Adventures in Ew

Thursday looks to be New Tank Day, so as I write this I’m in the middle of setting up a temporary holding bin for two chunks of live rock I picked up at a local LFS.   Most of the rock in the 65g will be as dead and dry before it’s “seeded” and brought back to life, and the majority of the live rock will come from Blue Zoo Aquatics.  But in case things fall through, I don’t want to invest in the live rock too early and have no place to put it when it arrives; I also don’t want to stare at a bunch of dead, lifeless rocks for two weeks.  The compromise was to pick up a couple of pounds of live rock from the store and use these to start the cycle, then add the rest of the live rock to the tank at a later time.

The rock’s temporary home is the most half-assed thing  – an old Styrofoam cooler, the heating pad I use in the winters on one of the betta tanks, the craptacular pump I ripped out of the first Nanocube I owned, and about five gallons of water from the weekly water change on the 30g.  Still, I’ll have a few days’ time to inspect it out of a real tank for hitchhikers and my skin is crawling and I’ll have nightmares and…

Okay, maybe it’s easier to tell you what I saw while at the store.

Live rock comes with hitchhikers.  Some of these are desirable and are why we invest tons of money in live rock in the first place, because the objective of having a reef tank is to create a mini-reef and the rock introduces biodiversity into a closed ecosystem.

Life-sized?  Yes.  LIFE-SIZED.

Life-sized? Yes. LIFE-SIZED.

Other hitchhikers… not so much.  Unwanted hitchhikers are those that consume the biodiversity that we want in the tank, either through predation or through dominating a niche that we’d rather see go to something else.  Some are downright terrifying… some, like the mantis shrimp (AKA: The Thumbsplitter) can cause physical harm to the fish in the tank, or to us.  See that fireworm in the picture? Fireworms got their name for a reason, as touching them results in a pleasant tingling sensation similar to setting your hand on fire.  Or sticking it in a behive, or rubbing it on a cactus… really, there are just limitless ways to describe why your life is better if you avoid contact with a freaking fireworm.

Back to the fish store.  I’m browsing the tanks while the saleswoman helps another customer and my eye is drawn to the peppermint shrimp tank with a black molly in in.  Okay, I think, I’ve heard that you can acclimate a molly to saltwater, that’s pretty cool…  Then I see the small shrimp larvae clustered under rocks, and that was really cool… Then I see the fireworm.

The fireworm was huge.  No idea at all how long it was since I never saw both ends at once, but its head poked out of one hole as it marched the rest of its body into the hole.  This took several minutes with me watching, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, as it wrapped its finger-thick bulk around the rock and into a different hole.

Then the peppermint shrimp noticed the worm, and it was, as the kids say, on.

I think the worm’s mistake was that it had to poop.  Its wrapping-marching-pulling labors were done to move its butt into the tank, which then blew a yellow-green paste into the water.  The instant that the poop hit the current, the peppermint shrimp raised their heads as one and fell upon the fireworm like starving wolves.  The first ripped an inch of the worm’s butt clean off of its body, while the others worked to carve the rest of the worm out of the rock.  When the worm retreated into the depths, the shrimp gave up and began to fight over the meat that they had managed to pull off of the worm’s body.

Remember… I’m at the store to buy live rock.

I’m watching this and there are three distinct aspects of my personality in play.  The first is responsible for keeping me alive, and it’s howling and warbling and trying to bribe me into giving up reefkeeping by reminding me how much money I’d save if I quit and sold everything.  The second part is laughing hysterically and holding aloft a newborn lion cub over the savanna.  And the third is new, and a little bit unwanted, and says “well, at least you’ll have something to blog about today.”

All of this?  Ew.

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~ by KBSpangler on March 30, 2009.

5 Responses to “Adventures in Ew”

  1. It’s the circle…circle of liiiiiiiife….

    • We really need to come up with some sort of phrase or icon for it… LCHABM (lion cub held aloft by monkey) doesn’t really roll off the tongue…

  2. *turns green* I’f I ever have an aquarium, it will not feature things that eat each other. At least not in pieces, while the victim is alive and moving around. Seriously, just the thought is making me queasy right now.

  3. All I can think is “you just found conformation that peppermint shrimp help keep fireworms at bay”. Remember: I know nothing about reefing.

    • Scavengers in general just scare the bloody crap out of me. They can and will eat anything including themselves if conditions are right. I’m not sure all shrimp will eat fireworms or if these wanted to eat the worm because the moon was in Mars or whatever, but… ew.

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