You know when you turn on the news in the middle of summer, and somebody you’ve never heard of is sitting at the anchor desk, and he says, “I’m Joe Nobody, sitting in for Charles Gibson, who is on assignment”? Except Charlie isn’t on assignment. He’s sipping chai in the Swiss Alps, or BASE jumping in Thailand, or whatever. I don’t know what Charlie Gibson does in his spare time. That’s not the point.
The point is this: I’m John, sitting in for Anna, who is on assignment.
For those who don’t know, I am Anna’s husband. In Mochimochi Land, my job is to build the website and keep it running so Anna can do her thing without worrying about PHP parse errors or MySQL query syntax.
My other job is to suggest topics for the Mochimochi Blog, and when Anna asks, I always suggest the same thing: my fishes. This has spawned posts about panda cories, hatchetfish, and—after weeks of lobbying—Plecky the Pleco. But in my first and possibly last guest post, I’m throwing a curveball. I’m not writing about fishes. Tonight’s topic is completely different: shrimps.
This is a red cherry shrimp. No, she can’t be served with cocktail sauce or scampi style, but go ahead and make your jokes. She’s heard them all before. In this picture, she is working at her favorite hobby: cleaning a spot of algae from wood in my aquarium, where she lives with a couple dozen (so far—self-multiplication is another hobby) of her closest friends.
A lot of people think that an aquarium is just a tank of water with some gravel and a few fish. But with a spirit of exploration, people create amazing worlds in those glass boxes, from bustling reefs to serene freshwater aquascapes. Coolest of all, fishkeepers are always discovering more animals that we can humanely bring home to our tanks.
Which brings me back to the shrimp. You might not have known that such creatures could be kept in an aquarium. Neither did most aquarists until a few years ago, when word started to travel around the internet about these Asian freshwater shrimp that loved to gobble up algae. A few guys in Taiwan got the bright idea to isolate a red color variant through selective breeding—the same way the dalmatian got his spots—and the Red Cherry Shrimp was born. (The wild ones are brown, and very rare variations like green exist, too.)
The one in the picture is just a tiny ¾-inch splash of red in the tank. That’s until you lean in, and you see a creature furiously working her tiny claws over a parcel of ground, looking for a little scrap of food or algae to nibble on. Perhaps after a few seconds, she will glide through the water to a leaf and start work again. Her industriousness—especially when you notice her buddies nearby doing the same thing—is hilarious and endearing.
The best thing about these shrimps is that they’re another layer of life; they encourage you to look closer. When a friend first sees my tank, he might notice the plants, a big school of cardinal tetras, and a proud bunch of hatchetfish at the top. After a few seconds he might spot a brooding Plecky in the corner wishing everyone would go away, or an apple snail lumbering across the gravel. And then he might notice one busy little shrimp, and another, and another, until he wonders how he missed them in the first place.
You can probably tell I’m pretty enamored with the tiny aquatic world I’ve created. I love Anna’s creations in the same way. She makes wonderful pieces of knitted art that give you an immediate smile and then, when you look closer, make you happy all over again. We may have very different hobbies, but we share that joy in making each other smile again and again. That endlessly smiling spirit is why I married her. Also, I thought she was pretty hot. But mostly the smiling thing.
P.S. if you would like to spice up your watery glass box with some little shrimp, first do some research to make sure their tankmates won’t gobble them up. After that, the best way to get your hands on a batch of RCS is to find a reputable fishkeeping forum—I like AquariumBoard—and ask around for a fellow aquarist who’s selling them or giving them away. There are shops on the internet that sell them, but you will get the healthiest shrimps and best price from another fishkeeper. And there are many different kinds of freshwater shrimp beyond red cherries, so read up, explore and try something new!