Wednesday, 17 June 2015 01:22

A Hitch Hikers Guide to the Reefs - The Zooplankton

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By Charles & Linda Raabe
Mactan Island, The Philippines© 2009  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


  At one time or another, usualy just after the addition of live rock or live sand, every one of us has noticed what looks like little "bugs" running or swimming around all over the place, usualy after the tank has been dark for some time. While few are large enough to make out any details, the use of a magnifynig glass while holding a flashlight against the side of the tank will open up a new, tiny world to you. 
     The COPEPODS   ( Kope = Greek for "oar"    Podos = Greek for "foot" )

   Additional Links -  World of Copepoda    Introduction to Copepods    A Harpacticoid Identification Key

     Harpacticoid family - Harmless detrivores. (some are carrying eggs as well)

  Cyclopoida Family - Harmless phytoplankton grazers and are what I believe to be the best food source when trying to rear shrimp larvae as this group does not crawl the glass or sand and remains in mid-water which makes them available to free swimming, plankton larvae as a food source. I find these copepods in huge swarms during the day out on the reef's kelp beds, making collection of them very easy. I believe this family of copepods is available for purchase.
                     (with eggs)                                                                                                     (without eggs)
         Calanoid Family - Compared to other copepod species, these can appear quite large and are a very important food source for many fish. The small copepod shown below in the first photo is an adult Cyclopoida species as a size reference.          
The AMPHIPODS   ( Amphi  = Greek for "both sides"    Podos = Greek for "foot"

Additional Links -  Amphipod Identification Key    Amphipod biology          
          Caprellid Amphipod  ( Skeleton Shrimp )  
                                                                        Below :  Head structures                                               Below:  Legs 

         Phliantidae (An amphipod) -  Can be difficult to identify as they resemble Isopods.
    The  ISOPODS  -  ( Iso = Greek for "uniform or the same"    Podos = Greek for "foot" )  Some species of this family group are parasitic / predatory. Any large specimens should be investigated.    Additional Links  -  Parasitic Isopods         
The Cirolanid family of Isopods, Some Cirolanid species are obligate parasites, other species are strictly scavengers, and some are a combination of both. The vast majority of Cirolanids seen in the aquarium hobby seem to be obligate parasites of fish.             
The Sphaeromatidae family of Isopods, considered harmless in the reef aquaria.     
    Munnid Isopods - Harmless herbivores.  
    An Anthurid Isopod  - Carrying its young. Most likely a predator of other small animals.   
    The CUMACEANS -  These are animals related to mysids, tanaids, ispods, etc., that are specialized to live in sediments and most appear to eat detritus.       

    The Tanaidaceans - Some are harmless grazers and others appear to be more predatory.      
     The Ostracodes  - Commonly called Seed Shrimp. A crustacean, and some are quite reminiscent of clams in their general shape. Most are considered to be detritivores. Extremely small animals and are usualy only seen when they swim to a new location.   
   Below, a female carrying larvae.
    The Halacarid Mites -  The only mite family completely adapted to life in the sea. With over one thousand species belonging to this family and having an assortment of body plans,  species identification is extremely difficult. 
    The Swarmers  -  The majority of what appears to be very small worms swimming out in the open will in fact turn out to be a specialized worm segment whose sole purpose is to get out into the currents and release its payload of eggs or sperm. For more information on these, please see the worm's hitch hiker page. 
   Prior to segmented release of Epitoke           Free swimming Epitoke                    Another free swimming Epitoke    
    A swarming Phylodocid found within my aquarium at night. It is less than 1 mm in length but still visible as being a worm.  
   A Syllid Epitoke which was formed at the posterior end of a worm which then breaks off and swims away with the eggs it is tasked with to carry and release into the drifting plankton. The eggs are the green spheres shown above. 

  The  LARVAE  -  There are multitudes of species within the ocean that release their eggs / young to drift and feed with the oceans currents, only to drop out and settle down into new territory. I will post what each specimen is most likely to be, (thanks Dr. Ron) when possible.                 
   Larval Shrimp                                     Cladonema sp.  (jellyfish)                         Larval Mantis Shrimp 
               Box crab Larvae                                Unknown crab larvae                      Thalassinidean shrimp larvae
            A free swimming snail                             A Gastropod larvae                         An extremely small worm
      Either a clam or scallop species        A Peritrich (colonial ciliated protozoan       A Cyprid (Barnacle larval stage)
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Used by permission.  Many thanks to Charlies and Linda Raabe for their support.
Read 2691 times Last modified on Saturday, 12 March 2016 14:30
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