The tank is now planted with about 13 species of macroalgae and stocked with 30+ species of larger animals. It has been an extremely busy period. But I haven't really felt exhausted since things kind of do themselves when you are really geared about something. It's just plain fun going out collecting. Last week I took a 45 mintues drive, each way, every evening after work to get out into the island area where the great ocean meets the shore. It is only there that kelp really thrives and you find the habitat that I am trying to recreate. The short summary is that with the animals everything has gone as planned. I feel that I was well prepared in that area. Most animals are doing well. With the algae, on the other hand, the learning curve has been steep, and I still feel that I am left with more questions than answers. The more I read the more I understand that there could be a whole world of issues with these organisms that is not adressed in conventional aquarium science. Especially things that have to do with seasons, temperature and daylengths.
Two spotted goby (Gobiusculus flavescens). I have a small school of these semi pelagic fish. They hunt for plankton just outside the kelp forest.
The algae are not doing quite that well. That is, the Nori seems to be in great shape and is growing very well. The fastest growing speciemen has probably increased its weight tenfold in one week! The sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca) seems to be growing. The Gut weed (Enteromorpha intestinalis, probably) grew, but was my snails' favorite food and they quickly chewed it down to nothing. I do have some other similar looking green algae that is growing well and is resisting snail grazing. The brown thread algae are growing fast everywhere. But the snails are doing a good job of keeping them down too. It is great to have real algae eaters again. My fear of ending up in a situation where the whole tank is full of thread algae is not so great anymore. The hard surfaces are grazed pretty well and most of the macros defend themselves against epiphytes. They are adapted to a different environment than freshwater plants. I guess the combination of grazing and skimming is really powerful, since the excrements from the snails can be skimmed out to a degree which indirectly causes a constant algae export.
The strategy in the battle against thread algae is as follows:
I am still uncertain as to how the kelp and fucus are doing. In the start I didn't see any growth whatsoever. The opposite actually, clear signs of decay, and much epiphytes. I first wondered if something was missing nutrient wise, but couldn't think of anything. Then I wondered if something in the water was killing them or if the temperature was too high. I reduced the temp 1 degree to 16C average. It could also be that the season was just not right for the kelp. They grow less in summer with long daylengths and heat. It is still too early to come to any conclusions. There are some bright spots though: The kelp and seaweeds are defending theselves against epiphytes somehow, because there is significantly less epiphytes on them than in the rest of the systems and on the clearly dead kelp specimens. In the growth zone between the lamina and stipes the health is better and I believe there is some growth there on some of the specimens.
Kelp (Laminaria digitata). These are some of the specimens that are defending themselves best against epiphytes. But I don't see any growth.
I probably fed too much the first 2 weeks. The thought was that the skimmer and live sand would remove most of it efficiently. I am not used to having the classical nitrogen issues in my tanks because I have alway skept large freshwater tanks with few inhabitants. The water changes were always complete flushes with water changed 100% several times each time. In the saltwater tank things were different though. Measured the ammonium to 3 mg/l a few days ago! Did a 30% water change immediately. Will repeat that until it stabilizes on a very low level. The feeding has also been reduced drastically for now. I will incriease it again slowly.