenia, Anthelia, and Capnella. In your dives, where are these types of corals usually located on a reef? Are they found on top of, around, or under rock outcroppings? Do they orient themselves into the prevailing currents, or are they more or less randomly distributed? <I would get a copy of Eric Borneman's "Aquarium Corals". It is an excellent work and covers "Natural Locations" for all the corals among other things.> I'm trying to situate my corals as naturally as possible so that my tank does not just look like a bunch of rocks with corals shoved in, if you know what I mean! <Yes, the down fall of many tanks, aquascaping.> I second the request of a CMA/WWM fan a week or so ago that wants you to publish a book of just biotope photos for aquarists to be inspired by! I think such a book is really a neat idea and presenting it from the aquarium perspective would be neat! Take care, Scott F. <You too, Steven Pro>

Making a reef aquascape Hello, I've seen your website about creating a artificial marine aquascape. In the state I live in, live rock is illegal. Can you guess which state?  <Yes, unfortunately. Hawai'i... I am amazed at the backwardness of some laws> Anyway I have been wanting to create a synthetic reef structure with purple, blue, red, and pink to simulate coralline algae with the many caves and overhangs real live rock can produce. I have also been looking for rocks which have the same shapes as live rock but nothing beats the forms and shapes of real ocean rock. Are there any step by step articles, publications or web-sites which can help me create an artificial reefscape for my aquarium using non-toxic paints, epoxies, resins, latex, clay, etc...? Thanks <A few... the best is Oz' Reef: http://www.ozreef.org/ Bob Fenner>

Marine fish selection/Honduras Hi and good morning. My name is Bernd Losert. I have Your e-mail address from Dr. Bob Goeman and I hope that it is not too much a bother what I want to ask You.  <Never a bother.> I live in Honduras, Central America. I have a 110 gal freshwater tank which I want to convert into a marine fish only tank. My water temperature reaches 87 F in summer, less in winter. What species of marine fish can live in water that warm.? Thanks, Bernd <Hmm, I would be inclined to collect/use fishes and non-fishes (invertebrates, algae) from nearshore where you're fortunate to live... perhaps a Roatan/Bay Islands biotopic presentation... Do make sure and aerate the water sufficiently (higher temperatures do double potential damage in the way of elevated metabolisms and lowered gas solubility)... A sump/refugium would help greatly in this regard. Please do read over the "Marine Set-Up" sections of our site: www.WetWebMedia.com and do get back with me if anything is unclear or missing. Bob Fenner>

Biotopic (presentations, marine) Mr. Fenner, I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to you for the first time. I have read books you have written as well as many articles in various magazines. I must say that your range of knowledge and the ability to articulate it in such a way that it can be understood by anyone is such a gift. <A learned trait my friend> I have only one question. I have a 75 gallon soon to be reef aquarium. All of the components that are needed and 85 pounds of live rock that has been curing for a month now. Walt Smith, lovely! <Ah, good to read of your impression, patience> My question to you this this: I want to have a biotopic reef setup. I want a Indo-Pacific look. Much like what is shown in TCMA. I am wondering if I need to narrow it down to a specific region. Indonesia, Bali, Java? Or is that whole grand area about the same? <Similar enough to be instructive, useful> For the next three weekends I will be taking diving lessons off the coast of Monterey CA. I will be off to a dream vacation to Bali soon and I have hopes of diving there. <Yes, many nice spots there... Two months back we were diving just to the north of Lombok, the island to the east of Bali> I don't want to wait to start assembling the aquarium until after my trip. I am far too excited about setting it up. <Outstanding> If you could let me know the answer to my inquiry I would be in you debt. That you for all you have done for myself and others. <Thank you for your kind, encouraging words... very gratifying. I would proceed (do take photographs, use identification guides... to gain understanding of the physical and biological make-up of the area... We will be chatting, Bob Fenner>

[SCMAS] seeking deep water info (Bob, Can you help her?) To anyone out there with info, I am planning a deep water (~50 feet deep) cave tank (100G)with a pineapple fish, and a pair of Hawaiian Longfin Anthias, gorgonians, non-photosynthetic corals (Tubastrea & Scleronepthyas) and sponges. This is the plan, anyway, things always change. Has anyone out there ever done a deep water tank? I am definitely including a refugium. I am having trouble finding info on this type of thing... any advice would be appreciated. <There are several such enterprising exhibits I've seen around the world in Public Aquariums that attempt this. Have you been over to the Waikiki recently? You might want to check their website re. Here's a link to their virtual tour: http://www.otted.hawaii.edu/aquarium/vt/index.html> Catherine <Oh, hi Catherine. Bob Fenner, WetWebMedia.com>

Fish compatibility Hi Bob, I have a couple of questions for you. I know that having fish who get along with each other is obviously important. I am attempting to set up a 55 gallon reef system. I am trying to replicate nature as close as possible (Ha-Ha,...ha-ha,... ok, one more time HA-HA!) <Why is this funny? A worthy goal... and approachable> , and was wondering is it necessary to place fish and inverts in the tank who live in the same places? <Hmm, no, otherwise most systems wouldn't exist... as long as compatible... even in a biotopic presentation...> For example, set up a tank with all species who are found in the Maldives, none from elsewhere. I know that the Red Sea has some species similar as Maldives and vice versa (never been to any of these places, but I have a book on coral reefs which covers (only) four of some of this world's major, wonderful reef habitats and breaks the reef down as to what species of fish and inverts live there). <Nice... I hope to help produce such works in coming years.> Obviously most people just place compatible species together, but would it be to my benefit to place only commonly found species in a certain area of the world together? <Yes, in many respects...> Next question: I just read the FAQ's for Jawfish and I didn't know that brittle stars will eat them. Is this common? Jana <Hmm, yes, if the Jaws are large relative to the brittlestars being small... and a good "object lesson" here. Due to their not-so-sharing a similar habitat (under shallow substrate) they are competitors. Bob Fenner>

Bumble Bee Snails/Regional tanks Hi, I have 3 questions: I've just started in the hobby with a 27 gallon tank, about 30lbs of live rock, a couple pounds of live sand, and have very recently added 5 turbo snails and 9 crabs (which were all supposed to be red legged but one turned out to have gray legs with fine black stripes). All water tests are good - except the ammonia which is very very close to 0. 1) The gray legged crab seems to move faster than the rest - can I expect it to be more aggressive? If so, what might it prey upon? <Impossible to know... just have to keep monitoring it... remove it if possible...> 2) As I'm starting to add critters I'd like to make sure that they are all from a similar region so that they all have similar needs for temperature and salinity - are there any comprehensive resources that talk about various reef regions and the animals present and their relative to thrive in a tank situation? <I wish! I wish there was such a tool, or that there was some foreseeable way to make such economically... a commercial success... the Internet en toto even... not yet.> 3) I've seen bumble bee snails lately on the internet but haven't been able to find out where they're from and whether or not they eat corals/clams, etc. Do you know about them or where I might find some information on them? <Best to have you peruse the various e-tailers of livestock... for their scientific names... and plug their higher taxonomy into search engines... You will know> Thanks for any advice you can give! Kathy <To press on my friend. Bob Fenner>

Book question recently i switched to a 125gal tank from a 55gal. in the old tank i had a lion, yellow tang, couple urchins, snails, hermits, a leather coral, frogspawn, brain, orange sponge, Lobophyllia, cup coral, and some shrimp (how they escaped the lion i don't know, they were intended food....). regardless i learned unbelievable amounts of information since my tank setup (where i got screwed by a large NFS (cough... PetCo... cough). <Hmm, "judge ye not others...."> anyways, after a struggle with either pseudomonas or streptococci (gram negative clumps of balls, id bet strep but i couldn't stain the 'second' outbreak because i ran out of agar) i ditched all the substrate and let all of the liverock dry out for about three weeks. so now that I'm much less ignorant and with a nearly empty tank I'm planning a new setup. I'm not gonna go the "oooh, that's pretty ill buy it route" I'm gonna try to set up by region and water depth/conditions.  <A very worthy "jump" in your personal unfolding, and another great opportunity for learning...> I'm going for a reef tank that is situated somewhere in the indo-pacific near the surf zone (15-30ft). so now comes the next step, picking where in the pacific (se Asia, e Australia, maybe southern Japan) I'm gonna go with and then research that area. so, got any books you can site that can help me there? <Many, many... here's my pitch at learning a hugely beneficial mechanism for searching what is known collectively among humans... As there is scant enough resource to do all we/you'd like to, it is important to "learn how to learn" and use modern tools in these endeavors... In this case, computer searches of literature... even just the on-line book etailers like Amazon... or www.nhbs.com (the natural history bookstore) can be satisfying... but the databases like BIOSIS, The Zoological Record... are amazing at providing information... Go to the www.WetWebMedia.com site and read over the pieces on "Searching the Literature", and "Building an Aquatic Library"... for instruction on how to go from here> id much prefer scientific biased work. a good balance of pictures and data/biology. my tank wont be 100% 'authentic' for whatever reason, also i have some livestock that i was able to save. all inverts about 3 corals, sponge, mushrooms, flower anemone, urchins, shrimp, and an anemone crab. everybody has finally stabilized in the new tank and there's a biological filter, albeit small. 10 lbs of substrate about 10lbs of fresh liverock and some base rock, and I'm starting to *slowly* put in the 'freshly' made liverock. so, I've gotta get my hardware set up before i get all crazy with the livestock. any help would be sweet. thanks, Jon drawbridge <How exciting! Bob Fenner>

Re: book question i agree about learning how to learn, I've been doing a lot of that. I'm just curious as to you opinion. I'm gonna end up with maybe a half dozen or so book anyways, so hows about a personal preference? :), Jon drawbridge <I have... thousands of books... actually tons of "pulp" periodicals... and continue to gather all faster than can assimilate... Look to the following authors: Gerald Allen, John Randall, Rudie Kuiter for coverage of fishes by regions (their works are definitely worthy and well-produced) for fishes regionally. As you hone your area down geographically, and want my input per groups of organisms, please write back. Bob Fenner>

Royal Gramma/ Blue Chromis Bob, My wife and I and at the important point of deciding the direction or our reef tank. We are either going to create a IndoPacific reef, or a Gulf Reef. We got some ideas from other authors, and we wanted to ask your advice. We have a 100 gallon tank, 5 feet long, and will use a Lifereef Sump/ protein skimmer. The plan in question would have 1/3 of the tank live rock on one side of the tank, and about 2/3 open with live sand, both Gulf Aquacultured from Sea Critters. The main question is- How compatible will several Royal Gramma's be with a small school of Blue Chromis. You were enthusiastic about both species in your new book from Wet Web, but I was not sure about compatibility. Beyond this, could we add a Drum, or would the Chromis be too aggressive? Thanks! Not many people in Madison WI are familiar with Gulf organisms- the romance with the Pacific alive and well here! Roy >> Probably three Grammas would be the psychological maximum for this one hundred gallon system... The Chromis should be fine... and will present a nice moving counterpoint to the Grammas. And a Drum should fit in fine too... unless it gets so large as to ingest your other species... Bob Fenner, who thanks you for writing

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