Baby Sea-Animals, Everywhere.

What happens when you let your saltwater tank evaporate off for a month or so, then do a water change?

The punchline here is BABIES.  It turns out that some sea animals, in this case featherdusters, some kind of worm, and snails all like to reproduce when they are put under stress.  Specifically the salinity dropped from 40+ PPT (S.G. 1.032) to 28-30 PPT (S.G. 1.021), the temperature probably dropped as I added room temperature or colder water.  I also agitated the tank with a turkey baster to help the filter pick up snail waste and to dislodge some stubborn algae.

Anyways, here are some pictures of the creatures I noticed, including some nocturnal bristleworm looking things, and copeopods, which I missed in my last post about the denizens of the tank.

Baby snail!

These guys crop up with some regularity actually.  I suspect some of them dont make it, and others rapidly grow up.  Occasionally I see some that are just 1-2mm long, this one was about twice that size.

Just a blurry view of my aquarium…or is it?

At first glance, this is just a really bad photo of the aquarium where the AF decided to focus on the glass.  But when I looked closer…

Upon closer inspection, there is a baby tube worm/featherduster!




I noticed teeny tiny feelers coming out of this guy.  When I tapped the glass, he snapped back into his coil-thing, just like the featherduster!  I can only assume that they are related.  I can’t wait for these to grow up; there are a whole bunch of them sprinkled around the aquarium.

This appears to be a bifurcated bristleworm

This guy may not be a baby, but it certainly caught my attention with its weirdly bifurcated body.  It seems to be due to trauma and not genetic, because one side is much longer and the bifurcation did not seem to be symmetrical.

Last but not least, a copeopod

This guy (to the right of the pink thing in the middle) is a copeopod.  These are ALL OVER the tank, and they feed on pretty much anything.  They like to pester the featherdusters (the burrow/shell of which can be seen directly below the ‘pod).

Thats all for now.  Tomorrow I may go chiton hunting somewhere on the shore of mass, so there may be forthcoming posts about that!

Deizens of the Saltwater Tank

Despite having added only live rock and snails, the 5 gallon hex tank is showing an amazing amount of macro biodiversity.  This is a short post to document what is growing in there!

A multitude of dwarf cerith snails

These guys are the workhorse of the algae fighting army.  There are many of them, in many shapes and a variety of sizes.  They like to crawl up and down the sides of the tank, and will occasionally congregate there.  Sometimes they hitch a ride on the back of larger snails!

This big guy is a florida cerith!

If I had to pick the coolest looking species of snail in the tank, it would be the Florida cerith.  Between their green coloration and rippled shell, they are hard to beat!  Not to mention these snails can self-right themselves!  These are are the largest snails in the tank.

This is the nassarius snail, in the middle. it looks like he is hitching a ride on a Florida cerith

If you zoom in you can tell this is a nassarius on a florida cerith snail.  The nassarius is easily distinguished by its single long stalk that probes for algae.  These guys are speedy!

Heres a nerite snail

My nerites are identifiable by the deep grooves that run along their round shells.  they have two long feelers, unlike the nassarius.  These guys are also very speedy.  Here, the nerite is harassing a dwarf cerith.

This is a featherduster

This guy was quite the find! It came as a hitchhiker on some live rock I bought.  It seems to have grown some since the rock was introduced, and it certainly is less skittish now.  there is another one on the same rock with a green/purple coloration, but it is hard to get a picture of that one because it is shy and very well hidden.


I thought this stuff was algae, but I was wrong!  It turns out to be purple cyanobacteria.  Its HUGE, and the snails seem to nibble at it from time to time.  I really don’t mind it, although it is considered a pest.

Thats all for now!  Maybe I will notice more stuff as time goes on.



5 Gallon Saltwater Tank Build

Magical live rock

I have finally branched out from molecular biology and microbiology in DIY bio.  A number of factors have led me to start a 5G saltwater tank.  The driving force behind this project is an interest in growing aptaisia anemones as an awesome pet.

RIP Magnum, the best fish

The tank itself is a marineland eclipse hexagonal 5G tank.  It was purchased originally to house a betta fish, which later perished (not under my watch).  The tank was donated to the cause of a cool saltwater system some months after that occurred, and needed to be scrubbed.  After removing some mystery goo from the inside, washing crud and freshwater plants out of the gravel, I filled the tank with water and added some water conditioner to remove chloramines and other nasty chemicals,  I set off with my partner in crime/girlfriend to go get some sea-salts, live rock, and a hydrometer.

We ended up in a specialty reef and tropical saltwater shop out on the 9 in Natick, called Tropic Isle Aquarium.  I wish I had pictures of the front of the shop; it looks tiny, cramped, and somewhat sketchy (especially at night).  The outward appearance of the store was pleasantly deceiving!  The inside was well lit, teeming with livestock, packed with good stuff like live rock/sand, and staffed by some very friendly people.  It was very well maintained; we saw one dead fish in the entire store, which had aisle upon aisle of floor-to-ceiling tanks, while at petco we normally see 5-10 rotting and dead fish in maybe one aisle of tanks.  This place was awesome, and I ended up buying 2.5 lbs of cured live rock (WAY too much), a deep-six hydrometer, and a bag of instant ocean that should last for a few months.

The rock in the tank!

Upon the return to the tank, I bravely rolled up my sleeves, got out some measuring cups, and started adding instant ocean (as directed, 1/2 cup per gal).  It turns out that instant ocean is not quite instant.  It does take a little bit of time to dissolve, and it is definitely something you want to add gradually, so as not to accidentally bump salinity up too high.  I would definitely recommend that you get a 5 gallon bucket from your local hardware store to mix the water in.  Once my aquarium was properly salted, I checked the salinity with my sweet new hydrometer.  It was between 1.023-1.024, so it seemed safe.  It was weird to think at this point that the tank was a saltwater tank.  Never thought I would have one of those in my room.

The next step was to add the live rock.  I opted to cover up the heater and the filter intake with rock, to prevent larger organisms (that will hopefully come later) from getting sucked up.  After some arranging, I reinstalled all the cover pieces, and turned on the light.  And then I waited, straining my eyes to see if anything was alive on the rocks.

And then the magic started to happen.

Featherduster polyp, partially expanded.

After some carefuly scrutiny of the rocks, I discovered what I believe to be a featherduster (anemone?).  It quickly retracted back into the rock when I turned on the light, but after careful observation, I saw it slowly swell out of the rock and open its feathery appendages.

A few days later we found two small polyps on a rock, another featherduster, and TONS of “pods” or small invertebrates, and a teeny snail.  The tank seems stable, and hopefully I will be able to add some tough critters in the coming month.  Until then, I will enjoy watching the feather dusters grow.

Featherduster polyp, fully expanded.