Posts Tagged 'fish'

Happy National Catfish Day!

Today is National Catfish Day! 

Did you know the National Aquarium is home to 34 species of catfish? We have catfish of all shapes and sizes – here are just a few of our largest and smallest:

In celebration of this great day, here are some fascinating catfish facts: 

  • These aren’t felines who have developed gills – Catfish are actually named for their barbels, which resemble a cat’s whiskers.
  • Catfish are nocturnal creatures.
  • Species of catfish can be found on every continent expect Antarctica.
  • Catfish are bottom feeders. Most species use their sucker mouths as little vacuums, grabbing up morsels of food! Watch our whiptail catfish  vacuuming up some treats in our Amazon River Forest exhibit.
  • Catfish have no scales!
  • A new species of suckermouth catfish was just discovered in 2012!
  • Catfish have one of the largest ranges of size of any species of bony fish – with the smallest species measuring in at only about 1 centimeter and the largest species at 8.2 feet.
  • The striped eel catfish is the only species of catfish that lives in coral reefs. They’re also one of the 1,600 species of venomous catfish.

Got a question about catfish? Ask us in the comments section! 

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Animal Update – May 24

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

Longjaw squirrelfish

We have a longjaw squirrelfish in our Sensing gallery!

longjaw squirrelfish

Found in the Western Atlantic, the longjaw squirrelfish makes its home in the deeper waters of coral reef ecosystems. As a primarily nocturnal species, the squirrelfish rely on their large, “squirrel-like” eyes to navigate the reefs at night!

Did you know? Squirrelfish have venomous spines near their gill openings that can inflict serious wounds on potential predators.

Squirrelfish are also known for being able to produce sounds with their swimbladders, which they use as a form of intra-specific communication.

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

Animal Update – November 2

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

animal update

Margined Madtoms

We have two margined madtom catfish Noturus insignis in our Maryland: Mountains to the Sea exhibit. These fish were transferred from their home at National Aquarium, Washington DC to their new home here in Baltimore!

This species of catfish is commonly found in rocky riffles and small rivers throughout the Atlantic slope, from southern Quebec to Georgia.

While this species is more common in the United States, it is considered threatened in Canada.

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

Built for Speed: How Our Fastest Fish Friends Keep Their Pace

Whether it’s racing down Pratt Street or pulsing through the open ocean on the hunt for dinner, reaching maximum speed is all about physics. Above ground, vehicles have an initial thrust from the motor to propel them forward. To build speed, the exterior of cars are designed to be as aerodynamic as possible, meaning they minimize drag and friction to not overexert the engine.

Although the Indy Cars expected at the Grand Prix of Baltimore this weekend can reach speeds of up to 230 mph, they are no match for jet engines! It’s hard to believe that all that weight and metal can soar through the air at speeds exceeding 2,000 mph. Getting a jet off the ground involves three major factors: (1) the engine provides thrust; (2) the wings provide lift to counter gravity; and (3) the aerodynamic shape cuts friction and drag.

These principles also apply to sharks and our other fast fish friends that live in the open ocean. The caudal (tail) fin provides initial thrust by swaying back and forth, pushing the water and propelling the animals forward. Like the wings of an airplane, the pectoral (side) fins give the animals the needed lift to keep them moving and counter gravity. And their smooth, streamlined bodies reduce as much friction and drag as possible!

One of our sand tiger sharks showing off its streamlined body

Sand tiger sharks are built for continuous swimming. They feed primarily on fish and need to be able to move quickly. Their big caudal fins help push them forward through the water all day without exhausting their energy. Their horizontal pectoral fins give the sharks the perfect shape to lift and stay above the ocean bottom. The pectoral fins are also critical to helping them get water over their gills so they can breathe. Unlike fish species, sharks don’t have swim bladders to keep them afloat, so it takes a lot more work to fight the drag of water molecules!

A sand tiger shark stays afloat thanks to its large pectoral (side) fins

Over time, humans have adapted to swim, and in the case of Olympian Michael Phelps, pretty quickly, but we are in no way built for it. We don’t have webbed feet, fins, or a streamlined body made for the water. Phelps, who holds the fastest swimming speed record, maxes out at just under 5 mph. Sharks, on the other hand, can hurdle toward prey at recorded swimming speeds of up to 46 mph!

Animal Updates – July 20

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

New Parrotfish

Eight princess, striped, and redband parrotfish have been added to our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit.

 

Redband parrotfish in the Atlantic Coral Reef

 

Parrotfish have fused teeth that resemble a bird’s beak—hence their name. The teeth are specialized for scraping algae and invertebrates from coral and rocks. Another set of teeth (pharyngeal teeth) are on the floor and roof of the parrotfishes’ throats. These crush the ingested material.

 

Check out those chompers!

 

New Fish in the Amazon River Forest 

We’ve added tetras, hatchetfish, and plecos to our Amazon River Forest exhibit.

Tetras in the Amazon River Forest

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

Thoughtful Thursdays: Paiche, the Peruvian behemoth

From Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes Curator John Seyjaget: 

Last week, I journeyed to Peru with two friends of the National Aquarium, Chef Xavier Deshayes and Kelly Morris, in search of  the South American Arapaima gigas, a behemoth of a fish that lives in the Amazon. As the largest freshwater fish in the world, this giant can reach a maximum size of 2 meters and 200 kg.

The South American Arapaima gigas or paiche, as it is commonly called in Peru

My journey took me some 4,268 miles from the Aquarium in Baltimore, MD, to Newark, NJ, to Lima, Peru, and finally to Yurimaguas, a remote village on the banks of the Huallaga River, part of the Amazon River Basin. Transportation along the way included planes, buses, cars, and rickshaws.

Peruvian rickshaws

The fish we were there to see is the Arapaima, commonly known as paiche, an apex predator in the Amazon. The paiche belongs to a group of fish called bony tongues, and is the largest of the seven types of bony tongues worldwide (there are three in Australia, one in Africa, and three in South America).

The paiche is unique in many ways. It is a fossil record—this fish dates back to more than 65 million years unchanged by evolution. And it breathes air! The paiche must surface every 15–20 minutes to gulp air, which it processes in its swim bladder to extract its oxygen needs. The paiche is also a buccal incubator, which means that after the female lays eggs and they hatch, the male picks up and keeps the babies in his mouth for the first 4–6 weeks while they grow.

Paiche is revered as a local delicacy. The fish flesh is white, thick, and tender. It is high in collagen and is therefore great for grilling, searing, and frying. Although illegal to fish in Peru, paiche is still hunted by the river villagers. Villagers claim that the flesh of the paiche is better than beef.

The local wild paiche is now on the endangered species list because of overfishing. Farming the paiche not only creates a profitable export product, but also creates jobs, provides a food source for the local people, and relieves hunting pressure on local wild paiche populations. It also allows the seeding of natural habitats with captive-raised specimens to assure the growth of the wild populations.

The farm we visited has more than 130 ponds holding more than 100,000 paiches each, including 100 adult breeding pairs.

Paiche farm pond

The farm feeds these fish organic foods made from bycatch squid with no chemical additives. The adult fish reproduce in captivity without the aid of hormones or any chemical manipulation.

The fish produced here are harvested at 18 months of age, when they are about 1 meter long. They are caught in seine nets and taken to a processing plant nearby where they are processed and frozen. Almost none of the fish is wasted. Besides the flesh of the fish, the heads are skeletonized and used for museum and educational artifacts, the scales are used for nail files, and the bony tongues for medicinal purposes. The fish produced here is exported to Europe and the United States.

Holding a large paiche

So why did we travel all this way to see a fish farm? Today’s food needs are putting a lot of pressure on our natural resources, forcing environment degradation and species extirpation and extinction, sometimes resulting in an ecosystem collapse. The National Aquarium hosts Fresh Thoughts Sustainable Seafood events at both our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues. The Fresh Thoughts initiative looks at resource sustainability, and presents sustainable seafood alternatives to our guests. If individual consumers support sustainable seafood choices, we can make a difference in fish populations and the health of our oceans worldwide.

Chef Xavier, executive chef at the Ronald Reagan Building, creates the menus for the Washington, DC, Fresh Thoughts events. To advance the Aquarium’s Fresh Thoughts initiative, Chef Xavier asked that I accompany him to Peru to see firsthand the sustainable aquaculture of this fish.

Chef Xavier

Although the farm is productive, shows green potential and is sustainable, as an Aquarium curator, I was more impressed with the breeding and husbandry success of this species and the scale to which it is done. I look forward to exploring similar sustainable aquaculture!

You can taste the results of this journey for yourself at the Fresh Thoughts dinner on Wednesday, April 25, when Chef Xavier will serve up delicious paiche. Learn more and make a reservation here.

Animal Updates – March 23

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our WATERlog blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

Mouth Almighty Babies
The mouth almighty in the Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes exhibit had babies… which is especially interesting because the male broods the babies in his mouth! During this time, the male doesn’t eat. How’s that for some paternal sacrifice? You can read more about this fish on our new website.

Mouth Almighty

Napoleon Wrasse
A Napoleon wrasse has arrived at the Aquarium’s offsite Animal Care Center, where we hold future residents of the Aquarium until they are ready to be introduced to their new habitat. Napoleon wrasses grow to be the largest of the wrasse family. They can grow up to 6 feet in length! The one we received is about 4 feet now and is lovely shades of blues, greens, and blacks.

Cane Toad
A cane toad is now on exhibit in the Amphibians Gallery.

Native to Texas through Central Amazon and Peru, the cane toad has been introduced to a number of different places, making it a highly invasive species. Introduced to Australia and Puerto Rico to control agricultural pests, these toads instead significantly impacted other native fauna without controlling the intended target species of sugarcane beetles.

They reproduce quickly and live a long time, and secrete toxic fluid through glands on their backs, which can make potential predators extremely sick.

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!


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