Many marine aquarists (or is it most?) run into a problem or two along the way. This could be with equipment though this is generally reliable nowadays. Often the problem is environmental and could be an unwanted invasion.
With my aquarium it was an invasion, or rather two of them. The first was algae (we all recognize and shudder at the possibilities there!) and the second unwanted life.
Except for desirable types of encrusting algae there had never been an algae problem and apart from what follows never has. I first noticed the little green balls here and there and was initially pleased because it was a quite attractive addition. I identified them quite quickly as ‘sailor’s eyeballs’, also known as bubble algae but properly called Ventricaria ventricosa. The green balls, which can vary in colour shade in line with the available light, can grow up to ½” or so in diameter. They could form small cylinders as well as balls. It was quickly learned that they are unwelcome because if they are left to their own devices they could spread very quickly – they eventually burst and spread spores everywhere. One good thing is that they are said to grow in high quality seawater*, so this could be Mother Nature confirming the test kit results. The balls are full of carbon monoxide which is a toxic gas*.
So how was this attack met? It was clear that as the aquarium is a reef it was likely they could never be eradicated completely because of all the nooks and crannies among the rocks. However, the ones that were visible would be destroyed. Remembering that if burst they could spread spores it was decided to burst and siphon them at each routine seawater change. The basic equipment used is about 12” of rigid airline connected to a length of flexible airline, enough to reach from the lowest part of the aquarium to a bucket. Then, before the main seawater change took place, each bubble seen was burst and the pipe kept very near the bubble for a few seconds thus taking out any spores. It takes a bit of practice but eventually is easy.
Constant attacks on the bubbles reduced their numbers and these reduced numbers meant fewer new bubbles, on a down scale as time went on. It’s felt that the bubbles have raised the truce flag and are well under control. As said, they’re still hidden here and there so the conqueror needs to maintain vigilance!
Two invasions were mentioned. The second one was aiptasia. This time it was known that they weren’t welcome and attacks began. With the reef the same problem applied – not all would be seen. The aiptasia, also known as ‘glass anemones’ come into the aquarium with live rock or perhaps more likely with coral rock (which could be called uncured live rock). They present the same problem – one or two fine, but they are likely to multiply rapidly. They shouldn’t be scraped off rocks or squashed etc as this will leave remnants which are quite likely to grow into new anemones. There are one or two natural ways of attacking them.
Natural methods that have been recommended are the introduction of a copperband butterfly fish (Chelmon rostratus), or by a peppermint shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni). Some aquarists have reported success with these but there are others who advised they took little interest in the anemones. There is also the question of suitability to the aquarium type and the fact that the aquarium could be fully stocked. The copperband butterfly is also known to be a gamble as far as feeding is concerned, some seem to eat without problem and yet others could drive the aquarist nuts! Where an introduction is considered to be safe then one or the other could be tried, the fish and shrimp are interesting in their own right. Once introduced a watch needs to be kept for any problem that the fish or shrimp could meet and also that the aiptasia are being dealt with.
If new introductions are not wanted then there is a chemical method that is reliable and safe and this is the route taken in my case. The chemical comes in liquid form and is gently squirted on the central disc of the anemone making sure that circulation pumps are temporarily turned off. The instructions need to be carefully followed of course. The product is named ‘Joes Juice**’. My aquarium is full of soft corals (though there are few fish) and there has never been a bad reaction of any sort to the treatment. The anemones have not been completely eradicated because of the rock formations but are very low in number – sometimes a search finds none at all. If one is seen, no matter how small, it’s attacked. Again this action is taken at routine maintenance time. Once more it seems the white flag has been flown but a watch is still needed for the little devils.
If the seawater is low in nitrate and phosphate then the possible problems are diminished though not removed entirely. The main point is early identification – anything seen that ‘wasn’t there before’ needs investigation and identification. In the case of the above invasions, each problem was dealt with on a fortnightly basis so that only one had to be faced at each weekly routine maintenance job.
Photographs of the offending beasties should have been taken when they were available but weren’t. However it’s easy anyway, just go into Google and type in either Aiptasia or Ventricaria ventricosa, and then click ‘images’ on the left hand side.
(* Ref: Baensch Marine Atlas Vol 1)
(** Aquaristsonline.com has no connection, personal or commercial, with the makers of ‘Joes Juice’)