Posts Tagged ‘claw’

The Post – Fiddler Babies Thrive in the “White Cloud.”

March 30, 2008

The white cloud in the babies’ tank continues, yet the water quality is GREAT.

What mystifies me is the absolute ?attraction the fiddler babies have for the aragonite sand and the reef rock. They swarm all over areas of the sand, stirring up clouds of dust, and bouncing down against the aragonite sand, then move on to another area. They are equally attracted to the reef rock, which is nothing more than a hunk of petrified coral.

On the flip side, while they swim by the live rock, they do not seem to be interested in it to any great extent, even though there is a wide variety of algae growing all over it.

The aragonite sand is Seachem’s Meridian Marine Tidal Substrate. The reef rock is “Carib Sea Reef Rock.” Both products help to maintain proper pH and calcium levels, as well as encourage the growth of coralline algae and beneficial bacteria. In fact, I suspect it is the cloud of aragonite dust in the water that may have helped spur the bacteria on, resulting in the nitrite levels in the tank dropping to zero. It just seems counterintuitive to me, to have a tank of water I can barely see through, yet have it be so healthy by the numbers.

I shine the flashlight in the tank and can see thousands of babies swimming around, digging in the sand, or clustering on the reef rock. All are in motion, so they are most definitely alive. I have to wonder if there are already lots of microscopic algae on the surfaces of the sand and the reef rock, and the congregating of the fiddler babies is about eating what’s there.

I am currently feeding them 4 drops of Wardley’s Essentials Small Fry Liquid Food and a 1/4 tsp of Kent Marine’s ZooPlex, 3 times a day. I’m being very careful not to overfeed, and monitoring ammonia and nitrite levels 2-3 times a day.

I’ve also started the live brine shrimp hatchery going, though I have to say, I’m not sure if that’s something I want to deal with on a regular basis. Just one more job I have to do and as one of the sites mentioned, if you can’t get live food, frozen brine shrimp is the next best thing. I know I saw cubes of frozen brine shrimp at PetsMart and I may yet change to that. But for now, I’ll see the “sea monkey” hatching project through and see how it goes. I expect I’ll have hatched brine shrimp by tomorrow so I will try some of that instead of the liquid feeds and see what happens.

Just as an aside, I found a page on About.com that mentions their top picks for “small fry” food.

While these are primarily small fry as in baby fish, they all contain the multitude of nutrients need, and in an accessible, easily digested liquid form for young aquatic creatures. So I’m not too concerned.

Frankly, even though the Kent Marine ZooPlex is supposed to be for larval invertebrates, I have to say I’m more happy with the “dispersal” ability of Wardley’s Small Fry food. Wardley’s is a milky liquid that spreads completely and uniformly through the tank, so the most food and nutrients are available to the most number of critters.

The Kent’s on the other hand, is like ground up bits of brine shrimp in a pink liquid. The instructions say a teaspoon per 50 gallons, and since I’ve only got a 10 gallon tank, I am giving 1/4 tsp of the stuff. However it seems like precious little food, that probably isn’t getting to anywhere near the number of baby fiddlers that are hungry and needing to eat. So at least so far, I’m not that impressed with the Kent Marine ZooPlex and will stick primarily with Wardley’s. From there it’s live or frozen brine shrimp.

I raised the salinity of the aquarium yesterday to 1.017 from 1.012. I’d be happy to get to 1.020, which is close enough to a marine environment. I’ll leave it there for a couple weeks then, and gauge the appropriate time to lower it back down to brackish. I want to match that to the development of the more advanced crab forms from the initial larval stages.

As to the adult crabs – they’re doing fine in the main tank. Admiral Byrd, flush with mating success these days, never stops waving his claw. In fact, yesterday, I no sooner put Scarlett O’Hara back in the main tank, and he was right there saying “hi.” She hid behind the water filter to eat…though not too hidden, he actually lay backwards and slightly upside down on the water heater near her, and waved his claw at her upside down. Talk about “never give up.”

Anyway, so far, so good. We’ll see how this progresses over the next few days. It would be nice to keep many alive to actually make it to adult crab stage. Stay tuned!

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The Gift

March 26, 2008

In keeping with my “photo gifts” kind of mood this week, as well as my “Under the Pier” posting today, some new shots of Admiral Byrd waving at you.

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He has got to be the crab equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger given he holds that claw up for MANY hours a day, every day now. I should be so buff…..

I will also note that while he waves that claw so diligently in his attempts to flag down women, he is very pragmatic and can multi-task. He can keep that large claw in the air and wave it back and forth, even as he manages to pick up a shrimp pellet with the other claw and eat. The guy’s gotta keep up his strength, right? πŸ™‚

The Post – Odd Goings-On in the Fiddler Tank – Is Scarlett Acting Pregnant Again?

March 16, 2008

When I first I walked by the fiddler tank yesterday morning, I was sleepy and oblivious. Then I did a double-take. Sitting at the front of the tank was the discarded molted shell of somebody. On closer examination, and with my husband’s consultation too, we both agreed it was Melanie Hamilton’s discard. That means she is at the moment most likely to get pregnant if Admiral Byrd invites her in.

At the same time we noticed that Scarlett O’Hara was sitting on top of the water filter….again. The last time she did that, we noticed shortly afterward that she was pregnant.

Admiral Byrd of course, was marching up and down the tank, claw arm held high, and waving.

To continue – Scarlett O’Hara spent the entire day and evening yesterday, on top of the water filter. She is still there this morning. She has never done that before or since, except when she was pregnant. I know she is still alive because she is “blowing bubbles.” Crabs foam sometimes when they’re out of water, to moisten their gills.

Even when I freaked out Admiral Byrd yesterday, and scared Melanie Hamilton out of her live rock because I was cleaning the tank and accidentally bumped the live rock, Scarlett O’Hara didn’t leave the filter perch. She just moved down into the filter for a bit, then climbed back up. Admiral Byrd meanwhile kept trying to climb the heater power cord up to the top of the filter to be near her, but he couldn’t quite do it with that large claw.

Yesterday afternoon we noticed that Melanie Hamilton remained outside the live rock, sitting there on the gravel serenely watching Admiral Byrd flex his claw. Then she spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in his cave lair. This morning she was resting just outside his lair, picking algae off the rock. He was napping inside.

With any luck, we can try the larvae thing again somtime soon?

I am in the middle of re-establishing the nursery tank. I had emptied everything from the original set-up, cleaned out the tank, put down the one inch or so of the calcium-releasing sand, and added the water. Now I did forget to rinse the sand out, so the tank water was cloudy at first, but it has settle out by now. I’m not sure how one effectively rinses sand out anyway without half of it going down the drain. I will say the white sand really makes the inside of the tank bright when the light is on. If we get babies again, it should be much easier to see them in such a bright tank.

I couldn’t decide whether to make the 3 gallons of water I added marine or brackish. I guess I should start brackish because first we’ll have to move the mom, whichever one of them it is, from their tank, which is brackish into this one. I wouldn’t want to shock them. Right now the tank is on the “marine side” of brackish. I’ll adjust the salinity with a bit more water shortly.

The live rock is back in the tank hopefully doing its thing to establish the nitrogen cycle. Both the air filter AND the bubbler are running and so hopefullly the tank environment will establish itself as quickly as possible. Rather than replace the old water filter cartridge and lose whatever nitrogen-fixing bacteria that had started to thrive in it, I left everything in place and returned it to the tank.

An interesting about the old water in that tank. I tested it before I emptied it out just to see if the nitrite levels ever came down. They read zero, and the nitrates were in the “okay” zone. I guess once I stopped using the live phytoplankton and let the water filter run for a few days, that was what it needed. So the phytoplankton was most likely the culprit in the high nitrites. In any event, I dumped the old water and just started with fresh sea/brackish water all over again.

One thing – that Reef Calcium product that I’d hoped would raise the alkalinity but not raise the pH, when added to half strength Instant Ocean… maybe it didn’t raise the pH but it didn’t solve the problem of the pH being too high from the Instant Ocean even when I used that at half strength. So I still had to use a pH lowering solution and this morning it is about 8.0 vs 8.4 that it was yesterday. So that’s perfect . At least though, the Reef Calcium did raise the alkalinity.

I will keep you all posted on any news from the adult tank. Keeping good thoughts for a new crop of larvae babies. Stay tuned.

The Post – Admiral Byrd is Peeking & New Aquarium Products

March 12, 2008

Some Fiddler Updates – New Product Technical Details and Romance

1) Preparations, Take 2, for the Fiddler Crab Nursery Tank:

I came home from PetsMart yesterday armed with calcium sand to replace the gravel in the nursery aquarium. That project will commence later today. The sand is actually something called Seachem Meridian Tidal Marine Substrate. It’s basically calcium carbonate precipitated from ocean waters by coral. It will stabilize the calcium and alkalinity levels in the water, and keep the pH from getting too low. Its porous structure and size supposedly are good for the growth of denitrifying bacteria. We shall see.

At the very least, it’s a dual purpose as I can also use this sand for the bottom of the land hermit crab cage I just bought. The land hermit crab project will be ramping up soon.

I also picked up some liquid food that should work fine for the larvae. I’d mentioned a product called JBL Nobilfluid that a gentleman from Finland used to raise his crab larvae. However the Nobilfluid is made in Germany and appears to be available in Finland, Germany, England, Italy and the UK, but I couldn’t tell if it was available here in the US. I could get it from a UK website but between the exchange rate and the shipping, I expect the cost is prohibitive. A JBL representative answered my email yesterday and said their product is not available in the US yet.

I found this new product at PetsMart called Kent Marine ZooPlex. The problem I had with the fiddler babies was trying to find liquid plankton to feed them. My mistake was getting live liquid phytoplankton, which made the tank toxic and killed them. I realized larval crabs need zooplankton, which is animal plankton = roughly translated: MEAT. Phytoplankton, being plant based, is the wrong plankton. Larval crabs are carnivores, not vegetarians. Anyway, Kent Marine ZooPlex is “concentrated aquacultured Marine Zooplankton” and is geared toward invertebrates including larvae. The bottle notes it can be used as a brine shrimp replacement. So this sounds like it might be just the thing for liquid feeding of newborn larval crabs who are too small to chase live brine shrimp around.

I will still need to get the dried brine shrimp eggs to hatch when I know I have a pregnant female ready to shed her eggs. The brine shrimp hatchery project will come a bit later.

2) How to raise the alkalinity of the water for the brackish tank without raising the pH?

The dilemma I have when using Instant Ocean to make up the brackish tank water for the adult crabs, is that I have to use it at about half strength. That way I get a salinity of about 1.010 instead of 1.020-1.024. The trouble is, that makes the alkalinity way too low meaning there’s not enough calcium in the water for the crabs when they molt.

I’ve tried adding Seachem’s Marine Buffer, to raise the alkalinity and it’s very successful, but it also raises the pH way up to 8.3. That’s fine for a marine tank, but for the brackish tank, the fiddler crabs seem to like the pH closer to 7.8-8.0 I have a constant battle trying to get the salinity low enough, the alkalinity high enough and the pH “just right” somewhere between a freshwater tank and a marine tank. When I use the Marine Buffer I have to then add something to lower to pH.

I was hoping to find something that would raise the alkalinity, but not the pH when I use Instant Ocean to make up the brackish water. Yesterday I came across Seachem’s Reef Calcium. The website description reads:

Reef Calciumβ„’ is a concentrated (50,000 mg/L) bioavailable polygluconate complexed calcium intended to maintain calcium in the reef aquarium without altering pH.”

I am going to try the Reef Calcium product and see if that solves the problem. I will let you know.

3) Romance: a humorous update for a Wednesday:

Ever since his success with Scarlett O’Hara, Admiral Byrd has been out there claw-waving up a storm. Melanie Hamilton spends just about all her time inside the live rock. Yesterday afternoon is the first time I’ve seen her out of it in weeks. I think she took to hiding out in the rock when Scarlett O’Hara was living in the nursery tank. With Scarlett temporarily gone, Melanie was the total focus for Admiral Byrd. I don’t think she liked that.

Anyway, after giving birth, Scarlett O’Hara has been eating almost non-stop. I think she finally slowed up a bit yesterday, but she’s still pretty ravenous. In fact yesterday, I dropped a shrimp pellet in the tank and Scarlett scrambled up and caught the thing in mid-drop. It never even touched down on the gravel. And she’s pretty good. No fumbling and bobbling the shrimp pellet. She spotted it, she jumped, clutched it to her chest and landed on her feet, eating the pellet before she landed. She could probably earn a spot as an outfielder for the Red Sox.

Unlike Melanie Hamilton, Scarlett hasn’t been too concerned one way or another with Admiral Byrd’s where-abouts. She doesn’t run from him, or toward him. She just eats. Still, I don’t think she’s averse to his presence as she’s spent a fair bit of time in his lair, the fake rock cave, while he walks around waving his claw. I have to wonder if he realizes she’s sitting in his house?

Last night I turned off the tank lights, shut off all the house lights and went upstairs to bed. A little later I had to come downstairs for something and walked by the tank. Even in the dark, I could see Admiral Byrd standing there on his gravel hill, waving his claw. Total darkness, but the crab is still out there trying to get the attention of the ladies of the tank. What dedication.

He is also very funny in his pursuit of Scarlett O’Hara. He climbs to the top of the live rock, to wave his claw of course. Yesterday while claw-waving, he caught sight of Scarlett down on the gravel next to the live rock. He stopped waving, tip-toed to the edge of the rock, peeked over the edge at her to see which way she was going, then, like a teenage boy in love, scrambled down the rock and followed her around all the while waving his claw.

So watch out Scarlett, Admiral Byrd is peeking.

The Post: Fiddler Update – From Periods to Commas

March 4, 2008

Just a brief note today – buried in writing work, bills, and car stuff….reality creeps in. πŸ™‚

The fiddler babies continue to thrive. I notice the numbers are down in the tank, and we also noticed they seem to congregate on the right side of the tank, near to the live rock. They swim in and out of the live rock crevices, and some do wander to the other side of the tank to investigate the water filter which is not running at the moment. They probably figure it’s another cave because any babies over there tend to hover under or behind the non-running water filter. But even as tiny guys, they know to keep to shelter.

My husband diligently checks on them with the flashlight and noted that they are bigger…he commented that since birth they have grown from “periods” to “commas.” It will be interesting to see how many survive. The tank is “ocean” level salinity now at around 1.020. I’ll keep it there until the 17th, which will be two weeks “in the ocean” for the guys. About that point I will start doing water changes and bring the salinity slowly back down to the brackish level I keep the adult tank at: 1.010-1.012.

I am keeping an eye on the nitrite levels in the babies’ tank since it’s up quite a bit. I added Amquel to lower the nitrites but I never really see that happen with that or Prime. I sometimes wonder if the solutions to bring the nitrites down are really “placebos” for the owners of the tanks? In any event, monitoring water quality, especially since I’m putting liquid food into the babies’ tank 3 times a day.

The adult tank has been “business as usual” – Melanie Hamilton spends most of her life hiding inside the live rock, Admiral Byrd is ALWAYS waving his claw these days, and about the only difference is Scarlett O’Hara. She must be recovering from “pregnancy and childbirth” because she has NOT stopped eating. She is shoveling in shrimp pellets and picking algae off everything, with both claws at once. She gives “two-fisted eating” a whole new meaning. It is non-stop, almost “frantic” in its intensity. I guess she is making up for lost time and nutrients. Otherwise, she seems fine.

That’s the goings-on today. Working on the next Under the Pier installment, hopefully to be done for tomorrow. Need to finish some chapter revisions first. Stay tuned.

The Gift – A Fiddler Crab Extra!! Meet the Babies!

March 2, 2008

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Okay. You’re wondering what in God’s name this thing is. Well, it’s one of the crab babies, at least my rough sketch rendition of one. (IfΒ  you want to see real photos of the zoeae and later larval stages of fiddler crabs, click here ).

It’s the best I can do. I’m spoiled because I am used to working in labs with good equipment.

In the lab I would have put an aliquot of liquid from the aquarium in a test tube, spun it down in the centrifuge, poured off the supernatant, and made a slide out of the sediment, which would be concentrated crab larvae, instead of chasing one unlucky soul all around the microscope slide trying to catch him long enough to see him.

I would have had nice stains to chose from to make the larvae show up better. Today I had McCormick’s yellow food coloring from Harris Teeter.

I would have had a nice Zeiss microscope with oil immersion lenses and fine optics. Instead, I have a Milben kids’ microscope, circa 1965, in a wooden case, with an EverReady 5 volt flashlight shining in the mirror to light the stage. (And if you want a kick, click here to see a similar setup to my microscope and wooden case. It even has the dissecting kit tool indentations in the styrafoam. I had those dissecting tools a long time ago. It says something when you search Google for Milben microscope and it’s listed under “antique sites.”)

I would have had a nice Zeiss microscope with a camera attached to photograph what I saw. Instead, I had to sketch it. I don’t have one of those neat electronic tablets to draw with. All I had is the “pencil” tool on my son’s Photoshop program that I barely know how to use.

So, I know, stop whining. I’m not in the lab anymore. Given all this, I still managed to catch one crab baby, watch him through my very “SUB-OPTIMAL” microscope, in food coloring stain, and draw you a WAY suboptimal sketch.

But still, what the sketch shows is the head part on the right, with two little “?claws” moving back and forth rapidly. It stretches out with the tail on the left. We could even see “material” moving through the crab from the head, out the tail. Yes, out the tail. My husband caught that one. So I guess we can assume the crab baby has been eating the food I served. πŸ™‚

In any event, minus all the fancy equipment, it’s the best I can give you, but still it’s something. I should note that this was a 100x magnification.

We have noted that Days 1 and 2 there was a fair reduction in numbers of larvae and my husband noted the blackened area that looked like a mass murder in one corner of the tank deep down in the gravel where many babies perished. Still, there are LOTS of babies swimming in the tank AND they are bigger than yesterday. If you hold a magnifying glass up to the tank, you can see tiny tails. So some are thriving after all.

If many many thrive, at least the guys at Fish Pros said they’d be happy to buy some from me for cash or store credit. That would be great. I’m always in need of new supplies. πŸ™‚

Salinity is almost “ocean” at 1.017. Should reach 1.020 later today.

Anyway, now you’ve “sort of” met the babies.

….about that centrifuge – it occurred to me I could take a small, capped plastic tube and tie a rope around it and spin it around my head. Then I thought, maybe even better – tape the tube to the inside of my washing machine and run it on the spin cycle. But leave it to my engineer husband: find a way to attached two capped tubes on a rod opposite each other, connect them to a power drill, and turn the drill on….THAT’S the best RPMs for the money. πŸ™‚

The Post – Is Birth Imminent?

February 24, 2008

I will be returning soon to the evolution of my novel, Under the Pier, but given the goings-on here, I have to take some time to tell of events unfolding in the fiddler crab world.

I decided to see if it is possible to raise at least a few of Scarlett O’Hara’s and Admiral Byrd’s babies, should they survive birth. It’s a long shot, but I want to try. Scarlett looked really pregnant yesterday – that abdomen of hers is large and when she pushes at it, it’s like jelly. I have these observations again from my husband.

It is TRUE LOVE when your husband acts as midwife for your pregnant fiddler crab, keeping close eye on her while I ran out today to get a chunk of live rock for the aquarium. He even called me on my cell phone at the aquarium store to tell me that Scarlett was picking at the larval mass, pulling out a brown thread here and there and planting it in the gravel. He felt birth was getting close and I should hurry home with the live rock. I tell you, is that a friend or not? How many people would call you on your cell phone to let you know your fiddler crab is getting ready to deliver? πŸ™‚

To back up, we went to Petsmart last night and picked up a new 10-gallon aquarium, tank top, light, light bulb, thermometer….. yes, another whole set-up. My husband is laughing but then, he is a geek, just one with different interests, so he respects this endeavor I’m involved in.

In fact, he is working on setting up his own blog that will have all kinds of tweaky things that reflect his interests. When it’s up and running, I’ll be sure to mention it. He finds the most unusual and interesting things out there. To give you a sample of the man, when we are out on a date it is not unusual to walk through the parking lot and have him explain to me the mechanisms for the inner workings of car backup lights and such. I just love it. Going somewhere with him is always interesting and an adventure. Sometime I’ll have to share how he and I hunted down the overgrown boarded up command bunker for a former Nike missile launch site in Newport News VA. πŸ™‚ But a story for another time. Those are the kinds of dates I love. Anyway, I’ll let you know when his geek site is up and running.

To get back to fiddlers, I spent last night setting up the tank. This time I started with distilled water. We have a small water distiller and I proceeded to use up our drinking supply to make up salt water for the “nursery tank.” Mixed up Instant Ocean powder in the distilled water, set up the filter, and within a couple of hours, got the water parameters just about where I wanted them: pH 7.8, alkalinity 180, hardness >300, chlorine, Nitrite, and nitrates all zero. Salinity was about 1.008, a little lower than I wanted because I want this tank’s water to be an almost exact match for the main tank.

This morning I used some marine buffer to bump the pH up to 8.0 and alkalinity closer to 300. Added a bit more Instant Ocean to get the salinity up to 1.010. I seeded the new filter with a strip of “very well colonized” filter material from the old tank to jump start the nitrogen cycle, and brought home from Fish Pros the MOST amazing chunk of live rock – ALREADY had all kinds of marine invertebrates and microscopic algae on it because it had been in another tank that had just been dis-assembled. So, the live rock is well underway growing organisms and probably has another dose of nitrogen-fixing bacteria ready to go.

I debated about what to do with Scarlett O’Hara, leave her in the old tank and struggle with where to release her babies or put her in the new tank with plenty of room for all. Finally decided to take a chance and I’ve moved her into the new tank. She seems to be doing okay in spite of being rattled by being moved. I’m hoping it didn’t disturb her too much. It always shakes them up a bit to move them around. I have done my best to make her a good nursery and here she is free from Admiral Byrd’s claw-waving. I even took the heater from the old tank and gave it to her in the new one. I ordered a new heater for the main tank which should be here Wed. But I figured Melanie Hamilton and Admiral Byrd will be fine for a couple days with the tank lights to keep them warm. I figured “momma” needed it more.

By the way, the tank heater I use is a small one geared for 3 gal aquariums. It’s pre-set and can be mounted sideways with suction cups, and there’s no risk if it touches the gravel. It’s a Marineland Shatterproof Heater (10 watts) part number VTMD10 and found it online at That Pet Place.Β  Since my tanks are only a third full of water (to allow space for the crabs to get out in air), regular heaters won’t work. Not enough water for them to be fully submerged. And regular heaters are generally large and have to be vertical.Β  This guy is short and can be sideways. Keeps the tank in the range of about 78-80 degrees F. So for what it’s worth.

So…the nursery is up and running. So very much hoping that 1) Scarlett will do okay in the new tank; I would feel terrible if she doesn’t make it because of the move 2) the babies do okay.

Then all we have to worry about is how to sell off many many many many many grandchildren? πŸ™‚ I’ll keep you posted.

By the way, if you want to have a few seconds of just staring at some nice marine creatures swimming amidst coral, click on the Instant Ocean link above. Neat intro.

The Post – Pregnant Scarlett O’Hara and the Proud Father

February 21, 2008

I am going to be out of the office today, so a brief, fun posting with pictures of pregnant Scarlett O’Hara carrying her larval fiddler crab babies. Also a shot or two of the proud father, Admiral Byrd, who is STILL waving his claw. I am determined to get a really good shot of him doing that claw wave, but these aren’t too bad.

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Here are some shots of “the babies.” They are the brown mass of egg-looking things tucked in that shelf on her abdomen. They’re not the sharpest shots, but then, Scarlett O’Hara is not the most cooperative super-model. She won’t stand still. Also, it’s hard to get a shot where she’s not moving her claws. She is CONSTANTLY shoving food in her mouth – she is a two-fisted, non-stop eater. I guess though, she is eating for a few thousand? πŸ™‚

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Admiral Byrd spots me and tries to hide in the corner of the tank against the live rock. The grayish streak is the silicone sealant in corner of the tank. I think he likes to hide behind that strip and also the thermometer strip (not seen) because it blocks his vision of me – that whole “if he can’t see me, then I don’t exist and he’s safe,” mentality? What do you want from a creature with a brain the size of a pinpoint?

The other two pictures are classic Admiral Byrd poses. He sometimes spends all day with his large claw in the air, sometime both claws in the air. While I know he’s either trying to scare me off or encourage the ladies, sometimes when he has both claws up, he looks like he’s paying homage to the god of the tank, the aquarium light above. He is also very pragmatic when trying to show off for the ladies. He’ll have his large claw up to get their attention, while using his smaller claw to shove food in his mouth. A guy has to eat, right?

See you tomorrow!

The Post – Extra! Scarlett O’Hara is Pregnant

February 17, 2008

Well, that is life for you. One minute you’re choking in the ER, the next maybe we’ll be surrogate grandparents for our fiddler crabs?

Again, it is my husband, the one who made fun of my fiddler crab project, who notices changes in the fiddler crab tank.

We have noticed Scarlett O’Hara on occasion, seeming interested in Admiral Byrd. Admiral Byrd of course, ALWAYS waves his claw even when no one is around. My husband explained this is a guy thing – you always stand around looking cool, just in case. Well, apparently things happen when the lights go out.

For the last 2 days my husband has mentioned, with concern in his voice, that Scarlett O’Hara has been climbing all the way up the water filter, almost to the top of the tank, and has been hanging out up there. We just thought she wanted to be queen of all she surveyed and liked being up high.

Today he looked at her and said: “I think Scarlett is going to have babies! Do fiddler crabs carry their eggs on their abdomen?” I glanced at her and there was this wad of brownish spongy stuff tucked against her abdomen, underneath her mandibles.

Sure enough, a glance at a web site of the Fiddler Crab Life Cycle, shows pictures of pregnant females carrying hundreds of thousands of fertilized eggs on their abdomen. The pictures look just like Scarlett O’Hara. So, she’s pregnant!!!!

Now my understanding from something I read, was that female fiddler crabs burrowed down into the sand 23 inches or so, to lay their eggs. So I felt assured we would not be contending with “babies.” In fact, maybe that’s why Scarlett’s been climbing on top of the water filter. Maybe she’s been looking for someplace deep to lay her eggs.

However this same website on the fiddler crab life cycle indicates that female fiddler crabs RELEASE their fertilized eggs into the water and they float around as plankton. When they molt and get big enough, then there’s JUVENILE CRABS running around the tank.

My husband’s reaction was almost identical to 20 years ago when I invited him to have lunch with me at the hospital one weekend when I was working, so I could tell him the results of a certain pregnancy test I had just run: “Oh my God.” My husband said, “I’m not ready to be a grandfather yet, especially to a few hundred thousand fiddler crabs . . . ” But you and I both know, if there’s babies in the tank, he’ll be watching over them and concerned about them.

Now another site I found, About.com’s Keeping fiddler crabs as pets, (which by the way is a GREAT summary of how to raise fiddler crabs in general AND has instructions on setting up a brackish water tank) indicates it’s near to impossible to raise the babies in captivity. Apparently the babies need to go out into deep ocean water to grow then return to the brackish water estuary when they are older.

Well we shall see. Who knows? We may yet have BABIES in the tank!!!!! πŸ™‚ So, the $4 fiddler crabs, with the >$100 of support gear so I could establish a brackish water tank so they wouldn’t die, have apparently not only not died, but thrived! Now we may need ANOTHER TANK so the thousands of babies have a home. Anybody want to buy some fiddler crabs? I’ll keep you posted on the progress of the pregnancy.

Stay tuned this week for pictures of the pregnant mom!

The Post – Admiral Byrd was NOT Worshipping Me or The Aquarium Light

February 11, 2008

Over the last 2 days my husband noticed that Admiral Byrd has been spending a LOT of time, meaning almost ALL of his time, up on top of the gravel hill or the decorative cave rock, or the live rock, or just about anywhere else in the tank, waving his claw. He looked so funny up on the cave rock. He seemed to be staring up at the aquarium tank light, waving his claw as if paying homage to a god. We figured either he held the aquarium light or my hand in high esteem.

My husband has joked that he thinks the crabs go inside the live rock so much because it’s actually their holy site. He thinks they’ve cobbled together a crude altar made of gravel and on the altar they’ve fashioned a shrimp pellet image of their deity, the hand that feeds them . . . basically mine. As he put it, imagine that every day a hand comes down out of the sky and places steak or shrimp or pancakes in front of us. That’s what it must be like every time my hand drops algae or shrimp pellets near them.

In any event we weren’t sure why Admiral Byrd decided to spend an entire day paying homage to me or the light. Why all of the sudden? There’s been nothing new going on in the tank otherwise, all three crabs have been actually pretty placid, out and about feeding, and generally happy. Was this some sort of designated crab “Holy Day” that just happens to coincide with Lent?

As it turns out, alas, neither the aquarium light nor my hand are the object of Admiral Byrd’s devotions. Melanie Hamilton is.

From the Fiddler Crab page on the Chesapeake Bay Program’s bay restoration site:

“When looking for a mate, he stands near the edge of the burrow, often alongside a string of other males and their (similarly well-maintained) burrows, while the females, returning from foraging, walk past. The male waves his large fiddler claw until he attracts the attention of an interested female, who then stares at him for a short period.. The male resumes his claw-waving, and if the female remains receptive, the male runs toward her, then runs back to his burrow, and repeats this motion several times until she either moves on or follows him to the burrow. ”

Apparently, mating behaviors take place not just when the female forages, but also when she molts. I happened to notice this pale, upside down body lying under the water filter this morning and immediately my heart hurt. I thought “Oh no! Melanie Hamilton died!” But not so. Looking closer, I saw that it was the pale ghost of Melanie Hamilton. It was that eerie translucent white, like Scarlett O’Hara’s was, though much more petite given that Melanie Hamilton is so dainty. Melanie Hamilton sat right behind it. I would have gotten pictures for this blog but she had tucked herself and her tiny ghost so far under the water filter that I could not get a shot. If only I had fiber optic cable, maybe I could get footage! I have concluded that the fiddler crabs have designated the “under the water filter space” as the “molting place.” All 3 have used it now. I think it has enough stretching room to shrug off the old shell, but is sheltered enough to keep everyone else away while their new shell hardens.

Admiral Byrd of course, was well aware of events in the tank. He was standing just a few inches from the water filter hoping to catch her eye. Alas, while Admiral Byrd is a true romantic and his efforts were truly heroic – I mean he has to be exhausted after almost 24-hours straight claw-waving – Melanie Hamilton is having none of it. She has turned her back on him and remains secluded under the water filter.

But anyway, the mystery is solved. Admiral Byrd doesn’t give a darn about the tank light or the hand that feeds him. He apparently can sense the approach of “molting” and was doing the crab Valentine’s Day equivalent of serenading his lady.

Sorry no pictures, though. I told my husband if he ever decides to spend money on expensive jewelry or clothes for me, I would prefer one of those borescopes like they use for colonoscopies. That would work GREAT in the tank for closeups of everybody! πŸ™‚

Coming up this week:

Now that you’ve gotten to know me a bit – a cross between sea life maniac and soulful – I’ll start to introduce some of the projects I’m working on. I’ll share what I’ve done, what I’m doing and where I see myself going. Children’s writer and illustrator, Uri Shulevitz, described three stages of a writer’s development at a conference about 12 years ago. I’ve kept them as a kind of road map in my development and will use them to describe what I’m doing.

Also to come, a Writer’s bio page of what I’ve already written.

Happy Monday!