Aiptasia Anemone Spotlight and How to Get Rid of Them
- Feb 02, 2019
- Tony Palacios
- 515 1 0
Aiptasia (sometimes spelled Aaptasia) is often described as a brown palm tree. Usually, the base/pedal is brown, and the crown and tentacles will be opaque and sometimes look like it has circular spheres throughout the tentacles. This is one of the reasons they are also known as Glass Anemones.
Anyone with a saltwater aquarium will have to deal with Aiptasia at some point in time while they are in the hobby. If you have heard about them, then you will know to deal with them quickly after finding them. Some people new to the hobby will see them as a hitchhiker or new life in their tank in most case get excited about finding an Aiptasia in their tank. After a short period, one turns into two causing someone new to the hobby to get more excited. Unfortunately, some of the excitement may come to an end once their tank starts to become overrun with Aiptasia.
Aiptasia is manageable, and there are many ways to try to remove Aiptasia from your aquarium and will go into them but before we do. We need to understand why the hobby sees these anemones as an enemy.
Everyone who keeps corals is looking for beautiful or interesting looking corals which are hardy and can reproduce or grow quickly. Aiptasia is in the anemone family, and they fit these specifications, yet the hobby hates them with a passion.
Aiptasia is a survivor designed to reproduce quickly, and they can defend them self and consume and produce their food. When I claim they are survivors, they will move around the tank to find food sources and while the Aiptasia has tentacles and will pick food from the water that passes through the tentacles as an anemone would. They will compete with your corals to take food floating through the tank, and they do not need it to survive how the brown comes from the zooxanthellae, which are tiny algae cells that provide most of the nutrients needed for the Aiptasia to survive. The algae just require light to grow, and in return, it feeds the Aiptasia that keeps it safe.
Just like anemones, Aiptasia can use its tentacles to sting corals, invertebrates and even small fish. Normally, large fish will not be affected by the Aiptasia, but they can stress the fish out if the Aiptasia infestation is too large. If you feed any of your corals, they will tend to try to migrate where there is food and once they get there will sting anything that competes with it for food.
As far as reproducing, they are asexually and sexual, plus they can generate clones by pedal laceration. So what does this mean?
Let's start with the lacerations, Aiptasia will move around your tank to try to find a good water flow and a nutrient source. Aiptasia is also able to completely detach itself and float to a different location. As it moves they will leave small cells behind on the rocks, and these cells will create a clone of the Aiptasia. This is also true if you try to tear it off the rock making it almost certain that if you tamper with them you will end you with multiple ones spawning throughout the tank so don’t try to cut them off of rocks or try to siphon them out of the tank, you will only create more of them.
As if that was not bad enough Aiptasia can release millions of gametes that once fertilized becomes a larva that will settle into a safe hard location with it transforms into a polyp. When the Aiptasia is under attack, it will also try to release gametes as a last ditch effort to keep the species alive.
It takes about 14 days to go from a single cell or laravel to a polyp in ideal warmer conditions and elevated nutrient levels. You can slow down their life cycle by keeping the Aiptasia in cooler waters. Before considering this make sure that all of the species in your tank will survive the cooler waters you are aiming for. Make sure to gradually make the changes to prevent shocking other species. Never try to scrape or remove Aiptasia from your rock.
So How Does Aiptasia get Introduced into Your Aquarium?
In essence, they are a hitchhiker, so you're using the dry rock to prevent hitchhikers from being introduced to your tank, so you are good right, wrong! It only takes a single cell of Aiptasia, and within 14 days it can be a full-grown Aiptasia and start the dreaded cycle in your tank. If you use dry rock how can it get introduced into your aquarium? If you buy corals from anyone including a Local Fish Store (LFS) or even a hobbyist you can easily get introduced into your tank.
So unless you plan to populate everything in your tank from corals that you propagate or only add fish that you raised then chances are at some point you will cross paths with Aiptasia. The most common way they get introduced is via corals. The Aiptasia laravel will hide in the pores of the rock, frag plug or sometimes even attaches to the base of the coral. Sometimes a small pore in a rock can have a full grown Aiptasia in it that is just waiting to bloom. Given a thriving environment, they can spread quickly. Unfortunately, there is no dip that you can use when dipping coral or live rock that will just kill Aiptasia.
How do You Get Rid of Aiptasia from Your Aquarium?
There are many ways to get rid of Aiptasia, and I am going to list out all of the ways that I have heard of. I will also talk about my experiences with some of these methods.
The Natural Way of Killing Aiptasia
I always like to try a natural way, and there are several fish and invertebrates that eat Aiptasia. Many people claim that some of these methods do not work, but for them to stand a chance, I suggest not feeding the tank for three days after you add them to the tank. The lack of food will make the Aiptasia look more tempting to eat. If you continue feeding and the species has to choose between the Aiptasia and the food that you feed the tank, they may not eat what you want them to eat. Here is the list of species that could eat Aiptasia:
There is a look-alike on the market called the camel shrimp that will not eat Aiptasia. Also keep in mind that as a predator eats the Aiptasia, the Aiptasia could be spreading, and in 14 days you could have some pop-up. So make sure to keep them around for a while and do not get rid of them right after you think they are all gone.
- Peppermint Shrimp - This is one that you hear about a lot, and some say it works and an equal amount
say they don’t. Personally, they have always worked for me, I normally get 3-5 peppermint shrimp and do not feed the tank for a few days, and within a few days, there are no signs of Aiptasia. Peppermint shrimp can pick of other soft corals so make sure to feed lightly until all signs of Aiptasia are gone and then feed normally. They should be called Peppermint Bandits because they are also known to steal food from coral, I have seen them pull food out of corals mouths to get the food which can damage them. So make sure they are well fed. Note: Humpback Shrimp are commonly sold as Peppermint Shrimp, and while they look similar they will not eat Aiptasia.
- Butterflyfish - Copperband, Auriga, Raccoon, Longnose, Orange, and Teardrop Butterflyfish are some of the species that are known to eat Aiptasia. The biggest problem with getting a Butterflyfish to eat your Aiptasia is that their appetite does not end with your Aiptasia. They will also eat invertebrates (including good anemones, feather dusters, clams, etc..) and they will also pick on corals. Unfortunately, not providing ample food will most likely cause them to focus on your invertebrates first and with time they may go after your Aiptasia they can also be difficult to keep alive in an aquarium.
- Berghia Nudibranch - Also known as Aiptasia Eating Nudibranch are tiny sea slug. They are a natural predator of Aiptasia and will hunt them down to the last cell level, and they are reef safe. Possibly the only natural predator that you do not have to worry about eating anything else in your tank. The Berghia use sensors on their heads called rhinophores to hunt Aiptasia. They are asexual, so with just one or two of them, you could wind up with an army. Don’t worry if you do not see them during the day, and they tend to hunt at night. Eggs take about 15 days to hatch, and they have a lifespan of about six to eight months.
Aiptasia Eating Nudis have a predator that could stop your nudibranch army from raising and wiping out your Aiptasia, that predator is also in your tank right now as you read this. They are amphipods they like to feast on the nudi eggs and laravel. Once the laravel start eating the Aiptasia, the amphipods are no longer a treat. The laravel is small enough to get into small cracks or pores where Aiptasia cells may hide.
The biggest problem you may have is finding them, ask your local reef group some time hobbyist will breed them. These sea slugs only eat Aiptasia so once the Aiptasia start to disappear should start to see if someone else in the hobby may need them next. If there is no Aiptasia is present, they will starve within about five days.
- Matted Filefish - The Aiptasia eating filefish are also known to eat Aiptasia. Make sure they are well fed, if they go hungry they will start to nip on corals, especially Stone Polyp Stoney (SPS) corals. While they may look slow and like a shy fish they can also pick on smaller fish, unfortunately, they are not considered reef safe due to once they start nipping at coral polyps they normally do not stop.
- Hermit Crabs - I have seen several people claim that their hermit crabs will eat Aiptasia. Mine never have but if they did, they would be the perfect choice how they are part of the cleanup crew and algae eaters. The ones that people claim that they eat Aiptasia are Red Legged (which I have always had) and white spotted hermit crabs (I have never tried these).
Killing Aiptasia Using Chemicals
I think most people would like to handle Aiptasia the natural way but sometimes the species do not corporate or are not available when you need them. Some of the methods are considered chemical treatment but honestly, some of them are either items that you already have in your kitchen or that you already have for your aquarium.
Killing Aiptasia Using Kalkwasser - I have used this method many times successfully, I have also dose kalkwasser in my tank many time so I felt fairly confident using it. It is super simple but there are several things you have to take into consideration. First, you need to make the Kalkwasser slurry just mix a small amount of Kalkwasser with RO/DI water. The idea here is that you need to be able to suck it up into a plastic syringe, make it as think as you can while still being able to get it into the syringe. It's not an exact science the thicker the better.
Turn off all of the flow in the tank, powerheads and return pump.
What you want to do is inject some of the slurry directly into the Aiptasia mouth. Make sure you are in a position where you can get to it, you want to get as close as you can to the mouth, but make sure not to touch the tentacles. If you do accidentally touch the tentacles, the Aiptasia will retract and cover its mouth to protect themselves. When the slurry comes in contact with the Aiptasia, it will instantly start to burn its tissue.
Injecting the slurry into their mouth is important, it seems to be the only way to really kill them and also if their mouth is full of the Kalkwasser slurry it's hard for it to start spitting millions of gametes out of its mouth.
You would think that the dumping the slurry all over the Aiptasia pedestal would kill them but it won't, once they come into contact with anything they will shrivel up into a crack or pore in the rock. It will burn the tentacles but it will come back with just short and stubby tentacles that will return to normal in just a few days.
If you are lined up with the mouth, feel free to give is a healthy serving of the Kalkwasser slurry but keep in mind any nearby corals. If this slurry land on one of the other corals it will hurt the coral or even kill it. If you miss and the Aiptasia mouth and it comes back it will normally burn its tentacles and come back with short stubby tentacles make it harder for them to protect their mouth so go in for around two and if needed around three. After they retract it could take a few days before they pop back up.
Killing Aiptasia Using Aiptasia-X - So you don’t have any Kalkwasser or a plastic syringe or do not want to figure out how to mix a solution. No problem, RedSea has you covered, their Aiptasia-X, it is their own version of a Kalkwasser solution that comes with a plastic syringe. The nice thing about this kit is the metal syringe tips that come with it. One of them is a straight tip and one of them the tip is slanted at an angle giving you options.
The solution is already mixed you only have to shake it up and inject it into the Aiptasia mouth, you can pick some up on Amazon for about $15 see the current price here.
Other Aiptasia Stopping Choices - They may not be mentioned as much as these other methods but there are other products out there that claim that they will kill Aiptasia such as Stop-Aiptasia, Joe`s Juice Aiptasia Eliminator, Blue Life Aiptasia Rx, Aiptasia Away, and Elimi Aptas
Killing Aiptasia Using Lemon Juice - Well if the world gives you lemons, kill some Aiptasia. Yeah, that's right, only you will want to use lemon instead you want to use lemon juice. I have never used this method but there are several people who claim it works and the small amount of lemon juice is reef safe.
You will need lemon juice and a syringe with the needle. You will need about 0.5 ml of lemon juice per Aiptasia with a maximum of 3 ml of lemon juice. Shake the lemon juice well and fill the syringe with the needed amount of lemon juice.
Unlike some of the other applications, you do not want to squirt the lemon juice into the mouth of the Aiptasia. Instead, you want to place the needle into the base of the Aiptasia and inject 0.5 ml of the lemon juice into it. I imagine you will need to act quickly because as soon as you touch it, the Aiptasia will start to retract.
Killing Aiptasia with Hydrogen Peroxide - Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide has another great use to get rid of unwanted items in your tank. I have used Hydrogen Peroxide to kill hair algae and bubble algae in my tanks but I have never used it to kill Aiptasia. Rule of thumb when using hydrogen peroxide never use more than 1 ml per 10 gallons of water. The first time I used Hydrogen Peroxide on my tank I cut the dose in half for the first few time until I felt comfortable.
You will need Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide 12% or higher and a plastic syringe. You will need 0.5 ml of hydrogen peroxide to fill the syringe with the needed amount. You will want to inject about 0.5 ml into the mouth of the Aiptasia. The hydrogen peroxide will burn the Aiptasia immediately.
Killing Aiptasia Using Boiling Hot Water - There are some suggestions that the spraying extremely hot water on the Aiptasia could kill them, but it does not seem to be very effective with most people having to resort to other methods to remove the Aiptasia from their tank. This method is not suggested.
Other Household Items to Kill Aiptasia - There are even some people who suggest using bleach and copper sulfate. I would not suggest these approaches, seems like these posts were their past post and I could not find these reefers anywhere to find out what happened. Either way, I think some major red flags come up if someone tells me to put bleach or any type of copper substance in my tank.
Mad Scientist and Electrifying Ways to Kill Aiptasia
People get creative when they want to get rid of something in their tank, sometimes it works and sometimes you wonder what they were thinking.
Killing Aiptasia Using Majano Wands - The Majano Wand does not kill Aiptasia via direct electrocution, instead, it operates on the principles of electrolysis. Since the physical composition of Majano/Aiptasia is mostly water, it essentially disintegrates them on contact.
Seems like it would work but I have never personally used it. You have this wand with a point and you touch the Aiptasia and it will start to disintegrate them on contact. You can pick on up here but they are a little pricey.
Using a Laser to Kill Aiptasia - First thing first, the laser needed for this process is dangerous and extreme caution should be used if you go this route. We also suggest that you use any of the other methods to deal with the Aiptasia.
Also, keep in mind that if a single cell of the Aiptasia is left behind, then it will just come back, looks like 90% of the time the Aiptasia comes back how it is very difficult to target the Aiptasia and keep the laser on the Aiptasia for a period of time. I think most of the people who go this route just want to play with a laser and expensive laser.
Make sure you and anyone else in the room with you are using the proper eye protection.
No one really provides a link to the model that they use, I found this laser on Amazon which is fairly cheap but there are things that make think it would work. It can get hot enough to light a match within a few seconds. After several seconds the Aiptasia should start to pop. No guarantees.
Other Methods of Dealing with Aiptasia
Another method of dealing with the Aiptasia if you are able to take the rock out of the water is super glue, coral glue or epoxy. Keep track as to where the Aiptasia is located, once you pull the rock out the Aiptasia will retract and will be harder to see.
Once the rock is out of the water, the Aiptasia will retract into the rock. Fill the area that they retracted to with glue or epoxy. The idea here is to trap the Aiptasia into the area that it tried to hide back into. Make sure to use plenty of glue and epoxy to make sure there is no way that they will be able to get out.