The Post – The Sea Monkeys Sleep With the Fishes, and Some of the Babies Sleep Down the Drain

A fiddler update

First, here’s what I wrote yesterday, based on those “festivities” :

Okay. I know everybody says that live food is best for growing larval crabs. But you know, life is not perfect. I have advice for anyone who wants to raise live brine shrimp to feed to their crab larvae…buy one of those hatcheries the petstores sell. It’s worth it.

The alternative is to:

– take a 2 liter Coke Bottle and cut off the bottom (trying to do this with a pair of scissors without slitting your wrists by accident is no easy affair)

– invert it, because for some reason known only to brine shrimp, you want a “funnel-shaped” apparatus to make it easier to collect the little hatchlings later.

– when you’re standing there holding this inverted apparatus, you will then realize you need to find something to set the upside-down Coke bottle in so it’s stable…unless you want Sea Monkeys all over your kitchen floor. I do not.

– run the air bubbler and tubing, attached to a pump, down toward the bottom of the Coke bottle…excuse me, I mean the “top” of the Coke bottle…which is now, the bottom

– add the sea monkey mix (brine shrimp eggs with ocean salt in the packet) into distilled water

– since you have no heater find a way to shine a 60 Watt light bulb into the bottle to warm the babies…trying not to fry them

– did I mention find a bowl to set the whole bottle and supporting thing in (to catch the water that splashes out on your floor along with chunks of dead sea monkey eggs)

– if and when the babies hatch, shine a flashlight at the BOTTOM of the bottle (remembering of course, that the bottom is really the top, inverted) to attract the baby shrimp so they’ll congregate there. Of course it would be so much easier to be able to shine the light at the top of this whole setup…the wide open, easily accessible top (which used to be the bottom). But that won’t work. Apparently the empty egg shells float to the top and you can’t tell the brine shrimp from their egg casings

– while continuing to hold the flashlight with one hand to keep the little shrimp at the bottom of the Coke bottle, find something to suck up the babies hopefully congregating down at the bottom of this whole unstable apparatus…while avoiding more empty egg shells that sunk (I thought they were supposed to rise to the surface) and avoiding tipping the whole thing over

– try to deliver this aliquot of baby shrimp (I was using a turkey baster because I didn’t have a third hand to allow me to hold the pipette, operate the pipette bulb and keep the flashlight on the babies) into your crab larvae aquarium without spilling it on the floor

– oh and do all this while bent over and on your knees because the only place you could set all this up was on the floor UNDER the main aquarium…

– ah, and yes, make sure to suck out the little baby brine shrimp to feed to your crabs as soon as possible after they hatch because if you wait too long, they’re dead and you can’t tell their swirling corpses apart from their useless egg shells….

Do I sound less than enthused about hatching brine shrimp, at least in this makeshift setup? You bet. So. At least in my opinion, buy yourself a setup that’s easy to deal with, heat, extract the baby shrimp from…buy something that was designed and made for this ordeal…a brine shrimp hatchery. They’re not expensive – I saw some for about $5. To me, well worth the cost. No matter what you do, you’ll still have to buy the bubbler and air pump anyway, so you’re not saving much by trying to do it the home-made way. And you might do your knees a favor by not having to crawl around on the floor.

Anyway, tired and fed-up with this whole affair, I picked up the Coke-bottle-turned-hatchery, marched down to the pond behind our house, and dumped them in the water. Since they’re already dead, they and their shells might at least be food for some of the baby fishes in the pond. So…the sea monkeys sleep with the fishes….to paraphrase a line from the Godfather.

Tomorrow, I go buy those fresh-frozen cubes of brine shrimp we used to get for our tropical fish when I was a kid. They smell to high heaven, but I don’t have to hatch them, feed them, catch them, separate them from their shells, or struggle to get them in the crab nursery tank. Sounds good to me…..

One positive out of all this….I moved the air bubbler rock into the crab nursery. It moves a whole lot more air into the tank than that pretty but somewhat ineffective ‘curtain bubbler’ in the back of the aquarium. Perhaps that will be a good thing for water quality, which I will comment on next….

I got up this morning to be greeted by clear water again in the nursery. I’d gotten used to the idea that white cloudy water was good, even though it’s counterintuitive to think that. And frankly, white cloudy water HAS been good. White cloud, no nitrites. So when I saw clear water this morning, I felt this sense of dread. Again, a counterintuitive response since most people strive for crystal clear aquarium water.

When I tested the water, my counterintuitive gut response was right. Clear water, nitrites were up. And the ammonia monitor had changed from yellow to green, ie, “safe” to “alert.” Now alert means it can be like that for days and not cause harm, at least not to adults. I don’t know about babies.

Given the rise in nitrites, even though slight, I decided to do a water change. I was going to let water drain out of the bubbler, down the tubing and into a bowl by reversing the check valve in the tubing (the check valve prevents water from backing up down the tubing and into the air pump; by reversing the valve, I would be letting water drain from the tank out the tubing, hence a way of getting water out of the aquarium without sucking up babies) however this flat out didn’t work. I don’t think the air bubbler can suck out enough water to actually get a “pull” going down the tubing.

Next idea was to use some cheesecloth over a plastic cup so when I poured out water I’d taken out of the tank, down the drain, I wouldn’t lose any babies. Sounds good in theory and maybe most of the baby crabs didn’t go down the drain, but I expect some did.

The rest were safely trapped in the cheesecloth. Great. So. How do you free crab larvae from cheesecloth? I think it’s probably best to take that cheesecloth and put it in another plastic cup with some aquarium water so the baby crabs can get free of the cheesecloth and swim out into the water in the cup, then pour the cup water back into the aquarium.

I, not thinking, just dipped the cheesecloth in the tank water directly. Duh. I expect I probably sucked up a bunch more babies into the cheesecloth than I got out of it. So scratch that idea.

I need to go back and read Laurie’s suggestion in her comments to my post, to see how she kept the babies out of the container she used to take water out of the tank for water changes.

In spite of these fiascoes, I still have many baby crabs swimming around alive in the tank. The nitrites and ammonia are no worse. I added a gallon of water to the tank that was marine in salinity (1.022) , which made the tank 1.018 overall. I don’t think I’m going to raise the salinity any higher. If the nitrites stay down and the babies survive for one more week, maybe less, I’m going to just start bringing the whole affair back down to brackish (1.012) and lower the pH from its current 8.2-8.4, down to 7.8. I read somewhere that as the pH comes down, so do the nitrites.

By last night, I waved the flag of surrender and retreated to the bath tub. One small ray of hope though. On my way upstairs, I glanced at the ammonia monitor. It is no longer green (Alert zone). It’s color is now closer to yellow (safe) than green, so with any luck, the tank conditions are moving back to the safe/normal zone. We’ll see what the morning brings

This morning:

Well, a ray of hope. Unlike the first time I did this experiment of trying to raise the crab larvae and the nitrites just went up out of control, this morning I seemed to have turned a corner.

The ammonia monitor, which last night seemed to back off just a little from the alert level, this morning is mostly yellow – almost safe. It’s not all the way there, but predominantly yellow. It’s no longer green.

I rechecked the nitrites and today they and the nitrates are both zero again!!! I don’t know if it was the water change, or the additional bubbler which is really moving oxygen into the tank, or both, but improved conditions.

The number of crab babies in the tank continues to drop, but that is to be expected. That’s why they have so many to start with. There are still many swimming around in the tank. We’ll see how this goes. Now, off to PetsMart to buy that fresh frozen brine shrimp!!

Have a nice day.

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