Re:question for pete ;)

Pete Giwojna

Dear Tracie:

I’m sorry for the delay in responding to your e-mail, but I had important clinic appointments that kept me busy earlier this week and this is the first opportunity I have had to reply to your e-mail.

The creatures that have appeared on your live rock hard Aiptasia rock anemones, which are undesirable and should be eliminated from your aquarium. A few isolated Aiptasia rock anemones won’t pose a serious threat to any of the larger seahorses such as Mustangs and Sunbursts (Hippocampus erectus), which will be careful to avoid them.

However, Aiptasia rock anemones can rapidly increase in number and become a threat to seahorses when they are so numerous it is difficult for the seahorses to avoid coming in contact with them. The danger is not that the Aiptasia will capture and consume a small seahorse, but rather that their stinging cells or nematocysts can penetrate the integument of the seahorse and leave it vulnerable to secondary infections. For this reason, I would strongly suggest that you take measures to eradicate Aiptasia that have sprung up on your live rock.

Aiptasia rock anemones can easily be killed by injecting them with a number of solutions — Kalkwasser, boiling water, lemon juice, and a number of commercial products such as Joe’s Juice, which is available from most well-stocked fish stores that carry saltwater fish and invertebrates. Joe’s Juice comes with a little syringe and white fluid that you spray on the anemone’s oral disc, and it should work very well for you since you have only a few Aiptasia rock anemones in your tank at this time.

Berghia nudibranch’s and Peppermint Shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni) will also do a fine job of controlling Aiptasia rock anemones and they do great with seahorses. They are popular additions to a seahorse tank because hobbyists like to use them to augment their cleanup crews and add a splash of color and activity to their tanks. Aside from their utility as attractive scavengers, they often perform a useful service by grooming the seahorses, which is fascinating to watch, and regularly reproduce, releasing swarms of nauplii many seahorses love to eat. Peppermint Shrimp are especially popular because they are natural predators of Aiptasia rock anemones and do a wonderful job of eradicating these pests from the aquarium.

One rule to keep in mind when buying your Peppermints is to select the largest possible cleaner shrimp for your seahorse tank(s). Seahorses will actively hunt small cleaner shrimp and they are quite capable of killing shrimp that are far too big to swallow whole, so the cleaners need to be large enough that they are not regarded as potential prey. Add a few good-sized peppermint shrimp to the seahorse enclosure and they will happily clean up all of the smaller Aiptasia rock anemones.

However, Tracie, since your aquarium is not yet fully established, neither the Berghia nudibranchs or the peppermint shrimp will do well in the tank, so injecting the anemones whenever you notice one is probably your best bet at this point.

I must also warn you that attacking the Aiptasia rock anemones with sharp, pointed instruments or the like will not be enough to kill it. Aiptasia anemones can reproduce by budding and by fragmentation of their pedal disc or foot. So it isn’t enough to destroy the head (oral disc) of the anemone, you must eliminate the entire foot or it will simply regrow from the pedal disc and even spread if the pedal disc was fragmented during such assaults. So it’s always better to try injecting them rather than skewering them or attempting to physically destroy these pesky little anemones.

Best of luck eliminating the Aiptasia rock anemones before they get out of hand, Tracie!

Happy Trails!
Pete Giwojna

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