Years ago I established a coral reef in a marine aquarium. It was really hard work but I succeeded in creating a hugely diverse micro-world from which l learnt so much. Of all the residents, my Banghaii Cardinals fascinated me, mainly because of their elaborate breeding habits.
So every 3 months, somehow, because I never witnessed it, the male would scoop up a package of fertilized eggs and proceed to mouth brood them for 21 days. Of course, during this time he couldn’t eat and so visibly lost weight but looked like he had a bad case of mumps. Towards the end of the gestation period, if he turned to face me full on, I could actually see the babies peeking out. And then he would spit them out, secretly in the dead of night –perfect tiny replicas of himself. And as they were very smart, the babies would make a bee line for my black sea urchin where they would hide among his 12 inch spines. They knew that all the fish around them, including poor dad (who hadn’t eaten in 3 weeks), would see them merely as passing snacks.
Even though I waited up overnight on day 21, I never saw him delivering his brood but I knew exactly where to find them the next morning. I then had to extract them from the spines of the sea urchin and keep them safe while I hand fed them until they were big enough to fend for themselves (a story in itself because the spines of the sea urchin were poisonous). I eventually had 4 generations of Banghaii Cardinals living in my tank.
Why am I suddenly reminiscing about my marine tank? Well during lock down, I realised how much I missed it. But then again I think we all realised how much we missed what we previously might have taken for granted.