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Spookproofing, Salinity, and Temperature

Jan 27, 2005
Hello everyone,

I'm looking at buying a juvenile Sepia pharaonis very soon and have a few questions.

I'd like to "spookproof" my tank before I introduce the cuttle - what can I do to make the environment less stressfull and ink-jet-inducing and potentially butt-burning? Do I need to cover the back and sides of the tank? Is there some color that has a calming effect?

Also, I measured the salinity of the cuttle tank at the shop and it was 1.019, while mine reads 1.024. It's one of those plastic things and I'm not sure if it's accurate. If it's right, the shop's salinity is rather too low. If it's wrong, then mine's rather too high. The cuttle looks healthy and even rushes up to the glass in anticipation of being fed. How can I get a more accurate reading? And could the cuttle adjust to that much difference in salinity in a 30 minute mixing and acclimatization period?

Finally, I have no chiller on the tank and the temperature hovers at 80 to 81 degrees. I think this should be OK, though maybe lead to a faster growth rate. Any thoughts?

Usually cuttlefish don't live too long at these shops - a Bandensis came in 2 weeks ago and it soon died. Nobody knows much about them. What a pity!
Huge pity.

A lot of LFS keep salinity low to help fight parasites or infection in fish - if they are keeping sg low, they may be running copper as well. Either of these actions are not great for inverts.

For the sides of the tank, green or blue would prolly work well, but I don't think it is that important.
Salinity should be NSW values. I would calibrate your swing arm hydrometer with a reftactrometer, then you aren't guessing so much. :biggrin2:
I think your temp is a little high, but should be fine.

IME, bandensis actually ship pretty well, and I am becoming more and more convinced that these animals just aren't being treated well in the dance to the LFS. :biggrin2:

I read study done in Thailand on farming these cuttles for commercial purposes. The studies seem to suggest that they have on average an 8 month or so life span, however at 80 degrees it can be shortened to as little as 4 months. They reach sexual maturity faster and die young. On the up side, have you tried running some fans over your system, or maybe some very subdued lighting will help bring down the temp without a chiller. At least a couple of things to experiment with. :mrgreen:
Righty, I suspect that the salinity really is low at the shop which probably means the cuttle will not last too long there. I'll look into the refractometer. I'm concerned my lights are too bright too. My plan is to outfit some small fans over the tank and the sump for an evaporative cooling effect, or last resort make a DIM "refrigerator cooler".

Anyway I tested some water last night and found:

Copper: 0
Ammonia: 0.22 mg/L !
Nitrite: 0.2 mg/L
Nitrate: 10 ppm
pH: 8.5

So I'll not be getting anything too soon! I was a little unrealistic about my cycling time I guess. I've currently got two horseshoe crabs in there. Should I be trying to export that ammonia, or just let it cycle through?

Oh, Reef-Maharani, I'm in touch with that Aquaculture Research Station, and they told me to cantact them again in August. May be able to get some baby Pharoahs! perhaps I should just wait until then?
After some of the other threads, it's good to hear that someone can (or is willing to?) recognize themselves where they are in the cycle! I think the importance of having a mature tank is too often underestimated--I was still getting blooms of various algaes two months after the tank completely cycled, which in itself was maybe five weeks after it was set up. I understand why people recommend three months when the ammonia and nitrite levels are back at nil in half that time.

Good luck if you try a fridge-chiller. I don't have any plans to make one but I've looked into it quite a bit because I like building stuff like that. It seems like the best thing to do is to is to have a bucket of water in the fridge that that the circulation coils should sit in to optimize the heat transfer (ie, you're going to get cold a lot faster in a 50 degree pool then 50 degree air!). Some people go real high tech with this and use a thermostat to control the pump. Others say the system is too inefficient and isn't too worthwhile.

I would just like to say, here, "thank you very much !" to all of you for posting on this thread. It really is a much needed breath of fresh air !!!

My experince with DIY chillers is that they are "ok", but nowhere near as good as the commercially available ones, and to be honest, by the time you add up all that you have spent making your own, you could have bought one for about another hundred bucks.

Best ! greg
here here...

Also, the price of aquarium chillers like aquamedic titans has really came down recently
This is a warm water species, a chiller is not necessary. You would need a chiller to keep European Cuttlefish (S. officinalis).

True, colder water will prolong your cuttlefish’s life span. Still, keep the temperature in a natural range for the species and don’t change it to quickly – that also can kill.

Watch out for bubbles on those aquarium hydrometers! I’d suggest taking a number of back to back readings to be sure you are getting an accurate measurement. If it were me, I’d bring your water to the store so you can adjust your tank to what the cuttle is used to prior to it’s arrival.

Our squid do better in tanks without glass windows and with blue plastic tarps supported by pool noodles to buffer the sides (think “padded cell” and you have the concept). I’ve not done this for cuttles but would consider it if the butt burn became an issue.
You Can't Skip Cycling

OK, this is embarrassing.

I was using a freshwater test kit to test for ammonia. That's not the embarrassing bit. So I tested again with a proper test, and everything looked good and low, so....I thought maybe I could kind of cheat the system, maybe it had already cycled, yes I know that's impossible...

I bought the cuttlefish.

Since then it has been a roller-coaster ride of large water changes, carbon, polyfibers, nitrate absorbers, and so on.

It's been nearly a month now, and finally things are getting a little more stable. I've taken to keeping a reserve of 40 gallons of seawater in case of more emergencies.

I wouldn't recommend anyone do this, it's been a major headache.
That must have been a very difficult time for you. It's quite a bit of work and many water changes to try to overcome problems with a tank that hasn't finished cycling.

Thanks for telling us about it - everyone makes mistakes and you've obviously learned from yours.

Taking shortcuts with cycling comes up again and again because people are eagar go ahead and get an octopus or cuttlefish. You're absolutely right, you can't hurry the process and there's no way to cheat and come out ahead. (Hope all would-be ceph keepers have read this carefully!)

Current Tank

Currently my tank set-up is:

125 gallon 4X2X2 tank with sump, beckett-head protein skimmer, canister filter, 2 cooling fans, live rock, live sand.

Salinity 1.026, temps between 28C and 30C. "Harry" definitely gets more skittish if it goes over 30C.

By six pack cooler, you mean a small fridge? I think a drop of just a degree or two would allow me to keep some nice sponges and things, and safeguard against those really hot days.

I must say, this species seems relatively tough and well-adapted to captivity. He's also very active in the daytime and just amazing to watch. I've taken some video footage of different "stealth" modes (sand pattern, rock pattern, macroalgae pattern, etc.) and hunting behaviors which I hope I can figure out how to upload. Right now he eats about 2 fiddler crabs per day which he "mesmerizes" with a pulsing black and white strobe effect while waving his raised front arms back and forth. This really seems to work, somehow immobilizing the crab in a kind of trance, while he jets in close, pivots around behind, aims, and fires. What I can't figure out is how the cuttle KNOWS that the crab is sufficiently confused to proceed.

He's always surprising me with new patterns I've never seen him do before, and sometimes gets beautiful irridescent copper, gold, green, or blue around the base of the mantle fin, with red lines down the length of the arms and orange, purple, and blue sheens around the "face". These do seem consistent with "moods" - always gets a pale green irridescence around the fin base when eating for example.

I'll try and get some pics posted soon.

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