I've finally managed to capture a half decent photo of Mr Fantastic the Tigertail cucumber. He's rarely visible during the day but after lights out he can often be found stretching out on to the sand to feed. I have tried on a few occasions to take a photo but he's amazingly sensitive to light, one brief flash from the camera and he's gone. This time I set the camera to the smallest aperture (f32), manually focused the lens (a bit tricky in the dark), readied the flash and crossed my fingers. Fortunately it didn't turn out too bad.
He's been with me for almost 6 months now, I assume he's finding enough food to eat because he's never strayed from the right-hand side of the tank and he's significantly bigger now. I couldn't tell you exactly how much bigger he is because he never shows his rear end. Whenever he pops out to feed he always has his bum anchored underneath the rocks for safety. This is totally fine by me as I don't want him climbing the glass and getting anywhere near the pumps.
Ming the Pom Pom crab was also out and about so I took the opportunity to snap a picture of him too. He's such a fascinating and cool looking crab.
For months during lockdown I didn't add any new livestock because trips to the LFS were out of the question plus I was happy to just let the tank mature, but when the pandemic showed no signs of ending I turned to online suppliers for potential new livestock acquisitions.
I have always had this crazy idea of keeping a sea cucumber but whenever I've considered it in the past I have reminded myself of the 'cuke nuke' horror stories and avoided them (when stressed a cucumber expels its Cuvierian tubules and/or holothurian toxin which can poison an aquarium in short order). I guess the state of the sand brought it to the forefront of my mind again as cucumbers are supposed to be the ultimate sand cleaners. I researched for the 'safest' species and came up with the rather attractive and really rather cool looking Tigertail cucumber (Holothuria hilla). From what I understand this species is the least likely to cause a tank wipeout. I don't know if it was lockdown induced cabin fever or a moment of wine fuelled temporary insanity because I found myself ordering a small Tigertail cucumber online.
When it arrived I checked it out quite thoroughly in the bag. It was approximately the size of a thick cut sausage and seemed to be in good health with no rips or tears in the body plus the bag water was nice and clear so it didn't look like it had expelled anything nasty during transit. After an extended drip acclimation period I (rather nervously) added it to the tank. It ended up upside down on the sand but was able to right itself which is a good sign. After that it slowly made its way into the rockwork, by the next day it had completely vanished and no amount of peeking in caves and under rocks could tip me off to its location. In the subsequent days I checked for the cucumber and/or any evidence of cucumber feeding (i.e. sand pellets) but I found nothing at all, not even a tiny peek of mottled brown spiny skin. I began to fear I'd not acclimated it correctly and it had passed on, at least the fish were still OK so that was something. Finally after almost 2 weeks I spotted a brief glimpse of Mr Fantastic, as the cucumber is now known, lurking in the Rainford's goby cave on the right-hand side of the tank. This was right next to where I'd introduced him so he'd not moved much at all in the since introduction. I kept checking every evening after lights out to see if he poked his head out from the rocks to feed but no glimpses at all. Either he was sickly or he was finding so much food inside that cave that he didn't need to move around. A month passed by and he finally appeared out of that cave for a whole day (in another cave to the right of the original) this time I could see him making little sand pellets. Yesss! After that he vanished again for another month before appearing very briefly under the rocks to the left of the first cave. Clearly he's just working his way around that small area. He could be starving for all I know but I'm assuming he's finding plenty of food to keep him going. My hope of him helping to improve the look of the sand has certainly been dashed for the time being. It's been almost 3 months and he's yet to poke his head out from under the rocks, lol.
I'm afraid I don't have any photos to show of Mr Fantastic with one exception and it's so bad that you can hardly tell it's really a cucumber at all. You'll just have to take my word for it.
Hi, my name is Lisa and I live in Derby, UK. I am a self-confessed reefaholic!