Friday, August 22, 2008
Banggai cardinal fish, Pterapogon kauderni, look like jigsaw puzzle pieces that float around in the middle of the water. They have vertical black and white stripes down their bodies adorned with white speckles. Compared to the rest of their body, their eyes and mouth are enormous. They are a reef fish from Banggai Island, Indonesia and therefore, they are known as the Banggai cardinal fish. Banggai cardinals are a social fish, often found in large groups in their natural environment. We have a small school of them in the coral reef exhibit downstairs in the “Oceans on the Edge” gallery.
For a while, one of our male Banggai cardinals would not join the feeding frenzy during chow-time. After a while, this became a serious concern. When our aquarists investigated the matter, they discovered that the fasting Banggai cardinal had a mouth full of babies! Banggai cardinal fish are mouth brooders. That is to say, mommy Banggai cardinal lays her eggs inside daddy Banggai cardinal’s mouth. Daddy Banggai cardinal hatches the eggs in his mouth. He then raises his children in his mouth until they are old enough to make it on their own. The parenting period lasts a little more than 3 weeks. During this time, the daddy eats absolutely nothing!
I am happy to report that the daddy has finally spat out his children and he has resumed eating after a very long diet. Baby cardinals naturally seek shelter within the spines of sea urchins after their father cannot keep them anymore. The babies are currently housed in a nursery with a mock sea urchin made of PVC pipe and zip ties. They are fed a diet of enriched baby brine shrimp. Hopefully, they can go on exhibit soon.
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