Nudibranch breeding

August 4, 1999
From: Caroline Bodenham

I am from the Central West College of TAFE in Geraldton, Western Australia, and in our Aquaculture course we have been trying to breed nudibranchs from wild stock caught from local reefs. The adults laid eggs as soon as they were put into the aquariums, and eggs hatched successfully. We observed larva for aproximatly two months, within various substrates provided for them, and some even got through into our biofilter. We also placed plates in the tanks to encourage the growth of diatoms for the larvae to feed on. Suddenly, after watching them for weeks, they all disappeared within a couple of days!! Does anybody have any ideas as to what may have happened?

Geraldton is situated about half way up the W.A. coast in a mediterranian climate. Our shores recieve warm water from the Leeuwin Current comming south from the equator. Because of this current coral reefs and ecosystems survive here, and further south, where corals should not be. Our waters are very rich in sea life of all kinds from the warmer tropical species, to dugongs and porpoises, to the migrating whales, and Western Rock Lobsters which we export.


Bodenham, C., 1999 (Aug 4) Nudibranch breeding. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Caroline,
Keeping opisthobranch larvae alive is a very specialised business. Some basic needs for the veliger larvae are:
* appropriate planktonic algae for feeding
*some mechanism to stop the larvae being caught in the surface film.

You then need to find what triggers settlement of the larvae so that it can settle out of the plankton and metamorphose into a crawling slug. For this you need to know the food of the particular nudibranch you are rearing, as settlement is often triggered by chemical cues from the adult food.

Sudden death of all the larvae could be because of a bacterial/protozoan infection or a sudden change in physical conditions, or it could have been because the larvae were starving and finally all died, or had delayed metamorphosis to the maximum limit without finding anything suitable to settle and metamorphose on.

As a first step then, you need to identify the species of nudibranchs you are trying to breed. I am sure almost every species will need special requirements. I can help you with identifications, if you can send photographs, but I don't know if I can give you more than broad clues to what they will eat.

There are a few references on Larval Culture page, below your message, and if you got to the General Topics Index you will find some other references to particular larvae. I'm sorry I can't be more specific, but I'm afraid I have never worked in a place with the facilities to study larvae. Although I am fascinated to read about larval studies, I am afraid my first-hand experience is very limited.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman.

1999 (Aug 4). Comment on Nudibranch breeding by Caroline Bodenham. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from


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