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Old 10/04/2001, 12:24 PM   #1
Mark
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Red bugs on your sps? Share your exp.

Lately,

A lot of threads have popped up, asking to ID little red bugs crawling on Acroporas. There have been several threads regarding these(see below), but Mr. Sandman and I felt that it would be a good idea to start a thread, where everyone can share their observations and experiences regarding these bugs.

For starters, they are a type of amphipod. I've included some pics for everyone to see. Dr. Shimek has observed them on an Acropora, under a microscope. From his observations, there appears to be no damage to the coral. Yet, many reefers I talk to have experienced tissue loss and bleaching in corals that become infested with them. They also seem to slow the growth of the colony significantly. Another interesting note about them is that they only seem to target Acropora, and are even specific in that genus. I, as well as others, have noted that Acropora yongei(Bali Green Slimer) and Acropora millepora's do not get infested with them. They do spread quickly to vulnerable Acro's, though. Small frags seem to die quickly, while larger colonies take longer.

Since the bleaching is not immediate, I asked Dr. Shimek whether the pods were feeding on the zooxanthallae. My reasoning was based on the fact that the coral slowly becomes more and more pale in coloration over time. Dr. Shimek noted that the algae is several layers deep within the tissue, and that it isn't likely that they are feeding on it. I'm currently thinking that they feed on the slime produced by the Acropora colony. This would explain why they are somewhat selective with which Acropora colonies they migrate to. Perhaps, this behavior is generally considered commensal in natural settings, but harmful in a captive system. In a natural setting, there are predatory controls and a larger area and variety for the amphipods to graze slime coatings. But in a captive system, there may not be a proper predatory control and the area for infestation is small and limited. So, the case could be that they are reproducing to such high densities, that the coral actually becomes irritated by their presence. This irritation could lead to stress, and eventual shutdown/death of the Acropora. Also, the slime offers many benefits to the coral, and the lack of it from overgrazing of pods may cause stress as well.

This is all simply speculation. Dr. Shimek states that in his opinion they are harmless. He states that the death of the coral is due to other reasons, and that perhaps the amphipods are there to clean up or take advantage of an already sick coral. I respect his opinion, and he may very well be right. But the thing that irks me is that so many reefkeepers have noted the same loss of color and eventual death of corals infected with these pods. It only occurs with corals infected with these pods. Furthermore, if something else was causing the stress, then wouldn't we see other types of sps experience the same type of stress? Why are all other corals growing with healthy coloration, and only those infected with the pods dying? Why are only Acroporas(with the exception of the two species noted above) bleaching and dying in all the tanks infested with these pods. I find it hard to believe that all the reefers that have contacted me, are all just experiencing these effects due to other stressors, and coincidentally it only affects certain Acroporas (Meanwhile, assuming that the pods have nothing to do with it, even though the only corals that are dying are those exact same targeted by the pods). Again, I'm just speculating and brainstorming here.

So let me quickly sum up what I observe in my tank. These pods migrate quickly from Acropora to Acropora. Once a colony or frag becomes infested, it eventually begins to lose coloration(particularly the browns attributed to the zoo's). Eventually, the colony/frag loses tissue and dies. The pods only seem to target Acroporas, with the notable exception of yongei and millepora seeming to be immune. I've examined other corals with a magnifying glass and they do not appear to be present. I've tried a mandarin for eradicating them, but no success. I have not tried any of the wrasses.


For those of you who've discovered these critters on your Acropora, it would be great if you could share your experiences with them. Any observations would be very helpful. Whether your experiences are similar or different from mine, please note them in this thread. Thanks!

Here are some images






My latest discussion regarding these bugs with Dr. Shimek:

http://www.reefcentral.com/vbulletin...light=red+bugs


A good discussion in Eric Borneman's forum:
http://www.reefcentral.com/vbulletin...light=red+bugs

More threads:

http://www.reefcentral.com/vbulletin...threadid=39438

http://www.reefcentral.com/vbulletin...light=red+bugs

http://www.reefcentral.com/vbulletin...threadid=15742

http://www.reefcentral.com/vbulletin...light=red+bugs

http://www.reefcentral.com/vbulletin...light=red+bugs


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Old 10/04/2001, 03:07 PM   #2
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Sorry, no experience with those bugs here, but looking forward to reading the experience of others. This has the potential for a great thread!


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Old 10/05/2001, 09:56 AM   #3
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I am currnetly experiencing this problem. The critters came in on some frags of green staghorn that I was given. They don't seem to be affecting those corals, although growth has been slow. I recently received an order form Dr Mac. The frags were beautiful and colored up well over about 2 weeks. Then, the blue tricolor, and another blue acro began to fade and lose tissue. I looked closely and noticed that both are heavily infested with these red pods. Several of my other acros have them also but not in as great of numbers. Only the blue ones seems to be affected so far. I have a Flame wrasse (Jordani) and a Christmas wrasse and neither of these are doing anything to the pods. I am to the point were i may consider pulling the frags that are affected to try and eliminate them before adding new corals. These bugs are not on my Montipora, Hydnophora, A. tortuosa, A millepora, or A formosa. The toruosa is the only blue one not affected so far.


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Old 10/05/2001, 02:52 PM   #4
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I have noticed mostly the same observations as mentioned above. I also believe from the damage in bleacing I have seen that they are most definatly harmfull to the coral. The pieces infected have lost most color and show very little growth.
I was at Macna in August and sat in on a lecture given by Garf. They mentioned recently finding an amphipod that seemed to only infect blue and purple acros. They said that even where other acros sat right next to them of other colors they were not effected. I believe these might be the same buggers they were talking about. They also mention when observed under a microscope they were filled with zoozanthelle (hope the spelling is correct). If this is so that would mean they are ultimatly feeding on the coral and efecting the corals health. I have not tried a manderan but have seen mentioned that others have not had luck in that direction. Has anyone tied something like dosing the tank with different type of crabs, such as scarlets, emeralds, sally lightfoots, baha's to see if any feed on them. I have a few scarlets in my tank but have not really noticed them particularly interested in the pieces effected. I have four large mother colonies of acro all with symobiotic crabs and they do not seem effected yet. They thing is that a symobiotic crab is not an option on small pieces like frags as they have no way to hide and will be defensless.
Update!
I just add all the above crabs to my tank in good numbers to see if any feed on them. I will keep you posted.


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Old 10/05/2001, 04:22 PM   #5
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bajathree,

Thats some very interesting news. Perhaps Garf will come up with a blue/purple acro that is resistant to these bugs as well! . Now if i can remember coreectly, Dr. Ron mentioned that these bugs didn't feed on the zooxanthellae and that since the zooxanthellae resides mostly on the inner layers of the coral, and these bugs are on the outer layer of the coral, there is no chance for this to happen. Now, if Garf says otherwise, then i'm very very curious as to how they discovered this. I would definitely have to agree on the above though that these bugs generally attack the blue and purple acroporas. I have several green acroporas that they have not infested (yet). I do have blue-legged hermits and they do not feed on them at all. I also used to have a grapefruit sized bluish colony that recently died on me. It happened about 4 weeks ago. I witnessed the coral slowly disintegrating as the number of red bugs on it multiplied. It had 2 SPS crabs living withing the colony as well that didn't touch them at all. Maybe the colony was too big for them to cover all the ground, but i watched them over closely and i never saw them eating em. What bothers me even more is that the infested colony that i have now USED to have a crab living in it. Once the crab jumped ship, the bugs appeared and the coral slowly started to decline. Coincidence? I dunno. I'm tempted to try a 6-line wrasse, but i'd like to see if somebody can get a positive ID on a predator before i start trying anything else. We need more input! What i'd like to know is if anyone here has had these bugs attack their green acroporas? Or perhaps some other colored acros other than blue and purple. How about pink? Brown? Yellow? Also, has anybody actually witnessed anything eating these bugs?


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Old 10/06/2001, 09:01 AM   #6
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MrSandman, GARF said that when they looked at them under a microscope, they could see them filled with zooxanthellae. Now I do not know if this is the same critter they are talking about but I think it would be coincidence for it not to be. With all respect Dr Ron also says they are harmless and everyone else's experience seems to otherwise.
I know that Dr.Ron sat in on some of GARF's lectures, so he may have heard this himself.


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Old 10/07/2001, 08:07 AM   #7
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May I ask if anyone who has this occur, did yall do a dip before placing them in your tanks? Such as luigol's or other iodine solution? - perc


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Old 10/08/2001, 06:34 AM   #8
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percula, A few people including Dr.Ron have said dip's have done almost nothing to eliminate them. The dip's are more harmfull to the coral than the bugs.
This statement comes directly from one of Dr.Ron's post's:
"Also unfortunately, this time for the aquarist, this means that dips won't work, the bug simply will pull back into the host. About the only dip that will work will be bleach, and afterwards you will be left with a nice white piece of coral rock. "


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Old 10/12/2001, 12:11 PM   #9
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Hello to all,

I am now able to add some information about these orange/red "acro bugs". I also put this post in the coral forum since it still sems to be getting most the traffic on this issue.

I will describe the signs and progression of the problmes with the corals in my system and then report on some microspcopic examinations I have made.


First, just some added or corroborated observations:

1) Like others, I have also observed some corals exposing their digestive filaments in an apparent attempt at defense.
2) Healthy corals in close proximity to affected corals seem more likely to become affected themselves.
3) A fragment broken from the healthy unbleached tip of an affected coral whose base is already bleaching will grow as if no problem ever existed.
4) I have definitely seen green colored corals affected with this problem, but they do seem to survive the problem better.
5) On several occasions I have broken the almost dead colony from its base and left the bleached base in place. Then 4-6 months later had the bleached base begin to grow again into a perfectly healthy colony.
5) I do run a UV sterilizer.
6) The problem almost looks to be cyclic in nature.
7) A species that was effected in the past is more likely to be affected again, even if it is one that had recovered from a previous episode.
8) Only acropora species are affected, though some seem to be resistant to the problem.
9) The bugs can be removed from the coral by forcefully irrigating the coral surface using a syringe. Certainly this will not completely remove the all bugs and should be done in a separate tank or holding vessel to minimize the spread of the bugs. Very strong current can also damage the corals themslves.
10) The bugs appear to be mostly benthic, but are capable of free swimming and swim witha very jerky motion.



I have been able to conduct some microscopic examinations of the bugs in my system recently, and the bugs appear to be the same as those of which Mark posted the photograph.

I am fairly certain these "bugs" are not amphipods but are copepods. The primary evidence is that they have fewer body segments and a carapice that is absent in amphipods. Based on their shortened front antennae, a single long spine from their caudal rami and the single egg sack they carry, I think they are Harpacticoid copepods. According to Rupert/Barnes there are over 8500 species of copepods of which more than 50% are harpacticoid copepopds. Most of the harpacticoids are benthic. Also acording to Barnes there are far more parasitic copepods than is the case with the amphipods. Not that it is established that this particular copepod is parasitic, but Barnes notes there are aver 1000 known species of parasitic copepods, some of which have maxillipeds modified for grasping its host.

Now for the interesting part. Under the microscope, one can see that the maxillipeds of this particular species have been modified to an appendage that appears to function like the "weapons" of a mantis shrimp. In Mark's photograph on the first page of this thread, the inset close-up, the maxillipeds can be seen. They are not clear in that photo and the scythe like tip is not extended. under higher magnification I was able to see these appendages more clearly and they were moved in a motion that looked similar to a preying mantis trying to grab its victim. The end of the appendage is jointed and folds in against itself to form something of a clamp. If any one wants to volunteer to post the pics, I can digitize them and send them in an e-mail.

When on a coral, the copepod stayed in its rather curled up shape and didn't strech out like other copepods i have observed. It did appear to stay "face" down on the coral. At this point, I think it is safe to say the copepod is predatory, but not necessarily parasitic. It is very possible that this guy's favorite food grows on dying corals. It is also possible that it uses its appendages to tear flesh from the surface of the coral.

Unlike GARF, I was not able to discern any zooxanthellae in the guts of the copepods even though I looked at about a dozen or so. The gut content was too well "chewed" and too small to show any complete discernable organism. I did see what appeared to be younger and less colorful examples of the same species that could infer they are incorporating some pigments into their body structures as they grow, but this is only speculation. My microscope and tools did not allow me to look for any modifications of the mouth section that might indicate a mechanism for sucking fluids from the coral.

I did not see any signs of naupliar forms of the bugs. According to Barnes, most copepod nauplii are pelagic but exceptions were noted as possible.

It is also interesting that the greater number of those I examined were carrying brood clutches. i assumed these were all female. I saw one or two that had no brood clutches, but had no way to identify their sex.

One last interesting observation was the coral frag itself under the microscope. To the eye, it simply appeared to be bleached with a mottled surface. Under the microscope a great deal of tissue damge could be seen. There were many places where the coral skelton was clearly denuded. Again, it is not clear if this is a result of the copepod or just from the fact that the coral was already beginning to die.

My next step is to bring a frag to work and place it in a large water supply and try to observe the copepod's behavior for a longer time period. Maybe I will be able to observe it feeding or some other behavioral characteristic that defines this species' eating habits. Unfortunately, our micrscope is not really set up for biological observation. We really need a microbiologist to take a look at these things.

That's all for now, i'll add an update when i get more data.

Mutagen


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Old 10/13/2001, 06:53 AM   #10
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I recently discovered these little critters on a tricolor acro frag that I have. So far, the coral does not seem to be harmed in any way and growth is excellent on the frag. I will attempt to get a macro shot of these buggers later today. At this point they seem to be isolated to this one coral, and I am considering siphoning them out of the tank.

Addendum: sorry, took a pic and my macro leaves something to be desired. Mine look just like the shot above, though.


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Old 10/22/2001, 09:34 AM   #11
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I almost hesitate to post this, but.... I believe I've found a predator for these bugs.

There's a species of flatworm that's fairly common on marshall island live rock. It's a milky, transparent white, and shaped somewhat like the "Star Trek" delta emblem. Size is generally about an eigth to a quarter of an inch in length. The species eats copepods, but they don't multiply to plague porportions and generally have a minimal impact.

Anyway, over the weekend I noticed one of mine on the front glass of my tank. Observing it closely, I was able to make out not one but three bright red-orange specks in it's gut cavity. Anyone who's seen the acro bugs mentioned in this thread knows they have a distinctive color when viewed in person; the specks in the flatworms gut matched this color perfectly. A few minutes of scanning my tank later, I found another of these flatworms. This one also had one of these red-orange specks in it's gut cavity, leading me to believe the first was not simply a fluke.

Let me stress that I have not observed these flatworms actually eating these bugs. Let me also say that these are not even commercially available animals. Still, if anyone out there with an infestation of these bugs is worried, it might be worth picking up a pound or three of marshall rock in the hope of getting a few of these flatworms.


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Old 10/22/2001, 09:46 AM   #12
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Thanks!

I may look into that.


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Old 11/05/2001, 10:42 AM   #13
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I thought that I would share my experience. I have a Tri-colored Acro that I purchased from Tropicorium about 3 weeks ago, it was my first SPS. I had started to show some growth, encrusting over the crazy glue, but it also faded in color a bit. I noticed that the frag had these orange bugs from the day I put it in my tank. The coral now has almost no color left and the last few nights it hasn't been extending it's polyps at all. I'm pretty upset that it isn't going to make it because it is my first frag, but how long do you think that I should wait before placing another Acropora in the tank. I also have a Bali Slimer that is doing great, and a blue tip acro, that is recovering well from a crab attack, a brown montipora, and a Turbinara. All the other corals are unaffected, and I just want to make sure that the "bugs" are dead before I introduce another coral for them to latch onto. In summary the coral experienced a fading of color until it was practically bleached, and now it has no polyp extension.


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Old 11/05/2001, 07:34 PM   #14
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I'd keep an eye on that blue tip acro. Its really hard to say whether or not those bugs can live off of something else other than SPS since i have never seen them anywhere else BUT on SPS. But, speaking from experience, i would say to keep that blue acro far from the infected one and under some good current. Make sure that the blue acro is not placed downstream from that tri-color either. Keep an eye on it, and if you see any bugs, blow em away with a turkey baster and don't let them catch hold of the frag. I have a small tortuosa frag that had these bugs on them and i blew em away w/ the baster and have not seen them return. Its been about 4 weeks since i did that too. As for how long you should wait? Well, thats tough because i do not know if SPS is all they live off of. Your montiporas and turbinarias and even the green bali slimer will not be affected. If possible i would hold off on introducing any more tri-colors or blue colored acroporas for a while. Maybe a month or 2? You can always get milleporas, montiporas, staghorns, and other colored acroporas though. One question...were those red bugs on the tri-color frag when you bought it from the LFS? Or did they suddenly appear on them one day? Good luck, and keep us updated on your findings!


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Old 11/06/2001, 04:29 AM   #15
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They were on the Acro in Tropicorium. If you have never been to Tropicorium they have huge vats of water (20,000 gal) and you can only look from the top down, and the current is moving pretty good. It's next to impossible to notice something like these small bugs there. I wouldn't have looked anyway, because I hadn't seen this thread until later. Thanks for the advise. I also had never seen these bugs before the Tri-color and I will wait a good while before I introduce another blue Acro.


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Old 11/06/2001, 01:37 PM   #16
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Thank you very much for this post (I think). I had never seen or heard of this problem before. I can tell you there were some skid marks on my floor (not my pants) on the way to my tank after reading this! Whew! My corals all looked OK! Seriously I will inspect every coral I purchase for this from now on.

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Old 11/07/2001, 11:46 AM   #17
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MrSandman, I have tried to blow mine off with a baster several times and they do not move. These critters are not easy to blow off and as of yet I have not has any luck tring.


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Old 11/08/2001, 08:35 AM   #18
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Because I only have these on one frag and I can remove it from my tank, I have decided to manually try to remove these bugs. Last night I took my magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers and removed as many of these bugs as I could find.
They were very hard to remove, most because of their size and also because of the fact that they really hang on to the coral. I had to just try to crush a few and slice some of them in half. It appeared to me that they were burrowing in to the coral. I couldn't be sure because all I had was a magnifying glass but I'm pretty positive that they were either burrowing or just trying to fit into the natural "dimples" in the coral skeleton (sorry I don't know coral biology all that well).
I'll keep you posted on whether the coral recovers or if it was to far gone.


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Old 11/08/2001, 07:27 PM   #19
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I was thinking my blue tip stag was looking a little less brown so I take a closer look....AAARRRRGGG!!!!.

All I can say is $*@!& # /&*%$% &[email protected]#$!!!!!

If they do not do any harm why is a coral has been doing great suddenly looking bad???

Why did I buy snails and hermits at the Trop last month?


Also on a near by tri color and a light tan with white growth tips!


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Old 11/08/2001, 07:39 PM   #20
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A possible cure...?

I was in the reefcentral chat room tonight and heard skipper talking about a possible cure to the little bugs on our sps. He said that it's called Redox + by Thiel Aqua tek i beleive. He says you use about 10-12 drops per two cups of water and dip the sps coral in it. Skipper also said that the bugs were gone and the coral was recovering. Maybe he'll post and we can get some more info.


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Old 11/08/2001, 07:52 PM   #21
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Ok, this is true. I will tell you more in a couple of days. I want to make sure the coral is recovering before I say anything more.


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Old 11/09/2001, 05:51 AM   #22
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There is no doubt in my mind that they do harm to the coral. No dis-repect to Dr. Ron but I believe this is one time he is wrong in his judgement. I have seen many people saying that they are losing color, if not the entire coral that they are on but not many saying they have seen no harm done when the bug is present.


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Old 11/09/2001, 01:51 PM   #23
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Hi fellow plague sufferers,

I have been succesful at removing these guys by directing flow from a syringe across the coral. But not too hard or it will remove the coral's own tissue.

I have also noted that the bugs don't seem to like the Tetra Oomed very much. Individuals placed in even weak solutions of Oomed died much quicker than those left in just tank water. This was an experiment carried out in small cups so I don't know how much we can read into it.

Also, iodine is quite toxic to crustaceans so a Lugol's solution dip may kill them as well.

For those who have used dips to kill the bugs, how long did you find it took for the coral to recover? That is to say, how long for its original color to return?

Also, how many are finding flat worms on the ailing corals as well as the bugs. On several occasions, I have removed flatworms from the corals in addition to the bugs. The flat worms are virtually impossible to see even though some are up to 1/4 inch long. They seem to incorporate the coral's color into their tissue and lay flat on its surface. I have only seen them when I was actively trying to remove the little red bugs, but I have not found them on all the bleached corals. In my case, a flat worm may also be responsible for creating similar symptoms. Maybe I have two problems! On the other hand, maybe cjdevito's observation is correct and the flatworms are simply preying on the bugs on the coral. What a pain this is!

And a quick PS here. Even if the dip kills the bugs and the coral recovers and this event is reproducible, we STILL haven't PROVEN the bugs are the real problem. Don't get me wrong, I still hold them as suspects. But it could be, for instance, that the bugs are eating a fungus growing on the coral and the dip kills both the bug and the fungus.

Let's not let this thread die until we get an answer, Mutagen


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Old 11/09/2001, 03:04 PM   #24
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Has anyone figured out the source of these pests?


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Current Tank Info: 140 gal post El Nino Acropora dominated reef
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Old 11/09/2001, 04:01 PM   #25
tszetela
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I have also noted that the bugs don't seem to like the Tetra Oomed very much. Individuals placed in even weak solutions of Oomed died much quicker than those left in just tank water. This was an experiment carried out in small cups so I don't know how much we can read into it.
How long did it take and what dosage did you use?

I was planning to test three dips this weekend: Marine OOmed, Lugols, and lower salinity. I am a little nervious about the osmotic shock on the corals. I was planning to take them from 1.023 to 1.018 and see if this kills the "bugs". Any feed back on how much of shock this will be to the sps frags involved?


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Last edited by tszetela; 11/09/2001 at 05:42 PM.
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