Reef aquarium pests can be a real pain in the ass and wreck havoc in your tank..


The unwitting introduction of marine invertebrate pests can be as simple as putting in some live rock and discovering who rears their ugly head in the weeks that follow.


This is the most common way these pests can enter your tank, another way is in hiding away in the tissue of corals that get introduced to your tank…

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Here is a great way to prevent most of these unwanted creatures from entering your system:

  1. After acclimation perform dips on new frags or corals for 5 minutes using Lugols solution diluted with tank water as per the manufacturers instruction
  2. Scrub and thoroughly inspect the live rock before it goes into your tank. However, because live rock is full of fissures and holes many pests can (and will) still be able to find their way into your display tank.
  3. Quarantine all corals for at least 2 weeks, then inspect well for pests before introducing into your display tank.


Here is my reef enemy number 1: Aiptasia AKA Glass Anemones

Also known as rock anemones or tube anemones these little buggers are the bane of many a reef aquarist’s tank. Not only will they reproduce to epic proportions in your tank, they will also sting your immobile marine pets, a lot! They range in colour from transparent to green or brown (depending on their zooxanthellae populations) and their only purpose is to take over your entire system!

Reef aquarium pests

How can something so beautiful be so annoying? (photo credit: Alfiero Brisotto)


These hardy little anemones can survive in almost any water conditions…

They do best in tanks with excessive nutrients, cleaning your tank up and improving water quality is a good way to slow their growth down. They can grow up to 3 or 4 inches in length with the diameter of their tentacle crown the same, but usually glass anemones will be much smaller.

They will try to attack any non-moving animal in the tank with their potent stinging tentacles and are capable of stinging your pets to death. Glass anemones will go for the moving marine life as well if it doesn’t learn quick enough to stay out of harms way.

Aiptasias’ primary purpose is to outcompete all marine life and will multiply by splitting themselves up making them a real pain to get rid of!

reef aquarium pests

Aiptasia is quite attractive if only they wouldn’t spread like wildfire (photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/saltgeorge)


Getting rid of Aiptasia anemones

Don’t wait until you have huge numbers of these little pests appearing all over your rockwork; wipe them out as soon as you spot a few of them. Do not try to physically rip them out as they will fragment and the fragments will turn into 1 or more new anemones.

There are many methods listed to get rid of Glass anemones; every company seems to offer a quick fix. I used to think that using a syringe of boiling water was the best method until I tried to do it; injecting them is more effort than its worth. Trying to rip them out by hand will result in many anemone fragments, which will each regenerate into new organisms.

One method that works to get rid of the bulk of them is to  siphon them out, an end piece of stiff tubing with a narrow tip works the best, you can also remove the rock they are attached to and scrub it in freshwater. With these two methods it is hard to get rid of every single anemone so…


Your first option to eradicate Aiptasia should always be biological control!


My favourite is the Red Legged Hermit crab (Clibanarius digueti), which is also a handy species in your saltwater aquarium clean up crew, a couple of these little reef safe guys will consume them quickly, then turn on pest algae which is great.

Peppermint Shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni) will also eat them, but be careful you get only this exact species because other similar looking species wont eat Aiptasia!

Another excellent predator is the Nudibranch (Berghia verrucicornis) which only preys on Aiptasia, so when they are all gone it will starve so needs to passed on to the next Aiptasia infested aquarium owner.

The Copperband Butterflyfish (Chelmon rostratus) will also eat all Aiptasia but are less reef safe than the other options I mentioned.

Aiptasia anemone solution

Copperband Butterflies love to munch on Aiptasia but are not too reef safe!

Chemical methods to eradicate Glass anemones can often do more harm to your tank than good, one of the only sensible methods I can think of is using a syringe and dripping concentrated sodium hydroxide solution (Kalkwasser) onto the offending anemones. You will need to do water changes to make sure the pH doesn’t get to high seeing as sodium hydroxide is a strong base.

The only commercial product I have  found that works really well is Red Sea’s reef safe Aiptasia X Eliminator which comes as an applicator pack with a syringe you drip the chemical onto the anemone with, this product also eradicates other anemone such as Anemonia majano and Boloceroides sp.

I hope this helps you in getting rid of Aiptasia in your saltwater aquarium.

Don’t forget if you would like access to my free ebook “9 Saltwater Aquarium Success Tools” to get your tank thriving simply click the button below.Aiptasia anemone prevention

Andrej Brummer
Saltwater Aquarium Advice Scientist




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