This week, the University of Miami aquarium club had the privilege of, for our first big event and second meeting of the semester, hosting Colin Foord, the owner of local aquaculture facility, Coral Morphologic. Colin is a UM alumni, and in many ways, the grandfather of Aquarium Club at the University. Currently, he is involved in a number of different projects, the foremost of which being the rescuing of the corals from Government Cut, but more on that later. Colin's company, Coral Morphologic, is a scientific art endeavor using living coral and aquarium aquaculture as the primary medium. They do some absolutely awesome work with coral and its fluorescent properties. Enough on that however, lets learn more about Government Cut, and what Colin is doing there.
This is Government Cut, a shipping channel that was dredged out for the last time about 60 years ago. Since then it has been virtually untouched, and the tides bring large amounts of clean water in through there every day, flushing the life that lives there. Which in our case, or our interest per say, is the coral. However, due to the widening of the Panama Canal and its new ability to accommodate larger ships, Miami wants to be able to accommodate said ships as well. So the solution, is the re-dredging of the Cut and in doing so, they will kill just about everything there, and all of this life will be lost. Colin showed a number of videos showcasing what is living in Government Cut. Due to the large amounts of water flushing, the diversity here is unbelievable. There are corals here that aren't even found out on the reef systems around the same area.
Why are these corals so important however? Well Colin explained, in addition to the large diversity of corals here, they are so interesting because they are not just hangers on from a once great reef, but because they are pioneering an urban environment and thriving, so called "Corals of Opportunity".So here is where Colin comes in, his mission, his goal is to save these corals. He wants to save them and transplant them to an area where they can be studied for their ability to thrive in this urban environment and can have their biodiversity preserved. He spoke to why these corals are so important, because they are highly adaptable, ideal for research and readily available for the people who want to use them. He reached out to the University and wants us to get involved in helping with these corals, because their scientific potential is huge. So all in all, this talk was extremely informative and hopefully, going to help students get involved with working with these Corals of Opportunity.
If you've ever taken a dive vacation in the Florida Keys or off of Ft. Lauderdale, you're well aware that the Florida reef tract is filled with lively, colorful fish and an abundant assortment of invertebrates. How is it that oftentimes we overlook these local gems, preferring instead to stock our reef aquariums with fishes taken largely from the Indo-Pacific region? This is the second of a series of four short articles in which we examine a couple of good "home-grown" coral reef species that you're likely to see diving and would make a good fit for the right aquarium.
These species can be tricky to find while diving, preferring more secluded reefs or deeper waters, but they all are surprisingly local! These fishes are showstoppingly beautiful, and when incorporated with the right elements into an appropriate aquarium, can really bring out the visual appeal of a tank.
The Caribbean Pygmy or Cherub Angelfish is a smaller angel from the Centropyge genus, and is packed with color and personality. Although they are only an occasional sighting in the South Florida region, Cherub Angels can be seen off Jupiter, FL and West Palm Beach, and their range stretches into the Caribbean. The vivid coloration and individual characteristics of each fish, and the healthy appetite they display when fed healthy food options make them a beautiful centerpiece fish for the mid-sized aquarium.
Moderate care should be taken when placing in a reef tank, as some larger Cherub Angels may pick at small invertebrates or corals, however some may not so much.
The Yellowhead Jawfish is a burrowing fish with a yellow head and light blue body, and lives in the sandy, rubble-strewn and some reef regions of South Florida and the Keys, and requires a deep sand band in an aquarium. Playful and curious, the jawfish will stick close to its burrow and accept a variety of carefully placed meaty foods such as shrimp and bloodworms. However, they often retreat back into the burrow when approached or startled.
A tight fitting lid on a mid-size aquarium with a deep sand bed is needed for Yellowhead Jawfish, as they tend to jump when frightened.
Sunshine Chromis are a stunning damselfish from the Family Pomacentridae, but tend to have a more docile and schooling nature than those reef damselfish such as Sergeant Majors. They can be found along South Florida's reef tract up through West Palm Beach, and in most cases in deeper than 60 ft. of water. In a larger tank a small group could be maintained, and be an entertaining group if well fed and given space.
Although not as common as the Chromis cyanea, the Sunshine Chromis Chromis insolata could be a bold burst of color and motion into a South Florida themed tank looking for a bold streak of life.
The Bank Butterflyfish is a trickier fish to maintain in an aquarium, and only an occasional sighting on deep dives along South Florida's East Coast, but nonetheless is an oft-overlooked beauty from the local waters that could flourish if kept in an experienced aquarist's tank. Typically found in 80-120 ft. of water on deep reefs, the Bank Butterflyfish is often shy and reserved, and requires careful feeding and close attention in an appropriately sized aquarium with good rockwork for hiding. Not to mention that the price range for commercially available Bank Butterflyfishes is near $199-$399, given the depth at which they are collected.
There are other similar deep-water Prognathodes Butterflyfish in the region, not to mention the shallower and more abundant Chaetodon species which could be maintained, which will be a topic in a later article.
A rare sighting on deep dives in the area, the Candy Basslet is a smaller reef fish that has to be one of the most brightly colored and beautiful fishes in the Caribbean. They have a bold appetite for meaty foods and do well in a smaller aquarium, but often carry a steep price tag and are tough to come by. There are several other Liopropoma basslets in the area and throughout the Caribbean, but the Candy Basslet is the smallest most popular of those species.
If you've ever taken a dive vacation in the Florida Keys or off of Ft. Lauderdale, you're well aware that the Florida reef tract is filled with lively, colorful fish and an abundant assortment of invertebrates. How is it that oftentimes we overlook these local gems, preferring instead to stock our reef aquariums with fishes taken largely from the Indo-Pacific region? This is the first of a series of four short articles in which we examine a couple of good "home-grown" coral reef species that you're likely to see diving and would make a good fit for the right aquarium.
The first five species touched on in this post are some fishes that can tend to be overlooked when planning out the livestock for a Caribbean tank, and can sometimes fly "under the radar" on the reef.
Neon Gobies are often observed singly or in pairs, hanging close to coral heads or just under overhangs built into the crevasses of the reef. They are quick to dart into holes or other hiding places, so collecting from the wild may take practice and patience. A first-rate option for a local nano tank, as the bold blue stripes along their sides bring a lot of additional color to a reef tank.
Neon Gobies are also readily bred in captivity, Oceans, Reefs, and Aquariums (ORA) produces a large variety of E. oceanops and other similar species at their facility in Ft. Pierce, Florida.
Masked Gobies are small, colorful, and abundant fishes that are often seen in groups clustered together in medium-sized gaps in the reef rockwork. Hovering in the water, these gobies are relatively slow swimming and easy to corral, and their translucent midsection and orange patches make them an understated beauty. Maximum size is usually less than 1.5", making these peaceful gobies an excellent choice for a local biotope nano aquarium.
The Chalk Basslet is one of the best smaller-sized sea basses for the home aquarium. Possessing a mild disposition and a hearty appetite, these beautiful neon blue and dusty pink splotched fish look great under blue lighting. In larger setups, pairs and trios can be maintained provided there is enough food and space for the basslets to get along. Wary and quick to dart, Chalk Basslets are occasionally found South Florida waters, but make a difficult catch for the responsible collector.
The Lantern Basslet is another great fish from Family Serranidae, but can at time show a little bit more aggression to tank mates. Found naturally near coral rubble and seagrass beds, Lantern Basslets generally rest or hover near the bottom of a larger tank, but do exhibit a wholesome appetite for invertebrates, and therefore should only be kept in fish-only systems. An excellent local shore dive guaranteed to showcase Lantern Basslets would be Blue Heron Bridge, where the pilings and coral rubble create a great habitat for these colorful, gregarious seabasses.
The Twospot Cardinalfish is another local gem that possesses a bright red coloration with several eyespots along its body. Not two be confused with the Flame Cardinalfish (only has one spot), both fishes do well in medium-sized tank, and prefer dimly-lit areas and overhangs to peer out from the shadows. Common throughout South Florida, their ranges stretches down through the Dry Tortugas and into the greater Caribbean.
Now that the calendar year has changed to 2014, as students at the University of Miami we are now looking towards the Spring 2014 semester, which means more Tuesday night UMAC meetings! This upcoming semester will be filled with a lot of fun activities, trips and guest speakers, as well as more regular online posts about how to get involved.
Our First Meeting of Spring 2014 will be on Tuesday, January 14 at 7:30 pm in Cox 184. We'll talk about the new policies and goals for UMAC as a club, and then talk about the activities and trips planned for the semester, including:
We'll also have a few more guest speakers at meetings this semester, bridging the small gaps between the aquarium hobby and marine science. Our second meeting (January 21st) will feature Colin Foord speaking, a UM alum and partner in Coral Morphologic, a Miami based coral aquaculture facility and art project.
If you want to get involved, contact any of our officers via our webpage or message us on Facebook!
Our Twitter account is now active too: @UMAquariumClub
Follow for fish of the day and member photos of tanks and marine science!
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