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Ryanr - Member Spotlight

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Mixed Reef Tank G'day from Down Under. Well I was quite surprised when Mike asked me to do a piece for the magazine. I feel proud that the Fishlore community believes I have a story worth telling, so I hope I don't let you down. Well, my name is Ryan (ryanr on FL), I am now back working in electrical retail, having spent a couple of years running my own business in motor racing. I've been absent from Fishlore for sometime as life and work got too busy.

My fascination with fish started some 20 years ago, when I was about 13. All I wanted for Christmas was a fish tank. And thus it began. I received an Eclipse System 3 acrylic all-in-one tank, 3 gallons, it came with all the bits I needed, water ager, gravel, some fake plants, but no heater. I was set!

Like most new-comers to the hobby, I had no idea what I was doing, and trusted the LFS to guide me. We didn't have internet back then, dial-up bulletin board systems were about as much as we had. So on Boxing Day, I followed the directions, cleaned the gravel, and filled the tank with water, added the water ager and let it run for 3 or 4 days. Then on the weekend I bought my first fish, some danios that were recommended by the LFS as being good hardy cold-water fish. So home I went, let the bag sit in the water for 10-15 minutes, and in they went. Then a couple of weeks later, I got a betta, I was told they were ok in a 'cold' water system. I had no idea about fish species, nitrogen cycles, water changes etc.

Does this story sound familiar to anyone? Suffice to say, the tank lasted about 12 months, and a few fish passed through the tank. It became 'too hard' and I stopped keeping fish.

Fast forward 15 years, and I was working in an office, and decided to get a tank for the desk. A 10 gallon all-in-one. This time I wanted tropical, so I got a heater, and test-kits etc. A couple of male guppies, some anubias on driftwood. I still knew nothing about the nitrogen cycle, but I did know that ammonia was bad, and tested my tank every single week, performing water changes (not knowing what I was doing, it was just for cleanliness of the tank), I was getting better, the fish were surviving. I was fortunate that a colleague had a larger aquarium, and some experience to help. We had the internet, but fish-keeping info was hard to find.

When I left the company, the fish went to my colleague, and I brought the tank home, it sat idle for about 3 years. 3 years on, I started up the tank again, still not knowing 100% what I was doing, I had two bristlenose catfish, 2 Dwarf Gourami and 7 glowlight tetras in my tank, and my ammonia wasn't going down. I started researching the internet, trying to find out why. Enter Fishlore – I think my first post was titled "Why won't my ammonia go down", I learnt about the nitrogen cycle, stocking, and became an active member of the community.

Trials and Tribulations
Hmm, where to start. The biggest trial was getting through the nitrogen cycle and understanding what fishkeeping is all about. From there, it has been as much about research and understanding what happens in aquaria as it has been experience. Have I made mistakes? I don't think so, but I have tried many things that didn't work the way I expected. I think the one the one thing I have learnt is that there is not necessarily a right way to do things, and to be open minded. Make educated decisions, based on potential loss, and choose a route I'm comfortable with and most importantly, that I understand. Yes, I've rushed into things in the early days, thinking I knew what I was doing, and unfortunately lost livestock in the process, but I understand why, and that's the important thing.

I have also learnt the value of quality equipment, and whilst I don't recommend everyone buy the highest grade, I can't go past the equipment I have.

Present Day – My tanks
Tank #1 – 70L (16G) Freshwater Planted, 2' x 1' x 1.5'
Established: February 2010.
Substrate: Seachem Flourite
Filtration: Eheim Pro 2222 (500l/hr) canister, Heater: 100 Watt Eheim Jager, Temp: 24C (75F)
Lighting: 2 x 24W T5HO (1 x 6700K, 1 x 18000K)
Parameters: pH ~7.2, Nitrate 0ppm, GH ~ 7deg, KH ~ 3dKH
Supplements: Seachem Prime, Seachem Flourish Comprehensive liquid and root tabs, Seachem Excel, Seachem NPK as required. KH and GH buffers as required. API and Sera Master Test Kits
Livestock: Flora: Anubias, Crypt, unknown Sword; Fauna: 5 x Neon Tetra, 5 x glowlight Tetra (the originals – two passed), 2 x B/N Catfish, 1 x Endlers Livebearer
Feeding: Daily Flakes (high quality from LFS)

This tank is the upgrade of my previous 10G, and has been my little sanctuary. It sits on my desk at home, next to the computer. When I was starting this tank, I wanted it to be as natural as possible, Everything aside from the 3D background is natural.

The tank has gone through stock changes over the 2 years, I've lost fish, and haven't always replaced. Unfortunately the tank has also suffered from poor husbandry, a result of getting too busy, with very little time for a water change, let alone proper maintenance. I've also tried numerous plants, rare high-demand and others, but the catfish have simply destroyed them or I didn't know enough about them to keep them alive.

Things are getting back on track, I'm still suffering from Black Beard Algae, but this is subsiding now that my husbandry is back to where it should be. Once the BBA is under control, I'm going to start planting again, but this time, all plants will be a little hardier and broad leafed. I'd also like to get a couple more fish for it, but it's pushing it's stocking limits at the moment so time will tell.

The tank at its best, circa December 2010:

Planted Tank

Well this little tank is now back to proper husbandry, which includes an 18L (25%) water change weekly – water is preheated and buffered if required, gravel vac and filter maintenance once every 3 months or so. Lights are replaced annually. When I get my BBA sorted, maintenance will also include the DIY CO2 kit. Weekly commitment is about 45 minutes at the moment, but when I get it sorted, it should be back 20mins.

Tank #2 – 250L (66G) Mixed Reef, 3' x 1.5' x 2'
Established: November 2011.
Substrate: Caribsea Arognite Sand
Water Source: Instant Ocean Reef Crystals mixed with RO/DI, RO/DI for top-up
Live Rock: Approx 40kg [88lbs] (probably more now)
Filtration: 72L [19G] Sump, Tunze 9011 Skimmer, Eheim Compact 2000+, 2 x Tunze 6055 power heads on Multicontroller, Carbon Dosing for nutrient export, Total of approx 30x Turnover
Heater: 2 x 150 Watt Eheim Jager, Temp: 27C (80F)
Lighting: Inwatter Stingray 120W LED – 50/50 White/Blue with Sunrise/Sunset
Parameters: pH ~8.2-8.4, SG 1.025 (33ppt), Alk 8-9dKH, Ca 440-480ppm, Mg 1400ppm, Nitrate 0-1ppm, Phospate 0.6ppm
Supplements: Red Sea NO3:PO4-X, Red Sea Reef Foundations A, B & C (as required). API, Red Sea and Hanna Test Kits.
Inverts: Turbo Snails, Cerith Snails, Sea Cucumber, Redline (Skunk) Cleaners, Peppermint Shrimp, Tropical Abalone
Fish: Pyjama Cardinal, Flamehawk, Coral Beauty, True Percula Clown Pair, Lawnmower Blenny, Six Line Wrasse
Corals: Blasto, Elegance, Green Star Polyps, Bubble, Zoas, Morphs, Bubble-tip Anemone, one hard so far.
Feeding: Hikari Mysis Shrimp, Mussels, Prawns, Pellets, Reef-roids

Mixed Reef Tank Mixed Reef Tank
Mixed Reef Tank Mixed Reef Tank
Reef Tank Night View Reef Tank Night View 2

This tank is the result of almost a year's research, and years of freshwater fish keeping. The most difficult aspect was deciding what I wanted. I knew I wanted a reef setup, but which corals, what fish, anemones? Even now, the original plan has changed, and the original stock list aspirations have changed, but I'm really happy with what I've got.

The tank is still very immature in reef terms, at only 5 months, I have introduced what many would consider to be too much (Anemone for example). But so far so good, my fish leave the corals alone for the most part, the corals seem to be going ok, and my BTA has just come out of hiding. It even looked my clown was looking for the Elegance (cat) coral to host it?

Everyday I learn more about this tank. I used fresh live rock so I got full 'advantage' of the hitch-hikers, and each day something new is happening. It's a thorough joy to watch this environment grow and develop. I don't intend to add more fish, unless I find a suitable top-dwelling small schooling fish, but definitely the coral list is unfinished business. Acros and other hard corals are to follow, but each little bit takes time (and money hehehehe)

Well the reef really isn't too bad (contrary to popular belief). It does require more testing, as the demands of a reef are a little more specific, but it's manageable. I get by with weekly testing at the moment, but will test more regularly if something looks wrong.

Every week (time permitting, no more than fortnightly) is a partial 10% (30L) water change – this is the most frustrating part, mixing the water, checking salinity etc. Other than that it's pretty simple, just like a FW system, oh and empty the protein skimmer cup. I like to leave a little algae on the weir and back walls as it gives the lawnmower and coral beauty something to graze on throughout the day. Everyday is a dose of NO3:PO4-X carbon nutrient reduction, and a top-up of evaporated water.

Future Plans
As much as my MTS wants more tanks, I don't have any real future plans. I need to focus on getting my FW planted back to its glory days, and finishing the reef, who knows where that'll end up.

Other than that, when I buy my house, it will be based around fish tank walls for the feature sections. A big FW planted tank, a big Reef and possibly a big cichlid display (by big, I mean 8ft plus)

I'm not sure where to start, Lucy, Nutter(Graham), Aquarist48(Ken) and many of the members that helped me get through my first postings on Fishlore (way back when now). Every member of Fishlore that has posted a question that has either helped me learn about the hobby or that has allowed me to expand my knowledge/understanding.

The guy at my LFS that thought like fishlorians and understood where I was coming from, and gave solid advice without the need to sell me something (I miss this guy, he was brilliant). The members of our local marine society that helped confirm I was ready for saltwater, I thank them for their guidance. Most of all Mike, for providing a wonderful, friendly, learning environment for all us at Fishlore.

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