Rich Ross

Eppur si muove

Patterns of schooling fish in the 200,000 gallon Phillipine Reef of the Steinhart Aquarium

by Jake Adams, video by Richard Ross

From Reefbuilders

There’s truly no better way to start the week than by transporting yourself to an imaginary place by watching an awesome reef video. Last week we had the Cozumel Dive video on an actual Caribbean reef and this week we have another great clip, this time by Richard Ross of the Steinhart Aquarium. Having seen and visited this exhibit many times, this video taken from the other side of the glass is by far the clearest view of the awesome fish population of this large reef exhibit. It’s particularly fascinating to see how the whole population of reef fish schooling together, regardless of species. Rich’s choice of music helps to set the tone for this super chill look at Steinhart’s awesome collection of reef fish, we’re really loving that one male Lamarck’s angelfish which appears multiple times in plain view.

MACNA 2010 Rocked!

From Reefbuilders

 

Reefbuilderss has asked contributors to recount their MACNA 2010 experience – its my turn, so here goes! My MACNA 2010 really started when I arrived at the hotel at 11:55 pm on Thursday night. I expected to go to the room, go over my talk and get some much needed sleep (the day had started out at 5 am and involved sitting on an alligator, but that is a different story). When I got to the hotel, I was pulled over to a large group of reefers before I even got to check in. Then I got pulled to the hotel bar where there was an even larger group of reefers. When I finally got to my room at 3:30 am, I knew this MACNA was going to be great and as I drifted off to sleep I dreamed of friends, the Saturday night Manhattan Reefs’ party, and the fabulous reef related info that was going to be coming my way over the next few days. There was a lot to get to, and I didn’t have time to get to everything or everyone I wanted to, but here is a smattering of my highlights of the show.

Probably the biggest excitement for me was the in-person updates on the PNG SEASMART program. I have been lucky enough to dive in the area where the program is taking place, and was excited when I first heard about it because the area is really chock full of diversity. At the same time I was worried because the program was using some of the same sounding green/local/sustainable rhetoric that seems to come with start-up collecting stations but that rarely pans out.

But it seems like PNG SEASMART is really making a go of being successful by sticking to its initial promises. Educate and train the locals in sustainable Total Allowable Catch limits and non destructive collection methods. Less volume, more value (to quote a recent meme). Local ownership and management. Involving PNG government in every aspect of the project so it can be built intelligently for the long term. Provide transparency and information to the hobbyist so everyone can see the reality of the project. The local PNG-ers at the show were fun, approachable and enthusiastic. David Vossler was eager to engage in conversation about how to do things better. They even invited anyone who wants to get over to PNG to come see what they are doing. The program isn’t perfect yet, but from what I have seen so far, PNG SEASMART has a real shot at getting it right.

The standout talk for me was FIJI: TEN YEARS AFTER THE CORAL APOCALYPSE, by Dr. Bruce Carlson. This talk chronicled several areas of reef in Fiji that were hit hard by the 1998 bleaching event. Video of 30 meter line transects year after year showing the damage to reefs by bleaching events and their astounding ability to recover in 10 years or so was really informative and inspiring. Not only video, but data! I love data! Data about how many coral species and what area they cover and how those ratios change over time after bleaching was some amazing work and great documentation (early in recovery there are more coral species with less overall coverage, later in the recovery there are fewer coral species with great overall coverage).  Most interesting was seeing the damage that storms can do to these reefs. Seeing a thriving area of reef one year, and a desolate plain the next after a storm really drove home for me how dynamic natural reef systems are. The upshot of the talk is that reefs can recover from storms and bleaching events, but if these kinds of events occur too often, there could be real problems.

The Marine Breeders Initiative (MBI) held the first ever roundtable discussion about captive breeding and getting animals to market. The event was well attended, interesting and informative. While it wasn’t long enough to really get into the meat of the discussion, it was a wonderful was to set the stage for this kind of important, ongoing in person discussion – which is very different from the equally important continuing online discussion.

A highlight for me on a purely personal note was both the attendance and reaction to my talk on Cephalopods. It was well attended (something I was trepidatious about given the talks that were going on at the same time) which is very exciting to me – a hard core ceph fanatic. What got me through, was getting a completely unexpected round of applause for showing captive mating and a captive Flamboyant hatchling. I was honored to be speaking at MACNA in the first place, and even more humbled that people were excited about my recent work.

If you are luckily like me, you live in an area with a thriving reefing community. Local clubs bring people together, share ideas and get everyone involved going in a good direction. However, after a time, that direction can get a little unidirectional and we can forget that other approaches are really important, that perspectives different from our own, or our locality, have merit. Attending a MACNA with attendees from across the country and around can really give you a reality check and open your eyes to possibilities. MACNA 2010 had everything I could have wanted. Did I get to see everything and talk to everyone? No, but there’s always Des Moines next year.

Thanks to everyone involved in making the show happen, vendors, speakers, attendees, photo bombers, party hosts – especially the hosting club ORCA. I hope you are all lying around recovering bathed in the glow of a job well done and in the appreciation of the greater reef keeping community.

Corals are cool, mistakes happen, planning for the worst is awesome

From Reefbuilders

Those corals are at the northern point of Lambumbu Harbor on the Northwest (leeward) coast of Malakula in Vanuatu. This photo was taken by Chris Maupin during daytime spring low tide which occurs during Austral winter.

In an effort to make Jake’s head explode, I like to write about all the mistakes I make with my home reef system. Even though they may seem embarrassing, everyone makes bone head mistakes, and I think we all learn by hearing about others mistakes. Pretending they didn’t happen helps gives us a false sense of security, so here is how my day started at 5:15 am.

After dreaming about Chris Maupin’s photo above of corals exposed at low tide, I woke up to get ready for work, went downstairs and something sounded wrong in the area of the tank. With a sinking feeling I took a look and the water level in the tank was about a third lower than it should be – meaning the top 6 inches of my reef, a whole lot of coral, was exposed to air just like in the photo above. Ran under the house to check the sump and it was half empty. Ran back upstairs and looked behind the tank, stepped in water, and started flipping switches so the pumps that were running dry could have a break. Turns out I had left the valve that fills my experimental auto feeder open and the tank drained overnight. What a nice thing to wake up to three days before a two week vacation. At least it happened at night when the lights were off and the fans weren’t running.

I have written a lot about being prepared for disaster, and luckily I take my own advice to heart.  I went back under the house, flipped a switch and delicious, mixed, heated and aerated salt water from the 200 gallon reservoir I always keep filled started filling up the system. Within ten minutes I had circulation restored and began cleaning up. I didn’t have much water to clean up because, as planned,  it all went down the piping hole in the floor into the crawlspace under the house. I turned on all my circulation to blow the mucus off the corals that had been exposed. Most of the corals looked no worse for the wear, but we’ll see about the Seriatopora and Archohelia when I get home tonight (I expect them to be beaten but will recover). I even made it to work almost on time.

Moral of the story, corals are amazing and can do well for a while even when exposed to air, planning for the worst makes your life easier, add an emergency overflow drain into your autofeeder (if it fills with via a pump),  and know that mistakes will always happen (mine seem to happen about every two years).

Flamboyant Cuttlefish, Metasepia pfefferi, mating on Video

From Reefbuilders

http://vimeo.com/45446417

Metasepia pfefferi is an amazing species of flamboyant cuttlefish and I have recently had the opportunity to obtain multiple specimens of this species for the first time in 8 years. These flamboyant cuttlefish wasted little time getting on with mating, and with a little luck we’ll get to observe egg laying – and with a lot of luck egg hatching. I am incredibly excited about this video – you can see the males hectocotylus near the end of the vid! Currently, the Steinhart Aquarium has one Flamboyant on display and several more ‘off show’ for a breeding attempt. Before people rush out and try to obtain these guys, please remember that like all adult cuttles, they ship poorly. What does that actually mean? 80-100% DOA or DAA for animals that retail in the 300 to 600 dollar range. Furthermore, since they have a short lifespan (12 months or so) getting adults means that your time with them is going to be to short.

Metasepia are astonishing little animals found primarily in muck habitats. These vast, rolling underwater plains of settled silt and mud appear desolate at first glance, but are in fact populated by an unexpectedly large number of strange animals including frogfish, ghost pipefish and a stunning array of nudibranchs. Fitting right in with these odd neighbors, the Flamboyant Cuttle  is normally a master of camouflage blending in completely while walking along the grey substrate. When startled, however, those previously subdued colors change to bright purples, reds, yellows and whites. The colors shine out in coruscating patterns along the animal’s body probably to indicate the animals toxicity. The idea of keeping the more exotic cephs has generated much discussion in cephalopod circles, mostly because the size and health of their wild populations is unknown (and, at least in areas collected the populations seem to suffer). Even the sharing of information, photos or video of these animals in captivity can be controversial as some fear that detailed information and attractive photos and video may encourage inexperienced saltwater aquarists to obtain specimens and encourage over-collection, perhaps impacting the ability of wild populations to recover.

Personally, I believe that the admiration of a species can be of benefit to its preservation in the wild rather than its detriment.  My hope is that the open sharing of information empowers aquarists to make sound, rational decisions regarding the advisability of keeping and not keeping these animals. In other words, keeping Metasepia is not something that should be entered into on a whim and even experienced cephalopod keepers with mature tanks should think long and hard before trying to obtain this species. Their needs are resource intensive, expensive, and not yet fully understood, so at this point in our understanding of these animals getting one just because ’its cool’ seems to be a disservice to these incredible creatures. Hopefully, captive bred Flamboyants will be available, but until then enjoy the video.

CEPHALOPOD BREEDING