and then headed to the bathroom. There
was very little light in the room at that
time, but when I walked by the aquarium,
I noticed that it looked cloudy. I turned on
the overhead room light and saw that the
aquarium was very cloudy indeed.
I turned the actinic bulbs back on and
upon closer inspection saw that the aquarium
was full of gametes and gamete bundles!
However, I saw no signs of anything actually
spawning at that time, as it had apparently
happened over the previous hour. So, I
started taking some pictures and making a
few videos. (Search online for “Fatherree
coral spawning event.”)
At that time, I did find a few button polyps
and yellow polyps with gamete bundles
in their mouths but did not see any being
released. I intermittently watched them for
quite some time, trying to figure out if they
were producing them or eating them, but
I never saw anything happen. I was doing
several things at once at this point, and all
I noticed was that eventually the bundles
Anyway, as all of this was going on, I
decided to turn on the skimmer. I haven’t
run a skimmer full-time in years, but I leave
it in place just in case—and I was glad I did!
However, the water level in the sump was too
low and the skimmer wouldn’t work properly.
I also realized that I had almost no RO
replacement water on hand, so I turned on
the RO unit, which fills a trashcan reservoir.
I began to worry that much of the copious
material would soon begin to die, start
decomposing, and dramatically reduce
oxygen levels, so I pointed the powerheads
more toward the surface to get it roiling. I
also turned on the external closed-loop
pump at full power—it typically is only on
for a few hours per week at half power—
and pointed the return toward the surface. I
hoped this much water-motion-triggered gas
exchange at the surface would mitigate any
drop in oxygen levels.
Of course, I also didn’t want all of
this material decomposing and sending
waterborne nutrient levels through the roof.
That would surely bring on an algal bloom,
filamentous algae in particular, which can be
hard to get rid of once it occurs. But I didn’t
have any clean filter socks that could be
employed in the sump.
Anyway, at around 3 a.m., without any
RO water on hand and nothing left to do, it
was time to go to bed. I had to get up to give
exams the next morning, so I hoped for the
best and went to sleep.
By 9 a.m. Monday, I was back up and about.
The tank lights were still off and would be for
several hours, so I used a flashlight to check
on everything. For the most part, everything
looked normal. However, the open brain
coral was covered in a thick layer of mucus.
There were no gamete bundles that I could
see at this point, but the water was still very
cloudy. I had to leave for work.
At 12: 30 p.m., I returned home between
some exams to top off the sump with RO
water and turn on the skimmer. After making
several adjustments, the skimmer would make
plenty of bubbles but not any foam. I had also
remembered that I had a hang-on cartridge
power filter in the storeroom. I cleaned it up
and brought it into service on the aquarium to
clear up the water some. I had to do all of this
very quickly, as I needed to get back to school.
I left after 30 minutes or so.
Note that the lights were still off, and the
fish were out of sight. With the flashlight,
I had seen a couple of them in the rocks,
though, and they looked fine.
At 7 p.m. Monday, I returned home, and
the lights were on. The water was still quite
cloudy, but not so much as before. All of the
fish were out and about, looked fine, and had
a healthy appetite. And with the exception of
the open brain coral, which was still coated
with mucus, all of the corals looked okay.
The stony corals did not have their polyps
extended as much as usual, though.
At this point, I had enough RO water to do
a water change, so I changed out 25 percent,
cleaned the filter cartridge and reinstalled it,
and changed out the activated carbon and
phosphate remover. I left the RO unit on so I
could do an additional water change as soon
I also decided to try the skimmer again. It
began working very well this time, although
the foam was quite wet, and I had to empty the
relatively large collection cup several times
before bed. While doing so, I did discover
something else: The surface of the water in
the sump was completely covered from end
to end by a 1/8-inch-thick (3-mm) layer of
disgusting-looking, mucus-like slime.
I wasn’t quite sure how to get it out of
there. I decided to use a few wads of paper
towels to sort of skim/dredge it out. The
goop stuck to the wads of paper, and I just
kept pulling out globs of it until it was pretty
much all gone.
At midnight, I cleaned the filter cartridge,
reinstalled it again, and fed the fish. They still
looked fine and ate. All of the corals (except
the open brain) appeared completely normal
by this time, too. I was tired and went to bed
about 30 minutes later.
At 9 a.m. on Tuesday, I checked on the
aquarium and everything looked good.
Even the open brain had sloughed away
almost all of the mucus coat that had
covered it. The water was still a little
cloudy, so I cleaned the filter cartridge and
reinstalled the filter once again.
There were several types of gametes and
gamete bundles swirling around, but these
broke up and dissipated over a few hours’ time.
Some of the gamete bundles were surprisingly
large—and there were thousands of them!