It's been a while since I took you on a visit "under the sea" to my aquarium, and since Jeff's latest dispatch from Greece has me in a summery mood, this seems like as good a time as any to take you on the shortest journey possible: approximately two feet to the left of where I sit as I type this post.
Here's the view:
|The view from my writing desk.|
My watchman goby, Max (actually "Emperor Maximus Angryfish I"), was the very first fish on the reef and remains one of the most opinionated.
|Emperor Max disapproves of your shenanigans.|
If you ask him, he'd tell you his territory consists of "all the light touches" -- but for defensive purposes, he only gets truly feisty if someone attempts to invade the cave on the left side of the reef.
|Max, defending his castle.|
When that happens, all bets are off.
The oldest corals in my tank are a lovely pink Kenya Tree:
|Look carefully - there's a seahorse hitched to its base.|
|The parent is at center frame. The one at the top is an offspring.|
Most of the other sun coral colonies in the tank are "children" of that initial frisky sun.
|Sun coral babies, attached upside down to the filter motor.|
While the Kenya Tree is photosynthetic (like a plant, although it's actually classified as an animal), the sun coral uses its tendrils to capture meaty foods, which it consumes through the mouths located at the center of each polyp. Mine get a mixture of live phytoplankton, oyster eggs, and (defrosted) frozen mysis shrimp--delivered nightly by eyedropper.
The "stars" of the reef don't live as long as the corals and most of the other fish. Hippocampus erectus--common name "Lined Seahorses"--live only 3-4 years, on average, and my tank is currently home to its third generation of seahorse-kind.
|Moya - a male, in a rare moment out in the open.|
I buy my seahorses from a breeder in Florida that raises them entirely in captivity. They arrive via FedEx overnight delivery, and need to be picked up at the FedEx office to minimize the time they spend in the box.
Which means that every few years, I get the joy of walking into a FedEx shipping office and telling the clerk I've come to pick up live seahorses -- a statement that never fails to startle whoever is working behind the counter.
This is what the seahorses look like when they arrive, at 3-4 months old:
|Approximately 2.5" long. Cute as buttons.|
And this is what they look like two years later:
|Vega, a female. Adult length: 8"|
|Moya, close up.|
Keeping a seahorse reef requires choosing only tank mates--fish and coral--that won't sting, pinch, harass, or upset the seahorses. Not an easy task, but not as difficult as you might imagine. While I'm limited mostly to "soft" corals and peaceful fish that hug the reef and avoid the water column at the center of the tank, that still leaves a wide variety of corals, fish, and invertebrates to choose from.
|Porcelain crabs are peaceful creatures, no matter what the pincers tell you.|
One of my favorite non-fish, non-seahorse tank inhabitants is Oscar, the abalone. (Extra points if you get the joke before you read the caption on his photo.) I've had him for almost three years now, and he's grown from a three-inch baby to a nearly ten-inch creature my husband refers to as the "living booger."
|My abalone has a first name, it's O-S-C-A-R...|
Unfortunate nickname aside, I find Oscar fascinating. Abalone have light-sensing organs, and excellent senses of smell, but they don't see well (in fact, they're almost blind). Despite this, and their tiny brains, Oscar has learned that I supplement his diet of living algae by clipping sheets of dried seaweed to the top of the aquarium, and I can tell when he's hungry because he heads to the top of the tank and wanders around the rim, sticking his snout above the water level, looking for the seaweed clip. When he finds it, he'll scrape the remnants off and wait beside it until I notice him hovering there and add more food.
|Oscar, enjoying his seaweed.|
Not too bad for a sentient booger.
Obviously, I could go on at length, but I'll leave it there for now, but we'll visit again in a few more weeks, and I'll tell you more about the odd and lovely things I get to see on the reef.
|Red-legged hermit, checking the seahorses' food bowl for treats. Yes, they eat from bowls.|