A walk by the river.

River Walk

My Wife and I walked our dogs down by the river this afternoon, a warm February day, the sky was covered by high fleecy clouds and jet contrails. Spanish Moss, driven out of the trees by a recent winter storm had drifted up into small piles while real moss and lichen covering the ground in small scattered mounds were almost glowing from the sunny day and warm rain that had fallen a day before.

The River was dead calm, the tide was in and the still water supported rafts of vegetation, usually swirling around in the tidal flux, but now the rafts of water plants were still, almost appearing to be islands but really only ethereal floats waiting for the next tide to drive them back toward the ocean. Large dead logs along the bank, also covered by moss, seemed to reach into the water as though taking a drink while the water was high enough for them to reach.

No alligators today, I like seeing the large reptiles but while the winter has been mild even by southern standards the archosaurs are too cold sensitive to be out and active this time of year. A large Gar, an animal with even more primitive roots, could be seen hiding at the edge of a vegetation raft looking no doubt for some small bream or other fish to fill it’s ravenous maw.

As we walked the dogs, my three Basset hounds, out onto a small pier and my Wife and I were rewarded by a reflection of sky on the dark water that made the water look like a metal mirror, the clouds and jet contrails reflected in perfection on the completely still water. The swamp trees that made up the edge of the far bank, Cypresses and Water Tupelos, were reflected as well making it look like we were looking into some other world, just out of reach but real as the one we were in.

At this distance it is difficult to see the real complexity of the tidal swamp, a great many normally terrestrial trees, intolerant to growing in water take advantage of the swamp trees. They grow attached to the trunks of the swamp trees, a natural hydroponics system, the slowing rising and falling tides keeping the trees bare roots alternatively wet and dry allowing them to breath at low tide.

The Bassets, oblivious to anything that didn’t have an interesting smell, kept their noses to the ground, stopping every few feet to signal any dogs that might come by that they had been there. The three stooges, as I often call them, love to smell new things as much as I love to see new things. Their perception, not limited to smell but dominated by it as much as my perception is dominated by sight, must be an interesting way to see the world. While I am oblivious to the other dogs and animals that might have happened by recently they are as aware of them as I am of the trees and refection of the sky.

The Coast is a great place to live, natural wonders abound if you know where and how to look for them….

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I’m a Theist!!!!

Recently I realized that far from being an Atheist as I had thought, I was a Theist, quite possibly even a Fundamentalist! I came to this realization after listening to a theist describe how they worship and how it helped them in their lives.

The realization first occurred to me when the theist told me how God comforted them, he told me that when he went to bed he visualized god to help him relax and go to sleep. He told me how that visualizing god watching over him made him feel comfortable enough to go to sleep, he went on to tell me how that god and the allegorical messages he thought that god brought gave him hope for the future and made him feel like life had a purpose. Writings that told him how to treat people, how he was special and how god would punish those that did not believe. This god and the writings this god had inspired people to write gave him what he needed to live his life firm in the knowledge that the future was worth living so he could see the wicked punished.

Suddenly I realized I did the same thing! Every night as I lay down I visualize The Starship Enterprise, the visualization of that beautiful Ship and what it represents always makes me feel secure and the message it represents, a message told through the medium of video in this case, but an inspired message none the less, a message that was told by allegory, stories of the future, a future where life had meaning and the stories told of how we should treat each other and how important it is to treat others as you would be treated and how important it was to believe that the future would be a great place to live because the United Federation of Planets was going to protect us all and how the elimination of poverty and greed would make punishment unnecessary, the Starship Enterprise is a symbol of the promise the future will hold if we stay true to the messages contained in these videos.

Yes the Starship Enterprise, the UFP, and the Prime Directive, my Holy Trinity delivering me from the fear of a dystrophic future and the meaningless life that fear of punishment brings….

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Friendship and religion

Yesterday I lost a friend, that is always a sad thing to me because friends are big part of every ones lives and loosing one due to a disagreement over something as profoundly subjective as religion doubly so. Asserting that some one is wrong by simply repeating that they are wrong over and over is in it’s self difficult to justify, at least for me. I am intelligent enough to know I am not all knowing, my current avatar is my way of poking fun at myself not a declaration of knowledge and a way to show that only a fool thinks he is all knowing, Bullwinkle was of course a fool in the most sever definition of the word.

If you declare someone to be wrong, you should be able to point out why, if for no other reason than to correct ignorance, we are all ignorant in some way, no one knows every thing about anything and of the things we do know about there is always a certain amount of error. I have no problem with being told I am wrong, I have been wrong many times in my life and often this resulted in paying a steep price for the knowledge I was ignorant of. But due to this if you assert that I am wrong, I will almost certainly pursue your assertion with some vigor and do my best to find out why you assert I am wrong, more assertions of “wrongness” will not convince me. I require either verifable evidence or an admission that your assertion is simply based in belief.

I should say here that belief does not equal knowledge, no amount of belief equals even a tiny amount of knowledge. But then again every one is entitled to their beliefs as long as your beliefs don’t include forcing some one else to believe your way. If I see you assert something I feel is incorrect I will generally tell you and then back it up with evidence, if I have no evidence I will keep my mouth shut and go on but since I do appreciate new knowledge feel free to point out my mistakes if you have real verifiable evidence I am wrong. Do not bother to simply shout you are wrong, it will lead to a serious disconnect and we may as well not be friends and go our own way to avoid an unproductive argument to begin with.

Personal attacks are also non demonstrative of knowledge, I am I think far more than just some one who keeps paddlefish or for that matter keeps fish in a glass box although I think I am pretty good at after close to 50 years of doing it I guess I should be. I have a wide variety of diverse interests and I display many of them on my face book page. One thing I am not is arrogant enough to assert my belief as knowledge or to assert some one is wrong simply because their beliefs do not coincide with mine. When it comes down to the wire we all have separate beliefs and while some are more similar than others we all live in a world we make up as we go along inside our heads. I doubt anyone’s total belief system is exactly the same as anyone else’s which brings me to this…

My very strong belief that separation of church and state protects us all and is of fundamental importance in our society. A Secular government is necessary for there to be true freedom of religion, if you think that your religion is so beneficial that the government should support it then we have a problem, yes I mean a personal problem. I cannot support that assertion, I am member of several fora, with well over 10,000 posts in several hundred threads and many of them deal with this very thing.

The only conclusion I can draw from all the evidence of both sides is that separation of church and state prevent MEN, from distorting the word or idea of GOD into something evil that serves only to empower and glorify MEN. Men use religion to justify some of the most horrific atrocities the world has ever seen, it is very important to understand it is MEN who do this not GOD.

It is also important to understand that freedom of religion is a concept that came from men, not God or more properly religion because they are often not the same thing. It is this separation of church and state that allows all of us to live together in a relatively peaceful society despite real differences in religious beliefs. One only has to go back a few years to find Protestants and Catholics killing each other over who worships god the correct way. Back a few decades and you’ll find Protestants and Catholics killing Jews, millions of them, I see no reason to keep going back but this sort of thing has happened routinely and regularly the further back you go between and inside all sects of religions world wide the worse it gets, yes Muslims, Hindus and others are not innocent either, all MEN have at one time or another have been guilty of using the concept of GOD as an excuse to persecute their fellow man often in a horrible degrading manner.

Secular governments have at least attempted to put an end to this and inside the USA this has been relatively successful in at least recent history although you don’t have to go back very far to find it even here. I think it of vital importance that this is not allowed to occur any longer and that all of us allow others to have their belief systems in private but in the world of the government secular is the only way we can live together reasonably peaceably. And so the Earth rotates, the Sun still fuses hydrogen into helium and shines it’s light down on us as we go about our daily routines, all I ask is that you do something helpful or kind to someone today even if they don’t know, because you will know and be a better person for it.

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Night Flight

Night Flight

The wind rushing over the windshield of the motorcycle was cool that night, invigorating, with just a touch of moistness. The road was empty all along this stretch at one am, nothing but black pavement and white stripes. I twisted the throttle and watched the tach climb rapidly. The speedo said I was doing 90 mph but the smooth road made it feel like I was just drifting along. The exhaust note was a mild drone, the ride was smooth almost like a sewing machine but when I tweaked the throttle, again the bike surged ahead almost instantly driving the speedo up to 110 mph.

The pavement had areas of mist lying in low places and the occasional patch of fog added to the almost supernatural feel of the night. The moon had been a round full white lantern floating just above the horizon when I started out but now it was high in the sky and at my back. The moons glow made the landscape visible but stole the colors from the long needle pines that thickly grew along the highway turning them into black and gray parodies of their daytime selves.

Ahead was a steep curve with a strong banking that opened into a low rise before becoming flat and straight. Rushing straight at the curve at 110 mph, I hit the front brake at the last possible instant. Sparks flew from the pipes and center stand as the shocks compressed from centrifugal force at the apex of the curve. Loosing 40 mph to the curve I dropped to third gear and whacked the throttle hard to regain my speed. When I came to the rise at the end of the curve I was accelerating so hard the front wheel skimmed above the pavement for a few yards before regaining contact softly. The road was at least two miles straight ahead from here so I accelerated hard and up shifted at red line twice before settling for fifth gear and 120 mph. The stripes on the road began to blur as I continued to accelerate, finally hitting top end at 150 mph. Still the motorcycle seemed to float along, rock steady.

I enjoyed the feeling of power the engine transferred to my loins and body. My peripheral vision was just a blur and the road came to me so fast that I could only focus on objects at the limit of my headlight. Suddenly out of nowhere and seeming to come at me was an another motorcyclist on the shoulder of the road. No lights or flashers just an instant of bike and rider dark and still, barely registering in my mind as I flashed past. I hit the brakes hard, decelerating with a vengeance to a complete stop. In the rear view mirrors, could be seen the glint of chrome in the moonlight and a figure leaning on the bike.

For a moment, I almost decided to go on. Maybe the fellow biker had just stopped to admire the view or maybe he had stopped to rest. At last, I decided to go back and make sure there was no problem. After the rush of air at 150 mph, standing still was nearly stifling and the heat rising from the V4 between my legs was almost palpable. Turning around with one fluid motion, slowly I motored back down the highway to confront the lonely figure now standing in the middle of the road helmet in hand. As I approached the figure standing by the road it suddenly hit me this is a woman. In the back of my mind something was screaming, this is not what it seems, but I ignored it. Her skintight jet-black leathers didn’t gleam at all in the moon light like black leathers should, almost like they absorbed all the moons light and were darker than dark should be in the full moonlight.

I pulled up along side and asked the obvious question, “Do you need any help?”

Her answer of “No I am just waiting” was a surprise.

I took closer look at her, voluptuous in build, skin pale white in the moonlight with a long mane of black hair. Suddenly the dark misty road began to look even more like a dream. Fog was beginning to become thicker rising up all around us as I shut down my bike and asked. “What are you waiting for?”

The woman in black walked closer to me and in a low voice replied. “Waiting for you.”

Surprise must have been written all over my face as she said. “Follow me back beyond the curve in the road, I stay just beyond there.” And pointed back down the road from where I had come.

The woman walked with a deliberate sway back to her motorcycle and got on, pulling her helmet down over her long hair. Her bike started up with a roar and she turned to me with a gleaming smile and said. “I bet you can’t keep up with me!” so I start up my bike and we race away together. Faster and faster, she goes easily accelerating just beyond my own powerful machine, 90, 100, 110-mph. Now side by side she continues to accelerate towards the curve, I keep up determined to match her all the way. 125, 135, 150 mph, I am at top end. Still she leads me on, the curve is fast approaching but she does not slow. I begin to dread the curve, I know I can’t take it at this speed and I know neither can she but she continues steady on.
Suddenly I can see the curve in the headlight, I grab the brakes and start to feel the tires loose their bite on the pavement. I am fighting for control, sliding sideways as the bike tries to stay on the pavement. Sparks fly off my bikes lower reaches as I finally get the huge weight of my motorcycle back under control and on the road as I slide through the curve. At the other side of the curve as I ride out the woman in black is nowhere to be seen. No lights, no side roads, just me and the drifting white fog in the moonlight.

As I come to a stop in the highway, a cold chill runs down my spine. Slowly and deliberately, I ride back the way I had come searching for some sign of the woman in black. However, no sign of anyone else was reveled in the headlight glow. No side roads, no sign of running off the road and wrecking, nothing to tell the fate of the woman in black. Slowly after walking through the curve to make sure there is no sign of where the woman in black went. I get back on my bike and ride back to town.

At a pub frequented by motorcyclists that sits on the side of the road leading out onto the stretch of highway 17 I decide to stop and have a beer before going home. The bartender, a friend named Frank, who I have talked to many times before says hello as I step up to the bar and lay my helmet on the stool next to me. “Beer Please” are my only words. He looks at me in a strange way, fills a cold mug with draft, stands across from me, and watches me drain it with one long gulp. “Another” he asks with raised eyebrows, “yes” is my short answer.
As Frank sits the mug in front of me, he asks, “Is something bothering you?” I hesitate, I am not sure if I want to tell of my recent experience, finally after drinking down the second mug I nod my head. “Something very odd just happened at the double s curve down on highway 17.”

His eyes immediately light up with interest. “Now what would that be? You see a UFO?” His voice was not as condescending as his words.

“No I replied, something a little more odd than even an alien space ship.” His look was quizzical but he didn’t ask any questions, waiting I guess, to see if I would volunteer what I had seen. “Give me another mug and I’ll tell you what I saw tonight” was my answer to his questioning look. As he filled the mug, I thought about what had happened down the highway and wondered if I should really tell such a story. I had no evidence to back up my claims, and the memory was beginning to feel almost dream like. However, as Frank set the third beer on the bar I started my tale.

“Frank, you do know that tight S curve about fifteen miles south on Rt17 that everyone likes to see how fast they can fly through?” “Sure, replied Frank, everyone brags about how fast they go through that curve.” “Well tonight I almost didn’t make that curve but I had company when I went into it but not when I came out!”

Frank hesitated, looking at me intently his next words were a surprise. “ I’m betting your company in that curve had a few curves of her own, am I right?”

Immediately I blurted out, “How did you know that?”

Franks next words were even more unexpected, “Let me tell you what I think you saw before I tell you how I know. Just after the curve, you saw another biker on the side of the road, as though someone was broken down. You went back to see if you could help and it was a woman, pretty much what you would think of as the perfect ten.” The look on my face must have been enough to confirm he was on the right track. Frank went on, “ she said she was waiting for you, told you to follow her, and dared you to try and beat her through the curve, am I right so far?”

I was silent for a few moments, as bizarre as my encounter was the fact the Frank could tell me what I had seen stunned me. “Yes, you are right! A woman with long black hair, milky white skin and tight black leathers. How did you know?”

“I hear a lot of stories, lots of bikers come in her after riding that length of Rt17 and several have told me that story. The details are different for each guy, sometimes the girl is a blond , a red head, or a dark skinned beauty but the end is always the same. She rides into the curve at an insane speed and disappears. Always happens on the full moon at about the same time. As far as I know, it’s been going on for about 10 years. A few guys have tried to look for her again, most never saw her again two of them did. Neither of them made it through the curve and they crashed. One of them survived and he said he met the same woman and tried to catch her. The rider who crashed and died looking for her lived long enough to tell the EMTs that he had caught her. I haven’t heard about any more sightings of her until now. I had thought maybe that one death had satisfied her. You are the first to report seeing her since he died.”

My thoughts whirled around in my head. I was already planing to go back and try to find her again. The look on my face must have been enough for Frank to guess my thoughts. “Don’t go looking for her again, I can’t explain who or what she is but one look at her should be enough! Think about what you saw no one could have made that curve at her speed and where did she go? I don’t think anyone really wants to know where she went.” Nodding slowly I acknowledged the wisdom of Franks words but I knew in my heart I would have to look for her again!”
Michael Hissom

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What is that?

“What are you doing?”

“Checking out this planet”


“It’s got stuff on it”

“Stuff? What do you mean stuff?”

“Chemicals producing a localized decrease in entropy….”


“Yeah, I was collecting Boron for my project and I felt a localized decrease in entropy. I stopped to check it out”

“That’s odd, what are you going to do with it?”

“Look close, the stuff is covering the planet, it has started to use sunlight to power the entropy decrease.”

“WOW! That’s cool, wait hit it with a rock and see what happens!”

The asteroid hits the planet…..

“Look, it’s growing back! Even more complex!”

“That’s wild, I’ve never seen anything quite like that…”

“Now there are little things scurrying around, they eat each other!”

“Now that is weird, hit it again…. Harder this time”

“Ok, at least those yucky things have stopped crawling around!”

“Lets go check the core, the black hole is fun to throw stars into…”

“Wait the stuff is growing back! It’s different this time, smaller…”

“Wow just watch it divide and grow, really weird, WHAT WAS THAT?”

“A nuclear reaction, how did that happen?”

“The things growing on the planet did it!”

“What are they doing?”

“Looks like they are fighting, burning stuff and each other…”

“What are those things?”

“Looks like they are visiting the moon orbiting the planet”

“Now they are growing on the next planet out, this could be serious, they are spreading, nuclear reactions are being used all over the place.”

“Maybe we should make the star go nova, see what that does?”

“I don’t know, could they be alive?”

“No, I don’t see how, I feel no chinga waves or stunly particles”

“They make things, could they be intelligent?”

“No way, absolutely no communication between them, I feel no minds at all….”

“Lets destroy them all before they spread to the next star…”

“Too late, now they are growing on three nearby planet systems…. Four, no five and starting on that one over there, that makes six stars, this could be serious, I think we should stop them all.”

“They are fun to watch, they do decrease entropy, it feels good to be near that….”

“1000 planets now, they are all around us, we better go before they are starting to worry me.”

“Yeah, lets go to the next galaxy, they can’t go there…. Can they?

“I don’t know, lets think about it for awhile, we’ll check back in a couple billion years and see what they do, lets go to the next brane and see if we can soak up some chinga waves, I’m hungry…”

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Cool and wet, in the light of the cold white moon
Clothed only in the phosphorescent waters glow
Where am I? Only the night birds and the fishes know
Near by a gull, disturbed by my swim, sings his raucous tune

The water flows over me like a lovers caress
Onward I drift, with the tides salty stream
Unfettered, my mind begins an oddly familiar dream
A woman appears, standing, like me she is without dress

She dives into the shallow inlets flow
And reappears, glowing with an inner light
I give chase, swimming with all my might
When I arrive at her side, again she dives below

But instead of legs long and sleek
A fishes tail follows her into the brine
Mermaid! the thought rips into my mind
I hesitate, astounded, by this being that i see

Again she appears, this time not alone
Three more of these apparitions, appear in a wave crest
As glowing water cups their bobbing breasts
Their sirens song begins, and i become still as stone

The song, more beautiful than any mortal woman’s voice
Captivates me, holds me, unable to think or move
My love, it says, to have them i must prove
As I listen I realize I am being offered a choice

To join them in their home, wet and cool
To swim, and frolic, under the sea
Forever and ever just them and me
Just then a gull cries out, “death is what they offer, you fool!”

When I look back to where the water is dark and deep
Only a fading sparkle marks where sirens swam
I shout out, come back, only the gull reply’s “foolish man”
Then I realize, that their love had a price attached, far too steep!

Michael Hissom

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Life, poem

Scattered across the sky, points of light to the naked eye
Fiery orbs of red to blue, storms of violence unimagined to the mind
Magnetic flames caress companions held in gravity’s bond
Creating colors of heat-less flame in the sky

Curtains of light shimmer and race
Evidence of magnetic defense from the companion’s heart
Allowing a strange twist of entropy to multiply, exist and expand
Defiance! Of the law that binds time and space

Order and arrangement, chemical reactions grow more complex
In spite of the necessity to become simple and scattered
Things that move and should not exist,
Mostly their form is no more than specks

Completion spawns in entropy’s mirror
Cooperation magnifies the mirror’s effect
Forming masses of pulsating beings with no sense of time
Neoteny allows the young to steal from the old, that which is superior

Complexity drives the defiance of law
Soon awareness of surrounding space
Drives the increasing awareness of self and others
The more aware leads the less to their maw

While others escape to new spaces the aggressive can’t pursue
Other less mobile forms raise antennae to absorb
All the energy of the glowing light from the sky
Competition is fierce between the motile and those that look to the blue

Competition and cooperation step up the pace
What will grow, multiply, dominate, or die
Soon the liquid that dissolves the chemicals from others
No longer surrounds those that have moved to the surface

The surface is dry most of the time
Requires sex cells to become motile
When the rain comes, unknown and unseen, sex covers the wet earth
Sex cells swim up the trunks of trees allowing growth to dizzying heights

The ones that move will not be left behind in this assault on the land
Hatched in the water but able to walk and slither
Animals join the plants in conquest of the land
Eating not only the tall forms that feed on light but each other as well

Eons pass neoteny makes the grade again and again
Animals revert to their larval forms again to hasten change
Soon warm beings rule the cool dry land
First four legs then two strut out of the forest and across the land

On of these tall neotenic beings walks into the morning sun
His mate and child walk with him
Large brains, opposable thumbs, reach for the ground
Pulling up a flower yellow as the sun
The man holds the yellow sex organ of the plant and sees beauty

His mate smiles, they turn to continue on towards domination of the world

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Paddlefish in the home aquarium!

Paddlefish in the home aquarium

Paddlefish are an ancient lineage of fishes whose origin predates teleost fishes by millions of years. Paddlefish are distantly related to chimeras and goblin sharks and more closely related to Sturgeons. There are two extant species of paddlefishes, the Chinese Paddlefish “Psephurus gladius”

And the North American Paddlefish “Polyodon spathula”,

The Chinese Paddle Fish has not been observed in the wild for several years and is suspected to be extinct. In the wild North American paddlefish can reach five feet long and weigh 150 pounds, its Chinese cousin can reach 23 feet in length. The two paddlefish exhibit two distinct methods of feeding, the Chinese paddlefish is a piscavore, feeding primarily on fish. The North American paddlefish is a filter feeder, feeding mostly on planktonic crustaceans, insects and the occasional small fish.

I received 12 North American paddlefish 10 weeks ago from a breeder who grows them for their roe that makes excellent caviar. In the fish breeding trade there sometimes occurs what are known as runts or dinks, these are fish which for some as yet unknown reason do not grow as large as the normal fish and usually do not live because they cannot compete with larger normal fish. My 12 fish were dinks and not expected to grow larger than a small fraction of the normal size of the paddlefish. Keeping paddlefish in the home aquarium has not been done extensively but the few dinks that have been kept have so far (4 years plus) failed to reach a size larger than 10”. Keeping these fish is an attempt by me to gather more information about these fish and to promote keeping them in captivity.

When I first received the fish two were DOA and in the next few days another two fish died leaving me with 8 fish total. Now, 10 weeks into this experiment, the paddlefish are doing great and have reached 4 to 6 inches in length while their normal hatch mates are in the 16 to 18 inch size range and growing fast, my fishes growth has slowed down almost to a stand still. These are tough fish, when I received the shipping box all the fish appeared to be dead but upon being placed in their tank all but two revived and the 8 that are left are doing great.

I feed my fish live daphnia I culture myself, live blood worms from the daphnia vats, powdered krill and the same floating pellets the fish at the breeders grow out ponds receive. Currently I have split the fish up into two groups of 4, one group is indoors in a 30 gallon (113.5 liters) aquarium and a 55 gallon (208 liters) aquarium. The outdoor group has a water temperature on average of 85 degrees, the indoor group has an average temperature of 72 degrees. The water was softened in a household water softener so I added some ions to make the water harder. One half cup of marine aquarium salt and two shot glasses of calcium chloride were dissolved in the water, an equivalent amount has been dissolved in the 55 gallon tank as well..

The outdoor aquarium is filtered by a 350 gallon an hour submersible pump pulling the water through a large sponge. The indoor aquarium is filtered by a Marineland 200 gallon an hour Penguin filter. The penguin filter intake is pre-filtered by a sponge to avoid pulling the live daphnia into the filter. The penguin filter also has a wet/dry rotating biological filter to help deal with ammonia by culturing a thin layer of bacteria at the air water interface that allows the bio-filter to operate more efficiently.

These fish are very messy, excreting wastes due to not efficiently digesting their food, much of their food goes straight through and would pollute the water if not for efficient filtration and scavenger fishes. I keep coolie loaches and cory catfish in the tanks as scavengers.

There were 7 adult black banded sunfish in the tank as well as 5 tiny baby sunfish but the paddlefish ate several of them and killed the rest by mouthing them. The paddlefish are truly pelagic and never stop swimming, here is a video of the paddlefish feeding.

More to come

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