Celebrate World Oceans Day 2014!

Join in celebration of the World Oceans Day 2014 this Sunday, June 8th!

Did you know that 71% of our beautiful earth is covered by ocean? We human land dwelling creatures only live on 29% of the earth while the oceans cover almost 3/4 of the planet. Yet almost 95% of the world’s oceans are still unexplored.

This vast watery world is teeming with life and is vital to the health and well being of the earth. The oceans play a role in many of the earth’s systems including regulating our climate and weather, generating most of the oxygen we breathe, and cleaning the water we drink. They also help feed us and offer a plethora of potential medicines.

See interesting Ocean animalsAnimal-World Celebrates World Oceans Day 2014!

Join us in celebrating the oceans, they are beautiful to behold and provide us with unlimited inspiration. And they also offer us opportunities for a better world. According to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US Department of Commerce, one out of every six jobs in the United states is marine-related.

Here’s a few ways you can participate:

  1. The Ocean Project and World Ocean Network have created a site dedicated to World Oceans Day. They have a list of more than 600 events being held worldwide.
  2. The World Oceans Day website also encourages support through donations or with the purchase of a t-shirt or bracelet commemorating this day.
  3. Better yet, people are encouraged to spread the word by creating a “selfie for the sea!” It’s easy to participate, simply take a photo of your self doing something for the ocean, or making a promise to help the ocean. Then share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites and tag it #WorldOceansDay.

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Nano Tank Stocking Guide for Reef, Saltwater and Freshwater Aquariums

Find live fish, plants and corals

Fish Selection Guide for Nano Tanks

10+ general rules for stocking the nano aquarium. For the best success, follow these suggestions when you are selecting fish for the nano aquarium, whether you plan on keeping a freshwater, saltwater, or a mini-reef tank.

Considering the nano tank’s small size, the first and most important rule when stocking your tank, is to avoid overpopulation. This rule refers not only to the number of fish you put in your tank but also the other life forms that are present. These include invertebrates like worms, clams, snails; echinoderms such as a starfish, sea urchin, or sea cucumber; crustaceans like crabs, lobsters and shrimp; other bottom feeders and even corals.

Here are some general rules on stocking your nano tank:

  1. Avoid putting in schooling fish since most species will not allow other fish species in the nano aquarium. There are also fish species that should be housed as the only fish in a nano tank. These include dottybacks, angelfishes, and hawkfishes.
  2. In nano reeftanks smaller than 20 gallons, it is not recommended to add even one Clownfish, not even a small one since it can grow big. Clownfish are territorial and will want to own the entire tank and will chase away and/or bully other fish species in the tank.
  3. Choose fish species that are not jumpers. Fish belong inside the tank and not on your floor. If you do select a “jumper”, make sure to put a tight-fitting cover over your tank to prevent your fish from jumping out.
  4. Know what your fish feeds on. You might end up placing a fish in your nano tank that feed on shrimp, snails, and other tank inhabitants. There are also herbivorous fish that thrive well on a bit of microalgae and broccoli, as well as frozen or flake fish food that contain spirulina. Knowing what their feeding habits are can ensure that you are able to meet their nutritional needs.
  5. Don’t mix fish of different behaviors—aggressive versus smaller and shy ones. The smaller fish species will be outcompeted for food resulting in starvation. Other factors that should also be considered include the adult size and temperament of the fish.
  6. Fish species with similar feeding habits may also cause a problem for each other, as they compete for food.
  7. When buying fish at the local fish store, ask the staff to show you that the fish you are interested in is eating. Find out what type of feed is being given so you can continue the same feeding regimen when you bring the fish home. If the fish is not eating, it is best not to buy it.
  8. When buying fish, observe its overall appearance. Don’t buy fish with a sunken belly since this is an indication that the fish is on a starvation diet. Buy only healthy-looking ones.
  9. For nano reef tanks, avoid buying fish that will nibble or pick at corals. Constant picking may cause injury that can easily get infected, or prevent coral from opening up.
  10. When picking out fish, select based on the display area volume of the tank, not the total tank volume. This is attributed to the fact that the display area of nano tanks holds less water than the total tank since some of the tank water is in the filtration area.
  11. Other equally important factors that you should consider when selecting fish for your nano tank include water quality and habitat selection.

About the author: Peter Hartono is the founder and CEO of Just Aquatic – a proud Australian company that provides excellent online aquarium supplies for hobbyists to build their own betta fish tanks,
nano tanks, fish ponds, freshwater shrimp tanks and other DIY aquarium tanks.

Why I Hate Crabs

Emerald Crab or Green Clinging Crab, Mithraculus sculptusEmerald Crab or Green Clinging Crab Mithraculus sculptus is a dark green color and comes from the tropical waters of the Caribbean Sea

Crabs in the Saltwater Aquarium

No, I am not talking about our old aunts or other relatives, although they can probably fit loosely into this topic if I could throw them in my saltwater tank! For the sake of family peace, however, I have had to refrain myself during one visit. An odd circumstance arose that would have lent itself to the submergence of a crabby relative INTO my 150 gallon tank! Yet, I digress…

I am talking about crabs; all species, all genus, all colors, all shapes and all sizes. Be assured, that eventually these little hellion monsters, with evil intentions and back biting ways, will murder another creature in your tank, that you spent your hard earned money on! It’s just their nature, and they can’t be blamed. Even the ones with “small claws” have been known to cause problems, especially in a reef tank. I am sure there are a few well behaved crabs out there, but I am not risking my inhabitants on something that can be easily replaced with a less opportunistic murderer.

My first experience with the “little darlings,” was when I bought my first “clean up crew” for my 8 week old cycled 55 gallon saltwater tank. During this time, my research was quite focused on water quality, live rock, substrate, skimmers, heaters, and lighting. I did however, intend on doing research on the fish I was going to buy. After all, how can you screw up buying a “clean up crew?” …Everybody else is doing it!

Reef Hermit Crab, Clibanarius rhabdodactylusReef Hermit Crabs, Clibanarius species, are omnivorous marine crabs, but mostly prey on small animals and scavenge carrion

Hermit Crabs

My appreciation for hermit crabs were short lived. Over a period of about 4 months, the hermits, one by one, took out my snails, which of course COST more then THEY did. Yes, there was plenty of food and algae for both, perfect water parameters, and no predatory fish; so nothing else would have killed the snails. For me, the last straw was the loss of my prized Jumbo Nassarius Snail, who was one of five I had in my tank. The day I saw a hermit crab rockin’ that snail’s shell, was the day I pulled each and every one OUT of the tank and returned them to the store.

I actually have witnessed larger hermit crabs starting to attack a resting or sick fish! Then a friend of mine related a story of a puffer fish that was attacked at night, and dead by morning. She owned the puffer for a long time, and it was not sick. I remember once, when looking in someone else’s reef, I noticed a hermit crab sitting on top of a healthy SPS coral. As I observed this little beast, I noticed it was tearing the flesh off of the coral! Enough said!

If a fish dies, your nassarius snails will converge and consume, but they will never touch a live fish, only a rotting one. This will keep your water quality from deteriorating if a fish does die. This makes nassarius snails great inhabitants! Over time, I discovered that brittle starfish also do just as good of a job getting extra food that the fish missed.

Emerald Crabs

Back to the crabs! Well, against my better judgment I did buy an emerald crab down the line to take care of some green bubble algae. Once again, another little monster crab had to be extracted as it threatened my Halichoeres wrasses that were napping under the sand. I swear you could hear him say, “Where did those morsels go? The algae just ain’t cutting it!” My wrasses were unusually afraid of this emerald crab as it grew. So were we…

Reef Crabs

The worst experience I’d ever had was a reef crab that hitchhiked on some live rock. I bought the rock from a gentleman whose system crashed when the power went out. This is common during hot summer days in Las Vegas. I didn’t know there was a little monster stowed away in the rock and the way I found out was not cool! One morning, my fairy wrasses came up to be fed, and I noticed that my Scott’s Fairy Wrasse was no where around. This was odd, because he was usually the first in line for breakfast. I started looking for him and found this big, black, butt ugly, reef crab slowly scraping the now gutted sides of my most expensive wrasse! The Scott’s was NOT sick and I owed him long enough to rule out disease. Why is it ALWAYS the MOST expensive fish that is killed?

Thus started my long search for this monster in the bowels of my tank after he scampered away…. sideways… the LITTLE FREAK! I found him in a twisted and gnarled piece of live rock, which of course was UNDER a bunch of other live rock! So I had no choice but to remove the rock from the tank and chase him out of the middle. That was the WEIRDEST 30 minutes of my life up to that point. With saltwater tanks, these weird minutes start to accumulate over the years… just wait, you’ll see! So I got the little turd out and put him in a refugium as I decided what his fate would be. Let’s not go there.

Crabs Begone!

I started to search for fish that would not typically eat snails but WOULD eat crabs. Why? I had this suspicion he had a brother! Enter the Harlequin Tuskfish. I loved that fish! For as big and scary his teeth were, he was not even the dominant wrasse in my tank. One day, about a week after I bought him, I found remnants of yet ANOTHER reef crab on the substrate. So I blurted out, “WHO’S A GOOD BOY? WHO’S A GOOD BOY? WHOOOOOSE A GOOOOD BOY?!?!” Yes, another weird moment, as my family members looked at me perplexed; since, well, we DIDN’T have a dog!

Upon further research, the Internet supplied more and more horror stories of crabs wreaking havoc in tanks. Reef crabs include Mithrax Crabs (Mithraculus sp.) and Xanthid Crabs, and these are some of the worst culprits. The Mithraculus crabs belong to the Majidae family of “spider crabs”, which has around 200 species in 52 genera. The Xanthidae family is huge, with 133 genera and 572 known species.

Horseshoe Crab, Limulus PolyphemusHorseshoe Crab Limulus Polyphemus. This is a saltwater crab, yet it is more closely related to spiders, ticks, and scorpions than to crabs.
A wide variety of marine crabs can be seen here, at Dr. Jungle’s Animal-Image: Saltwater Crabs

Now I am sure there are crab lovers out there, and in certain set ups, hey, go right ahead!

Yes, they are very useful, but only in the ocean. There are many seasoned writers and hobbyists who have written books that will back me up on not keeping crabs in most closed systems. One may say that there are certain crabs like the tiny blue-legged hermits that don’t cause problems. Well, except if you happen to have those little nassarius snails! So YES, I did try those and they started to kill my little nassarius snails that, by the way, were perfectly fine up to that point.

Crabs are opportunistic scavengers, not pets. They are “cute” but the snails in your tank are thinking, “Well, I know one day I will be disemboweled by that heathen.” So the snails sulk away, out of the grip of the new resident… for now.

Carrie McBirney is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Cinnamon Clownfish, adding spice to Animal-World

Cinnamon Clownfish, Amphiprion melanopus

Cinnamon Clownfish makes a spicy splash on Animal-World!

The Cinnamon Clownfish looks like it’s bathed in your favorite spice. The amount of black can be a lot or a little, giving it a dusting of cinnamon color.

This is one of those “bullet-proof” clownfish that does really well in any saltwater aquarium or reef tank. It’s lively demeanor, sturdy build, and durable nature make it a delight for beginners, but it’s equally satisfying for any aquarist.

Most are a pretty red or reddish brown with a splash of black on the body and lower fins. And there is a bright stripe of white, or sometimes blue, across the head. All that is brightly contrasted with reddish orange fins on top and a pretty yellow tail.

This pretty anemonefish, however, does have an attitude! It is the boss of its home and gets even scrappier if it has an anemone. Usually it will get along with most other fish and won’t eat corals, but it is very quarrelsome with other clownfish. Second in aggression only to the Maroon Clownfish it won’t tolerate other anemonefish, other than a male/female pair.

Fortunately it can be kept singly, and it does just fine without an anemone as long as there is plenty of rockwork. It’s great for a smaller aquarium and for a new hobbyist that doesn’t want to jump into being a reef keeper. But Cinnamon Clowns want to dominate their keepers too! So be careful when you do maintenance because these guys are known to “bite the hand that feeds them.”

Cinnamon Clowns can be obtained as captive bred fish and are available as a single specimen or as a pair. Keep one in a smaller tank, or a pair in a larger tank with equally tenacious companions and you’ll have a great aquarium.

Check out more about this “cinnamon” colored anemonefish. Pictures and information for Cinnamon Clownfish, along with habitat and aquarium care!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Three Good Protein Skimmers for a Mini Reef

Protein Skimmers

Good hang-on skimmers for the lower to mid-range budgets!

There are some decent low-to-mid priced protein skimmers, though each has its own little flaws and pluses. Yet there is an aquarist for each one. Some aquarists are simply more willing to mess around with their skimmers, so as Stuart Smalley would say, “and… that’s okay!”

Dating back to my newbie days in 2005 to the present, 2014, there are 3 skimmers that I have the most experience with. These skimmers I can say I have used for well over 6 months to 3 years, which is long enough, I feel, to justify reviewing them. Has it been almost 10 years? Wow, so much has changed in the saltwater world! Today there are amazing thermometers with a computer chip to monitor water temperature, turning it on or off for the exact temperature you want, and now we have LED lighting too. I have tried VHO, T5s, and Metal Halide; various substrates and tank sizes; and I have mixed various fish and seen interesting results.

I think we are all waiting for the “AquaScum 2003″ that dentist P. Sherman bought for his saltwater tank in “Finding Nemo”! Since I don’t like to speak on subjects I am not sure about, or a product I have not experienced, these 3 skimmers are the 3 hang-on or HOB (hang-on-the-back) I have had experience with.

I would put these three skimmers in the low-to-mid budget range and I can tell you that all three did their job. The lowest priced skimmer I used is now $80, it originally cost me $60 in 2005. The mid-range skimmer is about $180 today, and higher priced one runs about $260.

Red Sea Prizm Skimmer

Red Sea Prizm Skimmer

I had a Prizm Skimmer for my first saltwater tank, which was a 55-gallon. Being new to the hobby I had spent quite a bit of money on so many things, including live rock. So of course I did what most newbies do, I bought a budget skimmer.

Mind you, I did do a lot of research on skimmers in the $50 to $100 range before I bought the Prizm Skimmer. I also read the “don’t skimp on the skimmer” suggestion along with countless other suggestions. So I went in knowing that someday I would have to upgrade. In my head, I had calculated that my 55-gallon tank, with 60+ pounds of live rock, would probably only hold about 40 gallons of water. So I decided this skimmer should do the job for now.

One thing I did right was to buy the cylinder shaped Pro Surface Skimmer Box along with the Prizm Pro. I will say, after about a month, the Prizm Pro did quite well for my needs. After weeks of tweaking and fiddling with it, I was able to have it product that dark nasty goo on a daily basis. Understandably, today most of us are very busy and don’t have time to “play” with our skimmers! A “plug and play skimmer,” the Prizm is not!

The surface skimmer box is what pulls in all the oils and goo from the water surface which saltwater fish and corals produce. The Prizm Pro Skimmer utilizes the adjustable height of the Skimmer box very well. Then an 18 blade turbo-Jet air injector sufficiently bubbles up the water to form skimmate for removal. Some nice touches with this skimmer are its slim, low profile and being available for about $100. That will include the surface skimmer box and a media chamber in which you can put carbon if desired.

Coralife Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer

Coralife Super Skimmer, Needle Wheel Protein Skimmer

By 2006 I was on to my 150-gallon reef tank. My UPS delivery guy kindly gave this huge tank to me. Yeah, that IS cool! He was delivering a package and saw my 55-gallon aquarium and asked if I would be interested in a 150-gallon tank. Of course I responded, “Why, YES I would, good sir!”

So my research for a new skimmer started up again. It needed to be another hang-on model because there were no drill holes in my new tank for a sump. Due to the location of the tank, size or bulk was not an issue. For inhabitants I had a Magnificent Anemone Heteractis Magnifica, which was about 5″ across when I bought it, and reaching 18″ across by the time it grew up. On top of that I had many other corals and lots of fish.

After a lot of research I settled on needle wheel technology, and purchased the Coralife Super Skimmer Needle Wheel 220, rated for 220 gallons. By now I had learned a few things about skimmers, so I knew that over sizing them slightly was not a bad idea. This skimmer pulled out some of the foulest smelling dark goo I had seen!

Yes, it works and it works well. On the downside, there was again, a lot of fiddling and tweaking. Inconveniently, you must turn the dial that is used for the bubble/skimming levels down all the way in order to clean the cup. This was a bit annoying, since it could take some time to find that exact “sweet spot” again for maximum goo removal! A simple fix that came to mind after the first few cleanings, was to mark the spot where the dial was set with a black magic marker, making it easy to find the original spot the red dial was set. The only time I had an issue with this skimmer was when I used products that caused mass skimmate production. And that is not the fault of the skimmer, but rather user error!

Even though the Coralife Needle Wheel Skimmer does not have a “surface” skimmer, it did quite well at producing that yuck we all want out of our tanks. By using the needle-wheel system with an aspirating Venturi, it caused tons of micro-bubbles and increased contact time, which is needed to be effective. Yes, initially there will be micro-bubbles in the tank, but don’t fret. Some adjustments, doing the hokey pokey, and making a few calls to Coralife will fix the problem. Their customer care is great.

Once you have it dialed in this is truly a great skimmer for the money. Currently the Coralife Needle Wheel Skimmer comes in a 65 gallon size for under $100, a 125 gallon size for about $150, and the 220 gallon size for about for $180.

AquaC Remora Series Protein Skimmer

AquaC Remora Protein Skimmer

Fast forwarding several years, I downsized my tank to a 60-gallon and again bought a Coralife. Due to limited space however, I needed to buy a new skimmer so the tank was not so far from the wall. This is when I bought the AquaC Remora Series Protein Skimmer. Currently, I have an AquaC Remora Pro Hang-On Skimmer rated for 50 to 120 gallons on my 75-gallon tank. I will say it gets out some nasty stuff, even with only 3 fish and 60 pounds of live rock!

What can I say… this is a great skimmer. This one IS “plug and play”, no muss no fuss! There is a break in period, as with all skimmers, but for the most part just adjust the collection cup for a darker or lighter skimmate (like you would the other two), and you’re done! The AquaC Remora uses a spray-injection. This is a powerful, high-pressure, air-induction spray that causes enormous amounts of goo removing bubbles.

I also purchased the skimmer box, which neatly hid the pump. This produced a lot of gooey icky skimmate and was easy to adjust by adding a thick round rubber band around the square cup. When it comes time to clean the skimmer cup you need to be careful not to move this band. However it isn’t a big deal if you do move it because the skimmer responds quickly to adjustments. The boxes are sized appropriately for the differently sized skimmers and pumps. You can also use the smaller pump and the smaller box with the larger skimmer, but that would just be silly. The square design does make it a little more challenging to clean, but hey, if that is the worst of it, I’ll take it. Plus this skimmer will not overflow!

The AquaC Remora Pro Hang-On also has a drain option for both sizes, which will drain into a 5-gallon container that is hidden under the tank. I recommend getting it, especially for those vacation days. But if you choose not to use the drain, you can just turn it upward and put a plug on it. The body of the skimmer has a special cut out area for the drain plug so this is not something you can do yourself.

I honestly struggled with my decision when it came to buying a skimmer for my present 75 gallon tank. Would I buy a Coralife or another AquaC Remora Pro Skimmer? Well, the flat, wide rectangular design of the AquaC won me over. After all, the tank is already intruding in a walkway of my house, and if I added the Coralife, I may have had to build a bridge over my tank! Okay, so it isn’t THAT bad! One thing I also like about the AquaC is there are just 2 small sections you have to cut out of that black strip in the back of your glass lid if you have a cover! I am planning to buy a Snake Eel, and I need a completely sealed top! Upon researching the AquaC Remora Pro Skimmer, I stumbled across an ad in my local Craigslist! I scored one that was only a few years old for LESS than 1/2 of the retail price!

Their customer service is second to none! The skimmer started to produce aa lot of excess, foamy skim production that was basically a clearish tan. Perplexed, I called their customer service number only to find out the culprit was a product called “Instant Ocean de-chlor” which is great, but has a “slime protection” for the fish. They said most skimmers over skim when this type of de-chlor is added, so avoid any that say “slime coat or slime protection.” Besides the fact, our saltwater fish don’t really need that like freshwater fish do! I had forgotten that little bit of information! You will typically speak to the inventor or one of his well-qualified employees! He was happy to help me, knowing full well I got this last AquaC on Craigslist! I told him that just to see what his reaction would be and he could care less where I got it, but just that I was happt with the product!

The AquaC Remora Hang-On for 20 to 75 gallons runs about $160 and the larger AquaC Remora Pro, for 50 to 120 gallons, runs about $250. An additional $10 buys the Pro Hang-On with the drain fitting. AquaC now has a “new and improved” Remora-S for 20 to 75 gallons. I have not used that one, so I cannot comment on it, but it is supposed to be even better.

Getting the best with your skimmer

Removing the goo from the aquarium is important. Yet too large of a skimmer on any tank can cause over skimming, which is not good for your tank. There are natural things found in the water that corals and other organisms need to thrive. Many suggest, especially in Europe, that you turn the skimmer off at night once the tank is well established. Some find their corals do better with this action. Yet if the skimmer is under powered, turning it off at night wouldn’t be necessary. So basically this suggestion needs to be tempered with the size of the skimmer, the contents or bioload of the aquarium, and the tank size.

Gladly, many companies are now stating the size of the skimmer based on the size of the tank and it’s bio-load, which is very responsible! This makes a skimmer purchase almost dummy proof, and that is great because no hobbyist wants to buy the wrong thing.

What are your protein skimmer experiences? We all should experiment to find a happy medium with skimming, and with discovery, share our new observations with others. This is how we all learn because no one knows everything! Happy skimming!

Carrie McBirney is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Brilliant New Soft Coral Species Discovered, Psammogorgia hookeri

February 17, 2014 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Aquariums, Corals Mini-Reef

Gorgonians, Sea Fans and Sea WhipsPhoto Courtesy Yuri Hooker Peru Underwater

A beautiful bright red coral species, described as Psammogorgia hookeri, has been found in the Peruvian region of the Eastern Pacific!

It was the brilliant reddish color of this soft coral that first caught the attention of Yuri Hooker in 2002, and he collect the first specimens at that time. Hooker came across it again in 2008 while he was researching marine sponges, and at that time he was able to collect new specimens.

Dr Yuri Hooker is a biologist and naturalist at the Cayetano Heredia Peruvian University in Lima, Peru. In an article published by El Comercio, A new species of coral inhabiting the waters of Paracas, he says that with the 2008 specimens he began to “start the scientific process of identification and description”. It was then validated as a new soft coral species in 2014 by Odalisca Breedy, a research specialist in Octocoral Taxonomy at the University of Costa Rica (CIMAR), and her associate Hector M. Guzman, a marine biologist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI).

Scientific description

This new coral species has been named Psammogorgia hookeri in honor of Dr Yuri Hooker. Breedy and Guzman describe this honor in their report, A new species of alcyonacean octocoral from the Peruvian zoogeographic region, published by Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2014, as bestowed “in recognition of his (Hooker) indefatigable and valuable contribution to the knowledge of the marine invertebrates and natural history of Peru.”

Breedy and Guzman, both experts in soft coral taxonomy and ecology, identified this new species based on colony characteristics and examinations using both light and scanning-electron microscopy. This species is described as a member of the Alcyonacea order of soft corals in the Holaxonia suborder of gorgonians. It belongs to the Plexauridae family, which are soft corals that form branching colonies and are often known as sea rods or sea fans. Within this family it is placed in the genus Psammogorgia, which now contains 14 described species, with Psammogorgia hookeri being the newest member.

Distribution

The discovery of this new soft coral has created quite a stir. The rich coral red coloring makes it an undeniable beauty, but it seems to have a very limited occurrence. It has only been found from Isla San Gallan, in the Paracas National Reserve. This reserve is located in Ica, Peru and contains the Paracas Peninsula, coastal areas, and extends inland into the tropical desert areas.

This vibrant coral is thought to possibly be endemic to the Paracas National Reserve. During his research, Hooker says he has traveled almost all of the Peruvian coasts, from Tumbes to Tacna, but has only found these soft corals in the Paracas region.

The waters of this region are cool in contrast to the more congenial waters of other eastern Pacific tropical regions, where temperatures can exceed 82.4° F (28° C). Breedy and Guzman say, “the diversity of Peruvian shallowwater octocorals may be low, but species and ecosystems have adapted to dramatic coastal oceanographic changes.” They suggest that both “seasonal and inter-annual upwellings” and El Nino impact the region, changing the surface temperatures of the water. That in turn creates a “turbid green-to-brown ecosystem”, and thus effects the bio-productivity.

Gorgonians, Sea Fans and Sea WhipsPhoto Courtesy Yuri Hooker

Description and habitat

Breedy and Guzman describe Psammogorgia hookeri colonies as small, bushy, and branching. They are about 3″(8 cm) wide with branches that reach about 7 3/4″ (12 cm) in length. They are a bright coral red color with translucent polyps.

The scientists described the coral’s colony habitation as clusters on rocky ledges and cliffs, and then spreading along the substrate. They say that areas they inhabit are generally “surrounded by other organisms such as sponges, worms, sea urchins and brachiopods among other sessile creatures.” However this coral is not a shallow water species. It has not been found at depths of less than 65′ (20 m).

Availability

Interestingly, this soft coral has been seen attached to mussel shells in local fish markets! However its availability for the reef aquarium is pretty slim right now, as finding Psammogorgia hookeri specimens in fish stores or online is difficult, if not impossible.

Learn more about the types of soft corals categorized as Gorgonians at Types of Gorgonians, Sea Fans and Sea Whips on Animal-World, which also includes coral guides for different species with pictures, background information, and the aquarium care needed for keeping them in a mini reef.

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

The Coral Triangle, an Awesome Visage to be Spotlighted by Animal Planet

The Coral Triangle seen in the Philippines

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to scuba dive, the area known as the “coral triangle” is a part of our world that offers a panorama of beauty to sate every artist’s palette.

Animal Planet, a unit of Discovery Communications, plans to share a bird’s eye view of the incredible life swirling beneath the waves of our vast oceans. “WILD DEEP” will be presented as a six-part televised documentary with the first episode featuring “The Coral Triangle” debuting on Tuesday, January 22, at 9:00pm ET/PT.

In the Animal Planet WILD DEEP press release they say the documentary will showcase “the amazing wonders and epic beauty that exist in Earth’s seas and oceans.” Their first episode will start “with a deep dive into the waters of the Coral Triangle near Asia.” Subsequent episodes will involve “series dives into the waters surrounding Africa, Europe, Oceania and the Americas to showcase the dramatic, complex universes beneath their waves.”

Coral Triangle covers 5.7 million square kilometers in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean, encompassing Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands.

The Coral Triangle covers 5.7 million square kilometers in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean. It is a roughly shaped triangular region encompassing Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands.

Each episode of the Animal Planet documentary should be a fascinating adventure, but the Coral Triangle region will definitely be a highlight.

The waters of this area are teeming with vast and extremely diverse life forms. Besides being known as the “coral triangle” it is also called the “Amazon of the seas”, reflecting the great Amazon Basin region which is re-known for the extraordinary beauty and diversity of its own inhabitants.

Even a single coral head is covered with multiple coral species and a variety of saltwater fish

When we see ocean corals and fish above water, viewed in the full spectrum of light offered by aquariums, photos, or videos, we can see the incredible colors they possess.

Yet under water, the red spectrum of light becomes reduced the deeper you go, and the animals present a much more even palette. A soothing elegance of interconnected color is created beneath the waves. Though not necessarily flamboyant, this natural deep-water setting offers an awesome, yet curiously comforting scene.

The The Coral Triangle Center states that “a full 76 percent of known coral species are found here and 37 percent of reef fish species.” Now that’s a lot of critters! There are extensive mangrove forests in the region. Mangrove swamps grow along coastal regions and have massive root systems that are efficient at dissipating wave energy, so they protect the coastal areas from erosion, storm surges, and tsunamis. But they also provide valuable nursery areas for all sorts of aquatic animals.

The Coral Triangle is incredibly diverse with 76 percent of the world’s reef corals and hundreds of saltwater fish species

The reef areas are also rich in life, with animals ranging from corals and fish to many types of invertebrates and algaes. They offer spawning and breeding grounds too, for whales and dolphins, sea turtles, and huge fisheries. According to the Coral Triangle Center, the life encountered in this region has “sustained sea faring island people for millennia.”

The Center says that today this incredible habitat “is recognized as the global centre of marine biodiversity and a global priority for conservation.” The diversity of these reef are the seeding stock for future coral reefs, and can help “ensure adaptation as our natural communities respond to climate change and other global trends.”

GMA News reports that the Coral Triangle region has been recognized “as an area of acute ecological importance and of great concern by many governments”. Countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and the Solomon Islands have come together to form ‘The Coral Triangle Initiative’. GMA reports that the Initiative’s purpose is to urgently spread “ideas about sustainable fishing practices” and to set up “marine reserves across the region to ensure pockets of this fragile ecosystem are protected and allowed to thrive.”

Animal-World provides pictures and information on a large selection of Coral Reef Animals and Saltwater fish, along with detailed information on the care necessary to keep them in a marine aquarium or reef tank.

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Making Babies! Once a Year Coral Spawn Event

October 5, 2013 by  
Filed under All Posts, Animal News, Corals Mini-Reef

Tenting a Staghorn Coral Acropora cervicornis
All Photos included here courtesy Richard Ross
California Academy of Sciences

The Octo Mom pales in comparison to the Florida Keys Coral Spawn

An event that happens just once a year yet results in hundreds of thousands of babies. Imagine have just one such happening to produce all the offspring you could ever want! That’s the annual spawning of Elkhorn, Staghorn and other corals off the Florida Keys.

For just a short period of time each year, by a phase of the moon, thirty thousand coral colonies or more are synced-up and driven to reproduce. This happens in August or September, usually just a few days after a full moon.

See exactly how corals spawn! The Coral Spawn video produced by NOAA Ocean Media Center

Now that type of baby making is enough to stir the envy of any mom, Octo or otherwise! Granted, there’s not the same type of physical interaction mammals have, making babies in the animal world. There’s no dating or marriage, nor ongoing obligations.

Coral parents never actually have sex, nor do the mothers (or fathers) then host and provide sustenance for the developing offspring. Rather corals are sessile invertebrates that spew their gametes (eggs and sperm) into the ocean’s water column in one mass spawning exchange.

Buoyant gamete bundles float about the water column until they meet up with gametes from neighboring colonies. Cross-fertilization, resulting is baby corals, is then a happen stance event.

Staghorn Coral Gamete Bundles
Acropora cervicornis

Coral Spawning, Gamete Bundles

Hundreds of thousands of fertilized gametes quickly evolve into coral planula, which soon becomes free-swimming larvae. A few days later they will begin making their way down to the reef. They will seek a suitable area to on the reef area to settle, attach and form polyps.

These polyps grow into beautiful new coral colonies, expanding the reef.

Coral spawning is a curious event similar to being in an upside down snowstorm. Tons of tiny little flakes begin swirling about. But corals only spawn at night, so to watch this wondrous “dance of the gametes”, it helps to be a scuba diver. It also helps to be experienced in diving at night so that you don’t miss any of this exciting event. This years spawning lasted for 4 consecutive days.

Elkhorn Coral Gamete Bundles
Acropora palmata

Restoration of Corals in the Florida Keys

The Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF), based in the Florida Keys, has been working to restore various threatened coral species. I had an opportunity to see some of their cultured specimens of staghorn corals just a few weeks ago at the SuperZoo trade show. Ken Nedimyer, president of the foundation, was very excited about their ongoing efforts in creating offshore coral nurseries, as well as an onshore lab for studying reproduction.

For this years spawning event, CRF joined with 8 other organizations from across the country. Representatives from Akron Zoo, California Academy of Science, Florida Aquarium, Mystic Seaquarium, NOAA, Seaworld and Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund joined with CRF to provide help and support. 25 people in all worked to collect spawn from the open waters as well as from selected staghorn specimens spawning in their lab.

Collecting Gamete Bundles
During a Coral Spawn

You and I, and everyone are invited to volunteer and participate in CRF dive programs to help plant specimens. Although the spawning season has passed until the fall of 2014, the restoration efforts are ongoing. The ultimate goal of CRF is to test the fertilization of selective gametes in an effort to propagate more resistant corals and help ensure their survival.

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

The California Hydrocoral

June 23, 2012 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Corals Mini-Reef

California Hydrocoral - Stylaster californicusCalifornia Hydrocoral
Stylaster californicus

“I’m related to the beautiful Fire Coral, but without its fiercesome sting!”

The California Hydrocoral has many brilliant color variations, including a

beautiful yellow!

The California Hydrocoral Stylaster californicus grows in many different formations. They can have tangled and dense networks of brittle branches or have pointed tip and delicate lace-like formations. They have a variety of colors from orange to purple and pinkish purple, and these are most attractive on a smooth surface.

These corals can be arborescent (tree-like) or encrusting on occasion, but generally are more delicately laced branches which grow on the same plane. Stylaster corals have smooth surfaces with thick tissue. Most of their common colors come in orane, white, yellow, purple, and pink with white margins. Their colors are known for being quite bright. Other names the California Hydrocoral goes by include just the Hydrocoral, the Fire Coral, the Lace Coral, and the Rose Lace Coral… Read More

More on the California Hydrocoral!

Acan Lord

March 31, 2012 by  
Filed under All Posts, Aquariums, Corals Mini-Reef

Acan Lord - Acanthastrea lordhowensis Acan Lord
Acanthastrea lordhowensis

“I am considered royalty among corals – hence my name ‘Lord’!”

In aquatics, the Acan Lord is the only creature called ‘Lord’!

The Acan Lord Acanthastrea lordhowensis, also called ‘The Lord’, is extremely colorful in the Acanthastrea genus. Colors include many different combinations, ranging from blue, red, green, purple, orange, brown, rust, pale tan and pale gray. Other names the A. lordhowensis goes by are the Closed Brain Coral, Pineapple Brain Coral, the Acan Lord Howe, the Pineapple Starry Cup Coral, Brain Coral, and Lordhowensis.

The A. lordhowensis has so many color combinations because of how successfully it has been propagated in captivity. Reef farmers have even more names for the Acan Lord, including the Blood Diamond Aussie Lord, the Green Acan Lord, the Watermelon Aussie Lord, etc., which are all based of of their color combinations. In the Acanthastrea species, the A. lordhowensis is one of the two most popular corals. The other one most sought after is the Acan Echinata A. echinata or the Starry Cup Coral… Read More

More on the Acan Lord!

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