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The Ballad Of Marine Molly [Complete]

PostPosted: Sun Oct 07, 2007 11:20 am
by Crazygar
The Ballad of Marine Molly
Friday July6th, 2007

Ok, we’ve all seen these guys at the LFS. In fact, next to Guppies, Gourami and Tiger Barbs, these guys are your standard “LFS Fareâ€￾. Just about anywhere you go you can find these fish.

The following is an account of converting (and acclimatizing) your regular Poecilia sphenops or Black Molly to a pure Marine Environment.

The Reason Behind My Madness

Like a few of us, I started my Marine tank (1yr old August 2007) with a conception that if I can handle FW Aquaria (I kept FW Planted my whole career) that I should have no problem with Marine. I had a spare 35 Gallon Aquarium. Boy was I wrong.

Even though I was getting good advice from the people on Tropical Resources and Reef Resources, I still decided that “my wayâ€￾ was the better way. I found out (and still am) that I was completely wrong. I started out with treated Municipal Tap Water, I didn’t Skim for 4 months, I lacked any real water circulation, I actually mixed the salt in the Tank one time (what a bad idea that was), I stocked too early and too much, put in too little janitors too early, generally, it was a disaster.

About 5months into the “A Step to the Salty Side’sâ€￾ life, I was a bonafide “Algae Farmerâ€￾. I harvested more Algae from that tank over anything else. During the 5months I lost 2 Saddleback Clownfish, 2 Yellow Clown Gobies, 1 Neon Blue Goby, 1 beautiful Bubble Coral, 1 Colony of Yellow Star Polyps and still fighting with my Red/Purple Zoanthid colony.

Algae claimed my Bubble Coral, Yellow Star Polyps and I am still waging a war to remove it from the Red/Purple Zoanthid Colony. During this time, I added 4 Powerheads (3 X AquaClear 30) and (1 X AquaClear 10) giving me 19X total turnover. I added 5 Turbo Snails and a Sea Hare.

The first Sea Hare fell victim to my Skunk Cleaner shrimp or bad acclimatization. The second one was a victim to the intake of one of my Powerheads. I’ve been aggressively skimming with my CPR BakPak 2R+ but still the war rages on. I change 10% of the water weekly and do major teardowns on the equipment.

I started using RO/DI about 6months into my Tanks life and totally dumped the mixing tank and re-filled it with RO/DI and kept it out of sunlight (this is for another day).

Still my algae problem persists. One side of the tank is becoming nice and clean. For some weird reason, my Turbo Snails just love the left side of the tank and have done a good job at removing most of the Hair Algae from the this side. For some weird reason or other, no one likes the right side, where it remains as a giant green shag carpet of Hair Algae. I usually remove handfuls at each water change only to see it return. I need a solution that will;

(a) Not cost the life of the animal. Remember the two lost Sea Hares?
(b) Not cost $35+ which both Sea Hares were
(c) Time tested and proven Algae Eater

The “Mollyâ€￾ Maid

I was looking on Tropical Resources at some of the tanks and a few mentioned “Black Molliesâ€￾ as being a part of the Algae crew. A little light bulb went on in my head. I remembered (a long time ago) a website in which I believe that someone converted our wonderful little friend into an Algae Eating Marine Fish. Could I be dreaming?

I searched the Internet for about 45min before coming across an article about Saltwater Mollies (SaltCorner). I book marked the article and read very carefully. One thing that the article never mentioned was the highest SG you can keep Mollies at. My tank, for instance, runs at 1.025-1.026 for Salinity.

I searched more sites, and found little and nothing for maximum Salinity concentration. So I decided, that since I have time (on vacation) and a little bored (sad, take time off work, and realize how much you actually enjoy it) I should give this a go.

A Little Background

Poecilia sphenops or the “Short Tailedâ€￾ Molly hails from the Central and South America (Colombia, recent) region. Generally the Gulf Of Mexico, along the coastline seems to be its native range. This small Livebearer, was first discovered in 1846 by Valenciennes.

Able to handle both Freshwater and Brackish systems, this fish is adapted to survive in any type of water. Usually considered “Hardyâ€￾, these fish fail at the hands of many beginning hobbyists as their diet and environment are not met and understood.

Mainly herbivores (though omnivore behaviour is displayed), these little fish can easily mow down algae and soft plants. Growing to a maximum of 2.5â€￾ (Males) or 5â€￾ (Females), these have been main stays in the hobby for a long time.

Most Black Mollies prefer algae is a main part of their diet along with some salt in their water. A temperature of 68-82°F (78°F preferred), a pH of 7.5 or higher, these little fish can thrive and become very “diseaseâ€￾ resistant given proper environmental and dietary conditions.

I’ve read about people cycling their Marine Tanks with Mollies, even using them as feeders, but I want to see if they are as good at Algae eating as the claims state they are in an Marine Environment.

The Process

Being the type of person I am, I always have some spare “bucketsâ€￾ and containers laying around the house. At one point, I had 6 tanks running so I have plenty of spares now as I am down to 2.

I placed her (I could only find alive Females) in my “Wallace And Gromitâ€￾ bucket and I started to put ½ Cups of Marine Water in the tank, every 10min. At the 1pm mark, the FW Salinity of course was 1.001 with my Refractometer.

By 1:30pm (I really need to get a life eh!) the container’s salinity was at 1.010 already and the Molly seemed more “perkyâ€￾ and active. One thing I didn’t consider (which I will be looking for) is ability to get along with a Percula Clownfish and Lawnmower Blenny (currently, the only fish in my Saltwater tank). I’m sure the peaceful easy going nature of the Molly will prevail and it will be left alone. At this point, I needed to start removing water or mind a larger container. Since removing water would therefore drop the salinity (I would like to do something else), I decided to go find a larger container. I used my larger plastic bucket (another benefit of having dogs as pets) in which I use to “acclimatizeâ€￾ my larger marine fish.

By 2pm the container’s salinity was at 1.020! I keep my tank at 1.025-1.026 so I slowed down the "cup of waterâ€￾ treatments and measured every 5 minutes to ensure I don’t go over the recommended target. The Molly is definitely very perky as opposed to being in her former FW Tank. I hope she is not pregnant.


If you own a smaller Marine tank, and looking for an algae eating solution that is available, hardy and relatively inexpensive, try converting one of our Fresh Water friends to “The Salty Sideâ€￾ of the Force. Overall, I’ve been pleased with how quickly this Molly has adapted to the Marine Tank and conditions.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be logging the progress of the adventures of “Marine Mollyâ€￾. I’m looking at a long time solution for smaller Reef Tanks. Seeing if these are Reef Friendly is an important part of this experiment. Also, I wonder if they would fall victim to Corals or Anenomes. Only time will tell.

Friday July6th, 2007

Just one quick note, my Clownfish has already "discovered" her. Did a curious chase and now has left her alone. She is still sitting near the powerhead (c'mon this morning she was in a Petsmart tank) and getting used to the tank with the lights on.

I'm going to feed the tank tonight aways, so this should help things along. She is showing no signs of stress other than "being displaced" in a strange tank which will soon be her permnament home.

10:30pm in the evening and she has been picking at the algae from both sides of the tank. The Clownfish leaves her alone other than to scoot her away from "his" powerhead (Aquaclear 10). She also eat some prepared food which I dropped into the tank.

Its funny watching her swim around with my Zoas in the background. It almost defies the eyes.

I've setup the camera on the tripod on hopes of getting a good shot of her swimming past! Its funny! At one point, she was hanging out with a bunch of Limpets!

Saturday July 7th, 2007

Heres a quick video of her (Marine Molly) in the tank. Its hilarious to see Clownfish and a Molly together. Marine Molly is doing a bang up job on getting after the algae in the tank. If they eat algae like this in a marine setting, I can only imagine how effective she would be in a FW Planted Setting?

Remember, this is her second day in the tank. She is doing well. In fact, I wonder if Mollies prefer company of their own? I'll look into this.

I was just reading my TFH August 2007 edition when I happened upon "Liverbearers Unlimited" article. If wonder if Dr.Coletti would get a kick out of this?

Sunday July 8th, 2007

Well, 3 days into the show and she's doing really fine now. Out more and "sampling" the algae around the tank. A friend of mine said that at a SG 1.025-1.026 (where I keep my tank), the Molly won't live long. He said between 2 and 3 months. Now I purchased this Molly at a young age. She is only 1.5" right now. So I am taking it, she is not that old.

I hope to prove him wrong. I also wish to start a breeding program, creating generations of SW only Mollies. I have friends with small Reef tanks that keep (cringe) Tangs and other "inappropriate sized" fish in there for Algae control. If I can get Mollies to do the same job as a Tang, I might save another Tang's life.

My Blenny seems to be in competition with her. Everywhere she goes, he is sure to there soon. Its almost like she is the Algae Sniffer for him...

Monday July 9th, 2007

Ok, during the evening someone (I am guessing the Clownfish) took a good chunk out of her Caudal (Tail) Fin. I know she likes to hang out near "Marlon's Powerhead". Might not have taken the hint a few times and was taught a lesson.

This is the first indication of aggression in the tank towards her. I don't think anyother of my inhabitants (Lawnmower Blenny, Brittlestar, Hermit Crabs, Emerald Crab, Snails) could have done this. Which leaves the Clownfish as the suspect. CSI Windsor.
Her colours have really darkened nicely. She must have been plenty stressed when I first introduced her into the tank. No more damage to her fins or body. I guess she learned a valuable lesson.

She seems to enjoy swimming in the current of the Powerheads. Also, samples the algae all over the tank and is totally happy when I feed the tank some prepared food.

Jacques attempted to "clean" her and she was so offended she look a small leap of faith out of the water. I have to get my butt in gear and grind down the glass lid I made up. I have to shave off 1/4 of an inch so it'll fit over Salty Side.

The last thing I want is to find a Carpet Surfer.

Sunday July 15th, 2007

Her tail is almost healed! Thats remarkable! It was really quick! I guess the Marine Environment is really good for her! She has also grown a bit, she is noticeably larger than when I purchased her.

I take this as a good sign. I hope that she lives a long time in the tank. I am considering (seriously) getting her another Molly (female as well) to keep her Company.

Wednesday July 18th, 2007

Still kicking. Now she is starting to dish back some of the abuse she received earlier when she was first introduced into the tank. I still have not got her a companion and I know I should. She spends a great deal of time nibbling on the algae and it seems that her and "Blenny" have developed an association.

If "Blenny" happens to she "Marine Molly" nibbling somewhere, he'll swim on over and help out. Its funny to watch. The same works in reverse.

I've noticed that Marine Molly spends a great deal of time as well near the top and middle of the tank. Its a nice change though my Clownfish does the same. I sure wish I had some bottom dwellers! Maybe if I get another Molly, things will change. I think she's lonely.

If I do get another one, it will be another Female.

Wednesday July 25th, 2007

Yesterday she was bombing around the tank feeding and buzzing the Clownfish. Today I can't find her -- at all. Under the grave assumption that she perished and now has become food for my scavengers.

I'll look around the tank to see if she decided to take a leap of faith or she did indeed perish. For a fish that spent a good deal of time in the upper column of the tank, its hard not to notice the "absence".
She lives. I guess she was in the "rockwork". I was watching the tank before work this morning and saw her buzzing the bottom of the tank eating Algae. Whew, I was kinda bummed out that she "passed" away.

Thursday July 26th, 2007

Another chunk out of her tail. I'm guessing the clownfish. I'm considering on the weekend to get her a friend (Female friend) to help keep her company and less stressed (she looks a little wired right now).

Its amazing that no one really keeps these in Marine tanks. Extremely hardy once acclimatized and excellent little algae eaters! What is also shocking is the lack of any information regarding these fish in True Marine environments.

Sunday August 19th, 2007

Sad news, it seems that Marine Molly has perished. I do believe that the Clownfish is the aggressor in this case. Either way, it has proven a point that these fish are well adapted for living in pure Marine Environments. I plan to use Mollies again in the near future though.

As I'm sure they are great fish for SW cleanup. Especially in Frag Tanks where other fish would cause issues. She really went after the algae. The next time, I plan to have a "Squadron" of Mollies patrolling.

In the end, the project was an interesting endeavour. I do believe that Mollies would be suited perfectly for Frag Tanks where no other Marine Habitants (Clownfish etc.) are able to be in.