Phyllidia varicosa in an aquarium

September 23, 2000
From: Christopher Shaw

Before reading your Forum I purchased a sea slug of the Phyllidia varicosa species. 'Scrambled egg nudibranch' it was called. I have had it for a few weeks and it seems to be doing well. Tonight, I noticed it laying what I think are eggs in a spiral shape on the glass on the top of the tank. I was wondering if there was any chance of the eggs actually hatching and perhaps some growing to adulthood. That's if they don't get sucked into the filter or protein skimmer at some point.

I was also wondering if it would be possible to isolate the egg masses in a jar with a air stone? Any thoughts on this.

Christopher Shaw

Shaw, C., 2000 (Sep 23) Phyllidia varicosa in an aquarium. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Christopher,
If you don't have the sponge it feeds on in your aquarium then I am afraid it will be slowly starving. This may take a month or two because starving nudibranchs slowly start absorbing 'excess' organs such as their reproductive system, in an attempt to stay alive. It sounds like your animal has laid an egg ribbon. This could mean that it mated before it was caught, or perhaps in the shop, if they had more than one, before you bought it. There is also the possibiity the eggs are infertile. Often distressed animals will lay an egg-ribbon and shortly after die as though this is their last attempt at keeping the species alive. Often the eggs are infertile.

I'm afraid that even if the eggs are fertile I can't really give you good news. If they develop they will reach a stage where the larvae will hatch out as little swimming veliger larvae. [If you use the SEARCH button you will find some photos of veligers]. In the case of P. varicosa I am pretty sure its veligers spend some time swimming in the plankton, feeding on microscopic algae. Unless you have phytoplankton cultures to feed them I am afraid the larvae will die of starvation. There is also a chance they will be caught by your skimmers and if you transfer them to a jar they will probably be trapped in the surface film.

Sorry again for not having any good news
Best wishes,
Bill Rudman.

Rudman, W.B., 2000 (Sep 23). Comment on Phyllidia varicosa in an aquarium by Christopher Shaw. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from


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