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Unread 03/18/2006, 02:35 PM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Mountain View, CA, USA
Posts: 88,616
Methods of Aiptasia Control

Aiptasia species are pest anemones that can reproduce rapidly and take over a tank, and even sting some corals and fishes. Here are some pictures to help in identification:

As usual, prevention is the best cure. Quarantining new live rock can be useful, and reacting promptly when the first Aiptasia is seen can save a lot of work.

There are many approaches to controlling Aiptasia once they have appeared in a tank. Fundamentally, some predation is required.

Animals that eat Aiptasia do exist. The most useful ones are:
  1. Peppermint shrimp
  2. Copperband butterfly fish
  3. Racoon butterfly fish and similar species
  4. Berghia verrucicornis and similar species
None of these predators are likely to be able to kill all the Aiptasia in a tank, so the pests will spread once again if the predator dies or is removed. Thus, these predators should be considered a treatment, but not necessarily a cure.

Alternatively, you can do some predation yourself. Killing all of the Aiptasia is unlikely, so the job never ends, however, keeping these pests at a tolerable level might be possible with some effort.

A number of off-the-shelf chemicals can kill Aiptasia:
  1. sodium hydroxide (lye)
  2. calcium hydroxide (kalk)
  3. vinegar
  4. hot water
  5. hydrogen peroxide
Lemon juice has also been suggested, but the author suggests considering vinegar instead, as vinegar is a simpler compound with fewer issues to consider. No chemical seems to kill all Aiptasia perfectly reliably. Especially for larger animals, multiple applications can be necessary.

The Stop Aiptasia applicator, sold as a separate item, can be used to apply these chemicals. A hypodermic needle or similar device is ideal. Feeding the Aiptasia just prior to dosing is also reported to help, as the anemones are less able to contract when filled with food.

Some commercial products are also available:
  1. Aiptasia eXit
  2. Joe's Juice
  3. Stop Aiptasia
  4. Elimi-Aiptas
Although not intended for Aiptasia control, B-Ionic, a calcium-alkalinity supplementation product, has been used for this purpose.

Many of these chemicals and all of these products can be hazardous to or irritate your skin. The use of gloves, preferably arm-length, will help protect you when working with them. In fact, gloves are a good idea whenever working in a reef tank.

In addition, these approaches also leave organic residue (dead Aiptasia) in the tank, possibly producing an ammonia spike, so killing only a few anemones at a time is the safest approach. For larger tanks and repeated applications, some testing and monitoring of the tank should allow the aquarist to pick a suitable target number.

So how should one proceed. For a small infestation, any of the chemicals or commercial products can be used. As the number of Aiptasia grows, the biological predators can make more sense. Sadly, there is no perfect solution at this time, however, with some effort and attention, Aiptasia often can be kept under control.

Jonathan Bertoni

Last edited by bertoni; 03/09/2010 at 07:58 PM.
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