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                Visitors to the Micro-Lobster exhibit at the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center are attracted to the larger display and experimental tanks. Larger tanks are much easier to maintain and rarely crash. There are two basic concepts  .  .  .  decorative or educational. "Showstopper Breeding Tanks are ideal for larger homes, reception rooms, and wherever an eye catching display is desired. The Captive Breeding Package is designed for those interested in education and research. The criteria:

        *      SIZE & PORTABILITY.  To move to and within classrooms a 2 1/2- gallon size is ideal and large enough for a long-term sustainable life. Most aquariums cannot be moved when filled with water so one piece acrylic tanks are preferable over cheaper glass tanks. We believe that a 5-gallon unit is suitable,  but larger units are less appropriate for opae'ula educational purposes.

        *      FEATURES.  An air-powered filtration system is preferred as impellers in water pumps suck in and chop up opae'ula. A built-in light unit and a plain background are desirable to easily observe activity in the unit. A timer will allow controlling the lighting on-off schedule. 

        *      BREEDING & BACTERIA HABITAT.  Opae'ula will not reproduce in barren tanks with smooth surfaces as they need dark crevices to breed. Breeding has been successful with loose rocks, but it is difficult to collect opae'ula that seek protection amongst the rocks. Opae'ula will evacuate a habitat if it is lifted free of the water several times and if the tank is otherwise empty, the population can be quickly netted.

        *      FOOD & LIGHT.  Reproduction is generally successful with proper feeding. Opae'ula are omnivorous scavengers and eat algae, decaying vegetation, insects, and even dead animals. In anchialine ponds they scrap and eat bacteria and algae. They are also filter-feeders.  Fuku-Bonsai recommends pure spirulina microalgae powder as it has an extremely high nutrient content, does not easily dissolve to pollute the water, and because the opae-ula love it! Reproduction increases when given 12 hours of light per day to simulate their normal summer breeding season.

        *      RESOURCE INFORMATION!  There is a very limited amount of information in popular literature and the most extensive amount of information currently is in Fuku-Bonsai's Micro-Lobster website.  Fuku-Bonsai is also developing a Captive Breeding Handbook, graphic color sheets and teaching aids, and a teacher's manual that includes curriculum materials.  There will also be posters, slide presentations, videos, CD's and/or DVD's! These will be made available at a reasonable cost and will be valuable for participating researchers.

    The Fuku-Bonsai Micro-Lobster Captive Breeding Package feature an All-Glass Aquarium acrylic 2.5 gallon bowfront tank with 15-watt light unit, timer, and air pump.  

     A background was installed on the back and bottom and besides making the activity in the tank easier to observe, it also hides the electrical cords, air tubes, and air pump behind the unit.  A bonsai inspired base add an attractive element and makes the unit reasonably portable to move to and within classrooms.

     The 1/2-gallon Breeding and Bacteria Habitat also functions as a biological filter to provide optimum water quality.

     The crucial component is high-velocity pumice ejecta that is filled with air spaces for ideal bacteria growth. If properly sized, they form breeding chambers throughout the habitat.  1/2" plastic mesh form a cylinder. 

      An air tube inserted in the slotted standpipe pulls water through the gravel and foam and bacteria convert ammonia waste to algae nutrients.  Bacteria is also a food.

      Two similar units show the effectiveness of the Breeding & Bacteria Habitat. As a general guide we stock our products with 50 opae'ula per gallon and so 125 were used in each of these two tanks.  

       Although the percentages vary, often 90% or more of the opae'ula are in the habitat. At other times, almost all are outside.  This is similar to what takes place in the anchialine ponds where there are sometimes opae'ula everywhere. At other times there are few if any.

      When we turn off the air and float spirulina microalgae on the surface, within a few minutes, the great majority are filter-feeding on the surface.  Those that were outside are a dark red. Those that came out of the habitat are clear or a light pink.  

      In the breeding of ornamental fish, frequent and maximum feeding results in large and frequent reproduction and this may also be true in the captive breeding of opae'ula.

      Both tanks have 125 opae'ula but there are no places for them to hide in this tank.  A sponge filter provides biological filtration for optimum water quality. But opae'ula will not breed in this tank setup without the habitat. They like to hide so a small plastic box keeps the sponge filter off the bottom of the tank.  
      At Fuku-Bonsai, the tanks holding opae'ula to be incorporated into our complete products containing both males and females have only sponge filters.  It is likely that in the tanks with Breeding and Bacteria Habitats, there is a higher percentage of females in the habitats. If only those outside of the habitats are netted and shipped,  there may be mostly males.
    The Breeding & Bacteria Habitat works the same way as this sponge filter which has a large bacteria colony. Opae'ula are drawn to the filter to eat the bacteria and when there is only a small sponge filter in a large opae'ula population, the entire sponge is covered totally red!  
     For larger 5-gallon units,  we provide about 250 opae'ula and send two of the same 1/2-gallon Breeding & Bacteria Habitats.  

       *      THESE LOVABLE CREATURES NEED ASSISTANCE TO SURVIVE AND REPRODUCE!  Over 95% of the anchialine ponds now have alien predator fish which force the opae'ula to retreat into the watertable under and around the ponds. While they are likely to survive, they will become inaccessible.  Fuku-Bonsai is the private industry leader in providing captive breeding information and in building a large scale captive breeding mass culture facility.  With the participation of schools and others, we hope to make them continually available as they are ideal for educational activities and as pets.

        *      LIMITED RESEARCH HISTORY & EDUCATION.  Opae'ula, the Red Hawaiian Anchialine Pond Shrimp was only identified as Halocaridina rubra by Dutch taxonomist Lipke Holthius in 1963. There are a limited number of published research papers and Fuku-Bonsai has participated in recent efforts.  Education is needed to make the public aware and we build consensus toward conservation and preservation of this unique resource.

        *      AN INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE IN NATIONWIDE CAPTIVE BREEDING RESEARCH!  Opae'ula are a unique endemic Hawaiian invertebrate that evolved in Hawaii's rare anchialine pond environments.  Their ability to live in both epigeal and hypogeal environments gave them extraordinary ability to adapt and quickly colonize unique habitats.  They have amongst the lowest need for light, food, or oxygen and can adapt from pure fresh water to water saltier that the ocean!  

        *       FUKU-BONSAI'S UNIFORM CAPTIVE BREEDING TRIALS.  Captive breeding done by individuals with different equipment, different concepts, and different strains result in general information which may or may not apply to all opae'ula. There is disagreement in the scientific community as to whether opae'ula is a single highly variable specie or whether there are sufficient differences to justify breaking them up into multiple species and/or varietal distinctions. A major factor will be if all possible gradations are discovered. 



     In Hawaii, there is continual evolution as plants and animals adapt to specific conditions. An excellent example is the plant known as Ohia-Lehua whose botanical name is Metrosideros polymorpha. Metrosideros is a family of plants that are primarily from the Australia region. 

      Plants near the ocean may have rounded shiny dark green leaves and may be shrubs. In higher elevations they may be small trees with oval shaped leaves that are shiny on top with hairy undersides. At Volcanoes National Park there may be tall forest giants on one side of Halemaumau Crater and low shrubs on the other side of the crater.  Often two or more types are growing right next to each other. While most have red flowers, there are varieties that have different shades of red, orange, and yellow flowers.  

                In scientific community there are two opposing philosophies that are known as "the lumpers" and "the splitters."  In the case of Metrosideros polymorpha, the lumpers have prevailed as "polymorpha" means "many forms." But it's too early to determine which camp will prevail when it comes to opae'ula. There are already efforts by the splitters who have given a different varietal name for one strain that is found only in a single anchialine pond (actually a collapsed lava tube with an extraordinarily high salinity)..  The lumpers point out that besides the "typical specific description" that was used to justify the different name, in that same area there have been found specimens that are gradations to the typical Halocaridina rubra.

                This is an area that the bonsai community has long discussed. Another Australian Casuarina grown in Hawaii and known as Ironwood. Taxonomists have determined that there are several different specific varieties.  However, even in the variety identified as Casuarina equistifolia, there are a huge range of plants with different needle growth, different upright or long weeping branches, smooth or extremely coarse bark, etc.  For a bonsai person, specific plant traits are extremely important. Having the ability to distinguish between variations, we very early noticed the variations between different strains of opae'ula.

                It is likely that this can and will be resolved by the scientific community utilizing DNA technology.  Until then,  our current strain of opae'ula that is sustainably harvested or captive bred from broodstock obtained from a single isolated pond complex will be designated as: Halocaridina rubra 'Micro-Lobster™' Fuku-Bonsai 2005. In the future this specific strain will have a complete DNA description and be able as certified specimens to participating researchers. 

                Fuku-Bonsai will provide a uniform Captive Breeding Package,  a uniform initial trial protocol for all participants, and the specific variety of opae'ula Halocaridina rubra 'Micro-Lobster™' Fuku-Bonsai 2005.  The results obtained by all participants can then be compared and will be made available to our participating researchers for analysis. The accumulation of data from a large number of participants will create and corroborate theories and practices. It will give students, teachers, hobbyists, customers and participating researchers the opportunity to participate in creating a large significant database on one specific strain of opae'ula. If done correctly, this data base will provide a common benchmark for additional research into all other opae'ula strains.

                CONCLUSION.  Thirty years ago, the Green Sea Turtle was similarly threatened with extinction when conservationists began efforts to save them.  First they obtained legislation making it illegal to catch and eat them.  Eventually, Hawaii residents put aside their cultural practices and adopted the Green Sea Turtle as a State pet or mascot. Education in schools spread the word.  

                At Sea Life Park on Oahu, Jerry Rostrada headed the first turtle hatch-release program under the scrutiny of the federal National Marine Fisheries Service.  Mauna Lani Bay Resort later also committed to raise them and established their well known turtle releases as part of their July 4th Independence Day activities. Other groups and individuals contributed in other ways.

                Now there's an abundance of Green Sea Turtles and this is recognized as a significant conservation success.  We are just beginning to educate and gather support for the preservation of opae'ula.  Hopefully it will not take thirty years, as there may not be many opae'ula available from the ponds by then!  You are invited to join this crusade! 

                Mahalo for your support!   ~~~David W. Fukumoto  (June 2005)
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© Fuku-Bonsai 2005          You are cordially invited to visit the home of the Micro-Lobsters at
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