Looking for ideas for a stunning reef tank that won't challenge your skills too much? This one is basically the same as Model Design 19 but with corals more typical of back reef zones than the fore reef. These latter types of corals, mostly large-polyp (LPS) varieties, are in general easier to keep than the high energy SPS corals.
Aquarium Capacity 120 to 180 gallons
Life Support live rock, live sand, standard reef filtration
Lighting two to three 150-watt metal halide lamps, depending upon tank size
Background pale blue, light green, or black
Special Requirements calcium above 400 ppm, alkalinity about 4 Meq/L, very low levels of nitrate, phosphate undetectable
Centropyge bicolor 1 or a harem
Or Centropyge flavissima 1 or a harem
Meiacanthus atrodorsalis 1
Nemateleotris, any species 1
Or Ptereleotris microlepis 3
Pomacentrus alleni 1
Signigobius biocellatus mated pair (see text)
Or Valenciennea puellaris 1 or a mated pair
Algae snails 10
Lysmata amboiensis 1 to 3
Or Lysmata debelius 1 or a mated pair
160 Saltwater Aquarium Models
Corals (see text) Blastomussa sp. Cynarina sp. Caulastrea sp. Favia sp. Fungia sp Galaxea sp. Herpolitha sp. Hydnophora sp. Trachyphyllia sp. Catalaphyllia sp. Euphyllia sp. Plerogyra sp. Physogyra sp. Lobophyllia sp. Turbinaria sp.
Not all the corals listed can be successfully maintained together in one tank. Several, including Catalaphyllia, Euphyllia, Physogyra, and Plerogyra, produce long sweeper tentacles capable of inflicting a damaging sting to any potential competitor within reach. And virtually any two corals can damage each other if they are placed so close together that they touch. Study photos to determine which corals you like best. Make sure to place all specimens so they have plenty of room between them. Space is the most valuable commodity on the reef. Once a larval coral settles into a suitable spot, it will defend itself against all comers. With millions of years of practice, some of them have become quite adept, indeed.
A harem of dwarf angels (Centropyge) consists of one male and two or more females. Males are always larger than females, so the best approach is to place one large and two small individuals in the tank simultaneously. Meiacanthus atrodorsalis is one of the fanged blennies. Armed with venomous fangs, these little fish viciously bite the inside of a predator's mouth, hoping to be spit out. They are usually successful. They may bite you, too, so handle with care. The other blenny suggestions, Ecsenius bicolor and E. gravieri, are called combtoothed blennies because they have numerous tiny teeth they use to scrape filamentous algae from solid surfaces. Keep only one specimen per tank, as they are territorial and will fight with competitors. Two dart-fishes are suggested, any of the Nemateleotris species or Ptereleotris heteroptera. Either one requires a suitable shelter into which it can quickly retreat when it perceives danger. Nemateleotris magnifica, N. decora, and
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N. helfrichi all look so gorgeous you may have trouble choosing between them. It's one per tank, however, as they don't get along. Ptereleotris can be kept in a small group.
The remaining two species, Signigobius and Valenciennea, can be a challenge to keep. Both feed by taking up a mouthful of substrate, "chewing" to extract any small edible organisms that might be present, and spitting out the sand and gravel. It may be difficult for them to get enough to eat unless the tank has a mature, active sand bed. Valenciennea is arguably the more attractive of the two, but Signigobius is so interesting I would choose it over its cousin. Signigobius is always found in pairs, and should not be maintained singly, as this seems to be extremely stressful. It is known as signal goby in the aquarium trade, but the semaphore-like dorsal fins with their huge eyespots are not used for signaling. Instead, they help the goby deceive potential predators into thinking it is a crab. Coupled with the slow, jumpy movements of the fish as it grazes the bottom, the deception apparently works quite well. Experienced aquarists capable of supplying its needs may also want to consider devoting a species tank to Signigobius.
Setup and maturation of this aquarium should follow the same schedule suggested for Model Design 19. Unlike the branching corals in that model design, not all the corals in this aquarium will be placed atop the live rock. Catalaphyllia, Cynarina, Fungia, Herpolitha, and Trachyphyllia should all sit on the substrate. Fungia and Herpolitha are capable of movement and will eventually topple if placed on rocks. The others are adapted to sitting in soft sand or sediments. Catalaphyllia, in fact, is typically buried with only the tentacle crown above the substrate. Perhaps one reason these corals are easy to keep has to do with this mode of life. They can be collected without damage. Other corals must be pried or broken from the reef, a procedure likely to result in injuries.
Although these corals need careful attention to water quality, proper lighting, and regular feedings with a plankton substitute and small bits of seafood, many aquarists have found them to be hardy and rewarding aquarium subjects. Your likelihood of success will be enhanced if you stock this, or any coral reef aquarium, gradually. Think in terms of months, perhaps even a couple of years, to achieve a truly striking exhibit.
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