Fuku-Bonsai's priority research goal to develop opae-ula mass cultural systems to prevent them from ever being classified as "endangered." This is significant as people cannot have endangered creatures as pets unless it was produced by captive breeding. It will assure a source if collecting is ever prohibited. We request assistance from everyone as we compile data.
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                Fuku-Bonsai has formed a Micro-Lobster Team that includes some of the most prominent aquaculture researchers, marine photographers, business associates, and Fuku-Bonsai customers with breeder tanks.  The team also includes advanced hobbyists who have both our breeder tanks and other opae-ula jars or aquariums.  Several have grown them longer than we have and through email correspondence,  they're sharing their knowledge.


                Some crustaceans including spiny lobsters and crabs have a huge number of eggs that are held in the swimmerets beneath the muscular tail.  Often the eggs are released to be part of the floating plankton that drift with the currents. These types of crustaceans can be greatly increased from just a few specimens and are the usual subjects of aquaculture reproduction efforts.  While they have a very large number of eggs,  in nature relatively few survive.  In contrast, opae-ula have relatively few eggs (10 to 20) but with a high hatch and survival rate. 

                Reproduction activities seem to be part of their hypogeal life spent in the dark lava crevices. To date, no "berried female" (a female with eggs) has ever been observed in the anchialine ponds.  The few that have been observed in aquariums have been where there are dark places to hide and this dictated the large loose pumice gravel in our breeder tanks. 

                Our primary reference is an article titled:  "Larval development of Halocaridina rubra Holthius (Decapoda, Atyidae)" by Carl L. Couret, Jr. and Diana C. L. Wong published in Crustaceana, International Journal of Crustacean Research, Volume 34, Part 3, May 1978.  Fuku-Bonsai has received permission to reproduce a few of the line drawings on this website.  Further information about the periodical is posted at:      ___________________________________________________

                Couret and Wong noted that on May 1972 one ovigerous female with 12 eggs attached was noticed and all eggs hatched. But larval stages were not documented.  A second berried female with 10 eggs was discovered in December 1974.  All eggs were shed without hatching.   A third ovigerous female was observed in February 1975 and placed in a separate quart jar. One larvae survived and was the basis of their article cited above. 

Mircro-Lobster eggs Bryan 4in 72dpi original.jpg (5275 bytes)          In December 2003,  Micro-Lobster Team member Bryan Yoshimura of Honolulu observed a berried female in his tank and was able to take this digital photograph. Toward the end of the month, he was able to net the female and transfer it to a separate tank with some of our bacteria innoculated loose rock.
Micro-Lobster EGGS 4in 72dpi enhanced.jpg (6684 bytes)          David Fukumoto computer enhanced the photo to show more details. The eggs seem to be held behind the large legs by the forward swimmerets.

                On January 4, 2004,  Bryan Yoshimura forwarded the following report:

                I did separate the female and put her in a separate unit and included some of the rocks from one of the units I purchased from you since it had the bacteria on them.  I believe I was able to finally do this on Monday, December 29.  At that time, it did seem that there were not as many eggs on her and when I transferred her it looked like two eggs fell off because there were two small items in the net and so I also put those two eggs in the unit with her.

                Then on Friday, 1/2/04, I noticed three very little opae-ula in the unit; one was floating around and the other two were attached to each other (I now believe these were the two eggs that fell off of her when I transferred her to the separate unit).  Although these two were attached to each other, they did move around but not as freely as the other one that wasn't attached.  The female had two more eggs on her, one of which it appeared she was trying to (for lack of a better description) kick off of her and it was actually moving while attached to her.  The other egg was fairly close to her body with no movement.  Because of what we saw, we concluded that it was a live birth and the eggs were not deposited on the lava rocks.

Micro-Lobster larvae 1.04.04 4x3 72dpi Bryan 2.jpg (9167 bytes)

M-L David Sugimoto with larvae 1.4.04.jpg (9212 bytes)

M-L Bryan adult+larvae 1.06.04 enhanced.jpg (12857 bytes)

       On Saturday, 1/3/04, there were two more little opae-ula floating in the unit for a total of 5.  Three of them were floating and moving about, the remaining two were still attached to each other.

       Today (Sunday, 1/4/04), the two that were stuck together were apart and we now have a total of 5 opae-ula all swimming/floating about in the unit.  They are very tiny and we tried to take some pictures but they did not come out very well. 

         A friend of mine, David Sugiyama, (I gave him one of the units I purchased from you) had a better camera so he came by this afternoon and took some shots.  He e-mailed one to me along with a video clip and I am attaching those for you.  They did not come out really clear because the opae-ula are all so tiny and they keep moving.  They are much more active today than yesterday.

                This is all very exciting for us.  We are still trying to recall when we first actually saw the female with the eggs.  We are thinking it was the beginning of December but am not exactly sure.


         Bryan and David has done a beautiful job and will try to take more photos and add to their report.

A SECOND BERRIED FEMALE!   On February 13, 2004, Bryan reported a second berried female in his tanks!  He wrote:

                We just noticed the eggs on this second female on Tuesday, 2/10/04 after we returned from a 5-day trip to Dallas.  On Tuesday, she only had three eggs on her, one of which she was trying to "kick" off.  There were four eggs that were already off of her on the ground (scattered in various places).  This female is different from our first berried female because most of the eggs are off of her and they are just laying on the ground. 

ML Bryan eggs IIb original 72dpi 4x3.jpg (29845 bytes)         Bryan has discovered an impressive way to take GREAT photos!  He slips the 5x Jeweler's Loupe over the lens of his digital camera! The photos are sharp and except for cropping, the photo is very usable.
M-L Bryan eggs IIb enchanced 72dpi 4x3.jpg (23870 bytes)        This photo was cropped and slightly computer enhanced to better show off some details.  It shows the female with two eggs still attached as she kicks off a third egg. 
ML Bryan eggs II enhanced 72dpi 4x3 #1.jpg (26005 bytes)         A second cropped and enhanced photo.  Bryan's email continues below. ~~~David

                There are about 12 other opae-ula in the unit and they move the eggs around which makes it quite difficult to see and monitor the locations of the eggs.  Right now, she only has one egg on her.  This unit is a small unit which also contains a snail, but because the opening to the unit is rather small I am unable to capture her to isolate her and the eggs.  I am contemplating removing the snail since I don't know if the snail will eat the eggs.

                Our first berried female and her five offspring are doing fine although it's difficult to see if there really are five little ones since they move around so much now and hide in the rocks.  Most of them are almost 3/16" and they look and act like the adults in the way they swim, land on the rocks and eat the Spirulina upside down from the top surface.  I think we've only seen all five out and about once since they progressed out of the "floating" stage.


                Needless to say,  Bryan is making some exciting observations!  I will be visiting him between February 25 to 28 when I need to be in Honolulu.  On Saturday, February 28, 2004 beginning at 10AM and again at 1PM,  I will be making an introductory presentation at our Oahu lead retailer VUE HAWAII in Kahala Mall. 

                VUE HAWAII will make available our Micro-Lobster Premium Food,  Micro-Lobster Handbooks,   and 5X Jeweler's Loupes even to those who have opae-ula jars produced by others. We want these creatures to be treasured, treated well, and to thrive.

                We begin our publicity and promotion with mixed feelings.  Will the publicity put greater pressure on the available natural stocks?  Or will it develop stronger more responsible conservation practices?  Hopefully,  the publicity will create a ground swell that will deter or make unpopular the feeding of opae-ula as "live food" to marine fish and sea horses.  We believe that there is a sustainable alternative in hatching, maturing, and feeding adult Brine Shrimp for this purpose.

                This report will continue to be updated.  ~~~David


Micro-Lobster Crustaceana larvae sketch.jpg (13714 bytes)            Eggs are about 1 millimeter in diameter and a brooding period of about 38 days are required for free-swimming larvae to hatch. Initially they are sustained by a rich yolk supply. 

          The sketch at left shows two views of the first zoea stage. In this stage they are about 2.6 mm or between 1/16" to 1/8" long.  Every 4 to 5 days, it molts and progresses to the next larvae stage with continual development of the appendages.

Micro-Lobster Crustaceana pre-juvenile sketch.jpg (18343 bytes)           After about 17 days, the larvae enters the "megalopal stage" where development and elongation of appendages continue.  The size remains almost the same.  This stage lasts for about 10-11 days in which it continues to be supported by the yolk  and no feeding behavior was noticed.

          Over the next two weeks or so, it transforms into a "juvenile stage" in which it increasingly takes on the appearance of a miniature adult. It begins to feed and increases in length.

(Note:  Bryan's first batch are now at this
juvenile stage measuring about 3/16" long.)

                At Fuku-Bonsai, in July-August of 2003,  I began noticing quite a few molt shells,   and shortly after that a larger tank began to seem empty. I thought the system was crashing (opae-ula were dying).  But unlike other crashes where all died,  there were still some living.  A few weeks later I started seeing tiny 1/8" long juveniles. These grew relatively quickly and in a few months were close to adult size.    Somehow I did not notice any berried females or any free-swimming larvae. Thus began my research into reproduction.  There are few opae-ula reference materials.  Another is"  "Feeding, reproduction, and sense organs of the Hawaiian anchialine pond shrimp Halocaridina rubra (Atyidae)." Pacific Science 47(4); 338-355 by Julie H. Bailey-Brock and Richard E. Brock.

                Fuku-Bonsai has achieved small scale captive breeding and is expanding research to create a mass culture system.  Such a system may not normally be economically feasible if the creatures are considered commodities as it is not likely that exponential reproduction is possible.  But this may one day become the only source of this increasingly threatened specie and all efforts will assure that they will never be endangered.   Everyone is invited to participate and assist in this research project by sharing your observations and theories!


              We've made major progress due to the resource assistance of especially the following.  Although the description cites their primary area of contribution, each has extensive knowledge that has helped in other areas.  Fuku-Bonsai's major food recommendation breakthrough came as a result of extensive interviews with each as we developed extensive exacting criteria as we searched for the ideal food that would not pollute the water, preserve the easy-care factor, but also create the optimum small scale environment.  Perhaps their greatest contribution was to point out the special characteristics of the amazing opae-ula, and this converted me from a person with an initial commodity orientation to becoming a passionate champion of an endemic Hawaiian creature as an ideal international pet and teaching tool!

        *     Richard Brock, Ph.D, Hawaii Sea Grant, UH-Manoa, Honolulu.   Richard is the most knowledgeable about opae-ula and anchialine ponds, is the manager of the Waikoloa Anchialine Pond Preservation Area,  the leader of many of the anchialine pond surveys throughout Hawaii, and the most published author on the subject. More than anyone else, he is familiar with the decline of the ponds.

          *    Thomas Iwai Jr.,  Anuenue Fisheries Research Center, Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources, Sand Island, Honolulu.  Thomas has provided outstanding recommendations to structure the planning of several parts as well as the overall Micro-Lobster research project. His extensive practical and pragmatic knowledge helps interpret and form our research conclusions.

          *    Alton Miyasaka, Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources, Honolulu.  Alton knows the regulations and how they apply.  He also has strong knowledge of historical and cultural practices, provides background information, and is an effective advocate of the need to conserve and protect. With this information, we support and have obtained all licenses and permits.

          *    Wayne Nishijima, Ph.D, UH-Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, Hawaii county administrator, Hilo.  Although Wayne is a plant person,  he has maintained opae-ula units since 1988 and has provided the initial basic understanding that guided our project.  He claims there's a lot that he doesn't know,   but his reasoning is as helpful in aquaculture as in plant nursery recommendations.  

          *    James Szyper, Ph.D, Sea Grant Extension, Cooperative Extension, UH-Manoa,  Hilo.  Jim has a lot of hands-on contact as he assists the various parts of Hawaii's rapidly growing aquaculture industry which has a significant amount of proprietary information.  He very quickly spot flaws in reasoning. His stiff "devil's advocate" questions required rethinking many decisions and contributed to our progress. 

          *    Ed Uyeda and Melvin Iriguchi, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS), Hilo Airport.   As part of nursery operations, we utilize lava and international export requires federal oversight.  When it was determined that lava (without plants) came under federal jurisdiction,  Ed and Melvin assisted in putting together the Limited Media Permit program to make the Micro-Lobster project possible.

          *    Lyle Wong, PhD., Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Honolulu.  Hawaiian export aquaculture and agriculture requirements are continually being amended.  Lyle has been in the forefront of clearing regulations to allow the various Hawaiian agricultural commodities to be exported.  He assisted in clearing the Micro-Lobster first to be shipped inter-island, to the rest of the US, Japan, and Canada.

                Although each of the above resource individuals have some type of governmental responsibility to educate and assist,  I acknowledge and thank them for their help, goodwill, and for advocating a conservation ethic.  Each of these busy people took the time to point me in the right direction or to other individuals who could assist. 

                The Fuku-Bonsai Micro-Lobster team also includes business associates, suppliers, advanced hobbyists, and the growing number of customers who want to keep learning and participate in this research project.  Because it is not possible to obtain exponential reproduction,  it is very unlikely that opae-ula can be produced cheaply.   It is not likely that it can be a viable commodity.  But it is very viable as part of Fuku-Bonsai's value added orientation and as a teaching tool in local, national and international educational institutions.  I especially acknowledge and thank opae-ula hobbyist Bryan Yoshimura of Honolulu who has shared his observations and photos.   With the continuing assistance of others,  I am very confident that we will understand the criteria for reproduction and will be able to establish a mass culture system as a source of our future opae-ula.

                In the last thirty years,  opae-ula has entered the public awareness and their natural population was been decimated due primarily to loss of habitat.  Fuku-Bonsai and others strongly believe that the first step towards preventing them from becoming endangered creatures is to educate the general public about their unique characteristics and to build a "constituency" of those who champion and want to see their survival assured. There is a need to remove the exotic predators and restore the ponds.   Future articles in this website will report on the efforts of school and community groups.

                By publicizing and promoting opae-ula, we face the danger of creating excessive demand.  But we may also discourage and eventually restrict collecting large quantities of natural stocks from the wild to be sold as cheap "live food" for marine fish and sea horses.  While currently legal with commercial licenses, it's questionable whether diminishing natural resources should be utilized in this manner.

                Fuku-Bonsai associates report that ponds continue to produce steadily if collecting is done conservatively.  We theorize that the opae-ula population is determined by the amount of food available.  When the population is reduced, more food becomes available and it is believed that the population bounces back. So it's in our best interest to monitor the ponds carefully and to assure that exotic predators are not introduced into the ponds.  For this reason, there is almost total agreement that the locations of the ponds not be publicized and that all possible conservation and preservation measures be employed.

                Fuku-Bonsai also very strongly believes that it is necessary to also research reproduction and that one day, all commercially sold opae-ula will be from mass culture systems and captive breeding.  Because of this belief,  we publicize our research efforts.   We require all Fuku-Bonsai Micro-Lobster Team members to have one of our units to be able to compare against a common standard. I invite all interested parties to participate.  Please contact me for more information if you are interested. 

            ~~~David W. Fukumoto   (    February 16, 2004

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