Coral reef communities are saturated with color.

The Living Coral exhibit at the New England Aquarium is no exception, especially with the two new additions to this vibrant exhibit.

You can find crowd-favorite orange clownfish and striped sailfin tangs cruising the reef while multi-colored mandarinfish skirt giant clams and soft corals along the bottom. But a few new additions are ramping up the color in this warm water exhibit across from the little blue penguins. Recently, aquarist Brianne Dent added nine fire shrimp (Lysmata debelius) and another many-banded pipefish (Doryhamphus multiannulatus) to this bustling reef community. 

fire shrimp
There are nine fire shrimp in the Living Coral exhibit — can you spot them all?

Like banded coral shrimp also in the exhibit, these invertebrates are cleaner shrimp, plucking any parasites off obliging reef fishes. This is a natural symbiotic relationship—the fish get a visit to the spa while the shrimp get a tasty meal. The shrimp are also known to tidy things up by scavenging uneaten food bits around the reef. While they can be shy, their blood red color makes them easy to spot when they’re crawling along the reef. 

The two many-banded pipefish are quite eye-catching, if you can spot them snaking among the corals.

The many-banded pipefish is another colorful showstopper. They remain very slender but can grow to be 6 to 8 inches long. Copepods are on the menu, so look for these fish nosing about the exhibit looking for a small snack.

Watch Them In the Exhibit

Conservation Context

While fire shrimp are popular in the Aquarium trade, not much is reported about their populations in the wild. Many-banded pipefish populations are declining, according to the IUCN Red List. However, all animals that rely on coral reefs face threats from habitat loss. Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, with many thousands of species of fish and possibly millions more undiscovered marine animals. But human activities threaten coral reefs and the ocean globally. 
Perhaps the most serious stress on the oceans today comes from our dominant way of producing energy. When we burn fossil fuels for energy, it releases carbon dioxide. This gas builds up in the atmosphere, where it traps in heat. This “blanket effect” is increasing, disrupting environmental systems—including our weather. Scientists expect stronger storms, more frequent droughts, and increased heat waves, putting people’s health and safety at risk. Some of the rampant carbon dioxide is also being absorbed directly into the sea, changing the ocean’s chemistry. 
Here at the Aquarium we’re committed to lowering our carbon footprint, creating more sustainable exhibits, researching our changing oceans, and raising public awareness about climate changes and actions we can all take to make a difference. We all have a responsibility to protect the oceans—and we can fulfill that duty.