We hate discovering coral parasites of any kind in our aquariums but at the very least there’s a modicum of surprise and intrigue when we encounter something new. The last time this happened we were dealing with the unusual Skeleton Erosion Band disease caused by Halofolliculina corallasia but this week the culprit is something entirely unknown.
If you’ll recall about a month ago we acquired a nice neat green specimen of Acropora solitaryensis with which we are quite smitten. This colony represents only a handful of plating Acroporas that have ever been exported from Australia and it has the peculiar provenance of Darwin, capital of the Northern Territories.
Well ever since we wrote about that colony, it hasn’t exactly settled into aquarium life. Over the last few weeks we noticed this coral exhibiting a real dearth of polyp extension, and showing signs of infestation by Tegastes acroporanus the dreaded ‘red bug’ that makes Acropora corals very sad.
We’ve been dealing with threat of Red Bug infestations since 2002 so we have quite a lot of experience with this coral parasites; paired up with good vision, we know exactly what the Tegastes look like when they are pissing off a coral. In this case we had the symptoms but no explanation so we decided to pull out the big daddy of in-situ coral examination, the Ogles Mesoscope 2.
With a magnified view of the sickly Soli we immediately recognized both the tell-tale irritation of a coral with exceptionally withdrawn coral polyps. Moments later we could spot a critter much like the dreaded red bug, but with a different shape and different color. Actually, the yellow body and red butt of red bugs is what makes them so easy to see on corals, despite their tiny size.
These uninvited copepods were more on the greyish side with a slight dark streak visible down the center of larger individuals. After snapping these few pictures for posterity, we quickly called upon Reef Pest Solutions All Out to give the coral koodies a Reef Builders style going-away party.
We’ve used RPS All Out pretty successfully to eradicate a range of parasites and while the stuff is pretty toxic to reef life, especially in regards to corals with lots of encrustations or a porous rocky base, we’ve had good luck absolutely nuking the chemistry out of many minute coral tenants in need of proper eviction. A 15 minute bath and 30 minute rinse later and the coral was all clean.
We still have no real idea what this little bugger was, but the big ones are gone and hopefully the RPS All Out was enough to get their copepodite offsprings too. We did manage to collect and preserve the critters that fell off in the dip so perhaps one day we’ll get that sample to someone who can properly identify these.
We’ve heard reports of Acropora “black bugs” and other isolated cases of Acropora infestations not cause by Tegastes, If this scenario sounds familiar please do chime in the comments with your own observations.