Sunday, November 3, 2013

Crabs by Guest Blogger


I have crabs.

And snails.

And baby coral.

Friday was Day 14 for the reef tank. It's been a fascinating adventure, watching that tank morph each day. The crystal-clear water was replaced with not-so-clear water; the pristine rocks grew covered with long brown hairlike algae; the shiny white sand became covered with fields of green fernlike algae.

For someone like me, who loved watching the life in stagnant ponds and put everything that would fit under a microscope, it's been a wonder. Like being the star of a PBS show, or the cameraman who sits all day under a tree for that one money shot of an elusive wild thing.

Each time I found something new alive in the aquarium, I drug my husband over to see it. "Look, look there! Did you see it move? No, not up there, down there. In that crack in the rock. See?" I don't think he shares my enthusiasm for the small growing things.

"Live rock" is indeed alive and what appeared at first to be just rocks, sand, and water on Day 1 became a veritable forest of algae with at least six decent-sized denizens by Day 13. I had three small anemones (glass anemones, says my tank expert) about an inch long, something I don't recognize but know it's alive of the same size, a small crab (I found his shed skin on Day 12) perhaps half an inch long, a spiky worm (bad thing, I've been told, and I'm to catch it if I can, although I'm not to touch it at all) which may be four inches long (it's hard to tell since it was moving out one hole and in another so I didn't see all of it at once) , and a few featherdusters (tube worms) of which the largest has a "feather" spread of about three-quarters of an inch.

At various times of the day you could find me just staring, trying to find some sign of any other life.

Yesterday, Day 14, the first of the imports arrived. Fifty snails, fifteen hermit crabs, one cleaner shrimp, three emerald crabs, and seven coral starters went into our tank. Much of the hair and fern algae was sucked up in a water change of twenty gallons.

This morning, I can see cleared trails where snails have traveled, like strips of mown forest for power lines carved by drunken employees. The trails wander from place to place in loops and spirals, each ending where a snail sits. Soon there will be no forest of algae on the back wall.

The shrimp may have died; when the lights come on I'll be able to tell. The three crabs are nowhere to be found, apparently they've each found a crevice to hide in for the daylight hours. The hermit crabs are scattered across every rock, as are the snails. The coral, of course, don't move, although they do "open" or "close" according to light and temperature values and their own preference.

Now the water testing ritual begins. Salinity, alkalinity (pH), calcium and phosphorus levels must be checked with regularity. Temperature must be watched.

And the coral must be fed once per week. The others are on their own; enough nutrition can be found in the tank itself without requiring outside assistance.

Today, I think I'll unbox my microscope.

Copyright 2013 Michelle Hakala


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