November on the Reef

I’ve been less than perfect about my reef posts for the last couple of weeks – but I promise we’re back on schedule now. And since it’s the first week in December, it’s time for a November retrospective on the reef: I caught Ripley the porcelain crab at the end of a successful moult, with the old shell still clinging to her legs: And the zoanthid and daisy polyp corals enjoying the evening lights: Max spent lots of time hanging out in his cave: And enforcing the “no shenanigans” rule when Emo got out of hand. Finally, near the end

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Cooperation on the Reef

Last night, while working on the third Shinobi Mystery, I glanced at the tank and noticed something I rarely seem to see with a camera handy: Red the fire shrimp cleaning Flappy the mandarin dragonet. A couple of days ago, I snagged this photo of the process just before the aquarium lights came on: It’s rare to see a cleaning when I can film a video, because Red (like most fire shrimp) prefers to stick to the safety of his cave during “daylight hours” on the reef. Last night, however, everything aligned, so here’s your Tuesday aquatic treat – bath

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Sometimes, it’s “Fighting Emo”…

Most of the time, the inhabitants of my little reef live peacefully side by side. Conflicts usually amount to little more than a flash of fins and a “move along” when someone comes too close to Emo the clown’s anthelia home. Occasionally, however, turf wars happen. The anthelia coral where Emo hosts grows beautifully and fast, in part because the clownfish takes great care to groom and protecting the coral’s arms. As a result, I have to “prune” the coral regularly, to keep it from overgrowing parts of the tank and interfering with the nearby territory belonging to our watchman

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Flame On!

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

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Ripley … Believe it or Not!

Last week I brought home another porcelain crab for my little reef. Although larger than the other two, the new addition looks almost identical to the existing porcelain crabs, Face and Hugger. I’d originally named her “Hold” but after discovering that the new crab was both female and gravid (egg bearing, aka “pregnant”) my son persuaded me that she needed a name more in line with the “Alien” theme of the other two. We’ve named her Ripley. After completing her acclimatization hold, I released Ripley into the tank. She swam immediately into a large cluster of blue-green palythoas, where she

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Sometimes, the Pearl IS the Oyster

Yesterday, while visiting the fish store to pick up another porcelain crab, I noticed a strangely-shaped frag of zoanthids in the “cheapie” section of the store. I noticed because zoas rarely grow in geometrically-regular colonies, and even when they do the colony “edges” are uneven, with independent polyps sticking away from the cluster at varying intervals. The colony I noticed was circular (almost ovoid), with sharply defined rounded edges. Upon closer examination, it also had an open mouth along the edge. What I’d found was a rare example of inter-species cooperation: a live oyster overgrown with at least two different

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July 2013: Reef Retrospective

As always, the first week of the month gives me the pleasure of sharing the “best of the reef in photos.” Here’s what I saw in July. Seahorses will hitch to anything that offers a good enough grip, as this Mexican turbo snail discovered the hard way: Sun corals rarely extend their tentacles fully, due to the danger of getting nipped by a passing predator.  Once in a while, though, I have the pleasure of seeing these lovely corals at their photogenic best: Snail races. Brought to you by “dinnertime on the reef”: And another one from the snail files

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Starfish on the Reef

Ever since my childhood visits to my great-grandmother’s house on Balboa island, I’ve loved starfish. As a child, I walked the beach on sunny mornings, bucket in hand, collecting the starfish stuck on the sand and returning them to the water. I used a bucket in order to return them all to the water directly in front of my grandmother’s home–on the theory that they would be easier to find and protect the next day if I kept them all together and nearby. (It seemed logical at the time. And no, I never did wonder why they scattered out again

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June In Retrospective on the Reef!

As always, my first post of the new month offers some of the best shots from the previous month on my little reef. Among this month’s highlights: Ghillie the seahorse watching me as I watched him/ Emperor Maximus Angryfish I keeping a watchful eye out for shenanigans. Wilson the urchin wearing a suction cup “hat” that he picked up to use as camouflage. Emo the clownfish hiding out in his host anthelia, but keeping an eye on the Hawaiian sun coral in case there’s food to steal. And, finally, Ghillie  passing a reflective moment on the powerhead: All things considered,

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Change is a Constant … in Life and on the Reef

Four decades of life has taught me many lessons. Among them: I don’t like change. Not a good position for a debut author, but there it is. Over the last eighteen months, I’ve learned to embrace change, and even to enjoy it a little. Ironically, my reef aquarium has helped the process along. On the reef, as in life, change is the only constant. But on the reef, change occurs on a day to day – and sometimes minute-to-minute basis. Some changes, like the conversion from bare rock to living reef take years to accomplish. Other changes occur more quickly.

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