A captive reef system is great to build, all the way from choosing the aquarium to actually building the reef. Different ways can be tried to see which is the most pleasing with practicality in mind, and eventually it is done.
Fish are introduced over a period, also corals. All things being equal, the new reef is really something.
It needs to develop of course. The corals will grow and if live rock has been used different organisms could well appear. Sometimes something new appears after months.
The reef needs to be allowed to grow. I’m an advocate of ‘maintain and watch.’ When set up it will need adjustments to rocks, also corals that might be happier re-positioned where there is more or less light and current.
Adjustments from time to time are fine, everyone does it.
What the living captive reef needs is stability of the seawater parameters, lighting quality and time. Seawater parameters are easy, routine checks confirm the situation. Lighting just needs a little maintenance and a change of bulbs and/or tubes at the correct moment. Then there’s time? It is the chance to settle and develop without disturbance.
On the wild reef, barring occurrences such as storms, there isn’t any interference.
My soft coral system has been running for 5¾ years. I do regular maintenance once weekly, so hands are in the tank then. I also have to cut corals from time to time because of overgrowth and crowding. Apart from that, the reef is left alone, though of course it is monitored. Closely looking at the reef rocks it can be seen that they are covered in marine growths. On the surface is quite a lot of coralline, though to be truthful there isn’t much rock surface to be seen. In addition are many, many short hard growths that look like sticks, about 1″ long and 1/8″ in diameter. I thought they may be tubeworms, or some other kind of worm, but despite close observation I haven’t seen any evidence of this. I’ve tried reference books to no avail. I’m not too bothered as they are clearly not malignant.
When viewed at night the underside of the rocks have a fair number of tiny tubeworms. Tubeworms they are, as the feathery heads can be seen, not the big showy ones but about ½ ” or less. They are in my canister filter as well, but not very many. I find more tiny shrimps in the canister.
There is a worm that lives in a tube at the top of the reef on the light-side of the rock. It wasn’t there when the tank started and has not been put in later by me. It appeared (or at least was noticed) when the system was a year old – a tiny tube, but bigger than the others mentioned. The tube is now about 2″ long and around 3/8″ in diameter. It is definitely a worm as it can be seen at the mouth of the tube. To catch food it trails a length of a very thin sticky substance and when it has some, it reels the line in. So that’s what it is named – ’fisher worm.’ The food caught is that which is targeted at the fish, frozen and flake. It eats both except for bits that the flame angel steals from the line. It must be a very healthy and happy worm!
What makes me really pleased is I didn’t use any live rock in the tank at all when the reef was built, it was all inert marine safe stuff, very light and very porous. The import of corals with rocks attached introduced organisms which spread and colonised the reef. This did take a long while though, it would have been quicker (but more expensive) to have incorporated a percentage of live rock.
Anyway, as the rock is now live the sulphur denitrator has been turned off and the rock bacteria are coping. There has never been a nitrate reading. The anti-phosphate filter continues to run.
I leave the reef alone and let it do its thing. Occasionally I wonder about a different skimmer but then I ask why? – all is well, leave it alone.