The Mysterious Case of the Vanishing Slime-atron

I’ve just returned from taking two of the peppermint shrimp back to the store, where I had a lively discussion with the clerks over peppermint shrimp and whether or not they eat fish.  The consensus was No, absolutely not.  And I agreed with them, except that Slime-atron has gradually yet consistently lost one fish every other day for the past week.

Keeping a marine reef is a little bit like keeping an Agatha Christie novel in a glass box, as everyone is trying to murder everyone else.  A large portion of the livestock planning process is done specifically to reduce bloodshed.  Imagine that old puzzle where the man had to get a mouse, a cat, and a dog across the water one at a time and still have all three animals alive at the end of it… well, it’s a bit like that where you select critters based on their ability to coexist with the other livestock in the tank and you try to avoid putting those together that can’t.

What, me slaughter?

What, me slaughter?

Only in reefkeeping, every so often the mouse gets uppity and eats the dog.  It’s always something you never saw coming, where one critter suddenly sees the opportunity to nosh on another and does the unexpected.  So I tackled the missing Slime-atron issue by using the powers of Logic:

  • IF water quality has been tested by three different people (me and the clerks at two stores) and is excellent; and
  • IF the missing Slime-atron members appeared to be in good health and were actively swimming immediately before they went missing; and
  • IF the shrimp are the only creatures in the tank large enough to take on a two-inch fish; and
  • IF I saw a shrimp eating a fairly intact member of the Slime-atron Collective;
  • THEN get rid of the damned shrimp and see if the losses continue.

But how to get the shrimp out of a hundred-plus pounds of live rock?  I had planned an elaborate trapping system involving an old breeding cage from a freshwater setup, pieces of bait, and a string on a lid, so sort of a mix between those box-on-stick traps from the Looney Tunes cartoon and how E.T. ended up in the closet. Then Ursula suggested a bottle with a narrow mouth with some bait placed deep inside, like a lobster trap.  This seemed to make a lot more sense than me waiting by the tank in my Elmer Fudd hat, so I went with the bottle idea.  Later:

URSULA: Any luck?

ME: No shrimp, although the snails are going in and out like the bait is on a conveyor belt.

URSULA: Great, I’ve discovered a way to trap an animal that can be easily caught by hand.

After a few hours of this, I swapped this bottle out for one with a wide mouth and, I kid you not, came back five minutes later to find two shrimp inside it, fighting over the bait.  I shrugged, put the cap on, and took them back to the store.

The Shrimp-Step!  For your elderly, disabled, or God-awful stupid shrimp.

The Shrimp-Step! For your elderly, disabled, or God-awful stupid shrimp.

There are now two shrimp left in the tank, although I’m still trying to catch one to move it to the 30g.  The two that wandered into the trap earlier must have been extremely smart, since one of the remaining shrimp really, really wants to get the bait but it cannot figure out how to get into the bottle.  It keeps walking in front of the bottle’s open mouth and for the life of me I can’t think of anything else but those video games where they never wrote the code for actions like jump or climb because the opening is barely a centimeter off of the ground and that’s just way too taxing for the poor little shrimp’s limiting processing powers.

I am also currently acclimating some replacement members for the Slime-atron Collective.  Now, IF I’ve removed three shrimp and the Collective continues to vanish one at a time, THEN there’s something else that is killing them.  And that something else would be something I didn’t intentionally add to the tank, which takes us dangerously close to mantis shrimp territory.

Cross your fingers and hope this resolves itself, please, because that battle?  One with a stomatopod that’s not only big enough to take out a two-inch fish but needs to eat one every other day?

That battle will be epic.

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~ by KBSpangler on April 29, 2009.

One Response to “The Mysterious Case of the Vanishing Slime-atron”

  1. Imagine the jaws theme, done entirely in clicks.

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