Friday, November 12, 2010

Behind-the-Scenes at the CalAcademy, Part 2

After a short delay we're back with more from our photo tour of the California Academy of Sciences. Last time, we covered the main display aquarium. Whereas the Philippine reef tank gives you a glimpse at the grandeur and majesty of a living reef with shoals of fish darting and swaying in unison, the surrounding smaller displays allow a more close up view.

Same as before - click on the pics for the full size image.

Here, a Euphyllia sp. is shown up close. The slow and gentle sway of the coral is hypnotic in person.

And the same tank from a little farther away. During our behind the scenes tour, we noticed that this tank was being lit by LEDs, which accentuate the amazing greens.

Speaking of amazing coloration, this tank is part of a frequently revolving series of displays meant to educate visitors on different aspects of life underwater. This display shows how many corals vividly flouresce.

And here, back at the tank with the giant Euphyllia colony, are some shots of a commensal shrimp that hides in the coral for protection and takes meals from its tentacles. Notice how it is nearly transparent, and rather difficult for predators to spot.

Below is the beautiful harlequin shrimp taking shelter underneath a discosoma mushroom. Before you rush out to add one of these amazing little creatures, be mindful of the fact that they eat one thing, and one thing only: starfish. One tiny individual can completely wipe out every starfish in a large system in a matter of weeks. These are better left on the reef, or in the care of professionals capable of keeping them well fed.

What can I say... I'm fascinated with Euphyllia. Here, a beautiful red-dot cardinalfish swims away from the camera.

Several employees of the aquarium are allowed to create concept systems. This is one of the most original, and colorful. This tall tank replicates a deepwater drop off zone inhabited by non photosynthetic azooxanthellae corals and some amazing anthias. It goes to show what a focused biotope style aquarium can acheive if well done. This is difficult and not recommended for the beginning hobbyist, as some of these species were considered unkeepable only a short time ago in the hobby

speaking of which, we have here one of the most difficult fish to keep in captivity, the orange spotted filefish. While there is no doubt about this creatures beauty, it is as difficult to feed as it is beautiful. In nature, these fish are thought to be obligate corallivores... fish that eat nothing but corals. However, it has recently been bred captively, and more and more hobbyists are having success weaning them onto prepared foods. This is extremely difficult, and only recommended for experts.

Here is a close up shot of the sun coral from the deepwater anthias tank.

And another fish whose finicky diet is legendary: the moorish idol. Kudos to the aquarium staff for their ability to maintain such difficult creatures.

A nice little dome of zoanthid or palythoas. I love the shape they have grown into over the rock.

Finally, we have the blue ribbon eel. As slow as these guys move, I had the hardest time getting a clear shot. Yet another shout out to the Steinhart staff for keeping them healthy.

That's it for now... next up is a tour of the rainforest and the african lakes display. Thanks for looking.