Hitchhikers

From time to time there are some unexpected tank inhabitants that will show up.

Aiptasia

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I hate it. You probably do too.

If you are new to the hobby you are probably first thought how cool it was to see a small anemone growing in your tank.  You have life on your live rock! YES! No it is terrible.

Much like algae, bristle worms and a few other nuiscance hitchhikers one of the first things to consider is the amount of food going into your tank.  Aiptasia can survive on very little food and very little light however it multiplies much faster when it is fed.  Make sure you are not allowing a lot of extra food to fall to the substrate of your tank.  If your fish are missing the food you are probably either feeding too much or you are feeding too quickly.  If you are feeding frozen food rinse it out in a net to get rid of some of the smaller particles that your fish can’t eat anyway.

So once you have slowed down the rate that it is spreading there are a few solutions you can try to get rid of it.

First you can try some of the natural predators of aiptasia.

1. Peppermint Shrimp- While there are many who say they have seen them eat the aiptasia I have only seen them tear apart the aiptasia I intentionally feed.  While they do appear to consume the aiptasia their real goal is to get the food inside.

2. Butterfly fish- Copper Banded Butterflies are known to eat it as well as Klein’s Butterflies which I have seen destroy not only aiptasia but also majano anemones which can also reach plague proportions.  One of the tanks I take care of literally had thousands of majano anemones and all but a few they couldn’t reach were gone after a few months.  One caution here is that they can be difficult fish to keep and when they finish on your anemones they will begin to eat anything else they can fit in their mouths.  We had to move them to a fish only tank where they had less to destroy.  If you can’t get your butterflies to eat them slice a few of the aiptasia open with a razor blade. This seems to be the equivalent of a drop of blood in a tank with a shark. Please be careful and don’t cut yourself.

3. Berghia Nudibranchs (Aiptasia Nudibranchs)- While I don’t have experience with them I have a friend who used to actually breed and sell these little guys. What did he feed them? Aiptasia of course and from what he said they could eat a lot of it.  This site (SaltyUnderground.com) seems to carry them, thought I have rarely seen them for sale in the past.  Maybe they are becoming more popular.

If those don’t work or you want to try something before adding a new creature try Joe’s Juice:

4. Manually- Ok so I have tried everything. Syringes which are used to inject boiling water or calcium, a paste of calcium covering their location, stabbing them, smashing them, chopping them up which causes more of them etc.  The least crazy and safest way to take care of them is Joe’s Juice.  This works for both aiptasia and majoano and won’t hurt your other corals as long as you don’t let it sit directly on them.

How to apply:

Use the supplied syringe and make sure you shake the bottle up a lot.  Turn off all of your pumps, if you are really being cautious you can do this during your water change and then siphon out what is left over after it has set on the coral for a bit.  I would recommend leaving it on their as they are really good at retracting back into small holes.  Fill the syringe with a bit and then gently drop it onto the aiptasia from a little bit above them.  Don’t let the syringe hit them or they will be gone before you know it. But don’t worry they will come back.  As soon as the Joe’s Juice hits the aiptasia or majano it will close up which pulls the Joe’s Juice in with them. HA HA laugh and enjoy your victory.  They will die very quickly and I haven’t seen them return unless you just completely missed them or you didn’t shut off your pumps for a bit.

It is reef safe so don’t worry about getting a little extra in there. It shouldn’t do any real damage as long as you remove it.  I wouldn’t go dropping it on your anemones or anything though.

Happy hunting and keep your eye out for aiptasia and majano anemones. You likely will never get them all, but if you stay on top of them they shouldn’t reach any plague proportions.  Remember when controlling with other animals you will likely end up with the need to feed your tank more which could cause aiptasia to grow more if your killing machine decides it would rather swim gracefully by them.  I mean, would you eat one?

Bristle Worms

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There are a number of tank inhabitants that you are going to run into when starting your tank that will surprise you.  This one may even cause you a little pain.  Bristle worms are often referred to as a dreaded pest however they are actually a very beneficial scavenger and detritivore.  If you haven’t yet head the word detritivore it means something that feeds on detritus which is dead organic matter such as fish waste and dead algae.  There are a few harmful species that actually do feed on corals, however most encountered shouldn’t cause any concern.  Usually if there are a lot of them in your tank it is due to over feeding.  Simply cut back on your feeding (make sure the fish get it before it settles to the bottom) you will see a reduction in their numbers quite quickly.

If you need to remove them from the tank or run across one of the larger species, I have found tweezers to be the easiest method of removal.  I have also siphoned them out before when I was unable to catch them with the tweezers. DON’T GRAB THEM WITH YOUR BARE HANDS!  While they look like a soft caterpillar those spines are actually made of calcium.  When you grab them they break off in your skin and take a few days before the discomfort goes away.  I have heard you can dry the area off and then stick duct tape on the location to remove some of the spines(I haven’t yet tried this as I have been fortunate to not have grabbed on in a while.

So don’t panic if you see them unless they appear to be attacking one of your corals, and if you need to remove them do so in a manner that doesn’t require your bare hands.  Also, be careful when moving live rock and I recommend doing so with gloves just to avoid reaching under the back edge of a rock where they are living.

I have often used Aqua Gloves, it also keeps soap and oil from your arms out of the tank. They are also great for handling carpet anemones.

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