Invertebrates...diversify your tanks livestock, and reap the rewards!

Discussion in 'Reef Aquarium Articles and How To's' started by coral reefer, Nov 9, 2008.

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  1. coral reefer

    coral reefer Giant Squid

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    A reef biotope recreated in a closed system is enjoyable, entertaining and stunningly beautiful with the plethera of diverse corals and vibrant fish. Now, by incorporating invertebrates into the equation, you truly have a visually appealing, and unique representation of a natural reef as close as your living room. With the myriad of invertebrates commonly available to us, it is no wonder, we have been tantalized and show a fondness for incorporating invertebrates into our tanks. Unfortunately, not all invertebrates are appropriate for our dream tanks as size, husbandry, collection processes, compatibility, feeding and toxicity issues can't be overlooked. Research, regular routine maintenance to ensure water parameters remain constant and ideal, are the key components to the overall success and health of invertebrates aquired for our reef tanks.

    Below is a list of some of the more commonly found and hardy invertebrates that are characterized as "reef safe". The term needs to be taken loosely, as each individual has its own personality and other factors that play out in the overall behavioral representation characterized by each invertebrate.

    CRUSTACEANS:

    Emeralds, Sally Lightfoots, Porcelain and many varieties of hermits make a welcome addition to any reef tank. Their peaceful disposition and ease of keeping along with their ability to control algae and uneaten foodstuff settling in rock work or that has settled on the substrate makes them a prime candidate as well for most reef tanks!

    Crabs are hardy and tolerant of a wide range of water quality levels. Many crabs are introduced to tanks by hitchhiking with live rock or hiding within corals or other invertebrates. It is a testimony and credit to their hardiness to survive such extreme conditions in the collection and transportation process, many times with nothing more than damp newspaper for hours at a time.

    They are opportunistic feeders, and predatory in nature so the need to watch and be cautious of adding any crab to your tank cant be emphasized enough. Having said this however, crabs are fascinating, entertaining and add a new dimension to a reef tank. They will readily feed on detritus, uneaten food and algae within the confines of your live rock and benthic area of your tank as well. Some crabs are specialized feeders while other will consume anything and everything in its path. Some are symbiotic, some commensal while other are predatory in nature.

    There are a few ornamental shrimp that should be recognized in the reef aquarium. Cleaner, Peppermint, Fire/blood and Coral banded shrimp are the best suited for most reef aquariums, though care should be taken as shrimp may pick on corals and aggrevate Tridacna clams. Other than that, you should have no real detrimental problem once you get the acclimated to your tank and they have survived the shipping process.

    Many reefers incorporate shrimp into their tanks due to their ability to set up cleaning/service stations in hopes that a fish will pass by requiring its services of removing parasites and dead tissue from it. The colors and patterns associated with these shrimp, also, adds to the overall beauty of a reef tank and adds a certain zest as well. Compatibility in the sense of a mutualistic relationship with fish and their quiet peaceful disposition towards other invertebrates and corals, makes them a welcome addition also. Their only drawback is their ability to pick on Tridacna clams and stress out corals as they constantly walk on them in search for food and their secretive nature whereas you may go hours without seeing one of your prized possessions. Once again, shipping collection and acclimation are obstacles that will have to be addressed if your shrimp is to have any chance of success in your tank. Carnivorous and scavengers by nature, they will accept any meaty fare as do the above mentioned crabs. Iodine supplementation is advantageous to most shelled invertebrates, to help with their molting(ecdysis) process. One amazing thing to mention regarding shrimp and crabs, is that they will regenerate lost parts with enough successful molts.

    Urchins are, unfortunately, one of the least known and purchased as a reef inhabitant. Granted, many get too big and cumbersome, often rearranging your live rock and coral set-up, some species are nicely suited and a welcomed addition to a reef tank. The four species mentioned above are suitable for a reef environment, come in a wide variety of colors, shapes and sizes. The Blue Tuxedo, Pencil, Rock and Black long-spined(diadema) urchins are ideal and your best bet as a long term success story with incorporating Urchins into your reef biotope.

    Mainly herbivorous in nature grazing on algae, they will also eat meaty fare and are great deposit feeders and another effective scavenger. One note to mention is the fact that they WILL eat coralline algae through the use of a chewing apparatus called "Aristotle's lantern"). This apparatus consists of five calcareous plates that help it to consume coralline algae. Care must be warranted when working within the confines of your tank if you possess one of these Echinoids as there spines represent a formidable defense mechanism, that shouldn't be taken lightly. Numerous avid aquarists have been punctured by the spines of Urchins, more so than by that of Scorpionfish and the notorious Lionfish and given a painful or aggravating sting.
    Sea Urchins as most other invertebrates are, are susceptible to fluxuating water parameters. Handling and transport issues can effect an urchin as well possibly leading to its demise.


    Ah yes, the gastropods...snails! And lots of them make for a happy tank and alot less algae buildup. With about 15 species of snails available to choose from at most pet shops, you can't help but purchase atleast one species. Astrea, Turbo, Trochus, Conch,Cerith, Nassirius, chitons, Vermitids and Stomatellids are just a few that can be purchased or as an added benefit of buying live rock, many gastropods hitchhike from one place to another by stowing in or on live rock.

    Gastropods are another clean up scavenger, feeding on detritus and algae. Osmotic shock is a key issue that needs to be addressed to ensure that your snails survive and thrive in your tank. Temperature, oxygen and salinity changes will certainly succumb your snails to their demise! Starvation will also take place if you have to large a population of snails or not enough algae for many of them to feed on. Snails are compatible with most living things in your tank except for those animals that will eat them, ie. Many Trigger fish. As mentioned, hermit crabs may eat them for there larger shell to enable them to grow!

    Conch snails are a great addition to your tank in that they will aerate your substrate areas and stir up your gravel as well. They are seen constantly foraging and grazing over your sand bed in search for food! Nassarius and bumble bees will also do the same as a Conch but will consume meaty fare as well that rests uneaten on the benthic areas of your tank.

    The prized possession and the so called jewel of the reef...Tridacna clams>Squamosa, Derasa, Gigas, Maxima, Hippopus and Crocea.
    Tridacna clams offer a splash of color and an interesting array of enjoyment as you delve into the world of the giant clam! Most of the clams available in the ornamental trade are cultured, which makes them better suited for an aquarium environment. Clams range in size from roughly 8 inches for an adult Crocea to a whopper tipping the scale at several hundred pounds and over 3 feet in length, characteristic of Gigas clams.
    Baby(gems) and juvenile clams up till about 3 inches in size require minute nano plankton and yeast for feeding. They are filter feeders which will feed on nitrates, ammonia and phosphate,(nutrients suspended in the water as either particulate or dissolved organic matter) as well. Many avid aquarists have a problem keeping small clams alive for more than a few months tops, due to their main food source, not being easily provided. As they grow, their reliance on minute particles for nutritional value switches to intense light. The reason for this being that as they mature, zooxanthellae and Irridophores(color pigments) begin to develop in there mantle. Their symbiotic algae, is responsible for photosynthesis as is true with any hermatypic coral.

    Different clam species require different placement within their tank. Squamosa, Gigas, Hippopus and Derasa clams require a sandy bottom, whereas the Crocea and Maxima are best suited in rock work. Water flow should be moderate or high and random turbulence is best, while avoiding laminar one direction flow and direct streams of water.


    A healthy clam will be responsive to changes in light. Their mantle should be fully open. They should show no sign of bleaching, or have gas bubbles in their tissue, and their mantle pigment should be rich and colorful, not faded or drab.

    The easiest and hardiest of the clam species is the squamosa, Hippopus and Derasa, as they ship well, don't require as intense light and water quality issues a
    ren't as stringent as that evident with the other species. Clams once acclimated properly and not moved once situated within your tank, can be an awesome addition, that are unique, beautiful and with proper care can be a long lived specimen. Other specimens that are sometimes available for sale, accompany live rock, sand or coral are polychaete worms, sponges, ascidians(tunicates/sea squirts) , bivalves, gastropods, hydroids(sea cucumber) forams, zooplankton, herbivores, filter feeders like Feather Dusters, small crabs and a myriad of other beneficial micro-organisms that will help either with water quality, be a source of food for larger inverts, coral and fish, and offer a more diverse and interesting assortment of micro-crustaceans.

    If you really want to try something, not normally found at the local pet shop, that is very subdued, hardy, though not very colorful or pattern crazy, but will offer you the ability to have your substrate aerated and cleaned as the Sea Cucumber claim to fame. They should be housed in a deep sandy substrate, that has had the chance to mature for more than a few months. Overall, invertebrates should not be omitted either in a fish only or full blown reef tank,a s they offer many beneficial properties, not to mention the diverse number of inverts available for sale and the enjoyment found by keeping these unique animals!

    With all of the invertebrates that are at our fingnertips starring us in the eye daily as we walk passed the reef tanks, it is almost impossible to at least want to have one in yor tank, or three, or seven. Many of the same issues apply in properly maintaining an invert successfully . Proper water paramemters, filtration, pH, alkalinity, temperature, salinity, feeding. These issues need to be addressed to ensure your invert will last years, not days or weeks.
    I would suggest to anyone with a reef tank, to stock up with a number of beneficial, interesting and colorful invertebrates to compliment your tanks diverse array of life, and make your tank that much more interesting and enjoyable.;D
     
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  3. getinpora

    getinpora Coral Banded Shrimp

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  4. PharmrJohn

    PharmrJohn The Dude

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  5. Dr.Fragenstein

    Dr.Fragenstein Panda Puffer

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    Sally lightfoots are a jekyl/hyde invert that ends up being aggressive and will attack other inverts and nip corals as it ages. Great job though, sorry about the interjection!
     
  6. coral reefer

    coral reefer Giant Squid

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    Yes, you are right as I have heard negative stories regarding these crabs...I fortunately have not had any problems thus far!!!
    Each animal has its own unique personality like us or dogs and cats.
    I have a Niger Trigger fish in my reef tank with crabs and an urchin with no problems!
    You never know...
    Thanks for the reply and glad you liked my article.
     
  7. Peredhil

    Peredhil Giant Squid

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    I see this was posted a few days ago, 11/9/2008. I've read this before. Is this a repost?
     
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  9. baugherb

    baugherb Giant Squid

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  10. johnmaloney

    johnmaloney 3reef Sponsor

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    Great post! Bumble bee snails though eat microfauna too, they are not pure scavengers like the nassarius vibex. With long spined urchins reaching the size of a volleyball when mature, (counting their spines), I always though they were the worst choice you could make regarding an urchin.
     
  11. sailorguy

    sailorguy Torch Coral

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    How about nonornamental ciams to help control nitrates? Has anyone tried this? Can cold water species adapt to tank conditions or just die and create more waste?
     
  12. 32Boom

    32Boom Coral Banded Shrimp

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    I had one in my 55 and I loved it. He got to be large than a volley ball. Cleaning was a pain though and I often got stung. My mom made me get rid of him when a sizable piece of the spine broke off in my thumb and I had to go to the ER. 'Great urchin though. I think the worst choice you could make for an urchin would be something that is a coralivore.

    They eat a lot of coraline though, which sucks.