Now it can be told.
Over the recent holidays, while we were in the thick of Christmas meal preparations and such yuletide chores, our reef aquarium suffered a major epidemic. ICH (Ichthyophthirius) or white spot disease, decimated the population of our 75-gallon tank, leaving only a hardy yellowtail damselfish (Chrysiptera parasema), a Pink Smith Damselfish (Pomacentrus smithi), and a Scarlet Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) as survivors.
It was frustrating to say the least. We thought the tank had stabilized after almost a week had gone by with no deaths. Then our suppliers came back with more fish, the addition of which may have stressed out the ones that had already acclimitized themselves. Watching the ICH take over the tank was eerie. They were most visible when we turned the lights off at night in the living room and then put a flashlight right up against the glass. We could see them, like white lice, wriggling in the water and sticking to the plate glass of the aquarium.
First our supplier tried copper treatment, but apparently it was not enough, and what was put in killed off the few plants and anemone as well. We ended up with a complete change of water, live rock and substrate. The three survivors even made it through the couple of days inside a plastic pail with one of the aereators dipped into it. When the new water had cleared up we put the fish and shrimp back in.
Sam and I had been reading up on aquarium care even before we’d had the tank set up, and our quest for alternative sources of marine water and other tank necessities led us to a marine aquarium fish exporter literally just around the block from our house. They’d been there since we moved into the house we’re living in now, but we never paid much attention since as exporters, we figured they wouldn’t cater to small time hobbyists like ourselves. But one morning just for the heck of it we decided to drop by to ask them who their marine water supplier was, as it was getting to be hassle to get our supplier (while still in the 1-month warranty period) to bring us water refills. But Jimmy, the person we talked to, couldn’t recommend their water supplier.
What he did have, though, were rejects from the marine fish and invertebrates they were exporting. Rejects are live animals, but for one failed criteria or another did not make it past the QA check before they get shipped out to whatever foreign country they were going to. As the exporters had already paid for them, rejects were disposed of. Not even re-sold. Just disposed of.
A fish wouldn’t pass the QA test if it had a slightly torn fin, or had a blemish on one side of its body. Anemone that wasn’t symmetrical, or starfish that had uneven length legs are rejects. When Jimmy learned we had a big enough tank that we maintain as a hobby, not for commercial purposes, he promised us all the rejects he can get his hands on.
At first we didn’t think he’d come up with much, but within the week Jimmy had provided us with more than twenty fish, five nudibranch, more than ten anemone and two more cleaner shrimp to keep the one we already had company. The best thing about cleaner shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis) was that enough of them can keep an ICH infestation at bay.
When Jimmy came over to the house with the first of his cast-off creatures, we realized another thing. I had known that in the three decades that this house we now live in was rented out, one of the renters had been a marine fish exporter. Jimmy told us that it had been they who rented our house, which explains all the traces of what looked like giant vats made of concrete that had been torn down by the subsequent renters. Jimmy himself had lived in our house. Small world indeed.
So. Here is our revived tank, safe haven for export rejects where they can live with no fear of another QA check. With the frequency Jimmy is bringing these culled creatures to us we may have to put up another tank soon. We have the water supply problem solved by obtaining some saltwater solution from Bio-Research. One 2.5 kilo bag is good for 20 gallons of water, more than adequate supply for our tank which seems to need 5 gallons addition every 4 days. We also now have a hydrometer, which measures both water temperature and salinity. Readings off the hydrometer tell us that we’re doing ok. We spend about 3o minutes a day cleaning the filter and emptying the protein skimmer, but we spend hours and hours looking at this tank world, stress-buster non pareil, fascinated by how these creatures live and interact with each other.