Aug 29, 2009

Shedd Aquarium Tour

My husband and I went to Chicago this week to see one of our favorite bands, Modest Mouse, and to visit the Shedd Aquarium. We got a private tour and got to see some really awesome behind the scenes stuff.

Ventralis Anthias

The Caribbean Reef exhibit is the first one you see when you walk into the Shedd. It is absolutely enormous. There were a lot of large Caribbean fish in there like tangs, sharks, porkfish, parrotfish, wrasses, turtles, and a big school of Lookdowns.

Shedd Caribbean Reef

I think I spent most of my time in the coral quarantine room. They had a fine collection of neon colored Fungiid corals and some of the biggest and brightest LPS I've seen. I was totally blown away by the group of gorgeous Tridacna crocea clams, soon to be on display.

What really amazed me was that the Shedd has been spawn collecting Acropora palmata corals from the Caribbean. Like all Caribbean stony corals, Acropora plamata is illegal to collect, which is why I've never seen one in person. These larger pieces pictured are about two years old.

I mentioned that it's too bad that A. palmata isn't more colorful, but at least some of the smaller pieces had green or purple colored polyps. They said that A. palmata doesn't have colored polyps in the wild, but after DNA analysis of the symbiotic Zooxanthellae algae (what gives coral its color), they found that the sexually reproduced pieces were taking in Zooxanthellae from Pacific speices of coral. That is what is giving them the colored polyps, and also makes them hardier.

Most public aquariums traditionally had fake corals in their displays, mostly because the corals were too difficult to keep, and so they could treat the displays with copper. Sure, they had reef fish and rubber coral replicas, but not much to offer the seasoned reefer. The Shedd has an exhibit called the Wild Reef, a giant room downstairs with wall-to-wall reef tanks, live coral everywhere! I was also really impressed with the Shedd's collection of Anthias.

I am a little sad that I didn't get to see the seahorse and sea dragon exhibit called "Seahorse Symphony" wich has since moved to Duluth and is now called "Seahorse Secrets." The Shedd has a small collection of seahorses, mostly H. reidi, H. kuda, H. erectus, and H. comes. Most of them were in fairly good condition, which is not bad for a public aquarium. They also had a few nice pipefish and trumpetfish mixed in with the reef tanks. It's hard to impress me with seahorses, but I did enjoy the small sea dragon exhibits. They seemed to be in good health, considering their delicate nature.

Leafy Sea Dragon
I was really upset by one of the other guests at the aquarium who was using his camera's flash to photograph these sensitive animals. There is a large sign next to the tank that says, "NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY;" I pointed at the sign and said, literally, "You're not supposed to use your flash on these. It kills them." He glared at me and continued to use his flash. I use my flash on my home aquariums all the time, but I don't do it for 12 hours a day every day. This is why I didn't use my flash at all at the Shedd. It's not good for the fish and animals there to be constantly hit with bright lights. Sea dragons are particularly sensitive to camera flash (or any bright light), it can literally stress them to death. So if you go to the Shedd, don't use your flash, please.

There are a lot of freshwater exhibits, as well. I really enjoyed the Goodeid exhibit and the planted neon tetra tank. I got to meet Steve, one of the aquarists who breeds and cares for the freshwater fish. We thought he was a really cool guy who seemed to be really passionate about his job.

Neon Tetras

See more photos from my trip on my Flickr Shedd Aquarium set. Also check out the Shedd Aquarium Chicago Flickr Group where you can submit your own Shedd Aquarium photos. THis group is frequented by the Shedd staff and other Shedd Aquarium enthusiasts.

Aug 22, 2009

squat lobsters sharing crinoid

I still have the two black Crinoids in my aquarium, but the purple one slowly fell apart and died. The black ones are not doing bad, still extending their arms to feed.

I was surprised last night when I glanced at one of the Crinoids to find that both of my squat lobsters were hosting in it.

squat lobsters sharing crinoid

Darth Maul, in the lower half of the photo, is a Galathea inflata. He prefers to cling to the rocks underneath a Crinoid. Sometimes he moves to a different Crinoid, and sometimes doesn't stand under one at all. Darth Vader, in the upper portion of the photo, is an Allogalathea elegans. He is always in a Crinoid, usually in the center or on the arms.

Squat lobsters are solitary creatures, so it's unusual to find them sharing a Crinoid. These two have not been fond of one another, either. Darth Maul has chased Darth Vader from his favorite Crinoid before. But it looks like they've made a truce. There is another Crinoid in the aquarium, exactly like this one, but they both prefer this one. They are still sharing this morning, I wonder how long this will last.

Aug 13, 2009

Yasha Goby and Red Banded Pistol Shrimp

Last night when I was feeding my fish, I was shocked to see that my Yasha goby has a friend! Kenobie, my Yasha goby, has been alone for over two years now. About a year ago, I bought her an unidentified green pistol shrimp from my LFS; I later ID'd it as Alpheus ochrostriatus. They completely ignored one another. So in February, I got a Wheeler's goby for the pistol shrimp. Kenobie was still all alone, except for her peppermint shrimp friends. In February I bought her an Alpheus randalli, red banded pistol shrimp, which is the pistol shrimp that Yasha gobies are commensal with in the wild. I heard a lot of pistol shrimp popping and shooting, and didn't see the red banded pistol shrimp after that at all. I thought for sure it was killed by the much larger green pistol shrimp. But all is well, and my Yasha has a new pistol shrimp friend!Yasha-Goby-pistol-shrimp

Aug 4, 2009

Almost Finished Renovations

I finally finished moving my aquariums around the kitchen. The 55 gallon with the 20 gallon sump is now home to all the reef fish, inverts, non-photosynthetic corals, and seahorses. The 25 gallon nano bullet tank is now a coral-only tank. The 37 gallon, which used to be the seahorse tank, is now a planted guppy and Limia tank. I usually go to bed pretty early, but some night I'll try to stay up past dark and get a shot of all three tanks with the lights off in the kitchen so you don't have to look at my refrigerator.

Allogalathea on Crinoid

I had to combine the two saltwater tanks and was nervous at first about how everyone would get along. So far, there haven't been any major problems. There was a squat lobster confrontation, however, on the first day. Darth Maul, the Galathea inflata, evicted Darth Vader, the Allogalathea elegans, from its favorite black Crinoid. In the wild, Darth Vader would have been eaten immediately without the protection of a Crinoid. So it felt that it had to move quickly to the nearest Crinoid, which happened to be my newest Crinoid, a purple one. It was obvious that Darth Vader did not like the purple Crinoid much, because it made its way to the nearest uninhabited black Crinoid soon after. Darth Maul, the Galathea inflata, does not live on the center of the Crinoid like Darth Vader does. Instead, it stands on the rock underneath the Crinoid's outstretched arms.

Purple Crinoid

What I found interesting is that the short, tufted antennae on either side of its rostrum were pointed toward the Crinoid the whole time it was travelling toward it. I wonder if commensal squat lobsters use those to chemically sense, or smell Crinoids. I wish I knew what those little antennae, circled in red on the picture at left, were called.

Pink Zoas

I found this pretty Zoanthus gigantus rock at my local store. Since I was good at the doctor and didn't hit the anesthesiologist this time, my husband let me buy it. For this photo, I tried out my new surface viewer while the coral was in acclimation. I think it turned out pretty well.

The light fixture I won from a raffle is kind of broken. Only some of the bulbs light up now. That's ok, since this is a non-photosynthetic tank now, and the hair algae is dying. Both the actinics light up, which looks pretty nice. Here's my sea cucumber under actinic lighting. It's still doing well and eats phytoplankton every day. It's difficult to tell since they change shape so much, but I think it has grown. It definitely hasn't gotten smaller. You can also see in the photo a small, white tuft coming out around the mouth. Since taking this photo last week, it has grown into a regular sized feeding tentacle. I don't think the animal hasn't lost any tentacles, so I wonder why it's growing new ones.