After the Bubble Scare

10-gallon as of 1/30/16.

10-gallon as of 1/30/16 (Fuji X100T).

Perhaps the upside of the bubble scare is the aftermath, when I have a chance to mull over my original goals in entering this hobby and make some decisions about how I’ll proceed for the foreseeable future. Yesterday, after a full day of observing the 10-gallon, I concluded that the opae’ula were bubble free and returned the quarantined members to the tank. At about 1:00 this afternoon, I took the photos in this post. The tank is as it was prior to the scare.

Close-up of the 10-gallon on 1/30/16. Nikon D5500.

Close-up of the 10-gallon on 1/30/16 (Nikon D5500).

My original purpose in entering this hobby was to see if I could create a low-maintenence self-sustaining and self-perpetuating environment that would come as close as possible to Dr. Wayne Nishijima’s bottles and Dennis Nakashima’s natural tanks. Both neither fed the shrimp nor used artificial filters. Nishijima’s water was, I assume, from the anchialine pool where the opae were collected. Nakashima’s, from ocean water diluted with tap water. Both neither cleaned the glass nor did water changes. 

I decided that I wanted a more natural environment than Nishijima’s that would promote breeding and a sustainable life cycle. Long-term survival alone wasn’t my goal. I also decided that bottled water, à la Christine Ha, with Instant Ocean Sea Salt would be preferable to hauling clean ocean water from the beach.

Finally, perhaps most controversial of all, I decided to use air filters. I kept small tropical fish tanks, off and on, for most of my life, and I was uncomfortable with the idea of dispensing with filters altogether. I also noted, in YouTube videos by those who seem to have an inside track on breeding, that filters were standard.

I quickly decided against mechanical hang-in- or hang-on-tank systems with replaceable filter elements because they require too much maintenance and pose a danger to the tiny shrimp. I tried in-tank sponge filters, but they were unsightly, took up a lot of space, and posed a danger to opae. They also seemed to neutralize a lot of good bacteria, turning my tanks into barren wastelands.

I finally settled on UGFs because they were least intrusive, didn’t take up much space, and seemed to control water quality by encouraging good bacteria and neutralizing bad. They also required very little maintenance and didn’t pose a danger to opae.

Of concern was the turbulence that the cycled water from the exhaust tubes created in the tank, but the opae seemed to thrive in this environment and began to breed. The 10-gallon population has more than doubled — I have no idea how to count these guys so this is a wild estimate — since I started the 10-gallon in November 2014. I routinely see tiny juveniles in the tank as well as berried females at certain times.

In all this time, I’ve had no fatalities as far as I can see. This tank was stable and healthy. It was very low maintenance. I topped off the water every month or so. I never fed the colony. Once every two or three months, I wiped the inside of the two long panes of glass, for visibility, and left the two short sides alone. These procedures took a few minutes at most. I had, as far as I was concerned, attained my goal of a self-sustaining, self-perpetuating, low-maintenance opae’ula environment that was fun to observe.

Thus, when the bubble scare occurred, I was surprised and confused. What happened? What went wrong? I had stuck to the same routine for all of my tanks, so I couldn’t put my finger on the cause. Conditions looked fine. I decided to do a 50% water change, partly on the suggestion of Odin. Problem remained. I decided to get a test kit, on the suggestion of both Robin and Odin. The water quality seemed more or less fine. Then I realized, a couple days ago, that they were air bubbles that attached momentarily to their bodies. The opae apparently suffered no ill effects from them.

Now that I know the bubbles are harmless and that I could quickly get rid of them — if I wanted to — by turning the UGF off, I feel confident that the decisions I’ve made thus far re filter, water, feeding, and cleaning are sound.

Re waste matter that accumulates in the condo (coral mound), I’m not sure if it poses a threat to the shrimp. When I flushed it out of the condo during the partial water change, it seemed to be tiny grains rather than powder, and it didn’t cloud the water very long. My guess is that these are the remnants of debris that’s been filtered by the UGF. Still, it may not hurt to do a flush in conjunction with a 50% water change (as suggested by Odin) every six months or so to control the level of this debris.

As of now, I’m relieved that the first real crisis has been solved, even if it wasn’t a real one, and I’m confident that I’m making the right decisions — at least until another crisis occurs that forces me to rethink my decisions.

This hobby is turning out to be a lot more fun and rewarding than I had expected, and I’m enjoying it.

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3 Responses to After the Bubble Scare

  1. Robin says:

    Yay! for the return ‘normal’! 🙂


    • JimS says:

      What a sense of relief! I really thought the entire colony would be wiped out by the mysterious plague. Maybe we need this kind of scare every so often to make us appreciate how fragile these little guys are and how dependent they are on our care.


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