- SETTING UP A
Showstopper Breeder Tanks are our finest products to date. Although they seem expensive, these are really our best value items as a huge amount of skill, time, and effort goes into each one. We believe the "maximum stocking density" or the "carrying capacity" of a tank is about 50 Micro-Lobsters per gallon. That means that at this stocking density, there will be a relatively low reproduction rate, just enough new opae'ula to replace those that die of old age. This is an ideal population for maximum interest and attractiveness. So a 2.5-gallon unit goes out with 125 Micro-Lobsters! Once breeding is in progress, as much as 75% of the Micro-Lobsters migrate to the breeding habitat that is designed into the landscaping. But the number visible is more than enough to create an interesting view of a Utopian world. Each Showstopper is different and represents our leading efforts and may include some new element. On May 4, 2006, I received the following email:
Hello David, I currently have a BT-2 tank and am interested in getting a 2.5 gallon Show Stopper and transferring my current population of ~25 to it. I am of course assuming the hardy little critters can be transferred and welcomed by the new colony. Perhaps the initial stock of the new tank will need to be reduced?. I plan on putting it in the same place, on the right of my sofa where I can sit and enjoy them :). I don't have any design preferences that I can think of.
It may interest you to know that I moved the old tank in the bottom of U-haul from Sacramento to Seattle, packed in a box and sheltered below furniture. The population was reduced somewhat but they seem to take travel well. They all acted like nothing happened after a few hours of being unpacked.
Please write back to let me know if transferring my colony is practical and about availability/pricing.
Best regards, R Dale Paris
Correspondence followed. I was already comfortable that Dale was an appropriate purchaser as he already had experience with a BT-2 Educational Breeder Tank. Dale's a casino dealer who lives in Everett, Washington. There was very little chance that he would overfeed and crash the unit. Currently we are running trials with the Showstoppers as part of a larger future project for a major public aquarium. For that and all other future units, we are accessing the feasibility of utilizing real plants (in addition to the small scale artificial foliage. I need long-term feedback on how the plants are working out. Dale was happy to join our Micro-Lobster Team and report back on a long-term basis.
The two plant finalists were: 1) Dwarf Hairgrass (believed to be Eleocharis minima 'viviparous'(spelling?)) which is a freshwater bog plant known to be partially salt tolerant. And 2) Hawaiian Anchialine Pond Grass (Ruppia maritima). Ruppia was first recommended to me by David Chai, the Natural Resources Manager for Hualalai Resort and one of the most knowledgeable individuals on opae'ula. It was seconded by Tom Iwai and Mike Yamamoto of the Division of Aquatic Resources of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. It was cleared for export as it is not considered to have invasive weed potential.
Michael does a great job of converting a standard bowfront to add a background and a decorative base. If it's necessary to move the unit, transfer about half of the water, move the unit, and pour the water back in. The greatest challenge is to create the aquascape and to take enough time to properly neutralize it. Fortunately, one of the ones that I had put together earlier was suitable and this cut one month from the needed time before shipping.
Although Micro-Lobsters are very adaptable, they are very sensitive to some materials that cause systems to crash. We do not yet fully understand this, but have developed treatments to neutralize all possible toxic elements including the landscape, breeding habitat and even the actual tank. In the weeks necessary to neutralize all items, our trials showed that Ruppia was superior to Eleocharis at our recommended salinity specific gravity of 1.005. Although Micro-Lobsters can survive fresher water, mosquitoes tend to breed below this salinity level. Dale agreed to help us run trials and on Monday, June 5, the unit was shipped. It arrived on schedule on June 7 and I received an email from Dale that all arrived well and a report will be coming. Twenty-four hours later it arrived. Here's Part I of Dale's report received on June 8, 2006:
June 7, 2006
Today I received my new Micro-Lobsters. Iíve had a BT-2 tank for almost a year now and am excited to get a showstopper.
The package arrived in good condition. While taking everything out of the box I remember reading that David "neutralized" the tanks before shipping. That obviously meant using water as I could see it, but every drop was contained.
I found instructions inside and had all my tools ready to go; 2 gallons of distilled water, air pump, kitchen tongs and a camera. A small pocket knife came in handy for unpacking. The tank modifications are very well done. Its hard to tell that the background isn't original. The valve on the back to control the air flow was a nice surprise. When I unwrapped the landscape pieces I was delighted. There are several caves and I could see that the second piece would make a fine mountain to the side. There was also a little chunk as well but I ended up not using it as it just didn't look right and strangely floated just enough not to stay at a proper angle. It must have taken a while to find these gems, they are beautiful. After not quite reading the instructions correctly, I started adding gravel after arranging the landscape pieces. The instructions said to add a gallon mixed brackish water first. It was just as well because I goofed again and had the landscape was too far forward to let the small gravel cover in front.
This was an easy fix with a clean plastic bag. I recommend if you are in doubt, start with just a tiny bit of small gravel in front first to avoid trouble. David also provided more than enough gravel. I did not use it all.
I got a glimpse of the micro-lobsters through the packing material. Yes! they are frisky! Casualties from shipping: zero. There's also a perfect molt casing.
Note: Dale's photo was clear but when reduced and installed at website standards, it was hard to see the molt casing. The photo was enlarged and molt casing was boxed. ~~~David
I then planted the pond grass. A bag holds the micro-lobsters, snails and plant inside a jar. The jar turns out to be very handy so the bag stays upright after opening. One of the micro-lobsters snuck in with a plant, ha ha. Now the tank is filled the rest of the way and its time to test the air pump. O no! there isn't any tubing with the air pump or tank so I went to the store.
After getting home, I tested the pump and set the valve as low as it could go and still make bubbles. There were no leaks so I unplugged the pump and floated the bag for a half hour.
It took a few tries to get all the lobsters out by refilling the bag. They are tiny after all. Amazing! its blizzard of activity there! They started swimming right away.
I noticed one of the plants got knocked loose so I replanted it. I should have gone a little deeper.
After a few hours most of the lobsters are swimming but a good clump formed on top of the second landscape piece. Now that everything is put together and the water has cleared up, I am very happy with the tank. It was worth every penny and more.
I plan on feeding first on Friday so the have a chance to settle down. Iíll write more then.
June 9, 2006
Today was the first feeding in the new tank. The micro-lobsters are pretty sedate right now. I wonder if they are hungry.
A big advantage with the bigger tank is that you can see the lobsters exploring under the gravel if you look in from the sides.
There is some breakage of the pond grass in the bottom of the tank. A few of the micro-lobsters are checking it out from time to time. I donít want to reach in the tank till the bacteria cultures have had a chance to establish themselves. The little breakage that is there seems to add to the overall view and if it adds variety to the diet that has got to be good. It will be interesting to see how the grass holds up in the long term. After stopping the air pump, I scoped out some of the spirulina to the end of the red mark. The micro-lobsters are definitely hungry after their trip. It only took a few seconds for them to start feeding. It looked like slightly more than half went at it. The rest must have been content with rock gleanings and pond grass. It only took about 20 minutes for them to eat it all. Next feeding Iíll mound the spirulina a little bit on the red mark. I saw more swimmers two hours after feeding than this morning, but none of the lap activity expected in the circular units. There are enough swimmers for a pleasant view though. It may take a while to find the proper food-energy/not overfed portion. I already know that micro-lobsters are much more forgiving than fish with just a little bit of care taken so this shouldnít be a problem. The snails have also gone to work already. Iíve counted four of them. They blend in with the gravel so well its hard to tell. My cat Sophia has been carefully observing her new housemates. I think she'll get used to them and unless something major happens Iíll make another progress report in a couple weeks.
Sending out the Showstopper was very satisfying because I was able to get a commitment for clear feedback and a photo report. Dale's photography was excellent and required no cropping. So I look forward to future updates that may or may not be added to this report. Mahalo Dale for a fine report and great photos!
In past Showstopper shipments, the landscape was attached to the bottom of the tank permanently, but for this one, the main unit, a complimentary section, and an odd piece was pre-neutralized and sent loose with a general design set-up recommendation. It gave Dale the final design decisions and "ownership." I think this worked out well and will incorporate a more variable concept in the future. Instead of the major aquascape being 90% assembled with one additional "10%" piece, I'm thinking of three movable pieces that could be 60%, 30%, and 10% so the owner can go with a suggested set-up but would have greater amount of alternatives. This would require modifying the baseplates.
Secondly, I like the idea of live plants and I'm looking forward to Dale's reports on how well the ruppia holds up. There aren't a whole lot of brackish water alternatives and there's increasing concern that invasive aquatic pest weeds not be distributed. So we're looking for a balance between a plant that is strong enough to adapt but not so strong that it will take over the unit.
We are increasingly shipping larger units without water and this is very cost-effective. Each gallon of water weighs about eight pounds and for this unit we were able to not ship two gallons and we saved not having to ship another 16 pounds. This is also great for shipping bulk orders and we can offer a significant discount because of the savings. This is possible because distilled water is sufficiently the same anywhere. If sent with water, packing would have been more difficult. Each gallon of distilled water is mixed with a pre-measured packet of Fuku-Bonsai's Brackish Water Concentrate that includes our proprietary elements. We now are getting 100% success routinely. These Showstopper tanks are a preview of larger units to come. We'll one-day be shipping 20-gallon units and by not shipping about 19 gallons of water, we'll be saving not having to ship about 152 pounds!
It generally takes two to three months to fill a Showstopper order if an aquascape is not available and already cured. It would take another month to neutralize before shipping. We still don't fully understand what specifically causes problems when we rush, but know that although our current procedures does not allow rush orders, our system works. Please contact me if you'd like to have a Showstopper designed to your criteria. Regards and aloha, ~~~David ( email@example.com )