The Gulf of Mexico

In Quest of the Christmas Tree Worm and Other Native Treasures and Oddities

COURED BY SHRIMP TRAWLERS, dotted With oil aL * rigs, and routinely churned by hurricanes, the Gulf ^^ of Mexico is not blessed with a reputation for pris-■ tine coral reefs, and despite its proximity, it is largely unappreciated by marine aquarium hobbyists in North America. For the aquarist with an eye for the unusual, however, it can be a source of unique and amazingly beautiful living organisms and materials for the captive reef.

Compared to the Florida Keys and the neighboring Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico is a significantly diff erent habitat, although some tropical species from the Keys area regularly migrate into Gulf waters, and sometimes one finds species in the Keys that are more commonly seen farther north. Because Gulf species are often included in imports of marine livestock from Florida to other parts of the United States, aquarists should be aware of the special habitats that such specimens represent. Collectors working the Gulf can supply the adventuresome aquarist with an array of unusual invertebrates and living materials to create extraordinarily attractive bio topes.

A sea mat from the northern Gulf of Mexico is regularly

Fascinating to behold, Atlantic Christmas Tree Worms, Spiro-branchus giganteus, are often found embedded in live rock.

sold in aquarium shops and is commonly kept in tanks along with stony corals and other photosynthetic invertebrates. This is Paly thou gmndis. The large, dark green polyps are very attractive, and the species is hardy in captivity. Most other northern Gulf species are not well suited to a tropical reef aquarium, but are excellent subjects for an aquarium intended to reflect their special habitat. A good example of such a community is the central Gulf area near Tampa, where a unique assemblage of invertebrates can be found. A characteristic species from this region is the Christmas Tree Worm, Spirobranchus giganteus. While this species is found throughout the West Indies and the world, it occurs abundantly only in the Gulf.

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Aquarium and Fish Care Tactics

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