By Diane Ako
We've hit critical mass in the shrimp tank. Yay! I looked in there this week and there are roughly four dozen babies floating vertically. It looks like red rain.
For a couple months, whenever I look in there, there are at least five or six pregnant shrimp with huge clutches - like 15 or 20 eggs. There will be at least a few more that have smaller (half hatched?) clutches.
These numbers are up from early March, the first time I noticed the hatchlings. At that time there were only eight or ten babies and maybe three or four pregnant shrimp at a time.
From what I understand on the limited research, the larvae float vertically using a yolk sac for nutrition for their first ten days of life, then they swim horizontally after that and look like a very miniature version of the adults. I read that they hide in the rocks for a while.
In April I hadn't seen many babies or juveniles and I was wondering if they died, but in early May two things happened. The juveniles came out of hiding so now I see a few crawling on the rocks, and there has been an explosion of larvae.
Every other day this week I've looked in the tank and it seems that a new clutch has hatched - growing the population about a dozen at a time. It's hard to count because they're so small it plays trick on my eyes, but it is a lot.
I could be a lot more detailed about this with notes and exact dates, but I just don't have the time to maintain my hobby that way, so I'll have to go with rough estimates.
Meanwhile, I've started a breeding tank. It's actually a large ceramic pot I got for $8 from Ross and it has no hole in the bottom.
I specifically thought about this vessel because I wanted something that would give the shrimp more darkness in which to mate. The success of my shrimp hatching seems to correlate with me adding more coral rocks to the tank.
I added more rocks in December 2012 and within a couple months the eggs finally started hatching. I had seen berried females for much of 2012 but no eggs hatched.
In this new tank, I've used a different substrate: abalone shells. I had easy access to shells, and I felt that their rough exterior texture would sufficiently mimic the coral rock, plus they would fall into positions that also create many small hiding spaces.
I used about 75 shells and organized the top layer so the iridescent nacre faced up. It's pretty to look at.
Five shrimp are now swimming endless laps in their new home. For now, they're my testers to see if I created the correct conditions for life.
More to come on the breeding program...