Engineer Goby, Pholidichthys leucotaenia
One day while I was taking a break from cleaning out my home, I heard some of my tank mates arguing over my identity. Some of them referred to me as an Eel Goby, because of my long eel shaped body and habit of sticking my head out of the cave to keep an eye out for food. Others referred to me as an Engineer Goby because I am constantly digging and engineering new tunnels to expand my home. Still another one called me a Convict Blenny due to my stripped pattern, however if he saw me when I was just a fry he may have mistaken me for one of the poisonous Coral Catfish at a quick glance. However the truth of the matter is that I’m not really a goby or a blenny. While I am closely related to the Gobies and the Blennies, I have my own family, Pholidichthyidae. If you want to get more technical my proper identity is a Pholidichthys leucotaenia, as stated by a human named Bleeker in 1856.
When I was just a young fry I remember my dad telling my siblings and me about his life in a mysterious place he called “The Wild” before he came to live in the cave in which I was born. He would constantly talk about his life in the shallow lagoon near the Solomon Islands and his many relatives from as far away as the Philippines. Of course, I could only imagine how far away that was since the furthest my siblings and I had been from the cave was to the next small pile of rocks before we hit an invisible barrier. One day, my siblings and I escaped the watchful eye of our parents and snuck over to the nearby rock pile, were pretending to be on a big adventure to a distant reef. I know that dad always said they had to be careful because “the wild” was full of predators and other fish that were constantly on the lookout for your food or home but that had very little meaning to me since the only other fish I ever knew were my parents and siblings. However during that outing I discovered how quickly a fishes’ life can change.
All of a sudden out of nowhere this big net appeared out of nowhere and started chasing me. Naturally I panicked and darted for cover in the rock pile but much to my dismay the rock pile was suddenly gone the big net was between my parents cave and me. I kept backing away from the net when I bumped into the invisible barrier. In a last desperate attempt to get to safety I decided to swim for it and got myself tangled in the net and before I knew what happened I was scooped out of the water and dumped into a small bag with a small amount of water and then suddenly the lights went out. I don’t remember much about what happened during that time as I was very scared and was being ****ed about with the water; moving back and forth for what seemed like an eternity. Just when I didn’t think I could take any more of the movement I was suddenly dumped into a brand new place that I had never seen before.
I desperately swam around searching for my parents and the safety of their cave but couldn’t find them so I swam to the only pile of rocks I could get to and much to my relief I found a couple of my siblings and some other Pholidichthys leucotaenia who were a bit older then me. I could tell they were older because they were just starting to acquire hints of their vertical striping unlike me who only had my horizontal stripes. The older ones weren’t all that happy to see us since we were invading their tiny little home but they quickly realised that we didn’t have anywhere else to go so they grudgingly let us share the little cover that was available. After such a stressful ordeal I was exhausted and just fell to ground where I was to rest up.
When I awoke I was hungry and began to wonder when the next batch of food would fall from the surface. I was really looking forward to the tiny little Brine shrimp and Mysid shrimp swimming around like I enjoyed chasing back home. Just when I didn’t think I could stand the hunger any more I saw a bit of what looked like it could be food floating by. When I darted out to investigate what it was one of the others got there first. Not to be deterred I looked around to see if there was any more and grabbed the next thing that floated by. Much to my disgust it wasn’t at all what I expected and quickly spit it out, only to see it quickly grabbed. At this time I was getting a little alarmed as all the food what disappearing quickly so I dove in to get as much as I could before it was all gone but some of it tasted like the horrible algae that I once picked off a rock thinking it was edible. I definitely prefer meaty food but in a pinch I will eat just about anything!
Now that I had a bit to eat it was time to start carving out a bit of space for myself under the rock. This proved to be a little more difficult then I first anticipated as I quickly came to another barrier under a very thin layer of sand that was in the tank. I desperately tried to grab enough materials to build a quick tunnel with but I had to fight with the others for what little material there was in order to start building anything. Unfortunately everyone had the same idea and we ended up constantly destroying each other’s tunnels. We occupied our time fighting over the little substrate there was and trying to get as much food as we could before it was all gone. After a few days like this the dreaded net appeared once again and captured three of us, me and two of the older ones. Once again I found myself bagged up with nowhere to hide only this time it was much more crowded with the other two in the bag with me.
Occasionally as we were working we came across small populations of amphipods, live mysid shrimp and copepods that we would eagerly consume as a supplement to our regular feedings.
On the whole we didn’t pay much attention to the other fish around us and they didn’t seem to take any notice of us unless we dug a tunnel into their home. At which point there would be a little scuffle but as soon as we withdrew they were more then happy to leave us alone.
One day while I was taking a rest I was surprised to notice that my companions had grown quite a bit and already had their adult colouration. They must have been between 9 to 10 inches in length, nearly full grown. I sat there and watched them working on our newest tunnel and remembered how I used to watch my parents working together on one of their newest tunnels between telling my siblings and I stories about their youth and adventures in “the wild” before they were captured by some humans.
I was startled out of my reminiscing by sudden earthquake where I ducked back into my cave to wait out the avalanche. Once everything settled, and I didn’t hear any more noises I went searching for my companions to make sure they were all right. Much to my horror, the worst had happened. One of my companions was caught under a rock during the avalanche. Upon closer investigation I noticed that he must have dug too much of the rubble out from under one of the rock piles that wasn’t very stable and it gave way without any sort of warning. There wasn’t anything he could have done to escape this tragic event; if only the rocks were on a more solid foundation this would never have happened.
After the accident my soul remaining companion and I slowed down our efforts to create more tunnels and started paying more attention to each other. We were both young adults in our prime and it was time to start thinking about creating a family of our own. We started spending more time in the cave together and kept it as clean as we possibly could. We made sure that it was secure from invasion and that there was plenty of space to care for our brood. A space was cleared for the eggs and the surface of the cave was nice and smooth so the young fry could attach themselves to the roof until they were strong enough to swim around and not be swept away by the currents. I was tired after laying between 400 to 500 eggs I was exhausted but determined to make sure that nothing came anywhere near them.
A short time later I eagerly watched as the eggs begin to hatch and the well-developed young fry making their first tentative attempts at swimming. Of course they were still a bit to small to swim out of the cave on their own, so we kept an eye on them and made sure that nothing in the tank came anywhere near our little ones. When they weren’t feeding they attached themselves to any solid surface. Once they were a little larger and able to swim much better, they would all gather into a tight bunch while I entertained them will the tales that my father used to tell us about his life in “the wild” and the story of my own capture and adventure before coming to my cave.
Thank goodness this next journey didn’t last nearly as long as the first one, but it was still a scary stressful experience. It wasn’t too long before we were trapped in the bag floating on the surface of the water. I could feel the water around me slowly heating up and occasionally we got a bit of a taste of some new unfamiliar water. As we were floating at the surface of the tank all exposed with no place to hide, I took a moment to look around and saw more rocks then I had ever seen in my life! I could only imagine the places I could hide if only we weren’t trapped in this bag. I think my other two companions had the same idea as they were eagerly attempting to swim towards the rocks as well. Not only that but there were so many other fish in the tank that I briefly wondered if this was “The wild” that my dad kept telling me about. Some of the other fish came up to the bag to take a look at us while others hung back a little until food started falling from the surface again.
Suddenly while I the fish were distracted by the food, the larger of my two companions found a way out of the bag and made a break for cover. After seeing him escape, I redoubled my efforts to get out of the bag and head for cover as well. When I finally found the way out and was heading for the rocks, a piece of food floated right in front of me. Momentarily I forgot about swimming to the rock pile and started grabbing for some food. Unfortunately one of the other fish, I believe it was a damsel, was eyeing the same piece of food as I was and we had a quick little battle, which I lost. He ignored me after that and I was able to grab a few tasty morsels of mysid shrimp and some other really good meaty foods before remembering that I was heading for cover.
Shortly after I got under a bit of cover it got dark, for which I was grateful. I was exhausted from the stress of the last few days and just flopped myself down on the floor of the cave I was in. I must have been really exhausted because before I knew it, it was morning again. I took the time to survey my surroundings and found my two companions again. I was thankful for the company as we swam around the huge piles of rocks looking for an ideal cave. I spotted a really tiny opening that seemed to call to me, so I quickly went to investigate to see if I could fit into the tiny little crevice.
Much to my delight, after a little bit of wiggling, I found myself in a nice size cave where I could easily turn around and it didn’t look like it was occupied by any other fish.
The only problem I could immediately see was that the opening was a little too small, but I knew that with a bit of work it could be enlarged. By this time my companions had noticed that I was missing and came to find me.
They found me in the cave as I was testing to see what was needed to make the opening larger and they barged into the cave I had found. They seemed just as pleased with it as I was and quickly set to work helping me to enlarge the opening. We grabbed the bits of rubble and tried to pull it out of the way, the ones that were too large for me to move
I left for my larger companions and any pieces that we couldn’t move on our own we worked together to move. Before long we had made the entrance large enough so the three of us could stick our heads out all at the same time so keep watch on the activity around us and to find food that would hopefully come fairly close to our cave. Before long our efforts were rewarded and once again there was plenty of food floating around the water.
After I had some food in me I was feeling a little more energetic and decided to start digging once again.
This time I wanted to try to dig an emergency exit from the cave and started digging under the rocks on one side of the cave. My companions saw what I was doing and quickly came to help. Two of us were digging under the rock and the other was removing the rubble and sand out of the cave.
We worked long and hard digging tunnels and soon one tunnel became two. As the days slipped by we constantly expanded our network of tunnels and found new caves to rest in. We happily moved piles of sand and rubble across the tank and used some of it to make new tunnels. Of course none of the tunnels or new caves were as good as the first one I had found.