Steve was kind enough to bring over some extra live rock that he had from the shipment. It is, quite honestly, some of the best we’ve ever seen from any LFS around here. It is provided by Tampa Bay Saltwater. Please do check out that link. They have quite an amazing setup.

The issue, for those unaware, is that, as this hobby has become more popular, there were a number of “bad players” in the market who were harvesting live rock from active reefs around the world. Unfortunately, the reefs of the world are already facing decline from any other variety of factors, and us meddling humans just going out and further hurting that was just going to make that worse. So there has been an active ban on that for some time now. What Tampa Bay Saltwater did was to gain a permit for a five acre lease of underwater area in the Gulf of Mexico, and created his own reef. According to the page, they have over four million pounds of rock that they have put out there to “grow” their own, in short creating a “farm” of his own, and preventing any destruction of active reefs. As you can see if you poke around the page, the rock he’s shipping out is just rich with life.

Finally, it brought to light another aspect of this that I’ve long believed, but never really any confirmation of. Reef tanks need a “cleaning crew”, consisting typically of snails, hermit crabs and so on. If you take a look at this page on his site, you can see the ratios of critters he recommends (based on number of gallons). For our size tank (225gal), he recommends approximately 440 pounds of live rock, 220 pounds of live sand, 220 blue leg hermit crabs, 110 astrea snails, 10 tiger tail cucumbers, 5 serpent or brittle stars, and 5 peppermint shrimp.


Now, don’t get me wrong, this guy is trying to sell you a product, and obviously, will probably error on the side of more rather than less when it comes to giving you amounts that you need. I have previously seen estimates that are roughly half that for the amount of live rock. But even if I went with numbers 1/2 of what he indicates, that is still quite a serious commitment in terms of the life in the tank dedicated to cleanup.

I just went to the closest LFS I trust, and this brings our current population up to: 1 emerald crab, about 15 hermit crabs, and about 5 snails. Even with really conservative estimates, we’re still a LONG way from having enough in there to keep the reef clean. But we knew this was going to be a long project. No illusions there. Now it just puts a number to it. Oh, yeah, and just for scale? That guy sells that whole lot of stuff to you in what he calls “The Package”. Essentially all of the aforementioned rock, sand and critters in one bulk shipment. His cost for our size tank? $2614.00. Yup. Thats right. And that is without shipping. And quite frankly, for what you get? Thats CHEAP. His prices are either on par or slightly cheaper than buying from local stores. Again, even if you cut that number in half, you now get a sense for what kind of commitment you’re talking about in maintaining a large reef tank.

I hope to get some pictures up at some point here of some of the new critters and such we’ve got going on.

Oh! And in one further bit of tank news. I did get the Spa-Flex plumbing installed, and even found the *exact* right connectors to get it hooked up to the current sump and the overflow box side to get rid of the frankenstein connection I had previously built. The overflow is working great, and has a minimum of tubing now, so there isn’t this massive drain down if the power shuts off anymore. Now we just need to drill the small hole for the suction break, and we’re pretty much good to go until we get a new setup under the tank.

I did get the new collection cup for the skimmer, and put it under as well. It isn’t running currently. We turned off and removed the other two canister filters. I suspect they were actually contributing to instead of helping out with the algae problems. As previously mentioned, they aren’t really designed for a reef ecosystem. So if things are stable in the coming few weeks here, we’re probably going to switch gears a bit, and get a few more fish to pretty things up a bit.

Oh, one final note. When you brush a whole mess of algae and crap off your rocks, that will get sucked into your overflow box. The filters installed in there will start to get covered with all that crap. Guess what… that reduces the volume of water that can get sucked down! Who knew. Yeah… this guy. Of course things get less efficient in that system when you do that… duh. That balance of the water getting sucked out of the tank to that getting pumped back in gets disrupted, and makes you more prone to overflows or pumps running dry. Lesson learned… make sure you check all filters after doing major cleanings like that.