Keeping sea slugs in captivity

July 9, 1998
From: Stephen (Max) Gillies

I've recently become very interested in Sea Slugs of all kinds and wonder how difficult it would be to keep them in an aquarium. what sized tank should I use and what kind of filter would be necessary? Are there any good articles/books about diet and behavioural patterns? do what I think are one of the Family Pleurobranchidae, which I've seen in 'schools' wandering over sand at night, need to move around?

I noticed in one of the articles about sea hares Bill mentioned size of tank- after observing sea hares in the wild and how they swim (magical the first time you see one) I would suggest tank size would be around 1 metre long? more? any help would be great.

Stephen (Max) Gillies
Coogee, NSW, Australia

Gillies, S., 1998 (Jul 9) Keeping sea slugs in captivity. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Max, I see you are a member of the Uni of NSW diving club. The most experienced group I know of in Australia for keeping Aplysia in captivity are in the University of NSW. Perhaps you should contact Dr Peter Steinberg who has had a number of students working on Aplysia biology over the years, the most recent being Cary Rogers. However the aquarium system they use is hardly domestic. I haven't kept aquaria going for years but as a general rule of thumb you have to start small and not overcrowd. The most important thing is to find what your nudibranchs eat and make sure you have healthy food for them. This is a major problem as true nudibranchs are all carnivores and many feed on difficult to keep alive animals such as hydroids, sponges and ascidians. And most are pretty choosy eating only one or a very few closely related species. Many enthusiasts find that rather then trying to get the food to grow in the aquaria it is best to collect small amounts of food and regularly replace it in the aquaria. As I say often, we know very little about the biology of individual species of nudibranchs and enthusiasts trying to keep animals alive in aquaria is a good way to find at least what they feed on. I am happy to post photos of animals and their food on the Sea Slug Forum as this is a good way to let everyone know of what is often a new bit of information which would otherwise be lost.

I would be interested in a photo or description of the "Pleurobranch" you have seen in schools wandering over the sand. ... Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 1998 (Jul 9). Comment on Keeping sea slugs in captivity by Stephen (Max) Gillies. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

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