One 20g glass tank, cover, and stand (I’d consider the stand optional)
One hang-on mechanical foam filter
One appropriately sized heater.
One air pump and airstone
One thermometer

One piece of PVC tubing for the fish to hide in

Done.  No substrate, no light (that too is optional depending on the amount of ambient light already in the room.  If you find that you DO need a dedicated light, go with a simple hood, and couple florescents.  And I’d suggest even leaving those off until you need them.), no other bells and whistles.  Because I’m under very tight constraints regarding space, I have to take my tank completely down when I’m not using it.  To keep my cycle going I’ll usually keep my filters’ foam pad floating in the sump to. If you do have the space however, by all means, keep yours running.  I’d just toss a few hermits in there to keep to keep everything going between fish.  Don’t forget to feed them though as dead or dying hermits is NOT a good way to keep the cycle going.

And so, returning now to the trials and tribulations of my rebuild once again, I believe it was like Groundhog Day.  Not the holiday but the movie.  You see, by now an entire year had passed and it was time once again for my daughters’ Summer vacation.   As far as I was concerned, the only real difference between last year this time and now was about a dozen frags and water clear enough to observe them.  And while I did begin to notice a tiny bit of growth on a few of the ‘older’ pieces, even THAT seemed to be coming in abnormally. Most of the growth was coming in on the bottom but not as it would if it was trying to lay down a base.  This growth was coming in as branches…tiny, little branches that in no way resembled the branches that had grown from the rest of the coral. These were actually thinner than usual and much more tube-like.  They made the frag look deformed.  Plus, there was little to no upward growth at all.  On anything, unless it was another one of those weird, silly little branches that would (ab)normally grow on the bottom.  Needless to say, I had never seen anything like this before but I didn’t mention it to anyone lest it be considered ‘just looking for more problems’.  So, this year, when vacation time came, I just rode off to Los Angeles, hoping for the best but sure of nothing.

As usual, I kept in touch with Ray.  This time, however, the updates weren’t quite as discouraging.  Everything was alive but still completely dormant, the Valonia was still growing so clearly the Emeralds weren’t doing anything, and the Muelleri Butterfly I’d been looking for since last year finally came in on the Live Aquaria website (already sold, of course).  Now, considering the updates I would’ve been getting last year this time, I guess I should’ve been happy.  I wasn’t though.  Perhaps I still didn’t feel like a part of the real ‘reefing community’ just yet but I WAS less reluctant to show my face once I reached Los Angeles this time.  In addition to visiting a few retailers and wholesalers, I also hooked up with a few hobbyists I hadn’t seen since MACNA ‘06 in Houston.  The first thing most of them asked was how the tank was coming along. I’ve always found this weird; that someone you may have only met once (or even weirder, only online some time ago) could be so intimately conversant about your business, even just your reefkeeping business, that it’s as if they were your neighbor, actually there, going through it with you.  The power of the internet… Well, all I’ve got to say is, thank God for real neighbors.  At least there’s still SOMEONE out there who doesn’t care enough to ask about your personal problems.

But by now, I had far less of a problem talking about the crash for some reason.  And fortunately when I did, I got quite a few “been there, done that”s in return.   Those would usually make me feel better.  Of course I’d also get the occasional, “Hey Mike, I heard you got out of the hobby.” and those, on the other hand, would make me feel like I just washed my clothes in Loser.  But all in all, it was nice to see so many corals looking the way they were supposed to look and I really did enjoy my reemergence, tentative as it was, back into the world of reefkeeping.  About the only time things got a little uncomfortable, was the universally blank stares I would get whenever I would bring up my ‘weird little branches on my frags’ issue.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised though.  Had I not seen it with my own eyes, I’d have probably done the same thing to whoever said it to me!  So I decided not to push it.  At least, not right now anyway. After all, about the only real certainty we have in this hobby is, if there’s a problem, you aren’t the only one who’s ever had it.  So I decided to wait until I got back home and put a little more effort into it. Maybe ‘shotgun’ all the reef boards and do a search to see if anyone’s pulling corals out of Bikini Atoll or something.  It may take some time but what else would I have to do?