Previous and New Reef Tank Pests | Reef Builders


Evidently after we take two steps ahead we frequently should take one step again. Such is the case with the success we have now had within the interest. Within the early days of the interest, we have been preoccupied with simply holding the fish and corals we saved alive. Now that we’re very profitable, we are sometimes confronted with pests that we by no means even considered or knew existed after we began holding corals. Now plainly with nearly each coral or different invertebrate that we maintain there may be some organism that may devour it. And if we don’t discover methods to eradicate them, they’ll rapidly decimate our tanks. 

I’m now typically requested why these pests appear extra problematic now than they did previously, and we at the moment are solely noticing them. There are a selection of explanation why they appear extra problematic now and there’s no sole trigger. First, with our elevated success we’re holding our corals and tanks longer than ever earlier than. In consequence a pest that will have solely are available in as one or two people and thus didn’t produce issues at that quantity now has the time to breed and so get to numbers that may develop into an issue. We additionally now deliver a number of corals which might be maricultured or aquacultured.

Simply as in farming, when you’ve a subject of zucchini you don’t get boll weevils consuming it, as a substitute, you get squash vine borers, that are particular to what you might be rising. However in case you have a blended mattress of crops it’s possible you’ll not have fairly as a lot of an issue as if you develop a single crop. Equally, when you’ve the equal of a subject rising the identical sort of coral, chances are high that the pests that want that coral will dwell in that subject with them. So in a few of these mariculture amenities, we’re undoubtedly rising the pests together with the corals. The identical is true in some aquaculture amenities. I do know that almost all of those amenities do their utmost to maintain these pests at a minimal, however sadly, all it takes is an egg mass or a few people to sneak by way of and issues can begin. And in a closed system freed from any predators with plenty of meals a pest inhabitants can rapidly take off.

So how can pests be managed? I’ll focus on preliminary therapy and quarantine within the subsequent article, however for this one, I’ll simply focus on among the pests we’re seeing and the way to handle them. I’d like to state that it’s straightforward to have a pest-free system, however in my view, most programs may have a pest downside at one time or one other.

First, it must be agreed upon that corals don’t die with out trigger, and in lots of situations, this trigger could also be a pest. So if the tank’s water chemistry checks out, circumstances are steady and there have been no main modifications within the tank or its inhabitants, then an invertebrate predator must be appeared for. To begin off, there’s a household of coral pests the place not all family members are pests, however when they’re encountered they’ll develop into very problematic rapidly. Living proof Asterina starfish. There are quite a few members of this household and a lot of them like different stars are algae and detrivore feeders, that don’t trouble corals or different invertebrates. Nevertheless there are additionally members that act like miniature crown of thorns starfish and like their larger cousins can devastate patches of stony corals.

Whereas most Asterina starfish are innocent, the pink and orange ones have been discovered feeding on Stylophora and Pocillopora

The non-predatory members normally are drab coloured grey or beige in coloration, whereas the predatory clan normally match the colour of the corals they eat, so they are going to have extra inexperienced or blue, and even pink on their floor. All of them can reproduce wildly if meals is out there, and as soon as this occurs it’s troublesome to take away them manually. Happily, the Harlequin shrimp is the proper predator to eradicate them. I’ve used them in a number of tanks and after simply a few weeks, nearly all the stars have been gone. As soon as the celebrities are gone the shrimp will die if different starfish are usually not out there as meals. So at first I transfer them from tank to tank till all the starfish had been eliminated. As soon as this was carried out I then moved them to a good friend’s tank who was having comparable issues. We now share the pair amongst a number of of our tanks as this retains the starfish in verify and it retains the shrimp alive.

Simply as there are good and unhealthy Asterina starfish, there are additionally good and unhealthy brittle starfish. Just like the Asterina most of those are additionally detrivores. Nevertheless, I discovered a range that may be very small that I had the misfortune to seek out out was predatory towards stony corals. These tiny brittle stars had our bodies solely barely bigger than the top of a pin so due to their small measurement I didn’t really feel that they might trigger any harm. I solely started to note an issue with them when it appeared like each small sps frag that I launched into my show tank the place they have been situated began deteriorating from the underside. At first, I couldn’t work out what was taking place, solely once I considered these corals at evening did I see that on every broken coral frag a brittle star was wrapping across the base at evening and both irritated it or was consuming the tissue. I then started eradicating each little brittle star as I discovered them and I additionally added a bunch of six-lined wrasses which consumed what I had missed. Since eradicating these pests I’ve not had any issues getting my newly launched coral frags to develop.

One other pest that I’ve been lucky to have solely encountered hardly ever, however that may trigger important harm to any corals that it feeds on is the Rapa rapa snail. This snail is available in on leather-based corals and normally arrives when it’s only the dimensions of a grain of rice. It bores into the stalk of a leather-based coral after which feeds on the wholesome tissue within the stalk. When it’s small the leather-based coral reveals no indicators of issues and easily grows across the snail. However because the snail grows it turns into bigger and bigger and as soon as it reaches a sure measurement it does a lot harm that the stalk begins to deteriorate and decay. At this level, the entire coral may be misplaced except motion is taken. When a deteriorating stalk is encountered on a leather-based coral it’s needed to chop an incision within the stalk and take away the Rapa rapa snail. I’ve encountered these snails from the dimensions of a marble to the dimensions of a golf ball in leather-based corals and didn’t know they have been even current till the harm was important. There isn’t a approach to stop their introduction as the opening they’ve bored into the leather-based is normally healed over when the leather-based coral is acquired.

Right here a Rapa rapa snail may be seen doing its harm to a leather-based coral. Picture courtesy of Julian Sprung.

Whereas these first pests might not less than be considerably acquainted to most of us, I’ve not too long ago encountered some new pests in my very own tanks and seen in others that have been utterly new to me. The primary of those is the ocean spider, so named as a result of it intently resembles the land-based arachnid. I had by no means encountered these pests till I added some colonies of Australian Acropora to my tanks. New areas for corals normally imply new varieties of pests. These pests weren’t readily obvious within the colony and so they tolerated the preliminary dip that I did earlier than including them to the quarantine tank. It was solely after the primary few nights that I seen not less than a dozen of them climbing about on all the corals within the tank. Whereas they didn’t appear to be extraordinarily predatory to the sps corals within the tank, from studying about them I discovered that they might be and on the very least they’d irritate the corals. In consequence I took the mandatory steps to take away them over the following few nights. To do that I began a powerful siphon which I then used to suck these pests off the corals as soon as they appeared. This took a few weeks to take away all of them however ultimately, it labored, and the corals have now been spider free.

A pest that I solely not too long ago encountered is a white amphipod that I noticed in Joe Yaiullo’s 20,000-gallon Lengthy Island Reef Aquarium. This pest did a lot harm to so many several types of corals that Joe named these pests “them”. Not like a lot of the pests we encounter in our tanks which might be normally particular to at least one sort of coral these amphipods feed on nearly each sort of coral from mushrooms to Acropora and particularly Montipora and Pocillopora. And these pests feed voraciously actually from once they hatch to when they’re adults and so they reproduce prolifically with there not seemingly being any pure predators with the attainable exception of dragon-faced pipefish. Happily, they fall into the category of pests that Dustin Dorton solved by eradicating twenty years in the past. Like their pink bug brethren, these pests appear to be prone to the canine heartworm medicines ivermectin and milbemycin. These pests are extraordinarily small and fast shifting so except they’re particularly appeared for it could be troublesome to even understand they’re in a tank and inflicting harm. All they appear to be when adults, is a quick-moving little white dot, whereas the infants appear to be snow as they drop onto a coral. If both of those a discovered together with tissue harm, then they need to be eradicated as rapidly as attainable.

Euphyllia-eating flatworms

One other solely not too long ago described pest that may trigger important harm is the Euphyllia-eating flatworm. With our newfound love for Euphyllias and particularly torch corals rising at an unbelievable tempo it was solely a matter of time till we got here throughout a pest particular for them. There seemingly is a flatworm or nudibranch particular for each sort of coral so there was little probability that Euphyllias would stay unscathed. Like these different pests, these are troublesome to take away and may trigger important harm to a Euphyllia garden. They feed on the delicate tissue as each adults and younger and the egg plenty are laid proper under the residing tissue upon which they feed. The adults are troublesome to detect as they give the impression of being identical to the Euphyllia tissue. An indication that they might be infecting these corals is when the Euphyllias cease increasing absolutely and simply don’t look wholesome. When this happens the colony ought to be taken out of the water and allowed to retract. When it’s retracting a light-weight may be shined on the colony and the slight distinction in coloration may be seen and these flatworms may be seen flailing as their habitat turns into much less moist. At this level, they need to be extracted with tweezers or forceps. If the colony is just too giant or is hooked up to dwell rock the flatworms may be shocked by blowing freshwater of the identical temperature because the tank water onto the colony with both a turkey baster or a powerhead in a bucket of freshwater. When shocked these worms will let unfastened and circulation into the water column the place some fish like wrasses and anthias will feed on them. On the similar time, the bottom of the colony ought to be examined for egg plenty which ought to be instantly scraped off and eliminated. As with most pests stopping them from coming into the tank is the easiest way to maintain them from doing harm. 

The attention-grabbing factor about coral pests and predators is that all of them appear to be extra lively at evening. Because of this, if there’s a downside the place the corals simply don’t look proper the tank ought to be noticed at evening with each a pink and white flashlight. Many of those pests are very skittish, so minimal vibrations ought to happen when approaching the tank. When the flashlights are turned on this would be the finest alternative to find out if and which pest is current after which applicable motion may be taken. Clearly stopping these pests from coming into the tank is finest, however once they sneak by way of it helps when you recognize what you might be combating. Sadly these are simply among the pests that we encounter in our tanks.

There are additionally pink bugs, black bugs, black ‘hopping” amphipods, Acropora-eating flatworms, Montipora-eating nudibranchs, zoanthid-eating nudibranchs, aiptasia, Majano anemones, dinos, cyano and invertebrates like Palythoa that may trigger harm to their tankmates and us as effectively. Over time as our success proceed, I’m certain we are going to encounter much more pests that may should be handled which is the unlucky value of success.

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