Avid outdoorsman and underwater photographer, Barry Brown has spent the last 12 years documenting life above and below water in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. He is currently working with the Smithsonian Institution documenting new Caribbean deep-water species and building a one of a kind database. His underwater images can regularly be seen in Sport Diver, Scuba Diver and on the Ikelite website. His image of a "Collage of Corals" seen under blue-light at night recently placed in the TOP 10 images for the 2014 NANPA (North American Nature Photographers Association) photo contest.


Archive for April, 2013

Apr 29, 13     Comments Off on Caribbean Sharpnose Puffer, Canthigaster rostrata

Good morning friends, how was your weekend?? Mine was so busy and filled with so many adventures which is probably the reason I am so tired this morning! Saturday morning I took the dogs out for a long two and a half hour hike and the second we got home it started to rain. And by rain I mean one of the hardest rains we have had in years, it was an all out flooding tropical downpour!! In just seconds our driveway was transformed into a raging river and our backyard looked like a small pond, everything was flooded in just minutes! So because of the rain I was now pretty much stuck at home and went to work on the computer for the rest of the day. Sunday morning my buddy Stijn came over and we again took the dogs out for a long walk and did some much needed trail work. While moving some brush Stijn found a beautiful little gecko that I had never seen here before so we put him in a container and carried him back home and then to work to photograph him. We brought leaves, sticks and rocks from where we found him and re-built him a natural little World for him to hang out in for the photo-shoot and after took him all the way back to the desert and released him in his original home! I couldn’t find any info about him this morning but once I do will send you the photo and tell you more. After the gecko event we grabbed our dive gear and took off on a fun dive, Stijn went lionfish hunting and fed them to his big pet spotted eel and I took my macro lens and searched for anything of interest to shoot. One of the cool things I found was this cute little Sharpnose Puffer and ended up hanging out with him for quite awhile, they are just so cool! Below is some information I found for you about the puffer so please read on. After our dive I took off on a two hour mountain bike ride and other than a few standing mud puddles it was a great ride. So, needless to say after the morning hike, the gecko thing and the dive I was wiped out after the ride, there is just only so much one can do in a day! In the evening we had a friend come over to watch “Game of Thrones” our new favorite series and by 10:00 I was out, that’s kind of my weekend.

The Sharpnose Puffer (above) is a small, roughly football-shaped fish with a large pointed snout, small fins at the rear of the body, and a prominent tail. The sides of the body vary from pale yellow to white with bright blue spots, while the edges of the tail fin have thick, dark borders that distinguish this species from similar puffers. The back is typically brown in females and grey in mature males.

Sharpnose puffers are omnivores that consume small reef invertebrates, such as crabs, shrimps, polychaete worms, and snails; they may also graze on sponges, algae, and seagrass. These fish, like other puffers, possess tetrodotoxin which makes them poisonous to eat. As such, most reef predators avoid them. However, they are still occasionally consumed by groupers, snappers, barracuda and eels. 

Sharpnose puffers are territorial and coexist with other sharpnose puffers in a complex social hierarchy. Females defend a small, permanent territory, whereas males defend a larger territory that encompasses the territories of several females that are part of their harem. Sharpnose puffers know the territorial boundaries of their neighbours intimately. If they must cross into the territory of a neighbour, they adopt a precautionary mottled colour pattern that is thought to help camouflage them from the territory owner, as well as indicate submission if sighted. If intruders are caught they are met with a series of aggressive displays, such as tilting the body forward and presenting the flank. If this display does not deter an intruder, the defending puffer will face the threat head-on with the fins spread, and flex the body to make it appear thicker. If the opponent relents, it will leave while adopting a submissive display where the belly is flattened to make the fish appear smaller. If the opponent persists, then the fish may circle each other and attempt to bite. The sharpnose puffer’s primary defence against predation is to retreat into a reef recess; however as a last resort puffers can inflate to increase their size, making them harder to swallow. 

Mottled colouration: Caribbean sharpnose puffers aggressively defend the boundaries to their territory. In densely populated areas an entire reef might be carved up into a territorial mosaic. Males that wish to leave their territory may have to pass through a neighbour’s territory, resulting in confrontation. In order to reduce their odds of being attacked, wandering males adopt a special submissive, mottled colour pattern, making them harder to spot. Even when spotted, this pattern is believed to help curb the aggression of resident males because they are acknowledged as being superior.

Sharpnose puffers reproduce sexually by laying demersal eggs and do not undergo sex change during reproductive development. Males regularly visit the female members of their harem throughout the day to reinforce their bond. During the breeding season, these visits often result in spawning when they occur in the early morning hours. Males enter a female’s territory, spread their fins and present their flank. Females respond with a submissive display, and the pair spends a few minutes feeding side by side. If the female is ready to spawn, she will search the substrate for a patch of algae to use as a nest and will spend some time cleaning it while the male encourages her by nudging her repeatedly with his snout. If the female stops preparing the nest, or attempts to leave, the male often becomes aggressive and may display or even bite to urge her on. Once the nest is ready, the couple swim side by side just above it. The female lays her eggs into the nest and the male fertilizes them immediately. Once the eggs are laid, the two sharpnose puffers return to their daily activities and the nest is left uncared for until the eggs hatch and disperse into the plankton. Sharpnose puffers have been observed mating in the spring, but the full extent of their breeding season is currently unknown. Thanks to; http://www.oceana.org for this great information.

Well, we have a sub dive at 10:30, I have to get ready to go! Here is the subs website for those of you asking, www.substation-curacao.com

PLEASE, PLEASE take the time to watch this insane video from National Geo, it’s about a Horse Conch and Hermit Crabs, talk about insane footage!! www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExV4b77qfww&feature=player_embedded

Have a great day, tomorrow is “Queens Day” here in Curacao and in the Netherlands so I am off, will try to get a blog posted but it won’t be early as we are doing an underwater reef cleanup at 9:00am.

See-ya, Barry/www.coralreefphotos.com

Apr 26, 13     Comments Off on Gorgonians, Octocorals, Knobby Sea Rod, Polyps

Good morning from wet Curacao! It’s amazing how quickly things change, we went from drought conditions to constant rain in just under a week!! I did notice on our bike ride last night that because of how dry it was the water is just disappearing and soaking right in, I am hoping it continues.

I have a close-up shot of a common gorgonian called a Knobby Sea Rod for you all today. I always tell divers here to slow down and stop for just a minute and look carefully at any given gorgonian so you can see the thousands of tiny polyps protruding out from the arms. Gorgonians is the preferred name for this large group of octocorals; however, they are commonly called “soft corals” because of the colonies “lack of hard, rigid, permanent skeletons”. The common name soft coral should be used when referring to members of the family Nephtheidae, abundant in the Indo-Pacific. Gorgonians include the animal colonies known as sea rods, sea whips, sea feather plumes, sea fans and orange sea whips. The stems and branches of all gorgonians have a central skeleton or axis. The central core in the suborder Scleraxonia is composed of either tightly bound or fused calcareous spicules. A wood-like core typifies the Suborder Holaxonia. The core is surrounded by gelatinous material called the rind. Polyps (above) are embedded in the rind and extend their tentacles and bodies from surface openings called apertures. The arrangement of the polyps (in rows, alternating bands, randomly scattered, ect.) is often helpful in the identification process. 

I am off to explore and photograph the underwater world, I hope you all have a great day and a wonderful weekend!

See you soon, Barry/www.coralreefphotos.com

Apr 25, 13     Comments Off on Sunray Lettuce Coral, Helioceris cucullata, Corals

Hi friends, good news again, it’s pouring rain at this very moment!! Yes, we are finally getting some much needed rains and it’s safe to say our prayers have been answered!! I did a walk this morning at 7:00 with Aimee, the dogs and our friend Mandy and we could see it was pouring on the North coast but it didn’t look like it was going to come this direction, boy was I ever wrong! For the last 30 minutes it has been an all out tropical downpour which is hitting the roof so hard you can hardly hear anything else, lucky Curacao!

Today I have a few examples of one of the coolest, most beautiful stony corals on the reef called Sunray Lettuce Coral or Helioceris cucullata for you coral experts out there. Colonies of Sunray Lettuce Coral form thin plates that encrust and contour over the substrate, occasionally with lumpy surfaces as seen above. Colonies edges extend outward from substrate, are often undulated and generally rounded. This coral may also form in overlapping, shingle-like plates like you see in these two photos. With polyps retracted, corallite pits appear in honeycomb pattern. Colors are normally brown, red-brown or even gray with polyp centers white or green, edges of the coral are always lighter. These very fragile corals inhabit sloping reef faces, attaching to and encrusting the rocky substrate. Leaf, plate and sheet corals often form structures with virtually identical shapes and sizes and often grow mixed together overlapping one another. Distinguishing the different species requires close observation of the valley and ridge structure not to mention polyp placement and septa detail, always take a close-up shot if you have a camera.

have a wonderful day, I’m headed out to do a dive as it just stopped raining.


Apr 24, 13     Comments Off on Juvenile Spanish Hogfish, Bodianus rufus, Cleaner Fish

Good afternoon friends, I am late again, what can I say?? Well here’s my excuse. I got into work to find out we had a 9:00 sub dive and like everyone else around here was rushing to get ready! Since I am shooting the photos underwater I need to put together and check the camera and get all my diving gear our to the dock which usually takes close to an hour to get ready. So in short, I’m sorry!

So today I have a colorful reef fish called a Spanish Hogfish for your viewing pleasure. This is an inch and a half juvenile that will grow up to be close to a foot long when it reaches it’s terminal phase. The Spanish Hogfish is a tropical species commonly found around coral reefs in the western Atlantic Ocean. Adults inhabit rocky or coral reefs where they feed on crustaceans, mollusks, and sea urchins. Juvenile hogfish (above) will spend their days cleaning larger fish by nibbling parasites off of other marine species. These areas are called “cleaning stations” where fish congregate and basically wait in line to be cleaned, it’s a win-win for both parties! The juvenile hogfish is known as one of the top “cleaning fish” on the reef and will never run out of fish to clean. The hogfish will spontaneously change their sex depending on their size and the needs of the local population. As with many tropical fish species, the coloring between adults and juveniles can differ dramatically. Young fish are more brightly colored, with a purplish-blue back and a golden-yellow body and fins. The eye is black ringed in orange. Adults are less vibrant. They are typically more brown or copper-colored and the spines along their dorsal fins are more prominent. The Hogfish is found throughout the Caribbean Sea, including southern Florida, the Bahamas, Bermuda and the coast of Brazil. They congregate around reefs at depths of 10 to 100 feet (3 to 30 m). 

I had a killer bike ride with “Super Stijn” and Dorian last night, we did a fast paced hour and forty five minute ride, it was great!

We got more rain last night!!! In fact it poured for about an hour and today they are standing puddles everywhere, it is so fantastic!

Well, I am headed back to the sea for another sub photo shoot, have a wonderful day!!


Apr 23, 13     Comments Off on Ridged Cactus Coral, Mycetophyllia lamarckiana

Good morning friends, I found a giant Ridged Cactus Coral, Mycetophyllia lamarckiana and thought it would be a perfect subject for today’s blog. This beautiful 12 inch wide specimen was found at around 60 feet and really blended in with the rest of the reef. I consider these fleshy corals to be some of the most spectacular corals on the reef but also some of the most over-looked, maybe because they do blend in so well. Cactus corals form flat plates, mounds and hemispherical domes with a peripheral ridge that frequently grows inward; there may also be independent ridges. Ridge patterns and the height and depth of valleys vary according to local environmental conditions. Ridges and valleys usually consist of contrasting colors and shades which are commonly found in shades of green, brown or grey. Colonies and especially ridges may appear fleshy and tentacles extend only from the ridges. Here in Curacao these corals tend to inhabit shaded areas of shallow to moderately deep reefs and can be found down to 190 feet. Colonies without formed ridges in the colonies “center area” were previously classified as a separate species named Lowridge cactus coral, M. daniana. Many scientists believe these are only young colonies that have not yet formed independent  ridges or simply a growth form and should be classified as a single species.

These are Stony Corals even though in the photo the animal appears to be very soft. Stony corals, often called hard corals, are the basic building blocks of tropical coral reefs. These animals (polyps) secrete calcium carbonate to form hard cups, called corallites, that provide protection for their soft delicate bodies. In tropical waters most species grow colonially, joining their corallites to produce a substantial structure. Colonies increase in size by asexual budding of additional polyps and successive generations overgrowing one another.

Good News, we finally got rain!!!!!!! Ok, it wasn’t a lot but it helped and we are all very thankful!

I just came back from guiding a group of friends from NASA on a fun reef dive and doing a little photo-shoot of shorts with them. On the dive we saw a monster sized Lionfish that we may have to go back for, I honestly never saw one that big!

Have a great day, sorry about the lateness of the blog, busy day!


Apr 22, 13     Comments Off on Diamond Pipefish, Pipefishes, Syngnathidae

Good morning from a little desert island in the Caribbean called Curacao!! I say desert because it’s quickly turning into one and there seems to be no rain in sight!! Just a month and a half ago it was nice and green here but now almost everything in the bush has gone dormant and looks like a stick forest, not a pretty sight! Stijn helped me build another big water station for the birds and we carried that out to the desert on Saturday which will help these poor animals out a lot but will need to be filled everyday.

So today I have a super cool, unidentified, Diamond Pipefish for your viewing pleasure. I found this 8 inch beauty about a week ago in our private submarine lagoon and have been watching him everyday since. From what I have read this is an unidentified species of Pipefish and he’s found a home right in our back-yard, I mean how cool is that?? In the second photo you can really see his diamond markings and kind of make out the bands on his or her snout. This Pipefish is living in 15 feet of water in a pile of junk. And by that I mean there are soda straws, zip ties, string, and old pieces of palm leaves and sea-weeds all around him, he really blends in. There are over 20 species of Pipefish in the Caribbean area. because they are so secretive and adept at camouflage, pipefishes are rarely ever observed by divers! Most are difficult, if not impossible, to identify underwater because of similar shapes and variability of color and markings. Positive identification usually requires collection to count fin rays, body rings and examination of other anatomical features like the cool fan-like tail this one has, it even has little claw-like hooks at the ends. Pipefish are related to Seahorse’s and both have trumpet-like snouts and small mouths. Their bodies are encased in protective bony rings which are quite apparent. Unlike Seahorse’s who are vertically challenged and have a cocked head the snake-like Pipefish is more elongated with a head that extends straight out from their bodies and have small tail fins. Seahorse’s are pretty slow swimmers but the Pipefish can move quick if it has to, it’s like a little underwater dart! It’s sad that most divers will never see one of these spectacular creatures and their swimming right over them all the time.

I had a very fast weekend starting out with a three hour mountain bike ride on Saturday, then dinner with Stijn’s family and Sunday was filled with building a roof over the big pile of driftwood, it went by so fast!

Well, I am headed out to check on the Pipefish and squids, have a wonderful day!

See ya, Barry/www.coralreefphotos.com

Apr 19, 13     Comments Off on Damselfish Garden, Reef Damage Caused by Fish

Bon Dia friends, it’s finally Friday!! Remember way back when I sent you a photo of a pillar coral with green alga on top??  I had told you I thought it was a dying colony of coral or some kind of coral disease?  Well here’s the exact same thing except this time it’s on a big colony of grooved brain coral. See the little damselfish at the top of the coral head? He did this damage to this beautiful coral, it’s called a Damselfish Garden. My friend Nick who is a coral expert explains below just what your looking at, it’s very interesting so read on. Nick writes, the story with the damselfish is that they find a bit of coral they like and peck off the living coral tissue. The exposed skeleton becomes overgrown with algae that the damsel fish like to eat. The fish defend these little farm territories so aggressively that they will even chase off larger herbivores like parrotfish that would quickly clear away the algae (I have definitely had them bite my fingers while working with the corals & once had one hit me right between the eyes good thing I had a facemask on). Apparently with the decline of larger predatory fish on reefs worldwide, these little guys have become much more abundant and can be a real threat to reef health.  The photo you took is a great example, where you have what appears to be a perfectly healthy coral missing tissue only on that patch at the top where there is a thick mat of green algae growing on the white skeleton.  

When I was shooting this I watched this little damselfish chase off many other bigger fish who thought they could stop and graze on what seemed like an unprotected buffet of algae, boy did he ever teach them a lesson and me as well!  The closer I got to his little farm the crazier he got!  As I passed he came up and bit my wetsuit twice, I am not kidding when I say these fish have no fear!! 

I did two dives yesterday, one with the new deep water “Curasub” and the other to photograph the five baby squids and the pipefish, so stay tuned for more fun photos next week.

I have a busy weekend ahead with a three hour bike ride tomorrow morning and a ton of trail work on Sunday, it will go by fast!

See you Monday, Barry

Apr 18, 13     Comments Off on Caribbean Reef Squids, Baby, Juvenile Reef Squids

Good morning friends, I had mentioned to you that we had a small group of newborn Caribbean Reef Squids around our floating dock area and yesterday I jumped in twice to photograph them! These five little babies are less than an inch long but act like full size squids! By this I mean they are already incredible hunters as you see above, they can flash colors like their parents and in a blink of an eye they can disappear leaving only a cloud of ink in their path! As I was following the group yesterday one of them darted out into a big group of little bait fish and by golly caught one, I was completely shocked! I then followed trying my best to get a photo but it was so hard because of us being so close to the surface of the water, the waves and surge were really throwing me around but of course not bothering him at all. He then carried his fish around for about five minutes before finally eating it, what an amazing sight to see. After playing with the squids I swam down to 15 feet and watched the Pipefish for awhile and did get a few shots, will get that to you all soon. 

Here is a little more squid information from MARINEBIO.ORG they have a great site and great information and perfect for those of us who don’t have much time in the morning, read on. The Caribbean reef squid is one our favorite Cephalopods. It is often encountered among shallow reefs and is usually unafraid of divers, if not curious about them. The mantles of newly hatched squid are about 8-9 mm in length and the mantles in adult males and females reach 12-20cm in length. Adult reef squid closely resemble their cousins, the cuttlefish, in that their bodies are broad and less streamlined than many other squids. Reef squid can also move using jet propulsion by pressing water from the pallial cavity (in the mantle) through their funnel to move through the water.

The basic coloring of a Caribbean reef squid is a mottled medium green to brown on the dorsal side with lighter coloring on the ventral side for camouflage from predators swimming below. These animals are social creatures often found in small groups that communicate through a variety of complex signals. Both cuttlefish and squid communicate by controlling the pigment in their skin. Messages such as readiness to mate, sexual identification, and alarm are flashed through various colorful spots, blotches, and background color. To signal slight alarm, their brow ridges turn bright gold and the central arms turn white. The entire body will pale if the squid retreats from its potential predator and in open water when faced with an extremely aggressive predator, reef squid will obstruct themselves and confuse the predator by ejecting a cloud of black ink. Retreating squid near the protection of the reef will often turn dark brown or reddish in color to match their surroundings.

All is well here, still no rain but clouds are around so maybe we will get some moisture soon?? I will be in the water at 11:00 shooting the submarine underwater and then I want to go back to find the baby squids again they are just too cool!

I have a winning photo posted today at;  http://www.nanpa.org/

Have a wonderful day, Barry

Apr 17, 13     Comments Off on Blue Chromis, Chromis cyanea, Damselfishes

Good morning from Curacao, I have such a great video of a baby elephant playing in the ocean for you all this morning compliments of our South Dakota friends! Here is the link;  http://screen.yahoo.com/baby-elephant-plays-ocean-231138164.html

Next we have a super cool little fish called a Blue Chromis, Chromis cyanea for your viewing pleasure that I photographed for you all yesterday. These are again one of the harder fish to photograph because of their iridescent, brilliant blue body that just sparkles underwater! The trick for shooting these is to use a longer F-stop, this was shot at F-16 at 250th of a second and with two strobes. Also, I tell friends not to be in a rush, it’s better to come back with 10 great photos than 100 bad ones, patience is a virtue. All Chromis are members of the Damselfish family but the group carries it’s own common name and it’s members are somewhat different in appearance and behavior. The Blue and Brown Chromis are the most frequently seen especially here in Curacao, we have never seen a Yellowfin to date. Both are somewhat elongate plankton pickers with deeply forked tails. During the day Brown chromis traditionally feed high above outer reefs slopes in huge aggregations, while Blue chromis form small groups that feed just above low profile reef structures.

Still no rain for this poor island and the wind continues to blow! This is a new “lack of moisture record” for this early in the year and it’s a downright scary site. I have set up water stations in the desert and haul water out every day, the animals are loving it!

Had a nice mountain bike ride last night, other than the crazy wind and of course the Curacao heat it was great!

Have a wonderful day, I am headed out to find a Pipefish that I saw on the reef yesterday, want to see if he is still there!

See ya, Barry/www.coralreefphotos.com

Apr 16, 13     Comments Off on Fairy Basslet, Gramma Loreto, Royal Gramma, Basslets

Good morning friends, I have a brightly colored Fairy Basslet , Gramma Loreto for your viewing pleasure today. These fish are also know to many as Royal Grammas and are very abundant in the Caribbean and Bahamas. Their maximum size is normally under three inches and here in Curacao can be found just about anywhere in the 30-200 foot range. They tend to love dark areas and are commonly found swimming upside-down in small caves or coral ledges and are rarely found alone. This can be a difficult fish to photograph not only because of their crazy bright colors but because they are so wary of divers, especially those with giant cameras. The trick to getting close like so many other fish is, patience! When I see one they always dart into their little dark recess for safety but if you just sit and wait they will re-appear in a short time giving you time to shoot. I spent 30 minutes yesterday waiting and waiting for one to come out of it’s cave and finally gave up! Then as I was leaving I saw another out on the reef at 45 feet (the one above) and he or she was completely unafraid and let me shoot away, it was great! You photographers will have to adjust your white balance for this fish or adjust it in Photoshop as this purple color is very hard to shoot, it always comes out more blue on film. After playing with this guy I found four super tiny little squids that kept me very busy for the rest of the dive, they were the cutest things I had seen in a long time.

This morning we saw a baby Spotted Eagle ray in our channel behind the Aquarium!! I was going to jump in to follow with a camera but we couldn’t find him again once we left him, maybe I will find him later today??

Hope all is well out there, have a great day!!


Apr 15, 13     Comments Off on Yellowhead Wrasse, Halichoeres garnoti, Wrasses

Good morning Amigo’s, welcome to your Monday!! Here at Substation Curacao every person that has walked in this morning including myself can’t seem to stop yawning and appears to be wiped out!! That’s the downside to living in the Caribbean, there is soooo much fun stuff to do that you never find time to rest, not even on your days off! My weekend was filled with long mountain bike rides, trail building and diving plus walking the dogs and starting to get our house packed up for our big move to a new apartment next month.

My good news of the week is we found a great home for our little puppy!! For those of you who don’t remember my wife brought home a ferrel puppy weeks and weeks ago that she found on the street eating a bird. The puppy had almost no hair, covered in ticks and had a horrible skin disease! Well, to make a long story short she now looks like a million bucks, has beautiful hair and is the most loving puppy ever, amazing what time, medicine and love can do! Her new family arrives tonight and they are very excited, she will be missed!

Your photo today is a Yellowhead Wrasse, Halichoeres garnoti and is considered one of the most curious reef fish in Curacao. Almost every dive I do these fish will  swim around me in circles acting as if I am going to feed them, they are very curious and can be approched very easily! Their favorite food is brittle stars which I have seen them eating on countless dives but have never been able to get close enough for a good photo. Like Parrotfishes, wrasses go through several changes in color, shape and marking during maturation. The phases include; Juvenile Phase (JP), Initial Phase (IP) and Terminal Phase (TP) as seen above is the largest and most colorful. Some even have additional Intermediate color phases between the three primary phases. IP include sexually mature females and, in some species, immature and mature males. TP are sexually mature males. Some wrasses are hermaphroditic and go through a sex reversal to become TP, while others simply mature, never changing their sex. Identifying wrasses in all their phases can be very difficult.

Off to work, have a great day!!


Apr 12, 13     Comments Off on Curacao, Bicolor Damselfish, Stegastes partitus

Good morning friends, it’s finally Friday!! I have for you today the hands down #1 most common reef fish in Curacao called a Bicolor Damselfish or for you scientists out there, Stegastes partitus, yeah say that 10 times real fast! These small Damselfish cover our reefs here and honestly can be found just about anywhere from the 20-80 foot zone. One of the cool things about this fish is all the different color variations it can be found in. For instance; in St. Lucia this same fish is half grayish-blue and white with a black tail and orange spot near it’s pec fins, in Barbados it’s all black with a white patch near the tail, in Roatan it’s cream colored with a black tail and orange spot near the pecs and in the Caymans this fish is almost all black or a dark gray. Here in Curacao we have three main colors, first, is the one you see above, notice the beautiful electric blue lines on the outside of the front and rear pec fins, it’s really a beautiful little fish. Second, this fish can be found with a half black and half white body and a faint colored orange pec fin. And third we have one here that is almost all black with faint blue outlines on the pec fins. There is also a half cream and white colored one with a dark tail but those are very rare! For a fish that is so small, maximum 4-inches, they are unbelievably aggressive, especially if it’s a male guarding eggs!! I can’t even tell you how many times I have been chased off or bitten by territorial Damselfish, they seem to have no fear at all! Because these fish are so aggressive most “would be” predators avoid them at all cost and as divers we see this happen all the time. Someone asked me if Lionfish eat these fish and I told them I have personally never seen it, I think the damselfish are too smart and to aggressive for Lionfish but I could be wrong.

Still no rain here on our little Caribbean island, it is crazy dry and quickly turning back into an all out cactus desert!! I did go for a short mountain bike ride last night but with the strong winds and 85 degree temps it was a bit of a challenge!

Well, they are still working on the submarine’s floating dock, it should be back in the water by Sunday and by next week we should be back down exploring the depths. Our submersible website is www.substation-curacao.com for those of you asking. We also have a live camera on the reef that you can see at www.seesubmarine.com this camera sits at 50 feet.

Have a great weekend, see you Monday!!


Apr 11, 13     Comments Off on Blue-Green Bacteria, Cyanobacteria, Hydrocoleum

Good morning from Curacao! Today’s photo and information is for all my local divers out there that spend just about everyday in the sea. Here in Curacao we are having a big problem with a nasty red colored bacteria called Blue-Green Bacteria or more commonly known as just Cyanobacteria. This stuff more or less appeared two years ago during our worst year of coral bleaching to date! During this year long change the oceans in the Caribbean turned very warm, too warm in fact for most corals and the reef was transformed into what looked like snow capped mountains in the Rockies. This was honestly the worst thing I had ever seen in the nine years I have been here and I hated to even go diving for this period of time. So while the corals were bleaching and dying the algae and bacteria’s started to move in and it started to cover everything! I contacted Barrett Brooks at the Smithsonian, one of the Worlds leading authorities on algae/bacteria and asked him a few questions about this stuff.

I asked him is there anything we as divers or concerned reef people can do about this bacteria but he said unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done about it. He added: It’ll grow when the conditions are right. Often cyanobacteria have toxic compounds, so the usual grazers (fish, urchins) tend to leave them alone. Many can fix nitrogen so that can give them an advantage to outcompete the other algae. I’m not saying that these species are doing that, but it is likely. Even if this cyanobacteria mat doesn’t kill the coral outright, it will stress out the corals who have to continuously keep their surfaces clean of debris. Any of these stresses (e.g. higher water temps, higher nutrients in the water, acidification) add up and can kill the coral. Bleaching occurs when conditions are so bad that the symbiont algal cells – zoothanthellae – leave the tissue of the coral polyp. Without this endosymbiont dinoflagellate, the bleached coral will die eventually. If conditions get better soon enough, the zoothanthellae can recolonize the host coral. From the photo above I’m guessing it was only about 3 – 4m deep. As usual, it contains more than one species of cyanobacteria. There are three main players. One looks like Hydrocoleum ( maybe Hydrocoleum coccineum) , and another much thicker one which looks like something in the Blennothrix genus, not sure of the other one. 

Many thanks to Barrett for taking the time to educate, sure wish there was more we could do. Many times while out diving I will use my hand to fan over these infected corals to free them of this bacteria as it comes off so easily but it’s just a temporary fix. I have noticed that because of the colder waters now this stuff has been disappearing and many areas look much better but there’s still quite a bit out there. Also I have noticed that nothing seems to eat this stuff, not even hermit crabs so it must taste pretty bad.

We are completly re-building our submarine dock this week which means no sub dives again this week but we should be back out there exploring by Monday so stay tuned for more new and excitting finds.

I have to run, going out for a dive and then need to go feed the deep-sea creatures.

Have a wonderful day all, Barry

Apr 10, 13     Comments Off on Porcupinefish, Giant Pufferfish, Boxfishes

Good morning all, since posting the porcupine fish a few days ago I had many people write and ask more questions plus requesting a photo of just it’s cute little face. These “face shots” are not always an easy task as fish don’t normally want to look at you, they are usually always swimming away from you. In my experience only a curious fish will occasionally stop and look at you but you have to be ready with your camera, they sure won’t pose for long.

Porcupine fish are part of a family of fish that are called Diodontidae, and are quite often more commonly called the puffer-fish, or the blow fish. They are not in reality puffer-fish, but are related to them. The Porcupine fish sports on its body a wide array of spines that stand erect when the fish inflates and are very often mistaken for puffer-fish. The Porcupine fish has the unique ability of being a fish that can blow up their bodies, or inflate them. They do this by swallowing air or water and will become literally as rounds as a basket ball. The porcupine fish can enlarge himself almost double the size that he was. Scientists think this is another method of self defense for the porcupine fish. He does this to lower the predators who can prey on him to about half what they normally would be if he did not have this ability. His second and probably best defense is that he bears many rows of very sharp spines, and when the porcupine fish blows himself up to full volume, they become erect, and stand straight up and out. Some species of Porcupine fish also bear a venom, or poison that is emitted from the spines. They have what is called a Tetrodoxin within the skin as well as or in addition to in their intestines which means you take your life into your own hands if you want to eat one and preparation should only be done by an expert. As a result of their great methods of self defense the porcupine fish has very few predators that will take them for food. Adult porcupine fish are sometimes a meal for larger fish such as the shark and the Orca, or whale, although this is only rare in occurrence. The younger or juvenile porcupine fish may sometimes be taken and eaten by larger tuna or by dolphins.

I went on a lone ranger mountain bike ride for an hour and a half last evening through the very dry wilds of Curacao, it was hot and windy but always a great time!!

The daily blog is now being posted  http://www.reefs.com  This new site will soon be one of your favorite links as it’s filled with so much cool information on anything to do with our seas, so please pass this information on to others!!

That’s about it, life is pretty quiet right now but bound to pick up soon!

Have a wonderful day!!


Apr 9, 13     Comments Off on Sea-bass, Rockhind Sea-bass, Small Groupers

Good morning from the Caribbean!! Not a whole lot to report today other than it’s still windy and super dry!! I did start putting up water feeders in the desert but it will take a few days for most animals to start using them. Why you ask?? I have learned that birds especially are very wary of anything new in their World and it takes awhile for them to get used to it. Besides the water we bring out any food scraps from home, especially fruits and vegetables that way even the iguanas and lizards get a little treat.

Here is a little Rockhind sea-bass hanging out in a beautiful vase sponge for your viewing pleasure today, this is one of the most common fish here in Curacao. These are little groupers that spend the days relaxing in protected areas around the reef and are very hard to approch, they seem to be afraid of their own shadows!  Groupers are solitary carnivores that hunt near the bottom usually at dusk. Food is drawn into their mouths by a powerful suction when they open their overly large mouths and then swallowed whole. Spawning is seasonal and controlled by the moons phase and again usually happens at dusk.

I have to get underwater, lots to do today!!

Be back soon, Barry



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