Posts Tagged ‘larvae’

The Post – A Short Fiddler Update

March 31, 2008

Just a quick update today – so far many babies continue to survive. It’s still early – we’re just into the third day so far. Looking back at the last batch, I lost them around day 9 or 10. So proceeding cautiously on projections here.

As of this afternoon, I can see that the numbers are lower than initially after birth. To be expected. Some die during molting, the larvae are carnivorous and will eat each other, and some just flat out die. That said, there are still hundreds or thousands of very active larvae swimming around that tank. MANY are clustered in the pockets of the reef rock. They seem to LOVE that reef rock. And another large group is clustered on the aragonite sand surface on the bottom near the heater. Just mystifying.

The water, though cloudy, is clearer today. Water parameters remain as before – dead on target: pH 8.0-8.2, alkalinity and hardness 300 or more, chlorine, nitrites and nitrates all zero. I will retest the salinity later and see if I need to raise it just a bit more or if we are close enough to the 1.020 salinity mark.

I continue to feed the Small Fry liquid food. This time, instead of the Kent’s Marine ZooPlex, I remembered I had frozen mini-krill in the freezer. I ground up a small amount of those and spread those around the tank. It appears many little black dots swim up to the granules of floating ground up mini-krill, then swimming off. So it at least seems like they’re chewing on the krill.

I checked on the “brine shrimp hatchery” – it’s hard because if you turn off the air rock, everything still swirls around and the question in my mind was – “how do you tell swirling brine shrimp eggs apart from hatched tiny brine shrimp?” If I shine the light directly in the bottle, I can’t tell any difference. I noticed though if I looked in the bottle after shining the light indirectly (at an angle toward the floor), I could see shadows of things actively swimming around, as opposed to just eggs spinning in the water. So it seems the shrimp are hatching. I thought tonight I’d take a closer look and may siphon some of the shrimp out for tonight’s crab baby feeding. It will be interesting to see if the babies are up for catching live moving shrimps. They seem able to catch “floating” ground up krill so we’ll keep a good thought.

Till tonight……

The Post – Scarlett O’Hara “Labor and Delivery” Watch, and Ammonia Monitoring

March 27, 2008

For the last several days, Scarlett has been sitting on top of, or in, the water filter. Even though I shut down the filter Tuesday (so no babies would get sucked up in the filter material should they hatch), she continues to stay inside the empty filter. I guess it’s like a cave – nice and sheltered. She hasn’t come out to eat, but then I imagine that filter material has a ton of bacterial and algal critters all over it.

She DOES need to be in water at some point and on that count I’m not sure how long she can stay out of the water and in the filter. I tried chasing her out of the filter Tuesday afternoon, partially to see if she was okay, and partially to see if overcoming inertia and forcing her out would keep her out, but within minutes she was back inside of the filter. Who knows if she climbs out at night when the lights are off, to go for a swim.

Wed morning she was inside the filter, still sitting at the bottom. She wasn’t moving so I jiggled the filter cartridge enough to see her move. I left her alone until Wed afternooon when I pulled the filter cartridge up a bit. Scarlett O’Hara rushed up and out of the water filter and down into the water. She sat underneath the water filter, so I guess she’s just “staying put in sheltered places.” However, she does appear to be okay.

I tried giving her a couple of shrimp pellets, assuming she must be hungry, but she basically pushed them aside. She did pick at the calcium sand, so I expect she’s looking for algae. I dropped in a couple bits of algae pellets but she ignored those too. So either she isn’t hungry due to the pregnancy, something’s wrong, or she’s full from eating whatever is on that filter packing material. Right now she is still out in the tank and has even wandered over to the air bubbler at the other end of the tank. I am heartened to see her doing her usual activities: climbing up on the bubbler, trying to climb up the side of the tank, and resting on the suction cups behind the air filter that hold it in place. So, for now, I guess, all is well.

My only “curiosity” is “will she stay out into the water to deliver the babies?” I expect she will given that female fiddler crabs look for places in their estuary homes that have active water currents so the eggs can be washed out to sea. So “instinct” alone should propel her back into the tank water at about the time of delivery, no matter how much she likes it inside the water filter. Given she did it right the first time, I can’t imagine she’s forgotten what she needs to do. I missed the delivery the first time so I don’t know exactly what she does to release them. I hope I catch it this time. Also, I do wish I could just ask her why she likes living at the bottom of a dark empty water filter. In lieu of that conversation, all I can do is watch and wait…..

Water parameters Wed afternoon were good: Nitrates 10, Nitrite 0, Hardness >300, Chlorine 0, Alkalinity 300, pH 8.0 and the Ammonia monitor is in the “safe” range at < 0.02 ppm.

The ammonia monitor is a Seachem Ammonia monitor that you can hang inside the tank. No test strips or kits. This one is called the Seachem AmmoniaAlert for Fresh and Marine tanks. It continuously monitors the free ammonia level in the water for over a year.

The monitor is color coded for concentrations:

– Safe (<0.02 ppm), Yellow

– Alert ( 0.05 ppm), Green

– Alarm ( 0.20 mg/dl), Sky Blue

– Toxic ( 0.50 mg/dl), Lavender

The insert says that the “Alert Level” of free ammonia can be tolerated for several days; “Alarm” for a few days; and “Toxic” is rapidly harmful. It would have been interesting to see what it read when I had the phytoplankton overgrowth and high nitrites, the first time I did this.

While I knew that monitoring ammonia was important and somehow related to the level of nitrites and nitrates, I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. I found a good website, The Tropical Tank, done in the UK, that discusses water chemistry, and in particular, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. It’s called: More on the Nitrogen Cycle: Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate

In short, there should be no ammonia or nitrite in a mature tank. Any ammonia is present in two forms: ammonia (NH3) and ammonium ion (NH4+). Ammonia is more toxic than the ion, and the higher the aquarium pH, the higher the ammonia level. Since brackish and marine tanks are basic, ie higher pH, ammonia toxicity is a constant risk.

Ammonia in a mature tank is oxidized by nitrogen-fixing bacteria, to nitrites and again, in a mature tank, nitrites are oxidized to nitrates. While you don’t want to see nitrates run high, a lower level , say < 50 ppm, are considered okay, 25 ppm is even better. If your tank isn’t cycling well, is new and not enough nitrogen-fixing bacteria, you have too many tank inhabitants, or you’ve overfed them, ammonia (and hence nitrites and nitrates) will start to spike.

The bottom line, the appearance of rising ammonia levels is the first clue that things in the tank are not well and even toxic. Given that my last endeavor with crab larvae resulted in mass death due to high nitrites (and yes, the phytoplankton caused an algae bloom that caused ammonia and nitrites to spike and I won’t use it again) I thought it might be interesting to monitor the ammonia levels in the tank on a continuous basis through this project.

This article also gives information on how to start up the nitrogen cycle in a fishless tank. I wondered how you get the cycle going when there are no fish or fish wastes to start the process.

If you are interested, this same UK website has two other interesting articles:

The Basis of Cycling: a good overview of the maturing nitrogen cycle in aquariums

Fishless Cycling Data provided to them by a US forum member, William Wallace; some concrete data on how Mr. Wallace actually did this process.

To return to the tank and Scarlett:

Wed evening, the water looked cloudy and while other parameters were still fine, I noticed a trace amount of nitrites now. I also noticed a few green spots in the yellow safe zone of the ammonia monitor. The green spots are the beginning of a change to “alert.” Given that I think we’re a few days away from birth yet, I decided to turn the water filter back on for a day or so to try and improve the tank conditions. I suspect that adding Scarlett to the tank was enough to catalyze the nitrogen cycle into high gear. It’s to be expected to see “some” ammonia and nitrites, and there also is a “good” level of nitrates, but still, I don’t want to lose the battle of water quality before the babies are even born. I will continue to monitor water quality closely today today. If necessary, I’ll do some water changes, but I would rather not do that. Since the nitrogen cycle is in its early stages, every time I take water out and put in new water, it removes some of the very nitrogen-fixing bacteria I need. The gentleman at the aquarium store said it would be best to just let the tank evolve. So as long as we don’t go beyond “alert” on the ammonia monitor, I’ll let it “evolve.” Otherwise…I’ll have to start water changes. I wish I’d known earlier about the fishless cycling Mr. Wallace did. I could have done that with this tank to get the nitrogen cycle established before moving Scarlett into it.

Tank parameters this morning are the same as yesterday afternoon and Scarlett is out walking around the tank, so, no better, no worse.

Stay tuned.

The Post – Update Time – Fiddler Pregnancy and Book “Delivery”

March 22, 2008

Well the fiddler crab, Scarlett O’Hara’s pregnancy progresses well. I am through “labor and delivery” with Under the Pier’s second draft, and we had an RIP moment for my laser printer, which died trying to print the last two chapters of that draft.

Now, to expand on each just a bit:

Scarlett O’Hara is busy eating or just sitting behind the air filter, in the main fiddler crab tank. Her pregnancy progresses with no odd happenings. Her “nursery” tank is doing well – water parameters are fine and salinity was down to 1.012 when I diluted the water, earlier in the week. I will recheck water parameters and salinity tomorrow in the nursery tank. If they are fine, I will most likely move Scarlett over to that tank Monday or Tuesday. We first noticed her carrying eggs on Monday the 17th. On Sunday the 16th, we saw no evidence of eggs, but that’s when she was spending days living on top of the water filter, sitting in the water currents. So best guess here, is that Monday will be one week. The last time she delivered her babies, it was just about two weeks. So I will move her to the nursery early this coming week. Also, I will shut down the water filter again and just leave the air bubbler running.

I picked up eggs and supplies to hatch brine shrimp and will talk more about that tomorrow. I also picked up a liquid food geared toward larval invertebrates, that is a good brine shrimp substitute. NO MORE LIVE PHYTOPLANKTON. I’m hoping that sticking to the zooplankton food approach will work better and not end up with high nitrites that kill off the babies. So more on this tomorrow and this week.

I spent most of the day on Good Friday, polishing the last chapter of Under the Pier’s second draft. It is finished. Of course it needs more work, but at least now it is a real book. There are no giant piles of fix-it cards or empty places in the chapters where I still had to figure out something or add in a description. Next up in the project:

1) Continue on with the posts about writing Under the Pier – I left off on location as character and Part II of that coming up this week will be more info about specific locations in the story — which though fiction, are amalgamations of real places, as well as how I researched them.

2) I will be putting together the submission package for a couple of editors from last year’s Carolinas – SCBWI conference. These packages include three sample chapters, chapter summaries, and any other info I want to include. At least according to one editor. I have a “map of my story’s town,” a schematic of the diner and the diner area, a smaller map of the area around Max’s house, a schematic of Max’s house, a glossary, probably a bibliography of some of the sources including research papers and the researchers I talked to….and of course, this blog’s address. πŸ™‚

3) Start draft three. This time, I can now read through “completed” chapters, and listen out loud to their rhythm, see where they bog down, see where they need more “sensory details” and also go through the large “revision” charts I made up to see if I’ve covered everything. A later post will cover what I compiled for those revision charts.

Re the demise of my laser printer – FRUSTRATING!!!! I was halfway through printing the last two chapters when it seized up and died. Now I can’t really complain. I’ve had that printer almost 7 years and have printed thousands of pages. I got my money’s worth out of it. I was just hoping not to have to a) deal with buying a new printer just to finish printing my book and b) spend the money now. But…. c’est la vie. We now have a new HP Laserjet P3005dn. I need to make it my friend. πŸ™‚

Anyway, that’s the state of affairs here. Oh, and also, given the impending draft three of the book, I need to get going on “Creature Features” So stay tuned!

The Gift – A Fiddler Crab Extra From a Fellow Crab Enthusiast

March 18, 2008

One of our readers sent in some information the other day about her attempts to raise fiddler crab larvae. That comment was in response to my blog post entitled:

The Fiddler Babies are Dead But We’ll Start Over and Prove HorseyhannahWrong.

Yesterday Laurie has this update that she posted on one of my other blog posts: “Extra! News on Preparing the Fiddler Crab Nursery.”

She has such good info, and generously wants to share it with all, so I include it here for all to see.

I especially loved what she said toward the end of her comment, that maybe if all of us who have knowledge on the subject of fiddler crabs pool our info, we can prove that you CAN too raise fiddler babies without the hundreds and thousands of dollars of equipment that Horseyhannah (on the Animal Planet forum) says you need.

So here is Laurie’s information, her gift to all fiddler enthusiasts out there, updating us on her progress and also listing the many things she’s done to make this work. Thank’s Laurie! And to anyone else who might have more info for myself or Laurie, please do send your comments. They are welcome!

Fiddler crab lovers of the world, unite!!! πŸ™‚

Comment:
Laurie’s Fiddler Crab fry–March 17th, 2008, Day 7 and still going…

Just an update. They were released on March 10th and true to the (artist!?) breeder of the mangrove crabs www.aquahoito.info/sesarma/index.html on March 15th, day 5, I had a little more than half die off. In the last 2 days no more have died, tho.
Today I was able to get supplies for them, including a salinity meter ($7.00) and some test strips for nitrate/nitrite etc. and Kent’s PhytoPlex (not live) for more food. As I didn’t have proper food for them I did the newborn fish fry trick of feeding them hard boiled egg yolk. About 1/2 a matchstick head’s worth smashed fine in some water and dispersed with the fry, twice a day. That was too much, no doubt, but I’m new at crabs and they did ok…

I tested my water (2 gallon hex w/no filtration, slight bubbling from airstone) and nitrates were 0, nitrites were alright-“caution” .5 ppm, salt is .015ppm, hardness 300 (ideal). I’m finding it’s cheaper to do water changes in a small fry tank than buy a whole salt water filtration system. 2 tbsp Ocean Reef salt/quart, 1 qt every couple days. The little squirts only have to get to 2 or 3 months old before they’re little crabs, by the looks of Mr. Mangrove Crab’s work, so that’s not much salt used over time versus the complexities of a nitrogen cycle filtration system. Now that I have test strips I’ll know how often that should be.

Again, shutting off the bubbler, wiping the bottom to free the slime that’s growing there (I don’t think I’m getting it all, so if it’s food it’s still present somewhat), then fluffing it to one side and siphoning it up w/airline tubing seems to clean the nitrite creating stuff pretty well. Shining a light in one corner for them to aggregate near keeps most of them out of the way, and I shine it again in the gunk glass I siphoned into to get the ones I accidently sucked up back into the tank.

One interesting note is that after the “D-Day” day 5 die off the herd that is left swims less and congregates on the bottom on the side facing the window. Their movement is now more like a thousand little frogs hopping around in the herd at the bottom of the tank. Some still swim, but majority is doing the new movement. I can see a bit of their tail now, but no major growth change.
Possible theories: 1.) they molted on day 5 and many didn’t make it through. 2.)Nitrites killed them at this stage and they haven’t molted yet. 3.) Maybe everyone’s dies at day 5 because they have 5 days of food stored in them or because when they molt the new contact with water conditions isn’t right for them…
Interesting to note that my water isn’t the right ppm for salt, but half have survived… I thought I saw somewhere it should be ocean water (1.020-1.024, and somewhere else 1.010. hmm. Wish I had more tanks to test all 3 salinities.

My hope is that with more postings from folks that are having success we can all help each other out to solve this mystery and not make silly statements like it taking hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the right water conditions for this. heh heh that one still makes me chuckle. I bet it’s possible.

Folks could try their filtration systems in their nursery tanks with a big ball of fiber-fill around the intake (intake on LOW!) with super fine cloth over that. That makes the drag into the intake almost nothing. You’ll see if the babies are being pulled onto it, it’s too strong still… but I still am having great water results with one gallon of water in a two gallon tank.
Best… Laurie

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, A Comforting Constant in Life

March 14, 2008

It’s been a day of taxes and bills and other aggravations…enough to drive any sane person to the comfort of their fiddler crabs. πŸ™‚

Admiral Byrd has been robustly marching around the tank, and no matter if he’s on “gravel hill,” the top of his “fake cave” or perched on “live rock” he stands tall and waves his claw. We just walked back in the house from dinner and the first sight to greet us across the kitchen was Admiral Byrd waving. Now we know deep down inside that he really couldn’t care less about us unless we’re a female fiddler crab, but still, on a tired night we could live in denial and pretend our “pet” is welcoming us home.

On a bit more serious note, I received a great comment from someone about my post on the death of the fiddler babies and how the Discovery forum person, Horseyhannah, said not to even bother trying to raise babies.

This person currently has living crab larvae – day 3 – and she’s offered a lot of ideas from her own experiences. There is SUCH good information and several suggestions for fiddler crab owners in her comments. I wanted to first say THANK YOU! And secondly, for anyone who didn’t catch the comment, just click here to read it.

She noted that she doesn’t use substrate on the tank bottom, which is interesting to me. I have heard others who’ve done the same, so I think there might be some merit to that approach. For myself this time around I will use the calcium substrate, since by the time I got that post, I had already started setting up the nursery tank with the new sand. So I’ll see how the sand “experiment” goes. But still, her approach to not using substrate seems very interesting and if she wants to send any updates on how it’s going, that would be great. I imagine there are many others out there who’d like to know if that is a better way to go. So anyone with info on keeping the tank bottom bare, please do send along your experiences.

I also appreciated her kind comment about my blog postings – re my novel, the fiddlers, and my marriage. Many thanks. To respond to the requests in her comment:

1) – There are many more posts to come on the progress of my novel, Under the Pier, and about life in general.

2) – She asked if I could put all the fiddler crab posts together in one place for all those “crab junkies.” Well, have no fear – they already are. On the right-hand side of my main blog page, under the “Pages” listing, click on the page called:

“And What’s the Deal With All The Fiddler Crab Stuff”

Every fiddler posting is on that page with a live link to each and every post. So crab junkies – have a great time. πŸ™‚

For anyone who is following the progress of my “Author Journey,” or for the process and progress of my novel, Under the Pier, I’ve done the same thing. Each topic has a page with all the posts listed there, and live links to them.

If you should find your way to my blog on a page that doesn’t have the “Page list” on the right, just click on the Soul Mosaic words in my header and it will bring up the main day’s page. Then you’ll see the Page list on the right.

Well, I will re-group tomorrow. It is simply nice to know that in spite of irritating taxes and bills and other life annoyances, there are those constants like Admiral Byrd waving his claw no matter what time, day or night, that you walk in the room.

Happy Weekend to you all.

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

March 10, 2008

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, πŸ™‚ and even he said that we must prove Horseyhannah wrong!!! Stay tuned.

The Post – Preview of Coming Attractions

March 6, 2008

Companies have “Product Pipelines.” Teachers have “Lesson plans.” Movies have “Coming Attractions.”

Given that, I thought it was important to take a moment today to let everybody know “what’s coming” in the next few months on Soul Mosaic. The list below is not complete by any means, just some of the highlights farthest along in the planning stages:

Fiddler Crabs:

It remains to be seen whether the babies will make it or not, but I will continue to keep you posted. I see from the blog numbers this is a subject of high interest, so I will keep the updates coming.

As of today, the numbers of babies in the nursery tank has dropped dramatically. I am both sad and relieved. If thousands survived, they might have taken over my entire downstairs. However, I hope some make it. The parameters in the tank are good except for nitrites…the bane of all new tank setups. I am on my way right now to do a water change and see if that helps.

Hermit Crabs:

The next addition to the household in the near future will be 2-3 hermit crabs. I will be chronicling that from the very beginning, including what gear I buy and why, what happens when I “bring the babies home,” and how “life with hermit crabs” goes. Stay tuned for updates on when that will be happening.

Writing Posts:

There will be more posts to come on both My Author Journey, and the journey of Under the Pier as it moves through its process. I am pleased to report I am almost done with the second draft and will be starting both the third draft soon as well as putting together a submission proposal for a couple of editors. I will be sure to document the journey as it progresses. Topics still to come over the next several weeks and months in both of these areas:

1) Essays

From animals to God, geeks to kids, essays are how I speak. So more to come in this department

2) General Writing Journey

– The Writer’s House – That Swarming Bacteria, Proteus mirabilis

– Broken Bits – Encouragement for the Writer’s Soul From Beyond the Grave: A Nobel Laureate “Speaks”

– Writing Sanity: Do Something For Someone
3) More Topics for Under the Pier – Journey of a Novel

– Research Part III: Animal Character R&D

– Research Part IV: Setting as Character

– Three: The Mystical Number for Character Dynamics

– Test, Review, Retest, Analyze, Conclude

– Research Biblio- Diner Books

– Research Biblio – Nature Guides

– Writing the First Draft: If I Find One More Envelope Shred With a Story Note on It I’m Going to Scream!

– The First Draft is Done; What Now?

– So What’s Scribbled On All Those Revision Board Lists?

– What Writings Books Did I Use and Which Ones Did I Find Helpful?

– What Was Writing the Second Draft Like?

– What’s Coming Up for the Third Draft?

COMING SOON!!! A New Blog Category: Creature Features

As part of my preparation for Draft 3 of Under the Pier, I need to refresh my memory on all the critter descriptions. To really have those fish, birds, snails, and crustaceans breathing on the page requires vibrant details. So since I have to do a biology review of sorts, I thought I’d turn it into a creature of the day review for all of us. So – “Creature Features” coming VERY soon. (Appetizer: Did you know that an oyster toadfish can sound like an underwater foghorn?)

Photos and Art:

– New Macro photos coming soon. Since it’s Spring that means I can go back outside and crawl around the pond. Who knows what I’ll catch with my macro lens.

– “Photographic Journey of a Painting” – I will follow the journey of one of my oil paintings from rough sketches to explore composition arrangements, initial layers of paints, through finished product.

– Possibly Pastel: Given that I will be taking a 2 day seminar on Pastels in April, I may start exploring pastel art works and sharing those as well.

The Confusion:

What to do with the years and years worth of animal articles I have collected? – I have a box of news articles from the web collected over MANY years. It’s one of my quirks. I see an article about an animal, a cat who flew cross-country trapped in a plane’s insulation, a zoo animal playing with fabric softener dryer sheets, a 6-legged octopus, and I HAVE to print it out and keep it. My husband finds them for me now and sends them to me. Just like my feeling compelled to keep writing down the words “Mosaic” and “Broken Bits” over and over for the last few years until finally I realized it was my blog’s title and theme, I feel compelled to collect these articles.

The confusion in my mind is: WHAT SHALL I DO WITH THEM? I know I am supposed to do something with them… I FEEL it. But …what?

(Anybody have any flashes of insight????)
…And Last But Not Least: And Then There’s Bear

So, lots to come in the next few months, so stay tuned.

The Post – Baby Food Specifics, and Those Salinity Research Papers

March 2, 2008

First, I knew that Fish Pros in Raleigh NC would come through for me. I really wanted some kind of live plankton food for the babies as that’s what they would get in the ocean. I figured ground up TetraMin Tropical Flakes and ground up Tetra MiniKrill (freeze dried plankton) mixed with some Wardley’s Small Fry Liquid Food and distilled water would be as good as it gets, and I think it’s a pretty good mix. But I wasn’t sure I could grind the foods small enough for the pinpoint babies. Yesterday I took a ride to Fish Pros and lo, they had a bottle of DT’s Live Marine Phytoplankton – Premium Reef Blend. So this morning I mixed ground mini-krill in a 1/2 tsp of the phytoplankton and added a few drops of Small Fry in a little distilled water and put it in the tank. For other feedings, I’ll use ground up Tropical Flakes in the phytoplankton and Small Fry liquids. That should give enough of a mix of animal and plant material in their feed. The pet food link below for the Wardley’s Small Fry says that “live food” is best but for quick backup and unexpected births, the Wardley’s Small Fry is a good substitute. The DT’s phytoplankton is live.

For those truly geeky enough to want to know a bit about what’s in these foods:

DT’s Live Marine Phytoplankton: contains live Nannochloropsis oculata (yellow-green algae), Phaeodactylum tricornutum (diatoms or algae), Chlorella (green algae)

Wardley’s Small Fry: water, egg product, yeast extract, freeze-dried Calanoid Copepods (planktonic crustaceans that make up the biggest protein source in the ocean), and some vitamins and preservatives

TetraMin Tropical Flakes: fish meal, brown rice, shrimp meal, dried yeast, wheat, oat meal, fish oil, and a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Tetra MiniKrill – Freeze-dried Plankton: freeze-dried krill – Euphausia pacifica (shrimp-like invertebrates that are part of the zooplankton)

The Tropical Flakes can stay out at room temperature. Supposedly so can the Small Fry, though once I opened it, I am refrigerating it. The minikrill are in the freezer (yes, next to the loaves of bread but I don’t think I’ll mix them up), and the DT’s phytoplankton must be refrigerated. But again, I don’t think I’ll grab the phytoplankton when reaching for my husband’s bottle of blueberry juice. πŸ™‚ So, that’s food.

The two articles for salinity in larval crabs:

Salinity Preferences in the Stage I Zoeae of Three Temperate Zone Fiddler Crabs, Genus Uca, Paul S. Capaldo, Department of Natural Sciences, Roger Williams College, Old Ferry Lane, Bristol, RI 02809; Estuaries Vol 16, No. 4, p. 784-788 December 1993

Dispersal and Recruitment of Fiddler Crab Larvae in the Delaware River Estuary, C.E. Epifanio, K.T. Little, P.M. Rowe, College of Marine Studies, University of Delaware, Lewes, Delaware 19958, Marine Ecology – Progress Series Vol. 43: 181-188, March 24, 1988

The first article mentions the three species of fiddler crabs in the study: Uca minax (red-jointed fiddler crabs, which is what I have), Uca pugnax and Uca pugilator, the latter two preferring high salinity areas. Uca minax prefers low salinity found higher up in estuaries, nearer to fresh water sources. The latter two are located in areas closer to the ocean, pugnax in salt marshes and tidal creek banks, and pugilator in the silt and silt-clay areas. The article notes that even though all three may inhibat the same salt marsh, because of their preferences for different salinities and locations, the competition for space and food between the three groups is greatly reduced.

So, today’s entry for all those who wanted geeky specifics on food and salinities. Enjoy!