Happy 1 Year Anniversary to our Coral Reef Aquarium!!!!!

As of this past Monday our reef has been here for 1 whole year!!!!! There have been lots of ups and downs but I am very proud of what WonderLab has accomplished in that time! Many corals have doubled even tripled in size, such as our stunner coral fragment.


We also have brought corals back from seemingly definite death. Our Leptastrea was donated to us from a source that did not have the time to help bring it back to life, so we brought here to WonderLab. You can see here how it was over half bleached, meaning it has lost its symbiotic algae (https://www.wonderlab.org/symbiosis-and-its-role-in-coral-reef-building/

After just a month in our aquarium, the Leptastrea has regained all of its algae and is thriving.


Some of our fish will eat directly out of our hands, and we have a garden of baby feather duster worms growing on weed island. Our diadema had no spines when he first got here and now he has a magnificent array of spines that if you are not careful will leave some purple tattoos on you!!!! Every day is a new adventure with this tank and we are very excited to show proudly our slice of the ocean.

Walking sticks

The walking sticks have made an astounding turn around! After months of failed hatchlings, we finally moved them directly to the gallery floor and they have been thriving! They are almost sexually mature and you can identify the sex of some of them by now. Females are larger than the males and are greener in color. Males are smaller than females and are more brown. We may even see some mating this summer.


Buzz Buzz Buzz!!!  Keep an eye out for our new queen bee and her many new workers. They will be arriving during the last week of May, or whenever our queen decides she is ready, whichever comes first!  Our queen is coming from Ridgetop Apiaries in Baxter, TN and our workers are coming from our own back yard from Tracy Hunter at Hunter’s Honey farm. The queen is varroa sensitive hygiene meaning they inspect their own brood for varroa mites and should they find any, they terminate the brood (see https://www.wonderlab.org/mites-might-be-mighty/


We had a minor breakout yesterday. 10-20 ants found their way out of the interchange station. This happened last year around the same time. With it being spring, foraging behavior increasing rapidly because if they were in the wild, this would be the time of year they leave the nest in search of food to replenish their wintering stock hold.Part of how they were able to get out is that debris has built up along the seals from a long summer and winter of scaling the walls. It has been about a year since our last deep clean so Carole and I will be gently putting the ants to sleep using dry ice this evening after we close. Will will then carefully clean the walls, hydrostone and remove as much trash as we can. This will hopefully clean out the seals so that they are not able to get purchase and escape.


Dot does seem to be improving. She is holding herself up more and seems to be more active. She still walks on her wrists sometimes and still has some muscle twitching. She goes to the vet tomorrow afternoon so I will know more then.

Bins of substrate have been added to the female dragon enclosures because they have been seen digging at their walls. This is a sign of egg laying behavior. Dragons typically lay eggs every so often as a way to keep their eggs fresh and healthy. The eggs they lay during this period if not fertilized and are inviable and are just a way to clear out old eggs (my beardie does it annually but some do it less frequently).

Dexter LOVES her bin. She has been digging in it every day, so much we will make this a permanent addition.

You can see in Harley’s tank we have switched out the dragon clothes to tiles. we tried tiles before and then switched to cloth, but the cloths are old and ready for replacement. Harley seems to be adjusting to the tile just fine so we may keep these. We would love to do a more natural substrate like fine grain play sand but I have found conflicting sources saying large dragons can live on sand and be fine but others say that impaction will occur regardless of size. I will be asking the vet tomorrow what her opinion is and then we will make a decision about substrate.

Chilean Rose Tarantula

We have a very geriatric, or old, Chilean Rose Tarantula, Ms. Spider, that has gotten distant over the years. She has not been comfortable being touched or having hands in her habitat. We wanted to work with Ms. Spider to get her comfortable with human handling, not for demonstrations but simply so she would be more comfortable during daily routine maintenance. After about a month of slow and gentle work, we have gotten her to the point where we can pet her abdomen without her discomfort. This is a long way from where she was when any sort of tactile interaction sent her into defense mode. Our next step is to get her comfortable with us just touching her legs. We think once we get her comfortable with that, we may get her to the point where we can hold her shortly in our hands. Until that point, we are just happy that she seems more comfortable and happy at home.

That is all for today folks,

Sam Couch
Animal Exhibits Manager