If you’ve seen my gravatar image, or read my Twitter bio, you may have been curious what I meant by keeping exotic shrimp. So this post is going to celebrate our slightly bizarre obsession with mantis shrimp.
What is a mantis shrimp? I have a B.S. in Zoology, so I’ve known about them since I took Invertebrate Zoology back in the day, and they’ve always interested me. In the shrimp world, they are an apex predator. In the reef-keeping world, they are considered a pest. Why? Because they kill everything else in the tank. With the exception of corals, these little badasses can and do kill even large fish, crabs, snails, other species of shrimp… pretty much anything that moves. You see the appendages with the orange spots on Rosie, our newest addition… those are her raptorial appendages. She uses these appendages to thump her prey to death. “Thump” is a bit of an understatement. Known as Thumb-splitters, these little guys can do real damage with the raptorial appendages. Larger species have been known to crack aquarium glass with a thump. Even the smaller species release the appendage with speed equivalent to a gunshot, creating an actual cavitation bubble in the water. A cavitation bubble forms when a liquid (aquarium water) is subjected to such a massive or rapid change in pressure, that a void or cavity is formed… when the void implodes a split-second later, it creates a shock-wave at the site of the bubble. This means that, even if the mantis misses the mark, the cavitation bubble often stuns or kills the prey. The cavitation bubble, as it collapses, also produces a focalized spike in temperature and a tiny burst of light. Pretty cool critter, right?
My gravatar image is of one of our first mantis shrimps, years ago, named Elvira. She was highly interactive and curious. Hubby was the first one to really want to keep a mantis- they must have their own aquarium as they aren’t really community players. He was mainly interested in the critters because he’s an engineer, and he loves the mechanics of that raptorial appendage! So he chose Elvira, and we enjoyed her for many years. She pretty much sold me on the critters, as well. She would always come out of her den and come over to interact if you peeked in at her or tapped the glass, and she turned out to be pretty trustworthy. We could clean the aquarium and move rockwork and she wouldn’t try to thump us.
We’ve kept at least one mantis for the past 8 years. After Elvira finally passed on due to old age, we got a new mantis, and by that time we had a kid, who dubbed the new mantis “Mommy”- I felt so special, having the mantis named after me- but the kids pronounce it “Mommay”. Mommay is also an interactive one, although she’s not nearly as pretty as Elvira was. She’s just a dark forest green, and I don’t have a good pic of her. Then about 6 months ago, a very small, lime green mantis showed up (as a pest, a hitchhiker hiding in the live-rock) at the local aquarium store, and I was interested in her because she seemed to have a neurological problem. She couldn’t swim straight and seemed really uncoordinated. So we brought her home to see if we could help her out, and the kids dubbed her “Green Mommay”. I don’t know if she was injured being captured, or suffered from malnutrition, but now our Rescue Shrimp is swimming straight and thumping away on whatever is offered to her, though Green Mommay mostly hides and is not as interesting to interact with as Mommay and Rosay.
When I was at the Ladies Retreat, Hubby decided to pull out an out-of-use aquarium and set it up for a new mantis they’d just gotten in at the fish store. I came home to quite the surprise… so currently we have 3 mantis shrimp, each in separate tanks, as well as 2 larger community reef aquaria. This latest mantis, Rosie, is shown in the pic above. Our kids decided to name her Rosay, the all-new-Mommay, because she’s more orange-red in color, I guess. Rosay, as it turns out, is highly interactive and aggressive- she will come out and attack if you try to move her rock or clean the inside of the glass. We have to use a magnet-operated or long-handled class cleaner, with this one. I have a video from last night where she comes over to the glass and takes a swing at the cell phone camera when I was trying to video her feeding time! I just love this one. In love with a mantis- how weird! But Rosay is not only beautiful to look at… the element of danger when she makes a run at me, is rather exciting! Lol
P.S. Any Oatmeal fans? The Oatmeal is a fan of The Mantis Shrimp, too!