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Thread: What’s going on at the Santa Monica Pier Public Aquarium this week

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    What’s going on at the Santa Monica Pier Public Aquarium this week

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    Hello, everyone. My name is Kamran, and I am a helper here at Santa Monica Filtration. I am also an aquarist intern at the Santa Monica Pier Public Aquarium:

    https://healthebay.org/aquarium/

    I’ll be giving periodic updates regarding various going-ons at the aquarium, and if you have any requests for things you want me to find out about our creatures, feel free to share. I hope you all enjoy!

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    Re: What’s going on at the Santa Monica Pier Public Aquarium this week

    The time has come for my first official update. The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium is nestled beneath the very front of the pier, with a nice big aquarium banner for good measure. Every creature on display is native to Santa Monica Bay, with a few exceptions (ex: El Nino caused some Pacific seahorses to appear in our waters, which were then collected and given their own exhibit). Obviously, the goal is to give visitors a sense of what's lurking right beneath the bay, and to drive the point home, most of our main exhibits are modeled after a specific ecosystem (including the underside of the pier itself).

    Attached to this post are a few photos showing the aquarium’s position in relation to the pier, the entrance, and some of our exhibits. All of these photos are mine, except for the aerial shot. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!

    -Kamran










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    Re: What’s going on at the Santa Monica Pier Public Aquarium this week

    Hello again, everyone. One of our swell sharks recently emerged from its embryo, so for this week’s update, I thought I’d give a rundown of how the aquarium handles its shark pups.





    Currently, we have two kinds of sharks on display: swell sharks (first photo) and horn sharks (second photo). Although both our sharks have been known to multiply, the swell sharks do it far more prolifically and will hence be the main focus of this post.



    These are what swell shark embryos look like. These three specifically are on public display, but we have many more in the back room.



    When a pup emerges from its embryo, it’s immediately moved to the quarantine tank seen in this photo. As you can see, we have no shortage of them (and in comparison, there are only three horn shark embryos that haven’t even hatched yet).



    Several things can happen to the pups depending on the circumstances. Sometimes, they’re moved to the public exhibit (pictured above), which is what happened with our newest pup. Other times they’re donated to other aquariums, and still other times they’re kept until they’re large enough for the primary shark tank. It really depends on how much room we have and where.

    On a side note, one of our adult swell sharks sprayed me with a mouthful of water once. It was unpleasant.

    -Kamran

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    Re: What’s going on at the Santa Monica Pier Public Aquarium this week

    For this week’s update, I’ve decided to focus on our decorator crab since it’s been going through some “revisions” lately.



    In case the name wasn’t a giveaway, decorator crabs like to cover themselves with materials like plants and algae for camouflage. Our decorator crab is no exception, and over the past month, it’s been making some adjustments to its appearance.



    This is how it looked two weeks ago. It had molted recently, so its shell was fresh and uncovered.



    The following week, it donned some kelp. Upon seeing this, one of my coworkers added some reddish algae to the tank, and a week later…



    …it fashioned itself some leg wear.

    Although this is our “featured” decorator crab, we do have others, including some juveniles and another adult in the back room. As you can see below, it’s a bit more passionate about its appearance.



    On a side note, here’s one of the decorator crab’s older molts that we preserved. It was much smaller back then…





    I hope you enjoyed this update. Next week, I’ll discuss one of our newer exhibits.

    -Kamran

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    Re: What’s going on at the Santa Monica Pier Public Aquarium this week

    Well folks, I’m back with another update. This time it’s about our newest exhibit, featuring a certain species of planktonic jellyfish.



    Let’s start with a little background info: Periodically, my boss goes out to collect wild shrimp (Mysidae) to feed our Pacific seahorses. We keep them stored in a tank (pictured above) until it’s feeding time, but sometimes, we’ll end up with a little “bycatch”. Unintentional collections can range from common amphipods to the occasional pipefish larva, though by far the most abundant of our hitchhikers is Vallentinia adherens. In case it wasn’t obvious by the photo, their numbers really climbed after a while…



    …So to rectify this, my boss decided to give them a tank of their own. Now they’re free to feed on brine shrimp without being a nuisance during feeding times.





    My coworkers and I originally believed that these were jellyfish larvae, and visitors tend to make the same assumption. But nope, these little stickers are adults, and now they’ve risen to stardom. Hopefully those baby pipefish I mentioned will get their turn once they’re big enough.

    -Kamran

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    Re: What’s going on at the Santa Monica Pier Public Aquarium this week

    Hello, everyone. I am both happy and a little sad to present my final weekly update. Unfortunately, I’ve been busy with real life matters that are demanding more and more of my attention, and since my workload won’t be decreasing anytime soon, I’ve decided to discontinue this project to focus on other things. I didn’t intend for this to end so soon, but hey, life happens.

    Since this is my last update, I thought it would be fitting to feature my favorite aquarium creatures that never got a chance to shine, complete with some background info for each one.



    This is a lion’s mane nudibranch. They’re fairly common in kelp forests, and my boss often finds them during his shrimp collections. They use their hoods to snare prey, and the ones at SMPA are fed with brine shrimp and the occasional fish powder. That matter you see inside its body is its last meal.



    This is our ocean whitefish, a resident of the “Under the Pier” exhibit. Whitefish are usually a creamy-white color, but this one is an unusual and ironic shade of black. It’s the most dominant fish in the tank and will often attack the algae scrubs when we try to clean the glass. (Also, the fish behind it is a kelp seabass)



    Another abnormally colored animal is our red swamp crawfish. While most of our stock is saltwater natives, the red swamp crawfish is neither saltwater nor native. As an invasive species, it is used as the designated bad guy for our field trip presentations, but who could hate that rare shade of blue?



    Here’s our scorpionfish. It has stingers all over its body, and its venom is said to be like that of a rattlesnake’s. If you go fishing in California waters, you better hope you don’t catch one of these. The only safe way to get rid of it would be to cut the hook. They do sell protective gloves that are supposed to be stinger proof, but even these sometimes fail.



    And here’s our stargazer, who is located in the back room. It used to be on display, but was removed because the guests apparently found it boring (???). Nowadays it spends its time gazing at the stars, wondering where the roof went.



    And now we’re getting into my favorite creature in the aquarium: the keyhole limpet! There are a bunch of these things in the touch tanks, and the above photo is one of the very first I took as an intern. I love gastropods in general, but there’s just something about the little keyholes in particular.



    Just like most of our sea snails, they feed on kelp, and their backside is usually covered by a slimy black mantle. However, the limpet that lives in our “Rocky Reef” exhibit always has its mantle fully retracted for whatever reason. Here’s a photo of it:



    Also, the keyhole is used to expel waste. Good luck getting that image out of your head.

    Lastly, I would like to present our newest addition:



    This is a bell jellyfish, and several of them are now sharing a tank with the planktonic jellies I showed off last week. They’re known in scientific circles as “Polyorchis,” which means, “many testicles”. I… wish I was joking, but it presumably refers to the eyes lining their rim. Just like their snowflake-shaped tank mates, they’re happy to feed on brine shrimp.

    There you have it, folks. I wish I could’ve kept this thread going a bit longer, but the good news is that I at least managed to share my favorite aquarium facts. That said, I appreciate everyone who took the time to read these posts and learn about my experiences. I’ll still be reading replies for another day or two, but after that, I’m off to bigger and better things. Cheers!

    -Kamran

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