Go Forth, My Minions, And Devour

As the afternoon DJ has a thing for Axl Rose that makes my slightly terrifying crush on Christian Bale look pathetically tame, I took an extra two seconds to crank up “Paradise City” to deafening levels.  This gave Ursula enough time to hammer on the window.

“Write about aiptasia!”

“What?” (*thump*thump*thump* Strapped in the chair of the city’s gas chamber . . . *thump*thump*thump*)

“The next blog post!  The shrimp!  How they rip apart the anemones and devour them alive!”

“Well, okay, I was going to write about water current but that sounds more interesting.”

Top to bottom - Bag o' cleanup crew, bag o' p.o.ed peppermint shrimp, and oversized Nyquil cap with acclimating school of blue-green chromis

Top to bottom - Bag o' cleanup crew, bag o' PO'ed peppermint shrimp, and oversized Nyquil cap with school of acclimating blue-green chromis

Aiptasia are disgusting, filthy anemones with nasty stinging tentacles.  As one of the most common pests in reefkeeping, they are typically found in tanks that are poorly maintained, having hitchhiked in on coral or on live rock.  Left unchecked, they can grow to the size of golf balls and rumor has it that they can even catch and devour smaller fish.

I’m sort of passively okay with aiptasia, as I keep the tanks in good condition and the one that pops up every so often tends to stay small.  I have had excellent luck simply siphoning them clean out of the rock using a tube with a narrow aperture – this method is sort of a gamble, because a single piece of aiptasia can regrow into an entire new clone of the parent, but if you’re quick enough and are really good at tiny obsessive tasks (yo!), it’s very effective.

If you are not willing to go the siphoning route, there are chemical cleaners that are also effective.  Joe’s Juice is extremely popular, and aiptasia wilts on contact with it – however, it works best if you manage to get the aiptasia to eat it, or at least ram it straight down its gut to dissolve it from within.  This is a bit tricky to achieve on the first attempt.

I’m not so hot on the chemical pest control methods.  I’m going on the rationale that if I want to (attempt to) recreate a stable minature ecosystem, I should keep out anything not native to the ocean.  This includes the water itself; I started out in the hobby using mix-it-yourself salt water and made the switch to real ocean water about a year ago, and have no complaints whatsoever.  It’s hellishly expensive but I’ve honestly noticed an overall improvement in the health of the livestock, and considering the money I’ve invested in the tank I consider it well worth the additional cost.

Lifestock is not a minor investment, either.  The 65g is a month old but it is still home to about $100 in crabs, snails, and shrimp, and $90 in fish and shrimp (and this is after coupons, people!).  On Monday, I added the cleanup crew.  Four emerald crabs, ten blue-legged hermits, and three scarlet hermits were plunked in; three turbo, ten Astrea, and seven Nassarius snails joined them after a lengthy three-hour acclimation period.  Snails do not like to make rapid transitions between water with different salinity levels, so gradual acclimation is better for them in the long run.

Oh, and one peppermint shrimp.  Very few things eat aiptasia, due to the stinging and what-all.  The copperband butterfly fish has a reputation for it, as do peppermint shrimps, although it’s not a guarantee as not every member of these species will eat the pests, and it’s a head-thumping moment when you realize you’ve purchased an animal who is supposed to help function as a biological control for aiptasia but wants nothing whatsoever to do with the horrid things.

The new clownfish!

The new clownfish!

The first peppermint shrimp found some of the aiptasia on Kotonga, Destroyer of Earth almost as soon as it was released in the tank.  The shrimp went right over and started prodding the aiptasia, as though sizing it up for a fight.  The aiptasia retracted into its hole, then popped a few tentacles out… the shrimp whacked those…  they retreated… this took place for several days, but the shrimp never made any real headway, and I figured the aiptasia was simply too large for one shrimp to eat in a single go.

So yesterday, I bought the lone shrimp three new brothers to join him in battle.  These new shrimp were mighty!  Huge!  Thumb-long dragons of the deep.  They… have been less than effective against any of the aiptasia in the tank.  Every so often, I’ll see them grab hold of the main body of one aiptasia and tear off a piece, as though grabbing a fast-food burger, but they just dine-and-dash while leaving the main core of the anemone untouched.  Maybe it’s a slow process, who knows, but from what I read it’s supposed to be more like a brutal feeding frenzy.  I’m rather disappointed – I keep hoping I’ll hear screams.

I’ll close by introducing the new fish.  The school of blue-green chromis was added first.  They are Slime-atron 3.0, and they are One.  My friend Dante kept goldfish in college, and … well, let’s just say that it’s sometimes difficult to tell identical fish apart.  She designated them as a single unit with parts that could be identified according to action, like Sleeping Slime-atron, Eating Slime-atron, Pooping Slime-atron, Covered-in-Snails-And-Crabs-Oh-Lord-That-Can’t-Be-Good Slime-atron, and so on.  Slime-atron 3.0* consists of six individual members, none of whom are currently covered in snails or crabs.  We’ll call that a win for today.

And the two baby clownfish.  They are Dear.  They have no names.  What should I name them?

*Brown suggested Slime-atron Out-Of-Beta but I can’t cope with the pun.

~ by KBSpangler on April 24, 2009.

5 Responses to “Go Forth, My Minions, And Devour”

  1. For the clownfish how about Ne…. Ok, in all seriousness, I personally tend to be fond of pair names like… oh Baskin & Robbins or Bonnie & Clyde

  2. One of the clownfish has to be Mr Whiteface.

  3. I’ve discovered FOUR bloody little aiptasia in the tank. The little bastards are right where the torch coral tentacles sweep, so I’m gonna have a time juicing them…

  4. Hmm…. paired names are good. ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’?

  5. I’m still all for Arlecchino and Columbina.

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