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Field Herping: Western Redback Salamander

April 14, 2015

I had the fortune recently to go out and do a little bit of field herping. Originally, it was supposed to be strictly a plant collecting/identifying trip. As luck would have it, I happened to come across quite a few salamanders while I was sloshing through the rain and wet plants.

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Western Redback Salamander (Plethodon vehiculum)

The Western Redback Salamander is common throughout western Washington state, and the wet spring weather we’ve been having has apparently been bringing them out of hiding. They are very site specific, and have home ranges that are very small. They usually stay with a 3 square meter area! I guess a 3 inch lungless salamander doesn’t do a lot of exploring. The females deposit their eggs around this time of year, and young salamanders appear in the fall.

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The area that these redbacks were hanging out was a very wet hillside, basically a talus slope covered in a thick layer of moss. There was enough water seeping out of the rocks to form a nice sized creek at the base of the slope. As soon as I started poking through the first few sword ferns, I found the first redback. Another redback was found in a footprint that I had just made! They must have been pretty active!

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It looks like there are 15 costal grooves. What do you think?

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You can see the silver flecks of color in this redback's belly. Very faint yellow spots are also visible if you look carefully.

You can’t help but smile when you see these neat little salamanders! They are so docile, and they always look like they are smiling.

Hygrophila corymbosa

March 8, 2015

Once every eternity, an aquarium plant blooms for me.  For the past few weeks, the Hygrophila corymbosa has been putting on a show for everyone who glances at the shrimp tank.  At every branch and leaf node, a handful of little purple flowers peeks out at you.  They don’t have any smell, and they last for only a few days each.  But they just keep coming!

Little purple shrimp-poo flowers. Neat, huh?

I don’t fertilize the shrimp tank, and rarely change the water.  I guess it gets all it needs for this display from the shrimp poo that they grow in.  I don’t think there are any bugs to pollinate the flowers, so I probably won’t get any seeds.

Sakura Cherry Shrimp

February 7, 2015

I have a 20 gallon aquarium that I’ve been starting a colony of Sakura Cherry Shrimp in for the past few months.  I started out with a meager 12 shrimps, mostly juveniles.  I have been feeding them Hikari shrimp chow nearly exclusively, and they have been growing and reproducing nicely.

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I’m not exactly sure how many I have now, but after dropping some pellets in the tank a few minutes ago, I can count 30 shrimp gathered around the pellets.  Not bad, right?

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The 40 gallon jungle

December 1, 2014

Just a quick shot today of the 40 gallon breeder tank.

Current inhabitants are Tiger Endlers, White Cloud Mountain Minnows, Dwarf Rasboras, Ember Tetras, a solitary Siamese Algae Eater and a Scarlet Badis.

Plants include Heteranthera zosterifolia, Cryptocoryne parva, Ranalisma rostrata, Marsilea quadrifolia, Lilaeopsis brasiliensis, Rotala nanjenshan, Ludwigia ‘Dark Red’, Microsorum pteropus, Riccia fluitans, Bacopa australis, Cyperus helferi and very possibly a few other plants that I don’t know about.

Poison Dart Frog: The New River

October 29, 2014

One of the more stunning frogs I’ve kept is the Dendrobates tinctorius. As a species, it is extremely variable in what it looks like depending on where it is found. One of my favorite variations of the D tinctorius is the “New River”. Found along the New River in Surinam and northern Brazil (who would have guessed that, given the name?) it is not necessarily an easy frog to find in the US. When you see it in person, you’ll see why I say that pictures don’t do it justice.

“New River” is a very large dart frog, in fact one of the largest besides Phyllobates terribilis, the famed Golden Poison Frog. The most obvious difference is color though!  The NR is light blue to turquoise on the top of the head and back, with large irregular black spots from the belly up to the head.  The blue has a very iridescent quality to it that gets washed out with a camera flash.

The legs, underbelly and chin are dark blue with small black spots.

Like most other dart frogs, the NR prefers small, if not tiny, prey.  In their native habitat, they eat anything that happens to wander in front of them; ants, beetles, flies, spiders, isopods and the like.  While it would be great if I could offer this sort of variety to the frogs in my care, I feed them fruit flies, bean beetles, springtails and occasionally very small woodlice.  Despite their large size, NRs tend to be picky when it comes to food size.  The smaller the better.


You can bet that there are a lot of little springtails and woodlice living in that leaf litter.  More resident fauna in your vivarium equates to less feeding and work by you!

If you get the chance to check out a New River tinctorius, I highly recommend the opportunity.  They are diurnal (active during the day), bold and have plenty of personality as far as frogs go.  Mine recognize that when I come up to the tank they are likely going to be given something to eat, and do their best to crawl out of the vivarium and into my hand!

Common Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher) fry

October 13, 2014

I took a look in the krib tank tonight, and was treated to a surprise. A group of 20 to 25 krib fry was being shuttled around the aquarium! I had noticed that the colors of the adults (the final pair from these juveniles) had become somewhat brighter and more pronounced for the past few weeks. I hadn’t seen any eggs on any of the branches in the aquarium though, and so I assumed they just hadn’t spawned yet. I guess they were a bit sneakier than I thought…

This is the pair’s first spawn. The male typically shows heavy barring on his sides and head, with a slight bit of a pink tinge on his belly. His dorsal fin (the one on top) turns to a bright fiery red/yellow towards the back, along with his caudal fin (tailfin) margins. The female has a lot more yellow on her sides and fins, with a lot of dark pink on her belly and pectoral area.

You’ll have to excuse the amount of algae in that aquarium right now. We all deal with it from time to time… in fact I think the fry enjoy eating it and the micro-bugs that inhabit it.

What good is a post without a picture or a video? Here you go.

New Food – Hikari Shrimp Cuisine

February 24, 2014

I decided to try out a new food item for the Red Cherry shrimp. As usual, I’m sticking with Hikari brand. They haven’t let me down yet, and after sprinkling a few tiny pellets in the tank, the shrimp seem to respond well to it.

The small size of the pellet makes it easy to feed just a little bit, and is easier than breaking down the larger pellets and wafers meant for fish.  The pellets also sink quickly, so it doesn’t waste time in the water column where the shrimp can only smell it and go crazy waiting for it.

We’ll see how the shrimp do after some time on this diet.  I’m sure they’ll be okay, but I wonder if I’ll be able to tell a difference in how they look and act.  Currently, I have the cherries on a diet of Hikari Crab Cuisine and Hikari Algae Wafers.  The large number of baby shrimp attests to the quality of their current diet, hopefully it’ll increase with this new change.

The cherry shrimp are housed in a 20 gallon high aquarium, with a large chunk of driftwood that colors the water pretty heavily.  The amount of plants in the tank has been steadily growing, and is about to the level where I can remove the wood and still have enough cover for the shrimp.  Plant in this tank include Hydrocotyle leucocephala (Brazilian Pennywort), Naja Grass or Guppy Grass, java moss, flame moss, and Hygrophila corymbosa ‘stricta’.  As far as shrimp numbers, I estimate about 50 adults and about 100 juveniles.

Happy shrimping!

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