So I've gone and gotten a number of pets. Courtesy of my little brother, Cody, I have a new aquarium. Small to be sure, but worthy of the ever-flowing stream of time, the beginning and the end. I started with an urchin and three small snails, and then added a seastar, a worm, and a sea cucumber.
Actually, that's a bit too simplistic a rendition. It would seem that salt-water aquariums are incredibly hard to maintain, especially ones that are as small as only seven gallons. Initially I thought that there was the right amount of salt in the aquarium, and there was far too much. The urchin died. I went out and got tools to measure the salinity, and a new urchin. His name is Jaws, since urchins have the strongest jaws in the world. (Gender is arbitrary with many of the echinoderms, since only they can tell the difference.)
Next was a seastar, named Cody, because a seastar is all arms. (Let the reader understand.) Then it was a worm, a featherduster worm, like Seballastarte sanctijosephi, which I used to sing of to my little sister when she was two. His name is Jonah, after the real hero of the Jonah story. And finally I found a sea cucumber. I am still looking for the right name for him.
I still plan to add a brittlestar, completing my shallow-water Echinoderm collection, and an anemone, since Cnideria is my other favorite animal group. I don't know why. But it is odd, the two very unrelated groups, having such surface similarities: nerve nets, radial symmetry, and water-based propulsion.
I've spent a good deal of time watching my pets. Cody sits there, and occasionally battles for space with Jaws, since space is more a premium on the ocean floor than a parking space in downtown Seattle. Jaws uses his spines and tube feet to move around, occasionally stunningly moving across the entire aquarium with great speed. I watch him scrape algae off the glass with his Aristotle's Lantern, his jaws, the most complicated jaw structure in the world. It is fascinating to see all the moving parts scrape together.
The three snails, too small to name, also scrape algae, and I can see them slowly remove algae with their radulas, their hard "tongues". Jonah of course just sits there, ocassionally allowing me to brush his tentacles, but mostly withdrawing at the slightest brush of water. The cucumber for the longest time only moved a centimeter every day, literally. More recently, while still at a slothful pace, he has explored the rest of the aquarium, but has yet to eat and excrete the sand. (Cucumbers find snail speed far too impetuous.)
But still too simple a story. I had to add sand to provide a suitable habitat for the cucumber before he was added. This necessitated moving the seastar and the snails out of the habitat. The worm remained, as it was buried, and a filter-feeder. (I tried to move the urchin. You try picking up an urchin.) The habitat was extremely cloudy for half the day. I then returned the snails and seastar, but it appeared that the seastar was too stressed by all the changes. Its arms curled up, and a day later it showed the tell-tale signs of death, as the arm tips turned white.
To rectify the situation, I bought some NanoReef, which puts just the right type of chemicals in the water. You have to add Part A, and five minutes later, Part B, to maintain alkalinity. Two days later the featherduster worm's tentacles began to curl like a fern's fronds. The next day the tentacles detached, and it died.
I bought a test kit, and discovered that the addition of Part B in the recommended amounts had caused the water to become far too alkaline, probably resulting in the death of the worm. The water remains too alkaline, despite the subsequent suspension of all NanoReef Part B.
A saltwater aquarium is hard to maintain, a small one even more so. I now have renewed respect for the amount of care needed at the Seattle Aquarium when I volunteered there. I'm learning as I go, but now, besides the tiny snails, am down to two organisms. I comfort myself that none of these creatures possess brains, and as they say, "No brain, no pain." But I fear that, based on the mortality rate, I am not ready for marriage.