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READER OF THE MONTH - Dave Aalbertsberg
ISSUE # 8 page 3 AUGUST 1997
Setting the Pulse of Propagation: XENIA
SALLY JO'S XENIAS - LEFT POM POM IS READY TO CUT
Within this captive reef is a perfect specimen of the best pulsing xenia I've seen. It is the white Fiji pom pom xenia, very elegant, growing on robust white stalks. Branching out above them are multitudes of soft feathery polyps which individually pulse every few seconds with their individual captivating rhythms. The face of the polyps are graced with a blush of blue-violet. This pulsating beauty must be seen in real life to fully appreciate.
FIJI POM POM AND BALI TWO COLOR XENIAS
Next to it is perched a majestic Bali xenia. The polyp faces are soft brown in stark contrast to the snowy pure whiteness of the polyp backs, branches and trunk.
Are such alluring corals difficult to grow and propagate? Not if you know what they need. Xenia, especially the two beauties I just described, are somewhat difficult to ship but knowing how to ship them will help.
Are they hard to propagate? Well, that's not as scary as it might look either. These are fun and easy corals to propagate despite what you might have expected because of their captivating beauty.
The first way to make cuttings of xenia is to place pieces of rock up close to and touching the existing xenia. After a week, or several, you may notice that the trunk or a branch has connected to the rock you placed against it. Once it looks firmly attached, use a new sharp razor blade to slice off the newly attached portion with some polyps connected to the new rock. The bare freshly cut areas on both pieces will heal quickly on their own and new polyps will start forming on these cut areas before another week is up if aquarium conditions are good.
You can also just cut off a pom pom, or branch with a clump of polyps, and set it on a rock or in a cluster of small rocks in a calm area where it won't get whisked away by the current. They attach rather quickly this way - usually one to three days is all it takes.
THE BALI XENIA HAS 10 HEADS
When using this method variable tank currents are your enemy. They will whisk your new cuttings away and keep them from attaching. I turn off my variable current for a few days while the cuttings attach, then I turn it back on. A gravel bowl can help keep the new cutting from blowing away too. See the February issue of this magazine for details on how to do the gravel bowl.
Speaking of gravel bed or gravel bowl attachment, we WILL need the bowl for our next method. Some people cut off individual, yes single skinny little polyps and put each of them in the gravel bowl to attach to small aragonite rock chips, cement chips or CaribSea Aruba Shell coarse aragonite gravel. I wanted to get more cuttings going of the Fiji pom pom and Bali xenia from Sally Jo. So I got the scissors and a turkey baster out and started snipping off individual polyps and sucking them up with the baster and squirting them into a bowl. I completely stripped two small stalks of all their polyps. I put the polyps in a gravel bowl in another tank and watched both the stripped stalks and the polyps. A week later the bare stalks had quite small polyps again and the polyps in the gravel bowl were attached and well expanded.
I just couldn't stand how good these polyps looked so I grabbed the scissors again and cut each of these individual polyps off of their single stems that were newly attached to aragonite rock chips. This effectively doubled the number of xenia growing in the gravel bowl after the newly cut polyps reattached and the bare stems grew new polyps as expected. When you let them grow, more small polyps branch out of the base and you will soon have little pom poms on small stalks. This same individual polyp with gravel bowl propagation technique works well with anthelia (including woods polyps) too.
LeRoy and Sally Jo take individual polyps or clumps of them and put them on cement plugs and cover the plug very loosely with coarse bridal veil netting and secure it with a rubber band around the edges. This keeps the light weight unsecured cuttings on a plug or rock where they can attach. Once attached to the plug, the bridal veil is taken off.
Xenia are slimy when cut and do not always do well when glued to new rock with super glue. Some people use a strand of fishing line to sew the new cutting onto a rock but I find this unnecessary due to the other methods which are simpler.
Xenia appear to be completely or nearly completely dependent upon food energy produced by the symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) in their polyps. Feeding them doesn't seem to make any difference in their expansion or growth but the lighting level really does! You can grow xenia under moderate lighting, but they will look healthier, bigger and grow noticeably faster under bright lighting. The growth rate is excellent under VHO, metal halide or power compact fluorescent lighting.
Recently a local aquarist bought a modest cutting of the Fiji pom pom xenia from me. It had about eight polyps that pulsed well when it was growing in my daughter's tank six inches beneath one Triton and one Blue Moon bulb - just 40 watts each. The xenia's growth rate increased as it doubled in size the first week in this aquarist's tank under bright power compact lighting. Bright lighting also causes them to pulse better. His decorator crab then cut the whole stalk off, leaving just a thin layer of skin on the rock. He was shocked and a bit upset at the crab! To his surprise, polyps grew back from the smooth skin and now there are over a dozen pulsing away again. All this in less than a month. This coral takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'.
If your xenia do not pulse, try increasing the light or at least moving them up closer to the light. When I make individual polyp cuttings and transfer them to my gravel bowl where the lighting is low, I notice that the polyps stop pulsing after several days - usually three. When they finish attaching and I move them back to higher lighting, they usually start pulsing again within two days. They pulse at night too when they're grown under bright daytime lighting.
Last night the power went out at about midnight (messing up this article) and I made the rounds with a flashlight to check on things. There in the calm dark aquarium the Fiji pom poms were well expanded and pulsing very nicely. The Bali xenia were pulsing lightly also. Sometimes is is difficult to see if the Bali xenia is pulsing. The absence of water current enhances the pulsing. It is then doubly easy to see if these corals are pulsing without conflicting movement from water currents.
Xenia needs iodide to grow and stay healthy. You can use a one percent potassium iodide solution and dose your tanks twice a week with one drop per six gallons of tank water. This is good for all your corals. Mushroom anemones really love it. You can safely use up to one drop per two gallons. Don't double or quadruple this rate so that you only have to dose once every week or two. Breaking your iodide dosing up into smaller daily doses is even a little better than the twice a week routine. Smaller daily doses are the least shocking to your corals. So, one drop per 7 - 20 gallons would be a safe daily dose.
Sally Jo Headlee has found that the iodide contained in SeaChem's Reef Plus is adequate to maintain xenia when dosed more heavily on an every other day schedule.
Marlin Atkinson talked about iodine and iodide at the Western Marine Conference last month in Vegas. He warned against using Lugol's solution or strong iodine solution to dose your reef tanks due to the harmful oxidizing effects that iodine can produce. Regular iodide (potassium iodide) supplements do not produce this effect. Several people at the conference including Marlin reported that they or friends have lost Xenia corals after switching to Lugol's solution or strong iodine. Not everybody agrees that this is possible. However these solutions still seem to be ideal for treating a variety of infected corals by dipping them in a quart of tank water with 10-20 drops of strong iodine or Lugol's. The stronger antiseptic effect may still be helpful for most corals.
Shipping Xenia is often difficult but the following is how LeRoy Headlee and I have prepared it for shipping. For short trips (an hour or less) I just pull it out of the aquarium and stick it in a bucket with some tank water just coving the coral and the buyer or trader takes it home with absolutely no problems.
To get it from GARF in Boise, Idaho to my house in Roy, Utah (which keeps it bagged up for about six hours) LeRoy uses a special preparation technique he learned from Noel Curry of Scientific Corals in Atlanta, Georgia. First he takes the coral out of water attached to a cement plug and lets it set out of water for one minute dripping upside down into the tank. Then he puts it back in the water in a swift current to wash off the slime it has emitted. Do this twice for good measure and then bag it up. This gets rid of toxic slime that would otherwise pollute the water and make the coral sick and possibly die during long transit times.
TWIN BAR XENIA GROWS VERY FAST
Temperature is another concern with xenia. If it gets too warm it dies easily. You might have a hard time shipping it in warm weather. This also applies to your aquarium temperature. I have good luck with 77-79 degrees but they prefer about 75 at GARF. Temperatures over 80 can lead to more loses. Xenia can be very easy to grow if you just take these few simple precautions. It is perhaps my favorite coral to keep and propagate.
READER OF THE MONTH - Dave Aalbertsberg
My name is Dave Aalbertsberg, I live in Roseville Michigan. My interest in aquariums has gone on for about 20 years now, about half of which was fresh water animals. I became interested in salt water in about 1982 when I purchased a powder blue tang (not quite the fish for a beginner), I soon down graded to a couple clown fish which worked out a little better.
DAVE'S PICTURE OF AN ACROPORA HEAD
In 1983 I signed up for the Marine Corps and was stationed on Oahu Hawaii, I learned to scuba dive there and soon had a small aquarium in the barracks with some live rock, native fishes, and a few inverts, most of which did rather well. If I knew then what I know now I may still be there.... After I got out of the service I came back to good old Michigan and started another salt tank or two. These tanks were mainly fish only for a few years then I started trying out a few corals here & there which did ok, but did not really proliferate the way I thought they should and soon they even perished. This made me go without inverts for a while until I could learn more about them.
One day I was reading through a Marine Fish Monthly Magazine. when I saw an add for a place here in Michigan called Tropicorium, a huge coral farm and another add for MACNA IV, I was very excited about going to both. MACNA was a while away, but Tropicorium was just a car ride away so I got into my car and drove, about 45 minutes later I was there knee deep in live rock, coral, zooxanthellae, and the knowledge of Dick Perrin.
THESE ARE SOME GREAT GREEN STARS
After about 3 hours of looking and wondering I spent about $800 bucks on live rock and coral for my 50 gal tank back home. I set all this stuff up and it did rather well for a while then the green stuff came and lots of it. About this time I was very disappointed and confused about what I was going to do. This is where MACNA came in, my brother Jim & I went and met a lot of people and learned a lot about how to keep these reef aquariums going without much of a hitch. We learned about things like Live Sand, R.O. Filters, Metal Halide lighting etc. well out came the old credit card again.
It has been approximately 4 years since then and I now have 3 reef aquaria: 1 fifty gal the original which is approximatly 4 years old & houses mostly soft corals, 1 eighteen gal which is about 1 1/2 years old and is my Xenia grow out tank, and lastly my latest the 150 gal which houses mainly large and small polyp stony corals. All tanks are lighted using metal halide and actinic bulbs, they all have a living deep sand substrate and live rock
WE ALL NEED TO PROPAGATE RICORDIA
Since I heard about GARF on the internet I have Learned a lot about using such things as "super glue gel" to glue corals to "Aragocrete? ". These are some very exciting innovations considering I usually use Dacron fishing line, plumbers epoxy and live rock from my own stock to make cuttings on. I am sure you can get a lot of information about the use of these things from GARF so I am just going to tell you a little about my own experiences with them.
As far as Aragocrete? goes I pretty much use LeRoy's recipe. I use one part Portland cement and five parts aragonite, crushed shells, crushed coral skeletons, and any other thing I can get my hands on. I mix all this up with a little water and put it into molds made from aragonite. I make these rocks about an inch thick four inches wide and eight inches long. When they have cured completely I use a hammer and chisel to bust them up into one to two inch size rocks which look very natural, I then use super glue gel to attach sps corals and some soft corals like palythoa to them. I still use Dacron fishing line to attach xenia to the rock only because they attach so quickly that I can remove the line before I trade them.
Without the efforts of people like LeRoy I think the hobby and industry would be very boring. If you want to add a little spice to your hobby or business I suggest you really look at this web sight open your mind to new innovations and just go reef happy. I have, and I'll tell you what, It keeps me going in a forward direction.
LIKE WE HAVE SAID BEFORE - THE WAY TO START , IS TO JUST START!
ENJOY- LEARN - AND SHARE :)