2/5/15

An egg find in the Amazon

Twig catfish (also known as farlowella) get their name from their elongated twig-like appearance. We have several in the anaconda exhibit that can usually be found right upfront, sticking against the glass by their mouths or creeping along the sunken logs. They are algae eaters, after all, grazing on the algae is how they earn their keep.

A male twig catfish protects its eggs

Some of the fish have paired off and are treating visitors to a very special sight: eggs! Twig catfish usually lay eggs on open vertical surfaces such as submerged vegetation or rocks—or in this case, the window. The eggs lie in a single layer and are guarded by the male.

You'll find this highlight in the anaconda exhibit. Which is more exciting—giant snakes or tiny fish eggs?!

The males have their work cut out for them. Large discus in the exhibit are eyeing the tasty clutch of eggs, so the farlowella are having to stay on guard. In this video you'll see how the catfish have to swat at the ever-present discus.



If the farlowella manage to protect their eggs from predators, the larva will hatch into the exhibit. Though, just like in the wild, most do not survive. Either way the eggs can only be seen on exhibit for a couple days.

Eggs, twig catfish and a hungry, hungry discus

A discus: Mmmm, fish eggs

The next time you visit the Aquarium, head up to the Amazon Rainforest exhibits. You might just see a very cool fish behavior right before your eyes! Plus, a glimpse of a steamy tropical rainforest is a great way to escape the snow. Just sayin'.

1/30/15

New Animal: Flame Jelly

After the rearranging frigid mounds of snow all week, come warm yourself up next to the flames. The flame jellies, that is! Our newest arrivals in the Jellies Exhibit are called flame jellies (Rhopilema esculentum). Looking at their reddish tentacles it's not hard to imagine how they got that name.

Flame jellies can be found in the Jellies Exhibit, downstairs from the Shark and Ray Touch Tank

These stunning animals came from Chicago after the Shedd Aquarium's special jellies exhibit closed. It took the aquarists in Boston and Chicago several attempts to coordinate the transport around snow storms and Arctic blasts.

A behind-the-scenes tank let the flame jellies slowly acclimate to the Aquarium's water system during their quarantine.

Finally they arrived on an overnight flight, where the jellies were whisked into special kreisel tanks behind the scenes for a routine quarantine period, giving them time to slowly acclimate to our water systems.

About 25 jellies went into the exhibit this week and they seem to be settling in beautifully.



This species lives for only about three months. But there are some polyps and very small medusae growing behind the scenes. The aquarists are hopeful they can grow more of this species for the exhibit! [Polyps? Medusae? Get a primer on sea jelly reproduction.] Interestingly, flame jellies are also raised in China for commercial aquaculture. Look for them on the menu at your local Chinese restaurant!

Learn more about jellies at the Aquarium with these posts:

1/15/15

All Dressed Up in the Coral Reef Center

You might have overlooked some of the newest residents of the Yawkey Coral Reef Center, and that's just how our new decorator crabs (Podochela sidney) like it. You see, these delicate crustaceans cover themselves with elements found in their environment—like seaweed or sponges or even little anemones—so they blend in.

This compact exhibit features two decorator crabs, a purple spotted shrimp, several juvenile pipefish and a spotted batfish.
Can you spot the decorator crabs?

Here are some clues to help you find these guys hiding in plain sight. They're only a couple inches from leg to leg. There's a pinkish anemone growing on each crab's back. They have also collected pieces of algae and affixed them to their spindly legs with the help of tiny spikes that act almost like velcro. At the end of one crab's legs, it has attached hunks clam overlooked by the resident batfish—mmm, tasty.

Here's a close up look. Can you see it now?
The crab is holding up one of its claws, the second crab is out of focus in the background.

But these crabs didn't always looks so green and ruffly. They arrived with a much different aesthetic based on their previous habitat, which was dominated by orange sponges.

The disguises attached to the crab's legs were mostly chunky bits of sponge.

Like all new arrivals at the Aquarium, these crabs had to go through a brief quarantine period. During this time they started to shed their old look and incorporate bits of their new surroundings.

Decorator crab in transition: Note the beginnings of the seaweed ruffles on its legs

Transformation complete!

This species of crab is native to the Caribbean. It lives in coral reefs at 10 to 30 feet deep. Each one can grow nearly 4 inches from the tip of one long, thin leg to the other. Underneath all that flare, these decorator crabs are a beige to reddish color.

Now on exhibit, you can see these handsome crustaceans in all their festive attire! 

Meet some other residents of the Yawkey Coral Reef Center and around the Aquarium! 
Check out these blogs:

1/7/15

Stay warm. Visit the tropics.

There's never really a bad time to visit the Aquarium. But when Arctic winds gnaw on your cheeks and salty sidewalks crackle underfoot, retreating inside to the warm-water tropical exhibits at the Aquarium is divine! Here's just a smattering of the residents to seek out.

Pairs of clownfish in the Living Corals exhibit stake claim on an anemone home.
They's also a pair in the Pacific Reef Community.
There are two mandarinfish in the Living Corals exhibit.
The Pacific Reef Community is ablaze with sunny colors and lots of activity.
The bluering angelfish is among the larger fish in the Pacific Reef Community.
This resident of the Pacific Reef exhibit has many names: lagoon triggerfish, Picassofish and humuhumunukunuku─üpua╩╗a.
Is there anything more sunny than a yellow tang? Look for these fish in the Pacific Reef exhibit
and the tropical tank across from the shark and ray touch tank.
Anthias are found in the Pacific Reef Community and the vibrant tank across from the shark and ray touch tank.
Our divers have also spotted this species in the wild.

11/29/14

Grouper Goes Home

The health of our animals is something we take very seriously at the Aquarium. If an animal requires medical care, we can many times treat those injuries or illnesses while the animal remains on exhibit. Sometimes, however, this isn’t possible. In these cases, the animals are taken out of their exhibit spaces and given some TLC behind the scenes.

Home Sweet Blue Hole

The Blue Hole exhibit, located on the second floor, has a number of resident goliath groupers. Recently, one grouper developed some health issues: it wasn’t eating normally and had some trouble regulating its buoyancy. As the Blue Hole is one of the largest gallery exhibits, it would have been very difficult to treat the animal effectively while on exhibit. As a result, the grouper was placed in a large holding tank behind the scenes. After a couple of months of care and monitoring, the health issues cleared up and it was time for the grouper to head home!

Getting ready to leave the holding exhibit
Moving a goliath grouper, even a relatively small one, is no easy task! A team of staff and volunteers assembled in the morning and came up with a plan to move the fairly large fish out of holding and down the narrow hallway to its exhibit. Along the way, it would be weighed by the veterinarians to see how it had been growing.

Making sure everyone is on the same page

Once the plan was in place, it was time to capture the grouper in its temporary home. After just a few minutes, the staff was able to maneuver the large grouper into a long, black stretcher. This method of moving the fish was much easier than other methods! The behind the scenes work areas are very narrow, with not a lot of room to maneuver a big holding container. The stretcher was much easier for the staff...and the grouper.

Up and over!
Once the animal was lifted out of the holding tank, the veterinarian staff quickly weighed the grouper. The scale showed that the grouper weighed about 70 pounds! And while that is a good sized fish, it’s a relatively small goliath grouper, which have been known to grow up to 800 pounds!

Stretcher is placed on the scale to get a weight
After the weigh-in, the crew moved quickly, carrying the grouper down the hall and then lifted him into the exhibit. It’s a tight fit between the ceiling and the side of the exhibit, but the staff and volunteers did a great job.  Soon enough, the grouper was back home!

Quick dash to the exhibit
To make sure the transition went smoothly for the grouper, the staff remained in the exhibit, keeping a close eye on the fish. The grouper adjusted fairly quickly to its watery home, swimming to a resting spot among the blue hole stalagmites.

Making sure the grouper, located by the red arrow, is adjusting okay
After spending some time in this cozy location, the grouper took a spin around the exhibit before finding yet another cozy spot to rest. Once the staff was satisfied that the grouper was comfortable in the exhibit, it was time to leave and let the grouper settle in. Overall, quite a successful moving day!

Settled in back home