The precedence of the Triton method and its new unconventional way of reef keeping has increased so tremendously over the recent months that it is quite impossible to sway away from the allure of this new founded principle. While much has been said about the methodology and the element testing, it is undeniable that the water testing via Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP) that Triton is offering way surpasses the average hobby test kits. Today’s post however steers clear from all technical and chemical aspects of the ICP testing as well as the exact principal basis of the Triton method. What this post will feature however, is a picture intensive run down of the Triton display tank, which hands down is without a shadow of a doubt one of the, if not the most beautiful privately owned aquariums anywhere.
Over the last week we were invited to Sweden to give a talk, and while in Europe we spent a few days with Ehsan Dashti, owner and founder of Triton Reef. Düsseldorf, Germany is the headquarters of the Triton company and it is here you can find the incredibly beautiful private reef tank of Ehsan. Now obviously this system runs on the Triton method, which features no water changes and element testing from the ICP-MS machine. The methods and testing are widely discussed on numerous online platforms, so for that reason we won’t be going into it here.
We’ve mentioned earlier that this is a picture intensive post, and for that reason we’ll split most of them into galleries here for ease of browsing. Just click on the thumbnail to view the photos.
Where do we even begin. The Triton display tank is really a work of art, both aesthetically and biologically. Few systems can compare with this set up in terms of coral brilliance and colony growth. Each section of this beautifully designed reef is so jammed with coral that it is laughable, in a good way, how this might be even possible.
The 625 gallon tank is a shallow cube with a three sided display, with minimal live rock in a horseshoe formation surrounding a giant Tridacna gigas which sits front and centre. It’s easy to forget that while all the stony corals in this aquarium are massive by any standards, a great or perhaps even greater demand for chemical and mineral requirement is met solely by this one clam.
Tridacna clams are relatively fast growing, and although they look rather stoic and unassuming in their biological needs, are animals that relish intense lighting and a prolific source of calcium and other minerals for shell growth.
The elemental and light supplementation that this clam and the corals receive in this tank come exclusively from Triton Reef Elementz and Triton LANI LEDs. This clam, bigger than my thighs, a pet dog, a newborn baby, and various other comparable daily objects is truly a magnificent creature. You don’t often see this species in captivity, and in exceedingly rare situations it shows up mislabelled as T. maxima.
What T. gigas lacks in colour however, it makes up for in size. That’s not to say that the species is in itself unappealing. While mostly brown or matte grey, the mantle is adorned with a series of metallic blue rings that only appears when the animal is under perfect lighting conditions.
Some of you might be familiar with this T. gigas shenanigans for water pulsing, and might have seen it in a Facebook video that has gone nearly viral. The giant giant clam occasionally pulses water a couple feet above the aquarium which hits the LANI LED fixtures, seemingly for fun.
Occasionally, the T. gigas engages in sexual spawning, releasing millions of gametes into the water. In the ocean this would be ok, but a clam of this size in an enclosed system may spell trouble. Deterioration of water quality from the sudden influx of biological components free floating in the water is a very real situation that should be taken into consideration. Fortunately the system is able to handle this well with no ill effects. Two other clam species share this tank, and they are Hippopus hippopus and the exceedingly rare Tridacna mbalavuana.
The coral placement and aqua scape in this system is something of a marvel. The total weight of all the live rock in this tank is probably only slightly more than the clam itself, and is actually very minimal. Much of the bulk you see come from the coral growth, which over the years have skeletonized into an actual reef structure. The main supporting bases are just a couple of rocks threaded along PVC pipes to provide structural integrity and formation of various bommies.
Acropora and other SPS are the predominant occupants, and have grown into a lush garden with assorted colours and forms. The most amazing colony would have to be the cyan staghorn at the back, which is supported entirely on its own intricate labyrinth of skeletal remnants underneath the head of retina burning blue. Fascinatingly, there is tissue growth with full colour and polyp extension all over, even under the thickest portions and hard to reach area. For this to happen, flow and lighting have to be perfect enough to sustain both colour and life in places that would otherwise either bleach out or die.
Most of the SPS corals here have grown so much that they’ve begun breaking the water surface, and at the meniscus interface they start to plateau out horizontally. In places where two colonies touch, they either grow over each other in a beautiful network of branches, or form boundaries by allelopathy and physical warfare.
Some of the corals are kept in checked by more vicious species, such as the Galaxea above. In the day this beautiful coral is a carpet of green, but under the cover of darkness, Galaxea is notorious for releasing very long sweepers that are hyper charged with nematocysts. The highly invasive Briareum, or star polyps that grow nearby is kept in check just marginally by the Galaxea. In the mini gallery below you can find more close up photos of the various corals growing in this tank.
The Triton display is also home to some beautiful fish, and is predominantly stocked with wrasses. A pair of Anampses femininus swim in this coral laden display, and in here the male often display its beautiful nuptial coloration. The feminine wrasse is a member of the genus Anampses, which feature wrasses with a unique tooth morphology that separates the genus from all others.
Anampses possess forward pointing teeth, that are flattened and often stick out of their mouth horizontally when viewed closely. They use these to press and clamp their food, almost like a pair of clapping hands (for lack of a better analogy) which makes a loud clicking sound which is very audible when the fish is chewing or hunting.
The dichromatic qualities of this genus is very evident in the sexes, and in this particular species, the name femininus comes from the more beautifully marked female. Indeed, the female feminine wrasse is one of the most illustrious and gaudily coloured animal that for a long time have been on the wish list for many aficionados. Today, the species is obtainable with relative ease.
Macropharyngodon, a close relative of Anampses, is represented by two species in this aquarium. M. kuiteri above, and M. ornatus below. Unlike Anampses, Macropharyngodon possesses a pair of pharyngeal teeth which sits just at the back of the upper jaw. This unique dentition is found only in leopard wrasses, and its what gives the genus its latin name, which when translated to english means “large-throat-teeth”.
Both genera require sandy substrate for burying at night, as well as plenty of live rock and microfauna for day to day grazing. Leopard and Tamarin wrasses often get a reputation for being difficult to keep, and while they are a little more challenging than other wrasses, can live a long time when properly cared for.
Five species of Anthiines call this tank their home, but it’s the beautiful Pseudanthias connelli that represents the family here with the most exciting splendour. P. connelli is a magnificent species that forms a complex with P. taeniatus and P. townsendi from the Red Sea. P. connelli is gold in males but develops a pink-purple sheen when in the most terminal phase of their lives. The posterior half is jacketed in maroon, with a headband of similar base coloration to the posterior half. The tail is red and flagged with two cyan bands running obliquely along the lobes.
Pseudanthias connelli is endemic to South Africa, and like most endemic fishes there are prohibited for export. However the topic is touchy and sensitive, with poorly enforced laws with many loopholes that allow the species to enter the trade, albeit rarely. P. connelli is not endangered nor protected in its range and is commonly collected for domestic hobbyists.
Various other beautiful reef species grace this tank, and the two page gallery above features them all. The pair of gold flake angels and the Naso tang are particularly beautiful. Below is another small gallery showing a fuller view of the system.
The Triton tank is the perfect embodiment of a healthy reef tank with lush coral, healthy fish and a well rounded aesthetically pleasing aqua scape. It takes patience, vision and a lot of reefing know how to pull of something quite as beautiful, and whether you are a believer of the Triton method or not, you have to give props to this display.
Attached above is a video of the system, and here you can truly see the depth of growth and cover that the corals have achieved over the years, as well as the the overall scape of the tank from all three sides. The video is available in 1080p HD, so be sure to watch it in that setting up until the end.
A big thanks to Ehsan Dashti and his wonderful family for hosting us during our short stay. Keep reading for part two of this set up when we view it at night under fluorescence.