Cannibal Urchins

Six sea urchins of different types and sizes were living harmoniously in my 5 gallon tank while I was getting the 20 gallon tank ready for their return.  My car was not working for a few days so a trip to the beach for sea grasses had to wait.  I guess I waited too late because one morning I found the pink sea urchin on top of the black sea urchin.  After a second look I realized it wasn’t just passing over the purple guy on a trip around the tank…it was eating him from top down. I couldn’t imagine the black one being dead; it looked so lively the night before.  Was the pink urchin that hungry?

I quickly got my wooden spoon (no one getting a spanking!), and pryed the pink one off of the black one.  The black one was missing spines and it was still alive!  How could you do such a thing little pink thing?  I quickly moved the black one to the big tank.   He was still moving around.  He didn’t seem dead, just exhibiting male-patterned baldness.

I’ve heard/read that sea urchins replace their spines.  They’re from the same family as sea stars, echinoderms, which we all know replace their arms when they’re broken off. 

Well, the black urchin has been in the big tank for a few days by himself.  He seems fine; actually thriving.  He’s eating well, climbing on the side walls of the tank, playing with sea shells (you know how they cover themselves).  I added the apple murex eggs and the two apple murex snails.  I noticed a new snail walking around and a new anemone looking thing.  I’ll keep checking on that creature.

We did go out that afternoon to the beach to get a bag of sea grass.

Stay tuned…I can’t wait to see what happens to the sea urchin.  Will it grow new spines?

How to Move a Fish Tank

I’m not talking about moving it from one room to another.  That’s simple.  Put most of the water in another container and pick the tank up and move it.

We moved from Sarasota to Fairhope with a 20 gallon salt water tank filled with marine life.  I tried to give it away but everyone I talked to said: “Take it with you.”  Keith Wilson, a marine biologist and agent with the UF Sarasota Extension office had this advice: “I suggest a styrofoam box with and aerator which is battery powered by the lighter or by batteries with an airstone. Keeping the creatures cool is important.  Please keep the tank.”

So I bought a styrofoam cooler without CFCs but kept thinking…”the critters have to sit in this for 2 days at least, what if a piece comes off and one critter ingests it?”  So a friend gave me a spare  cooler she had been given and never used.  I thought this would be great,  but then I thought, “I need to keep the lid on so the water doesn’t slosh around in the car AND get the air pump tube into the cooler.”  Well, as I had to go to my storage unit to get the empty computer box for shipping the computer, I found our little 5 gallon tank with lid.  The attached lid has a hole in the top that I could put the air tube through.  So that’s what I did.  The little tank, filled with marine life and some seaweed, sat on the front floor of my car for 579 miles.  The air pump was plugged into the lighter plug with an adapter. 

What did I do with the rest of the tank?  I got a large paint bucket from Home Depot and filled it with water from the tank and sealed it tight.  That bucket I gave to the movers to store on the truck.  I left a little bit of water and all of the shells on the bottom of the 20 gallon tank and put it in the back of my minivan, along with the dog (in her crate), luggage, and my nature specimen collection.  The movers took the 3rd row seat onto their truck to give me lots of room in the car.  Oh, and I had potted plants in the car, too.  That’s another story.

I had no idea what to expect when we had arrived and unpacked all of the critters and water and set up the pump.  They survived and seemed happy in the little tank. I left them there.    After setting up my classroom for the kids, I set up the large tank.  The water (which I thought would be stagnant and stinky) was fine.  I emptied the Home Depot container of bay water into the tank and  put in the aerator.  I’ve been noticing some interesting life in the tank that I never noticed.  The anemone survived and has grown.    Some baby snails are moving around on top of the shell base.  Wonder what happened to all of the lightning whelk babies?  I’ll have to poke around with a magnifying glass.