Zoanthus Sociatus

Biotope Aquarium

Discosoma neglecta is commonly called the Neon Disc

Anemone. It lives in inshore waters, usually on hard-bottom areas where branched Porites corals and many macroalgae are found, as well as on the fore reef. This species is seldom collected for the aquarium but well worth obtaining for its bright blue-green coloration. Tentacles are completely absent.

SEA MATS (Order Zoantharia). This is an interesting and hardy group that lies somewhere between anemones and corals in the scheme of cnidarian classification. Sea mats look like colonies of small anemones. In the majority of species, the polyps are all joined together at the base by a sheet of tissue that spreads over hard surfaces and gives rise to additional polyps. The shallow-water form, Zoanthus sociatus, has already are also called mushroom polyps, mushroom corals or disc been described (page 164). Other Atlantic zoanthids, in-

anemones. All are basically flattened discs with very short eluding Palythoa caribaeorum, P tuberculosa, P grandis and columns, and most occur in aggregations of several to many Parazoanthus swift ii, are deep-reef organisms and are rarely individuals. These are usually sold as groups of individuals found on sea mat rock from shallow water. P swiftii is always attached to a rock. Ricordea florida, the Florida False Coral, found in association with sponges and is thought by some once commonplace, is now difficult to obtain due to col- authors to be a parasite. More likely, however, the associa-

lecting restrictions. Polyps are roughly the size of a quarter, tion is a benign one, as I have never observed sponges har-

Chapter Six 175

Frilly Arrow Crab

boring this sea mat that appeared to be harmed by the association in any way. The various Palythoa species are excellent aquarium subjects.

CRUSTACEANS. The Arrow Crab, Stenorhynchus seti-cornis, looks like a spider with its long, spindly legs. The name comes from the arrowhead shape of the body. Two arrow crabs cannot be kept together, as they will fight to the death, with the winner making a meal of the loser. The Arrow Crab may not get along well with Banded Coral Shrimp either (see below). Despite its untrustworthiness in the presence of these other crustaceans, this crab can be a useful addition to the tank, as it will seek out and eliminate bristleworms, which it eats. Its fondness for polychaetes extends to the more desirable species, however, and this crab should be avoided if you intend to keep large feather dusters and the like.

Probably the most common shrimp in aquarium shops Arrow Crab (Stenorhynchus seticornis): delicate in appear-

is the Banded Coral Shrimp, Stenopus hispidus. This species, ance, but a keen predator of bristleworms and crustaceans with its huge claws, red and white stripes, and long, white antennae, is hardy and undemanding. On the reef, Stenopus is a cleaner, but this behavior is rarely exhibited in the aquarium, and the shrimp is content to feed upon bits of food missed by the fishes. Mated pairs of Banded Coral Shrimp are sometimes available. Having a mated pair is the only way to keep two of these shrimps together, as they will fight to the death otherwise. Studies indicate that females will accept any male in the neighborhood, however, if he is introduced immediately after she molts. Some aquarists claim to be successful at creating pairs by acquiring two specimens of unequal size. By carefully observing a group of shrimp in your dealers tank, you may be able to discern a pair that stays in close proximity to each other without displaying aggression. The Golden-banded Coral Shrimp (S. scutellatus) is also available from time to time.

In nature, Stenopus hispidus often shares its territory with Banded Coral Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus): fine aquarium another cleaner shrimp, the Scarlet Lady, Lysmatagrabhami. choice, but will battle its own kind if not kept in mated pairs

Zoanthus Sociatus

176 Natural Reef Aquariums

Aquarium Shrimp

(Another name often applied to this shrimp, especially to specimens from the Pacific, is Lysmata amboinensis.) Unlike Stenopus, the Scarlet Lady Shrimp is not aggressive toward members of its own species, and a dozen or more of these interesting shrimps could be kept in the same tank. Scarlet Lady Shrimp, also known as "Scarlet Cleaner" and "Eel Cleaner" shrimp, will eat a variety of common aquarium foods and usually subsist quite well by scavenging. They are avid cleaners, however, and will even alight on the hand of the aquarist, tugging at hairs and removing bits of dead tissue from around the fingernails. Fish that are, to the aquarist s eye, free from external parasites and wounds will nevertheless seek out the services of the Scarlet Lady Shrimp in the aquarium. Cleaning behavior is practiced by Royal Gramma (Gramma loreto): a near-perfect reef species a number offish and invertebrate species and has obvious appropriate for a variety of Caribbean and Bahamas biotopes. advantages to both the cleaner and the individual being cleaned. Do not trust the Banded Coral Shrimp or other that might be drawn from this zone. Here are but two to members of the genus Stenopus with other, smaller shrimps. stimulate your thinking. The first of these is more typical I would not place a Scarlet Lady in a small tank with a large of reefs further south in the Caribbean, because its major Arrow Crab either. inhabitant, the Royal Gramma, is very rare in Florida, de-

The Scarlet Lady Shrimp is in the Family Hippolytidae. spite its abundance from the Bahamas south to Venezuela. Several other members of this family are available for the aquarium. Lysmata wurdemanni, for example, called the Peppermint Shrimp or Candycane Shrimp, is very common in Florida and the Caribbean. It is usually found The dazzling Royal Gramma [Gramma loreto) lives around sponges or other encrusting invertebrates and ex- in caves and under ledges on the sloping face of the fore-reef hibits cleaning behavior. Growing to about IV2 inches in terrace. It is a gregarious species, with groups of up to 12 length, it is transparent with bright red markings. It is ap- or more individuals sharing the same cave. A gently slop-parently not difficult to catch, as specimens are seldom ex- ing wall of aquacultured live rock from Florida or the pensive. Several authors have recommended keeping a few Caribbean would provide a perfect backdrop for a group of Peppermint Shrimps in any reef tank because they regu- these fish. Half a dozen specimens would make a suitable larly mate in captivity, producing an abundance of free- population for a 75-gallon tank and might very well afford swimming larvae that can serve as a nutritious food for filter the opportunity to observe breeding behavior. Arrange the feeders. The larvae can also be reared to maturity.

Caribbean Fore-Reef Terrace Aquarium rock so that there are several caves near the center (or wher-Because of the abundance and diversity of life on the ever you prefer the fish to congregate), and try to obtain at fore reef, there are many potential natural aquarium themes least one large, flat piece of rock that can be used to create

Chapter Six 177

Indigo Hamlet

Indigo Hamlet CHypoplectrus indigo): an interesting and unusual "Floribbean" sea bass for the larger reef system.

a ledge. Grammas have the amusing habit of hanging upside-down under rocky shelves. When visitors come to view the aquarium, you will be able to point out this interesting behavior, although the brilliant colors of the Royal Gramma could scarcely be more arresting. (Thirty years ago, this species was considered a rare jewel of the marine aquarium and carried an outrageous price tag. Today it is no less desirable, but is readily available at modest prices and is a reef fish suitable even for beginning aquarists. )

With a larger aquarium, say 125 gallons or more, a school of Blue Chromis (Chromis cyaneus) will inhabit the open water away from the rock slope occupied by the gramma clan. In such an aquarium design, a light-colored sandy bottom running the length of the tank could suddenly give way to a steeply stacked escarpment of live rock placed at one end. The rock should occupy only about one-third of the length of the tank. The gramma colony will associate itself with the rocks, and the chromis school will hover above the sand at the opposite end. Top the escarpment with an assortment of encrusting soft corals and sponges, and attach several Purple Frilly Gorgonians (Pseudopterogorgia) to the rock face with underwater epoxy. This gorgonian is often seen projecting outward from the reef face.

Any of the shrimps mentioned earlier would be at home in this habitat, occupying nooks not in use by the grammas. Include a dozen or more snails for algae control, and perhaps a modest-sized sponge or two for additional color. I f healthy sponges are available, consider including several Peppermint Shrimp, which seem to associate with sponges.

Instead of crustaceans, one might include a Blue Hamlet {Hypoplectrus gemma) if the tank is roomy enough. The hamlets mimic various species of damselfishes in order to go unnoticed by their intended victims. In the wild, H. gemma can be found hiding in schools of Blue Chromis, where its color and behavior dupes prey into ignoring the shoal of planktivorous damsels and allowing the hamlet to strike. Captive hamlets will quickly eat prized shrimps and crabs.

Lighting for this biotope must be quite bright near the top of the escarpment, and the gorgonians, though tolerant of lower light levels, should nevertheless receive adequate illumination. Depending on the final design, the surface area to be illuminated, and the water depth, either metal halide or fluorescent lighting could be used. With the former light source, patchy outgrowths of Halimeda could be placed here and there on the bottom. H. opuntia simply lies on the sand, while H. incrassata and H. tuna have a buried holdfast.

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Responses

  • jesse wallace
    Do grandis palythoa molt?
    8 years ago

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