Friday, February 27, 2009

Quest for Atyopsis moluccensis-Singapore wood shrimp offspring- Day 7

I lost a mollie this morning.

To follow up, I had in mind to get several sail fin mollies at the local pet store. The plan was to use them to keep the holding tanks cycled, then, once the shrimp have hatched and are ready to move into the salt, move the mollies into the 20 gallon aquarium downstairs. The state of affairs at the pet store was atrocious. I was at first annoyed that they had one molly- count them- one “Balloon Mollie.” Then, as I looked around, wondering if they had anything else that could tolerate salt, I saw just about every manner, save anchor worms of fish disease known to mankind. The place should be shut down.

So I drove the extra 15 miles to the sister store in Snohomish. These tanks, too, were despicable, but not quite as many diseased fish. I found the tank of mollies. Dalmatians, mostly, and a few cross-breeds. I really needed these fish. But I couldn’t bring myself to buy them until I had inspected the pluming in the tanks and verified they were each individually operated, and not connected by common plumbing.

It took a lot longer to move the mollies to salt than I would have imagined. Not being a salt-water tanker, I had no idea, really, how much salt is in salt water. I started by super-saturating about a pint of water, and added a couple of tablespoons at a time to the bucket with 2 gals of water. I did this every 15 minutes, Much to my chagrin, this barely moved the hydrometer at all. After 3-4 hours like this, I started upping the dosage to about 4 tablespoons at a time. When I finally got to 17 ppt, and moved one molly then into the Brackish jar, I removed over half the water in the bucket. Seemed like a terrible waste of salt, and I really wanted to get the mollies into the tank so they didn’t have to spend another night in a bucket with an air-stone.

It was about 5 pm when I finally got them up to 30 ppt and got them into the tank. They seemed okay, was happy to eat, and their posture was good. This morning when I turned the light on, I didn’t see the dead one, but it is possible it had already died, my visual processing isn’t too good before coffee. When I came into the office, it was dead. A second in the salt tank looked like it was knocking on deaths door, swinging from side to side. Clearly under distress. The third looked fine. The one in brackish water looked fine, and the two in the System 3 fresh tank were also fine.

I thought about it for a couple of hours, and decided to move the salt level down. I finally reasoned that it was more important to get the tanks cycled good than to have the salt at 30ppt, since I would have to be acclimating larval shrimp anyway. So I drained out about half a gallon, and stated adding fresh water in. By about noon, I got the salt down to 23 ppt. An hour later the fish stopped that sad side-to-side motion, and started calming down, fins not so clamped and so on. By this evening, the two fished behaved relatively the same.

It makes me wonder whether the Singapore Wood Shrimp Larvae will tolerate full salt or not. I sure hope they’re big enough to see and watch, and siphon.

Meanwhile, the excellent new is that after my terrible experience with the local Pet Stores, I called Blue Sierra in Issaquah and asked about plankton. The man was very knowledgeable, and willing to talk through the issue. While it’s an hours’ drive each way from here, Angie works just a few blocks from there. We finally decided on 2 products. First called Cyclop-eeze ( The Pet store fella said it had sizes 15-800 micron. The package however says average size 800 micron, and the website says 800-1200 microns. So I’m going to have to look into that. (Suddenly I’m not feeling so comfortable). It says Freeze-Dried CYCLOP-EEZE® may be sized to the desired range by rubbing over the appropriate mesh screening. Naturally I have the frozen kind, but imagine I can figure out something.

The second product is called Concentrated Phyto Feast, which he said is a live algae. I am hoping between the two, there will be a wide range of feeding opportunities. Info on Phyto feast says :algae we use in Phyto-Feast: Isochrysis, Pavlova, Tetraselmis, Thalassiosira and Nannochloropsis. * Wide nutritional diversity - Phyto-Feast" contains golden-brown, green, yellow-green, blue-green and brown algae.”

And I also have brine shrimp eggs.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Quest, Day 6

I’m beginning to understand why people don’t have success with breeding Singapore Wood Shrimp! Lack of funds, lack of knowledge, lack of time.

Brian Dorn Husbandry Curator at North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores has been a great sport- while he says he knows little or nothing about breeding Singapore Wood Shrimp, we’ve exchanged several emails that have been quite helpful to me. I am only moderately knowledgeable about the kinds of life-forms I work with in my home, but underneath that is a whole layer of microscopic life forms and chemistry of which I was somewhat aware, but blissfully ignorant.

He suggested a company in Florida that sells all manner of things related to plankton (and other things). One option is a larval diet- a mixture of processed foods for fish and invertebrate larvae. The smallest amount available is $25 plus shipping. The other route, to purchase rotifer cysts ($15) and algae culture ($15) would get me started with culturing live food. Brian said that tech support was great- so I called.

We talked for a long time, and Brian was right, tech support was very knowledgeable and patient with all my questions. He, too, indicated that if I had a tub of algae outside, the zoo-plankton would follow.

As of yesterday, I couldn’t really decide what to do. But late last night I was reading two excellent articles in the Advanced Aquarists Online Magazine about culturing rotifers. Not only did it start sounding like something I could easily fail at (thus having no food for the larvae), but there was a reference that rotifers might actually be too large for some fish fry. Well if they’re too large for some fish fry, I would well imagine they could well be too large for shrimp fry. In the next article ( he was talking about other ciliates.

While it didn’t exactly tell me where to get the ciliates, he did provide a nice recipe for something to feed the ciliates, using vegetable juice and some vitamins I have around the house. Also, the Aquatic Eco guy was talking about how careful you had to be with your algae culture that it didn’t get contaminated with ciliates. Hmm, I thought, this is sounding more like what might work. Just then, as I reading the end of the article, I got another message Jirkalib of the Czech Republic. He and I have been emailing almost daily. I found him back when I was doing google searches for information. He had found himself in the same predicament about 10 months ago- and posted questions about what to do, and got no good answers. As it happened, he posted an excellent video on YouTube, and since I have a YouTube account, I was able to message him.

He had no success with his larvae, but I have been asking as many questions as I can to learn what I can from his experience. More on this later. But he had mentioned the prior day that he had plankton to feed them with, and just as I was finishing the article I got a message from him that it was a culture he grew with just regular straw and water. So that is what I’m going to try. So, as of today, my basic food strategy is:

  • Hope for an algae bloom in the tanks I’m putting mollies in- I at least know I have algae around
  • Start a straw-water culture
  • Buy some plankton food meant for corals and the like
  • Have brine shrimp eggs on hand

Today I’m acclimating mollies. It’s taking a lot longer than I thought.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Quest- Day 4

I’d like first to follow up on the “more on this later” items.

First on the System 3: I have found the system 3 to be one of the most reliable aquariums I’ve had, even though long ago the lighting fixture died. The combination of pump flow rate and the bio wheel has been such that I have hardly ever lost anything in this tank. Most recently it has housed a beta and several of what I call “blank” guppies. I have since just moved these into my 20 gal down stairs. My intention with the system 3 was to cultivate the filamentous algae that was so prevalent in the 10 gal where I housed the Convict Cichlids. Last weekend I moved them into a 20 gal, and suspect that without the extra lighting I had on the 10 that the algal growth would diminish.

The other little shrimp tank I have, with a variety of neocaridinas (cherry, blueberry, bumblebee) is small, but I love this tank because the shape of it creates a natural magnifying glass. These shrimp LOVE algae- so prior to the move from 10 to 20 I had several clumps of plants that I rotated- letting them grow a large algal growth, then putting it into the shrimp tank. They come by the dozens to this veritable cafeteria, cleaning it is in a matter of hours.

I had planned on using the System 3 to over-light and keep up this algae rotation.

For a while last night I thought about converting it to salt. But then I realized that if I, in fact, succeed at saving some of these Singapore fry, they will need a place to live. So I decided to keep it now as an algae garden, and hopefully soon, a Singapore Wood Shrimp kindergarten.

Now about the Brackish issue. The article I read named 17 ppm as the brackish reading recommended for Amanos. I did a web search this morning about Brackish, and this seems to be the saltiest end of the range that begins much more fresh than this. I had intended to aim for 17 ppm, but had a little problem with that. I started with the 30 ppm I had used earlier, figuring if I diluted it by half that should be 15 ppm. So I used just slightly less than half fresh for the last cup-to-cup measurement. But when I measured it with the hydrometer, it measured at 23 mmp. I suspect some of the fine particle suspension from the sand is giving a false salinity reading. Now, several hours later, the reading is 21 mmp. I will continue to monitor this.

Now on make-shift pvc filters: Some time ago with the mating of cichlids, the female was so freaked out by the close quarters (at the time they were young and in a 5 gal tank) I decided to move her and the fella into the system 3 so they could have some privacy. That worked out okay until she laid the eggs- then she was so aggressive toward the male that I was afraid she would kill him- lost scales and ripped fins, and I got desperate. So I moved him into this same little jar that is now the brackish tank- but kept him near so they could see each other. Naturally, in a couple of days with just an air stone, the water got cloudy. So I thought about a little miniature filter. I cut a piece of pvc, packed it with some filter floss, and inserted an air stone. Within a couple of hours, the water had cleared. With this little make-shift filter, he was able to survive the ordeal a month or so before I re-organized everything and got all the cichlids into the 10 gal.

Here are some images of the female Singapore Wood Shrimp. As you can see they are in a small goldfish tank. They have lived in this tank for a couple of years, generally alone, just them and some snails. A month or so ago, I moved a few juvenile shrimp (probably blueberry, but without color yet, so they could actually be bumblebee). I have no idea what prompted them to mate now. Jan 4th a pair of grass shrimp I had in there showed eggs. At that point I added just a little salt (about ½ tsp. twice, two days in a row) hoping they would make it. This is a different story to follow up on, but long story short- neither parents nor offspring survived.

Shortly after, I added a small piece of wood collected at a local river. It floated for a long period of time, despite having soaked in a bucked for months. This wood finally water logged and sunk just a couple of days before the eggs. The day of the molting/eggs, I noted a lot of activity with the other young shrimp in the tank- the kind of chasing around in circles that usually has been described as related to a pheromone release- I suspect it was the wood shrimp pheromones they were reacting to.

Late that night, Feb 19th, I looked briefly in the tank as saw a shrimp was very, very red. Usually when there’s a molting the shrimp with be redder than usually, but still, it’’ more of a reddish brown. The other shrimp had molted just a couple of days earlier. It didn’t really hit me them, I thought maybe I was seeing the one who had molted before (I have a hard time telling the two of them apart). Later, though, when I went to turn out the lights- that’s when I spotted her- with those eggs. OMG! This isn’t like the little dozen eggs of the neocaridinas- these are hundreds and hundreds of little, bright orange eggs, so packed into her pleopods that they looked engorged.

I had seen a few times when looking for info on the Neocaridinas, comments about the Singapore Wood Shrimp- most sites you find say they have never been successfully bred in captivity. On this night I looked again- for hours.

This is why I’m on a quest. Most of these fascinating animals are captured in the wild for folks like you and I to buy in Pet Shops. So little is known about shrimp in general- and it seems like shrimp with the Primitive type of breeding cycle have even less info available.

As of the writing of this tonight, Feb 22nd, I’ve gotten email responses from 4 Aquariums- no-one with knowledge yet, some have offer to pass my request along to others. One reminded me to make sure I have plankton for them to eat.

The Quest day 3

Emailed several folks who had posted about their Wood Shrimp being berried up with eggs. Didn't hear anything from most- one suggested I try to use Amano directions.

I went to a Pet store in Marysville, WA that has a lot of Salt Water aquariums and asked for advice. The article (referenced yesterday) mentioned that he had first tried 17 ppm salt- which is brackish at the high end with no survivors. Then in a different batch tried full salinity, and had survivors. He also talked about having “green water” with plankton to feed them. Clearly that is going to be required no matter what level of salinity is going to be used.

The woman at the Pet Store, who, I was told, was the most knowledgeable of all the employees talked with me almost an hour. She said that like in freshwater, things like algae just manage to start growing in salt water, but that it would be completely different species. I asked about using regular gravel (I was thinking about avoiding cycling issues), and in the course of the conversation, she told me that the bacterial base for salt water, again, like algae, is a completely different set of species.

It occurred to me that this may be one key ingredient that has prevented successful attempts.

She also said that regular gravel would not do- that it really needed to be a regular salt water media, like crushed coral, in order to buffer the pH properly. It occurred to me that this, too, might be an important consideration.

So some $70 later, I left the store with:

  • 15 lbs of Florida crushed coral (smallest bag available- but at least 3 times what I needed)

  • Instant Ocean- enough for 10 gals

  • Hydrometer for measuring salinity

  • Instant Ocean Bio-Spira bacteria- enough for 30 gals, but again, smallest amount available

  • Brine Shrimp eggs (just in case these prove to be small enough for food.)

They had no live plankton of any kind. There were both phyto and zoo plankton products available, but all were dead.

I spent the better part of the evening trying to figure out a process and space arrangement. Finally I decided not to sacrifice the System 3 to salt. It was a hard decision, but in the end, I realized that if I had any success with these eggs, they will need a place to live… if I allow the bio-wheel to acclimate to the salt, then there will be a period of time when it is re-cycling to fresh.

The Pet Store woman suggest I email some aquariums to see if I could find anyone with information, so I spent 2-3 hours with a google listing of aquariums, and emailed 34 (+ about 5 that had web forms) aquariums throughout the United States asking if anyone had any information.

So this is the set up (next day-Feb 22, 2009)

  • A small world 2 gal- with actually 2 gal-2 cups- totally salt- 30 ppm

  • A jar that holds 10 cups- brackish*

  • A small, small work that holds 7 cups- fresh water.

Photos: at the top is the set up with all four (chair is the sytem 3 I didn't want to change to salt- more on this later).
This is the little small world- holds just under two gallons.

There is a little filter, which usually holds a small carbon filter- I replaced that with a partial bio-sponge. I don't want to filter out all the plankton, I just want to make sure there is a place for bacteria to colonize.

The substrate of Florida coral- washed thoroughly. I chose a plastic plant, because there aren't live plants that I have around that would survive the 30 ppm salinity range.

The next tank is brackish. I looked on the web for appropriate substrate, and found a nice site that said well washed play sand is appropriate. That felt right, and I had some left over from the goldfish ponds, so I rinsed it well, and it ends up being just under an inch.

The filtration is just a little trick I learned (more on this later) with a piece of pvc, a small portion of a bio sponge, and an airstone.

I tried to make this about 17 ppm, but am having some issues in measuring this- more on this later too.

Finally, this last one, a tiny- tiny small worls ($2.99 at a thrift sotre) holds 7 cups. This is just fresh water, with some live plant taken from the parent shrimp's tank today. It has a nice algal growth. This, my intention anyway, will be where I move Mom just before she sheds the eggs. I'm using another pvc filter. The wood you see is another piece of the same root that a larger portion of is in her home now. These shrimp love to have a perch where they can take advantage of the water flow. The gravel is from a recently dismanteled 10 gal, and should have a healthy bed of bacteria.

The Quest to successfully breed

Feb 20th, 2009

I’m on a hunting adventure for someone who is knowledgeable about breeding Singapore Wood shrimp. I’ve had two of these little critters for a couple of years now and never saw any signs of breeding activity. I assumed I didn’t have a breeding pair, which was okay with me, because I know they’re not easy like the NeoCaridinas. But lo and behold last night there was a molting, and I noticed the shrimp was very, very red, more so than usual after a molting. As I was about to shut the lights down, I was hunting around for the carapace, and found that she was plump with eggs.

So, obviously I’m under some time constraint. But I can’t even find any information about how long they hold their eggs, let along any information about salinity levels or timing.

I have just read an excellent article about breeding Amanos, and emailed the author hoping for some info on Singapore Wood ship. The article is at I need that article exactly -- only for Wood Shrimp!