Japanese Sushi Police Crack Down

Japanese food, and sushi in particular, has become very popular around the world, and inevitably the word has managed to screw it up. So much so, in fact, that many Japanese citizens are coming back from traveling abroad and calling their government with complaints about soggy seaweed, limp noodles and sushi with toppings that are far from traditional.

As Japan is a culture that values its tradition and national identity, the Japanese Agriculture Ministry has responded by putting together a blue ribbon panel of experts and tasking it with evaluating and certifying the world sushi restaurants. The panel is set to unveil its standards for certification by the end of February, and starting next April, inspectors will spread out around the world to give restaurants either the all-important stamp of approval or the dreaded stamp of shame.

Some people think it’s not right for the Japanese government to impose their rigid standards on restaurants in other countries, but I disagree. Perhaps it’s just that I’m more interested in Japanese culture than the average person, but when I go out for sushi, I’m also trying to learn something about Japanese etiquette. Should I ever find myself in Japan, or any other country for that matter, I would like to have some idea what I’m doing so I’m not seen as just another stupid American tourist.

Officer Angry is Back

A long time ago I had a video up with my piranha, Officer Angry, eating some raw shrimp off a stick. Casey edited it up for me, and it turned out to be pretty entertaining. Anyhow, I just stumbled upon it and thought I would upload it to google video. Enjoy.

Clownfish Anemone Adventure

About seven months ago, I decided to try my hand at saltwater reef keeping. I knew from the start that I wanted to get a pair of clownfish and a host anemone for them to live in as the centerpiece. Alright… So having written that, the experienced reef keeping community is now reading this and shaking its collective head because this is so typical of new saltwater hobbyists. It seems like just about everyone in the world has seen “Finding Nemo” and suddenly decided that they, too, want an aquarium with clownfish and an anemone. This is really a shame because to most of these people the clownfish are the first priority, while the host anemone is just some pretty flowing thing for them to live in. What they don’t know is that keeping clowifish is easy, but keeping host anemones is hard. Damn hard!

In fact, it has been reported that only about one out of every one-hundred host anemones in captive systems survive. Still, I’m not one to back down from a challenge, so even after doing the research and discovering that my chances for success were bleak, I decided to move forward with my plans. I set my 37 gallon tank up, mixed up a batch of salt water, and filled it up. I placed an order for 40 pounds of Marshal Island live rock, and a protein skimmer. I did some nice reefscaping with the rock, setting it right on the glass bottom of the aquarium, and fired up the protein skimmer. The next day, I picked up one bag of live sand, and two bags of Red Sea Reef Base for substrate. This resulted in the requisite 2.5 to 3 inches of substrate needed for NitrAte reduction.

At this point, there was nothing left to do but wait for the tank biology and water quality to stabilize. I watched the Ammonia spike, then the NitrIte, and finally the NitrAte. Once the NitrAte levels had fallen to 0, I placed my order for a mated pair of True Percula Clownfish (Amphiprion percula). It took several weeks for them to arrive, but when they did, I knew the they were worth the wait. $100.00 later, I was the proud owner of an amazing mated pair of Soliman Island clowns.

My research had indicated that these fish do NOT acclimate well, and I definitely found this to be true. When I brought them home, my salinity was exactly the same as that of the dealer. I used the drip method of acclimating them over the period of one hour, but it would still be several days before the fish had settled in and stopped showing signs of stress. Several weeks passed as I conducted more research on host anemones, so lacking anything more suitable, the two clowns decided to host on my powerhead.

In nature, Amphiprion percula host on the following anemones:

Heteractis crispa (Purple Long Tentacle Anemone)
Heteractis magnifica (Magnificent Anemone)
Stichodactyla gigantea (Giant Carpet Anemone)

Unfortunately, these have an especially poor tract record in aquaria, and as such, are definitely not recommended. Even the public aquariums have proven largely unable to sustain these varieties for any length of time.

ORA, the leading producer of clownfish, recommends either of the following for Amphiprion percula:

Entacmaea quadricolor (Bubble-Tip Anemone)
Stichodactyla haddoni (Haddon’s Carpet Anemone)

My first inclination was to go with Bubble-Tip Anemone, but these have a tendency to wander around the tank, stinging everything in their paths. Since I wanted to keep corals in the same tank, I didn’t want to run the risk of loosing everything to a fickle anemone that couldn’t settle on a place to call home. Therefore, I decided to go with the slightly more difficult to keep, but much more stationary Haddon’s Carpet Anemone. First, however I had to upgrade my lighting to to a 24 inch Nova strip containing four T5 bulbs. it even has the nice moonlight LED’s for nighttime viewing.

My big, green anemone showed up, and my local dealer had the incredible foresight to allow it to attach to a coffee can lid rather than the glass of their holding tank. I brought it home, and that night it moved off the lid and planted it’s foot firmly on the glass at the bottom of the tank. Many months later, it has still not moved an inch.

The next day, it was open and happy, but to my dismay, the clowns wanted nothing to do with it. They were still hosting on the powerhead, so in an effort to get them closer to what I had hoped would be their new home, I placed a large piece of PVC pipe next to the anemone. Slowly, they began to host on the PVC, but months passed, and they still wanted nothing to do with the anemone. I knew this was a risk, but it was sure a bummer to have gone to all this trouble only to have the perculas refuse their host.

In the meantime, I added a Fire Shrimp and a really nice piece of Pink Hammer Coral to the tank, and was met with general success. Everything was healthy and thriving, but the clowns stubbornly refused to adopt the anemone. I had more or less given up, when I got a call from Courtney last week while I was at work, telling me that “the clownfish had finally started hosting!!!” I could not believe my ears, and raced home after work to see. Sure enough, there they were, living happily in the anemone.

World’s Smallest Fish

The smallest fish on record is no longer the 8mm Indo-Paciffic gobby, but rather a 7.9mm member of the carp family known as Paedocypris progenetica. Discovered in a peat bog on Sumatra island by Switzerland’s Maurice Kottelat and Singapore’s Tan Heok Hui, this fish is remarkable not only because it is so small, but because of the way it has adapted to thrive in its environment.

First, the fish lives in murky peat bog water with a ph of 3. This is about 100 times more acidic than rainwater, so it is amazing to find a fish that is actually able to live in it.

Secondly, it has “bizarre grasping fins” with exceptionally large muscles. The purpose of these is unclear at the moment, but it is theorized that fish uses them to grasp its mate during copulation.

Finally and most importantly according to Kottelat, is the scientific significance of finding a complete vertebrae in such a tiny body. Apparently this is nearly unheard of in organisms this small.

It will be interesting to learn more about this amazing little fish as more research is conducted. The Natural History Museum reports that several populations of Paedocypris have already been lost due to habitat destruction caused by rampant development and intensive farming, so researchers are trying to learn all they can about this amazing specimen before it too becomes extinct.

Cute Koi Pictures

Last Winter, I bought a nice sanke female from Keirin Koi while I was at the Central Florida Koi Show in Orlando Florida. This is the smaller one in the pictures below, with persimmon (more orange) red and the stepping-stone sumi pattern. Even though the red is not as crimson as most Americans tend to like, she still won first-place for sanke in size three. Her name is Rei, and she is incredibly personable and frindly. She comes from the breeder Momotaro.

You can’t quarantine koi by themselves because they get lonely and sulk, so when I brought her home, I had to find a friend for her. I’ve been really into sanke lately, so I decided to find another one to keep her company in the quarantine tank over the winter. That’s where the larger male koi with the brighter red came into the picture. His name is Shinji and he is from the Ogata koi farm.

These two have been a riot. They’re koi, so of course they are always poking their noses out of the water looking for food whenever they hear someone. They both eat readily from my hand, are happy to keep me company while I’m in the basement. They are in a 1,000 gallon tank which is filtered by an Aquadyne 1.1 bead filter. Every week I change out 100 gallons of water to keep the NitrAtes down, and I keep the system at a constant 61 degrees Fahrenheit.

For those wondering about the names, yes, I am a big fan of the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Hungry Koi

Hungry Koi

Fish Supposedly Washed Up By Asian Tsunami

Last December one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history (measuring 9 on the Richter Scale), struck just off Sumatra, Indonesia, in a fault line running deep under the water. The rupture caused massive tsunamis, that hurtled away from the epicenter, reaching shores as far away as Africa.

A few days after the disaster, a friend and fellow fishkeeper sent me an e-mail containing a number of images depicting strange, deep-water fish that were supposedly washed up by onto shore by the huge waves and cataloged by scientists.

Although these are, in fact, genuine images of some very strange deep-sea creatures, these photographs have nothing to do with the Indian Ocean tsunami. They date from mid-2003 and were taken by researchers on the NORFANZ voyage, a joint Australian-New Zealand research expedition conducted in May-June 2003 to explore deep sea habitats and biodiversity in the Tasman Sea. These photographs can be viewed on Australia’s National Oceans Office web site.

While I hate to see these creatures dragged up from the abyss, I am very much a “deep junky”, and take great delight in learning more about marine life from the murky depths. Mostly, it is for this reason that I have developed such a strong interest in both powered and unpowered DIY ROV technology.