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Aiptasia Anemone Removal - Part 1: Natural Methods

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Aiptasia Anemone



Aiptasia, also known as Glass, Rock, Tube, or Glass Rose anemones, are one of the most annoying and frustrating pest found in our aquariums because of their ability to reproduce very quickly and sting nearby corals. Additionally, they are probably the hardiest pest in the aquarium. I have put them in fresh water, extremely high salinity, and even left them out of water for several hours and they still survive.


Although there are many species of aiptasia, the most commonly seen in the hobby are L. pallida mainly from the Atlantic Caribbean region and L. pulchella from the tropical Pacific region.  Some of these aiptasia may appear almost transparent, while others are mostly light brown or tan in color, ranging in size from a few centimeters to a few inches. These little monsters are photosynthetic, but will also eat meaty foods.


Aiptasia have the ability to reproduce both sexually and asexually. The most common is asexual, referred to as petal laceration or fragmentation. As an aiptasia moves over a rock they leave tiny pieces of tissue. This tissue will eventually grow into a new anemone. This also occurs when tentacles fall of an aiptasia. This gives them the ability to spread throughout a tank very rapidly. In my experience, this normally occurs when the anemone is stressed in some way. In fact, some people raising aiptasia increase their populations by agitating them with a toothbrush to increase their numbers.  This becomes very important when we start trying to remove aiptasia from our system because a missed attack may result in many more aiptasia.


Aiptasia Removal


Okay, so you have a tank and all of a sudden you see an aiptasia. Now what? In my personal experience, this aiptasia may be perfectly happy and not spread at all. As a matter of fact, I had one in my tank for over a year with no problem. Then one day something pissed it off and aiptasia started showing up all over the place. My advice is a preemptive strike.


First, can the rock be removed from the tank? If so, this is the best option. If you remove the rock and the aiptasia is completely visible, take a lighter and burn the little bugger right out of existence. Rinse the rock in some RO water and put it back into the display tank. If you pulled out the rock and can’t find the aiptasia, put the rock in a quarantine tank or 5-gallon buck of saltwater and start your attack with any of the methods below. Once you are sure the rock is clean, put it back in the aquarium a few days later.


Sometimes removing the rock is just not an option: either it’s too big, connected to the rock work, or has coral on it that you would prefer not to move. In this case, the attack will occur in the tank. In general, there are three routes you might take: natural predators, chemicals, and/or mechanical devices. Part 1 of this article will focus on natural removal methods.


Natural Predators


Peppermint Shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni)



This particular shrimp is found from Key West, Florida to South Carolina and is a very popular cleaner shrimp found in local fish stores. This shrimp is known to eat aiptasia. With that said, it can be a hit and miss situation. Although this species of peppermint shrimp is known to eat aiptasia, other species of peppermint shrimp look very similar and are not known to eat aiptasia. Unfornately, these other species show up in local fish stores as “peppermint shrimp”. Additionally, even certain Lysmata wurdemanni may not have a taste for aiptasia. So… it is a risk, but generally a good one because even if they don’t eat aiptasia, they are great cleaners.


Personally, this shrimp has worked fantastically for me. They are relatively inexpensive: $5 to $10. I normally buy 4 or 5 at a time. I rarely see them eat the aiptasia, but I see a decline in the aiptasia population. So, I assume the shrimp eat them at night.


The drawback is if you have fish that like peppermint shrimp as a snack. This becomes an expensive fish food.



Copperband Butterflyfish (Chelmon rostratus)



This fish comes from reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans in waters 1-25 meter in depth, and is generally referred to as a reef safe fish. The Copperband Butterflyfish is known to be able to “mow down” aiptasia. People have reported a single Copperband eliminating over a 1,000 aiptasia in just two weeks. This seems to be an exaggeration to me, but I’ve seen this fish take down very large populations of aiptasia. The upside is they are a beautiful fish and they are likely to eat aiptasia. The downside is they tend not to accept food and may die in your aquarium; therefore, they need larger tank (90+ gallons) and a somewhat more experienced aquarist. Additionally, they may peck snails, clams, tubeworms and some corals (corals are more on the rare side).


This fish normally costs between $30 and $50, and in my opinion, are a great addition to a medium to large tank with the added bonus “they eat aiptasia”.



Matted Filefish (Acreichthys tomentosus)


This fish comes from reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans in waters 1-15 meter in depth, and is also known as the Bristletail filefish, Seagrass filefish, Tomentosus filefish and the Aiptasia Eating filefish. This fish is also known by some as “reef safe”; however, it is known to nip at zoas, softies, and SPS. Although this fish will eat both aiptasia and majano anemone, it has not been a preferred method for me personally because of its tendency to also nip at coral. With that in mind, this may be an option for fish only tanks or those individuals willing to run the risk.



Berghia Nudibranchs (Berghia stephanieae – previously known as Berghia verrucicornis and Aeolidiella stephanieae)


This sea slug is unique as a natural predator in that its sole food is aiptasia. When the aiptasia are all gone, the nudibranch colony will begin to die off from starvation within 5 to 7 days.  This method is a very safe and effective method, but requires some patience and is not the best methods for 1 or 2 aiptasia. However, if large amounts of aiptasia have already spread throughout your system, Berghia nudibranchs may be the answer. These nudibranchs can be ordered online from $10 to $20 each and in sizes ranging from 1/4 to 1 inch. They should be ordered at a ratio of 4 to 5 per 50 gallons. Once they arrive, follow the acclimation instructions and place all the nudibranchs together near a population of aiptasia. The nudibranchs will start laying eggs (upwards of 500 to 2,000 eggs per female nudi). As the nudibranchs start reproducing and their numbers increase, they will actively eat at night to eradicate all the aiptasia.


Using this method, you will need to be patient. It may be a few weeks before you see any differences. However, in 2 to 3 months (once the population grows) most, if not all, the aiptasia will be gone.  Once the aiptasia are gone, the nudibranchs will starve to death in 5 to 7 days. This is a great time to make friends by giving nudis away to other reefers.


If you decide to use this method, certain precautions should be made to protect your nudibranch investment. First, only use nudibranchs if you have more than 10 to 15 aiptasia per 100 gallons that can’t be controlled by other means. If the nudis can’t find food within 5 to 7 days, they will die. Also consideration should be made for their tank mates. Nudibranchs may be eaten by Peppermint Shrimp, Camel Shrimp, Coral Banded Shrimp, some wrasses, butterflyfish, filefish, and crabs that scavenge by night. This list is not complete. Peppermint shrimp are one of the biggest offenders, but if the tank-mate is constant hunting pests in your tank, it is possible they will eat your nudis.

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Nicely done sir. I had a small spread of aiptasia that cam in as one on a frag I introduced to tank. I tried to nuke them with a kalk paste as I have done in past and killed some and spread others. I read a lot of the above info online looking for another answer, but in the end I went with 5 peppermint shrimp. Not only did they eradicate the aiptasia(never witnessed it just the anemones disappeared) but as mentioned they clean up excess food that makes it to the substrate and have not bothered anything else in the tank. If you are not completely overrun with aiptasia I highly recommend the peppermints, not only are they a great long term addition but they were cost effective compared to the other options as well.


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Thanks. I will add Chemical and Mechanical removal later. Yeah...Peppermint shrimp have worked great for me in the past as well.

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Great guide kbass.

One other "natural" (heh heh) method I have employed heavily is the use of Paul B's aiptasia zapper. This works best if you also raise mildly sadistic teenage boys (which can be done with minimal attention to water parameters, but are an expensive project nonetheless)

I have never had an aiptasia problem, given my penchant for peppermint shrimps, but I have had plenty of Majanos.

Snap crackle pop

Sent from my SM-N910V using Tapatalk

Edited by DBrinson

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