The One That Went Missing

We moved address and I had to close my reef aquarium. It was a sad but necessary action. At the new address, once all the seemingly never ending jobs after a house move has occurred had been done, my thoughts turned to another reef aquarium. This one, the current one, is a little smaller because of space.

According to my notebook the aquarium was initially mature in October 2002 that is any unwanted ammonia/nitrite readings had gone. This was with an aquarium full of seawater and rocks, nothing else. I wanted a soft coral reef (as always) and a selection of corals went in. These were left to settle before any fish additions.

I always understock my aquariums and only considered three fish which needed to meet the criteria of being reasonably hardy and not over timid, also they would need to remain small. The selection was a Flame Angel (Centropyge loriculus), a Flashback as in the photo (Pseudochromis diadema), and a Fijian Blue Damsel (Chrysiptera tampou). Once the fish had been selected and given time to display any unwanted problems they went into their new home. This was in April 2003.

They were fine, no problems at all. They all fed really well and didn’t cause each other problems. After a while the Flame Angel became boss fish and the other two bickered with each other occasionally.

The whole reef continued in really good shape. The fish were in good health displaying excellent colour and no signs whatsoever of any problem. In time the Flashback became very rounded – he (she?) spent much time in amongst the rocks which I assumed was because tiny creatures were being caught and eaten. The Flame Angel did the same but to a lesser extent and the damsel mainly just cruised about in open water.

We all from time to time have some identifiable problem with an aquarium, in my case it has been with hardware – a powerhead became very noisy and had to be fixed, likewise with the protein skimmer motor. Not a big problem.

After three years, in March 2006 I noted that the Flashback had not appeared as usual when food was offered. The fish was often the first at the table even beating the damsel to the offering. Waiting and watching achieved nothing, the fish didn’t appear. I wasn’t particularly alarmed and the next day I expected the Flashback to appear as usual, particularly at feeding time, but the fish was nowhere to be seen. The fish, as were the other two, was in clearly good health. The only noticeable thing and different from the other two fish was the very rounded belly from the food available among the rocks.

Some fish have been known to jump though the Flashback is generally not one of these. However, as I run my reef with an open top I checked for the fish everywhere, on the floor all round the aquarium cabinet, everywhere that the fish could be on aquarium braces etc but found nothing. There is a weir for the seawater but nothing had gone over this, and it would be very difficult for anything to do so. I even checked on the top of the fluorescent tubes!

I continued to watch and hope for quite a few days but the fish didn’t appear. At this point I did ammonia and nitrite tests but these were normal at zero and remained so. There wasn’t any sign of a reef problem: all the corals were happy, extended and showing off their polyps.

So I wonder what happened. I have to admit that I haven’t any idea based on fact as there wasn’t any indication of anything amiss whatsoever, the fish was certainly in good health and mobile with no sign of age. It wasn’t a timid fish (they’re known to be the opposite generally). There’s certainly nothing in the aquarium that would predate on the fish. The only conclusion I can come to is that the fish paid the price for being greedy and getting well rounded, there certainly wasn’t any overfeeding by me but there’s quite a lot of live food in the rocks. Somehow, maybe, it got stuck in the rocks.

The Flame angel and the Fiji damsel continue in great health and colour having now spent eight years in the aquarium. I’ve not replaced the Flashback as the display is lovely as it is.