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Parasites and Pests PDF Print E-mail

Someone wrote me and asked me “how we can guarantee our farm-raised corals are 100% parasite free”?

Well we can't and we don’t.

We say that our corals have a SUBSTANTIALLY reduced chance of having a parasitic infection, especially compared to wildcaught corals. I would suggest that nearly ALL  wildcorals that have live rock attached have a very high chance of of least one parasite.

No coral can be guaranteed parasite free if it or its ancestors was collected from the wild. Even subsequent generations of that coral, grown in captivity can not be 100% guaranteed parasite free.  This is because in any system that didn’t start out as completely sterile, there exists the possibilty that even one of that parasite is hiding somewhere in the system.

The focus isnt on eliminating all parasites, its keeping them under control. Using NATURAL controls that already exist is the simplest, cheapest, and most effective way to do this. We use many existing know parasite controls just in case there is even one of these organisms still in our tanks.  In our systems, we have no noticeable parasites, but that’s doesn’t mean they arent there, it means they are being controlled.

It goes back to maintaining BALANCE in your systems.

We did have a recent outbreak in our newest system. We built a tank to raise aptasias (who would have thought we would ever do that !) in order to feed our berghia nudibranchs. They are voracious consumers of aptasias.

I made the mistake of building the aptasia rearing system on the South end of a huge central filter that connected to a system of raceways on the North end of that filter.  I was hoping that any aptasias that got through that rearing tank filter would be eliminated in the main filter  before it got to the North raceways. I was wrong, and we got an infestation on our Dealer plates in the North filter. Well , a dealer in Atlanta brought it to our attention, and it was easily cleaned up in no time by the Berghis nudibranchs that we culture.  So now that system is what I consider aptasia free. There are no noticeable aptasias anywhere. And believe me Bergs can get into the tiniest cracks. But can I guarantee that it is aptasia free? No. Because it had them at one point, and somewhere there may be one tucked away, just waiting for the day when we no longer have any control agents in those tanks.

So we rely on an ONGOING natural defense in all of our tanks. We let nature maintain the vigil for us, just like they keep them under control in the oceans.  We arent fond of chemical treatments since there are so many unknowns.

CORAL KILLING PARASITES

Here is a list of the most common parasites in a saltwater aquarium, and the controls:

Parasite

Best Control Method

Other methods

Other methods

Aptasia

Berghia nudibranchs. These ONLY eat aptasias so they are ideal. Never use individually as they require teamwork to take down an aptasia. Use at least 8 per 100 gallons.

Copperband butterfly fish. These can be very difficult to get established. They have a very high initial mortality rate. And there are reports that they will consume other corals. We have quite a few of them havent noticed this.

Peppermint shrimps. Im not sure they really work. These are rumored to pick on some polyps too. Cheap but probably my last choice.

Red Flatworms

6 line wrasses

Salifert kit

White and Black Band Disease.

We have never had these so don’t have any experience. Quarantine should eliminate these.

Check ReefCentral.com for best Control methods in an established tank. .

Acropora Red Bug

Thank god we havent had this ! Our SPS systems have been “closed” to new SPS corals for more than 6 years.

There are some medicinal treatments but we have never tried them.

Bubble Algae, aka Valonia

Mithrax crabs. These guys are great. Don’t seem to harm other corals in any way. We keep them in all systems, “just in case”.

Hand removal, which is fine if you have a small infestation on a new corals. Be sure not to pop the bubble, or do so in a separate container, rinse well, and discard the water !

These are the main parasites you have to deal with, but for more information on less common parasites, visit our link Here.

The best indicator that there is not a parasite problem is if the system has existed for a long period of time (some of our systems have been isolated for 13 years) and shown no signs of a parasitic outbreak. Although no guarantee that it is certified “Parasite Free”, the lack of an outbreak would indicate an extremely low chance of transferring anything nasty to your tank.

Things we consider parasites are those who actually will damage corals or fish. Aptasias. Coral diseases like white band or black band . Red bug on Acropora. All of these will actually kill the host corals. Other items we don’t consider parasites are flatworms (aka Planarians, red or white) which may coexist in the tanks with corals but not do them any damage.

NON CORAL KILLING “PARASITES”

These aren't what we consider parasites, but some people do. These are actually commensal. They coexist but don’t actually harm their hosts.

-Flatworms:

These are quite common in aquariums. We have had them from time to time, primarily in quarantine systems where we have introduced wild corals or wild live rock. They are great at hitchhiking by hiding out in the tiniest crevice. We have never had any problem with them hurting the corals in anyway. They will reproduce to very high levels which can be unnerving and unsightly. They tend to build up in population and then crash and disappear completely. If you already have them I wouldn’t worry about them. If you feel better siphoning them out , go ahead. I know that Salifert makes a treatment that is supposed to kill flatworms. I cant recommend it as we have no experience with it. Check online for info on it.

-Opistobranch Snails (Stomatella sp. )

We love these guys. These arent parasites at all, they are great ! We have millions of these ! They process uneaten food and help keep nitrate levels down. I think most of us got used to the freshwater snail plagues  from our earliest tanks and learned Snails = Bad. But in saltwater, these detrital feeders are excellent and have never preyed on our coral. We often try to include them with our orders if they are already on the corals.  Heres what they look like:

Tiny Serpent Stars.

We love these guys too . These arent parasites either. We have millions (billions?) of these too! They process uneaten food and help keep nitrate levels down. These detrital feeders are excellent and have never preyed on our coral. We often try to include them with our orders if they are already on the corals.

So the best way to  ensure that you arent infesting your tank when you introduce new corals, is to buy captive bred, AND throw out out all of the bag water when transferring the coral to your tank. So any parasite present can only be transmitted on the coral, and chances are , if it is infected, a reputable farm will have noticed it or more likely avoided it.

Can Corals Transmit Fish Diseases?

Note that fishes don’t usually transfer corals diseases, as the diseases are host specific. Different hosts have different parasites. A fish disease wont infect corals and visa versa.  Since we don’t sell fish, the chances of a farm such as ours transmitting a fish disease is extremely low. Common parasties such as ICH or Cryptosporidium general exist only on the host fish or in the water in larval form. Pour out the bag water and you should be fine. We have never had a report by any of our customers that they caught a fish disease from our corals. I think that possibity is near zero. We monitor our fish and can verify that they are fat and happy and appear to be disease free. If they do have a spore tucked somewhere, the chances of your coral arriving with it is negligable.

 

 
 

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