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Dr. Wayne Nishijima I Apr 2003 72dpi.jpg (28645 bytes)         Some of the earlier documented trials of the Hawaiian Red Anchialine Pond Shrimp (Halocaridina rubra) were by Dr. Wayne Nishijima of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Cooperative Extension Service out of the Komohana Street Agricultural Complex in Hilo.

        In 1988, there was a significant controversy as the developer of the Hyatt Regency Waikoloa filled in the anchialine ponds to incorporate into the resort. To learn more, Dr. Nishijima collected a number of the creatures and found they required very little care.  The developer was required to make new lava ponds that the shrimp promptly and spontaneously colonized and the legal issues have still not been resolved.

Dr. Wayne Nishijima II Apr 2003 72dpi.jpg (30337 bytes)         At the time these photos were taken, the culture was 15 years old! This trial habitat was created from a wide-mouth gallon glass bottle with a clear over-turned dish. It includes beach rock, sand and water from the original collection site. A baby food jar holds a piece of coral and some black sand.

        The habitat was created in 1988 and has never ever been fed. No water was ever changed and the bottle has never been cleaned. There is light growth of green algae on the inside of the glass surface.

        The bottle is on the conference room table against the wall. Curtains are always drawn and no direct sunlight enters the room. Another bottle at Dr. Nishijima's home is also doing well. A third that he gave to Yuri Higa, who has since retired from Cooperative Extension, also has surviving shrimp.

        By closely examining the photo, a number of the shrimp can be seen. They are very tiny with adults estimated to be less than 1/4" or about the size of a normal 7-week old juvenile and less than half the size of the adults that are being fed at Fuku-Bonsai. The culture began with about 15 opae-ula originally.  They are reproducing with a current population estimated at between 40 to 50.

    (April 2003 photos by David W. Fukumoto at the Agricultural Complex, in Hilo, Hawaii)

            There were two types of early opae-ula theories. One claimed to be sealed ecosystems in which "only light enters" and some claim that it was invented by NASA or other space agency. The explanation is that the ammonia opae-ula waste is converted by bacteria into algae nutrients and carbon dioxide.  The algae uses the carbon dioxide and produces oxygen for the opae-ula. Both the bacteria and the algae are food for the opae-ula.  These systems seem to work an average of two years, although some have lasted longer.  It's said that the opae-ula do not reproduce because the system was designed to demonstrate ecosystems and not reproduction. 

                It is believed that the opae-ula die of suffocation (lack of oxygen) as most people do not give enough light to grow sufficient algae to produce enough oxygen because they don't want excess algae to prevent them from seeing the opae-ula.  Recipients of these glass ecosystems have found that the opae-ula live longer if an air hole is drilled into the glass container.  However,  this is contrary to the promoted concept of being a sealed ecosystem.  Air tight systems work for shorter periods and although they sound more scientific, their long term history can not compare to those that allow air to enter. 


                Dr. Nishijima's "modified eco-system" allows air to enter and a clear plastic plate over the top reduces evaporation. From time to time, he adds distilled water.  His unit has very high-success factors:

            1. It utilizes a large wide-mouth gallon glass bottle.  Larger containers tend to have a greater amount of buffering factors compared to very small units. 

            2. He uses a significant amount of sand and gravel taken directly from the anchialine ponds and this provides the needed bacteria and the breeding habitats needed for successful captive breeding.  Note that "live sand and live rock" can only be collected in small amounts FOR PERSONAL NON-COMMERCIAL USE ONLY! It is illegal to collect such "live sand and live rock" for products to be sold. It is illegal to use coral, beach sand or ocean "live rock" in products to be sold.  It is necessary to have a Commercial Aquaculture Facility License to create "live sand and live rock" and Fuku-Bonsai has such a license. 

           3.  He began his trial with 15 opae-ula in the gallon jar (filled about 3/4 full or 3 quarts).  Five opae-ula per quart of water is a relatively safe population density and may be appropriate for educational school projects. 

                Most of the opae-ula jars created in Hawaii follow these principles, but are illegally produced and sold by unlicensed crafters and sold at craft fairs. They are promoted as "the perfect pets that never need to be fed!"


                Each time the opae-ula molt, they step out of a larger shell and a new smaller shell hardens around them.  Shrinking opae-ula are the same as skinny people or animals whose gaunt appearance and ribs sticking out are clear signs of being malnourished! If children or animals were starved as badly as these opae-ula, the parents, owners, or zookeepers would very quickly be in jail!

                The low indoor light where opae-ula jars are kept do not support the growth of high-energy algae equal to the type of algae that grows in the full sun in the anchialine ponds. The algae that grows in low light just does not have the nutritional value even if the opae-ula ate enough to always be "full." They survive but their shrinking indicates that they are malnourished.

                Anyone observing opae-ula in their natural habitats knows that opae-ula are voracious eaters!   A healthy pond producing opae-ula has very little algae growth as the opae-ula is constant grazer that keeps the algae down.  A pond with a lot of algae is a pond that likely has exotic fish and threatened opae-ula! 

                Anchialine pond algae growing in full sun is believed to contains a significantly higher amount of nutritional value that the algae that grows on the inner walls of opae-ula jars that are kept in low indoor light. Fuku-Bonsai theorized that chill-dried spirulina provided the same or higher nutritional value of the full sun anchialine pond algae and it seems too!  


                When fed, our Micro-Lobsters are happy, healthy and active. They retain their full natural size and charming personalities. Air exchange and feeding are just two ways that our units differ! But there's more  .  .  .  a lot more!   

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