Monthly Archives: September 2011

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Another Gem for New York

 As a professional aquarist working at a coastal aquarium, I field a lot of calls from local fishermen, SCUBA divers, fish collectors, or just people out for a walk on the beach looking for help identifying some fish or other marine creature that they’ve come across.  Often the conversation begins with something like: “In all my years of fishing, I’ve never seen anything like this.” Often it ends with something like: “Yeah, that’s just a lizardfish. They’re actually quite common, but they spend most of their time buried in the sand and, around here, they usually don’t get big enough to catch on rod and reel.”  Of course my ability to identify the animal in question depends in large part, on the quality of the description or photo provided by the inquirer.  I recently received the following photo, asking if I could ID the fish that were aggregating around the lion’s mane jellyfish at the center.  Obviously it would be impossible to determine the species from the photo alone, however, I’ve spent enough time in the water with lion’s mane jellies to know that juvenile butterfish, Peprilus triacanthus, commonly take refuge under their bells and among their tentacles in much the same way that a clownfish takes refuge in the tentacles of a sea anemone.  Since I’ve never observed any other species of fish in our area exhibiting this behavior, I was, in this case, able to provide a probable identification. Local divers often tell me about the exotic tropical strays they encounter on their dives, and in some cases they are able to give me a description… More:

Pimp Your Fish

Normal is so 2010.  These days people are jazzing up everything they own, from homes to cars to guns to tanks.  If it has mass, you can pimp it.  Slightly less expensive than getting the guys from TANKED to build you a reef inside of an Port-A-Potty, you can have this fancy goldfish bowl that just screams “I cancelled my Maxim subscription in favor of Vanity Fair”.  This glass bowl, designed by artists Gaia and Gino is a big improvement on the classic goldfish bowl, and sure to impress your friends.  Priced at $139, you can order one HERE.… More:

Mantis shrimp

Of all the amazing and mysterious creatures we can find on the reef there are some that stand “out of the crowd”.  Cephalopods for example. Their high intelligence, communication skills and camouflage abilities amaze scientists to this day. But there is yet another invertebrate that is a subject of ongoing studies, one that physical build and behavior is a puzzle not yet fully understood. It is called a Mantis shrimp and it’s a member of the order Stomatopoda. The common name is misleading as it is not a shrimp nor it is related to mantids. It’s distant cousins are lobsters and crabs.
Seeing one of the more colorful species of mantis shrimp, a peacock mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) from up close More:

Mr. Saltwater Tank TV Friday AM Quick Tip #48: I’m a Little Brother and Don’t Forget About Me

Don’t overlook these guys.

Make a Spash this weekend at House of Fins

For all the New England reefers, don’t forget about the big event at House of Fins this weekend, featuring our own Tony Vargas as a guest speaker, and Scott Fellman on the wheels of steel.  They have some incredible discounts on just about everything you could want for your tank, and we know HOF is no slouch when it comes to the eye candy!… More:

For all the gamers – Aquaria

The typical aquarium owner is male.  The typical video game player is also male.  Aquaria is a really cool game for your iPad that can satisfy both of your addictions at once.  What’s even better?   The graphics are super cute, and your wives/girlfriends/others might actually take an interest in what you’re playing when you’re laughing your head off at the digitized versions of sea grass, tunicates, and huge open brain corals.  This is a port of a pretty popular game from the Mac OSX, and now more people can experience the lush fantasy worlds on their iDevice. LINK (Video after the jump)… More:

Photon Clownfish Genetics – A Tale of a Promiscuous Female Onyx Percula

A Black Photon Clownfish

 Several years ago I picked up an “Odd Couple” of clownfish in Colorado and shipped them home. A pair of Onyx Percula and a Black Ocellaris clownfish that had been together for a while. This pair surprisingly spawned, and resulted in a hybrid that I named the Black Photon Clownfish. There was always the inevitable question – “Are these hybrids fertile and can they produce offspring?”  I paired up some of the Black Photon clownfish siblings to see if they would eventually pair up and spawn. When the original male died shortly after I had raised a few spawns, I tried pairing the female with other black ocellaris hoping to recreate the black photons. After several unsuccessful attempts where the female ended up killing the males, I threw a few of her black photon progeny juveniles in with her to serve as detractors while I tried to add another black ocellaris male. She had her own plans, and decided to kill the others and cozy up to a black photon clownfish. Out of sheer curiosity I left the pair together. As the juvenile male matured, I started to see them go through the courting and mating ritual and gave me hope that they might spawn someday. Yes they did !! This answered the one nagging question about the fertility of the hybrid clownfish… More:


This image is 3 years old, but still one of my favorites because of the story behind it. The image was created during a visit to the fish room of Rich Dietz. Most know him as Mr. Firemouth. We spent the better part of a day talking about reefs and photographing his corals and fish. In his display tank, he had a large colony of a xenia species I’d not seen before. As impressive as the colony was/is, it didn’t change my opinion about xenia, a coral that I discovered, much to my chagrin, that I’m very good at growing.
   As I photographed Rich’s fish and corals, I intentionally avoided the xenia colony. I had no interest in adding a xenia photo to my collection. Toward the end of the session, I was looking for other corals to photograph and kept going back to the xenia colony that had been tirelessly pulsing throughout the day.
   As I watched all of those pulsing polyps, I wondered: If I isolated one polyp and timed the shot at the moment the polyp opened, could I also get a movement blur in the background from the rest of the colony?
   I now had a photographic challenge and started watching the colony from a different perspective. I quickly found a polyp that could be isolated through depth-of-field control. I knew it wouldn’t be perfect, but was confident the isolation could be more than satisfactory. Once I found the right exposure setting, it became a matter of timing the shot. My focus was now on the rhythm of that one polyp.
   It took about 20 shots to get this image. Note that I still employed the rule of thirds and didn’t put the polyp in the center of the frame. I cropped the image from the left side because the full width of the frame presented too much of the blurred background and detracted from the “frozen” polyp.
   Xenia is still my least-favorite coral, but this shot will always be in my top ten because it’s a respectable result from an interesting challenge.
   Technical details: Canon 20D, Sigma EX180 macro lens, 0.4 sec. at f/16, ISO 800, tripod.–Gary L. Parr,, www.reefthreads.comMore: is the world's leading destination for sustainable coral reef farming and the aquarium hobby. We offer a free open forum and reef related news and data to better educate aquarists and further our goals of sustainable reef management.