Ultimate Secrets To Saltwater Fish

Idiot Guide To The Marine Aquarium

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"In action and appearance these seem to be the most intelligent of the small Bermuda fish. This is perhaps unfairly enhanced by the hand and foot-like use of the pelvic fins, and the conspicuous, intelligent-looking eyes. Both in the tidepools and two to three fathoms down, which are their natural haunts, and in aquariums, they are quick, keen and fearless. They pay little attention to the approaching diver or to anyone watching close to the glass of the aquarium."

I can personally vouch for this by having observed them among the rocks near the Southampton Princess hotel in Bermuda. There, creeping about in the relatively calm water that clings like a "skin" to a boulder's surface in spite of the powerful currents, a swimmer with snorkel and mask can get within a few inches of these interesting little fish.

Capturing blennies is quite another mat^lrl Some combtooth blennies can be collected by patiently maneuvering them into a dipnet, as veteran collector Andy Borgia of Key West, Florida, showed me when I visited him in 1998. Using a stiff mesh net made for skimming swimming pools, Borgia collected some fine examples of the redlip blenny (Ophioblennius atlanticus) at snorkel depth in a mixed turtlegrass, sponge and coral habitat.

Redlip blennies are large for their kind, reaching a length of 5 inches. They have clownlike faces, reminiscent of Bozo the Clown, complete with lipstick and frizzy hair. They are popular in Caribbean reef aquariums.

Along the northern Texas coast, where I do much of my marine collecting, the water is too cold and too murky for much of the year to hunt for blennies with a snorkel, mask and dipnet. Instead, I use the technique of microangling, which consists of catching aquarium fish with tiny (#25) fly hooks baited with pinhead-sized bits of shrimp. Near Galveston on the various rock jetties, a dedicated microangler can usually count on catching a few crested blennies (Hypleurochilus geminatus) with this strategy.

The female lacks the more pronounced crest and "eyebrows" of the v m


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the dipnetter male. Although modestly patterned in brown speckles, this little fish will quickly capture your heart with its inquisitive personality. This and several related species use empty oyster shells as breeding places, and they tend to be most abundant where there is a good growth of these shellfish.

Another Favorite

Of the three Hypsoblennius spp. found on the Pacific coast of the United States, the rockpool or notch-brow blenny (H. gilberti) is my favorite, since it is easily collected by microangling and does not require elaborate chilling setups to keep it happy. Like the crested blenny, the rockpool blenny is a modestly colored little fish with a big personality.

Many years ago when I lived in California I spent many exasperating hours trying to coax these little devils into aquarium nets. I frequently got battered and soaked by the waves and was only occasionally successful. Once collected, they will live for years in a simple cool-water marine tank with rocks and caves to hide in. Such a tank should be maintained at between 70 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit^^

A great deal of amateur research has gone into breeding the more colorful tropical combtooth blennies. Most require 30- tQjQ-gallon tanks with a single pair to a tank. Feeding the 30 or so fry that hatch from a clutch has proved to be challenging, with various milXluresjof "rot," green water or other algae-rich preparations producing the est results. This suggests an excellent area for the experimentally inclined aquatic naturalist to make real contributions to our knowledge of these fascinating native fish. U

The Fishy Quit by AEIen Breiig

Vince Brach, Ph.D., has been an aquatic naturalist and aquarist since the early 1950s. He earned his BS in biology at the University of Southern California and his Ph.D. at the University of Miami, Coral Gables. He currently teaches high school biology and chemistry in Tyler, Texas.

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Why is the rainy season so important to the breeding of fish? A. More water. B. Enhanced food supply. C. Warmer temperatures. D. All of these. There are five common ways to remove nitrates from reef aquariums. Name two plus the least expensive method.

When a fish is anadromous it can live in_as well as_.

Give two examples.

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Mystery Tank Die Off

I have a 180-gallon reef tank with an in-the-tank plenum with 2 mm to 5 mm grain size sand in a sandbed that is 4 inches deep. I also have a protein skimmer in the sump.

As for livestock, I keep four square Anthias (one male, the others are female), one royal gramma, two cleaner shrimp, one Harlequin shrimp, two brittle stars, two serpent stars, one scopas tang, one algae blenny, one tiger tail cucumber, one dragon goby, two Acropora that are growing nicely, along with some mushrooms, green stars, button polyps, a type of cabbage coral and some pink soft coral that grows like a weed and looks like pink grass.

My pH remains between 8.1 at night and 8.3 during the day, nitrates and phosphates I can't get ajTSiding on. I use reverse osmosis water for make-up and tflB-off and have six VHO 5-foot-long bulbs and two Wave2K units.

The tank was set up five years ago. After taking about a year to build the inhabitant population levels to where I wanted them, things were going great, with mostly purple and pink coralline and many soft corals and mushrooms. I used to have colt coral that also grew like a weed — so much so that I was cutting it back and bonding it to some fiberglass screen and some rubble to give away.

Then, about two years ago, with everything looking great, the pump on the protein skimmer got blocked up while I was away on business. I think a pink and black cucumber died that same week, and we lost all the fish. I took about half a year to rebalance the tank and just let the corals grow out before I added any new fish again. All the corals looked great, then about one year ago I started getting a good growth of macroalgae and bubble algae, which I tried to rip out.

Proper sandbed maintenance is key to invertebrate health and survival. Sometimes things like this colt coral may also need a high-quality trace element additive to do well.

I also pruned the macroalgae but left enough to keep it growing. About six to eight months ago the bubble algae seemed to diminish, but they've been replaced by a much-worse-looking hair algae during the last few months, with the macroalgae growth slowly down dramatically.

The current algae is darker toward the bottom and lighter green at the ends. I rip out as much as I can each week and throw it out, but I don't understand how so much biomass can be created. I am not adding nearly the amount of food that I used to, but it seems to be as though its creating its own food source, much the way cyanobacteria does once it has created its mat.

Anyway, my wife and I bought a new house and will be moving in soon. And I'm thinking of pulling the plenum out and doing it separately in the sump.

So with all that history, I'm really looking for your suggestions on how to take advantage of the move to reestablish the aquarium and get rid of the algae. This algae is very hard to tear off down to the roots, and usually when I try to pull up pieces some of the rock comes with it. I'm wondering if the algae could be the result of a failed plenum and that is why there are no readable nitrates or phosphates, or should I be looking at using different test kits?

What seems odd to me is the Acropora has tripled in size during the past two years. I'm not sure if that's fast or slow, but it seemed pretty good to me, and I took it to imply good water quality. One other odd thing happened during this time, the colt coral that used to be so prolific died off over several months, while other things were growing great.

I'm finally getting the ability to

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