Thursday, July 15, 2010

Aiptasia--Our First Lifeform

June 16, 2010

Only a few days after setting up our aquarium, we spotted our first lifeform. With nothing else to do, yet still brimming with excitement about our new saltwater ventures, I spent hours watching the empty tank, filled with nothing but substrate, live rock, and water. We still had yet to install even lights. I painstakingly scanned each crevice and cranny on the rocks for signs of movement. Signs of life. I eagerly hoped for some "hitchhikers", secretly hoping a little octopus or something exotic and interesting would appear. I quickly learned most hitchhikers are considered unwanted pests. However, a weed can turn into a flower if appreciated in the right setting, right?

After a staring session with the live rock, I suddenly spotted movement and squealed. A pale, translucent white thing with tiny hairlike tentacles swirling from a small stalk was apparent in a small hole in the rock. Our first saltwater aquarium pet! I watched it tirelessly, captivated by its alien-like behavior. We quickly dubbed it "Creature". I wondered what it ate. Should I feed it? Oh, I just wanted to pick it up and hold and squeeze it and call him George!

The next day, at the aquarium store, I excitedly described to Mike, our local aquarium expert, my new finding. He immediately identified my beloved pet as a well-known pest, "Aiptasia". (He had to patiently correct my pronunciation for the next week. I kept calling it A-TIP-SIA instead of the correct AP-TAZ-ZA). What exactly are Aiptasia? They are a type of extremely hardy sea anemone from the Cnidaria family. In addition to multiplying rapidly, they sting other precious fish and coral.

Since I had no other fish or coral in the tank, he prescribed Aiptasia-X to get rid of it. Kill it! Do I have to?" I asked in dismay. I was loathe to destroy my new pet. He explained that Aiptasia could quickly grow out of control, producing 60 "babies" a day. "Oh," I sighed, reluctantly taking the chemicals home. I solemnly injected the stuff directly into the mouth of Creature, feeling overwhelmed with guilt. I tearfully watched Creature suffocate, shrink, wither and die, secretly wondering how this would affect my overall karma. Creature was gone and no sign of Creature Jrs.

A week later, I spotted Creature II and, this time, did not hesitate to stab it with an healthy dose of Aiptasia-X. When did I become such a cold-blooded killer? In the future, once my aquarium is stable enough to support shrimp, I hope they can do my dirty work.

Good Aiptasia Articles:

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