Jul 13, 2015

With a Grain of Salt - Lying About Aquarium Success on Social Media

Read about a man who owns an aquarium maintenance business who lied on social media about his success with keeping seahorses and Acalycigorgia sea fans in an aquarium. When caught in his lie, he tried making excuses and blocked the person who proved he was lying.

This behavior is unacceptable. It is not good for our hobby or for the animals we keep.


The Skinny Seahorse :(

May 26, 2015

Customers Behaving Badly

Our local fish stores are in danger, and customers may be partly to blame. Read my latest article on reefs.com about some of the deplorable behaviors customers engage in at the LFS.

Sea Dragon Video by Todd Martin

A fan, Todd Martin, sent this video today of the sea dragons at the Sheds aquarium in Chicago. Awesome video! 

Apr 7, 2015

Molly Miller Blennies eat Aiptasia and algae

House of fins in Greenwich, CT employs some professional aquarists with incredibly impressive resumes. One of those was Ken Wingerter - marine scientist, author, marine ornamental fish beeeder, and jack of all trades in the science and aquarium fields.

While working together at HOF, I learned a few new things from Ken. One morning I was putting together a fish order from Florida. Ken turned to me and said, "see if they have molly millers. They eat Aiptasia." Why had I never heard this?

Ken explained that when he was working in an aquaculture facility, they had a major outbreak of Aiptasia. But the tanks housing molly miller blennies never had Aiptasia in them.

So we started experimenting with our display tanks. I never actually sat still long enough to witness the molly millers eating an Aiptasia, but the tanks we put them in were clean within the week.

Our maintenance team and customers started stocking their tanks with hordes of these fish. All raved about them.

What could be better Aiptasia control than a small, peaceful, reef safe fish that tolerates others of its own species? They also eat all sorts of algae and have awesome personalities.

Here is Ken's more scientific account of his experience with the molly Miller blenny.


Apr 28, 2013

Women of the Aquarium Industry - Felicia McCaulley article on Aquanerd Blog

I'm honored to be featured in the latest Aquanerd blog titled Women of the Aquarium Industry - Felicia McCaulley

I also found out that one of the customers that frequents my place of employment, the Fish Factory in Bristol, PA, has a tattoo of a photo I took. What a small world! He most likely found the photo on the internet and added it to his reef-scene tattoos. Little did he know, the tattoo he has was photographed by someone who not only lives in the same city as him, but works at his local fish store! He discovered this while reading Aquanerd's article about me and saw the photo his tattoo is based on in the article. The photo is of a Trapezia crab in an Acropora secale I used to have when I lived in Wisconsin. It's awesome that a stranger got a tattoo of one of my pets.

Mar 7, 2013

Extinct in the Wild Ameca splendens breeding in captivity

I've been a fan of livebearing fish all my life, so naturally, I've always wanted to breed enangered or extinct Goodeids. The problem is, they are hard to find. Thanks to Msjinkzd, I have a breeding colony of six Ameca splendens, my favorite extinct in the wild Goodeid. I took them to the Fish Factory in Bristol, PA where I work and put them in our 90 gallon corner display tank (you're all welcome to visit them any time!) They are finally old enough to breed, and sure enough, have been dropping fry.

my young pair of Ameca splendens

Ameca splendens Goodeid pair

young male Ameca splendens

Ameca splendens Goodeid male

Their parents at Msjinkzd

Ameca splendens extinct Goodeid

Ameca splendens extinct Goodeid

Some of the tankmates in the 90 gallon display:

a pair of rare Alfaro culturatus Knife Livebearers

Alfaro culturatus Knife Livebearer female

 More about Ameca splendens from Wikipedia:

"Ameca splendens, a bony fish from the monotypic genus Ameca[2] of the splitfin family (Goodeidae), is commonly known as the Butterfly Goodeid or Butterfly Splitfin. It was formerly found throughout the Ameca River drainage in Mexico; the type locality is Rio Teuchitlán in the vicinity of Teuchitlán, Jalisco. The species was only ever found in an area about 10 miles (15 km) in diameter.[3]
Today, the species is rated as extinct in the wild by the IUCN, though it is noted that this assessment is obsolete:[4] a remnant population has been found to persist in El Rincón waterpark near the town of Ameca. Possibly, it also exists in a feral state in the USA; individuals apparently derived from escaped or introduced captive stock were met with in southeastern Nevada.[5] For some time, it was a popular fish among aquarists, but hobbyist stocks have declined quite a lot more recently, placing its survival in jeopardy."

Mar 6, 2013

My 90 gallon Saltwater Aquarium

It's been a while since I posted an aquarium update, since a lot has changed. I've moved and changed jobs this past year, and things have been hectic. Not too hectic to continue keeping fishes. Many of the fish I brought from Wisconsin a couple years ago have passed away, some from old age. I still have Stormy, my Blue Jaw Tilefish, and Cleopatra, my beloved seahorse, one of which I raised myself who is the daughter of Hoover and Juniper.

My 90 gallon "reef"

My lovely Stormy, the Blue Jaw Tilefish, is best friends with my new Blue Tang.

Blue Jaw Tilefish and Blue Tang

Some of you might remember Mandy, my Sustainable Aquatics Fancy White Ocellaris. She's a couple years old now and paired up with an ORA Naked Ocellaris, and they are finally old enough to be practicing spawning. Let's hope for eggs soon.


 A picture of Mandy from Nov. 2011, notice the color change!

Sustainable Aquatics™ Fancy White Ocellaris Clownfish

My newest fish, a beautiful Blue Hippo Tang named "Dory" of course.


All the fish are very tame!


90 gallon Saltwater Reef

saltwater Sailfin Molly - a freshwater fish that can live in saltwater also

Saltwater Sailfin Molly

ORA Naked Ocellaris Clownfish

a 4" Sixline Wrasse

Giant Sixline Wrasse

"Nubs" the Bearded Dragon

"Nubs" is a 2 1/2 year old female Bearded Dragon. She lives with me in a dining room and living room of a Philadelphia row-home. She has a basking area and a heating pad under the TV stand, and also likes to be put on the windowsill of our big bay window to watch the fish tanks and the cars driving by. She eats about 3 dozen large crickets a week, and gets daily meals of bearded dragon food and fresh vegetables like carrots.

Nubs is pretty much exactly like having a dog. She does have a large cage, but we started letting her out more and more, and eventually, she hated going in her cage at all. This situation wouldn't work for every bearded dragon in every home, but Nubs is a special lizard. She is potty trained to go on plastic bags in the shoe corner, but sometimes misses and gets the shoes. She's extremely friendly and outgoing, always coming out to check out visitors. She loves to fall asleep on her favorite people's chests, snuggling up to our necks.

Nubs is missing a hand and part of her tail because she was injured by her brother as a baby. This is common with young dragons. She doesn't let it bother her, and she runs all around the house at full speed after basking in her favorite spot.


Bearded Dragon with TV Remote

Bearded Dragon playing Xbox


Bearded Dragon 

Bearded Dragon

Bearded Dragon

Felicia's Lizard and Snake Terrarium

This tall Exo-Terra terrarium houses a Northern Brown Snake, a female Green Anole, a female White Lipped Anole, and a pair of Five Lined Skinks. The substrate is Eco-Earth for burrowing and live plants. The live plants include a potato, some radishes, chicks and hens, and moss. A basking lamp provides heat and UV light.

I found the Northern Brown Snake on my sidewalk a few months ago on a warm day, and decided to bring him inside. I just happened to have a reptile habitat that my friend Susan left me when she moved to Florida. The snake is difficult to care for; it took a while to figure out what it eats. He only ate snails at first, but now will hunt for very small crickets.

White Lipped Anole

Northern Brown Snake



Northern Brown Snake

female Green Anole

Northern Brown Snake

Five Lined Skink

female Green Anole

Five Lined Skink

Northern Brown Snake


Mar 15, 2012

The Crabitat

Over summer vacation this year my family went to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on the Outer Banks. We noticed thousands of small holes in the sand and wondered what creature made them. One night we took a walk down the beach with flashlights and our question was answered. The holes were made by burrowing crabs the locals called "ghost crabs" (apparently great fishing bait).

 Being an aquarist, I immediately started planning an aquarium, or paludarium, rather, for my potential new subjects. It was clear to me that these crabs, though spending time in the surf at night, would die in a normal aquarium without access to deep, dry sand in which to burrow. The crabs spend the day in their safe burrows and scavenge the beach at night. They wet their gills in the water each night to breathe.

I wouldn't recommend trying this at home. These crabs make terrible pets! They're the most cryptic pet I've ever had; I've gone months without seeing any of them at all. The only indication I have that they are alive is their ever-changing network of holes and ant farm-like tunnels. They're so fast, even if I do see one, it's only for a millisecond before it dashes into its burrow. It's also not recommended to harass them or take them from the beach, as they're a very important part of the ecosystem. It's illegal to even catch them unless you have a fishing license.

Despite all these thoughts, before the end of my August 2011 family vacation I decided to bring home four Ghost Crabs in a cooler with a few inches of beach sand and set to work on a new paludarium for them right away. I glued a short, perforated baffle (aka Lee's aquarium dividers) on the left side, and a tall solid barrier on the right side of a 20 gallon aquarium, dividing it into thirds. The first baffle reaches three quarters of the way to the top of the aquarium, and the second baffle is only about six inches tall.

 On the floor of the paludarium I put a base of large river pebbles and live rock to help keep the baffles from moving. 

 I filled the rest of the right side with about 75 pounds of dry aragonite sand (NOT silicate sand which is basically tiny shards of sharp glass that will lacerate the crabs' gills and mouthparts). This was annoyingly expensive, and I had to keep going back to the local fish store for more sand. Between the two baffles is an incline made of pebbles, sand, and live rock. On the left side is the water, which I keep at 1.026 specific gravity.

Filtration (or lack thereof) is a small Via Aqua pump with a tube pumping water into the middle section of the baffles. The water runs through the sand and liverock before running back into the watery side of the tank. While building the tank, I quickly noticed that some water slowly leaked into the dry sand side of the tank. I didn't want water on this side of the tank, so I had to figure out a way to pump the water out. I had an extra Aqualifter pump, so I attached an airstone the suction side and buried it under the pebbles on the dry side. It is more than sufficient in pumping the water out of the dry side as quickly as it seeps in. It probably also helps with biological filtration. No other equipment is needed. These crabs are subtropical and prefer ambient room temperature.

My ghost crabs have now been living in captivity for over 6 months and have doubled in size. This photo next to my hand was taken today.

Ghost Crabs are similar to the brackish Uca sp. fiddler crabs that many people keep as pets, except for the burrowing and the cryptic, nocturnal habits. I was never able to figure out exactly what species these are, but they're probably Ocypode quadrata. At first I thought there were two separate species of crabs on the beach, but I believe now that the smaller crabs with sand-like patterns are juveniles, and the larger, smooth crabs are adults. The largest specimens we saw had a 2+ inch carapace and were over 4 inches across including the legs. Being scavengers, these crabs will eat almost anything. I give them crab pellets, thawed frozen shrimp, and thawed frozen fish. They seem to be fairly hardy given the right habitat, and aren't too picky about salinity changes or water quality.

Even though they're not very interesting pets, I still enjoy having them and learning about them. Eventually, I'd like to add a wavemaker or dump bucket to the left side of the "crabitat" to simulate the real ebb and flow of waves. 

Feb 21, 2012

NCPARS That Fish Place Winter Frag Swap 2012


This year's North Central Pennsylvania Aquarium Reef Society and That Fish Place Winter frag swap was a great success! If you missed it, join us on April 28th at the Williamsport, PA high school for our Spring frag swap with special guest Bob Fenner.






Enjoy the rest of the photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/feliciamccaulley/sets/72157629204066315/