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Scary Halloween Fish for Aquariums

Happy Halloween fish blog readers! I thought I might stay in the theme of things and introduce some of the more frightening and bizarre fish you might find in the tanks here at That Fish Place. I’ve always been drawn to fish that a lot of people find to be ugly or plain, I just don’t think they get the credit they deserve. I think that a fish or invert with bizarre characteristics is way more fascinating than the more popular pretty stuff.

One of my favorite types of fish is angler fish, or Frogfish. Though there are examples of brilliantly colored frog fish, most of the ones that we see have muted colors, brown, grey, pale yellow, nothing too exciting. Frogfish are masters of disguise, mimicking their surroundings to blend seamlessly with rocks, sponges, floating seaweed, and other articles in the reef. They can even change color over time to blend if necessary. This ability to blend is essential as they are ambush predators. They lay in wait for prey to pass close enough for them to snatch with lighting speed. Anglers have some unique anatomy that allows them to be effective predators. They have a lure on their head that can extend and jiggle, attracting smaller fish and inverts to within striking distance. Their gill openings are found behind their modified pectoral fins so the movement is hidden from the view of prey. And another amazing feature is their capability to swallow prey their size, accommodated by a huge mouth and highly expandable abdomen. They’re a ton of fun to watch, and they’re adorable in their own lumpy, grumpy way.

Sea Goblins are aptly named; these guys would fit in just right in Jim Henson’s monster shop. They and their scorpionfish and stonefish cousins are intimidating in appearance, but by nature are not aggressive with the exception of their predatory nature. They are content to blend like the anglers, waiting for unsuspecting prey to pass by. Some of these fish are brightly colored, too, but many are cloaked in colors to blend with rock and the sea floor, many even have fins, spikes, and frilly skin and appendages that help them to blend and make them even more ferocious looking. Many, with faces only a mother could love, are not respected for their unique looks, but for their needle-like venomous spines, reliable means of defense.

Trumpet fish are weird and amazing predators. They seem so docile and shy, their long, slender bodies hovering on and above the rock reef. Unassuming prey should not Trumpet Fishunderestimate the stealth and speed of these hunters. With incredible speed they swoop in and suck down their prey like a vacuum with their long, specialized snout and mouth.

I really have to give some freshwater fish props too. With the exception of piranhas, I don’t think people find freshwater fish to be as intimidating and scary as many marine fish. There are, however, lots of freshwater fish that are pretty unusual and frightening to look at, even if they don’t have demeanor to back it up. Take for example, the vampire tetra. Even when they come to us at only a couple of inches in length, their fierce fangs can give you a shudder. Same goes for Goliath Tiger fish and Alligator Gar, especially if you’ve seen any articles on the adults.

In a previous article, Frank Indiviglio posted a profile of blind cavefish. Fish with no eyes? Pretty creepy!
Glass catfish and Indian Glass fish are two fish that share a unique trait. Both of these fish are crystal clear! Neither of them is remotely scary, but it’s rather a strange characteristic. You can feed them different colored flake foods, and actually see the foods in their guts. Fun.

No wonder the Sci-fi channel never runs out of ideas for Saturday premiere original movies! With crazy creatures you can find at the local pet store leering at you from the dark corners of aquariums, it doesn’t take too much imagination! Come on in and check out the selection, and have a terrific Halloween!

Freaky Fish from the Deep – Just In Time for Halloween

Hey everyone! Gearing up for Halloween, I’ve been looking at some of the freakier fish that I’ve been introduced to over the years. We get a lot of weird things in here, some are lumpy, some are crusty, some have large fangs, and some have no eyes. But some things we don’t often get to scrutinize are obscure deep water marine species, for obvious reasons. I’ve watched a lot of documentaries and read lots articles on deep sea species, newly discovered and others, and I always find them fascinating and frightening at the same time. With the increasing ability of scientists to explore the depths of the world’s oceans, it seems like we’re introduced to a new and amazing creature or creatures at every turn. One segment of the Blue Planet series on Discovery Channel was entirely dedicated to creatures nearly no one had ever seen before, all from ridiculous depths and conditions. From the crazy little pea-sized predators to huge lurking sharks and cephalopods, it truly is the most alien environment on the planet.
I came across this article of some rather ghostly fish recently in the news, the deepest living species filmed yet, and I thought I could share it with you all. These pasty white snailfish fish remind me of big tadpoles or brotulinas. Apparently they’re social creatures that swarmed to the bait dropped 5 miles down to the bottom of this Pacific trench. They’re simple yet you have to be amazed at the conditions where they exist with unimaginable pressure, temperatures and darkness. Anyway, the article is pretty interesting, so please take a minute to read it if you haven’t seen it anywhere already.

To read the article, click here, or check out the video below.

Thanks and enjoy!


Extreme Makeover: Aquarium Edition – Our 350 Gallon Cylinder Display

Have you ever gotten bored with your house and completely re-arranged your furniture just for fun? We here at That Fish Place/That Pet Place do it with our display aquariums. We get tired of looking at the same old tanks and get ants in our pants to re-model them. The most recent benefactor of this behavior is the 350 gallon acrylic cylinder tank in our Custom Aquatic Design Studio.

Over the first five years of operation, the display cylinder has had a few different themes as far as the fish that we had in the tank. For the last couple years its been a brackish community with puffers, scats, monos and catfish.

The decoration in the tank has been largely the same over this time, and was fairly limited because of the design of the tank. The tank itself is 4’ tall, and 4’ in diameter. Pretty big, however, there was a center overflow box in the tank that dominated the design. We hid the box as much as possible with a few hundred pounds of hand carved lava rock, but it was still the dominating feature.

The first thing we decided to do as part of the display’s extreme makeover was to remove the overflow box. We changed the filtration method from an overflow box wet/dry to a closed loop system. This would open up the tank visually, as well as add approximately 50 gallons to the total volume. To accomplish this, the overflow box had to be cut out. With the help of a few power tools and couple of busted knuckles later, the box came out without too much trouble. With the overflow removed, the interior of the tank was wide open, so I took advantage of the opportunity to repair some of the scratches that were on the inside of the tank. Anyone who has an acrylic tank can appreciate how easily they scratch.

Seriously limited in available space for filtration under the aquarium, I needed to come up with a system that would give us good performance, at the same time take up as little space as possible. What I decided on was a combination of a Aqua Ultraviolet Ultima II canister filter, and a series of Pentair aquatics Lifegard modular filters. The Ultima II filter will handle the mechanical and biological filtration. The Lifegard modular system includes a mechanical canister for water polishing, a chemical canister for activated carbon (or other chemical media), and a heater module. A 15 watt Aqua Ultraviolet sterilizer rounds out the filtration, and is the only carry-over from the original filtration set-up.

To really change the appearance of the aquarium, we kept the furniture to a minimum. A large
piece of driftwood is the centerpiece of the new decor, and it also acts as a cover for the central filtration return. Some strategically placed rocks and artificial plants hide the rest of the internal plumbing, as well as provide some cover and habitat for the new fish.

The new inhabitants will primarily be schooling tetras, and other South American community fish. The new, open design of the aquarium will be really spectacular as the numbers of schooling fish increase and mature.

One of the interesting aspects of cylindrical aquariums is the visual distortions that are created by the curved surface, everything inside looks much larger that it really is. Without the overflow box in the middle, everyone’s immediate reaction is that the tank looks much bigger than it used to, now that you can see all the way through the tank. This effect will really show off the brilliant colors of the tetras and other fish as they mature. So far the makeover has been a big hit.

Hmmm, what can I tear apart next?

I’ll let you know when I decide, so stay tuned for the next project!


Pistol Shrimp & Goby Mutualism

Pistol ShrimpBrandon here. Some of my favorite saltwater organisms are the pistol shrimp. There are several hundred species of these shrimp found throughout the world. They are not only found in tropical reefs but closer to home. I have heard these little guys snapping away in muddy areas right offshore in Virginia. Despite the characteristic that gives these creatures their name, snapping shrimp are usually peaceful little critters and interesting additions to a reef tank.

Pistol shrimps belong to the family Alpheidae. They are characterized by their one large claw responsible for the snapping sound they produce. These shrimp are usually known for their mutualistic relationship with certain gobies. The shrimp will dig and tend to a burrow in a sandy or muddy substrate while the goby stands guard at the entrance, watching for prey and predators. The shrimp will even close the entrance to the burrow at night to keep predators out. There are also colonial species of shrimp that live in sponges, somewhat like ants in an anthill.

What makes pistol shrimp fascinating is their enlarged claw. The closing of the claw in itself does not produce the snapping sound. Rather there is a groove in the claw which channels water out as it closes. The water is forced out at around 60 miles per hour. This speed produces an area of low pressure and forms a bubble. When the bubble collapses, intense sound, heat, and even light are produced. This is where the snapping sound that we hear comes from. Temperatures of about 5000 degrees Kelvin, or about 8500 degrees Fahrenheit, can be reached. This blast of pressure is enough to kill small fish and invertebrates. The snapping shrimp is considered one of the loudest creatures in the ocean, and large colonies of them are loud enough to white out the sonar of submarines.

To give you a better idea of what this all looks like (or just to see a shrimp get blasted) watch this video:

Until next time,

New Web Tool for Identifying Coral and Aquarium Fish in the Field – Coralidea.com

Eileen here. Most aquarists have a virtual library of books, websites, magazine, and forums that we like to help identify new fish and invertebrates. I have 5 books on my own desk here and at least a dozen website bookmarks to reference and cross-reference our new arrivals and “unknowns”. Earlier this year, a new website joined those ranks for quick coral identifications. Now that same website has gone even farther and included saltwater fish in their online guides.

Coralidea.com  is the product of Jake Adams and his decades of aquarium experience. The coral guide has 17 categories, including clams and anemones, and can be downloaded at no charge from their website. Unlike some field guide-style identification books, most of the pictures in this guide were taken in aquariums, under aquarium lighting, and of specimens that can actually be found in aquariums. Best of all, the guide can be downloaded onto most mobile devices as well as your computer desktop. Just think – instead of lugging a book to your local fish store, you can just take in your iPod to help you identify the new corals in their tanks.

Now, as of October 8th, Coralidea has officially launched Fishidea, their new saltwater fish identification guide. While not as complete as some of the common books available, Fishidea has the most common saltwater fish (as well as some downright rare species) listed in 18 categories. Unlike Coralidea, Fishidea has species information listed for most of its entries, including hardiness, compatibility, size and diet.

Both Coralidea and Fishidea are considered “works in progress” on the website and the website itself is increasing in functionality as Jake and crew add the photos directly to the site for viewing. These guides are a great way to take a reference with you and its another great addition to the “libraries” of many of our staff biologists and aquatics staff. Besides that, there are just some really great pictures. Don’t forget to download some of their wallpapers while you visit the site!