And yes, if my abalone had a second name it would be M-A-Y-E-R.
(As if you needed further proof that I operate on roughly a second-grade level.)
Oscar is a baby abalone (Haliotis sp.). Based on his size (about 1.5″ in length) I’m guessing he’s just over one year old. Like most abalones, he’s largely nocturnal – which means good photos of Oscar will be few and far between.
For scale, here’s a picture of Oscar during the acclimatization process. The snails around him range in size from 1/2″ to 3/4″ in size.
(The coloring you see in the other photos is closer to accurate – the yellow light in the kitchen makes him look overly brown in this one.)
Unlike many other molluscs, abalones are dioecious, meaning they’re not hermaphroditic but rather male or female. I’m not 100% certain that our Oscar isn’t an Oscarina, but (s)he’s staying “Oscar” regardless of the way that discovery goes.
Oscar isn’t a protected or edible variety of abalone. They’re rare in the aquarium trade, and mostly seen in established reef tanks with plenty of algae to graze on (he’s herbivorous and peaceful by nature). They don’t do well in the presence of predatory fish or crustaceans. Oscar has a shell, but he can’t withdraw into it completely like other molluscs. They depend on camouflage and finding places to hide in the rocks during daylight hours.
And he’s very good at camouflage. I’ve “lost” him twice since Saturday. He creeps into the reef and sits very still until the lights go out, at which point he heads off to forage. I do have one last picture of him, however, taken just after I introduced him to the reef. (I’ve added a pink arrow to help you find him.)
Have you ever seen a live abalone, in a reef or in the ocean? Do you think they’re interesting pets or do you share certain family members’ opinion that they look like they belong in a Kleenex rather than a fishtank? Hop into the comments and let me know!