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Snails Consume Fish

The deadly cone snail is never added to an aquarium by choice, and it should never be handled. It has a powerful venom that, in larger specimens, can even kill a human. In fact, the harpoon that delivers the venom is so powerful that, in some cases, it can penetrate a wetsuit.

Although they very, very rarely make their way into the aquarium hobby, some cone snails have been found in tanks after hitchiking on live rock. If you find one, you should attempt to remove it as soon as possible without touching it, for example, by using a baited trap.

If you wind up with one of the largest species of cone snails in your tank, here’s what can happen. This is a video from the BBC taken on the Great Barrier Reef of a cone snail attacking a fish.


Posted May 29th, 2015.

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Best Plants for Beginners

By Lea Maddocks

As Lea Maddocks explains in the second part of her article in the December 2012 issue,  Setting Up a Successful Low-Tech Planted Tank Like a Pro, Part 2: Aquascaping and Maintaining Your Planted Tank, choosing aquatic plants that fit your skill level and fit the look that you want can be challenging. However, some plants have a reliable track record of doing well in low-tech setups.

Let’s start with the best epiphytic plants. These should not be planted in the substrate, instead they can be tied to rocks or stones and allowed to grow with their roots exposed.

Java fern and Java moss are both very hardy plants. Photograph by Gary Lange.

Java fern varieties (Microsprum pteropus) including regular, crested (aka ‘windelov’), and narrow leaf

Anubias species

Congo fern – Bolbitus heudelotii

Mosses, including Java moss

Next come floating plants. Similar to epiphytic plants, these should not be buried in the substrate. Instead they should be left floating freely in the aquarium. They are great for providing shade to skittish fish.

Duckweed is an easily grown floating plant, but be warned that it can easily reach plague proportions. Photograph by Albert Connelly, Jr.

Hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum)

Lacefern/watersprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides)

Duckweed (Lemna minor)

Mosquito fern (Azolla caroliniana)

Brazillian pennywort (Hydrocotyle leucocephala)

Water lettuce

Some stem plants are appropriate for beginners. These must be planted in the substrate.

Green hygro (Hygrophila polysperma) is a relatively easy-to-grow stem plant. Photograph by MP. & C. Piednoir.

Some ludwigia, including the red Ludwigia repens

Elodea/Egeria – Egeria densa

Green hygro (Hygrophila polysperma)

Water wisteria (Hygrophila difformis)

Lacefern/watersprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides, note this can be planted as a stem plant or left floating)

Brazillian penny wort (Hydrocotyle leucocephala)

Bacopa – Bacopa australis, B. monnieri, Bacopa caroliniana


Myriophyllum mattogrossense

Amazon swords, the ozelot variety has red flecks and can be great for color

Rotala rotundifolia

Cryptocoryne species, especially browns like C. Wendtii, C. Lutens

Pearlweed (Hemiantus glomeraturs), which was formerly confused with H. micranthemoides

Saggitaria and dwarf sgaggitarita

Pygmy chain sword (Helanthium tenellus)

Posted May 14th, 2015.

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Book Excerpt: Reef Aquarium Fishes

Organized by family for easy reference, each profile in Reef Aquarium Fishes includes all essential care, feeding and husbandry advice. The species profiled include all available reef aquarium choices, with scores of seldom seen, rare and recently discovered species. Written by the worlds most-read, most respected expert on marine fishes for the home aquarium, The PocketExpert Guide to Reef Aquarium Fishes is a must-read for any fish enthusiasts.

About the Author

Scott W. Michael is an internationally recognized writer, underwater photographer, and marine biology researcher specializing in reef fishes. He is the author of the Pocket Expert Guide to Marine Fishes (Microcosm/TFH), the Reef Fishes  series (Microcosm/TFH), and Reef Sharks and Rays of the World (Microcosm/TFH).

Having studied biology and the University of Nebraska, he has been involved in research projects on sharks, rays, frogfishes, and the behavior of reef fishes. He has also served as a scientific consultant for National Geographic Explorer and the Discovery Channel. His work has led him from Cocos Island in the Eastern Pacific to various points in the Indo-Pacific as well as the Red Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and many Caribbean reefs.

A marine aquarist since boyhood, he has kept tropical fishes for more than 30 years, with many years of involvement in the aquarium world, including a period of retail store ownership. He is a partner in an extensive educational website on the coral reef environment,

Scott lives with his wife, underwater photographer Janine Cairns-Michael, and their Golden Retriever, Ruby, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Excerpt from Hogfishes (Genus Bodianus)

The hogfishes are some of the hardiest members of the wrasse family. As a whole, they are durable aquarium fish that readily accept most aquarium fare, while ignoring all live corals. Most can be kept in reef aquariums as juveniles, but as they grow they will eat worms, snails, small clams, and crustaceans. The size of the aquarium needed to harbor a hogfish will depend on the species—most small to medium-sized members of the family (i.e., those species that attain a maximum length of less than 10 in. [25 cm]) can be kept in tanks ranging from 20 to 75 gallons (76 to 285 L), while more robust species require a tank of 135 gallons (513 L) or larger once they reach adult size. They need hiding places as well as ample swimming room.

Hogfishes, unlike certain other wrasses, do not bury in the substrate, so the depth of sand in your tank is of little concern. However, several of these fishes will hunt buried prey items by blowing jets of water at the finer substrate. This predatory behavior is fascinating to watch and will also stir the upper layers of the substrate.

Spanish Hogfish (Bodianus rufus): a graphic warning about hogfish feeding habits—motile invertebrates, such as brittle stars, are likely to meet this fate. Photograph by Scott W. Michael.

Many hogfishes will not tolerate the presence of members of their own species in the same tank, but they can be kept with other members of their genus. One caution: avoid placing two similarly colored species in the same tank.
As far as unrelated species are concerned, hogfishes can be belligerent toward smaller fishes, more docile species, or those fishes introduced after the hogfish has become an established resident of the tank. The moderate- to large-sized hogfishes should be kept with fish species that can hold their own, like lionfishes, squirrelfishes, soldierfishes, smaller groupers, goatfishes, angelfishes, hawkfishes, medium-sized damselfishes, sand perches, and less aggressive triggerfishes. Adding a hogfish to an established community of aggressive fishes, however, can cause the hogfish to remain hidden most of the time and never acclimate. Of course, large frogfishes, scorpionfishes, and groupers will eat any hogfish that they can swallow whole. While the larger hogfish species simply won’t fit into the average reef tank community, some of the smaller members of this group are worthy of consideration. Choose carefully, based on size and feeding habits.

Bodianus mesothorax. Photograph by Scott W. Michael.

Bodianus mesothorax
Mesothorax Hogfish
Maximum Length: 7.5 in. (19 cm).
Aquarium Suitability: This species is generally durable and hardy, with most individuals acclimating to the home aquarium.
Reef Compatibility: Safe with stony corals. Safe with soft corals. Threat to ornamental crustaceans. Threat to other invertebrates.

Bodianus mesothorax juvenile. Photograph by Scott W. Michael.

Bodianus diana. Photograph by Scott W. Michael.

Bodianus diana
Diana’s Hogfish
Maximum Length: 9.8 in. (25 cm).
Aquarium Suitability: This species is generally durable and hardy, with most individuals acclimating to the home aquarium.
Reef Compatibility: Safe with stony corals. Safe with soft corals. Threat to ornamental crustaceans. Threat to other invertebrates.

Bodianus perditio. Photograph by Scott W. Michael.

Bodianus perditio
Goldspot Hogfish
Maximum Length: 31.5 in. (80 cm).
Aquarium Suitability: This species is generally durable and hardy, with most individuals acclimating to the home aquarium.
Reef Compatibility: Safe with stony corals. Safe with soft corals. Threat to ornamental crustaceans. Threat to other invertebrates.

Bodianus izuensis. Photograph by Scott W. Michael.

Bodianus izuensis
Izu Hogfish
Maximum Length: 4.3 in. (11 cm).
Aquarium Suitability: This species is generally durable and hardy, with most individuals acclimating to the home aquarium.
Reef Compatibility: Safe with stony corals. Safe with soft corals. Threat to ornamental crustaceans. Occasional threat to some other invertebrates.

Excerpted from the PocketExpert Guide to Reef Aquarium Fishes by Scott W. Michael. ©Microcosm/ TFH Publications. Used by permission.

Posted October 16th, 2014.

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Research Reveals Strange Marine Mammals of the Ancient North Pacific

The pre-Ice Age marine mammal community of the North Pacific formed a strangely eclectic scene, research by a Geology PhD student at New Zealand’s University of Otago reveals.


A speculative life rendering of the fossil whale Balaenoptera bertae unearthed in the San Francisco Bay Area. The whale belongs within the same genus as minke and fin whales, indicating that the Balaenoptera lineage has lasted for 3-4 million years. Balaenoptera bertae would have been approximately 5-6 meters in length, slightly smaller than modern minke whales. It was named by University of Otago Ph.D. student Robert Boessenecker in honor of San Diego State University’s Professor Annalisa Berta.
Credit: Robert Boessenecker

Studying hundreds of fossil bones and teeth he excavated from the San Francisco Bay Area’s Purisima Formation, Robert Boessenecker has put together a record of 21 marine mammal species including dwarf baleen whales, odd double-tusked walruses, porpoises with severe underbites and a dolphin closely related to the now-extinct Chinese river dolphin.

Among his finds, which were fossilized 5 to 2.5 million years ago, is a new species of fossil whale, dubbed Balaenoptera bertae, a close relative of minke, fin, and blue whales.

Mr Boessenecker named the whale in honour of San Diego State University’s Professor Annalisa Berta, who has made numerous contributions to the study of fossil marine mammals and mentored many students.

Although an extinct species, it belongs within the same genus as minke and fin whales, indicating that the Balaenoptera lineage has lasted for 3-4 million years. Balaenoptera bertae would have been approximately 5-6 meters in length, slightly smaller than modern minke whales, Mr Boessenecker says.

His findings appear in the most recent edition of the international journal Geodiversitas.

The publication represents eight years of research by Mr Boessenecker, who was 18 in 2004 when he was tipped off by a local surfer about bones near Half Moon Bay. When he discovered the fossil site, he was astonished by the numerous bone-beds and hundreds of bones sticking out of the cliffs.

He excavated the incomplete skull of Balaenoptera bertae during early field research there in 2005 and it was encased in a hard concretion that took five years to remove.

“The mix of marine mammals I ended up uncovering was almost completely different to that found in the North Pacific today, and to anywhere else at that time,” he says.

Primitive porpoises and baleen whales were living side-by-side with comparatively modern marine mammals such as the Northern fur seal and right whales. And species far geographically and climatically removed from their modern relatives also featured, such as beluga-like whales and tusked walruses, which today live in the Arctic, he says.

“At the same time as this eclectic mix of ancient and modern-type marine mammals was living together, the marine mammal fauna in the North Atlantic and Southern Ocean were already in the forms we find today.”

Mr Boessenecker says this strange fauna existed up until as recently as one or two million years ago. Its weirdness was likely maintained by warm equatorial waters and barriers to migration by other marine mammals posed by the newly formed Isthmus of Panama, and the still-closed Bering Strait.

“Once the Bering Strait opened and the equatorial Pacific cooled during the Ice Age, modernised marine mammals were able to migrate from other ocean basins into the North Pacific, leading to the mix we see today,” he says.


Originally published here:

Posted March 15th, 2014.

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New Species of Marine Algae Discovered


The species that historically was quoted as the most abundant of coral algae that forms rodoliths at the Gulf of California in Mexico, is in reality a compound of five different species. This finding was made by Jazmín Hernández Kantun, marine biologist at the Autonomous University of South Baja California (UABCS), resulting in a change of paradigm in the study of the species known as Lithophyllum margaritae.

In fact, this Mexican research has reached Europe, where Hernández Kantun continues the project and her studies at Ireland’s National University with the support of the Mexican National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt).

According with the Mexican researcher, the objective now is to determine the number of species of coral algae in Europe and Mexico trough molecular tests.

“Coral algae in Mexico and trough out the world are usually identified only by their shape and color. However, is necessary to investigate the species in depth, given that bigger biodiversity exists in this organism than previously thought” said the researcher.

About the importance of her discoveries, the researcher exposed that since 1992 the Habitats Directive of the European Union protects two rodoliths forming species: Lithothamnion corallioides and Phymatolithon calcareum; considering them the most abundant and important, giving them relevance as a marine ecosystem and using them as rich mineral fertilizers.

The specialist found that at least other two species: L. glaciale and L. tophiforme, should be considered in the protected group having the same characteristics.

The environmental value of coral algae lies in the fact that when detached during tides and accumulate in specific areas, they form mantles of rodoliths which are rich in calcium and used by corals, clams, larvae and mollusks as “foundation” to start their development.

However, global warming is changing the natural chemistry of ocean ecosystems, increasing the absorption of carbon dioxide and modifying its acidification levels (pH).

Hernández Kantun warned that the acidification could remove the mantles of rodoliths from the ecosystem, directly affecting the mollusks, corals and any other organism found in them.

The marine biologist insisted that the coral’s biological diversity must be considered. She assured that the negative effects of climate change and the level of repercussion that come with them are different for each species.

“A lot of research is missing in this field, we haven’t quite understood the diversity of this algae, is like saying that all dogs are alike when each breed has different genetics and response to environmental factors. Is not the same to protect one than five different species!” she highlighted.

After four years of studying for her PhD in Ireland and collaborating with researchers from the United Kingdom, Spain, France and Italy, Jazmín Hernández Kantun is waiting for her grade exam to return to Mexico where she plans to found a laboratory to continue with her research and use it for the conservation of this marine organisms.

Source: AlphaGalileo

Posted January 2nd, 2014.

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