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Old 05/06/2006, 08:14 AM   #1
Chasmodes
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Oyster Reef Ecosystem Tank

One of my dreams was to duplicate the oyster reef environment of the Chesapeake Bay as best I can without predation. My plan is to have a 120g corner quarter cylinder tank with a live sand from the Chesapeake Bay and perhaps some of the rock there for the live rock. I'll purchase some porous base rock and take my time getting the bio filtration going. I'll have a refugium/sump too, probably 55g.

Animals will be collected from the Bay that live side by side in this environment:

Chasmodes Bosquianus - striped blenny

Hysoblennius hentzi - feather blenny

Naked goby

Skilletfish

Northern pipefish

Ghost shrimp, hermit crabs, snails, etc. for clean up crew that live in the bay.

just about any critter that comes in on the rocks (fish will not be introduced for 6 weeks after the tank cycles and they are QT'd to reduce parasitism).

I may try my luck at some of the other species of fish too eventually.


The actual reef will be an oyster reef but I'm not sure if that will include live oysters or not. I was thinking that if live oysters would be the best way to go to perhaps separate them from the fish in the fuge...my concern is that if one of them dies that I'll have pollution and kill the fish. So really I'm leaning on just using empty dead oyster shells and maybe have one or two oysters in the tank that I can monitor.

The Chesapeake bay is brackish and the salinity varies based on rainfall and runoff, but these fish have bred in captivity with a salinity of 1.015 or so. Also, the environment is colder and there are no coral growth issues.

Has anyone done this? What do you think? The blennies will be my main focus.


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Old 05/06/2006, 08:23 AM   #2
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Here is a web page that has some excellent film clips of the critters (check out the blennies) that I'm interested in collecting for this tank:

www.baygateways.net/bayvideos.cfm

No mantis shrimp will be in my tank!!!



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Old 05/06/2006, 08:32 AM   #3
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I kept live oysters in my tank for a while and they thrived. Incredibly easy to keep. It was cool that they spawned when I put them in the higher temps of my water. Don't add any oyster drills though. I had on kill all 20 or so of mine. I also gave some oysters to a buddy of mine who put them in his reef tank and they did great too.


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Old 05/06/2006, 08:54 AM   #4
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Chesapeake bay is cold to right. So your going to need a chiller


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Old 05/06/2006, 08:55 AM   #5
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I love the idea, I have lived on the chesapeake all my life. I would love to see a system built to match this area.


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Old 05/07/2006, 06:53 AM   #6
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The Calvert Marine Museum has a tank that has what looks like an oyster bed with the striped blennies in there but I believe that they are the only species that live in that tank. They use oyster shells as their reef but I doubt any are alive. I may give them a call or an email and ask them about what parameters they maintain the tank at and some tips about collecting specimens. It's a cool tank! If you're down that way you should stop in and see it. They also have a terrific marine fossil collection.


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Old 10/25/2006, 07:09 AM   #7
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Well, time to get started. Planning is over. Here's an update:


I'm going to purchase the tank and begin setting it up this week... I'd like a quater cylinder tank. My biggest dilemma is should I get a 120g acrylic or a 90g glass. I have some concerns about getting the tank downstairs, so after measuring I will decide which size tank. I'd prefer the larger tank. I'm not expecting much coraline growth if any so I'm thinking that I'll be OK with the acrylic.

I wanted to get this set up over the summer but time got away from me, so I probably won't have any fish until late spring as it's beginning to get cold outside, so I'll have plenty of time to cycle the tank and get the aquascape just right.

Aquascape plan: I'm going to make a piling with mussel shell clusters (not live but glued shut), the piling will be a plastic creation with an outer layer of foam sculpted to look like wood and painted with epoxy paint. I'll add local live rock and maybe add a few chunks of tropical LR for the fuge to get the tank cycled, then the rest of the LR will be man made ala the Travis method, but I'll incorporate whole oyster shell to give it more hiding spots and give it that oyster reef look.

Since this tank will not require intense lighting (usually the bay is murky so it's nowhere near they coral reef needs for intense light) I won't need a chiller. I also hope to get some of the brown algae common in these waters to live in the fuge and maybe the display tank down the road. The tank will be downstairs where our room temperature is constant and cool. Water temperature should be 70 to 74 degrees. All of the fish that live in this environment can tolerate wide ranges of salinity and temperature as with most creatures that live in estuarine environments year round. In the summer, they can be found very shallow, right at the tide line where water temperatures exceed 80 degrees, in the winter they migrate to deeper water where water temperatures can approach 40 degrees. With the lighting I want to make sure that I can mimic day/night changes and maybe incorporate a lunar schedule as well for night time lighting. I'm fairly certain that if I can maintain good water quality and mimic the moon phases I can induce spawning. I may stick to one species of blenny though, probably the striped blenny.

I will try to collect some this fall, but my hopes aren't very high as I think that they are already migrating to deeper water. So my tank all winter long once cycled will be a Chesapeake Bay invertebrate tank more than likely, although I have caught some clingfish this time of year before. Once I get the tank set up I'll begin posting pictures in the next couple weeks. I'm excited about this!


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Old 10/25/2006, 04:54 PM   #8
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I think a constant 70-74 is still going to be too warm, lobster tanks for example I believe are kept much cooler than that. Like low 60's, but i could be wrong. Also I would'nt discount the ability of coraline to grow in cold water tank. I know if I go out onto the rocks at low tide here in NH and turn over rocks the undersides are covered with coraline. I would skip the tropical LR as well, there is going to be a huge amount of die off including the beneficial bacteria. Eventually it will house temperate bacteria, but wouldnt look very natural to the biotope you're trying to simulate.

Good luck with the whole project, cant wait to see some pics.


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Old 10/26/2006, 10:37 AM   #9
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Here's a link to Steve Weast's cold water tank test. He has some stunning pics as well. This link is to his post on TRT, though he may have posted the same thing here.

http://thereeftank.com/forums/showthread.php?t=73323


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Old 10/26/2006, 11:23 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by graveyardworm
I think a constant 70-74 is still going to be too warm, lobster tanks for example I believe are kept much cooler than that. Like low 60's, but i could be wrong.
Lobster tanks are gnereally kept at 45*F. The big problem with cool/cold water tanks is condensation. Lobster tanks are come with double pane insulated glass. Otherwise, water droplets form all over the outside and drip down the stand making quite a mess. Even at 55*F, this happens.


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Old 10/26/2006, 11:36 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by graveyardworm
I think a constant 70-74 is still going to be too warm, lobster tanks for example I believe are kept much cooler than that. Like low 60's, but i could be wrong. Also I would'nt discount the ability of coraline to grow in cold water tank. I know if I go out onto the rocks at low tide here in NH and turn over rocks the undersides are covered with coraline. I would skip the tropical LR as well, there is going to be a huge amount of die off including the beneficial bacteria. Eventually it will house temperate bacteria, but wouldnt look very natural to the biotope you're trying to simulate.

Good luck with the whole project, cant wait to see some pics.
I hear ya. Chasmodes bosquianus and the other fish are also found in Florida waters, so I don't think that temperature is an issue. Water parameters in the Chesapeake are constanty changing too, making it tough for sensitive species to thrive there. These fish live all year long with temperatures fluctuating from 40's to even upper 80's and salinity ranging from near fresh water to near ocean salinity in the Bay. Even the invertebrate species found in this biotope have to endure severe fluctuations. I'd welcome coralline growth and I may get that with frequent water changes, but without intense lighting (probably will use fluorescents), would it still grow and thrive in this type of tank?

I've been also thinking about water quality, it doesn't have to be reef like and nutrient free (see the video in the first post). I'm even thinking about using a skimmer (or maybe no skimmer at all) that would be rated for a tank smaller than this, and also going with a wet/dry trickle filter to control ammonia an nitrites. I think that most of the invertebrates will be hydroids, hardy anemones, tunicates, oysters, barnacles and mussels, and other filter feeders. So, the higher nutrients will help them out in addition so some supplemental planktonic feed products perhaps. These inverts don't need as much light. In addition, the bay waters are pretty much mostly murky and filled with nutrients (both natural and, unfortunately, man introduced). That was my thought about introducing tropical bacteria. I didn't expect the bacterial species to be intolerant of these conditions, so that is something that I'd probably have to think about. The tropical LR would be in a fuge anyway, not in the display tank where I'd have DIY LR. The bay rocks just aren't porous enough, mostly made of clay too. That said, your points are well taken and appreciated, I may still purchase or build a chiller for this system eventually if it becomes apparent that my tank isn't doing so well, so when I plumb I'll make sure that I do so in a way that could accomodate that addition.

My main concern isn't so much the inverts here, but getting these fish to breed and thrive. If the biotope works out and I can keep all of these critters successfully, then so much the better Also, my other concerns include making sure that the life in the tank benefits from the amounts of nutrients at any given time (and I will have to chart and monitor what levels are best), at the same time having water clarity good enough to study the inhabitants. So, I think that I may use carbon in the wet/dry too.

Another thing that I'd like to simulate is the tide and water movements, not lowering the water but currents. I can use directional flow to simulate water moving in and out of the mouth of a tidal creek for example, where a dock with an oyster reef may reside and form the habitat that I'm trying to duplicate.

Thanks for the input and I plan on using this as a reference in the future, so your ideas posted and those that will be posted may come in handy down the road. I'll be honest when things work or don't work and give the "I told ya so" credits when due as well , the point being that all is much appreciated.

I do have some benefit too, that local science has studied and bred these fish in captivity, and also that the Calvert Marine Museum has a similar tank set up (but probably fish only) with lot's of my favorite blennies for the public to see. This tank is my inspiration.

And, thanks GYW for the Steve Weast link. His tank is one of my favorites. I haven't seen that thread and look forward to reading it for potential tips. I'm always on his Oregonreef.com looking for updates and saving his photos as wallpaper

I can't wait for this to be up and running, and I really want to share the outcome with everyone. I really love this site and you all have inspired me as well!!!!!!!!


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Old 10/26/2006, 12:37 PM   #12
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Hypsoblennius what part of Maryland are you from. I work at St. Mary’s College which sits on the St. Mary’s River which I believe is similar to the bay. The biology dept. at the school does research on the river and has an approx. 120 gal tank setup in the lobby of the science building that only contains life they collect from the river. If you want I can get some pics for you when I go to work. They also do a lot of research in the wet lab on the specimens they collect.

go to this link to see a map of where the river is in reference to the bay:

http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp...te=md&zipcode=


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Old 10/26/2006, 12:57 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by ccoons43
Hypsoblennius what part of Maryland are you from. I work at St. Mary’s College which sits on the St. Mary’s River which I believe is similar to the bay. The biology dept. at the school does research on the river and has an approx. 120 gal tank setup in the lobby of the science building that only contains life they collect from the river. If you want I can get some pics for you when I go to work. They also do a lot of research in the wet lab on the specimens they collect.

go to this link to see a map of where the river is in reference to the bay:

http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp...te=md&zipcode=
Yes, thanks, that would be cool! I'd be interested in their studies...I may have to see if they have anything available for the public too (web info I mean).

I live about an hour Northwest of DC in Boyds. The last striped blenny that I caught was this past June off the banks of the Potomac near Pt. Lookout! We'll probably be there next year too (daughter's softball camp), so I plan to have my collection and transport system ready!!!


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Old 10/26/2006, 01:22 PM   #14
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the chesapeake bay water off of chesapeake beach was well over 80F this summer. no need for a chiller unless you decide to keep the temp cool for some other reason.


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Old 10/26/2006, 03:21 PM   #15
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Just because the water gets that warm doesn't mean the animals do well long term in those conditions. Will they survive? Sure. There is nowhere in the bay that averages over about 65 degrees though. You'll want a chiller, especially if you want the animals to breed. Many of the animals need regular seasonality to induce their reproductive cycles. If you have a year round summer, not only is that stressful, but the animals aren't likely to breed more than once, if at all.


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Old 10/26/2006, 06:31 PM   #16
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This looks like a very promising project. I'm concerned for the oysters. They will last a long time before expiring existing on very little plankton, but to truly thrive they will need quite a lot of it. If it were me, I'd just have the shells for the decorative effect, and keep myself content with the other invertebrates and fish.

There are quite a few macroalgae, and a few species of SAV (submerged aquatic vegetation) - both brackish and full salt - that would be found on and near oyster reefs. Are you considering adding any of these for cover for the pipefish and others?

Lookin' forward to hearing more.
>Sarah


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Old 10/26/2006, 07:05 PM   #17
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Wow I want a cold water tank now, but I can't just go outside and steal fish out of the water..... well I could yay I got a delicious bass =) Indiana does not equal the best saltwater environment. Also just to clearify, is it legal to remove ocean creatures without a permit or something like that?


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Old 10/27/2006, 09:52 PM   #18
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Thanks for the input everyone!

Quote:
Originally posted by Samala
I'm concerned for the oysters. They will last a long time before expiring existing on very little plankton, but to truly thrive they will need quite a lot of it. If it were me, I'd just have the shells for the decorative effect, and keep myself content with the other invertebrates and fish.

There are quite a few macroalgae, and a few species of SAV (submerged aquatic vegetation) - both brackish and full salt - that would be found on and near oyster reefs. Are you considering adding any of these for cover for the pipefish and others?

Lookin' forward to hearing more.
>Sarah
Yeah, I've thought about that too. That was my hesitation about keeping mussels too. I might just use the shells at first. Also, there are a lot of tunicates in the bay, it will be a challenge keeping them alive but I think that they don't need as much plankton as the oysters though so I may be OK there.

The main SAV in the Chesapeake is eel grass. That would be a goal of mine to keep that alive too. Not only will it provide cover for pipefish and seahorses but will help the tank appearance too.

Another challenge may be control of algae. I'm sure I'll have some growing pains but once I find the right combination the tank should be easy to maintain.

Salinity in the Lower Chesapeake of MD ranges from 15-18 ppt. I'll start with that until I have fish in the tank then will gradually raise it to help control slime algae if need be.


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Old 10/28/2006, 07:41 AM   #19
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I've been thinking about some issues previously identified and I think that I have solutions.

1) Not using tropical live rock. I agree and think that I can do this in the following way: I'll make my own rock out of cement, salt, and oyster shells, deposit the "kured" DIY rock in my tank for aquascaping, use Chesapeake Bay live sand and some bay live rock to seed it. And, at the same time, I'm thinking that I can make some more DIY rock, place in milk crate and deposit it somewhere in the bay where it can both "kure" and become live rock over time. This will be an additional critters to my tank and be the basis of my biological filtration.

2) Algae control: there are plenty of algae eating snails and probably hermit crabs too in the bay. I can keep them well stocked in my tank. They should be easy to collect. The fish should leave them alone.

3) In addition to placing DIY rock in the bay, I think that I can also make a basket/milk crate and fill it with oyster shells to collect animals. I'll need permission and a good location to place these, that is the next issue. The oyster shell basket will allow me to easily collect greater numbers of blennies, much more than the netting techniques that I've been using. I may also get more species diversity this way, including invertebrates.

4) Filter feeding invertebrates: I'm leaning towards not keeping live oysters and mussels in the tank now. I agree that the husbandry challenges and eventual results aren't worth the effort. My initial thought was that if I could get oysters to thrive in the tank, the oyster spat would be a continual replenishing food supply for the blennies. I can achieve this simply by using chopped oyster. I'll still have to supply planktonic feed for the other filter feeding organisms like tunicates and sponges that I may collect. I'll have to see how successful I am with them and that will determine the future of this tank. The creation of this biotope is a goal, but having an accurate and complete one might be out of the question. The blennies are the feature fish, so those will be my main concern, and that is creating a good breeding habitat with the simulation of an accurate biotope.

Now all I need to do is find a place to put my DIY rock and my oyster shells. I've thought about placing them below a major bridge piling or perhaps a public pier. But I think that the best approach is to find someone who has access to private pier that would give me permission to place my baskets. Not an easy task for sure.


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Old 10/28/2006, 08:16 AM   #20
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Quote:
I agree and think that I can do this in the following way: I'll make my own rock out of cement, salt, and oyster shells
I made a bunch of DIY rock myself when I first started in much the same way. I used crushed oyster shell, sand, and portland cement. I wouldnt do it again, and I'm now slowly replacing it with real LR. My reason for wanting to get rid of it is it seems to be a preferred substrate for nuisance algae, more specifically green bubble algae it also tends to collect alot more detritus than real LR possibly because it is much more porous. I was able to create some really nice shapes though. Mixing the ingredients in different amounts will make the rock more or less porous. So alittle experimentation may get you something better than what I made. Awhile back I read somewhere here that crushed oyster shell may also be a source of phosphates so you may want to keep that in mind and use aragonite instead.

Also I would not use salt in the homemade rock, its going to eventually dissolve raising your salinity, and your rock will most likely crumble.

What kind of rock do you find naturally down there in Maryland? Up here its all solid like granite, quartz, and other non porous rock. If I was to create a biotope aquarium from local caught stuff I would use local harvested rock as well, and look for other means of biofiltration/nitrate reduction like a DSB.


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Old 10/28/2006, 09:55 AM   #21
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I've read about the oyster rock possibly being a phosphate problem...something I'll have to experiment with. Fortunately I don't think that this tank will require much light. I'm going to use whole oyster shells in the LR mostly for cosmetic reasons, so the rock will look more like an oyster reef, not crushed oyster shells, so maybe that will help. Also, the salt in the DIY LR will be long dissolved before it goes in the display tank, so that shouldn't be a problem. I also plan to mimic tidal movements, so hopefully that will help keep slime algae down to a minimum. The rocks for use in the display tank will look like large clumps of oysters, hopefully with lot's of nooks and crannies for blenny hiding spots. I'll scatter some oyster shells on the sand bed too. My initial plan was to scatter oyster shells as the entire display, but I felt that I needed the filtration of the LR in addition to the sand, so why not incorporate both?

The rock found in the bay is mostly clay based...not very porous. There is some sandstone as well. All of it seems to come from Calvert Cliffs. It may have enough of the right bacteria to seed the rock in addition to the live sand. Sand is plentiful, mostly silica and quartz I think.

I think that in this system there may not be a wrong way to do it simply because these animals are so hardy. That said, I'd like to find a successful system and give these animals optimal conditions... This system won't have the color and beauty of a reef, but it will have it's own appeal. Actually, the male striped blenny gets extremely colorful during spawning! If that happens then I'll know I'm on the right track.


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Old 10/28/2006, 09:58 AM   #22
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I just thought of something...maybe not for a display but for the fuge. People are always dumping stuff in the bay, mostly that is a negative thing. But for me, maybe it could be a positive thing. I wonder if discarded broken cindar blocks would make for good LR, they are plentiful just about everywhere in the bay. They are certainly porous enough. Anyone know how these are made and/or if they would be bad for a system like this? That way, I wouldn't have to wait for DIY rocks to cure to get the tank cycled.


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Old 10/28/2006, 11:05 AM   #23
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Here's a couple threads you may be able to pull some info from. if you havent read them allready.

http://reefcentral.com/forums/showth...e&pagenumber=3

http://reefcentral.com/forums/showth...e&pagenumber=1


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Old 10/28/2006, 01:03 PM   #24
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My killifish caught off of Chesapeake Beach do just fine in the higher temp of my tank. Though I should say that they were caught this summer when the shallow temps were pretty high.

They breed like crazy. The raised salinity hasn't affected them.


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Old 10/28/2006, 04:13 PM   #25
Chasmodes
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Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Maryland
Posts: 622
Thanks for the links David. I haven't read them, will check them out.

Sarah, I was amazed at how much life there was in the shallows this summer. I do a lot of sharks tooth hunting and there was life everywhere, fish, crabs, and the water temps had to be in the 90's. Even at massive low tide, I'd pick up a rock hoping for a megalodon underneath and fish would shoot out in less than an inch of water! I may bring home some rock from there. If it's from the right Shuttock's zone, maybe when it breaks up there'll be a meg in there!

You can bet that I'll have some sand from that area in my tank! Might help me find some micro sharks teeth too... The sharks teeth in the sand bed will add to the asthetics


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Current Tank Info: 101g 3'X3'X18" Cubish Oyster Reef Blenny tank, 36"X17"X18" sump
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