March 11, 2014
Aquarists for exhibits in the Northern Pacific gallery report that many babies have been born recently, and these juveniles are now on display.
Young tubesnout fish can be found inside the Bays and Sounds exhibit across from the Sea Otter Habitat. These fish are only an inch or two long, with thin bodies ending in the tube-shaped snout that gives them their name. The tubesnouts are able to breed after about one year, which means last year’s baby tubesnouts are now producing their own babies. Next to the pier pilings in the exhibit, male tubesnouts show off their white breeding “masks” and build wispy white nests in the kelp. After building his nest, the male tubesnout swims around the nest, flashing bright red pectoral fins to entice female tubesnouts to lay their eggs.
Breeding grunt sculpins prefer large, empty barnacles for their nests. In the Northern Pacific Jewels exhibits, female grunt sculpins and Pacific spiny lumpsuckers lay their eggs inside the giant barnacles on exhibit, where a male will fertilize the eggs and stay to guard the nesting site. Grunt sculpins are named for the grunting sounds they make and are small fish with orange fins and large round heads. Their heads and bodies resemble the barnacles, camouflaging the male grunt sculpin as he guards the eggs. Aquarist Cassie George watches the exhibits closely for a male guarding a clutch of eggs and carefully moves the sculpin—barnacle and all—to a special breeding and rearing area behind the scenes.
Baby spot prawns are on exhibit in the Northern Pacific gallery near the sea jellies. They were hatched and raised behind the scenes before being placed on display.
In the behind-the-scenes nursery area, George closely watches and records the growth of baby sailfin sculpins, tubesnouts, Pacific spiny lumpsuckers, kelp greenling, and spot prawns. She meticulously documents successful breeding of these species, after discovering recently that there are no documented protocols in the industry for breeding or raising many of them, most notably the grunt sculpin. Once they are large enough, these juveniles may be placed on exhibit. Currently, Aquarium visitors can find tubesnouts, Pacific spiny lumpsuckers, and spot prawns on exhibit in the Northern Pacific gallery.