Thursday, July 15, 2010

First Addition of Life

Jittery with excitement, we eagerly drove to the aquarium store to pick out our first coral. We had scoped out the place several days before, and after drooling all over the gorgeous, healthy fish, we had delusions of grandeur of adding some clownfish and a royal gramma. After talking with some experts at the shop, we decided to add some "beginner" coral instead. Of course, this meant we would have to wait another month for fish. Sigh...

I had not wanted to jump into coral right away. Mostly because every book I read talked about how hard they were to keep. I figured I would probably kill them right off the bat. Turns out, lots of coral species (especially the soft ones) aren't as hard to keep if you have the right equipment. Because we had carefully invested in a tank with state-of-the-art gadgetry, many local aquarists suggested jumping into coral right away. I decided to dive right in.

After reading up on coral a bit, I was completely overwhelmed by the diversity of the different species. I don't know Latin, and I don't plan on memorizing the taxonomy of every creature I'm interested in. No one else I talk to refers to coral by their Latin name either. However, every species seems to have 5 different, very generic names. We were advised to stick to the "mushrooms" and "zoos". I finally figured out "zoos" were zooanthids, which is a HUGE category. Same with "mushrooms". And each one is different.

We took 8 pieces of coral adhered to live rock home and proceeded with the "acclimation process". This ended up being a bit of a disaster. (More on that coming later in a subsequent post). I figured I had killed them for sure. I put them in the tank, trying to stick to the recommendations of putting the mushrooms at the bottom (they prefer low light) and the zooanthids in the middle (for more light). Guess the guys at the store were right. Those suckers are pretty hardy. Within 24 hours, they were opened up, waving around, full of color in our aquarium. Pretty awesome! I love how after lights out, they close up like flowers and go to sleep. They are full of life and movement. I had no idea such simple, sessile invertebrates could be so alive! Needless to say, I spent at least an hour the next day just staring at each one.

It will be another month before we add our first fish addition but the aquarium will be more stable. It will have a larger population of beneficial, nitrifying bacteria. Plus, I learned that many coral eat fish poop (among other things)! In other words, the coral is going to help stabilize our mini-saltwater ecosystem.

Poll Question of the Day:
How many of you name your coral? (I do now).

Our aquarium (with lights, yay!) just after adding the 8, small pieces of coral.

We named our coral after numbering them #1-8 (right to left). Unfortunately, #1, "Pippi LongStalkings", somehow mysteriously moved in the middle of the night in between #2, "Mini Pip" and on top of #3, "Sloth". As in, "I don't like this spot, and I'm lonely. I'm going to get up from this rock and walk down to that other spot." How the heck did that happen? It's alive!

Shown here from right to left: "Sloth" named after the creature in Goonies because of its facelike appearance (2 purple eyes and a big red nose). Then, "Pippi LongStalkings" because of its long stalks. Finally, "Mini Pip" because it looks like a smaller version of Pippi.

These are the Three Peppermint Patti Sisters: Pat, Patty, and Patricia. They have green stripes like peppermints, hence, the ever-so-clever name.

After noticing the mix of zooanthid and mushroom coral on this piece of live rock, we aptly named it "Zooroom".

This zooanthid is so pretty, I named her Lilly. At night, when she closes up, she is a soft blue. In the daytime, under the lights, she opens up with deep red centers fringed in a neon green. Unfortunately, she also seems the most sensitive. Perhaps I put her in a not-so-favorable location (too much light? not enough current?). Time will tell.

This is "One-Eyed Willy" (also Goonies). He looks like the negative of Lilly (green centers fringed in red). Hence, the name "Willy". Ha ha.

This last piece is so gorgeous and flashy, we named this mushroom "Vegas" like a showgirl. At night, she closes up and has bright green stripes. During the day, she opens up, displaying ruffles with pale green stripes. Wow!

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