It is now more than a month that our aquarium has been running, the ripening algae have more or less disappeared, the values are decent: it's time to choose the first tenants!
Let's say right away that it is good at this stage to curb temptations: it is not that a beginner can put everything in the tank, choosing in bulk the corals and fishes that he likes best. We need to be careful and choose the most robust animals at first, also to understand if the tank is okay or not.
DETRITIVORES AND ALGHIVORES: SNAILS, SHRIMPS AND COMPANY
Before even thinking about corals, the so-called detritivores and algae-eaters, or animals that are also useful for keeping excess algae at bay and cleaning the aquarium of debris, can be placed in the tank as the first guests. Here are a few.
Trochus and Turbo snails. These are tropical gastropods, or "snails", easily available in stores and online. They measure 2-3 centimeters and are very active in the tank, especially at night, with lamps off, when they graze incessantly with the radula, a sort of rough tongue, the algal patina that forms on rocks and glass. Be careful not to take too many, two or three will suffice, because otherwise they risk finding too little food and therefore perishing. They are quite sturdy, but be careful if you have the osmoregulator float in the pool, on the surface of the water: if they stick to it, you risk flooding the house (it happened to me), so make sure to protect it!
Very cute, colorful crustaceans, all with their shells that they wear and change as they grow: they therefore need empty shells that you will have to provide, and seeing how a hermit crab "changes house" is a blast. They are quite long-lived but have a couple of flaws. The first is that they sometimes prey on the snails we talked about above, to steal their shells. The second is that they are real caterpillars, when they move among the rocks they can make the corals fall not glued.
Fig. 2b Clibanarius tricolor
Shrimps of the Lysmata genus are very popular among marine aquarists, there is not a single tank in which they are not present and they are suitable for beginners. The most “famous” is the Lysmata amboinensis, red with a white stripe: it is very robust and very lively, it can be kept alone or in pairs, sometimes it steals food from corals but is still an excellent tenant.Lysmata wundermanni , on the other hand, is much less showy, a dull pink, but it has an enormous quality; he eats aiptasias, small weed anemones, and therefore I always recommend keeping a couple. Finally, there is the "king" of beauty, Lysmata debelius, scarlet red with white "decorations". However, you have the defect of being very shy and must be kept in pairs, otherwise it is always hidden.
Fig. 3a Lysmata amboinensis
Fig. 3c Lysmata wurdemanni
These echinoderms, unlike their starfish relatives which in my opinion should not be kept in the aquarium, are very robust and appreciated for their incessant action as algae eaters. For a small aquarium, I definitely recommend the Mespillia globulus, a beautiful blue, which is relatively small and does not create big upsets by crawling with little grace among the rocks (see hermit crabs).
Fig. 4a Mespilia globulus
Fig. 4b Tripneustes gratilla
THE MOST SUITABLE CORALS TO START
And we come to those who will be the main tenants of our aquarium, or corals. Without wishing to go down here in the systematics and in scientific discourses that perhaps you can and will want to deepen elsewhere, here we will say that the corals for our aquarium are of four types: the so-called soft corals, that is without a calcareous skeleton, and hard corals, that is with the calcareous skeleton: the latter, depending on the size of their polyps, are divided intoLPS, i.e. Large Polyps Stony corals (large polyp stony corals) and SPS, i.e. Small Polyps Stony corals (small polyp stony corals).
Generic term that indicates the alcyonaries or octocorals (because their polyps have eight tentacles), as well as the hexacorals (polyps with tentacles in multiples of six) zoanthids and corallimorfari, which are the easiest corals to breed. There are various types and shapes:Sarcophyton , shaped like a mushroom and often with long polyps that look like flowers, Sinularia and Litophyton, arborescent,Xenia and Anthelia , like magnificent flowers,Briareum and Pachyclavularia , which form a fluorescent green lawn, and who more has more put. Among the zoanthids there are the beautiful Zoanthus and Palythoa, while among the coral morphs we remember the Discosoma and the Memories, which form multicolored colonies on the rocks.
For the first aquarium, the LPS, that is large polyp, are certainly more suitable, because they better tolerate imperfect water than SPS. Here too, for example, you can choose between the varieties of Acanthastrea, Caulastrea or Trachyphillia or Lobophyllia, which are rather resistant. A little more delicate the very popular Euphyllia with the beautiful floating tentacles, theCatalaphyllia , theDuncanopsammia . They are all animals that generally must be placed in the lower part of the tank and do not tolerate too strong flow . Moving on to the more delicate SPS, to the beginner I do not recommend the "queens" of the reef aquarium and that is the Acropora, except for a few more resistant species, for example the beautiful Acropora nobilis, fluorescent green (he mentions it because despite being a beginner, a few years ago, I grew out of all proportion). However, it is better to focus on one of the beautiful , which can be lamellae or branched and of many colors, or the Stylopora "milka", of an intense purple, or even Seriatopora histrix and caliendrum, respectively pink and light green, to finish with thePocillopora .
Fig. 6c Euphyllia glabrescens
Fig. 6d Catalaphyllia jardinei
Fig. 6e Montipora digitata
Fig. 6g Seriatophora hystrix
Fig. 6h Pocillophora damicornis
In smaller reef aquariums, there are those who do not put even one, and they do well: under 30 liters, even tiny fish stay tight and pollute. In an aquarium of about 90 liters, a maximum of four small ones live well. Which fish to choose? First of all, those that are compatible with corals, that is, that do not eat or tease them: among these there are pomacentrids (including clown fish), white and blackkauderni, fuchsia and yellow Pseudochromis and many others.
Fig. 7a Amphiprion ocellaris
Fig. 7b Pterapogon kauderni
Recommendations for fishes
The first is that the fish should be inserted last, after the invertebrates have already shown themselves to be well and the aquarium is in place. The second recommendation is to never crowd the tank, one small fish every 30-40 liters is the right proportion for the first aquarium. The third recommendation is not to buy fish before knowing its habits and above all knowing if it is compatible with corals. So, if you are in an aquarium shop and would like to buy a fish you like, do this: take a picture of it, post it on the Ballingmania fb site and ask us if it's okay or not
Author: Metello Venè