Tag Archive: aquarium


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new england aquarium

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and now, a pufferfish

thanks, kelly

tomorrow marks the end of an era for me.  (don't get all excited – it's not the phd, not yet.)  it will be my last (currently scheduled) sleepover at kelly tarlton's, auckland's aquarium and my place of employment for the last 3.5 years.  kelly's is not the world's most glamorous aquarium, but for what it is, it's pretty impressive, and it has a great history.  in the early '80s, new zealand underwater explorer and archaeologist kelly tarlton wanted to bring the marine world he knew from diving to the public of new zealand, so he began looking for a site to build an aquarium.  he realized that the old underground sewage tanks of auckland city had been unused since the '60s (and what a pleasant realization that must have been) – four concrete tanks each holding more than 1,000,000 liters.  within ten months he had converted the tanks into two large aquariums and two equally sized filtration beds, pioneered the underwater viewing tunnel technology now used in aquaria worldwide (and molded the acrylic himself in a massive home-built oven), and filled the tanks with around 2000 animals inlcuding sharks and stingrays.  all this funded, no less, by treasure kelly recovered from the wreck of the ship elingamite, off the coast of new zealand.
tragically, the 18-hour-days kelly was working in the months leading up to the aquarium's opening in 1985 proved too much, and he died of a heart attack in his sleep six weeks after the opening.  march 17 marked the 23rd anniversary of his death. he was 47 years old.
 

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two oceans aquarium

here are some shots from two oceans aquarium, which boasts one of two 'captive' living kelp forests in the world, some nice sharks and turtles, and the biggest morays i have ever seen. 

Octopus vulgarisSpiny lobsterHagfishCuttlefish, Sepia vermiculataCuttlefish, Sepia vermiculata

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of fins and feelers

life has been full of fishy goodness recently. 

last weekend, the pebbles and i went diving up at tawharanui, near goat island marine reserve.  we were not expecting anything miraculous in the way of sealife encounters or visibility, since the northern part of the country had had heavy rains the week before.  but we thought we'd see what was around, and also play with the underwater camera. 

as it turned out, the vis was about 2m, so not great, but also (sadly) not the worst we've dived in.  in terms of fauna, we came across a large short-tailed stingray, Dasyatis brevicaudata (at extremely close range, since i was less than 2m away before i could see her), but i was too slow on the draw to get any good shots.  there were lots of nice sponges, a school of sweep (Scorpis lineolata), hordes of baby spotted wrasse (Notolabrus celidotus), and the occasional friendly adult spotted wrasse.


we also got to play with the scallops, and with the video function on the camera.  the microphone even works underwater, as you can tell from the darth-vader-like breathing noises. 

and here are a few goatfish (Upeneichthyes lineatus), the other most common sight for the day.  they're nibbling on a small cluster of broad squid eggs that have come loose from the nearby kelp and gotten partially buried in the muck on the bottom.  note the cool feelers on their chins.

but wait, there's more!  we have two new additions to the domestic aquatic scene as well.  having had bad luck with bettas, we were interested in finding some mid-to-upper-level-swimmers that are fun to watch, and the pebbles became fascinated by a tank of pearl gouramis (Trichogaster leeri) on a recent excursion to the fish store.  so we went home and read up on them, and they seemed ideal – omnivorous, hardy, peaceful, and captive-bred.  piscine perfection.  so we brought a pair home.

they are indeed mesmerizing.  they explored the whole tank as soon as they were released into it, and have been greedily snapping up the live mosquito larvae that i discovered developing in a bucket of rainwater on the deck.  next project: stick the underwater camera into the fishtank and see what happens.  stay tuned!

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unbeaknownst to me…

i come home from work with bites and hickeys.

not everyone who works at the aquarium sustains such damage.  in fact, no one there who hasn't met (and i do mean met, as in the equivalent of shaking hands with) the new octopus, scofield, is likely to have experienced much worse from her predecessors than a good tug-of-war game over a mussel shell.  we have had a wide range of personalities in our previous octopuses – slime was a sweetheart, beegee was sulky, mud was always curious, and the most recent (and unfortunately late) denizen of the octo tank stealthily and systematically dismantled an overflow in the corner of the tank until she was able to climb out one night.  she was found the next morning, too late, in the filtration workings under the neighboring tank.  (scofield has been named in her honor.)

this one is just plain trouble.  i met her today for the first time, a lovely young Octopus gibbsi.  i should have known immediately that she was different from the others – instead of sitting on a rock, watching, when i came by to start cleaning, scofield was already pacing across the front of the acrylic.  what's more, she was turned so that her mantle and eyes were facing out – looking directly at me, in a posture i'd never seen before.  i had been warned that i would 'have fun' cleaning her tank, and that i might want to have a decoy ready when i started working in there.  i would have saved myself a drenching if i'd listened. 

before vacuuming the tank, i opted to remove the whole mussel shells that had collected on the bottom, the remains of several days' worth of meals.  scofield immediately made it clear to me that anything poking around in her territory would be summarily enveloped and commandeered.  i was ready for the pulling game, but was impressed when, slowly recovering the 'helping hand' inch by inch, i lifted the whole octopus and two five-pound rocks (firmly held in her arms) off the bottom.  i was not ready for her to suddenly drop the rocks, scamper up the helping hand, cock one calculating eye out of the water, and blow a jet of cold seawater straight into my face.  it was a perfect shot, and i was both relieved and disappointed no one else had been nearby to see it.  sodden, i finished reclaiming the helping hand and went off on a brief towel break.

round two began the moment i got the vacuum hose in the tank.  scofield wanted it.  no, not just wanted it.  insisted on having it.  four arms on the hose and four arms on the glass ensured that she was in complete control of the top of the siphon.  i was, however, able to lever the bottom around the tank well enough to get about half the vacuum done before she discovered it was much more satisfying (to her, frustrating for me) to drop down and control the bottom of the siphon instead.  this rendered it effectively useless until i dropped the helping hand back in (voila, a decoy) and coaxed her to work out the mechanics of unhooking it from the side of the tank, while i quickly finished the vac.

so the tank was cleaned, and i was soaked.  with the score tied, we took a break for several hours. 

in the afternoon, some friends came through and wanted to meet the octopus.  armed (sorry) with bribes in the form of food, we returned to the tank and opened the lid.  i warned bystanders that they were likely to get wet, and sure enough, scofield came out shooting.  she immediately grabbed my wrist and hauled hersef halfway out of the tank, sending a jet over the top of the tank surround and yes, baptizing those closest to her.  not satisfied, she continued to climb my arm until she was completely clear of the water (i held her aloft briefly for public admiration), where she had a better shot, which she took – with more water than should logically have fit inside a softball-sized mantle.  then the fireworks really began.  she never had fewer than four arms twining around my wrist as she climbed up and down, submerged herself for a refill, climbed back out, writhed, explored everything she could reach, and yes, continued to douse the audience (and me), to the delight of some and the less-enthused suprise of others.  keeping one eye on her and the other on several visitors brave enough to join me in touching the contorting, fountaining octopus, i managed a brief spiel on octopus biology and behavior in general before giving her a final mussel shell, extracting myself and battening her hatch back down.  i thought we had come out even once more as i headed back to the office to wash my hands, although i noticed a few red sucker-marks developing on my knuckles.  it wasn't until i felt a light sting while soaping my hands that i noticed i was bleeding a little in one spot and grazed in another – scofield had bitten me.  twice.  here i was telling the public how curious and wily she was, explaining about the beak and why i was keeping away from it, and relating how sneaky the last one had been… unaware that madame mischief was busy chewing holes in my skin. 

well, i hope she enjoys her victory for now.  my work schedule dictates that we will meet again in mid-april.  and i'll be ready.  >:) 

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baby came back

further to the previous post – baby G turned up again last night!  in order to keep him from getting smushed while i moved the gravel around, i caught him out in a glass, so i was able to get a few pictures.  not great quality, but you get the idea.  i have also found out (here) that glass catfish do occasionally spawn in captivity, usually after a drop in temperature and frequent water changes (both true for my tank recently), simulating the rainy season in their natural environment.

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the miracle of life occurred right in my living room, and i didn’t notice for weeks.

to be fair, it wasn’t a particularly obvious event – the offspring in question is less than an inch long and pretty much completely transparent.  so, obviously not my cat, who’s neutered anyway.

i was cleaning the under-gravel filter in the fishtank (tropical freshwater), moving all the logs and plants over to one side and shooing the nervous fish away from the siphon hose, when something darted away over the gravel.  it was too small to be any of the intentional inhabitants – even the smallest tetras are pretty obvious.  my first thought was that one of the zebra danio fry i’d had in a breeder net a few months back had escaped, survived, and lived undetected in the tank for a while.

but oh no.  closer inspection proved that this wee survivor was none other than a glass catfish, Kryptopterus bicirrhis,  of which we have five.  these guys are my favorite in the tank, although the loaches (zebras and kuhlis) are pretty cool too.  once i was sure what i was seeing, i called the pebbles over to confirm i wasn’t hallucinating.  i wasn’t.

so i went online to find out about breeding behavior in glass cats.  turns out – they pretty much don’t, in captivity anyway, which means that in researching which species we wanted to get, that very important little bit of information slipped through the cracks – we tried not to get fish that were likely to be wild-caught.  i guess we know for the future.

but the fact remains that baby G was not a figment of my imagination (unless we had a mass hallucination of two… maybe i should ask the cat if he saw it too).  given his size, he has to have been living in the tank unnoticed for weeks… or else glass cats give birth to very large offspring, which seems unlikely since you’d see any eggs or fry developing inside them pretty early on.  it may be (a reliable source tells me) that our frequent water changes a few weeks back triggered spawning, although who knows what turns a glass cat on?  seems unlikely that the human race would have been quite as reproductively successful as we have been if our tissues were transparent, with our digestive systems on display for all to see.  but then, the glass cat’s eye is bigger than its brain.

i haven’t seen baby G since his sudden debut – and not for lack of trying.  but if he’s been sneaky enough to live unnoticed for a few weeks, i suppose i shouldn’t worry too much about not being able to find him.  tonight i plan to finish the filter-clean and put the tank back in order, so maybe he’ll turn up again.  fingers crossed!  we’re glad you’re here, little guy.