The 101 Best Marine Invertebrates

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How to Choose & Keep Hardy, Beautiful, Fascinating Species That Will Thrive in Your Aquarium
All-new field guide to aquarium corals, shrimps, clams and more.

BMI 101 Front Cover.jpg


Pages: 192

List price: $18.95

Publisher: TFH

Year published: 2008

ISBN: 1890087238

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For a foolproof approach to moving beyond the beginner's fish-only aquarium, The 101 Best Marine Invertebrates is a durable and easy-to-use guide to the most-recommendable, easiest-to-keep invertebrates in the marine livestock trade.

The 101 Best Marine Invertebrates presents 101 full-page species accounts of invertebrates that not only have high survival rates in captivity but also are appealing in appearance and behave well in a community tank.

Also included are 33 Species to Avoid, creatures that most commonly wreak havoc in home aquariums because of their size or aggressiveness, or that tend to perish in the hands of inexperienced aquarists.

Written by one of the world's most-read and respected expert on marine livestock, this title offers must-know buying, feeding, and keeping tips, plus exclusive advice on selecting great animals for your home aquarium, including shrimp, crabs, reef lobsters, sea stars, snails and candid advice on the easiest-to-keep clams, anemones and corals.


Spineless wonders of the reef

A primer for moving successfully from a fish-only tank to a reef aquarium

If you’ve ever had the great fortune to put your mask-clad face beneath the water’s surface on a coral reef, you were no doubt astonished by the dramatic scene before you.

Two things struck me the first time I had this opportunity—the incredible colors and the diversity of life forms. Brilliantly hued fishes “played” among the earth-toned soft and stony corals. There was also an occasional coral colony whose chromatic characteristics caused it to stand out from its more muted neighbors. Some of these were flaming red, hot pink, bright yellow, or vivid purple. There were colorful, flowerlike sea anemones that provided a home to cheeky anemonefishes. Some of the invertebrate life was not so obvious. Upon closer inspection I found that the reef’s caves and crevices were veneered with colorful sponges and tunicates—a living carpet where resident shrimps and crabs could find food and shelter. So much color and so much life! I believe it is these two alluring aspects of coral reefs that draw most of us into the marine aquarium hobby.

As appealing as the fishes are, it is the profusion of invertebrate life that one finds on coral reefs that really sets this ecosystem apart from freshwater environments.

Invertebrates—“inverts” for short—are classified as animals that lack a backbone or spinal cord. While there are tropical freshwater ecosystems that boast diverse fish communities (think of the myriad species from the Amazon River and Africa’s Rift Lakes), relatively few invertebrate phyla are available to the freshwater aquarium keeper. In a reef aquarium, it is possible to acquire and keep living representatives from at least eight different invert phyla: sponges, corals, mollusks, segmented worms, arthropods/crustaceans, echinoderms, bryozoans, and tunicates. Members of other phyla also routinely arrive in marine aquariums as hitchhikers on live rock, in live sand, and hiding on coral colonies. Reef invertebrates range in appearance from the familiar to the bizarre and in size from microscopic to massive coral colonies weighing many tons. (The largest animal-made structure on earth is the Great Barrier Reef, 1,250 miles of majestic mass easily visible from space, entirely built by marine invertebrates.)

Invertebrates also vary dramatically in color. Some are as brightly pigmented as their most ostentatious fish-neighbors, while others sport pigments that help them to disappear against more muted surroundings. While their fantastic forms and striking colors are enough to make these animals worthy of aquarium display, the behavioral repertoire of some species increases their appeal.

Consider the shrimp species that act as groomers, plucking small parasites and dead tissue off sick or wounded fishes that seek them out to take advantage of these beneficial services. How about the shrimps that live in communion with bottom-dwelling gobies—the shrimp digs a burrow in which the happy couple live, while the goby acts as a sentinel, warning its crustacean partner when danger is near.

The classic invert-fish partnership that exists between sea anemones and certain fishes (namely the anemonefishes or clownfishes) can make for a fascinating display. Keeping the anemone alive and healthy in captivity has long been the challenge of replicating this symbiotic relationship in the aquarium. As discussed elsewhere in these pages, choosing the right species of anemone and feeding it properly can go a long way to assuring your success.

Then there are the octopuses, the Einsteins of the invertebrate world, which exhibit an incredible aptitude to learn and solve problems. For the aquarist with some experience and the willingness to dedicate a tank and special care to one of these animals, an octopus can become a fascinating pet.

Many other invertebrates exhibit interesting and unusual feeding behaviors that can add greatly to the interest and biological balance of a marine aquarium. Some can aid the aquarist in cleaning chores. These include snails that feed on pestilent algae, hermit crabs that consume leftover food, shrimps that attack nuisance Aiptasia anemones, sea cucumbers that mop up accumulating detritus, and brittlestars that prevent uneaten food from polluting the aquarium.

There are now many hundreds of “spineless” marine animals available in the aquarium trade, with new species appearing all the time. This invert boom coincides with a surge in popularity of the reef aquarium (defined as a vessel in which the aquarist maintains various invertebrate inhabitants, the focal point of which is usually a rich coral community).

For the aquarist who has come through the usual progression from a freshwater aquarium to a basic saltwater fish-only system now to the verge of keeping invertebrates, we hope this guide will help ensure your success. This book provides an introduction to many interesting invertebrates that can easily be kept in a fish-and-hardy-invertebrates aquarium, provided that some minimal husbandry standards are met and that copper and other medications are kept out of the system.

A full-blown reef aquarium, of course, requires enhanced equipment and husbandry techniques. For those ready to upgrade their lighting and circulation, and to pay more attention to filtration and water quality, a whole new world of colorful, exotic invertebrate species awaits. However, all the best reef gear and the most pristine water conditions in the world will not compensate for the hobbyist who stocks the wrong animals in his or her system.

Unfortunately, not all invertebrates are created equal when it comes to their ease of care and their survival rates in captivity. Some can bring havoc into your aquarium, others demand expert care to survive, and some that are routinely sold to hobbyists have the ability to sting, bite, and even kill human beings.

How do you know which of the many species available are suitable for your system and your skill set as a marine aquarium keeper?

In this book, I have tried to highlight the commonly available invertebrates that fare best in captivity. While some of these animals have special needs, these are all relatively easy to meet with a little planning and regular maintenance.

In the Invertebrates to Avoid section, we highlight some invertebrates that are difficult to keep alive, potentially dangerous to their keepers, or destructive in a captive community. We have also provided a number of model aquarium communities built around the included invert species to inspire the hobbyist ready to move beyond a fish-only tank and into the realm of the reef aquarium.

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