Nov 2, 2011

Sea Star-Eating Nano Shrimps

One of my favorite aquariums is my 10 gallon nano reef aquarium. It contains only corals, crustaceans, and other invertebrates, so it's easier to keep clean. Some of the most interesting crustaceans in this tank are the sea star-eating shrimps: Harlequin shrimp Hymenocera elegans and Bumblebee shrimp Gnathophyllum americanum.

Bumblebee shrimp are a perfect livestock choice for a nano reef. They don't eat corals, are safe for fish, and grow less than an inch long. When it comes to feeding, they are not as picky as Harlequin shrimp or Bongo shrimp. They are carnivores who love to eat the tube feet of echinoderms like sea stars and urchins, but will also eat some small bits of frozen mysis or Cyclop-Eeze. If you provide enough sea stars, they will easily survive the attentions of a pair of Bumblebee shrimp. It's also a good idea to stock your nano with some Stomatella snails, as the Bumblebee shrimp snip pieces from the Stomatellas to eat without killing the snail. My Bumblebee shrimp is often seen harassing one of my many quickly-reproducing Stomatella snails.

Harlequin shrimp make are a great "showy" creature for a nano reef. Their beauty is surpassed by few other crustaceans. Harlequin shrimp are large enough that they are easy to spot, but small enough (only a couple inches) that they can be kept in a nano aquarium. They can be kept singly, but it's much more interesting to keep a pair. They seem to use their giant, paddle-like chelipeds to communicate with one another, perhaps coordinating their sea star attacks.

It is very easy to sex Harlequin shrimp. Females have tiny, color-spotted swimmerettes on the underside of the tail. Males have a clear, colorless underside. Two males or two females should not be housed together, but males and females pair easily and without aggression.

Unlike the Bumblebee shrimp, Harlequin shrimp consume the whole star, not just the feet. They use their large front claws to pinch and pry the legs of sea stars from their substrate, then force the sea star onto its back where it is helpless. They can keep a sea star alive for long periods of time while feasting on them.

Harlequin shrimp only eat sea stars. They don't eat brittle stars, however. The most readily available food sources for Harlequin shrimp are the tiny, hitchhiking Asterina stars, Chocolate Chip or African Knob, Linkia, Fromia, or Sand sifting stars. Linkia and Fromia stars are difficult to keep in captivity and more expensive. Remember, though, that the hardy, inexpensive Chocolate Chip and African Knob stars are not reef safe. It is possible to house a few Chocolate Chip stars separately from your nano aquarium and cut a leg off to feed the Harlequin shrimp, then allow the removed legs to grow back.

Hawaiian Harlequin shrimp are the most colorful, but they command pretty high prices and are more rare. The Indonesian variety is a little less expensive and may be purple, blue, or a combination.

Bongo shrimp are related to Harlequin shrimp, and eat both Sea Stars and Brittle stars. They are much smaller, growing to only an inch. They're also much more rare and command a price between $100 - $130 a pair. Here is a video by of Bongo shrimp eating brittle stars.

Oct 23, 2011

Mark M's aquariums

DSC_0331 by Felicia McCaulley
DSC_0331, a photo by Felicia McCaulley on Flickr.
I recently photographed my friend Mark's African Cichlid, South American Cichlid, and nano reef aquariums. Enjoy the photos here:

Oct 21, 2011

MASNA Live Interview with new BOD members, Ret Talbot on Hawaii, and MACNA wrap-up

October 2011 - MACNA wrap-up, MASNA BOD, & Ret Talbot on Hawai'i

I was honored to be voted in as the new Vendor Relations on the MASNA Board of Directors for 2012. Check out this interview with 4 new MASNA BOD members (including yours truly). Get MASNA Live podcasts and become a member of MASNA today!

Why should you join MASNA?

"MASNA is a non-profit organization composed of marine aquarium socieities and individual hobbyists from North America and abroad, totaling several thousand individuals.  

MASNA's goals are to:

  • Educate our members with online and published material, the MACNA conference, and other sanctioned events
  • Assist in forming and promoting the growth of clubs within the hobby while ensuring a sustainable future for the marine environment
  • Support the efforts to eliminate abuses in collecting and transporting marine organisms through education, assistance and encouragement
  • Encourage the ethical growth of the marine aquarium hobby and support captive breeding/propagation efforts
MASNA operates from a central Board of Directors elected each year by the delegates from the member societies at the Marine Aquarium Conference of North America, (MACNA).

In our efforts to ensure a sustainable future for marine environments and the marine aquarium hobby. MASNA provides its members:  
  • Access to a speaker database
  • A quarterly newsletter
  • An annual conference (MACNA) and logistical support for host clubs
  • Material resources to help conduct club business and found new clubs
  • A large repository of educational resource materials
  • Partnerships with funding and conservation organizations, fellowship opportunities, volunteer activities, and a scholarship fund
  • Links, partnerships and resources to existing breeding and aquaculture facilities and organizations
  • An extensive bookstore and merchandise store with discounts for members
  • Practical tips for saving the world’s oceans from within the hobby and through personal action
  • A collective voice in national and international initiatives
  • Strategies, resources and online materials to improve husbandry, aquarium keeping and reduce mortality
  • Large resources for conservation related activities and information"

Luke G's 150XH Reef

Yawning Ocellaris Clownfish

Recently I was able to photograph my friend Luke G's amazing 150XH reef. The most amazing part is he just set it up in July after moving to a new place. Luke is an Acropora fanatic and takes great care of his aquatic pets. I can't wait to see the tank more grown in. See the full album here:

Seahorse Drawing

A special thanks goes out to one of Felicia's Aquarium Adventures' young readers, Jonathan, for this beautiful seahorse picture. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did!

Oct 3, 2011

Liomera sp.

Liomera sp. by Felicia McCaulley
Liomera sp., a photo by Felicia McCaulley on Flickr.

Strawberry crabs are considered to be reef safe "with caution." As far as crabs go, this species is one of the more coral safe crabs.

This little crab was found as a hitchhiker at The Hidden Reef in Levittown, PA. It now resides in my 10 gallon nano tank. So far it is not bothering any of the corals or its peaceful crustacean tank mates.

Naxiodes taurus

Naxiodes taurus  by Felicia McCaulley
Naxiodes taurus , a photo by Felicia McCaulley on Flickr.

Sometimes called the Soft coral crab or decorated horn crab. Commensal on soft corals, gorgonians, and sea fans. This one was found in the folds of a Leptoseris at The Hidden Reef in Levittown, PA.

I put this crab in my 10 gallon nano tank. This tank has no fish in it, only corals and small, reef safe crustaceans.

Aug 9, 2011 is a site that allows members to write reviews of species and breeds of pets. This allows new pet owners to read the first-hand accounts and reviews of real people who have kept the species or breed they are interested in before they buy/adopt it. Make sure you sign up and add your 2 cents on your favorite (or least favorite) species kept as pets. Your experience could help new pet owners decide which pet is or is not right for them.

This month Felicia's Aquarium Adventures is the featured member! Check out our reviews of saltwater fish (and other critters).

Jul 14, 2011

How to Kill Hydroids in Dwarf Seahorse and Fry Tanks

 Recently, my dwarf seahorse tank became infested with stinging hydroids. Hydroids are very dangerous to dwarf seahorses and other fish fry. Learn how you can prevent and destroy hydroids in your fry tank or dwarf seahorse tank:

Jul 13, 2011

Jul 10, 2011

hybrid guppy endler pintail

This is one of my favorites. He is an old man now; he even moved from Wisconsin to PA with me in January. His father is an albino endler hybrid created by Adrian HD and his mother came from a line of yellow snakeskin doubleswords I'd been breeding for many years.

Jul 8, 2011

Athanas sp. red striped shrimp

Another cool hitchhiker my co-worker Bill Lowe found in a rock where we work at The Hidden Reef in Levittown, PA. This one is super tiny, maybe a centimeter. He found it a couple weeks ago, and it's still alive and well in my tank!

Seahorses on Blue Zoo Radio!

I was honored to be a guest on Blue Zoo Radio last month talking about seahorses. The show was recorded and can be listened to here:

I'm the second guest, starting at about 24 minutes.

Listen in every Sunday night at 8 pm or Check out the archives

About Blue Zoo Radio:

"...Blue Zoo Radio. A show dedicated to each and every aquarist making a difference in the hobby. Blue Zoo Radio features interviews with Industry Leaders, best selling authors, manufacturers, fish clubs, other hobbyists and You.
Blue Zoo Radio is live every Sunday evening at 8pm EST. The archives are available for immediate download to your computer, iPod or Mp3 player OR you can stream them on your computer ON Demand."

Delaware Valley Reef Club Spring Frag Swap 2011 Recap

If you’re like me, you’re a big fan of Ken Nedimyer and the Coral Restoration Foundation. If you missed the Delaware Valley Reef Club Spring 2011 frag swap and you still want to see Ken’s keynote speech, you can watch the video provided by DVRC on youtube:

I was honored to do my aquarium photography presentation at the frag swap. You can watch video of the presentation here:

Go to for more pictures, videos, and info about the frag swap.

H. angustus x H. erectus Hybrid Seahorse fry – first ever crossing

hybrid seahorse fry by Felicia McCaulley
hybrid seahorse fry, a photo by Felicia McCaulley on Flickr.

On May 12th, my beloved Hippocampus angustus female named Marmalade and my Hippcampus erectus male named Kohala (who I raised from birth) gave birth to about 25 little hybrid fry!

Go to for tons more photos of the fry and parents.

pistol shrimp long leg

On June 14th my co-worker Bill at The Hidden Reef in Levittown, PA noticed an extraordinarily long, but thin, shrimp leg darting in and out of a series of holes that appeared to be drilled through the top of the rock. He chiseled open the rock and found this pistol shrimp. The pistol shrimp had to have been growing inside the rock unable to leave since it was very young, similar to the way a gall crab grows inside a coral. If anyone recognizes this pistol shrimp and can identify it, please go to to leave a comment

Hybrid Guppy Endler

hybrid endler guppy by Felicia McCaulley
hybrid endler guppy, a photo by Felicia McCaulley on Flickr.

This is one of my favorite guppies. He is a cross between a hybrid albino endler and a red guppy female. Notice the colored pelvic fins.

Mar 9, 2011

Coral Eating Nudibranchs and Slugs

Always check new corals for coral eating nudibranchs and slugs. Many people are familiar with the Zoanthid eating nudibranchs, but there are nudibranchs and slugs that eat all types of corals. These pests are well camouflaged and not easy to spot, preferring to hide at the base of their hosts. Look for them around receding tissue, polyps that won’t open, or dead white skeleton. It is strongly recommended to quarantine new corals and to dip them in a coral dip, flatworm exit, or iodine before placing them in the tank.

Tritonia spp. nudibranchs are often seen on purple Gorgonians from the Caribbean and can do serious damage in a short time if not removed. Unfortunately, they are extremely tiny and transparent. LPS eating slugs like the Turbinaria eating slug and Scolymia eating slug are not particularly common, but they show up from time to time. Removal is not difficult since they are relatively large and don’t seem to reproduce in captivity. Phestilla melanobrachia is a nudibranch that eats Dendrophyllid corals and grows up to 2 inches in length. They are usually found on Tubastrea spp. corals in captivity. Small Zoanthid eating nudibranchs are fairly common on almost types of Zoanthids. There are countless other species of slugs and nudibranchs that eat other corals like Xenia, tree corals, Montipora, etc.

Anatomy of an Aeolid Nudibranch

Zoanthid eating nudibranchs and Tubastrea eating nudibranchs are both types of Aeolid nudibranch. The black specks behind the first two antennae are the eyes. The finger-like appendages on the back are called cerata. The darker tips of the cerata are called cnidosacs. A Zoa eating nudibranch can consume immature nematocysts from its prey and store them in these sacs for protection against predators. The nudibranch also gets its coloration from its prey. Like their cousins the photosynthetic Elysia spp. slugs, Zoanthus eating nudibranchs even steal zooxanthellae from the Zoanthus.
Reefers have had success eradicating the Zoa eating nudibranch with Salifert’s Flatworm Exit in high doses. Obviously, you have to be careful using this method. It’s best to take affected colonies out of the tank and treat them in a bucket of tank water with an overdose of Flatworm Exit. If you have a lot of hidden planaria (which release toxins when they die) in your main tank, it could crash. Have several pounds of carbon on hand when using Flatworm Exit. Since Flatworm Exit won’t kill the eggs of the nudibranch, you need to repeat the treatment four days later. These treatments may work on other types of coral eating nudibranchs and slugs.

 This is a Phestilla melanobrachia, a Dendrophyllid eating Aeolid nudibranch sometimes found on sun corals Tubastrea spp. in captivity.
Phestilla melanobrachia 






Mar 6, 2011

Pictures of my Livestock

I recently moved from WI to Philadelphia, and these are some of the fish that came with me:

Curious Wormfish




Hippocampus angustus


Dwarf Seahorse Male

Bristletail Filefish


brotulid yellow eel goby

Cirrhilabrus rubriventralis


albino endler's male

Hybrid Limia

Hybrid Limia parents

Mar 2, 2011

Raising Clingfish Larvae

I'm trying to raise Clingfish larvae that I got form work (The Hidden Reef in Levittown, PA). If you have any tips and helpful hints, please leave a comment.

More pics and info here:

Commensal Acropora Palaemonid Shrimp

What kind of shrimp is this? I thought maybe a Palaemonid shrimp of the genus Cuapetes or Palaemonella. Not sure. I found it on an Acropora millepora last week and threw it in my frag tank. I brought home this tiny Acro frag last night (from The Hidden Reef in Levittown, PA), and the shrimp has decided to host on it...The shrimp isn't hurting the frag, just really, really likes it. There are plenty of places to hide, including a dead Acro colony, but the shrimp insists it wants an Acro I guess.

More info here:

Acro Shrimp

Feb 16, 2011

Moving Your Aquarium

I recently moved from Wisconsin to Philadelphia, and wasn't willing to part with my fish. It wasn't easy, but I got most all of them to their new home safe and sound. Here's an article with detailed instructions on how to pack your fish and corals for moving across town or across the country.


Special thanks to Mandy, I couldn't have done it without you <3

Feb 6, 2011

Tuberculatus Seahorses Perfect for a 10 Gallon Aquarium

One of the questions most commonly asked on is, "Can I keep my seahorses in a 10 gallon aquarium?" The short answer is no. None of the species currently available to hobbyists in the United States are suitable for a ten gallon tank (except a large herd of Dwarf Seahorses H. zosterae which require live Artemia feedings.)

Hippocampus tuberculatus courting males
Hippocapmus tuberculatus courting males
 Hippocampus tuberculatus is a small seahorse (~2-1/2")  from Australia that thrives in smaller aquariums but is large enough to eat frozen mysis shrimp. They are commonly yellow and sport bumps on their bodies, tails, and faces that may turn bright red especially during courting. This species used to be lumped in with the temperate Hippocampus breviceps, but they differ in having a smaller size and coming from a warmer habitat. H. breviceps and H. tuberculatus are most closely related to the large, temperate H. abdominalis.

Because all seahorses, even those that are not at risk of population reduction, were placed on the CITES list, exotic wild caught seahorses are not as readily available in the United States as captive bred seahorses. Most distributors consider importing Australian seahorse species not worth the trouble because of permit costs, shipping costs, and low survivability of wild caught seahorses. Divers don't usually collect them, but if they do, there's a good chance they will not be able to identify species or even gender.

For many years I searched for a supplier of my favorite seahorse species H. breviceps. According to Rudie Kuiter's 2009 Seahorses and their Relatives, this species is numerous in its wild Australian habitat. The species' success may be in part due to the recent drop in population of large predators. Normally this species is demersal, but in recent years, large colonies of pelagic individuals that normally could not survive predation have been seen living on sea grass mats.

Last May, friends in the industry who knew I was looking for Australian seahorses found a single pair H. breviceps on a list from a distributor. Despite the cost, I ordered them without hesitation. When they arrived, at once I realized they were both males. My dreams of breeding them were dashed! After consulting some seahorse ID experts in the US and Australia, we decided they were actually H. tuberculatus instead of the similar H. breviceps.

Hippocampus tuberculatus
Notice the red bumps and white forehead triangle typical of H. tuberculatus

I had a ten gallon chilled temperate aquarium set up for the Breviceps, but raised the temperature to 68F for the Tubercualtus (H. tuberculatus isn't fully tropical and should only briefly be exposed to higher temperatures of 75F maximum). After a couple days of acclimating to captive life, they began eating enriched live adult brine shrimp. They weren't gaining weight very easily, so they also went through a delicate but successful de-worming process. Within a month, they were eating frozen Cyclop-eeze along with the adult brine, and by the end of June were eating frozen mysis and fattened up nicely.

The most endearing thing about my two Tuberculatus that I named Lemony and Snicket was the way they "crash-landed" into a hitching post. Most seahorses swim to a hitch and wrap their tails around it to land. These Tuberculatus almost always swam at a hitch at full speed and then landed with the neck first, then body, then wrapped the tail around the hitch.

Hippocampus tuberculatus
H. tuberculatus first day in his new aquarium
Lemony and Snicket did well in captivity, eating frozen mysis and courting each other constantly. Even though I couldn't breed them because they were both males, I prized my rare-in-captivity Tuberculatus and doted on them. Unfortunately, five months later, one of the Tubers died for seemingly no reason that I could determine. In November I lost the other. He died still hitched to his hitching post without a mark on his body and a full belly. I've found that wild caught seahorses are much more difficult to keep than captive bred since they are more likely to be exposed to pathogens and diseases that are difficult or impossilbe to identify and/or treat.

My hope is that in the future the highly desirable Hippocampus tuberculatus will be collected and imported in larger numbers so captive breeding in the United States can begin and make this species available to hobbyists. This beautiful, unique species is worth the trouble because it is the perfect seahorse for most hobbyist's aquariums - small enough to fit in a 10 gallon tank but large enough to eat frozen mysis shrimp.