Monday, February 16, 2015

Katie: The Saltwater Saga, Part III: Expanding the Kingdom

           My Husband is a powerful negotiator and savvy saltwater buyer. After the initial set up of the tank and the first few fish and fauna purchases, Husband applied his considerable intellect and abounding poisson passion to finding the right coral to round out the tank. And not just any ‘right corals’; these had to be the right corals at the right prices. Thankfully, Husband has 10 years of experience in the saltwater world, backed by an enthusiasm for researching of all kinds – especially marine related – and an unerring determination to find the greatest possible deals for the best possible prices.

The xenia
The acan heads 
            First, the small corals: to start, we figured we would go to Sea Life Fish and Aquariums, our favorite saltwater store run by a father and son who would be on a first name basis with us at this point if we had ever told them our names. As always, they had an interesting selection of fish and corals to choose from. The thing that almost immediately caught my eye was the xenia – mainly because they pulse! Which would be why they are called pulsing xenia…. But these were a soft purple with delicate feather heads similar to flowers that open and close in a rhythmic, soft pulsing that is echoed throughout the small colony, creating a continuous wave of motion that swirls through the bunch in a gentle entrancing movement that captures the eye in mesmerizing moments. Suffice it to say they are hypnotic and I could stare at them for hours. They are apparently ‘lower corals’ in that they are more common and grow very fast, but I was hooked so in the bag they went. Also going home with us were a few heads of green acan that Husband was drawn to.
The stunner chalice

            This concluded our dealing with actual store owners, and we moved on to private sellers. This is the area where Husband truly shines, and in a short time we had acquired several small corals for a killer price, including green star polyps that I had been hoping for, a tiny neon green leather, a similarly small but very green mushroom, some more monty caps, a birds nest, some accordia, a head of hammer, a baby frogspawn, a softball-sized stunner chalice, and a few more zoa varieties.


                           Unfortunately, once we brought home our new salty subjects and began processing them through customs and boarder control (a.k.a. freshwater dips and careful inspections to make sure they weren’t carrying any unwanted pests that could overthrow the tank) we found a few unwelcome additions on a zoa plug. Hidden beneath the tiny heads – which only closed up after the freshwater dip – was a mini army of bubble algae. Ever the optimists (yes those who know us can laugh here) we originally endeavored to scrape off the algae and save the plug, but it soon became apparent that it would be impossible to get it all. We reluctantly tossed those zoas into the saltwater buck that doubles as the holding cell and chalked it up to experience. We now know not to buy from that seller any more, and Husband found such great deals on everything else, the loss of the cost of that zoa was barley felt in the financial sphere.

Kenya tree and star polyps
The toadstool is the small white disk, sans neon tendrils
             Intruders dealt with, we were ready to move on to the last coral on the list that we (Husband) were really hoping to find: a neon-green toadstool. Another private seller was soon found by Super Husband, and a meeting was quickly arranged.  This particular seller lived a daunting distance from our house, but we were able to set up a meeting in the parking lot of a local fish store. We gathered our supplies and arrived early, excited for this deal to go down. And I have to say – standing there in the parking lot, leaning against our car while sporting sunglasses to shield us from the burning Florida sun, waiting for our contact to show up - we felt pretty hardcore. This feeling was reinforced when our seller showed up and handed off little baggies full of saltwater goodies. In addition to the beautiful toadstool he had, we also got a few more small heads of xenia, some kenya tree, and some used magnets. The magnets were thrown in because Husband and I realized we may have acquired more coral than we had rock space for, and we needed to get creative with the landscaping. In return, we handed over a small bill and our own baggie with the algae-infested zoa plug. We had told the seller about the algae problem, but he wanted it anyways and we had no use for it, so in the end we were able to hand it off and still see a nice coral-value return.                   
The cotton candy
        We then had one last category of acquisitions to explore; macro algae! You may recall from a previous post (I like to pretend people actually read these) the dragon’s breath that began our love of macro algae. Though nothing can match the original in awesomeness, Husband and I were determined to find more. A little Husband-magic and we found the whole-seller of macro algae for pretty much any major store or hobbyist in the area. Though mostly an online business, the seller agreed to meet us at his house where we could peruse his collection in person. After some scenic driving (we got lost because though Husband is a great navigationalist, neither of us like to drive, and finding new places is hard) we found the algae homeland.  The owner was amiable and a great connection to have, and though his set up was small, he had a large variety of different algae, snails, a few fish and some of the more unusual plants. We picked out a few varieties, including a gorgonia, halimeda, some cotton candy, and red grape, which is now our second favorite macro algae. The seller also threw in some fuzzy algae, a branching red algae, and a few small snails for free.
The fuzzy algae 

           Happy with our purchases, we headed home to get everything organized in the tank and find all the new things their own home. As previously mentioned, once we began allotting rock real estate to our new residents, we quickly became aware of the fact that we may have been a little enthusiastic in our acquisitions. There was only so much room left on our shelf rock, and many corals need not just their own space to sit, but also space around them so they don't get grumpy and start trying to kill off their neighbors for more food or growing room - or just because they are in a grumpy killing mood. While corals do often have their own personalities, they are not usually very nice ones - of course when their place of original is the ocean where the law of the land is pretty much 'kill or be killed', you can't really blame them. Fortunately, Husband thought ahead and acquired some old magnets so we could glue some of the smaller corals onto them and place these around the tank. The magnets are actually  glass cleaners - there is a slightly abrasive surface on one side of the magnet that goes against the glass inside the tank, and you can clean the glass off by moving the paired magnet on the outside of the tank, thus being able remove dirt and algae inside the tank without ever having to put your hand in the water. 
Gluing the corals to the magnets
                We proceeded to pull all of the small corals out of the tank so we could properly arrange some of the larger things like the stunner chalice, the hammer, the frogspawn, and the macro algae. Once those were placed, we began the process of gluing things to magnets. It was a bit tricky, as super glue doesn't always work well with water and unusual textures, but we were successful in the end and managed to get enough coral pieces onto the walls that the rest could find homes on the remaining rock space. 

               We are very happy with the progress of the tank so far, though we are still moving things around to see who is happier where - each coral has its own preference for light/water flow intensity, so it will take some doing to find the right location where each coral will be happiest. We also think the tank might be a bit on the crowded side now, so some re-landscaping (re-rockscaping?) might be in the near future - stay tuned to find out!               

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