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FAQs about Aquatic Life Behavior

Related Articles: BehaviorCleaning Symbiosis Among Fishes, Biological Cleaners,

Related FAQs: ColorationCleaning Symbiosis Among Fishes, Biological Cleaners,

A male Cetoscarus bicolor getting the "once over" by a pair of Labroides dimidiatus at a cleaning station in the Red Sea.

Shy (Not Sly!) Fox...Foxface question Hello, { another '17' on the way ;-) } <Hello! Scott F. with you today!> I have had a Foxface for 2 weeks and he was great till yesterday... Every time yellow, active and with smile on his 'foxy' face... Since tomorrow he is sitting behind the rocks and from time to time (rarely) showing his nose. I don't know what's wrong... His stings are rather hidden {but when picking pellets, they are opened}, but he looks like 'zebra' {black & white}... Is stress cause that behaviour or my eyelash blenny which is swimming like crazy {REALLY active fish}??? It looks like foxy is quite scared but I don't know why... Is it normal that Foxface from time to time has that kind of behavior??? Thanks <Actually, yes.. In my experience and observations of others, these fishes are much like tangs...Some individuals are very, very "outgoing" and social, and others are amazingly shy. And, of course, it's certainly not an unusual occurrence for these guys to go through periods of time where they are shy and inhibited. I'd keep a close eye on the blenny to see if it is, indeed irritating the Foxface. If the fish is otherwise healthy, then I will venture to guess that in time, this guy will become much more sociable. Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Swimming Patterns Hello!<Hey!  Phil reporting for Saturday morning duty.>  I have yet another question for you guys.  In my 90g tank, my fish seem to be anti-social.  I have a purple tang, map angel, snowflake eel, lawnmower blenny, maroon clown, and an orchid dottyback,  all very small juveniles.  They don't really swim out in the open too much.  The tang is always out and about, but everything else likes to hide in the rockwork.  is it just a matter of time before they begin to come out more, or is there a fish I could safely add to my set up that would encourage them to be more social?<If I remember right, this tank is newly setup.  I would give it more time say another 2-4 weeks.  Do check to see that the Tang isn't picking on any other fish as this may be the root of the problem.>  thanks!!<No problem!  Phil>  Unruly Fish Hi guys! I have a question regarding the behavior of my salt water fish. They are picking up each other's bad habits. It started with the Clarkii digging in the sand with his tail around his anemone. He dug out a huge pit. Then he started digging under the live rock resulting in a large hollow cave under one of the larger base rocks. Then a damsel starting at the other end of the tank carrying sand in its mouth and spitting it in a corner. It too, dug out a large pit under a base rock. Now the Sailfin tang and even the scooter blennies are joining in. Talk about "monkey see, monkey do"! They go to quite a bit of trouble to make sure the piles of sand are far away from the entrances to their holes. There are caves and tunnels under all the rocks. I have already had one "rock slide" and had to rearrange rocks and shore others up. When I put the sand back in place, the fish just go right back to digging it out again. I've had the tank a year and a half. The fish have been together for several months now and there isn't much squabbling. They all had their hiding/sleeping places before the digging party began. What's up? Any way to get them to stop before everything topples over? I have several soft corals strategically placed and am dreading the day I find everything in a jumble and smashed or damaged. Any suggestions? Other than the above mentioned problem, everything is thriving. Thanks for your valued advice. <an inconvenience... but necessary only one time: remove all rocks and bury a piece of egg crate just below the surface (will not impede natural processes of diffusion through the substrate). You can just push it under an inch or so... then stack rocks back on top. Again, you'll only have to do it once.. it will stop the digging and dangerous rockslides.> Janice in Austin <best regards, Anthony>

Captive Fish Behavior Mr. Fenner, I am enjoying my second book of yours A Fishwatcher's Guide to the Saltwater Aquarium Fishes of the World. I have already read The Conscientious Marine Aquarist. <Ahh> I wrote to you several months back about an Emperor Angel I had that was deteriorating and two Hepatus tangs that went blind for seemingly no reason. The Emperor Angel and one of the Hepatus have died. The other Hepatus is still alive, though paper thin. It has a remarkable will to live. <Yes... this is life> Although I love the beauty of the Emperor Angel, based on your recommendations I replaced my Emperor Angel with a Maculosus Angel. The Maculosus has adapted quickly and is feeding well. I am writing to you about a strange relationship it has developed with a Maroon Clown. I noticed that the Maculosus Angel had what appeared to be bruises on it's left side. Upon further observance, I noticed that the Maculosus Angel would be approached by the Maroon Clown when the Angel entered the Maroon Clown's area of the tank (it is a 150 gallon tank). When approached, the Maculosus Angel stops and hovers while the Maroon Clown appears to "clean" the Angel. I am certain this is where the bruises came from. I have watched the Angel for several days now and the bruises have come and gone. Do you know what this is all about? <I suspect it is as you state... a relationship where the Angel is "cleaned" and the clown is "attacking"...> I don't recall reading that Maroon Clowns act as "cleaners". Is the Clown injuring the Angel? Aside from this the Angel seems to be acting normally.  <Obviously not "too much"> It eats very well although it tends to be shy which I understand is unusual for this fish. Thank you in advance for your input. Sincerely, Stephen W. DeFilippis <If the Angel is feeding, growing otherwise I would not be overly concerned in your circumstances... Bob Fenner>

RE: Daily Fish Email out WWM Cool fish. Hey Bob, are all possible colors humans can see found in some kind of fish or sea creature somewhere? <Yes, and many more> Or is there a certain color like chartreuse that is unseen because of some weird pigment topology? <The physical environment does of course determine the apparent coloration... some "color" is reflectance, diffraction, refraction... most all incandescence...> What about if we include flowers or other plants, do we get all colors then? <In these as well, not in addition> It seems to me that some of those black-light posters I used to stare at had some colors that were pretty out there. <Actually... it is ourselves, our senses that are really out there. Bob Fenner> Jeff

is this normal? (damsel cleaning behavior with a B/F) hello . ok i have a pearlscale butterfly that i purchased recently and introduced into my tank . the butterfly has addapted very well into the community. but alas has now contracted the dreaded ich or similar parasite . the tell tale white spots have started to appear . after initial discovery ( wich did not surprise me ) my girlfreind and i watched one of our three stipe damsels ( who never get along with anyone in the tank ) start to pick the white spots off the butterfly . it looked like the butterfly was asking the damsel to do it . <Likely so. Good observation> the butterfly would follow the damsel exposing its fins as wide as it could and the damsel would pick at it . i have searched everywhere for info on this and no one has ever heard of a three stripe damsel doing this . any info on this you could offer would help. thank you Jeffery Blevins <Please read through/for the cleaning symbiosis (will have to check, possibly re-key myself!) survey article on WWM, and the various FAQs files on Damsels... not an unusual behavior. Bob Fenner>

A request from your site's visitor Dear Mr. Fenner, I'm a management student in Bosphorous University, Istanbul, Turkey. I'm a member of our university's scuba diving club and an amateur diver. I visited your site and both the fish and the work you have succeeded are amazing. What's amazed me most is the relationship between Pomacanthus Paru and its clients. I see there is a kind of social life going down there. This has been a great wonder to me. I'm planning to prepare a presentation to my friends in the club. Would you kindly inform me with resources where I could find such symbiotic relationships? <Mmm, there are MANY... Do you have friends at university who are life science (biology, zoology) majors? Please have one of them show you how to conduct a computer search bibliography (as on BIOSIS or Zoological Record). Here is an article on how such searches are done: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/litsrchart.htm> I thought you could at least give the names of other such species. I'm ready to buy books, journals whatever. Which sites other than yours will be helpful? Are there other symbiotic relationships besides cleaning activities? <Again... a few types and variations in terminology, schemes for classifying them. In particular re fish behavior there is a new book of the same title by Ned DeLoach that you should be able to secure through the library or dealers (like Amazon.com) that is very worthwhile and has an extensive bibliography on the subject> Lots of Thanks and Have a nice Christmas sincerely yours, Safak Yildirim <Happy holidays, life to you my friend. Bob Fenner>

too much rock? I have a 65 gallon reef tank with only 4 fish--maroon clown with anemone, yellow watchman goby, african flameback angel, and a purple tang. The former 2 understandably do not swim around very much, but the latter 2 seem to hide all day. I see the fish only when I feed. I have A LOT of live rock in my tank though. Are they just indirectly hiding?  <Indirectly? All should come out to some extent... Is there much "activity" around the area, folks walking by during the day? Perhaps a very active "dither-fish" like a hardy Damselfish species would do well to make all more outgoing. Consider A four or three stripe or others: http://wetwebmedia.com/damsels.htm One that stays smallish> Or do they just need to be enticed out into the open by more social fish?  <Ah! There you go> The tank is fully stocked with corals and my cleaning regimen is very pristine. What should I do so I can see more of my fish? <Try a/the dither fish idea here. Bob Fenner>

Fish Behavior Hi Bob, Thanks for your advice regarding copper treatment and Ich. Much appreciated.  <Hope it helped> Several days ago I purchased a beautiful purple tang at the LFS (I just couldn't pass it up though I probably should have waited). Any ways I had observed it for about a week before purchasing it and it was eating well, and looked great. Once I got him into the tank he just started swimming back and forth from one end of the tank (75 gal) to the other non-stop. The small picasso trigger that I have in the tank just sits back and watches him as if to say "what is your problem". Nonetheless, the tangs antics are tiring both of us out. He also hasn't eaten yet even though I have offered a variety of live, frozen, and flake foods. It's been four days now and he hasn't stopped once. Is he just stressed out from the move? Do you think he'll ever relax? <Should yes... by now even... do try some dried algae on a feeding clip> Also, I was reading through some of the archived questions on your site and came across one persons letter describing his aquarium set-up. One of the items he had was bak-pak II protein skimmer with a biobale material. You told this person to change the biobale material to something else. I too have a bak-pak skimmer and was wondering what material I should use to replace the biobale?  <I would... this stuff tends to get clogged up and cause trouble> Also, the skimmer is rated up to 60 gal. The guy at the lfs said it would be ok on my 75. Is that true or was he just trying to get a sale knowing I couldn't afford a higher priced skimmer?? <Hmm, all depends on many factors... but if the system has been up and going for months, it likely will be fine for this larger volume of water> Thanks again for your time, Jeff <You're welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

question about fish life span Mr. Fenner, What is the average natural life span (without predation) in the wild for most aquarium fish species? <Most? Likely a few years, 2-3... but this is a very general statement... species specificity is needed here> What is the (estimated) maximum life span of those species?  <About the same, with the same stipulation/proviso> Are they very different between species/genus/family?  <Yes, very> If there is any data available, could you please point me to the sources? <There are articles on this topic... you can search the scientific literature? Otherwise, scan the websites of public aquariums... they frequently have this sort of info... As they keep good records of inception, health... And there are popular aquarium pieces on this subject. Look on the wetwebmedia.com site for this topic as well, using the Google search tool there. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Jason

fish gills I have noticed in pet stores that sometimes, a fish will open its gill flap and expose its gills. I have seen this in an annularis angel, a clown grouper and a maculosus angel. All of these fish seemed otherwise healthy and had been in the store for weeks. Is this a bad sign? What does it mean? >> >> I don't think it's a bad sign necessarily... who can say, maybe the fishes are "yawning"? They do this in the wild as well... As long as this behavior is not accompanied by fast, shallow, or permanently opened covers, it doesn't seem to portend anything important. Bob Fenner

Question: I wanted to ask you about a curious behavior exhibited by my picasso trigger. It's still a juvenile, about 3 inches long. In between his roaming and foraging, he goes through stretches where he continously rubs himself against rocks and ornaments. Yet, he does not appear ill--his appetite is characteristically voracious and his fins are clear, intact, and free of spots or discoloration. He has been doing this almost the whole time I have had him (about 3 months, now).

When I first noticed the behavior, i gave him a formalin bath, thinking he was harboring parasites. But, as I said, he doesn't appear sick. Is this of any significance, or is this just some idiosyncratic behavior on the part of the fish?

Bob's Answer: Hey Phil, good to hear from you as always. Yes, I think your evaluation is accurate. The "higher" Orders of living fishes do in my estimation exhibit quite a bit of idiosyncratic behavior. I do suspect that triggerfishes blowing, scraping, rubbing et al. activities have some sorts of adaptive significance... most likely having to do with food gathering (or maybe acting "crazy" scares off would-be predators!). Anyhow, I wouldn't fret, nor dip the specimen any more; it's probably fine.

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