Feb 25, 2009

My Shrimp and Goby Pair

In July 2007, I found a Yasha white ray shrimp goby Stonogobiops yasha (sometimes incorrectly called Stonogobiops yashia) on sale at my Local fish store. She was all alone, no mate or shrimp. I brought her home and all was well. In August, I added a couple peppermint shrimps Lysmata wurdemanni. I was surprised when my goby took a liking to the larger of the shrimp. She allowed the shrimp to live in her home with her, which was a hole in the live rock. She showed the same behavior with the shrimp that she would have shown with a shrimp Yashas are naturally commensal with, Alpheus randalli. Any time the shrimp was in the hole, she would stand guard outside of the hole. The peppermint shrimp even kept an antennae on her body a lot of the time.

About six months ago, I saw a shrimp living with a Wheeler's goby at my local fish store that was labeled "Synalpheus sp." I figured the ID was wrong, but since it was living with a goby, I figured it would live with mine. I was wrong. My Yasha goby ignored my new pistol shrimp, and I never saw the pistol shrimp again. Except for its antennae while it was poking out of its burrow.

I finally was able to ID my pistol shrimp while I was writing my post Interesting Nano Crustaceans. At the time I bought it, I didn't know much about pistol shrimps. But recently I've been reading up on pistol shrimps and their taxonomy. I pulled out the photo I took of the shrimp the day I got it, and recognized it as an Alpheus ochrostriatus. On Monday, I took a trip to my local fish store and saw a Wheeler's goby, Amblyeleotris wheeleri, which is the shrimp's natural goby-friend. I brought it home!

Mere hours later, the two of them had found each other and were busy working on their new home. I'm happy to finally have a (natural) shrimp and goby pair!

August 13: UPDATE! my Yasha finally has her own shrimp friend! An Alpheus randalli, red banded pistol shrimp AKA candy pistol shrimp.

Feb 21, 2009

New Seahorse Species Discovered

A new species of pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus debelius, has been discovered by Helmut Debelius.

"New Hippocampus species announced under Debelius
On behalf of Tauch Terminal Bali Management, and believed also representing all dive professionals around the world. We would like to congratulate Mr Helmut Debelius for another great achievement in his underwater research and conquest, for the announcement of the new hippocampus family species, which now named under Debelius himself. Looking forward to the new book which will be launched at the BOOT SHOW 2009, Duesseldorf. "
- from http://www.tauch-terminal.com/lastminute.htm


Feb 20, 2009

Some interesting Nano crustaceans

Since Nano aquariums have become very popular over the past few years, I'll share with you some of my favorite Nano-crustaceans.

Many beginner aquarists tend to focus mainly on fish when adding stock to a new aquarium. I think this is because most people start with freshwater aquariums, and there are not a lot of freshwater aquarium invertebrates. Many Nano aquariums are too small for fish. Even the largest Nano aquarium (25 gallons is still considered a "nano" tank) should only contain a few very small fish. Invertebrates produce less waste than fish, so more of them can fit into a small aquarium. The number and variety of saltwater invertebrates available to hobbyists is staggering. The colors, shapes, and behaviors of these animals rival those of fish. So why not make a marine Nano aquarium invertebrate showcase?

Many of the invertebrates I'm going to write about are cryptic and would rarely be seen in a regular sized aquarium. These are ideal for a small aquarium with some live rock and corals.

Top: Allogalathea elegans Bottom: Galathea inflata

Galatheids, or squat lobsters and porcelain crabs, are some of my favorite nano-inverts. They are among the most peaceful invertebrates and are completely reef safe. They are very small, most reaching only up to 1-1/2" or 2" in size. Unless you find a mated pair, two of the same species shouldn't be kept in the same aquarium; they will fight. Common Squat lobsters can sometimes be found as hitchhikers on live rock or corals and make fine pets. These are usually dull colored, though. Crinoid squat lobsters such as the ones pictured above are becoming more common and can be purchased from Liveaquaria.com's Diver's Den. In the wild these crustaceans are commensal on Crinoid feather stars. They use the sea stars for camouflage and steal their food. Crinoid feather stars are next to impossible to keep in aquariums. Luckily, these Crinoid squat lobsters do not require them for survival. They readily accept frozen foods and adapt well to aquarium life. The Galathea inflata in the bottom photo above has been living in my aquarium since November 2007.

A more rare and unusual crab for the nano aquarium is the Zebra crab, Zebrida adamsii. This crab is very peaceful with its tankmates, and it's almost totally reef safe. It does not harm corals, fish, or other crustaceans. However, this crab is an urchin parasite. In the wild they host on fire urchins Asthenosoma varium, consuming their spines. They can move from one urchin to another and do little harm to the urchins. Unfortunately, they only eat urchin spines and do not accept frozen or prepared foods in captivity. Since fire urchins are highly venomous and rare in our hobby, other urchins can be substituted. Pincushion urchins and longspine urchins are favorites of this crab in captivity. It may be necessary to provide urchins continually every few months, as the health of the urchin will decline over time while the crab hosts on it. To prolong the life of the urchins, provide at least two or three per crab. These crabs are highly territorial, so only one per tank is recommended.

If you plan to keep a fish in your Nano aquarium, I would recommend a shrimp goby. Shrimp gobies form fascinating relationships with pistol shrimps from the genus Alpheus. The pistol shrimp digs a burrow in which both animals live, while the goby provides food and warns the poor-sighted shrimp of danger. Any time the shrimp is outside the burrow, it keeps an antennae on the body of the goby. The goby hovers above, acting as a lookout. If the goby is alarmed, it will warn the shrimp with a flick of its tail and dart into the burrow after the shrimp.

The lovely shrimp in the above photo is an Alpheus ochrostriatus, which pairs with gobies of the genus Amblyeleotris and Ctenogobiops.

Some other interesting shrimps for the Nano aquarium include species from the Periclimenes and Urocaridella genus. These shrimps are almost completely translucent with most species having colorful markings. Periclimenes shrimps are usually commensal on anemones or corals, depending on the species, but do not require them for survival in captivity. Urocaridella shrimps are cleaner shrimps. These peaceful, miniscule shrimps only grow up to 1-1/2" on average and readily accept prepared foods in the aquarium. Periclimenes venustus is my personal favorite in this group. I like to call them the "Hand Jive Shrimp" because of the way they wave their claws. Photo from Teguh Tirtaputra's photostream.

One of the oddest looking shrimps for the Nano aquarium is the Ghost Pipe Shrimp, Leander plumosus. Not much is known about this cryptic species, except that their body shape may be used to mimic pipefish, and that like some pipefish, they may be cleaner animals.

I can not write this post without mentioning the shrimps from the family Gnathophyllidae. This family includes Harlequin shrimps and Bumblebee shrimps. Shrimp from this family typically feed on Echinoderms (sea stars and urchins.)

Harlequin shrimp, Hymenocera elegans and H. picta, are indisputably the most beautiful shrimp that can be kept in an aquarium. They have cream colored bodies with purple, blue, and pink markings and paddle shaped claws. Their diet consists exclusively of starfish, most notably from the genus Linkia. They can be expensive, with pairs being sold for around $80.00. But it's worth it. Harlequin shrimp photo by Sergey Parinov.

A less expensive and easier to keep alternative to the Harlequin shrimp is the Bumblebee shrimp, Gnathophyllum americanum. This is the smallest animal I will write about today. Most only reach about 3/4" in size. They will accept frozen meaty foods like cyclops and mysis. Bumblebee shrimp photo from Underwater Australia.

The last shrimp I'll write about today is the Bongo Shrimp, Phyllognathia ceratophthalmus. They are very rare in the aquarium trade, and not much is know about them and their habits. They are closely related to Harelquin shrimps. They command a pretty high price tag, about $100 for a pair. These would be the ultimate Nano-crustacean for the aquarist who loves rare and unusual beauties. Liveaquaria has an amazing video of one of these shrimp eating a brittle star.

Also check out this Youtube video of a Bongo Shrimp in the wild by N. Akimoto:

Feb 18, 2009

My new Cirrhilabrus fairy wrasse

I bought my very first fairy wrasse on Friday. She is a long fin fairy wrasse, Cirrhilabrus rubriventralis which is often confused with Cirrhilabrus joanallenae. The difference is the color of the pelvic fins. The C. rubriventralis have red pelvic fins ("rubri" means red and "ventralis" means fin on ventral side of fish, such as pelvic fin), and the C. joanallenae have black pelvic fins.

I've been thinking about getting some fairy and flasher wrasses for a long time, but couldn't get past the price. $80 for a super male flasher wrasse is a little steep for me. But if you can find females, they sell for around $30 a fish, which isn't bad at all. Plus, it's best to keep females together at first, and then the most dominant will turn into a male. All fairy and flasher wrasses are protogynous hermaphrodites. They start life as females, then the more dominant one in a group becomes male.

Longfin fairy wrasses are also known as the "fighting fairy wrasse" for a good reason. It's best to keep only one per tank, unless they are sold to you as a mated pair and are getting along. A male and female that are not already acquainted with one another will probably fight.

This isn't the best photo of this species, here is "Venus," my long finned fairy wrasse.

I'm shopping for more wrasses, but I'm going to have to stick to smaller species because I only have a 55 gallon aquarium. If you plan to get some fairy or flasher wrasses, be careful, they're jumpers! I had to cover the spaces in my hood with pond netting to keep them from jumping.

March Update: "Venus" is doing really well. She swims and flares constantly. She's fat and eats frozen mysis very well. I have also seen her successfully hunt down and catch amphipods in my aquarium just about every day. She is the most accomplished amphipod hunter in my aquarium!

Better Pics Here

New juvenile Erectus seahorses!

I got 3 new little Erectus on February 9th! These are the "Black Seahorses" on Liveaquaria.com. I was pleasantly surprised when they came in that they were chubby and ate really well. They'll even swim after food. It was neat to see them interact with my bigger seahorses for the first time. I keep getting good shots of the one with all the cirri, I think it's my favorite one. One was a dull yellow when it was in quarantine, but it turned black in my main tank. I think I like them better black with silver saddles, anyway.

And I couldn't help but post some pictures of the seahorse toothbrush holder from Target that my husband got me for valentine's day!

Mixing Syngnathids

So many of us aquarium keepers focus on our successes and try to forget about our failings. I think it's important to document both.

Keeping seahorses and pipefish is not easy. What makes it more difficult is when you don't follow the rules.

Rule#1. QUARANTINE for at least a month. Especially if you have wild caught Syngnathids, you'll want to deworm.

Rule#2. Don't let the temperature rise above 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Syngnathids are prone to an infection from Vibrio bacteria. I'm not a pathologist, but it was explained to me by a pathologist--when the temperature rises above 74 degrees, a protein in the Vibrio bacteria changes, and the seahorses' immune system won't recognize it. Also, when the temperature is this warm, the Vibrio becomes both more aggressive and infectious and reproduces faster. If your Syngnathid ever becomes infected, move it to a hospital tank and lower the temperature to 68 degrees. Then go on Seahorse.org and ask for help!

Rule#3 Don't mix seahorses from different locations, different species of seahorses, or different species of Syngnathids (including pipefish). The reason, again, is Vibrio. Different species of seahorses and pipefish and even those from different locations (e.g. breeders) carry different strains of Vibrio. With little exception, all Syngnathids are asymptomatic carriers of Vibrio, meaning, they carry the disease without symptoms or infection. So mixing a seahorse with a pipefish means that different strains of Vibrio (and various other pathogens that may be linked to that species) are going to be introduced. This would be similar to the plagues given to the Native Americans when the Europeans came to their continent. This can have disastrous results!

Dilution and cleanliness may be another piece to the mixing Syngnathids puzzle. In our aquariums, fish are stocked much more heavily than they would be in the wild (compared to water volume). Bacteria can reproduce quickly and reach plague proportions. Doing large, regular water changes and siphoning all decaying matter from the aquarium can go a long way toward healthier seahorses. Bare-bottomed aquariums are very easy to keep clean; scrub the walls and bottom of the aquarium regularly in addition to siphoning detritus and large water changes.

I have a 55 gallon main tank with a 37 gallon tank plumbed inline. The tanks have a chiller that keeps the temperature between 68 and 73 degrees, depending on the season. Right now, I'm keeping it around 71 to get ready for spring and warmer weather when I'll let it run warmer to help keep my chiller from wearing out.

There are bluestriped pipefish and Erectus seahorses in there right now. I've had other species of pipefish in these tanks at various times, but none have survived to date dejected.gif

Basically, I've had just about every kind of Syngnathid possible in this tank. I come across a lot of them in my line of work, and it's hard not to bring everything home. Most didn't survive, but I don't think it's mainly due to mixing species. It's definitely possible that it was a factor, but the main cause of death for the pipefish I've had has been starvation or probably weakness caused by emaciation.


July 07: I got two bluestriped pipefish. They were quarantined for over a month and taught to eat frozen food. They are still alive today and are fat and healthy. their seahorse.org thread

Jan 09: added a D. pessuliferus and D. dactyliophorus. One week quarantine, taught to eat frozen. Died five days later, uncertain of cause. Now that I've seen more of these animals, I realize how thin mine were when I got them.
Around the same time, dragonfaced pipefish were put in quarantine (right after the bandeds came out). They were in pretty bad shape up upon arrival, ragged tail and pretty skinny. I never once saw either of them eat anything, not even live copepods. Kept alive for two months, then one got snout rot and died, the other got thinner and thinner till it died.
seahorse.org thread

Sept 08: I suddenly acquired a Redstripe pipefish and a ghost pipefish. Ghost pipefish are nearly impossible to keep in aquariums, even public aquariums. I would never get one on purpose, but this one was a gift. Unfortunately, both were extremely thin. I went on vacation that week to get married and had "the fish guy" from work come over to take care of them. Neither survived.
seahorse.org thread

Sept 08: got my first seahorses, a pair of large adult true CB Erectus originally from Carlsbad Aquafarms. They came in really healthy and ate well. Still doing really well. They were quarantined for several weeks.
seahorse.org thread

Recently, the really skinny stick pipefish (pictures in a previous post) never ate and died a couple days later.

Feb 09: got three new true CB juvenile erectus seahorses originally from Mexico. Quarantined and de-fluked in the same system and manner as the first seahorses. They are eating well and very active.
seahorse.org thread

The day before yesterday, one of my juvie erectus seemed to be having trouble eating. Yesterday when I came home from work, I noticed that he was "playing" with his trigger a lot. It's wasn't exactly stuck, but it seemed "sticky." I gave him a 10 minute FW dip, and he didn't thrash a lot or get very stressed out. Minutes later, he was back to normal and chasing down his food. He ate a lot last night and today. I will keep an eye on him. I have immediate access to any medicine. April update: never showed symptoms again, full recovery.