If you have a saltwater aquarium, you may have encountered a pest called Aiptasia, a type of anemone that can multiply rapidly and sting your corals and fish. Aiptasia can be very hard to get rid of; they can regenerate from tiny fragments and release larvae into the water column. Many methods of killing Aiptasia, such as injecting them with chemicals or using predators like peppermint shrimp, can be ineffective or harmful to your reef tank. Leaving many reef keepers frustrated and fueling the widespread opinion that Aiptasia is such a dreaded pest.
Fortunately, there is a natural, safe, and easy way to eliminate Aiptasia from your aquarium! Berghia Nudibranches! The Berghia is a type of nudibranch, commonly called sea slugs, that feeds exclusively on Aiptasia. They are completely reef safe and non-toxic to your corals and fish. They are also extremely efficient at hunting down and devouring Aiptasia, even the ones hiding in crevices or under rocks that you’ll never get with other methods.
What are Berghia Nudibranchs?
Berghia Nudibranchs are a type of gastropod molluscs belonging to the same group as snails and slugs. They are also known as Aeolidiella stephanieae or Berghia verrucicornis. They are native to the Caribbean and Atlantic regions, where they live in shallow waters among live corals.
They have a soft, elongated body that is white with tinges of brown in color and cerata (appendages) along their back. They have two sensory organs called rhinophores on their head that help them detect chemical signals from their prey. They also have a mouth with a radula (a tongue-like organ) that they use to scrape off and ingest Aiptasia safely.
Berghia Nudibranchs are hermaphrodites with both male and female reproductive organs. They can mate with each other and lay eggs on hard surfaces near Aiptasia colonies. The eggs hatch into larvae that swim freely in the water column until they find a suitable place to settle and metamorphose into adults.
Berghia Nudibranchs can grow up to 1-2 inches in length when fully mature, but they usually stay smaller in captivity. They have a lifespan of about six months to a year, depending on the food quality and water conditions.
Why Choose Berghia Nudibranchs for Aiptasia Control?
Berghia Nudibranchs are the natural choice for controlling Aiptasia in your saltwater aquarium. Here are some of the benefits of using Berghia Nudibranchs over other methods:
- They are 100% reef safe. Unlike some chemical treatments or predators that can harm your corals and fish, Berghia Nudibranchs are harmless to anything else in your tank except Aiptasia. They will not eat your live corals, algae, or other invertebrates. They will also not sting or irritate your fish or other animals.
- They are very effective. Berghia Nudibranchs have evolved to feed exclusively on Aiptasia anemones. They can detect them from a distance using their rhinophores and track them down, even if hidden or retracted. They can also eat all parts of the Aiptasia, including the base and the tentacles, leaving no trace behind. They can consume several Aiptasia per day, depending on their size and appetite.
- They are self-regulating. Berghia Nudibranchs will reproduce and increase their population as long as enough food (Aiptasia) is available. This means they will adapt to the level of infestation in your tank and keep it under control. Once they run out of food, they will stop breeding and eventually die off naturally. This way, you don’t have to worry about removing them manually or having them overpopulate your tank.
- They are easy to introduce and maintain. Berghia Nudibranchs do not require any special equipment or care. They can adapt to a wide range of water parameters and temperatures as long as they are stable and within the normal range for a reef tank. They do not need any supplemental feeding, lighting, or filtration. They are also very easy to introduce to your tank, as you will see in the next section.
How to Introduce Berghia Nudibranchs to Your Aquarium?
If you have decided to use Berghia Nudibranchs for Aiptasia control, you’ve made a fantastic decision. But you may be wondering how to introduce them to your aquarium. Here are some simple steps to follow:
- Choose the right number of Berghia Nudibranchs for your tank. The number of Berghia you need depends on the size of your tank and the level of Aiptasia infestation. As a general rule, you should aim for at least one Berghia per 10 gallons of water, but never less than three Berghia in total. They need each other to hunt, feed, and breed. If you have a large or heavily infested tank, you may want to add more Berghia to speed up the process.
- Acclimate the Berghia Nudibranchs to your tank. When you receive your Berghia, they will come in a sealed container with some water and air. You should gradually acclimate them to your tank using the drip or floating methods. The drip method involves adding a small amount of your tank water to the container every few minutes until the water parameters are equalized. The floating method involves floating the container in your tank for about 15 minutes, then opening it and adding some of your tank water every few minutes until the temperature and salinity are equalized. Both methods should take about an hour or less.
- Place the Berghia Nudibranchs in your tank. Once the Berghia Nudibranchs are acclimated, you can place them in your tank. Do this at night when the lights are off and the fish are calm. This will reduce the stress and predation risk for the Berghia Nudibranchs. You should place them near some Aiptasia anemones, but not on top of them; Aiptasia can still sting and eat Berghia if they are put within the Aiptasia’s grasp. You can place them directly on the live rock or on their container on its side on the live rock. You should avoid placing them on the sand or in areas with high flow or predators. The Berghia Nudibranchs will crawl out of their container and start looking for food.
How to Care for Berghia Nudibranchs in Your Aquarium?
Berghia are very low-maintenance and do not require any special care once they are in your tank. However, there are some things you can do to help them thrive and do their job:
- Do not feed them anything else. Berghia Nudibranchs only eat Aiptasia anemones and nothing else. Do not try to feed them other foods, such as algae, coral, or fish. This will only pollute your water and interfere with their natural diet.
- Do not use any chemicals or medications that can harm them. Berghia Nudibranchs are sensitive to some chemicals and medications that can be used in saltwater aquariums, such as copper, iodine, antibiotics, or anti-parasitics. If you need to use any of these products, you should remove the Berghia Nudibranchs from your tank first and place them in a separate container with clean water and some Aiptasia until you finish the treatment.
- Do not add any other predators that can eat them. Berghia Nudibranchs have few natural predators in nature. Still, they can be eaten by some fish or invertebrates that may be present in your tank, such as wrasses, butterflyfish, crabs, shrimp, or starfish. Fortunately, Berghia are very good at hiding and are mostly active at night when everything else is sleeping.
- Monitor their population and progress. Berghia Nudibranchs will reproduce and increase their population as long as there is enough Aiptasia in your tank. You can monitor their numbers and activity regularly to see how they are doing. Use a flashlight or a red light at night to spot them on the live rock or on the glass. Their eggs are pretty easy to spot; they look like white or pinkish spirals attached to hard surfaces. You can also observe the Aiptasia colonies and see how they are shrinking or disappearing over time.
How Long Will It Take for Berghia Nudibranchs to Clear Your Tank of Aiptasia?
The time it takes for Berghia Nudibranchs to clear your tank of Aiptasia depends on several factors, such as the size of your tank, the number of Berghia Nudibranchs you add, the level of Aiptasia infestation, and the water conditions. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months for Berghia Nudibranchs to completely eradicate Aiptasia from your tank.
The process is usually gradual and may not be noticeable at first. Some Aiptasia may disappear from certain areas or become smaller and less active. You may also see some Berghia Nudibranchs grow larger and lay more eggs. As the Aiptasia population declines, the Berghia Nudibranchs will have less food and start naturally dying off. Eventually, you will have a tank free of Aiptasia and Berghia Nudibranchs.
An important note for smaller tanks is that the Berghia can die and pollute the water if you don’t have enough filtration (usually only happens in smaller tanks). If you’re worried about this potentially happening, just watch for floating Berghia. Before they die, they will curl up and start floating up to the surface. At this time, you can simply scoop them out.
What to Do After Berghia Nudibranchs Have Finished Their Job?
Once Berghia Nudibranchs have cleared your tank of Aiptasia, you may wonder what to do with them. There are a few options you can consider:
- Leave them in your tank. If you don’t mind having some Berghia Nudibranchs in your tank, you can leave them there until they die off naturally. They will not harm anything else in your tank and may add some diversity and interest to your reef. However, you should be aware that they will not survive for long without food or become prey for other animals in your tank.
- Remove them from your tank. If you prefer to remove the Berghia Nudibranchs from your tank, you can try to catch them using a net or a pipette and place them in a separate container with some water and Aiptasia. You can then decide what to do with them next.
- Sell or give them away. (The best option) If you have some healthy and active Berghia Nudibranchs left, you can try to sell or give them away to other hobbyists who may need them for their tanks. You can use online forums, social media, or local clubs to find potential buyers or recipients.
- Donate them to a local store or organization. If you have a large number of Berghia Nudibranchs left, you can consider donating them to a local store or organization that may benefit from them. For example, you can donate them to a local fish store that sells saltwater aquarium supplies and livestock. You can also donate them to a local aquarium or research facility that may use them for educational or scientific purposes.
Berghia Nudibranchs are a natural and effective way to control Aiptasia anemones in your saltwater aquarium. They are reef safe, easy to introduce and maintain, and self-regulating. Depending on the situation, they can eliminate Aiptasia from your tank within weeks or months. After they finish their job, you can leave them in your tank, remove them from your tank, sell or give them away, or donate them to a local store or organization.
If you are looking for a natural solution for your Aiptasia problem, you should consider using Berghia Nudibranchs. They are the best way to get rid of Aiptasia for good.