Hypselodoris bullocki in aquaria

March 19, 2004
From: Steve Jen

Hi Bill,
I purchased a Hypselodoris bullocki recently only to find out about how difficult it is to keep sea slugs alive in a tank due to its very specialized dietary needs and its ability to emit toxins when stressed or dead as a defense mechanism. I read an article from this website and it seems only the warty (Phyllididae ??) ones emit toxins. Is that true and does that mean the one I have is alright to be kept in my reef tank?

The store guy told me it eats sponges and plankton and told me not to worry about the toxins as it is minimal (referring to this species only). Your response is appreciated...
Steve Jen


Jen, S., 2004 (Mar 19) Hypselodoris bullocki in aquaria. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/12467

Dear Steve,
These animals eat sponges, but the critical thing is that they will only eat one or two particular species of sponges. Unless you know what that particular sponge is and have access to living supplies of it, the nudibranch will starve. Species of Hypselodoris don't eat plankton. Concerning their toxicity - they have mantle glands which contain noxious molecules, but they are usually only released when thea animal is physically damaged. As fish don't like the taste of the chemicals they are unlikely to eat enough of them to be poisoned. The aim of the glands is to prevent the slug being eaten. It's not much value to the slug to kill the fish after it has been eaten. On the other hand phyllidiids certainly have much more noxious molecules in their glands. Again they are protective, but they are often exuded from the slug's skin when it is stressed, often on occasions when they are not being attacked by a predator. These chemicals can definitely can kill fish in the surrounding water.

As I said recently to someone else, now that you have the slug you might as well keep it until it dies. It will cause no more damage to the water quality when it dies than any other organism in your tank - but let the store guy know that stocking live nudibranchs for sale is not very responsible
Best wishes
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2004 (Mar 19). Comment on Hypselodoris bullocki in aquaria by Steve Jen. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/12467

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