Friday, March 29, 2013

Video of the Week! - Coral Reef: engineer goby feeding

This is the second installment of our "Video of the Week!". This is a routine morning feeding of our tropical tank, but the most obvious focus is on the sinuous and ever-hungry engineer gobies Pholidichthys leucotaenia also called convict gobies or convict blennies. The nickname "engineer" comes from their burrow-constructing behavior. They will excavate the substrate of a tank with their mouths to construct an elaborate network of burrows where they spend most of their time. The "convict" nickname is for their black and white striped coloration, reminiscent of the old-fashioned prison convict uniform. Whatever you call them, they are technically neither gobies nor blennies but a shallow water tropical fish species native to the Indo-Pacific, with only one other species in the family Pholidichthyidae. These beautiful fish were acquired as juveniles from the Steinhart Aquarium (10 of the fish) and the Houston Zoo (12). This exhibit is a replication of tropical seas that once covered this area millions of years ago and is one of the few exhibits in which we display non-native fishes. Along with the engineer gobies are several other tropical fish species including: clown tang, firefish, cardinalfish, hawkfish, flame angel, and several damsel species, including clownfish.

Clown tang

Flame angel

This tank gets a wide variety of foods to accommodate all the different fishes in the tank. The majority of them eat enriched Mysis relicta, but we also add Mazuri gel diet, live adult Artemia (brine shrimp), newly hatched Artemia nauplii, cut shrimp, squid, and Ulva a green macro-algae.

 Clownfish in one of the bubble-tip anemones

Pajama cardinalfish

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Video of the Week! Underwater Cypress Swamp Tour

This is the first video of the new series, "Video of the Week". It is a brief underwater tour of the Cypress Swamp Habitarium. Immediately you may notice a very...uh...healthy amelanistic channel catfish, then a pair of shy largemouth bass, and most prominently several longnose gar Lepisosteus osseus. This ancient species has been around for over one hundred million years and they retain several characteristics of "ancient" fishes: heterocercal tail, ganoid scales, and the ability to gulp and utilize surface air. This last trait makes them very well suited for survival in low oxygen environments such as a swamp or slow moving rivers such as the Chickahominy., the upper Pamunkey and Mattaponi Rivers.

Getting ready to film
By mounting a Panasonic Lumix waterproof camera on a PVC pole (pictured above), we are able to film underwater in many exhibits without having to SCUBA dive, but also get further into the exhibit than from outside the exhibit. In the future, I will use this rig to film a variety of  feedings and animals that I have been previously unable to film properly; the videos will then become video of the week!  

White catfish Ameiurus catus

Black crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus

Back to the Swamp. This exhibit features carp, chain pickerel, largemouth bass up to 10 lbs., huge redear sunfish, black crappie, flier, bowfin, channel catfish (the common morph and the amelanistic one) white catfish, and eleven longnose gar (many of which are in the video). In addition to the fish, there are many turtles: red and yellow bellied sliders, and a separate enclosure featuring an alligator. The VLM is very near to the Great Dismal Swamp - among many others - which are unique and exceptionally rich ecosystems that feature these and many other interesting species. In addition to the aquatic portion, this exhibit also attempts to recreate a terrestrial cypress swamp ecosystem, complete with live cypress trees, woodpeckers and bobwhite quail.

Common carp Cyprinus carpio

American alligator  Alligator mississippiensis
The fishes in this exhibit are fed during a public program at 11 am on Tuesday and Thursdays, and the gator is fed by the herpetology staff on Wednesday at 1 pm and Friday at 12:30. 

Maybe one of the the feeding will be the next video!