Aug 15, 2018

Aqua Illumination Prime Review and Unicorn Reef Bowl Update

A lot has been happening with the 8.5 gallon Unicorn Reef Bowl lately. I got a few new frags from Reef-a-Palooza 2018 and TSM Corals in New Jersey.

Unicorn Reef Bowl with AI Prime
I also got new Aqua Illumination Prime from Marine Depot to replace my ABI Tuna Blue light, and I couldn't be happier with it. I still use the ABI bulbs in other tanks, and they are trusty and true, but I enjoy the programmability, customizability, and rich colors the AI Prime offers. The ABI is a good, inexpensive bulb that has faithfully grown my coral for a couple years now, b ut the AI Prime is in an entirely different league with its controls and sleek, aesthetic design.

The AI Prime is controlled by an app that I easily downloaded to my Samsung phone. The app controls are so intuitive, this low-tech 35 year old lady didn't even have to read any directions. The controls just make sense. You can program each of the 7 colors down to the percent. The colors are absolutely stunning and there are endless combinations. The app has a handy acclimation mode so you can slowly get your corals used to the new light. You should also use acclimation mode when you get new coral. My favorite feature on the app is the weather. You can program clouds and lightning storms to happen each day, and you can even choose the probability and intensity of the storms.

I get a lot of questions about what is the "right" percentage for each color. The only wrong way to do it is if you are bleaching your corals or not giving them enough light. As long as you're providing enough light for them to grow without burning them, program it according to how you want your corals to look. If you're still unsure and want to download settings that have been designed and used by expert reefers, visit http://www.aquaillumination.com/signature/

Here you can see a video of the ramp up from sunrise to sunset. This is what a day in the life of my tank would look like on hyperspeed if these were the settings I chose.



I also got a new toy to help me photograph the reef bowl with my camera phone without having to manipulate the colors in post processing. The Polyp Lab Coral View lens for Smartphone and Tablet kit comes with three lenses - 15,000K, 20,000K, and a 10x macro lens, plus a holder that clips onto your phone. The lenses are stackable, so if you want to use the orange lens and the macro lens at the same time, you can do that! The kit also comes with a cleaning cloth, cases for each lens, and a sturdy box for storage. I've been taking this kit with me everywhere I go just in case I need to quickly and easily photograph a tank (which usually happens everywhere I go!)

You may notice another huge change to the Unicorn Reef Bowl - my favorite Montipora setosa that my friend Ryan Pettit gave me years ago has died. It started to STN (slow tissue necrosis) about 6 months ago, and I just could not save it to matter what I did. None of the other corals, even the Montiporas, were affected.Sometimes we never know what causes corals to die for seemingly no reason. The last bit of flesh finally disappeared recently, and I removed the sad skeleton. It was the hardest coral loss I've ever experienced. I could replace it with another setosa, but it wouldn't be the same. That coral had so much history. I remember driving to my long-time friend Ryan's house in 2014 and enjoying a rare visit with him and his family, as he excitedly chose and cut corals to selflessly give to me. When I moved back to Pennsylvania, I took this coral with me and put it in my friend's tank for safekeeping. When I was ready, he gave me a piece of it for my reef vase, where it flourished and grew to the size of my hand.

January 2018

June 2017 

November 2017
What's interesting is that it always grew in a weird, nearly perfect ring around a barren center. It finally covered the center in November 2017, but when it started to die, the STN started right there in the center. A friend suggested I cut the center out and hope it would recover, but that didn't help. I tried cutting healthy pieces off the edge, but those died, too. I even put some of those healthy edge pieces in tanks of various friends hoping it would revive in their tanks. They died.

The corals are doing great now in the Unicorn Reef Bowl with the new AI Prime light. I also got a new wavemaker and a generic eBay Sun Sun canister filter that is helping to improve conditions. I like the Sun Sun, but I think eventually I'll upgrade to an Eheim filter just for quality and longevity.



Blue Tenuis frag from TSM Corals

Blue Tenuis in my bowl

Bubblegum Digitata from Mo's corals

My 4 year old acclimating hermit crabs


Acropora nasuta from TSM corals

Top down view with ABI bulb

Full tank shot Unicorn Reef Bowl AI Prime evening

AI Prime daytime Unicorn Reef Bowl

Aug 13, 2018

BCAS talk Sept 2018 - Seahorse Keeping: IT'S NOT THAT HARD

Please join Bucks County Aquarium Society and Felicia McCaulley on September 6th, 2018 at 7:30pm at the Churchville Nature Center to discuss myths surrounding seahorse keeping and why they're not as fragile as we think!

I will cover topics that will ensure seahorse keeping success and make it easy for you.

Stop by the nearby Fish Factory in Bensalem, PA to pick up your very own Felicia's Saddled Seahorses, born and raised right here in Pennsylvania. They're currently about one year old and very healthy and hardy. There are some yellow, orange, rusty brown, and grey colored seahorses (they change color based on their surroundings).


Aug 12, 2018

Complexity vs Complicatedness

Painting by Lachlan D. Frost

It's easy to mistake complication for complexity. I've always enjoyed the rich, beautiful complexity of music, art, ecosystems, or a well-planned reef aquarium.

Complicatedness is unnecessary difficulty; it does not exist in nature because it is a waste of energy. Complexity is abundance and organized, intricate symbiosis.

I'm disappointed in myself that I've confused the 2 and have been on a destructive path as a result. It's important to re-evaluate your life and relationships periodically to determine what is complex or complicated, and let go of anything that's no longer a positive force in your life.

This painting by my 4 year old son Lachlan hangs above my unicornreefbowl, and it looks completely different under actinics, daylight, and even glows in the dark at night. It is complex, not complicated. We were inspired by the beautiful art by my friend Rachel of @reefweeds

#art#UVpaint #reefweeds #inspired #complexity#complication #emotionalhealth
top left clockwise: daylight, night, and actinic lighting

Jan 16, 2018

Felicia's Saddled Seahorses for Sale

EDIT AUGUST 2018: You can now purchase my seahorses at Fish Factory in Bensalem, PA!

I'm very happy to announce that I'm breeding seahorses again! Some friends got together and sent me a pair for my birthday this year, and they've been very prolific. This first batch of (not) babies (anymore) are headed to That Fish Place and Reef Conservation Society's Winter frag swap. These are H. erectus seahorses; most are rusty orange, brown, or yellowish with lots of saddling and some with cirri. They're about 6 months old, and many of the males are already pregnant. We may decide to ship seahorses in the future with the help of our friends at Ricky Fin's Aquatics, so stay tuned.


These babies are fed four times a day and are very friendly. It's not easy to change the water (which we do three times a day) when there are seahorses all over my hands and in my face!


How to make a seahorse love you - Feed it!


Before breakfast - we're so hungry!


Please excuse the algae, when you feed this much food, it's inevitable.





baby pics of this batch


so much cirri!


Jan 15, 2018

Felicia's Pico Reef Vase

When I had my son and moved back to my hometown a few years ago, I gave up reefing for a short time. I had a 6 gallon cube with a ravenous clingfish and some corals. My mom bought me a beautiful vase from an antique shop, and it got my wheels turning. All I could see was coral. 

My best friend Ricky from Ricky Fin's Aquatics had been holding and growing some of my favorite corals that I put in his tank when I moved. In the summer of 2016, Ricky fragged the colonies that grew from the frags I gave him and I put them in my new vase along with the few corals I had in the cube. The vase took a whole hour to set up with boxed natural sea water and already cured live rock. A small powerhead, heater, and 38 PAR ABI LED bulb were all the equipment I needed.

Thank you, CORAL magazine, for publishing an article about my reef vase in the Jan/Feb 2018 issue. The cover features my son, Lachlan, peering into his favorite aquarium in our house. Enjoy these photos that didn't fit into the article. Lots of before and after photos!

June 2017


Feb 2017

Feb 2017

Jan 2017

June 2017

June 2017

June 2017


June 2017

June 2017

June 2017

Setosa Dec 2016 

Setosa apr 2016 - Nov 2017

Setosa Jun 2016
SunnyD Palys 1 year of growth

SunnyD Palys June 2016

SunnyD Palys March 2016
Red Monti May 2017

Red Monti Feb 2017

Red Monti 1 year of growth

Red Monti June 2017
Purple Gorgonian 6 months of growth


The Reef Vase was transferred into an 8 gallon bowl in June 2017. The stand I kept my 2 gallon vase on cracked down the center. My step dad made me a new stand with a carved unicorn on the front, and the tiny vase looked silly on the big stand, so I upgraded to an 8 gallon bowl which fits perfectly and gave my corals some room to grow.

Unicorn Reef Bowl Dec 2017

Unicorn Reef Bowl Dec 2017

Unicorn Reef Bowl Dec 2017

Unicorn Reef Bowl Nov 2017

Unicorn Reef Bowl and Stand
38 PAR LED ABI Tuna Blue

Handfeeding Peppermint Shrimp

Blue Hornet Zoas Jan 2017, now spread all over the tank

Neon Green Toadstool


Mini cucumbers that reproduce in my bowl


Rasta Zoas, courtesy of Ricky Fins

Undata Closeup

Undata Dec 2015