Berghia Nudibranchs for the Dreaded Aiptasia Anemone

First off, I don't consider myself an expert reefer. I'm just one person that's been in the hobby for many years and, I'm still learning. I also...
  1. First off, I don't consider myself an expert reefer. I'm just one person that's been in the hobby for many years and, I'm still learning. I also like to help others to be successful too. So, I want to write this piece to help others dealing with an Aiptasia outbreak to make a decision about using berghia nudibranchs as an option for them.

    I did try using Aiptasia-X before I bought the nudi's. It did not do the job and only made it worse from all the spores. You can see where I tried Aiptasia-X around the Duncan's rock and it paled out the upper layer of coralline algae on that rock. A big "Thank You" goes out to @MrMichael. I was just about to tear down the entire upper levels of the reef (to treat it with fresh bottle of Aiptasia-X), and he reminded me of the Berghia Nudibranchs, just in time.

    Aiptasia is the only food source for Berghia Nudibranchs, and as @MrMichael said. "They will eat or they will starve" Aiptasia is their only food source, and hunger, conquers... all. :)


    Photo Credit: SaltyUnderground.com

    I want to apologize upfront about the picture quality as we go. I only have an old cell phone and have no filters.

    This will be a play-by-play case study in using berghias to deal with aiptasia anemones. This article will showcase images depicting the progress of the berghias in eradicating the aiptasia. Thanks for checking out my journey to an aiptasia-free reef!

    The first shot is my reef and you can try to use it as a reference point to where I'm taking the photo's as we go.

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    Now some info about the Berghia Nudibranch and tips for introduction and care:

    Aiptasia anemones are the only thing that the berghia nudibranchs eat for their food source, and when that eat the aiptasia, they do it in away that the aiptasia do not release their spores.


    Video of berghia nudibranch eating an aiptasia (credit: SaltyUnderground.com)

    *Here's one consideration that should be made before purchasing: Certain fish species do eat the nudis, so some of your fish may need to be temporarily removed from your DT if there is a possibility that they may prey on your berghias. Do your homework and talk to the vendor and give them all your reef specs—including the pod population in your main display tank. Pods have been known to consume the egg sacks that are bred and have been left behind by the adult nudis.

    Water Parameters: They do need pristine water conditions to flourish, but most good and mature reefs already have those water parameters. As an example, my reef has held solid with nitrates being at 4.5 to 5ppm for over a year. If you're still cycling, dealing with dino's, cyano, bryopsis, unstable water parameters and so on, then this method for an aiptasia outbreak, is not for you.

    Acclimation: I did float them for about 20 minutes and drip acclimated them for about 30 minutes. Their packaging bag came in very clean with no waste inside the bag, so I was not worried about the ph rising and getting an ammonia spike with them while I was using the drip acclimation method.

    Placement: When you buy and introduce them, do not place them on or inside one of the aiptasia.
    If you do, the aiptasia will kill them. You want to place them in one spot on your live rock as a group and let them get settled in. I placed mine beside the big green sps on top and they went under that coral as a group.

    You want to place them in your reef as a single one spot group for two reasons:
    1) They will breed together and lay egg sacks that will hatch into new baby nudis.
    2) They hunt the aiptasia down in packs during the night.

    Here's a couple of pics of berghia nudibranchs with eggs.
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    photo credit: @prsnlty
    Berghia with egg swirl.

    Photo Credit: SaltyUnderground.com
    Don't freak out if you don't see them for a while! I never saw a single berghia nudibranch after the first evening until the last three days when they had one aiptasia to go. I could see the aiptasia missing from day to day, but there were also two long periods that I saw nothing happening at all.

    Cut off all flow during introduction and after placement. One should remember that when you introduce them, they are confused and have not got their bearings yet. So, You need to stop all your flow for at least 10 minutes after you've placed them so they can get their bearings and grab a hold and attach to your live rock. Then bring back up your flow slowly and make sure that they are still all attached and not floating within your reef's water column.

    During the entire time with this method I only changed two things:
    1) Dropped my temp. from 80 to 78 degrees to slow down the outbreak
    2) Turned off my Gyre at night to reduce the flow for the nudis.

    How do the berghia nudibranchs consume Aiptasia??? They start at the base, and you will see the aiptasia sinking down inside of the holes of your live rock. As they eat their way up, the stem of the aiptasia will get even shorter and they consume the aiptasia's oral disk last.

    So, Let's get down to some pictures (and dates) as we went along. :)

    June 13th shots of some of the aiptasia outbreak (I truly wish that I had taken more pictures of the entire outbreak at the beginning when I first introduced the berghias. I had so much aiptasia that I could only find that one rock to place the group that I bought.).





    June 13th the berghia nudibranch's arrive.




    June 22nd - PROGRESS! :)





    Notice that these next shots show aiptasia have been eradicated from these spots.




    June 24th - Berghia nudibranchs have cleared the way for that sps to grow evenly.


    Before shot to the above taken earlier in the year.


    July 4th - After a long wait, the nudis start back up.


    July 9th - Shot of area's where the nudis are working on or have not gotten to yet.






    Also from July 9th - Shots of some of the areas that have been completely cleaned






    July 11th






    A few still hanging on...


    July 13th - Down to one big striped aiptasia on lower left hand side and two inside the blasto. Rest of aiptasia has been entirely wipe out. At one point someone said to use super glue on the blasto (because they thought that the nudis were never going get to those aiptasia). We held the ground, stayed the course, and the nudis took care of that coral (as you'll see in the next photos).



    July 14th - bigger one gone inside of blasto / second one gone the next day.



    So, We got down to one aiptasia and we waited about 10 more days. Started thinking again and wondered if I might have to try Aiptasia-X. I'm starting to see baby nudi's on the glass but the big guy was still smiling at us.

    July 23rd - Baby nudis starting to appear on glass but the big striped aiptasia still stands.



    Once again we held the coarse, and by 8am on the 25th, I see the bulge and took a couple of quick shots and then headed to work.

    8am / July 25th - See the last man standing with bulging stem.


    Later on I took a closer look at one of the shots, blew it up and I could clearly see two nudi's around the base and the one on the inside of the aiptasia. That could be a shot of a lifetime!

    Blow up shot #2: See two nudi's around it's base and one on the inside of its stem / eating it from the inside - out.


    5:30pm / July 25th - See the last man standing, going down.



    July 26th - Last man standing, gone.



    (One tiny nudi in shot above, searching for the left overs.)


    Happy Blasto :)


    The next night after the last aiptasia was finally defeated, I did see the original berghia nudibranchs, for the second time. They were all on the move, going back over scape, just one last time. It was like witnessing a double edged sword. On one hand, there is nothing left for them to eat, but on the other hand I know that the reef and corals are aiptasia-free. Looking back on it now, it was a really good ride, sad to say goodbye, but I knew that my reef would be just fine.

    So, Let's comb back over the rock work, one last time.








    I would like to thank:

    @MrMichael @prsnlty @hybridazn @Maritimer @justingraham and many others that took the ride with me and my reef from the start to the finish while performing this method. I also must thank Ryan @Ryan2428 from Salty Undergound for coming on board at the end as we all watched the last aiptasia go down.

    I used the Berghia Nudibranchs in 2012 (in another reef) and this year, so that's 2 for 2 on aiptasia outbreaks that I've dealt with. I truly hope this helps other Reef2Reef members as a method to consider when taking on aiptasia.

    Thanks for tagging along for the ride. We did have some moments where we were holding our breath, but in the end, they always kicked back in and got the job done.

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