The “Salmon Cannon” and other Odd Aquatic Stories from the News

Here are a few stories that I came across recently that are definitely not something you see every day.  Some of these are a real head scratchers.

 

What is the worst fish to eat?

The Souza family from Rio de Janeiro may have found out the hard way.  The family sat down to eat a fish dinner, a nice meal provided by a family friend who caught the fish on the Brazilian Coast.  As they started to eat the fish, it quickly became apparent that there was something wrong.  The Fish that they were eating was a poisonous Puffer Fish, whose venom has paralyzing effects.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-29762738

 

Climate Change Awareness

I’m not sure how transporting 112 Tons of Glacier from Greenland to Copenhagen, Denmark is somehow a good idea to promote Climate Change Awareness, but that is exactly what has been done.  The Ice will be put on display so people can SEE climate change, as the icebergs melt.  Given the Carbon footprint of capturing and transporting these things 2000 miles, only to melt in the street seems a bit misguided to me.

http://gizmodo.com/what-it-takes-to-transport-112-tons-of-arctic-ice-over-1650551970

 

Invasive Species lead to a drastic decision

Invasive aquatic species are a real problem; invasive species can destroy habitats, and outcompete local species where they are introduced.  In San Francisco’s Presidio Mountain Lake Park invasive species of Carp, Sturgeon and Bass have been wiping out indigenous species.  After years of trying conventional methods like fishing, trapping and even electroshock without success, they are planning to take even more drastic measure.  They are going to poison the lake, to kill all the fish, and then reintroduce native fish back into the pond.  Death by conservation is a tough way to go for anything living in the pond if you ask me.

http://news.discovery.com/earth/california-lake-poisoned-to-get-rid-of-invasive-fish-141020.htm?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dnewsnewsletter#mkcpgn=emnws1

 

Shooting Fish from a cannon

In what sounds like a skit from the Muppet Show, a real fish cannon has been developed to help aid migrating salmon get over man made obstacles like dams and powerplants.  Check out the video, it brings a whole new meaning to flying fish.

 

I hope you found these stories interesting, until next blog,

Dave

Popular Pistol Shrimp for Home Aquariums

 

Like their fellow hitchhiker-turned-aquarium-stars, the Mantis Shrimp, Pistol Shrimp are coming into their own as popular aquarium additions. Unlike the Mantis Shrimp, most Pistol Shrimp can actually be kept with other tankmates.  They may even form bonds with some tankmates like Shrimpgobies that can be fascinating and entertaining to watch. Here are a few species of popular Pistol Shrimp for home aquariums.

Pistol shrimp get their name from the loud popping sound they can make by quickly opening or closing their specially adapted claws. This is used as a defense mechanism to frighten off would-be predators and, unlike the Mantis Shrimp they are sometimes confused with, they are harmless to most tankmates. They can be kept with most fish that will not prey on them but should not be kept with some other crustaceans, especially small shrimp or lobsters.

Tiger Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus bellulus)

Tiger Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus bellulus)

Tiger Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus bellulus)

The Tiger Pistol Shrimp is one of the most common and most popular pistol shrimp. It’s one of the species we get in to our store most often. These shrimp aren’t as striped as one would expect from a “Tiger” Pistol Shrimp but has a mottled, vaguely striped coloration in shades of tan, cream and reddish brown. The legs are striped and its claws have dark bands like the rubber bands on the claws of a lobster at a seafood restaurant. These pistols are true commensal species and may bond with any shrimpgobies – genus Cryptocentrus, Amblyeleotris, Stonogobiops and others. This species can grow up to about three inches in length and is one of the larger pistols.

 

Randall's Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus randalli)

Randall’s Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus randalli)

Randall’s Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus randalli)

The Randall’s Pistol Shrimp is also known as the “Candy Cane” or “Red-banded Pistol Shrimp” and is one of the other species that we get in most often. While the Tiger Pistol Shrimp has a more mottled pattern, the Randall’s Pistol has more solid bright red and white stripes over a somewhat translucent body. The body and legs may be yellow – sometimes bright yellow – in some shrimp. This pistol shrimp only grows to about an inch and a half in length but, like the Tiger Pistol, isn’t too picky about which shrimpgoby it forms a pair with. It is better for smaller nano-reefs than the Tiger Pistol Shrimp.

 

Red Caribbean Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus sp.)

Red Caribbean Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus sp.)

Red Caribbean Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus sp.)

These pistol shrimp aren’t usually identified down to the exact species since several different species are almost identical. All are red with white markings, some with purple accents or banded antennas. However, these shrimp don’t usually pair with shrimpgobies. Instead, they form a relationship with the Curlycue Anemone (Bartholomea annulata), a common Caribbean anemone with long spiraling tentacles.

 

 

 

Green Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus euphrosyne)

Green Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus euphrosyne)

Green Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus euphrosyne)

The Green Pistol Shrimp is one of the more understated species. These shrimp have a brownish, olive green color more suited to the environment where they live. Rather than the rocky coral reefs of many others, the Green Pistol is found in muddy estuaries at the mouths of rivers, usually in full saltwater but some can tolerate the more brackish waters closer to the bays and mouths of the rivers. These shrimp are best kept in tanks with deeper, finer substrate closer to the muddy bottoms they have come from.

 

 

Pocillopora Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus lottini)

Pocillopora Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus lottini)

Pocillopora Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus lottini)

Pocillopora Pistol Shrimp are fascinating and rare pistols with a different modus operandi than other pistols. Like its common name suggests, these shrimp live within Pocillopora colonies. They will sometimes live alongside other coral-dwellers like Trapezia crabs where they may even work together to fend off attacks from coral-eating starfish like Cushion Stars or Crown Of Thorn Stars. They stay fairly small, usually well under two inches, and can vary in color. Most are yellow-orange with purple markings like speckles or a stripe down their back. Some of these may be regional variations, others may be subspecies.

Bullseye Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus soror)

Bullseye Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus soror)

Bullseye Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus soror)

The Bullseye Pistol Shrimp is one of the most stunning in appearance. The body is bright yellow-orange and the claws, legs and antennae are bright purple. Although they are also sometimes known as “Michael’s Pistol Shrimp”, the name Bullseye Pistol Shrimp comes from the white-ringed black spot on the middle of each side. This pistol shrimp is another that doesn’t usually form a bond with shrimpgobies. Some may share a burrow with some shrimpgobies, but they aren’t as reliant on the bond as other pistol shrimp and will often live on their own without a goby and may leave a pair at any time. This species also tends to be more active and will venture further from home and more into the open than others.

 

 


These species are just some of the more common to enter the aquarium hobby. Others are sometimes available as well and each have their own unique behaviors and appearances but all can make for fascinating additions to a saltwater aquarium!

Blue LEDs: The Invention That Revolutionized Modern Lighting

Blue LEDIsamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuki Nakahmura are three men you have probably never heard of.  If you were Cliff Clavin, you would probably refer to them as three men who have never been in your kitchen.  Their work however, you are most certainly aware of, and probably use it in some form or another every day.  These three men were responsible for inventing the first blue light emitting diodes (LED) in the early 1990’s, which revolutionized the way we light our world.  For their efforts, they have been awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize for physics.

 

For aquarists, the use of blue LED Aquarium lights has been widespread, especially reef aquarium keepers who are keenly aware of the stunning ability of blue LEDs to promote fluorescent colors in corals.  Nothing makes coral colors pop like they do under blue LED light.  The amazing growth in the genetically engineered GloFish craze, is largely due to the ability of blue LED lights to really bring out their amazing glowing coloration vs. traditional blue light sources.

 

Nobel prize winners

Why are Blue LED lights important enough to win a Nobel Prize?

LED lights had been around for many years, with the first patents and commercial products showing up in the 1960’s, starting with red LEDs used as indicator lights.  Other colors of LED were developed in the following years, including green LEDs, but the Blue LED development would elude scientists for decades to come, until Shuki Nakahmura demonstrated the ability to produce blue LEDs in 1994, and then with Hiroshi Amano and Isami Akasaki developed a high efficiency, high output blue LED in 1995. This started the modern LED lighting revolution.

 

The Blue LED was the missing ingredient for creating white LED light.  Mixing red, blue and green light produces light that appears white to the human eye, which can be seen in many modern applications of RGB LED light fixtures.  With the foundation of the newly invented Blue LED, scientist quickly developed a white LED light with the use of a phosphor coating on the Blue LED chips.  The White LED has changed the world, they are energy efficient, environmentally friendly and long lasting.  As production costs have decreased, and efficiency and output have increased over the last 20 years, LED lighting is rapidly replacing other forms of light in just about every application imaginable, from your homes, to your cars, to street lights to your cell phones.  The combinations of white and blue LED lights now dominate the aquarium lighting market.

 

Thank you gentlemen, the world is a better place for your efforts, and our aquariums look nicer too.

Until next blog,

Dave

Mantis Shrimp: Popular Varieties Beyond The Peacock Mantis

Skyrocketing in popularity over the past few years, Mantis Shrimp have gone from nuisance invaders to a specialty aquarium niche all their own (and a new superstar among viral animal posts thanks to comedic websites like The Oatmeal and zefrank’s YouTube videos). By far, the most popular of these crustaceans is the Peacock Mantis Shrimp, Odontodactylus scyllarus, but there are many other species that are just as fascinating and deserving of attention. We’ve featured mantis shrimp in general in several previous blogs; in this entry, we’ll investigate some of those other mantis shrimp that you may not hear about or see as much in media.

Gonodactylus smithii Image © 2005 Roy Caldwell

Gonodactylus smithii
Image © 2005 Roy Caldwell

Smith’s Mantis Shrimp, Gonodactylus smithii
Its name may not be too familiar, but this mantis is one of the most photographed species due to its trademark meral spot. As you may remember your mantis shrimp anatomy from our other posts, the “meral spot” is a pair of false eyespots on the mantis’s raptoral appendages (the gonna-hurt-you limbs). If you held your arms in front of you, the meral spots would be on the inner sides of your elbows. The Smith’s Mantis Shrimp is well known for these spots because they are some of the most easily-identifiable: bright purple with a defined white outline. They give the Smith’s Mantis Shrimp its other common name, the Purple-spotted Mantis Shrimp. The body color of the Smith’s Mantis Shrimp is otherwise pretty similar to the Peacock Mantis, often bright blue-green and sometimes with red trim to each body segment. This species is a “smasher” and while it isn’t available as often as some other species, it is very sought-after by collectors when it is.

 

Chiragra Mantis Shrimp: male (top) and female (bottom)

Chiragra Mantis Shrimp: male (top) and female (bottom)

Chiragra Mantis Shrimp, Gonodactylus chiragra
This is one of the most common mantis shrimp that we receive at our store and is one of the best suited for aquarium life. It is the largest of the Gonodactylus genus of “smashers” but still only reaches about four inches in length. Unlike many other species, it is pretty easy to tell the difference between males and females. Male Chiragra Mantis Shrimp are usually blue-green in color while females are a mottled tan and cream. Both genders have a white meral spot that is far less obvious than the Smith’s. The most distinctive feature of this species regardless of gender is the light-colored sprinkles on the front corners of the carapace in the same place as the Peacock Mantis’s distinctive leopard spots.

 

Ciliata Mantis Shrimp and its checkerboard eyes

Ciliata Mantis Shrimp and its checkerboard eyes

Ciliata Mantis Shrimp, Pseudosquilla ciliata

This is one of my favorites. Not only is it a “spearer” when most of the more common species are “smashers” but they have one of the coolest defining traits…checkerboard eyes. All mantis shrimp have extremely complex eyes and three different “sections” can be seen on most of them. The Ciliata Mantis Shrimp also has vertical lines overlaying the horizontal segments so their eyes, if you can get close enough to see it, have a checkerboard-like plaid pattern on them. Most of the Ciliata Mantis Shrimp you’ll see in the aquarium trade are green or yellow but their color and even pattern can change every time they molt depending on their environment and the lighting.

 

Zebra Mantis Shrimp, Lysiosquilla maculata

Zebra Mantis Shrimp, Lysiosquilla maculate

Zebra Mantis Shrimp, Lysiosquillina maculata
It is easy to see where the Zebra Mantis Shrimp gets its name. It has alternating black and cream-colored stripes. It also has white speckled antennal scales and eyes. However, it is unique in that, like the Ciliata Mantis, the Zebra Mantis is a “spearer”. Rather than hiding in rockwork caves like most “smashers”, these mantis shrimp will build deep burrows in the sand or substrate, reinforced with mucus, where they wait to ambush their prey. This species also has the distinction of being the largest of all mantis shrimp. While most of the Zebra Mantis Shrimp that you’ll find available to aquarists aren’t much larger than any other species available yet, they can grow to over fifteen inches in length!

 

 

**A species to avoid: Gonodactylaceus ternatensis
Several mantis shrimp with bright orange meral spots are also sometimes available. Two of these, Gonodactylaceus glabrous and Gonodactylaceus graphurus are almost identical and can be hardy, fun mantis shrimp to keep. A third, Gonodactylaceus ternatensis, is a less suitable choice. When small, this mantis shrimp looks like a juvenile Peacock Mantis but is often found living within coral heads. To collect it, the heads are often broken and destroyed. With all of the other species available, please avoid G. ternatensis and stick with the species collected with safer, less destructive methods!

 


 

These are just a few of the more common mantis shrimp other than a Peacock Mantis Shrimp but there are many other species that become available from time to time. So, don’t limit yourself if you are brave enough to head down the road to try these cool creatures!

 

Our Newest Aquarium Display: An African Cichlid Utopia Tank!

Have you stopped by our Lancaster, PA retail store lately?  If not, you are missing out on our new and exciting 220 gallon cichlid aquarium display.  Created by one of our cichlid experts Erett Hinton, the aquarium is located in our spacious fish room and displays the beautiful and natural environment that cichlids can bring into your own home.

 

Why Cichlids?

IMG_0713 (1)

The cichlid species is a diverse group of fish, each with distinct appearances and behaviors that make them attractive to aquarium hobbyists.  “I was fascinated by the color, variety and intelligence,” said Erett.   “Something that separates cichlids from other fresh and saltwater fish is that there are more variants in cichlids than any other variety of fish in the world.  New species are still being discovered every day and it continues to make the hobby more interesting.”

Erett is certainly no stranger to cichlids.  He has kept them since he was a young teenager, and operated his own cichlid breeding company in Florida.  “I ran it by myself for eight years, with about 200 tanks and 70 different African, South and Central American species.”   His experience is a tremendous addition to our knowledgeable fish room staff.

Erett has combined a variety of cichlids from the Malawi, Tanganyika and Victorian Lake regions into a single “African Cichlid Utopia Tank.”  The aquarium houses 71 fish selected from our fish room, included with a variety of plecos and clown loaches to give the ecosystem some added variety.

A total of 71 fish in a single aquarium may seem like a few too many, but there is a method to Erett’s design.  Cichlids are famously territorial by nature and if they were afforded space to take as their own, they would–and actively defend it.  “Crowding them takes their territorial behavior away,” says Erett, “and it creates more peace, with fewer fights and less fish loss.”

Cyphotilapia gibberosa or Blue Mpimbwe cichlid

Cyphotilapia gibberosa or Blue Mpimbwe cichlid

One resident that stands out is the Cyphotilapia gibberosa or Blue Mpimbwe cichlid.  The Tanganyikan native displays a prominent forehead with an attractive deep blue color.  The Mpimbwe has a calm demeanor and is not afraid to show itself to tank admirers, making it a perfect specimen around which you can build a show aquarium.

The selection showcases the wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes available from the species that you might not see from other types of freshwater fish.

Equipment

Erett has housed this eclectic mix of fish in a Perfecto 220 gallon Aquarium donated by Marineland.  The six foot long aquarium provides the living space needed for a large number of fish.  Erett chose lace rock and antique coral rock for the natural decor and crushed coral for the substrate.  “The combination of rock elements and substrate help exfoliate higher pH and water hardness, to a degree which cichlids prefer.  It also creates a habitat they can thrive in and replicates their natural environment.”

Erett has doubled down on the filtration to accommodate the large bio-load that comes with so many fish.  Filtration for the aquarium includes two Marineland C-530 Canister Filters.  Together they provide the increased water flow and circulation necessary for the large aquarium.  Erett also includes sponge filters with his aquarium set ups.  He explains, “Sponge filters provide surface area for a super colony of beneficial biological bacteria.  It serves as part of the filtration that is never tampered with, allowing me to make larger water changes without harming the natural stability of the aquarium.”

 

Making Cichlids Feel At Home, In Your Home

IMG_0719 (1)African cichlids generally prefer a pH around 8.2 and enjoy temperatures around 79 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.  They also prefer low nitrate levels, so frequent water changes and making sure not to overfeed are both critical.  Erett feeds a mixture of Pure Aquatic Cichlid Flakes and New Era Cichlid Pellets, both of which provide necessary nutrients for growth and help bring out natural vibrant coloration.

Replicating a cichlid’s natural environment with structural elements like rock and substrate, along with water quality parameters like pH and temperature, gives you the ability to view firsthand how cichlids would behave in their native habitats.  You can watch as they exhibit unique territorial behaviors and engage in breeding activity and ritual, allowing you to experience nature right in your own living room.

Come Check It Out!

This attractive cichlid display tank is just one of several hundred aquariums that can be found in our fish room.  If you’d like to check out the aquarium stop by our Lancaster, PA retail store.  If you have any questions about the tank or cichlids in general, you can ask Erett in person or speak with any of the members of our expert fish room staff.

 

The following components were used to construct Erett’s “African Cichlid Utopia Tank”: 

Marineland Perfecto 220 gallon aquarium

Marineland Perfecto 72 in. x 24 in. Glass Canopy

(3) Marineland 30 in. Single Bright LED Fixtures

Approx. 180lbs of lace rock and antique coral rock

Approx. 220 lbs of crushed coral

(2) Marineland C-530 Canister Filters

(2) Marineland Visi-Therm 400 watt Heaters

Sponge Filters

Air Pump and Airline Tubing