Are amphipods good for our aquariums?

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Reef By Steele

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BENEFITS OF AMPHIPODS​

Are amphipods good for our aquariums?

Amphipods are a natural food source in all types of water from fresh to salt and saltwater aquariums. There is no doubt that they can play an important role in our aquariums. Amphipods create a living sustainable nutritious food source for most if not all the fish we keep in our aquariums. There is no question that live foods in the right environment provide our fish with nutritional benefits over frozen or dry foods. Although prepared foods can be augmented with nutrients, just like human food, processing and preparing depletes many of the natural elements found in the original substance. I don’t think anyone would really argue that foods with preservatives are better for us, it is by nature required to use preservatives in prepared products. So providing a sustainable living food source is in my opinion a solid approach to keeping happy and healthy fish. However due to the constraints of our aquariums where these living food sources are kept in such close proximity to their predators, it is unlikely for most aquarists to maintain amphipods or other live food sources in high enough populations to fully sustain their fish. Therefore we find a need to augment these live offerings with prepared options in order to maintain these happy healthy fish.

This brings us to another benefit of amphipods. They can play an important role in maintaining good water parameters as they reduce nutrients in our aquariums in a number of ways. Because they are alive, the introduction of amphipods or other live foods does not increase nutrients at the same rate as prepared foods. Prepared foods are immediately deteriorating adding ammonia to our systems as they decompose, especially the foods that escape our fish and get into our rockwork and sand beds. These crustaceans are excellent scavengers, dining on algae and detritus. In this way they remove the waste converting it into a food supply (themselves) for every fish in your system.

Many amphipods are omnivorous, so along with cleaning up the waste from prepared foods, they also consume algae. This makes them an invaluable addition to any tank’s CUC (Clean Up Crew). Stocking amphipods along with copepods, the combination can get down into the tiniest of cracks and crevices eating algae to the root, so that it doesn’t just grow right back as happens often with larger herbivores such as tangs and rabbitfish. Early introduction when setting up a new system or when making a major change, reset or moving a tank can greatly reduce what we refer to as the “Ugly Stage” in the hobby. And who doesn’t love an algae free tank.

Amphipods can become self-sustaining in the appropriate system, and do not require pristine conditions to do so. Not that our target isn’t pristine conditions, but due to amphipods living in the wild in less than perfect conditions, it is probable that they will reproduce in your system with little assistance from you. Although you might find information of their populations exploding, from personal experience, I have found this to only be a true concern in tanks with very little to no predation. In our 3XL 900 tank named “Heavenly” as it is our angel tank, I saw a huge explosion of life in the tank during a fallow period to eradicate ich. Since @Ocean_Queenie doesn’t feel the need to keep the glass clear in a FOWLR with no fish (I agree with her) the viewing glass became covered with algae. During this time we saw amphipods, copepods, munnid isopods. Juvenile bristle worms and a very small shrimp looking crustacean complete with two pincers literally covering the glass. This may have been helped along as I continued to ghost feed the aquarium to maintain the bio-filter during this period. Now that the tank has been restocked and the glass is kept clear, these sightings are rare now. As a side note, I am not sure if this means that they are hiding in the rocks and sand, or if I inadvertently killed them off when I cleaned the tank exposing myself and the tank to paly toxins. But I can say with certainty that they definitely thrive even under those circumstances without being preyed upon.

Are there any drawbacks to amphipods? Here I will have to say that I cannot speak definitively on this subject, but only anecdotally from personal experience and second hand from posts (some right here on R2R) that I have read. There are threads on here where people claim that amphipods are eating their corals. Of a few I read, one dealt with frags. In this thread the author stated that the amphipods were eating his frags, but not bothering the colonies. The majority of the replies were that others suspected or have had instances where they have had this occur to dying coral. In this particular thread there is a possibility that the amphipods, if actually eating the frags, may have been due to the damage they suffered being fragged, as the OP does not make it clear if these frags were quarantined before being returned to the DT. Another thread talks of LPS corals being bothered by amphipods during a fallow period where their population exploded. In this thread the OP divulges that they were fighting GHA (Green Hair Algae) at the same time. These stories may be similar to claims against emerald crabs (which I witnessed in one of our systems) where I cannot honestly tell you if the crab was irritating the coral and possibly damaging it while cleaning the GHA off of the tubes on our pipe organ coral, or whether it was truly eating the coral. I can say that the coral had grown into a beautiful colony from a medium sized frag with no issues until it took a turn for the worse (probably related to a reset I did) and then the tank struggling through a short “Ugly Phase” with quite a bit of GHA taking root. In the story of the LPS being irritated the OP discusses picking up certain colonies and swishing them in the tank dislodging a large number of amphipods from the colony. They state that the LPS then opened up more normally, but again makes mention of GHA. This story does not indicate in the thread that the amphipods were eating the corals, even stating that the amphipods were down around the skeleton working on the GHA. The OP doesn’t describe feeding them, stating that there was enough detritus for them. I would think, that without adding a food source, and the population exploding, that there is the possibility that if the amphipods were eating any coral that it may be that starvation was driving them. As for us, we have never witnessed any negative impact on any corals in our six systems including our 4 tank frag system. So I stand behind the theory that amphipods are a very beneficial addition to any saltwater aquarium.

I have also read the claim that amphipods eat copepods. Again I cannot say with certainty that they do not, what I can say from my experience with all the life forms on the glass of Heavenly, they most certainly can coexist.

We offer amphipods individually or within our combo offerings at www.reefbysteele.com. And they are in stock and available.

Wishing you success and HAPPY REEFING

Kent and Sherry
 

PharmrJohn

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Yep. Just saw a video on the subject. I fully intend on adding them to my future tank somewhere in the cycle. Not sure when yet, but I'll have that nailed down by end of day. My dream is to lessen the ugly phase by having these little guys feast on the inevitable. I've never added these to any of my tanks in the past, but will not go without in the future. LOL, I probably had them but never realized it!
 
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Reef By Steele

Reef By Steele

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Yep. Just saw a video on the subject. I fully intend on adding them to my future tank somewhere in the cycle. Not sure when yet, but I'll have that nailed down by end of day. My dream is to lessen the ugly phase by having these little guys feast on the inevitable. I've never added these to any of my tanks in the past, but will not go without in the future. LOL, I probably had them but never realized it!
They can be added anytime after your cycle is complete. Safe as soon as safe to add fish. Probably need either the start of some algae or having fish being fed just to make sure they have a food source.
 

merkmerk73

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I used to have plague proportions in my fuge and overflow and now they’re all gone

Haven’t seen one in months
 
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Reef By Steele

Reef By Steele

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I used to have plague proportions in my fuge and overflow and now they’re all gone

Haven’t seen one in months
Anything change in your system, I think I lost a lot of those critters, mysis, pods, amphs etc when I cleaned a fallow tank ready for fish to return and messed with some palys. Either that or they just hade now that I put fish in. They used to be everywhere o the glass, and now I don't see any anywhere.
 

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