To my regret I did not manage to take a look at the seaweeds at Castle Beach in September (it was my aim to go in at least once every month). Last Friday however, the sun was shining, the wind was gone and the tide was low (and I was able to escape work) so I at least could make October. Not only was the viz excellent, to my surprise, the seaweeds looked very healthy. It seems that there is a second, autumn seaweed bloom that I was not aware of. Some of the bleached corraline algae have regained their pink colour, the Harpoon weed Asparagopsis armata increased in abundance and I saw species such as Red grape weed Gastroclonium ovatum growing again. The Bushy rainbow wrack has partly died back, forming dense, dark-brown mats (fourth photo) but also show fresh growth. This species is covered in many epiphytes such as Brown fan weed Dictyota dichotoma, and remnants of Bull huss mermaid’s purses still cling on. Interestingly, Wireweed Sargassum muticum has almost completely disappeared. It is tricky photographing rock pool seaweeds. One main issue is to not disturb any sediment, especially as I keep it *very* shallow, sometimes lying on my stomach (I definitely do not need fins). The other main issue with using a (wide angle) wetlens is that there are three glass surfaces in front of the lens collecting bubbles and so need regular wiping. Light is also a challenge: photographing against the sun causes glare, but having the sun in your back results in casting shadows over your subject. I continuously fiddle with the exposure correction, but it remains difficult with the white sand and pebbles around the seaweeds. Below, some healthy looking Solier’s string weed Soliera chordalis, two photos of an ‘unknown’, Norwegian fan weed Gymnogrongus crenulatus, Under-tongue weed Hypoglossum hypoglossoides, seaweeds starting to grow on a pebble, and a rock covered in a variety of seaweeds.
Above an illustration of the decline of seaweeds: Juicy whorl weed Chylocladia verticillata all white and fuzzy (see for a more healthy looking plant this post from 2.5 months ago) on a bed of the common and pretty Discoid fork weed Polyides rotundus. There seem to be around 25 or so (larger) species that are common in these pools. Many of them can be seen in the two photos below (including a stray Bladder wrack, a species that dominates the shore just a meter higher): Below, a whole bunch of individual species. First, Sea beech Delesseria sanguinea, which must have washed up from under the kelp beds (too bad I did not get the entire plant in frame…). Second, a photo of Ulva with Chipolata weed Scytosiphon lomentaria. Third, the brown Divided net weed Dictyota dichotoma. Fourth, Slender wart weed Gracilaria gracilis. Fifth, False eyelash weed Calliblepharis jubata; this plant has grown quite large and has turned from dark red/brown to a much lighter brown. Sixth, the Falkenbergia stage of Harpoon weed Asparagopsis armata (see the third photo) on the right. Seventh, Red grape weed Gastroclonium ovatum. Finally, two photos of my favourite species the blue Bushy rainbow wrack Cystoseira tamariscifolia.
As I noticed that the rock pools have started to look really pretty, I have gone out snorkelling four times the last week to photograph seaweeds. Bitterly cold (around 10°C) but worth it! It is my aim to post photo’s taken at the same spot every month this year, let’s see. The first three days the tide was very low, making it more of a lying on the sand rather than actual snorkelling. The sun was out and my main challenge was to get to grips with overexposure, checking histograms and decreasing image brightness. The other main challenge is to not stir the sand up and create ‘marine snow’. It makes a world of difference to actually stick your head underwater and look through the viewfinder instead of lazily only submerging the camera. For now, I have only cropped and adjusted contrast of jpegs using Picasa, but I have also shot in raw format and hope to get more out of the shots in the near future. With help from the excellent Seasearch Guide to Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland and the Seaweeds of the NE Atlantic facebook page some of the species could be identified. Above, Osmundea osmunda (probably), which has a very nice blueish (‘glaucus’) tinge (I need to take some close-ups of that next time). In the following photo, a whole tangle of species, mainly Hairy sand weed Cladostephus spongiosus, with Osmundea, Asparagopsis, Bonnemaisonia and Leathesia. Next, another picture of a whole variety of species, I would like to find out what the red epiphyte is. Below some photos of individual species of red seaweeds (mostly not great but it gives an idea of the diversity). First, Leafy rose weed Rhodophyllis divaricata, next Falkenbergia (which is actually not a species but a distinct phase in the life cycle of Harpoonweed Asparagopsis Armata), Berry wart cress Sphaerococcus coronopifolius, Irish moss Chondrus crispus, Beautiful fan weed Callophyllis laciniata, Under tongue weed Hypoglossum hypoglossoides, Chondrus with Falkenbergia and Hypoglossum and Plocamium on top and a small unknown species. You can see that most photos suffer from overexposure (and notice my crude upped contrasts). The last time I went snorkelling, it was overcast and the tide was higher. I tried a bunch of shots a greater distance away to capture more of an overall impression, but with more water between the subject and the lens the shots become ‘milky’. The next shot of a whole variety of red, green and brown species (with Clawed fork weed Furcellaria lumbricalis in the middle) could have been really nice with clearer water, better framing and correct exposure! The next shot shows Cladostephus and Thong weed Himanthalia elongata on top of a rock covered with Red grape weed Gastroclonium ovatum (also on the last photo).
Another couple of sessions trying to take seaweed photo’s. A couple of seaweed species are really thriving at the moment, one is False eyelash weed Calliblepharis jubata in the middle of the picture above. In the picture below a couple of other species, Irish moss Chondrus crispus in the foreground, Discoid forkweed Polyides rotundus on the left, Black scourweed Ahnfeltia plicata on the right, with some Red grape weed Gastroclonium ovatum at the top. Below that two ‘miscellanious’ pictures and after that some photos of individual species: the photo that turned out best was of Bonnemaison’s hook weed Bonnemaisonia hamifera, an invasive species from the Pacific. After that Juicy whorl weed Chylocladia verticilliata, a Plocamium species and my favourite, the Bushy rainbow wrack Cystoseira tamariscifolia.
Last weekend I went down to Gylly Beach in Falmouth for a bit of rock pooling. However, the tide was not very low (especially with the inshore wind) and the weather was crap. Moreover, I could not find anything that I had not seen many times before; although rock pool life is very biodiverse, there have started to be dimishing returns when looking for non-microscopic organisms. Clambering over yet another rock, I decided to stop and play around with my Canon Powershot instead. I focused on a tiny pool (around two by four feet) completely covered in corraline algae. It does not look like much but taking the time for a carefully look was really rewarding. It is tricky to take photographs without being able to see the viewfinder though. My strategy has been to just take loads of pictures and hope some of them work out. The miniature underwater landscape was really beautiful. Pink plates Mesophyllum lichenoides made up the largest proportion of corraline algae (some bearing ‘reproductive conceptacles’). Another species is Corallina officinalis or Common coral weed (third photo). I had some Corallina growing in my aquarium at some point, but it grew very slowly and has now disappeared. Being able to create the right conditions for coralline algae to thrive in a coldwater aquarium would be fantastic, but I have not seen any evidence of anyone being able to cover their aquarium in them yet. (I have tried ‘planting’ Corallina and although it looked very nice at first (fifth pic), these seaweeds quickly died off, turning orange and then white (second pic).)Some other seaweed species were present as well; Irish moss and Harpoonweed (not pictured), False eyelash weed Calliblepharis jubata occurred in multiple patches, Rhodophyllis divaricata?, an Osmundea species and Red grape weed Gastroclonium ovatum. There were also a few brown seaweeds, the characteristic Thong (or Spaghetti) weed Himanthalia elongata buttons and the invasive (and pervasive) Wireweed Sargassum muticum. I did not spot too many animals, although I am sure there is an enormous hidden diversity present among the seaweeds. I noticed a red-white Dahlia anemone Urticina felina as well as some patches of a colonial brown tunicate. I’d like to go back soon and take some more pictures, with my Canon powershot or with my GoPro. I have an SLR as well that I have not been using lately as my iPhone is such a good camera and hassle-free. SLR underwater housings are really expensive, but I recently discovered that there are quite cheap waterproof SLR bags available which might be an option to try to take higher quality photos (in rock pools, I would not go diving or snorkeling with them). It would be very cool to try to make panorama pictures of rock pools, especially when taking one each month in the same spot to capture seasonality. More seaweed photos, Canon powershot or otherwise, to follow soon!
A very corny title indeed but wordpress recommended trying to come up with catchy post titles so that’s my excuse… I was very pleased with the way the tank looked after my first serious session of aquascaping. My satisfaction of course did not last for too long. First, I noticed that the water turned cloudy the next day as the result of a bacterial bloom. I quickly changed two buckets of sea water and turned on the skimmer (the Red Sea Max stock skimmer makes an unholy noise and so is usually only on at night (if I don’t forget)). This seemed to help and the water turned clear again within two days or so. I had not expected a bloom to occur, as I added seaweeds (removing nutrients) rather than animals (adding nutrients), plus I had not been feeding frozen artemia for a while. Anyway, this problem has been solved. It is probably better next time to change the tank in multiple steps rather than making wholesale changes. I next noticed the Harpoon weed starting to whither. This has happened before so it was not a real surprise. A close-up of the Harpoon weed when it was still looking good:
Some Slender-beaded coral weed made it into the aquarium attached to other weeds. As expected, this weed also died and turned white:
I next noticed that the branchlets of the Red grape weed turned from a dark purple-brown into a fresh green. Although pretty, that this was not a change for the better was obvious when upon touching the plant many of the branchlets were shed. I removed this plant before this debris would clog the filter.
The main thing that disappointed me though is that the Bushy rainbow wrack steadily lost its iridescent colors and turned into the brown of the other Bushy wrack species. The fact that I had bright blue, green and purple in my aquarium was the most amazing thing about it. Before and after pics:
I reckon this has to do with the light spectrum not being right. The colors are reminiscent of the Jade vine from the Philippines. Its coloration is the result of two pigments, malvin and saponarin, being present at a specific ratio at a specific alkalinity (wikipedia again). Both Jade vine and Bushy rainbow wrack seem to be fluorescent to my non-expert eye, although a quick search on google did not give me anything on fluorescent plants. Anyway, I will make it my goal in life to find the light conditions that bring back these colors!
To properly experiment with any seaweed it will be desirable to be able to vary the light spectrum and intensity. Probably the best way to go is LED lights, although I am not very knowledgeable about lighting yet and it is all quite complicated (LUX, PAR, micro-Einsteins, Kelvin ratings…) It is also not clear to me if (affordable) LED options are on the market that actually allow you to adjust the light spectrum. I will ask around on some forums. It could also be that the light intensity is not right; I have only used one of the two fluorescent T5 lamps provided with the Red Sea Max 130D as I found the lighting too bright when I started. However, now the tank is full of seaweeds, more of the light will be absorbed and it might not look like I have a tanning bed in the living room. I will pop the other light in and see. The RSM lights are so-called 50/50 lamps that give 50% ‘day light’ and 50% ‘actinic’ (blue) light. Who knows some extra actinic light will help. I need to read up on the subject. There must be other factors as well. For instance room temperature might be too high for some species (this reminds me I need to buy a thermometer!). The Bushy berry wrack, False eyelash weed and Wireweed seem to be doing OK though. Here a picture of Wireweed:
The tank a week after planting:
With the seaweeds collected, it was time to plant my aquarium. This time I took a more serious approach, I planted lots. Many of the seaweeds had bits of rock attached to their holdfasts which made it easy to anchor them in the gravel. Two of the weeds I tied to rocks with a piece of elastic band, easy peasy:
View from the left side. False eyelash weed Calliblepharis jubata in the front, tall Wireweed Sargassum muticum and in the middle some coarse brown sea weed which almost looks like a dead conifer. This is probably Bushy berry wrack Cystoseira baccata:
An expanded view, on the right some Red grape weed Gastroclonium ovatum, in the middle the red pluck of Dudresnays whorled weed Dudresnaya vertillicata that I already had:
A goby amidst the False eyelash weed lying on top of what may be Purple claw weed, I am not sure:
The magnificently coloured Bushy rainbow wrack Cystoseira tamariscifolia covered in green Snakelocks anemones Anemonia viridis. In the foreground the pink Slender-beaded coral weed Jania rubens and Harpoon weed Asparagopsis armata.
A close-up of the Bushy rainbow wrack. Other plants were bright green or purple. I never knew that seaweeds existed with these iridescent colours. In fact, when I glimpsed one for the first time in a rock pool I disregarded it because I thought it was some seaweed covered in oil slick! These weeds are also have a very cartilaginous texture which give them more of an animal-like appearance.
I discovered several small whitish Sea lemon nudibranchs Archidoris pseudoargus, very cool.