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Oyster Reef Ecosystem Tank


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#21 Guest_Chasmodes_*

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Posted 02 December 2010 - 09:45 AM

This is really cool and I dig the fishes you plan to stock. Sorry if you covered this already but how do you catch blennies? I'm fascinated to see how this turns out. Thanks for taking the time to share and good luck! :biggrin:


Thanks Bart! So far, I've caught striped blennies using dip nets. I have yet to catch a feather blenny, but hopefully I will. I've caught several of them this way so I don't think stocking will be a problem, they aren't rare in the bay. Fish traps also work. A buddy of mine in college used to catch them by putting a milk crate filled with bottles placed horizontally down next to his dock. They love the bottles and will retreat to them when in danger, and that includes lifting the milk crate out! Also, sometimes you will find them in empty whole oyster shells.

I also found an oyster farm that will be a good source for my oysters. I will try and see if I can get permission to collect the fish specimens there too.

I'm not sure about the LED part of this project. After reading DIY threads I'm wondering if I have the technical ability to become versed in electronics at that level. :blink: It's a maybe at this point. I might order some parts on a small scale and try practice before moving on to a big project. Also, I'm not impressed with the LED options out there for purchasing entire units, either because reasonably priced ones don't offer the functionality that I'm looking for, and the ones that do offer that are very expensive. T5 lighting might be the ticket just because it's easy to set up. Then again, my sense of adventure points to DIY as much as possible, LOL. So, if I go the T5 route then I may upgrade to LED once prices come down. We'll see...

#22 Chasmodes

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Posted 30 December 2014 - 08:47 AM

It's been a while since I've updated, but that isn't for lack of not wanting to. Funding for equipment is my issue. Hopefully, I'll be able to buy all that I need in the next few months (looks like it). The good thing is that even allowing for the tank to cycle after set up, it will be at least six months before I can really collect the specimens that I need for this tank to be a success (striped blennies).

In the meantime, I've been working on the stands and also building the oyster reef itself (the aquascaping). The problem with that is that I'm picky and want it to look perfect, not just scatter some oyster shells in there and hope it looks OK. I decided to make this fish only for now and after the tank cycles and fish introduced, maybe later collect other invertebrates to complete the tank. Some will be introduced along with the fish or maybe sooner toward the end of the cycle (hermit crabs, snails, etc.).

So, at the very least, I want this to simulate an oyster reef as much as possible. I have amassed oyster shells in several ways. Some of my larger ones came from a buddy of mine that camps along the Chesapeake Bay, that came from one of his favorite restaurants. I also bought some at Wegman's and shucked them myself (nasty), and saved the oyster meat (and also slipper shell critters) and froze them for food down the road for the fish. Those dried out and stunk up my basement for a while, maybe I missed a slipper or two . Anyway, my wife wasn't happy about that. But the shells from my buddy had been outside for a long time and were pretty dry.

So, my progress on building the reef has been meticulous and slow. But, it's coming along. Having oyster shells and my ongoing projects in the living room isn't making my family happy with me, but it's a great thing to do while watching TV (putting my reef together). It's like art, to me, in a way. My next posts will be a few pics of my oyster reef progress. But first, here is a picture of an oyster cultch, basically a sub-component of the oyster bar/reef that I'm trying to simulate:


The picture below is from an oyster restoration site, Barnegat Bay Shellfish Home Page: http://barnegatshell...ild_oysters.htm
[/img]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v19/fatboykevin/Oyster%20Reef/oyster_cultch_lg_zps2fb5ac7c.png[/img]


A cultch is simply a bunch of oysters that have settled from their larval or spat stage onto other oysters, and over time forming the reef. Actually, they attach to many other shellfish too, and vice versa to form the reef.

The picture below is from another oyster restoration site and is the one that inspired my aquascaping quite a bit, how the oysters grow in a shallow environment: http://www.naplesgov...ex.aspx?NID=357. It doesn't matter that it's in Naples, Florida because they're the same species of oyster, and the natural reefs along the bay grow in much the same way, a shallow water environment. I've studied this quite a bit since I began this project, and have learned quite a bit about oysters, oyster reefs, and the wide variety of marine and/or estuarine flora and fauna.
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Kevin Wilson


#23 Chasmodes

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Posted 30 December 2014 - 08:49 AM

Arrrggghhhhh! Try again...

This is the oyster cultch, the basis for what I'm trying to duplicate in my reef:
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Kevin Wilson


#24 Chasmodes

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Posted 30 December 2014 - 08:54 AM

So the first step in building the oyster reef (cultches), and to simulate it as accurately as possible is to match up oysters with matching halves. There are two ways to do this, the first is to shuck oysters, clean them out, and then glue them back together (saving the meat as future fish food). The second method is to gather oyster shells from restaurants and such (of course, with permission), and then go through them and match them up. It is a very tedious process, but can be done while watching TV. My family was somewhat annoyed by this because when you try and match them, the clacking sound is annoying, and it's not exactly a clean process. Oyster shells can be pretty dusty and dirty, not good for living room furniture . I made sure to cover the furniture and sweep up after every work session on the reef.

But, before you can match them up, you have to separate the two types of shells (left or lower shells, and right or upper shells).
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In Paul S. Galtsoff's 1964 publication (The American oyster, Crassostrea virginica), he observed the following, "In C. virginica the left valve is almost always thicker and heavier than the right one. When oysters of this species are dumped from the deck of a boat and fall through water they come to rest on their left valves."

The left/lower shells most of the time tend to curve to the right when looking at the open side, while the right/upper shell curves to the left when viewing it open. But wait a minute...To make things more confusing, oysters don't always follow their own morphology rules. There are times when they don't curve at all, or now and then, you find some that curve the wrong way!

So, as I matched them up, I used big rubber bands to keep them together until I went back and glued them later.

Matching them up and keeping them together until time to glue:
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After going through a ton of shells, I matched up 37 oysters. I found a few later on too, not sure how I missed them. I added another 30 oysters that were perfect matches that I bought from Wegman's. I'm not going to show pictures of the shucked ones or that process...they're still a bit stinky

So the next steps are pretty basic, wet the halves and glue them together with Gorilla Glue. Now, this is the first time that I've used Gorilla Glue, and I've read and heard about how it expands, and let me tell you that even if you clamp it, it will expand, so use sparingly. I later learned that it's great for filling gaps, but the trick is to keep it from moving from that gap while it's wet.
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Kevin Wilson


#25 Chasmodes

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Posted 30 December 2014 - 08:56 AM

After you glue up a bunch of matched shells, use those rubber bands to bind them together. Gorilla Glue will stick a little bit on the rubber bands, but it usually comes right off. Here are a bunch of them bound, and then ready to make a cultch:
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Starting a cultch, gluing matched sets of shells together...I love when there are barnacles and remnants of other invertebrates on these shells, gives it a realistic look:
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Kevin Wilson


#26 Chasmodes

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Posted 30 December 2014 - 09:03 AM

But that isn't all. This is only the beginning. What about the little caves and crevices for the fish? The oyster reef as a reef will provide plenty of hiding places for all critters. But, if you want the fish to breed, they have preferences for their amorous activities. They breed in dead or broken oyster shells, as do some of the other species of oyster reefs.

So, back to matching oyster shells again. This time, I matched what I called "near matches" since I wouldn't be gluing them totally together. Basically, i wanted them to look like they'd match if they weren't together, but they didn't have to be exact. So, another night or two of clanking oyster shells to make my family annoyed was in order. The next step was to glue them together and create spawning habitat.

As it turns out, there was a study in 1982 bu Roy E. Crabtree and Douglas P. Middaugh, titled, "Oyster Shell Size and the Selection of Spawning Sites by Chasmodes bosquianus, Hypleurochilus geminatus, Hypsoblennius ionthas (Pisces, Blenniidae) and Gobiosoma bosci (Pisces, Gobiidae) in Two South Carolina Estuaries,", and in that study, they found that the widest preferred oyster shell gap that they found with eggs that the striped blenny preferred for the spawn was 11.9 mm. And, as it turns out, that is the same width as the end of the clothes pins that we had, and they were the perfect form for creating matched spawning oyster caves. Feather blennies also spawn in similar sized oyster shell gaps, so if I catch them, these would be just fine for their exploits.

For the naked gobies, the gap was 7.1 mm, about the measurement of the end of the plastic shims from Home Depot. And the clingfish will spawn in just about anything that they can defend from the others.

Gluing near matched halves together to make fish breeding habitat, using clothes pins as gap forms:
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But, would the Gorilla Glue hold? Yes, it did:
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So, the past few days I've been drilling holes in oyster shells (man, they are tough), using zip ties, and Gorilla glue to make cultches. I also made frames for the three large sections of oyster reef to support my cultches, and also to be the forms for the MMLR. I used CPVC pipe to make slide on supports for the cultches, zip tied 1/2" CPVC as a pedestal, and the 3/4" CPVC to hold the oyster cultch base to slide over the pedestal. The reef frames were formed from PVC pipe, zip ties and egg crate. When they are finished, 2 sections of reef should be about 18" or so wide, and one smaller one.

Using clamps, zip ties, and rubber bands to form cultches:
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One of the reef boxes/bases...these will have glued oyster shells on them, and filled with MMLR (after I finish the cultches):
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Building a cultch over the cultch base of CPVC pipe:
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Coming along nicely... Starting to look like that first picture, eh? I already took one apart because it didn't look real enough. I hope I don't run out of oysters, but I have all winter, LOL!
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And this was as of two nights ago below...I've added a few since but won't post any more pics until that entire box is done:
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Kevin Wilson


#27 Chasmodes

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Posted 30 December 2014 - 09:05 AM

The tedious part is waiting for the glue to dry and hold, so you can keep building. I imagine that there are faster ways of doing it, but I'm kind of learning as I go. And, in a way, I'm almost building the reef as if oysters are doing it...and it takes time. Plus, I want it to look perfect, like that second picture above on that mangrove oyster reef.

After I'm done building cultches, they will be set aside and the boxes will be filled with MMLR and kured/cured for use in the tank. A few months of water changes, and I'll be ready to reassemble the cultches in what I hope is a set up cycled tank. So, the problem that I have with live rock along the Bay is that there really isn't any, save for cinder blocks and such, and that's not very attractive. Most of the rock are clay boulders or marl, sandstone, or other metamorphic rocks (quartz, etc).

But, while the MMLR is kuring/curing, I'll be adding other shells to the cultches/reef...slipper shells, a few more barnacles here and there, and of course, some muscle and clam shells, all found locally. I won't have to worry about much time matching them, they're a heck of a lot easier than those variable oysters!

My plan is to also have a QT tank for the fish, and will acclimate them to full salt water. That way, I can add more local invertebrates and critters from saltier sections of the bay if I need to.

Kevin Wilson


#28 Moontanman

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Posted 30 December 2014 - 05:34 PM

I've managed to keep oysters before, in fact they turned up spontaneously when i was feeding wild collected plankton.
Michael

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Love is the poetry of life

#29 Matt DeLaVega

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Posted 30 December 2014 - 09:13 PM

This is a very cool project, and you apparently have great patience. I am not much of a saltwater guy, have only seen the ocean a handful of times, so I am not able to fully appreciate what you are duplicating.I am not even familiar with the fishes you may stock in such a setup. I am intrigued though and look forward to seeing the finished product. I had never thought of gorilla glue. I did not realize that it was fish safe and would hold up underwater. I would have probably went straight to the default clear silicone. I do know what you mean about the gorilla glue expansion though. It expands out with a sort of foamy look. It holds great, but as a carpenter, that expansion is tough to deal with.

The member formerly known as Skipjack


#30 keepnatives

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Posted 30 December 2014 - 09:32 PM

This topic came up at a perfect time as I'm planning on collecting many of the fish discussed for my 150 in Florida in about a month. I
was trying to think of an attractive aquascape. Hope you don't mind a copycat!
Mike Lucas
Mohawk-Hudson Watershed
Schenectady NY

#31 mikez

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Posted 30 December 2014 - 09:55 PM

What about the air spaces in the glued together shells? I wonder if you could figure a way to use that space of dead water for some kind of filtration.

Very cool concept. I like the fish you mention, although I have only personally kept naked goby.
Mike Zaborowski
I don't know, maybe it was the roses.

#32 Chasmodes

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Posted 31 December 2014 - 09:10 AM

Thanks everyone for your input and for following along. Sorry it's taking so long.

Matt, Gorilla glue is inert and harmless after it fully cures. Lots of guys with reef tanks use it for aquascaping. Some even use it on the back of their tanks and sprinkle it with sand to make a permanent background!

What about the air spaces in the glued together shells? I wonder if you could figure a way to use that space of dead water for some kind of filtration.


Mike, I've thought about what to do about that and racked my brain so many times that I just said heck with it. My initial plan was to just use concrete to bond everything together, or pond foam, but then I'd have to either mix small batches or rush and I didn't want to hurry. I doubt that they are water tight, so perhaps they'd add some biological filtration capability. Since there are no gaps, or extremely small ones, I doubt that they'd be detritus traps. I plan on having plenty of flow in the tank too. As far as biological filtration goes, the MMLR should provide plenty of surface area.

Mike L., you may have your tank up and running before me! Hey, feel free to copy or whatever, I'd be honored. The only thing is that I am doing this on the go, so my plan is always subject to change. I was thinking last night that I think that I'll abandon actually using the eggcrate/pvc combo and maybe just do MMLR with CPVC posts for the cultches. The boxes will still come in handy though because I can use them as kind of a work area as I build and glue oysters. Plus, I can get started making the rock now and get them kured/cured sooner, and maybe get the tank cycled faster in the long run. I also have not given up on the pond foam idea...we'll see. I may not need it.

The glue is really strong, and the shells would break before the glue gives way. I'm pretty amazed by that. Plus, the cultches are looking better every time I add a few shells, so maybe no need for the boxes.

Kevin Wilson


#33 Chasmodes

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Posted 31 December 2014 - 09:12 AM

Oh yeah, and it's not like I can't find more oysters to add to the cultches. That is the great thing, you can get them for free! It's not like I have to buy rocks from a store! I was actually thinking of making extra ones, so if I get bored with the look of the tank, I can just swap them out! Of course, if the fish are happy and laying eggs, I probably won't do that.

Kevin Wilson


#34 mattknepley

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Posted 31 December 2014 - 05:00 PM

Very cool project! Thanks for posting. Can't wait to see the finished project.
Matt Knepley
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#35 Chasmodes

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Posted 15 January 2015 - 02:12 PM

The aquascaping is coming around...slowly but nicely.

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I have two more of these in the works...two to go after those are done.

Kevin Wilson


#36 Chasmodes

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Posted 09 February 2015 - 09:52 AM

Here's where I am today...I've been using the egg crate/pvc box as kind of a form as I create these cultches, but it won't go into the tank as you see it above.  Rather My plan is to build a PVC skeleton (still to be made) to mount the cultches on, then embed that skeleton into a DIY base rock (still to be made).  There will be two PVC skeletons because I don't want to make one massive DIY rock.  

 

So what about the gaps between the cultches?  After all, i want it to look like a complete reef.  I will build a duplicate set of PVC skeletons that are equal in size and shape to the ones that will be embedded in the DIY rock.  I will situate the cultches as I want them in the tank on the duplicate skeletons and continue to glue oysters to the existing clutches and fill in the gaps.  Then, once the DIY rock curing has been completed and the pH is OK, then I will swap out the duplicate skeleton and replace it with the DIY rocks w/skeletons.  If I can get the tank set up and cycled but the DIY rock isn't ready, then I will go with this until the DIY rock is done curing, then swap it out later.

 

This reef will take up more than one third of the tank on the right side, and I'll have a smaller reef (one large longer cultch) in the mid foreground on the left side of the tank.  I will use the same process as above for the skeleton and DIY rock concept.  When looking at the picture below, imagine the two rows of cultches with no gaps and no egg crate, but not quite as much vertical relief (maybe some day, but I don't have enough oysters right now).

 

I hope to have all my set up equipment purchased in the next month or so, and the tanks set up and plumbed shortly after that.  I need to purchase lighting, pumps, powerheads, and an RO/DI unit.  It's coming along.  I still have some work to do with the stands, but am not worried about getting that done just yet...soon though.

 

Here's the latest...I'm really happy with  the way this is turning out.

 

IMG_4542_zpse9202e0d.jpg


Kevin Wilson


#37 Matt DeLaVega

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Posted 09 February 2015 - 11:49 AM

Now I know what a cultch is. I had never heard the word. At a point I realized that you could not have possibly spelled "clutch" wrong so many times and looked it up.

I really do look forward to photos of the finished product.

The member formerly known as Skipjack


#38 Moontanman

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Posted 09 February 2015 - 03:30 PM

You are doing a great job, very realistic, makes me hungry to look at them! 


Michael

Life is the poetry of the universe
Love is the poetry of life

#39 gzeiger

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Posted 15 February 2015 - 08:11 PM

I never thought I'd see the words "at least I don't have to buy rocks from the store."



#40 Chasmodes

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Posted 15 February 2015 - 08:53 PM

I never thought I'd see the words "at least I don't have to buy rocks from the store."

 

:biggrin:  I know, right?  It does sound silly in our world of native fish collecting,  

 

I guess that I should have supplied context.  Marine reef aquarists often purchase live rock, or reef safe dry base rock (coral rock) for biological filtration.  You may know that, but maybe some that pop in here may not have any experience with that.  The problem that I have with this biotope, is coming up with something similar, whether or not I keep it brackish or move to fully salt.

 

So the reef build is coming along and I'm going to purchase my tank equipment this week.  Here's the latest on the oyster reef aquascape below.  I made the bases out of cpvc pip and will embed them in concrete DIY reef rock.  I laid them out on the side of my stand to finish gluing the oysters on, so I can get a sense of how it will look in the tank, since the plywood is the same dimension as the base of the tank.  The oysters stand 15" tall, and the water level in the tank will probably be about an inch or two above that.

 

This pic is a few days old, looking down to get an idea of what the scape might look like.  The front of the tank is to the right.  There are some gaps that I've later filled in shown in the last two pics.

IMG_4545_zps979140d8.jpg

 

This is looking from the front view:

IMG_4568_zps18add851.jpg

 

 

This is from the left side of the tank, looking down...just another angle.  Lots of gaps filled in.  The oysters laying out are the ones that I still have yet to glue on.

IMG_4569_zpsffcf50c0.jpg


Kevin Wilson




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