Eliminating Aiptasia Anemones From Saltwater Aquariums

Chemical and Liquid Solution Injections

Aiptasia sp.
Haplochromis/Wikimedia Commons

One way to kill and get rid of prolific and pesky aiptasia sea anemones in a saltwater aquarium is by means of injecting them with any of the following chemical or liquid solutions. When using this method, for the best results you should inject the solution of choice directly into the stem of the anemone with a needle and syringe. If working with a caustic chemical, it is wise to wear protective eye goggles and gloves as a precaution.

Bottled Lemon Juice Concentrate

After some experimentation, we discovered this liquid gave us immediate results. It is a reef tank safe, effective, and easy procedure that costs only pennies to perform. Just follow these simple instructions on how to eliminate aiptasia with lemon juice injections, which includes our before and after comparison photos so you can visually see our results.

Calcium Hydroxide

Injecting aiptasia with calcium hydroxide (kalkwasser) in a concentrated solution is one of the most common methods used. The consensus we get with this method is that it does work but is not very efficiently unless done properly. The kill rate is low if the anemone is not directly injected into it and if the solution is not strong enough. Another problem is that if you try to kill too many aiptasia at once, it can cause a problem with the pH level in your tank by adding too much CAOH2 at one time.

Sodium Hydroxide

When using this chemical for injection it can be mixed strong enough for a certain kill. Beware, there is a WARNING with this one. When mixed in a concentrated solution it can remove the skin from your hands or other body parts. Removing the rock from the tank and dribbling the sodium hydroxide solution over the anemone it gave 100% mortality rate.

When having to get to an anemone that had it's foot embedded in a crevice, the mortality rate was only about 50%. This was due to have to guess where to put the solution and if the target was not right on.

Hydrogen Peroxide

When injected straight out of the bottle into Aiptasia kills it fairly quickly.

Hot Water

This method does not work very well, and your chances are pretty slim of it helping to get rid of the aiptasia.

Bleach and Copper Sulfate

We have seen these liquid chemicals suggested, and we say NO WAY.

Now if the thought of using chemical or liquid solutions in your system makes you cringe, how about adding a natural aiptasia anemone-eating fish, shrimp, or nudibranch to your tank, or trying an OTC remedy?

Natural Predators, Hyposalinity, and OTC Remedies

In the quest to find a natural way to eliminate aiptasia anemones from saltwater aquariums, some marine animals have been found which devour the pesky aiptasia with pleasure. However, before you decide to introduce such a fish, shrimp, nudibranch, or other animals into your system, although the pro side sounds good, there are cons about them to consider as well, especially in reef tank systems.

  • Most of the fish suggested will pick at and eat various types of soft and stony corals, zoanthids, sea mats, and polyps.
  • Many of the animals listed naturally feed on various types of both sessile and motile invertebrates, such as other sea anemones, feather dusters and other tube worms, clams, sea urchins, and crustaceans. Those that may not, once all the aiptasia have been consumed, in all likelihood will search for alternative food sources such as these as well.
  • With some species being sensitive and difficult to care for in captivity, primarily due to specialized diet requirements, if you are not an experienced aquarist the animals will very often starve to death.
  • Individual specimens may vary in their desire to eat the aiptasia, and the size of the anemones may be a factor too, therefore there is no "guarantee" any particular animal will "definitely" eat them.

For these reasons, caution is advised when deciding to add any of these most commonly suggested animals to your aquarium for eradicating aiptasia anemones.

  • Butterflyfishes: Auriga (Chaetodon auriga), Raccoon (Chaetodon lunula), Klein's (Chaetodon kleini), Long-Nosed (Genus Forcipiger species), Teardrop (Chaetodon unimaculatus), and Copperband (Chelmon rostratus).
  • Filefishes: There are four species of Genus Acreichthys filefishes, but the Bristle-Tail Filefish (Acreichthys tomentosus) from the Indo-Pacific region is said to be the ultimate choice aiptasia eater.
  • Puffers: The Brown Whitespotted or Guinea Fowl Puffer (Arothron meleagris) may eat aiptasia, but it grows to a very large size, therefore the Tobies or Sharp-Nosed species of the Canthigastrinae sub-family might be more suitable.
  • Shrimps: The "true" Peppermint Shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni) is by far the top choice of aquarists for eating aiptasia anemones, but the trick with this one is making sure you get the right species. Although the Camelback Shrimp (Rhynchocienetes uritai) is very often misrepresented and sold as a true Peppermint Shrimp, it is the L. wurdemanni species that usually preys on aiptasia anemones, whereas the R. uritai will most likely ignore them. It should also be noted that the lysmata californica which is also called the Peppermint Shrimp, but is endemic to the west coast of North America, does not consume aiptasia (it also does not do well in an aquarium which is heated above 60F).
  • Hermit Crabs: Almost always reef safe, and beneficial algae eaters as well, in particular, one or two of the more common Red Legged or White-Spotted Hermit Crab (Dardanus megistos) might do the trick.
  • Nudibranches: Berghia Sea Slugs are by far the most popular choice, because they are 100% safe, and effective when used and cared for properly. These nudibranches solely eat aiptasia, and will die without them present, which means you have take steps to ensure their survival.

Hyposalinity, and OTC Remedies

Now if you have concerns about adding any of these animals to your aquarium, there is always the option to get rid of aiptasia by means of OST (Osmotic Shock Therapy), or hyposalinity, which is easy to do, and works quite well, but is not for use in reef tank systems.

In regards to OTC remedies, we have not personally used Stop-Aiptasia™ by ChemMarin, but Luis Mercado's review provides much information about this product. Aptasia-Away™ ​and Tropic Marin's Elimi-Aiptas are other over-the-counter remedies that we are aware of that are specifically designed to target and kill these anemones, which are also said to be reef safe products.

Have you used either of these products? Do you know of other natural predators of aiptasia anemones