Berghia verrucicornis - aquarium culture

March 9, 2002
From: Steve Kempf

This is an answer to a number of questions posed on this web site concerning Berghia verrucicornis. In the USA, they may be purchased from Inland Aquatics whhere they are listed as "Nudibranch, Aiptasia Eating"

I've been raising them for years and the only things I've been able to get them to eat are species of Aiptasia. They appear to be very specific. (Please don't write and ask me for some, my job keeps me extremely busy. I'm not set-up to be a mail order service and I'll just refer you to Inland Aquatics.)

One reason that B. verrucicornis works so well (at least in some instances) at ridding aquaria of Aiptasia is that they have lecithotrophic larvae that metamorphose very soon after they hatch from the egg mass. Thus, starting with a couple of specimens, if the aquarium environment is right, you very rapidly (in a month or so) build up a large population of these nudibranchs that then go on to decimate the entire Aiptasia population in the tank. Once the Aiptasia are gone, the Berghia starve (since they won't eat anything else), shrink over time and eventually die if more Aiptasia are not supplied.

As Bill Rudman (hi Bill, been a long time since we''ve communicated) said, sometimes conditions in an aquarium are not right, or you're just unlucky, and the Berghia you put in the tank die or are killed before they have a chance to get a population going.

One way to get around this is to culture them in a separate aquarium until you have a large number, i.e. put your Berghia in a separate small tank (with proper filtration that won't suck them into the filter), add a bunch of Aiptasia of various sizes and keep adding more as they are eaten. The Berghia will lay many egg masses on the glass sides of the tank, and if the water quality is good enough, these will hatch (takes about 11 days at 24 degrees C), and the larvae (really tiny, about 200 um) will metamorphose into juveniles. If everything goes right these will feed on the Aiptasia (you won't see them at first because they are too small) and eventually grow into adults. Once you have a bunch of them, they can be released into your main tank to do their thing. Do realize that, as with your large tank, the environment has to be right in order for this to work.

If I can find the time, I'll send a few pictures of the "for real" Berghia verrucicornis at a future date.

References concerning the culture of Berghia verrucicornis are:

• Carroll, D.J. and S.C. Kempf. 1990. Laboratory culture of the aeolid nudibranch Berghia verrucicornis (Mollusca, Opisthobranchia): Some aspects of its development and life history. Biological Bulletin, 179: 243-253.
• Kempf, S.C. and D.J. Carroll. 1996. Berghia verrucicornis Glasrosenfressende Nacktschnecke. In, Fossa, S.A. and A.J. Nilsen. Korallenriff-Aquarium. 5. Birgit Schmettkamp Verlag, Bornheim, Germany: pp. 269-271.
• Kempf, S.C. and M. Brittsan. 1996. Berghia verrucicornis, a nudibranch predator of the aquarium "weed" anemone Aiptasia. Proceedings of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association: Regional Conference. Audubon Park & Zoological Garden, New Orleans. pp. 95-99.

Hope this clears a few things up.
Steve Kempf

Kempf, S., 2002 (Mar 9) Berghia verrucicornis - aquarium culture. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Thanks Steve,
I look forward to some photos of the aquarium Berghia verrucicornis.

Anyone interested in Steve's references will find two of them available online - see Fact Sheet.
Bill Rudman

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