When you’re first starting out your aquarium, you usually will spend all day checking on everything in your tank ensuring everything is still intact. Then, one day you look and you see this translucent looking pink flower… I receive one of two reactions from customers when they first come across Aiptasia anemones. One is panic. The other is excitement, as they think it is a coral that’s grown in their tank.
Aiptasia will not cause direct hard to aquarium. The only problem is that it can grow rapidly in your tank, stinging and therefore damaging your corals. It will not crash your tank or harm your fish, but preventing it from spreading is something you will want to do once you come across it.
What is aiptasia?
Aiptasia is a type of pest anemone that most aquarium hobbyists come across at some point. The reason they can cause serious issues in your tank is because of how easily and how quickly they can propagate. It only takes one tiny gamete to be released into the tank for one to turn in to another one, and another one, and suddenly your tank is covered.
Luckily, there are many methods to help with removal and prevention. If aiptasia has been introduced to your tank, it is not necessarily your fault as they can hide in the tiniest of crevices in your rock structure or in the skeleton of a new coral. They can start off so tiny that sometimes it is merely impossible to know if you’ve put one in your tank! Indeed, the most common way Aiptasia is introduced to the aquarium is through live rock and live coral.
The first means of removal comes in a bottle and it has a thick paste consistency. To use these products you must cut all the pumps in the aquarium, fill a syringe with the product and completely cover each aiptasia one by one. You must completely cover the mouth in the center to ensure that it’ll die. The reason you will want your pumps off is because the paste can blow throughout the aquarium, possibly landing on coral. Wait 10 minutes once you’ve finished before turning your pumps back on.
There are also many at home methods of removing aiptasia that can work just as well. Many people purchase lemon juice and use the same method of removal as explained above and have great success with it.
There are also some forms of aiptasia biocontrol that involve the use of certain fish or inverts. The first one I will talk about literally has aiptasia in its name. The aiptasia-eating filefish is a great addition to any aquarium to prevent or help aiptasia breakouts. These guys are considered “reef-safe with caution” because they are known to pick at soft and stony corals. So, if you add one to your tank, its is vital that you keep a close eye on it. Keeping them well-fed can help to steer them away from picking on coral.
The same situation goes for the peppermint shrimp. Peppermint shrimp do a great job at eating aiptasia as they are always scurrying throughout the rocks looking for food. What’s also nice is you can get away with a minimum of a 10 gallon aquarium for them. So, if you have a smaller tank, there is still an option for you to help with preventing the spread of aiptasia!
Peppermint shrimp appreciate an omnivorous diet for daily feedings. As said before with the filefish, these shrimp can be known for occasionally picking at soft corals due to their constant picking at the rocks. So, just keeping a close eye on the shrimp and maintaining a consistent food source for them can help deter them from picking at coral. I’ve had people tell me that they’ve never experienced peppermint shrimp eating coral while others tell me they’ve had it happen to them a lot. So observing your tank and corals will be important when adding any type of fish or invert that is known to eat aiptasia.
This last thing that can eliminate aiptasia is actually pretty amazing to say the least. It is a laser that you point directly at the pest anemone to kill it. Yes, a laser. I’ve had the honor of using one and it is quite the thrill sitting there and watching the pest anemone wither and die before your eyes. However, you must exercise extreme caution when working with these lasers as they can be harmful. You usually want to wear sunglasses so you don’t directly look at the light as you use it. Along with sunglasses, you should not point it at anyone or yourself. It can burn you and it is not something to underestimate or use as a toy. In my opinion, the laser does take quite some time before it kills the aiptasia so you might be sitting there for a couple of minutes before it kills one. I personally prefer using the above methods over the laser but it is kind of cool to say you have a laser that kills pest anemones.
Overall, the way you choose to take care of your aiptasia is completely up to you. I believe that using a syringe and directly eliminating all of them in sight and then adding peppermint shrimp to the tank to take care of the ones you missed is the best course of action!