Is your reef...
© BoB Halstead/ oceanwideimages.com
A Long Time Ago… • The reef aquarium hobby has, through its
brief history, collected a mythology that in its own way rivals that of
any ancient civilization and for somewhat the same reasons. Ancient
myths arose as explanations for otherwise inexplicable situations. For
example, Pandora was presumed to have unleashed all the world’s troubles by opening a mythical box against the express orders of her father,
Zeus. Today, in our more enlightened age, we know that is not true; all
the troubles of the world originated with the invention of politicians
early in mankind’s benighted history. (This comment is not a joke, see
R. H. MacNeil, Plagues and Peoples on the needs for societies to balance
the microparasitism of diseases against the macroparasitism of governments).
In our hobby, a number of the more long-lasting and naggingly nasty myths concerns what reef animals eat. I think it is worth a bit of an
explanation to understand why some of these myths endure and why
their replacement by the one true faith of demonstrated fact is so slow.
The root cause of virtually all of these problems is not simply the immaturity of the reef aquarium hobby, but also the immaturity of coral reef
science. The constant variation in the hobby baselines is related to both
the growth of our knowledge base and to society’s changing appreciation of what constitutes a reef; additionally, those factors, themselves,
are interrelated in interesting ways.
Although keeping glass boxes of water containing living marine animals in them first gained some fashion in the age of Victoria Regina,
anything remotely resembling our present-day hobby is much more recent. Fish-only marine aquaria got their start in the late 1950s and early
1960s. I recall scraping together about thirty of my hard-earned dollars,
and in the Montana of 1962 where I lived, those were silver dollars (!),
and ordering a baby Queen Angelfish and a Neon Goby from Robert
P. L. Straughan, one of the first, if not the first, Caribbean coral reef
animal dealers. He was, as far as I know, the first dealer who would air-freight his captured critters to customers throughout the United States.
As he also sold a few inverts, I ordered a dried sea fan and my first sea
anemone in that same shipment. As I look back through the yellowing
haze of those memories, the anemones I received had to be a pair of
large Aiptasia individuals; and ones that I paid for! I recall they weren’t
what I ordered, the order was for a single Condylactus, but the enclosed
handwritten note stated that he didn’t have any Condys in stock, so
he gave two examples of this other anemone. And I was one happy 12
year-old! I thought they were just about the most cool animals anybody
could have. Aiptasia How times have changed.
amongst branches of a
that must actively feed
to survive and grow.