Dip Your Corals – A Guide to Avoiding Aquaruim Pests

Dipping corals in an iodine/saltwater solution before you place them into the tank is a very quick and easy method for killing all sorts of aquarium pests. Coral dipping is a great substitute for those reefkeepers that do not have a quarantine tank setup to temporarily house new corals for observation and treatment. But this simple process is a commonly looked over step in the acclimation process that often leads to huge problems down the road.

Red Bugs on Acro

Red Bugs on Acro

Red Bugs Infesting Acropora Coral

Red Bugs Infesting Acropora Coral

*Both Pictures of Red Bugs Taken From clkwrk at Reef Central

Corals purchased from the local fish store are usually right out of the ocean…whether they are maricultured or wild caught. Mariculture is a specialized branch of aquaculture in which a large, wild parent coral is fragmented, and the “frags” are allowed to grow out into small colonies while remaining in the open ocean, an enclosed section of the ocean, or in tanks, ponds or raceways which are supplied with seawater. When the corals are shipped to the local fish store, they are not treated for pests, as the treatments are often stressful themselves. It is up to the store owner/workers to properly quarantine and dip all incoming livestock…which rarely happens. So, it is very likely that the coral you purchase either has pests, or has at the very least been in the same aquarium with other infested corals. And there is a whole multitude of coral pests that find their way into the store or home aquarium.

Tropic Marin Pro Coral Cure

Tropic Marin Pro Coral Cure

*Image of Tropic Marin Pro Coral Cure  Courtesy of Marine Depot – Tropic Marin Pro Coral Cure

Kent Marine Lugol's Solution

Kent Marine Lugol's Solution

*Image of Kent Marine Lugol’s Iodine  Courtesy of Marine Depot – Kent Marine Lugol’s Iodine

The key is prevention. Once the pest has manged a foot hold in your aquarium, it’s very difficult to erradicate them fully. So, follow the simple dipping procedure I outlined below, and you should put yourself in a better position to avoid aquarium pests.

-When you are making your coral purchase, pay close attention to the color, polyp extension, and overall health of the coral. Some pests are clearly visible and others leave behind a trail of visible destruction. So, keep your eyes peeled and give the coral a good look over.

-Pay attention to the corals in the same tank as the one you are thinking about purchasing. Look for the same signs as in step #1.

-Ask the store owner or employee if they’ve had any pests in their systems…but do not take their word for it. A lot of the time the employee will either be oblivious, or will just flat out lie. It happens, but don’t depend solely on them for your answer.

-When you get the coral home, inspect it again. This time, take it out of the water and use a flashlight. Look at the base of the coral, look under branches, etc. It’s not uncommon to find a stowaway.

-After the coral has acclimated (hopefully via the drip method) in a bucket for a couple of hours, add several drops of an iodine solution like Kent Marine Lugol Solution or Tropic Marine Pro Coral Cure. Swirl the water around and use a turkey baster to blast your new corals. This should knock any pests off.

-After 15 minutes or so, remove the coral from the bucket and rinse it in a cup of new tank water. Inspect the coral again to see if there are any leftovers.

-Now you’re free to put the coral into the aquarium. And by now it should be pest free.

Acro with Red Bugs

Acro with Red Bugs

Acro with Red Bugs

Acro with Red Bugs

*Both Pictures of Red Bugs Taken From Melev’s Reef

But there’s one more thing I must mention…and that is the flaw in this method. Dipping corals in iodine is a great pest removal tool. But there are a handful of pests that do get past this treatment. These are mostly Acropora Eating Flatworms (abbreviated AEFWs) and red bugs. The AEFWs will die during the dip, but their eggs will make it into the tank if you do not inspect the coral. The eggs are small, and very hard to see, but can be easily scraped off with a razor blade or even your fingernail. Red bugs are a different story. Those guys are tough. The best way to treat for them is to use Interceptor, a heartworm medication for dogs and cats, but I’ll discuss that in a future article. One last flaw I must mention is the ability of the iodine dip to kill fish and other livestock. ONLY DIP CORALS IN IODINE!!! Fish and crustaceans will not hold up well to an iodine dip. They will die.

Acro Eating Flatworm Eggs

Acro Eating Flatworm Eggs

*Photo of AEFW Eggs Taken From Melev’s Reef

Acropora Eating Flatworms

Acropora Eating Flatworms

Acropora Eating Flatworms

Acropora Eating Flatworms

*AEFW Adults and Juveniles Taken From Melev’s Reef

Acropora Eating Flatworm

Acropora Eating Flatworm

AEFW Eggs on Acro Coral

AEFW Eggs on Acro Coral

*AEFW on the above, AEFW Eggs on Coral Skeleton on the bottom
*Both Images Taken Copyright by Jason Weatherson from Reef Central – AEFW

So, save yourself some trouble in the long run and dip (and quarantine if you can) all of your incoming corals. The pests are tough to remove from your system and your corals will suffer.

Sources:
Marine Depot – Tropic Marine Pro Coral Cure
Marine Depot – Kent Marine Lugol’s Iodine
Melev’s Reef – AEFW
Melev’s Reef – Red Bugs
AEFW Copyright Jason Weatherson –
Reef Central – AEFW
Reef Central – Red Bugs

  • Al Catoe

    So how did you get rid of the flat worms?

    • http://blog.aquanerd.com Brandon Klaus

      assuming you’re talking about red planaria, so my suggestion is to use levamisole (very hard to find nowadays), a wrasse or multiple wrasses, constant dipping of corals, siphoning of worms during water changes, and even kicking back the photoperiod because the worms do rely on photosynthesis.