Whether you have a reef tank or a fish-only tank with live rock, the aiptasia anemone or glass anemone can become a real pest in your saltwater aquarium and can even overrun your tank, killing off corals and covering your live rock. They can even cause problems with your fish too. Here are some of the biggest mistakes to avoid and what to do instead.
Mistake #1 – Not Inspecting New Invertebrate Additions For The Presence of Aiptasia Anemones – This is one of the biggest mistakes aquarists often make. We get excited about adding a new coral, snail, hermit crab, or live rock to our tank and do not take the time to inspect them for the presence of these pesky anemones.
Solution: Inspect any new additions to your tank (especially invertebrates) for the presence of aiptasia anemones. The best way to do this is to setup a small quarantine tank, in which you can place new additions for to observe them for any nasty hitch hikers such as aiptasia anemones. It doesn’t take long, perhaps a few hours or a couple of days of observation. And if you find them there are many ways to remove them.
Mistake #2 – Depending Only On Manual Removal – In the event that you do get one or more of these anemones in your saltwater aquarium, you will want to remove it. And while there are many products on the market for manual removal of aiptasia, not all of them work. And even for the ones that do work, manual removal is only part of the total solution. This is especially true when you consider the fact that aiptasia anemones reproduce asexually by pedal laceration. This fancy term breaks down to the words “foot tearing”. As aiptasia anemones crawl along (yes they are motile) they leave behind pieces of their foot, which then grow up into more adults.
Solution: Think prevention and biological control. This means putting animals in your tank that eat aiptasia anemones. Examples of such animals include, Copperbanded Butterflyfish, Bristletail Filefish, Berghia nudibranchs, Auriga Butterflyfish, Racoon Butterflyfish (not reef safe).
Mistake #3 – Over Feeding With Baby Brineshrimp And Other Small Suspended Foods – While they are photosynthetic, aiptasia will really begin to reproduce quickly with the presence of suspended food items such as baby brineshrimp or Cyclopeeze, which they can capture with their tentacles with great efficiency.
Solution: Limit the offering of baby brineshrimp and other small suspended particulates and be sure not to over feed. The less particulate food they catch, the less they reproduce and the easier it is to control them.
Mistake #4 – Removing Live Rock Pieces and Corals To Kill The Aiptasia Anemones – Often when people go to remove or kill the aiptasia anemones in their tank, they grow on live rock or on the rock base of a coral. And the mistake made here is removing the rock from its position to kill or treat the aiptase anemone. The problem with this is that the rock almost never gets put back into the exact same position, and worse it destabilizes the live rock structure. This destabilization leads to rock slides and collapse of the rock structure, which can kill fish and corals and other invertebrates. It also shrinks the size of the live rock structure, ultimately turning the live rock structure you took so long to get just right into a pile of rocks. This takes away hiding places for fish, reduces water circulation through the live rock, which causes it to collect detritus and organic matter, which degrades water quality.
Solution: Leave the rocks and corals in the tank when removing aiptasia anemones – even when killing the aiptasia anemones by hand. You are better off focusing your removal efforts on using biological controls and let the aiptasia-eating animals in your tank do most of the work. They are much better at it than we are.