Last weekend I brought home an unusual and beautiful new specimen for the reef: an electric flame scallop.
For those who have never seen one alive, this is what it looks like:
I brought the creature home with some misgivings, because I know they don’t survive very well in most aquariums. They’re filter feeders, subsisting on a diet of phytoplankton and planktonic bacteria (bacterioplankton), neither of which is present in large enough quantities on the typical reef.
The scallop in question had spent three weeks in the fish store. It looked healthy and open, and since I know my reef is better suited to delicate organisms than many others, I decided to take a chance.
We’ve named it Tesla.
The thin bluish line across the center of the orange mantle actually pulsates, giving the “electric” flame scallop its name. I’ve filmed some video, and will try to post it here soon.
Since arriving in the tank, Tesla has demonstrated another unusual characteristic of scallops: unlike clams, which close up tightly when molested, scallops often get irritated and clap their shells to drive the intruders off.
Tesla gets a surprising amount of force behind this “clapping.” The current created was strong enough to blow an unwary peppermint clean off the shell and into the open water. (Which, I have to admit, was one of the more entertaining moments I’ve had with the reef.)
Ultimately, the shrimp came back, though it learned the back of the scallop is a safer place to sit than out in front.
Earlier this evening, Emo the clownfish also found himself an unwitting victim of Tesla’s rage. The clown decided he didn’t like the scallop’s position on the rocks (scallops can swim, so Tesla picked his own location upon arrival in the tank). Emo responded by flapping his tail to send a jet of water toward the scallop–whereupon Tesla reciprocated by shooting water back much harder than Emo could manage. Emo swam away and ‘sulked’ on the opposite end of the reef. The victorious Tesla trailed his tentacles like streamers.
Flappy finds the scallop somewhat scary (and by “somewhat,” I mean “creature out of nightmares”) so, for now, he tends to keep his distance.
It’s hard to say how well the scallop is settling in, but for now, Tesla seems fairly “happy” and I’ll do my best to keep him so. (And no, I don’t really know whether this flame scallop is male or female, but the original Tesla was male, so I’m taking a page from the scallop’s book and going with the flow.)