Grevelingen

Two weekends ago I was back in The Netherlands for a short visit. The weather was great and we drove in my sisters camper van to the Brouwersdam, connecting the provinces of Zuid-Holland and Zeeland. This dam was built in 1971 and created the largest saltwater lake in Western Europe: the Grevelingen. We first stopped at the North Sea side of the dam though. This is spot is very popular with kite surfers, windsurfers and blokarters, with loads of people travel all the way from Germany even. Although great for sports, the Dutch coast is not the best place for a rock pool hunter (an bollenessor!) such as myself. The Brouwersdam provides hard substrate along an otherwise sandy coast, but there are no true rock pools and relatively few species of seaweed (mainly wracks and Ulva), some mussels and periwinkles and not much else:

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However, this seaweed looked interesting (I also found it in Bretagne recently), but I just cannot get it identified, any suggestions?

*edit* commenter Edwin reckons Chordaria flagelliformis and this was indeed the page in my Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland where I lingered longest, I think he is right!

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On the way back we stopped at the Grevelingen side. The Grevelingen is an unusual place: the water is salty, but there are no tides. There is only a very limited connection to the North Sea and so little water movement, which creates stratification and anoxic conditions in deeper waters, resulting in a  ‘dead zone’. In shallower water there is plenty of life though (check this site for instance). We waded on mud through very clear water to have a quick look (mud is not stirred up by any current and the lack of any inflowing rivers keep the water relatively nutrient poor en algae-free) . There were many Shore crabs about, and they were quite aggressive, trying to pinch my toes:

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I saw that Wireweed Sargassum muticum is very common here as well (see also this post and this post). These very large plants were colonized by fine red seaweeds and lots of Mysis shrimp were hiding underneath them:

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I also stopped by the natural history museum in Rotterdam that I have been a member of over half of my life. I noticed that in their permanent ‘Biodiversity’ exhibition that there was a shelf dedicated to seaweeds. Of course they deserve a place in such an exhibit, but I must admit that they look a whole lot more interesting in the sea than dried or in alcohol/formalin.

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Bretagne: Erquy

Last week we crossed the channel to attend a friend’s wedding in Bretagne (Brittany). This of course also called for some rock pooling action, first at the village of Erquy. It was interesting to compare the shores of Bretagne to Cornwall (or at least Falmouth and this small stretch of coast in northern Bretagne). Immediately noticeable was the large amount of oysters on the rocks (with some locals busy collecting them, quelle surprise); these are pretty much absent in Falmouth:

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Similar to the Cornish coast, wireweed Sargassum muticum was abundant. This Pacific invader surely must have a large effect on the native flora and fauna:

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Invertebrate diversity was strikingly low compared to my local rock pools. For example,  the only fish to be found were Shannies (and not a lot of them), there were no Cushion stars and no large crustaceans except for the shore crab. However, we did find a Common spider crab Maja squinado:

IMG_4495As there was not that much to see, I turned my attention to some of the less spectacular life forms, such as Pink paint weeds, red algae forming a calcified crust. The particular species pictured below forms a patchwork of individuals, crinkling up at the edges where they meet. This could be Litophyllum incrustans, but species are hard to identify by non-specialists such as myself. The little spots on the surface are the openings of reproductive structures called conceptacles.

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IMG_4486The European sting winkle Ocenebra erinacea was quite abundant and distinctive vase-shaped egg cases could also be found:

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new sand

Welcome to this most obscure of blogs, my dear reader. The aquarium is a bit of a mess at the moment for a variety of reasons. First of all there are a lot of algae growing; I have a bag with Rowaphos hanging in the back compartment to remove phosphates but this does not seem to help much (I have had good experiences with before though). Second, one of my pumps broke and so filtration runs at half capacity. Third, the mixed success of planting many different seaweeds has left loads of detritus in the tank. I have made large water changes which helped a bit. An additional tank for experimenting would be nice to have… Fourth, I have been unlucky with some of the seaweeds: the Wireweed grew really well, but the large size meant it caught a lot of the current and was easily dislodged. The Dudresnay’s whorled weed Dudresnaya verticullosa was growing really well (see here) but broke off from the rocks and could not be replanted:

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I could not attach the fine red seaweed (see last post) either and did not want to have it floating around so I have removed it. My nice red seaweed streaming from the pump outlet, most probably Devil’s tongue weed Grateloupia turutu (as the name indicates, another invader from the Pacific), broke of. A crap picture of both weeds:

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I changed the white gravel with finer, beige Maerl gravel (Cornwall’s equivalent of coral sand, see previous post) here placed in a bowl for contrast:

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I released my Shanny as well as the largest of the two Rock gobies. The former attacked to many of the snails (it was getting a bit of a mollusc graveyard) and the latter was just too voracious in general. The final straw was seeing it swimming around with half a Worm pipefish sticking out of its mouth (I still have a bunch of those). The Shore rockling did not survive, but I caught a glimpse of the Shore clingfish when I removed some of the rocks from the aquarium. The juvenile albino Edible crab (if that’s what it is) and the European sting winkle Ocenebra erinaceus I recently caught both still do well, as is a juvenile Shore crab Carcinus maenas:

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The Netted dog whelk Hinia reticulata is not one of the most impressive looking snails, but they do very well in the aquarium, burrowing and moving around:

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I am not sure whether replacing one of the actinic lamps with the daylight lamp was such a great idea, the tank looks too yellowish now, especially with the Maerl sand…However, I will stick with it and see whether it helps future attempts to successfully keep Bushy rainbow wrack Cystoseira tamariscifolia (i.e. to retain it’s iridescence). If not, I’ll go back to the original lighting. I will not do too much with the aquarium in the near future as I want to get rid of the algae first. There are not many critters in the tank, which should help (I have only introduced a nice big Snakelocks anemone Anemonia viridis recently). I will do some more water changes and order a new pump. Only then will I slowly start experimenting with seaweeds again.

I am still unsure about the chiller, but with the weather getting warmer it might be more than just a luxury to have one. Apart from the price, it standing on the floor next to the aquarium with tubes sticking out is what I don’t like about the idea though. It will also not be silent, but perhaps I could get away with disabling the noisy hood fans, resulting in an overall quieter aquarium. The stripped-down tank (note that the red encrusting algae/seaweeds at the top of the tank have died (turned white) as they were exposed for a couple of hours when changing water):

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