If it weren’t for pests and diseases, keeping a saltwater fish aquarium or reef tank would be so much easier. Fish parasites, coral parasites, and even clam pests can present a real setback to having a thriving saltwater aquarium environment and unfortunately, some of these can be hard to treat or diagnose until it’s too late. Too often it’s not until your fish are gasping for air at the water surface or your corals are experiencing significant tissue loss that you realize there’s something really wrong at which point it’s often beyond treatment.
There’s plenty of ‘diseases’ that aren’t parasites but for those that are, tank biology testing company AquaBiomics has a new service which can test your tank for the presence of many parasites that commonly attack our beloved fish, corals and other invertebrates. At first this kind of water test for common diseases might sound like alchemy but the science of collecting and analyzing environmental DNA, also known as eDNA, has been used in research of microbial ecology for many years.
Using these same eDNA techniques and genetic markers for common pests and parasites the AquaBiomics tankDNA test can determine the presence of some of reefers’ most hated fish and coral pests. This service has the potential to revolutionize our collective understanding of coral pests and better yet, give reefers advance warning of pests in their reef aquariums well before corals and fish begin suffering from diagnosable symptoms.
While the science of environmental DNA is sound, we want to be convinced that the testing service can really do what it claims – like will it be able to determine the presence of just a few Phestilla Monti eating nudibranch or Amakusaplana Acro Eating flatworms in a large volume of water before the infestation really spreads? Or will it need to flare up to larger numbers in order to get a hit on the eDNA test?
If the test is truly as sensitive as we hope, which should only improve over time, it would be really informative to test the water of various livestock vendors and frag sellers who don’t offer a pest-free guarantee to find out which coral farmers and dealers have coral pests in their systems, whether they know it or not. AquaBiomics’ tankDNA test starts at $99 for a single kit and goes down to $49 on a sliding scale for ten or more tests and while we are pretty confident that most reefers won’t really pay attention to this service, for a while at least, more progressive aquarists who want to know and understand what’s happening now have the ability to pull back the curtain to the microbiology indie our aquariums.