It’s not often that we get the opportunity to raise a new invertebrate species but this one just fell into our lap. The Variegated Sea Urchin (Lytechinus variegates) is the 85th species that we have added to our ever expanding list of captive breeding accomplishments. Yes, you read that right, we really have raised 85 different marine ornamental species in captivity!!
We have used various urchin species for algae control in our coral greenhouse for years. While it is quite common to witness mass spawning events we haven’t put much effort into trying to raise anything contained in the resulting gamete soup.
On December 31st, 2010 we had a small number of Variegated Sea Urchins start spawning and out of curiosity some of our coral employees collected the eggs as they were being released. A small amount of sperm was then collected and mixed in with the eggs to fertilize them. Everything was set up in a temperature controlled room and given slight aeration and observed as they developed over the next couple of days. A bit of research revealed that these urchins have been cultured successfully in laboratories since the mid-1960’s. So feeling like there was nothing to lose, the Pluteus larvae were added to a larval tank and given some diatomaceous microalgae to eat. Fast forward a few weeks and we are excited to show off our recently metamorphosed juvenile sea urchins! It’s still too early to say what the juvenile growth rate is going to be like with these guys, but hopefully you’ll see these great little algae eaters on our list soon! An interesting note is that these are actually at least F2 aquacultured urchins as our original broodstock was also bred in captivity.
Update 9/30/2011 – Our urchins spawned during the last full moon about two weeks ago and we collected TONS of eggs. We had good settlement in two larval tanks and hope to have urchins available in a few months. Stay tuned!
Update 2/26/2012 – Our Urchins are now available for sale! Here is a link to the product page