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What’s on CMA’s Menu?

Animal s are fed by CMA’s Aquarists Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from a specially prepared selection of food that includes krill, squid, clam, shrimp, smelt and mackerel. All the fish are also fed a gel-type of vitamin mix that is designed specifically to meet the nutritional requirements of omnivorous fish. But not all fish are fans of eating this greenish and very nutritious supplement.

“Some animals don’t like to take their vitamins,” explained Aquarist Carin Latino. “But it’s important to keep everyone healthy and replace nutrients they would normally get in the wild, so another way we trick animals into taking their vitamins is by soaking all the food in a vitamin-mix.”

The vitamin mix is packed with protein, minerals and vitamins, including things like fish meal, spinach, carrot powder, fish oil, shrimp meal, spirulina algae, dried kelp, calcium, zinc, copper and vitamins C, D, E, B and K. Yum! Sharks and rays also get a special vitamin tablet with extra potassium iodide stuffed into their food.

Once the vitamins are taken care of, things start to get a little bit more complex. Each animal is slightly different when it comes to their dietary requirements, for example the sea anemones are only fed once a week. Sharks and rays are scatter fed to replicate how they would eat in the wild. There isn’t really one rule that sums up the eating habits of all the animals.

“The sea horses and pipefish are fed twice a day seven days a week because they don’t have true stomachs to hold and digest food, so they have to be fed more frequently,” explained Latino. “The grazers and browsers are fed four days a week because through experience we’ve learned that sea hares need a lot of food. It’s complicated.”

Most of the animals eat frozen food bought locally, but sometimes the Aquarists will catch live animals to supplement CMA’s animals’ diet and allow them to eat like they are used to doing in the wild. Some of the fish are fed live brine shrimp and grunions while the predatory sea stars and California spiny lobsters are fed live mussels and urchins. The octopuses are given live crabs and spot prawns and for an extra challenge, one of the crabs was placed in a jar and the octopus opened this never before seen contraption in less than 30 seconds!

Then there are very passive eaters such as the monkey-faced eel. He loves hanging out in his little rock home so much that Aquarists have to put his food on a fork and wave it in front of his face to make sure he eats. CMA Aquarists are always trying new things too. Recently, Chief Aquarist Jeff Landesman placed a live snail at the top of the mantis shrimp’s burrow to see if he would eat it. The mantis shrimp came out of his burrow to investigate the snail and then proceeded to sweep it away, like he was cleaning his doorstep. Apparently, he wasn’t interested; it’s shrimp or nothing for this picky eater.


Post Date: Thursday, August 23, 2012

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