The Post – The Fiddler Babies are Dead, But We’ll Start Over And Prove Horseyhannah Wrong!!

The fiddler babies are dead.

I am sad, because I really did like the fiddler babies. I looked around on the web last night for clues to their demise and that’s when I got ticked.

The Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet Online Forum had a discussion of how to raise fiddler crab larvae. “Horseyhannah,” a senior member on the forum basically told a member who asked how to raise fiddler larvae that it’s so hard and requires hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment to simulate ocean environments, waves, tides, etc. so it’s really not possible. Horseyhannah told the person to just enjoy the adult fiddler crabs and don’t bother to raise the babies. Needless to say, the person asking the question was polite, said thank you, agreed it will probably be hard, but would still like to know horseyhannah’s info source…just in case she decided to raise them anyway. My answer to that person is: GO FOR IT!!!! PROVE HORSEYHANNAH WRONG!!!!!

In fact, I am determined to do just that. In my book, Horseyhannah has thrown down the gauntlet and I am determined to prove her wrong.

I will concede failure on this first attempt. I am sad as I was so looking forward to having some fiddler grandchildren survive. I was frustrated and disappointed because contrary to the advice above, I think it was not only possible, but it was happening. Because I lost them so quickly, that tells me something overwhelming happened in the tank to kill them all off at once.

To review, by Friday afternoon, there were no babies moving around. It was a rapid decline, and up until that point, we still had quite a large number alive. I have to conclude it was a water quality issue and I think the biggest culprit was the live phytoplankton. But to go through this methodically, let me look at several things. If it were salinity, ie they didn’t like the marine environment I don’t think they would have lived that long in it to start with. I suspect the following things were problems:

1) I used gravel and we did lose MANY babies because they burrowed into the gravel crevices and died there.

2) The nitrite levels in the water spiked suddenly and got very toxic. Thoughts on this point:

a) I didn’t get the tank set up early enough to have a mature and well-functioning nitrogen cycle.

b) I either fed them the wrong food, or too much, or both. The wrong food or too much food meant it didn’t get eaten, sat in the tank and rotted. OR it created a huge algae bloom that raised nitrite levels beyond a tolerable level.

c) I didn’t change the water fast enough once I realized the nitrites were a problem, though given the phytoplankton issue, I was probablly fighting a losing battle from the beginning.

d) I no doubt lost babies doing the water changes because my only option was to bail water out of the tank and pour it down the drain

So boys and girls, what have I learned from this first attempt that can be done better next time?

1) I will use calcium sand not gravel. Aside from the fact that the babies won’t get trapped in the substrate material, the calcium sand will provide enough calcium for the babies to stay healthy during many molts.

2) Figure out the right food and amount. The gentleman from Finland whose article I quoted a few days back (he raised the Red Clayed Mangrove crabs) fed his larval crab Artemia…brine shrimp. He had a hatchery right in the tank to have a fresh supply. He also used something called JBL Nobilfluid for when the larvae were too small for the brine shrimp. This product is probably similar to the Small Fry liquid food I was using. It it made by a company in Germany and I’m trying to find out if it is marketed here. It has 50 different vitamins and minerals as well as brine shrimp and is geared for newly hatched aquatic animals too small to tackle live brine shrimp yet.

3) DON’T USE LIVE PHYTOPLANKTON this time. In spite of an almost 50% water change, I could not get the nitrite levels down. In fact, they kept rising. Now I am finding information that phytoplankton excrete nitrites. The better the phytoplankton did, the higher the nitrites. And with each feeding I basically inoculated the tank with more. I created my very own algae bloom which released such high nitrite levels, the babies were doomed.

Frankly, the tank seemed to be doing okay until I started using the phytoplankton. I would feed the liquid Small Fry food and while the tank would be cloudy initially, it cleared quickly, telling me the babies ate the food. At that point, in spite of it being a new tank with an unestablished nitrogen cycle, the nitrite levels stayed pretty low. However, once I started using the phytoplankton, the tank got cloudy quickly, the nitrite levels spiked, the water had a greenish tint, and the larval crabs numbers dropped dramatically. So, NO phytoplankton.

4) For water changes, instead of bailing water out, I will use the water bubbler as my “filter” to keep the babies in the tank, and let gravity siphon water out of the tube. I have the bubbler’s pump set up beneath the tank and have a regulator valve in the line to keep water from back-flowing from the air bubbler, into the pump. If I remove the valve and let the tube sit in a bucket, it will slowly siphon off water through the bubbler. This should let me slowly get water out for changes, without bailing larval crabs out of the tank and sending them down my kitchen drain.

So. I will start over. Admiral Byrd is doing his part, trying to get Scarlett O’Hara to notice him. Scarlett O’Hara has been eating and hanging around Admiral Byrd’s cave den. I figure it’s only a matter of time before Scarlett has eggs again. Therefore, tomorrow, I will take down the nursery tank, clean it out, get some calcium sand, and get that tank up and running again with the live rock in it, and get that nitrogen cycle stable.

We are going to try this again! My husband and I would love some fiddler grandchildren, 🙂 and even he said that we must prove Horseyhannah wrong!!! Stay tuned.

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2 Responses to “The Post – The Fiddler Babies are Dead, But We’ll Start Over And Prove Horseyhannah Wrong!!”

  1. Laurie Says:

    Hey, here’s some things I”m doing (I’m on day 3 of the larvae in my tank.

    Just like raising little fish, DON’t use substrate on the ground. Bare tank. So easy to clean.
    1) wipe your finger or a spatula up and down bare tank floor to loosen the stickiness of the waste on the glass
    2) let the water settle down again
    3) I just have a bubbler going, no filter, so shut the bubbler off so crud can settle. Tip the aquarium up on one side somewhat with a towel (mine’s a 2 gallon hex half full) and gently move all crud to bottom most edge. most crabs will follow.
    4) here’s their only saving grace–the “walk towards the light” trick. After crud has settled into mostly bottom edge, move the towel and gently lean the aquarium with a “clean bottom edge” as the bottom most edge. Know what I mean? Need to do that to get the crabbies to swim out of the crud. They weren’t strong enough to swim up and towards a light beam. So I gave them a clean bottom.
    5) Pitch black room, shine flashlight onto clean bottom edge. Wait. Wow, look at them go. I swear I got almost every little twerp to clear out of the crud that way and didn’t loose more than 50. Out of 7000 or however many they have! Vacuum out crud with SMALL airline tubing.

    Now you have Completely immaculate bottom and tons of crabbies.

    Here’s another upgrade to I think the guy who raised the red clawed crabs–remember when they’re supposed to shed and get creative with your air bubbles. Increase airation on and off. Too much and they’d get tired. not enough and they won’t be able to shed their shells. He said he took a huge hit when they tried to shed. So I don’t know, 1/2 hr of medium fine bubbles, 3 hrs regular bubbling?? what do you think?

    Here’s a third idea: how to get the water out of the tank wthout sucking up crabs: old guppy fry trick: put a layer of cloth (muslin or something quite fine) over a little cup you poked holes in with a knife. 1 pint sour cream container works great. gently lower the bowl into the crab pot and put your siphon tube into that. now when you gently siphon out water the pull is so miniscule over that huge surface of a pint container (or tiny yogurt container–whatever) it doesn’t pull one crab into the cloth much less into the sink.

    I guess one big factor is losing as few as possible, so here’s my offering to you on how to do that. WE’re still gonna lose most if not all, but these techniques will REALLY help not lose crabbies needlessly.

    Keep typing (novel and crab stuff)!! Any way you can consolidate the crab stuff all to one sub page for us crab junkies? Good luck (thanks for your postings on your marriage, too. So inspiring and helpful!!)

  2. Chris Says:

    Help I think I have baby Fiddler crab….hundreds. I got two Fiddler crabs from Petsmart for my kids and now there are hundreds of little micro fish (they kinda look like sperm) swimming in the water. Perhaps I should have cleaned the tank more often or do I have babies?

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