Our First Marine Critter

We’ve had our marine tank set up for nearly two weeks and today we introduced our first critter. Meet ‘MR WHIPPY’ an Electric Blue Legged Hermit Crab or ‘Calcinus Elegans’ if you want the proper name.

Mr Whippy

Mr Whippy

Mr Whippy, named after his current ice-cream whip shaped shell was introduced to the tank this afternoon. No sooner had he gently plopped onto the sandy substrate at the bottom of the tank he propped his shell up over his elongated blue eye stalks and set to work on the nearest rock clearing algae and cramming it into his face a pinch at a time with his little nippy claws . That was five hours ago – he’s just stepped off that small rock and moved onto find something else.

The tank has had other interesting activities going on during the past few days. The biggest coral, a toadstool leather suddenly withdrew all of its polyps (the flowing hair-like strands that protrude from it’s surface and wave about in the water). The following day it never put the polyps back out again. This coincided with the first water change Wil and I had performed as new marine tank owners. It hadn’t helped that for our first water change the fish shop didn’t have any premixed saltwater and instead could only provide us with some RO (distilled) water and some salt for us to create the mix ourselves. The withdrawal of ‘Matey Boy’s‘ (the toadstool leather), polyps caused us to worry we’d done something wrong with the mix. However, after a good read of various marine forums and websites and an examination of the tank on the second or third day led us to believe that Matey Boy was shedding a protective layer. Apparently while they do this they close up and wait for the clingfilm type covering to peel off their surface and disappear into the water. It’s taken three days and now he’s back on form with his extended polyps waving in the flow.

Just to the side of matey boy there is another mushroom type coral which looks a bit like a minature palm tree. ‘Short Stuff’ as we’ve named him only stands about 3cm tall although we’d noticed that he does tend to stand taller on some days and shorter on others. The surprise came today when I was examining Matey Boy’s shedding progress and noticed Short Stuff seemed a lot further behind Matey Boy than he had been before. I compared a photo that I’d taken of the tank when we first set it up two weeks ago and confirmed that Short Stuff had taken a SHORT TRIP!

Once again, thanks to the wealth of wisdom on the internet I discovered that many soft corals can actually move themselves by swelling up so as to cover a larger footprint and then detatch their hold on the side from which they want to move – a bit like a snail. We confirmed this at the fish shop today where the guy fishing our hermit crab out of the tank pointed out one of their toadstools suckered half way up the glass at the front of it’s aquarium. Apparently they do this to get themselves to a position in the tank they like and wish to settle. Very difficult to get my head around the thinking that these are living creatures and not plants!

In the meantime we’ve set up a third aquarium in which we will fulfill our original intention of rehoming the Pygmy Puffer fish which currently resides in our community freshwater tank. The new tank is beginning it’s ‘cycle’ in which beneficial bacteria crucial to the correct functioning of the tank will begin breeding on the filter and substrate. Adding any fish before this cycle is complete could result in death and since the idea of this tank for one little puffer fish has already resulted in my becoming au fait with all things marine and owning three separate aquariums, I dread to think what daft ideas we’d come up with to fill the void should we lose the intended inhabitant of the new freshwater tank.


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