Hello! Lurker un-lurks.
I have been lurking in this forum for a month or so now and have found it most helpful and friendly! Thanks to you all.
We stumbled into the world of saltwater aquariums out of ignorance. We brought home some cute little hermit crabs from Jekyll Island, GA thinking that they were the same kind that I had as a kid, that ran around in a terrarium-type setting. After going on the internet for advice on how to keep them, of course we discovered that there was such a thing as MARINE hermit crabs (gee, I guess that's why they were living at the bottom of the ocean...). So we hurriedly set up a home for them in a tank recently vacated by our tadpoles-turned-toads, and miraculously, didn't lose a one as the tank cycled. We then added a yellow tailed blue damsel, and became hooked (our children, ages 7 and 4, called the aquarium "The Ocean Show" and sat for long periods watching the hermits try on new shells and do their hermit crab thing). We were planning on moving up to a 55-gallon setup and getting more fish right after Thanksgiving.
Then came our Thanksgiving trip to the beach (Clearwater Beach, near Tampa)...and here's what we found washed up on the beach that just had to come home with us:
2 Conchs (Florida fighting conchs, we think);
3 live Lettered Olive shells (snails);
3 huge hermit crabs in conch shells (I believe Giant Hermit Crabs, shells maybe 4 inches long);
1 sea urchin that we thought was dead, but came back to life;
and 1 very tiny octopus.
So, of course, we ran out the next day and got the big tank and set it up with rocks from various beaches (plus some from the old tank with lots of pink algae on it) and a sand bed. It is now probably done cycling (almost 5 weeks now; awaiting water test tomorrow). We have the conchs, lettered olives, giant hermits, damsel, and a few of the small hermits in the new tank. Again, miraculously, no mortality during the cycling process. Have discovered that we got quite a few crabs and snails and whatnot as hitchhikers either on the seaweed or on the conch shells.
Octopus and urchin and a few small hermits and snails are still in the old, settled 10-gallon tank. We will probably keep octopus separately so he doesn't eat all our other critters. He is VERY small, his "head" less than an inch long. They are nocturnal and very shy, so we see him occasionally but have never actually seen him eat anything. We give him ghost shrimp every couple of days, and presumably he has eaten some of them. Also, we believe he has eaten some of the small snails. We did see him catch a hermit crab, but apparently he couldn't extract it from the shell and he let it go!
Anyway, the whole family is completely hooked. I cannot believe how fascinating it is to watch all the critters. The conchs are great favorites when they are active (pretty blue eyes on white stalks; a long black elephant-trunk-looking-thing that they use to feed; and instead of slithering along like snails, they heave themselves along on a big foot). And the sea urchin is extremely cool, too, eating amazing amounts of algae.
I'm sure I will be asking for advice and help soon (actually, I plan to post a picture of this flatworm-looking thing that appeared just today to the identification forum, as soon as I can figure out how to extract the picture from the new camera). But for now, just wanted to introduce myself and say hi!