Thursday, May 24, 2007

Global Worming

I was staring into the Thunderdome (the name my tank acquired after the gut-wrenching loss of 2) recently when I observed an orange tentacle-like creature emerging from the bottom crevices of the live rock.

It looked like a monster R.L. Stine might dream up for his next horror novel. I watched transfixed as the creature began sweeping the live sand for detritus in a slow, hypnotic fashion. I had no idea this thing was lurking around my tank!

Night after night I would go home worried about the orange monstrosity living among my fish. Determined, I geared-up like John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in the movie Commando, ready to “terminate” this beast using whatever means necessary.

I first attempted removal of the alien species using some slow-moving tweezer action. Unfortunately, the refraction of the water gave me the dexterity of a drunkard, so I was easily thwarted by the creature’s lightning-fast reflexes.

Defeated, I vowed I would one day return to stop the forces of evil.

My next attempt did not fair much better. I know the critter saw me staring into the tank because he attempted to hide from my scouring eyes. I decided “the heck with it” and lunged for him, like an outstretched ballplayer diving for a hard-to-reach play.

Close, but no cigar. No weird undersea organism, either.

I’d finally had enough and decided to contact a professional: a MarineDepot.com customer service representative. The CSR informed that my beastly invader was actually a bristle worm.

Ha! A puny worm?

I figured a more humane approach to simply crushing him would be to Google “bristle worm” and find out more about the little bugger. I discovered a ton of information and some conflicting views about my wormly visitor. Before I invested in a worm trap or some other, possibly useless paraphernalia, I decided to once again seek the advice of an expert.

The swami of saltwater said I shouldn’t believe everything I read on the Internet and that ‘ol wormy is actually good for my reef system. He taught me that small bristle worms help keep your tank clean by eating fish leftovers.

Like Stan and Kyle, I feel I learned something today. I learned that just because an animal may look ugly, as long as it stays hidden under a rock and cleans up after my fish, it will always have a home in my aquarium.

Corals and Crabs and Blennys ... Oh, My!

In the beginning, the Marketing department setup an aquarium and a light.

Marketing saw the illuminating power of the SunPod and it was good.

It was all good.

Alas, the waters were not calm in this supposed sea of tranquility.

For Current USA divided the SunPond in two; they called the light day, and the darkness night. A metal halide HQI lamp produced the daylight, with blue and white lunar LED lights completing the 24-hour cycle.

Of course, a lot can happen in 24-hours. Just ask Kiefer Sutherland.

I left the office yesterday around 5 PM. Marketing’s nano reef was ostensibly harmonious prior to my departure, so I had no trouble bidding adieu to the tank’s residents before taking off for the evening.

I said farewell to the feather dusters, late to the plate coral, ciao to the crabs and buh-bye to the blenny. I head into the dusk, blissfully unaware that death was waiting on our doorstep.

I arrived at work this morning and was greeted by the rigid corpse of Blenny Kravitz. His lifeless body lay peacefully on top of a 6” x 9” sheet of steno notebook paper.

I was shocked, immediately entering the first phase of grief feeling utter disbelief and numbness.

Next stop: denial. “I don’t believe it!” I cried. “It can’t be!”

Of course, it could be … and was. I mean, there was clearly a dead fish on my desk. The evidence was irrefutable.

What wasn’t clear, however, was the cause of death.

Was Blenny the jumper in an apparent suicide, or was foul play involved? Did my Hermit and Pom Pom Crabs form an alliance and gang up on Blenny? Even worse, am I to blame? Am I a lousy reef keeper?

Guilt is a difficult stage and hard to deal with on your own. I asked our photographer, Royce, “Let’s assume for a second that Blenny wasn’t dead but just appeared dead. If I had dropped him back into the tank, do you think he would have survived?”

Royce told me that Blenny was dead and that I shouldn’t blame myself. I feel guilty though because I didn’t like him when I first stuck him in the tank. He had a face only a mother could love. She would have had to have been one crazy mutha too because Blenny was downright ugly. Yet his repulsiveness began to grow on me.

Soon after came anger. “How could you do this, Blenny, huh?” I beseeched. “What’d I ever do to you?”

Depression began to set in as I scrapped him off my notebook into the trash or, as Royce calls it, an “open casket.” I encouraged my colleagues to come by and pay their respects but evidently they already made peace with the situation.

Scott, a purchaser, said he blames the school system. I’m not sure if he was referring to me or the fish, but either way he’s probably right.

Our new web designer, Ryan, asked if anything unusual happened recently that may suggest something like this might happen; strangers around the neighborhood, odd phone calls. Ryan’s insight has been crucial to the investigation of Blenny’s death. He stated that since he jumped out of the tank and on to my notepad, this may have been Blenny’s way of leaving behind a suicide note.

I was confident I had segued into the final stages of the grieving process—acceptance and hope—when I began shopping for replacement fish this afternoon on MarineDepotLive.com’s website. I accept that Blenny is no longer with us; I hope I have better luck with my new undersea friends.

The last thing I want is for my fish haven to become known as fish heaven.

In closing, I’d like to leave you, dear reader, with an excerpt from the eulogy Royce wrote for Blenny:

The death of a friend to suicide is the hardest to face. Do not judge Blenny’s life by his last hour; for this is only a tiny percentage of his entire life. Let us remember Blenny Kravitz for when he was with us.

RIP Blenny Kravitz
May 21st 2007 - May 24th 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Testing ... 1, 2 ... Testing

This is a test of the marketing department’s new aquarium. This is only a test.

A test which we—or, I guess the tank, as it were—failed (cue “wah-wah” soundbyte).

I’ve never been terribly good when it comes to taking tests. And—although it may be mere coincidence—I have a sneaky suspicion it is because I never studied.

Well, I failed. Again. Doh!

I have this monster fish tank on my desk and the thing is frickin’ beautiful. Everyone who walks by has to 1) stop 2) do a double-take 3) walk in a slow, trance-like state towards the tank and 4) utter a Neo-like, “Whoa.”

The next question, of course, is “Hey, brah … when ya gonna stick some fish in that bad boy?”

Well, actually bro-ham, I was hoping today was the day.

We setup our tank last week. We did everything by the book*, so to speak: performed a leak test, assembled the tank, double-checked all the electrical, rinsed the sand, put in a few pieces of live rock and let our little ecosystem run on auto-pilot since Thursday of last week.

*I feel I should explain my “by the book” remark since I haven’t actually read any books about marine aquaria. I did read a book about sharks once when I was in 2nd grade. My more advanced knowledge of the ocean comes from reading The Black Pearl in 7th grade, visiting the Aquarium Of The Pacific, Sea World and watching Planet Earth on the Discovery Channel.

Trang, a purchaser whom I work with at MarineDepot.com, came by to ogle our tank and asked the question everyone is dying to know. She is a really upbeat person, always taking the time to say hello and smile. The suspense is evidently killing her, too, because she asked if this guy could live comfortably in our tank; even offering to buy the fish herself.

Man oh man, I am so ready to see some fishies swimming around in this thing!

Long story short—or medium length, depending on your opinion—Ben (heretofore referred to as “The Fish Guru”), my boss, said I needed to use Red Sea’s Marine Lab Five-in-One Master Test Kit to measure the Nitrite, Nitrate, Ammonia and Calcium levels of the aquarium before even considering the idea of adding any fishy friends.

Blast! I’ve been thwarted by The Fish Guru.

“Well, no matter,” I thought. The water in the tank is crystal clear, the Feather Dusters on the Live Rock & Sand are ugly but alive and our Marshall Island Electric Blue Hermit molted yet survived the weekend. “We are good to go,” I said to myself.

Just then someone walked by and asked me why I keep talking to myself. I muttered some expletives under my breath about my right to privacy while getting out the testing supplies.

Of all the responsibilities that come with owning a saltwater aquarium, I admit I was most apprehensive about performing the water tests. Why? Well, for starters, the test kit looks like a chemistry set. I’ve never taken a chemistry course and probably shouldn’t be trusted with my own kit of mysterious chemicals anyway. Nevertheless, I swallowed my nerve and read through each test’s instruction manual.

I’ll fast-forward you to the results so you can get on with your day.

Our first report card is as follows:

  • Nitrite - F
  • Nitrate - F
  • Ammonia - B
  • Calcium - B

The test kit doesn’t actually assign you a letter grade, but I took it upon myself to surmise the situation for all you aquarists out there.

I called The Fish Guru over and he shook his head, “Not today.”

Sigh. Oh well. The day wasn’t a total loss. I got over my fear of the chemistry set and am better acquainted with my duties as a reef keeper.

For now, that’ll have to do.

In the meantime, I’ll keep my eye on Marshall (the crab) in the hopes that he’ll actually, you know, move … or something.

Friday, May 11, 2007

An Aquarius Becomes an Aquarist


For those who need my witty title explained, I was born late in the month of January.

When I find myself daydreaming about fish, I like to think back to the good ‘ol days of owning a small, freshwater tank and having
Goldfish or Betta. I loved the instant gratification of dumping “Goldie” into her spherical tomb.

Now, fifteen years later, I’ve once again been drawn back to the
hobby.

As I peer into my 3-gallon utopia, I find myself craving more: more
corals, more crabs … more life!

I’ve also recently taken on the responsibility of caring for another 1-gallon tank. In the few weeks I’ve had my tank setup, I’ve already experienced two major tragedies.

First, the almost-instantaneous loss of 2 (a
Pistol Shrimp) and the funerals of 3 and 6 (Chromis Damsel).*

*I was told it is bad luck to name your fish. If only I had known that when I was younger! I would never have condemned my aquatic friends by naming them. Since then, I’ve devised a simple solution to this problem: I no longer name my fish, I simply assign them a number. This way, “the curse” (as I have come to know it) will not befall upon my fish. It is also a handy way to keep track of how many fish you have sent to a better place.
My favorites these days are 4 and 5 (Cleaner Shrimp). As you gaze into the tank, you really get the sense that each fish has its own personality. In my 3-gallon tank, 4 is the big shot and has claimed dominance over 5.

I’ve also separated 1 (
Devil Damsel) into his own asylum, since he is seemingly unable to play nice with the others.

Owning a
saltwater fish tank is quite addicting, and it’s easy to get hooked. I can already picture myself in the not-too-distant future having more undersea life on my desk, and even a few at home.

I think I may finally be responsible enough to take care of my own tank.


And this time, without the fake plastic kelp.

Brave New World

Powerhead. Live Rock. Filter Media.

Up until a few weeks ago, I wouldn't have had a clue what these words mean.

A Powerhead, to me, sounds like a boat engine: “Man, our 20-foot river boat is propelled by the new Powerhead 7000 and it really hauls butt!”

Live Rock could be some creature from a fantasy flick, like The Never Ending Story or The Lord of the Rings: “Hold your ground, Aragorn! Now only the Live Rock stands between Frodo and Mount Doom.”

Filter Media? Well, isn’t it obvious? Filter media is a new pop-up blocker for the PC!

In actuality, the aforementioned vocabulary words are products used in a marine aquarium.

Wikipedia describes a marine aquarium as “an aquarium that keeps marine plants and animals in a contained environment. Marine aquaria are further subdivided by hobbyists into fish only (FO), fish only with live rock (FOWLR), and reef aquaria.”

That was easy pretty easy to digest (burp!). Now, why all this talk about aquariums anyway?

Simple people: I began work for a company called Fins, Furs, & Feathers, Inc. a few weeks back and they own several e-commerce websites, including MarineDepot.com, MarineDepotLive.com and Petstore.com.

Oh, I’m Jeff, by the way. I work in the marketing department. Nice to meet ’cha!

Anyhoo, I began work at FF&F, Inc. and immediately noticed the office environment is radically different from the pretentious corporate world I had become so accustomed to.

And I mean “radically different” in a good way.

One of the coolest things to do here is stroll down the aisles of our customer service department.

You’re like, “Huh? That doesn’t sound terribly interesting, Jeff.”

In the words of a thousand infomercials, “But wait … there’s more!”

Nearly every customer service agent has a fresh or saltwater aquarium atop their desk. So, whenever I find myself marching through the office to visit my boss, Ben, I always peer into each employee’s cubicle and ogle the habitats they’ve created in their workspace.

From mid-size 24-gallon to small 3-gallon tanks, each of their underwater worlds are teeming with life; colorful, exotic and beautiful.

Did you know that Nemo has a darker, more mysterious cousin? His name is Gold Stripe, or Premnas biaculeatus, and he’s one cool character.

After only a couple of weeks being immersed in this “wild” new world, and, with the encouragement of my peers, my marketing colleague Brian and I decided to get an aquarium of our own and try our hands at this whole reef keeping phenomenon and become “hobbyists” ourselves.

No, not hobbits. Hobbyists.

The frontline of our company, the customer service team, are comprised solely of aquarium enthusiasts. For us, we felt like the best, most honest way to market to our customers is to connect with them like the CS team does.

We hope you’ll stay connected with us, too. Read our blog, shop our website, send us feedback and, heck, call us if you wanna talk shop.

You have questions? We have answers!

Tune in for my next post to see if I can hack it as a hobbit, err, hobbyist or if I simply drown in all my newfound responsibilities as a crypt keeper … I mean reef keeper.