Some Places We Don’t Go at Night

Every neighborhood has a bad corner. The one where you don’t go at night.

Apparently aquariums have one too. In my case, it’s the left rear corner. The tank has a large rock formation on left-hand side that stretches from the front to the back of the tank.

If you look, you can see the little alley that leads up the left side between the rocks and the glass. Two caves pass through from the alley to the back – I left them intentionally, since fish and seahorses enjoy having caves to hide in.

Between the rocks and the tank’s location, I don’t see much of the space behind the rocks. Thing 1 and Thing 2 have a cave  below the orange mushrooms, the cleaner shrimp claim the cave at the center behind the orange and red tube worms, and Red the Fire Shrimp has a “secret cave” under the volcano-looking rock on the right hand side.

All of which I knew fairly early on.

I didn’t know where the peppermint shrimp spent their days. The little guys are nocturnal (and shy, which is why I don’t have many images of their exploits) but I thought they had found little caves no one else had claimed.

At least, that’s what I thought at first.

About a month ago I noticed the number of snails declining. At first I assumed the unwieldy trochus were falling behind the rocks and dying when they couldn’t right themselves. It happens, and since I can’t reach the back of the tank anyway I didn’t think too much about it.

Until the cerith went missing.

Unlike the unwieldy trochus, ceriths have a spiral shell that lets them turn over at will. They tend to stick to the glass and rocks and don’t spend much time in the sand. When I looked for the missing snail, I discovered a pile of empty shells in the back left corner of the tank – with a gang of peppermint snails sitting on them like footballers in a huddle.

A minute later I realized the shell at the center was inhabited, though its resident was already beyond help. The shrimp pulled that snail from its shell with the practiced ease of escargot connoisseurs and devoured it just as quickly.

Lesson learned.

The peppermints clean up detritus and prevent unwanted anemones, so on balance I think I can spare them a snail or two. But that pile of shells speaks volumes about a gastropod’s chances in Peppermint Alley – and all other things being equal, it’s not a place I’d like to be at night with a shell on my back.

One thought on “Some Places We Don’t Go at Night

  • May 17, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Lol. That’s pretty creepy. You kind of expect something named “peppermint shrimp” to be, I don’t know, sweet and friendly. Then to find out they are a murderous alley gang is like finding out the sweet little Sunday school class is really a gang of vampires. Poor little cerith.

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