Be Careful Of Live Rock (A Bobbit Worm Horror Story)

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egwich

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I apologize if this is in the wrong spot but I wanted to share my experience with everyone, and especially for newbies who are just starting out in the hobby (like I was about a year ago). When you first start off there is A LOT to learn and it's overwhelming. One of the first things you do is buy live rock when establishing a tank. My biggest regret is not buying the man made live rock which does not come with critters. My original rock has ended up coming with 5 Bobbit Worms and 1 Mantis Shrimp. I've also come to realize today, that a Bobbit worm has been responsible for two deaths in my tank in the past month.

For those of you interested in seeing the pictures of the Bobbit worms or the Mantis you can look in my previous posts. I had a beautiful Kole Tang who slept every night underneath a rock (see picture below). It created a cave and he loved it. As of a month ago I had successfully eradicated 4 Bobbit Worms and thought they were all dead and gone. That rock/cave was the last piece of live rock from my original batch. I've slowly replaced all the rock with dry rock. One morning I woke up and found that my Kole Tang had a nasty cut that literally pierced through his back tail. The hole was almost like I took a screwdriver and pushed it through. The Kole Tang was fine, but then he had another slash, and then suddenly one day I found him under the rock dead. I suspected something was in my tank (since I've had a party of predators hitch hike in there already). I ended up buying a Flameback Dwarf. Beautiful little guy. He seemed to get along peacefully with my clowns, royal gramma, goby, and anthias.

He slept underneath the same cave that the Kole did. A week later he has a large gash on the side of him and it's infected (I posted on that asking if it was from aggression or a disease because I never saw any aggression). Today he was hiding under his rock, and I was about to quarantine him because of his cut and I saw a Bobbit Worm come down from the inside top of the rock and attack the Angel...striking it and killing it. My flashlight scared him back into the rock (thought I could save my angel) but it was too late.

If you're new to the hobby, do not buy live rock from the ocean or at least be VERY careful who you buy it from. I've had my tank for almost a year and I'm still trying to get rid of bobbit worms because they're almost impossible to find. Then you start losing fish, and you think to yourself "maybe the clowns are being ***** when I'm not home" and you start considering getting rid of the fish you THINK are aggressors. It also will cost you a pretty penny having to replace all that rock because the only way to get rid of a Bobbit Worm is to get rid of the rock it is in.

My next move is to get rid of this piece of rock and I'll have no more original rock where the worms came from. The problem is, if there was more than one in this rock they could of migrated into new rock that I have added.

That's my story. Just wanted to share it with everyone.

 
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egwich

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Forgot to post the picture of the rock/cave.

file-14.jpeg
 

ddrueckh

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I love live rock. I think the benefits outweigh the bad hitchhikers. There is way more good that comes with live rock than bad. I just caught a mantis myself and have a trap set for a big gorilla crab. I have one or two other mantis in my tank. I’m not worried about them. I will catch them if I can but so far they have done no harm.
 

Bill Bolton

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Live rock is called that for a reason..... it is covered with life! My last tank, the 275 pounds of Bali and Tonga Branch had sponges, zoanthids, a hammer coral, even a plain looking green acro. Yes, some bad hitchhikers come, but mantis are easy to catch, and others can be dealt with. The hobby is really turning into a hands off, pre packaged thing that I'm not sure I will get back into! Try giving up your stupid controllers, reactors, and man made rock and get back to the basics of the hobby!!
 

ndrwater

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Live rock is called that for a reason..... it is covered with life! My last tank, the 275 pounds of Bali and Tonga Branch had sponges, zoanthids, a hammer coral, even a plain looking green acro. Yes, some bad hitchhikers come, but mantis are easy to catch, and others can be dealt with. The hobby is really turning into a hands off, pre packaged thing that I'm not sure I will get back into! Try giving up your stupid controllers, reactors, and man made rock and get back to the basics of the hobby!!
That's sounds a little harsh don't you think? I too have had a run in or two with bobbits. Never fun.. I am glad the OP figured out the source of injury on the flameback and was one of many who replied to that thread.
As for "controllers, reactors and the basics of the hobby".. it IS supposed to be fun isn't it? There are 1000 ways to skin a reef. I think we can all use our own judgement as to which way works best for each of us.
 
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mort

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Some people seem to have really bad luck with their rock and I completely sympathise and am sorry for your problems but agree with the view that most hitchhikers are great additions and it's worth the risk of adding good quality live rock.

I recently dismantled my 2ft cube and I hadn't added any rock for ten years and the only corals that were added were unmounted frags from another tank. When I took the last rock out I found a 3ft long bobbit. I had lost cuc but put that down to having a tobie puffer but not seen or lost anything else really. In this tank I'd raised baby clowns from a few weeks after settlement, had tiny gobies, scooter and mandarin dragonets plus other stuff you'd think were tasty meals. So I also think luck as to which species of bobbit comes into it and you were about as unlucky as you could be.
 
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egwich

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Some people seem to have really bad luck with their rock and I completely sympathise and am sorry for your problems but agree with the view that most hitchhikers are great additions and it's worth the risk of adding good quality live rock.

I recently dismantled my 2ft cube and I hadn't added any rock for ten years and the only corals that were added were unmounted frags from another tank. When I took the last rock out I found a 3ft long bobbit. I had lost cuc but put that down to having a tobie puffer but not seen or lost anything else really. In this tank I'd raised baby clowns from a few weeks after settlement, had tiny gobies, scooter and mandarin dragonets plus other stuff you'd think were tasty meals. So I also think luck as to which species of bobbit comes into it and you were about as lucky as you could be.

I think it's all from experience. People that have had good luck with the live rock and great additions think it's the best thing ever. Then there's people like me who cannot get rid of Bobbit Worms and lose fish to them, and the only way to catch them is to get rid of the rock which just costs more $$$ to replace.
 

mort

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I think it's all from experience. People that have had good luck with the live rock and great additions think it's the best thing ever. Then there's people like me who cannot get rid of Bobbit Worms and lose fish to them, and the only way to catch them is to get rid of the rock which just costs more $$$ to replace.

My last sentance above should have said you were very unlucky but predictive text changed it unhelpfully.

I do agree that when you get some terrible hitchers then you want nothing more than to strip it down and start again but if your problem is easily remedied, we may think differently. Hopefully your hard work will pay off and things will go well from now on.
 

oldpaddy

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I used to work for a guy who sold live rock. It's gorgeous after it cures for a while. I never noticed any of those worms, but I did see plenty of mantis shrimp and gorilla crabs. Took years to finally rid my system of both. Only way I know they're gone is because I don't hear the clicking anymore and I haven't had any bottom dwellers with gouges in a year or two.
 
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mort

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I used to work for a guy who sold live rock. It's gorgeous after it cures for a while. I never noticed any of those worms, but I did see plenty of mantis shrimp and gorilla crabs. Took years to finally rid my system of both. Only way I know they're gone is because I don't hear the clicking anymore and I haven't had any bottom dwellers with gouges in a year or two.

My experience is similar. I've dealt with a few tons of liverock over the years and had every hitchhiker you could imagine in the boxes when I opened them but seen very few of these worms. I have seen probably hundreds come in on soft coral rocks and there was a time when I found over 15 in one box of toadstools.
I think the op is just really unlucky and that actually, ironically, probably had some very good live rock. Unfortunately that doesn't count for much when you run into these troubles.
 

Jesterrace

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Obviously everything has it's Pros and Cons, to me though regular live rock is just too much of a gamble for my tastes. Yes, I can get beneficial biofiltration that can't be matched but having to go through all the hassle of removing potential pests or dealing with beneficial but ugly biolife (ie Bristleworms) just doesn't appeal to me. I went with the Caribsea Life Rock and I don't regret it one bit, the only unwanted creepy crawly I have ever had in my tank is a single aiptasia 'nem that hitchhiked on a Zoanthid Frag, which I identified early on and killed and haven't had a problem with any since (and that was a year and a half ago). About the only thing I really wish I had from Live Rock are the established Copepods, but that can be fixed, it just takes longer.
 

RMS18

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It's a gamble at the end of the day choosing LR, you may get lucky but why gamble when you can have guaranteed peace of mind knowing there are no bad hitchhikers that can kill your fish or corals. Why put your fish at the risk. Having to solve issues later on, trapping, digging, tearing apart, this hobby has enough work involved at time why add more. My first tank was started with live rock and within 8 months it was packed with healthy corals, stable, i would never have been able to achieve this using dry rock. However the time and money spent ridding of the pests aiptasia, gorilla crabs, bristle worms (can be good or bad), hydroids, pyramid snails, and those worms who send out the web - can't remember their name, they aren't that harmful but the webs can irritate corals. Every tank since then DR only. I'm sorry to hear about your experience, that may be the worst hitchhiker one can have.
 

andrewkw

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I love live rock, it's a shame good rock is so hard to find these days. I actually recently setup another reef mainly because I didn't have the heart to dry out my beautiful tonga and fiji live rock. It's hard to say but it would be interesting to see someone do a study on what you are more likely to have problems with. A sterile dry rock tank, or a "lively" live rock tank. I'd gladly take 10 pests that I can either remove or treat vs having no biodiversity.
 

mort

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It's hard to say but it would be interesting to see someone do a study on what you are more likely to have problems with. A sterile dry rock tank, or a "lively" live rock tank.

My anecdotal experience from someone who had dozens of customers tanks to make a comparison from plus lots of reading of tank threads, I would say that dead rock tended to be more of an issue with algae to begin with, ceramics often suffered with dinos and live rock just had a few hitchhikers (sometimes awful, othere not so bad or evenue beneficial). I don't personally believe dead rock is the best answer for eliminating pests as with liverock you will be adding something sometime and this is normally how pests like aiptasia occur, other pest like mantis and bobbit will be less of a risk but your result are only as good as your biological quarantine. Again anecdotally, customers who started with dry and then had aiptasia or similar hitchhikers tended to see them proliferate much quicker. I put this down to a unbalanced equilibrium/ecosystem which only develops after a long time in a dry started tank.
I think with either scenario you can end up with a great tank or equally run into dreadful problems. A lot is in the lap of the gods.
 
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Ashley Kekua

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Live rock is called that for a reason..... it is covered with life! My last tank, the 275 pounds of Bali and Tonga Branch had sponges, zoanthids, a hammer coral, even a plain looking green acro. Yes, some bad hitchhikers come, but mantis are easy to catch, and others can be dealt with. The hobby is really turning into a hands off, pre packaged thing that I'm not sure I will get back into! Try giving up your stupid controllers, reactors, and man made rock and get back to the basics of the hobby!!
I agreement to this!
 

SDK

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What's more fun than getting up at midnight to sneak a look into your tank and see what has crawled out of the rockwork? It's my replacement for night scuba diving now that I have a family....

I also prefer live rock and have never used anything else. You do have to be vigilant/careful initially. To me, the real aquarium horror stories are over in the dinoflagellate and cyanobacteria threads. From reading through them, it seems like starting out sterile can be a contributing factor to outbreaks of both. As several above have noted, there are going to be pluses and minuses either way.

I'm very sorry for your fish losses, by the way and agree you may have just had some bad luck. I've set up over a dozen aquariums with LR, and managed two different aquarium stores in the 80's and 90's without having ever seen a Bobbit Worm...
 

mbmax

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Live rock is called that for a reason..... it is covered with life! My last tank, the 275 pounds of Bali and Tonga Branch had sponges, zoanthids, a hammer coral, even a plain looking green acro. Yes, some bad hitchhikers come, but mantis are easy to catch, and others can be dealt with. The hobby is really turning into a hands off, pre packaged thing that I'm not sure I will get back into! Try giving up your stupid controllers, reactors, and man made rock and get back to the basics of the hobby!!

That is the reason I don't buy live rock . I want to pick the corals I place in my tank.
I purshased that type of live rock for my previous tank and it was a pain to get rid of so many unwanted things including corals.
 
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