Specialized Care is Key to Success with Sun Corals

When ascribed to the various species of the genus Tubastraea, the common name “sun coral” is both fitting and ironic. It’s fitting when you consider that the spectacular polyps of many Tubastraea species can quite justifiably be described as sun-like in both color and shape. On the other hand, it’s ironic in that these species, … [Read More]

4 Crabby Caveats to Keeping Clibanarius tricolor

Clibanarius tricolor, the blue-legged hermit crab, is very commonly introduced to marine aquaria, either in conspecific groups or as part of a multi-species “reef janitor” package or “cleanup crew” (aka “CUC” for those who just can’t get enough of those marine aquarium acronyms), for the purpose of aiding in detritus and algae control. But does … [Read More]

Tridacna derasa: A Good Excuse to Clam Up!

Of all the Tridacna spp. clams available to hobbyists, perhaps the hardiest and easiest to maintain of them all is Tridacna derasa, the so-called smooth giant clam. This species is so smooth, in fact, that amorous, gold-chain-wearing male specimens have been overhead in bars making comments like, “Say, did it hurt when you fell from … [Read More]

The Green Brittle Star: Little Fishy, Beware!

“Voracious predator” is not a term one commonly associates with brittle stars—that is, of course, unless the brittle star in question happens to be Ophiarachna incrassata, or the green brittle star (aka “the green death”). This bold species has a well-earned reputation for not merely scavenging deceased small fish and motile invertebrates, as one might … [Read More]

Sea Apples: Hazardous Holothurians Best Left to Advanced Hobbyists

In several posts here at Saltwater Smarts, I’ve mentioned that certain marine organisms routinely offered in the aquarium trade should come with a warning label—especially for novice hobbyists. In these cases, I’m usually referring to animals that are really gorgeous or exotic-looking (hence hard to resist) but either difficult to keep alive or dangerous to … [Read More]

Anemone Lookalike: The Long-Tentacled Plate Coral

Easily mistaken for an anemone at first glance, Heliofungia actiniformis is a large-polyp stony (LPS) coral that can be an excellent option for reefkeepers with modest-sized systems. Even relative newcomers to the reefkeeping hobby can succeed with this species, provided they make the effort to satisfy its few special care requirements. Physical traits Commonly known … [Read More]

Live Rock Hitchhikers: Tunicates (Sea Squirts)

Among the more fascinating creatures that commonly make their way into marine aquariums as stowaways on good-quality live rock are tunicates, or sea squirts. In terms of visual interest, these animals can be quite dazzling, with some exhibiting spectacular coloration or resembling small, delicate, translucent pitchers or urns. What are they? Tunicates are filter-feeding marine … [Read More]

Don’t Get Burned by Flame Scallops!

Mention beautiful bivalves for the marine aquarium, and the various tridacnid clams (the so-called giant clams) will probably come to mind. Likely, the flame scallops of the genus Ctenoides will too. However, while the tridacnids have a fairly decent survival record in captivity if given proper care and a suitable environment, the flame scallops usually … [Read More]

Sand-sifting Starfish: A Job (too) Well Done!

If you’ve ever shopped for a marine aquarium cleanup crew, you’ve probably noticed that these packages often include so-called sand-sifting starfish—rather bland-colored, burrowing stars of the genus Astropecten that can reach about a foot in diameter. As their common name implies, these stars are sold to hobbyists for the purpose of consuming detritus and uneaten … [Read More]

Stenopus hispidus: A Look at a Popular Boxer Shrimp

Among the various ornamental crustaceans available in the marine aquarium trade, one of the most popular and easiest to obtain is Stenopus hispidus, the banded coral shrimp, also known by the common names coral banded shrimp, banded boxer shrimp, barber pole shrimp, and others. This shrimp’s widespread availability and usually very affordable price tag can … [Read More]