Goosefish Feeding Time…in Slow Motion!


When people first approach the goosefish exhibit, many visitors have a hard time finding her in the tank. The goosefish is perfect at blending into the seafloor with her gray color and a flattened body shape. And when it’s time to find food, this appearance has a lot of advantages!

Can you find the goosefish?

Goosefish are opportunistic feeders and will eat anything that comes near their oversized mouths, including fish, birds, shrimp…even soda cans! By blending in, the chances of a food item swimming close to the fish increase. The goosefish will lie on the seafloor, wait for something to get close and then, with a quick burst of speed, engulf the whole item with its mouth. Check out this slow motion video of our goosefish eating!

To help draw prey closer, goosefish have what looks like a fishing pole with a lure on the top of their head. They use this modified fin to ‘fish’ for their food. By waving it up in the water, the small lure resembles a small fish or a worm and attracts larger fish, such as silversides, closer to the goosefish. Once that happens, it’s lunchtime for the goosefish!

The goosefish's modified dorsal fin acts as a fishing lure.

The shiny fish in the exhibit, called silversides, are not her food (the aquarists provide her with healthy meals on a special feeding tool) but provide the goosefish with behavioral enrichment. By having the silversides near her, the goosefish gets a chance to practice her fishing skills.

In addition to her ravishing beauty and impressive fishing skills, the goosefish has another noteworthy accomplishment: Each year she wows visitors with her egg veil. This year our aquarist caught video of her laying the egg veil! See more pictures and video of the egg veil.

So the next time you visit our Gulf of Maine exhibits, stop by and check out the goosefish. If you are lucky, you might be able to see her fishing! And while you're in these chilly Northern Waters galleries, don't miss the octopus and green anemone tidepool exhibits.


Special Video: Goosefish Laying an Egg Veil!

For a couple years now, we have been sharing the story of the goosefish egg veil.  It's almost become a right of spring. This pretty lady produces a mass of eggs that gracefully billow and sway in the currents of the exhibit. It's a fleeting addition to the goosefish display, remaining on exhibit for only a couple days.

The goosefish

But we have never recorded the goosefish in the act of laying her gossamer egg veil. That changed when senior aquarist Bill Murphy was in the right place at the right time with his camera phone. Take a look at this video shot yesterday in the Aquarium's Northern Waters gallery.

As you can see in this video of last year's egg veil, the egg veil is composed of a thin sheet of as many as 2 million eggs. Here are some more pictures of this year's egg veil.

The egg veil usually contains between 1 and 2 million eggs!

Visitors can watch the egg veil gracefully drift throughout the exhibit for the next couple days. 

These eggs are not fertilized because there is no male in the exhibit.

If you were thinking of visiting the Aquarium "one of these days," well, it's time. Plan your visit today. You won't be able to see the egg veil for very long and you won't want to miss this.  


New Kids on the Freshwater Block

Until recently, the Aquarium has been using one particularly flashy and popular fish as the spokesman for Project Piaba—the cardinal tetra.

Cardinal tetra | Photo by Lerdsuwa via Wikimedia Commons

The lifecycle of these fish fluctuates on population booms and busts according to the wet season/dry season in the Amazon. Locals around the town of Barcelos harvest these fish for the aquarium trade in a low-impact sustainable way. This trade provides valuable income to the region, which in turn provides incentive to the residents to preserve the rainforest that supports these fisheries.

Besides the massive anaconda in the exhibit, you'll also find fish
of many different sizes in the anaconda exhibit.

Did you know that many other Amazonian fish are also harvested in the same way? Learn more about this counter-intuitive conservation effort in this piece from Discover Magazine, which features senior aquarist Scott Dowd.

Now let's meet a couple other species currently on exhibit in the anaconda display of the Amazon Rainforest exhibits. This exhibit is now teeming with beautiful fish and an important conservation message: Responsible fisheries are an important way to help protect our blue planet.

Discus get their common name from their flat, round body shape which resembles the heavy disc thrown in track and field. Like most cichlids, they exhibit parental care, with both parents assisting with the young. The male and female adult discus both produce a secretion through their skin which the larvae live off- almost like nursing their young!

A discus, with those flashy neon tetras in the background. Photo via Instagram

Twig catfish (Farlowella)
These fish 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. Like otocinclus, which you'll learn about below, they are algae eaters to earn their keep.

You'll often find the twig catfish stuck to the smooth glass surface of the tank.

Now see if you can recognize some of the fish in this video:

Marbled hatchetfish
These fish get their name because their body resembles the head of a hatchet. Their family name Gasteropelecus actually means hatchet-shaped belly. The hatchetfish’s claim to fame is that they can leap from the water and seem to fly through the air, pumping their large pectoral fins to catch flying insects. They are generally accepted as being the only true flying fish. There are a number of fish that can leap out of the water, but only these freshwater hatchetfish actually use their pectoral fins to aid in their flight. Hatchets usually occupy the top portion of the tank, and because they will not swim to the bottom to eat, all of their food must float.

Otocinclus are a type of armored catfishes, and are commonly called "dwarf suckers" or "otos". They are popular aquarium fish, and are often used as algae eaters. Unlike most catfish, otos like company and live in schools. Their claim to fame is that they have a special adaptation at the junction of their esophagus and stomach that allows them to breathe air!

Splash tetra
Splash tetras are unique among fishes in that they lay their eggs out of water. The male positions himself beneath overhanging vegetation growing beside the river and puts on displays for passing females. When a female sees something she likes, she positions herself next to the male and the two leap out of the water together, attaching themselves to the bottom of a leaf by their fins. The pair then lay and fertilize their eggs before falling back into the river. Once the egg mass is complete, the male positions himself in the water under the leaves, watching the egg and occasionally splashing the eggs with his tail to keep them moist, which is how they get the name splashing tetra. Once the eggs hatch, the fry fall into the water and swim for cover.

Three Spot Earth Eater
Found near the bottom of the anaconda exhibit, these cichlids are bottom feeders who suck up gravel to sift for food, and then spit it back out. Their Latin name, however, is much more sinister—Satanoperca acuticeps—which compares them to Satan! Earthmover cichlids are mouth brooders, with the fathers sheltering the fry in their mouths (just like the Banggai cardinalfish). People in the Amazon noticed this unusual behavior and immediately compared it with a local mythological demon that slurps up her own children and then vomits them out.

So now that you know these fishes' amazing stories, head over to the anaconda or flooded Amazon exhibits. , tell these fishes’ amazing stories, and most importantly, how they are harvested and where they come from.

Buy a fish, save a tree!

This information was prepared by Aquarium educator Lindsay Jordan. Look for Lindsay and other Aquarium educators near the exhibits and come armed with lots of questions. They'll be able to answer those questions and share information about many other exhibits throughout the building!


Playtime for the Octopus!

A new octopus has taken up residence at Central Wharf, entertaining visitors for the past few weeks. Not even a year old yet, our newest eight-armed member is quite the handful!

The trainers presented Karma with this green ball—and she immediately took to it!

At a moment’s notice, Karma will change the color and texture of her skin, move quickly around her exhibit and check out the view through her exhibit window.

Karma can change color from a deep red to a dusky tan color.

With the keen intellect that demands constant mental stimulation, the husbandry staff is always working to find new ways to enrich Karma’s experience. A good back scratch or puzzle boxes have been the favorite playtimes of past octopuses. However, our new octopus had a new toy to play with, thanks to the Marine Mammal trainers!

Karma is very active and our aquarists are always looking for ways to keep her engaged.

Our Marine Mammal team provides enrichment for our seals and sea lions every day. Training sessions and playtime with toys allows these animals to be physically active, keep their brains active by learning new behaviors or manipulating objects and to have fun. Lots of toys can be seen in our two marine mammal exhibits…and one of these toys was shared with Karma!

A favorite toy of the marine mammals is a large, green plastic ball…and now it’s the octopus’s new favorite! Our aquarist smeared the outside of the ball with fish, added some fish inside the ball and then gave it to Karma. She loved it! She used her arms to pull the fish out of the small holes, manipulated the ball around the exhibit and then just hung out with it. Karma liked it so much she didn’t want to give it back, keeping the ball well secured in her arms for the next day.

To make sure that our animals are healthy at the Aquarium, our staff makes sure that the needs of each animal is met. That often requires going above feedings and tank cleanings. For some animals, mental stimulation is a must. And sometimes that enrichment is in the form of simple, green ball.

Even in a dim corner of her exhibit, you can sometimes catch Karma watching you.

See some Vine videos of Karma in action here, learn more about octopus intelligence, camouflaging abilities and their incredible ability to solve puzzles.

– Jo