What does Phyllidia elegans eat?

June 11, 2000
From: John Brady

Dear Bill,
A local fish store in my area (Utah, Salt Lake City area) is selling Phillidia elegans nudibranchs. They tell me that this nudibranch will eat only the algae that grow in my aquarium and will not bother any of the corals or sponges. Is this correct? Also, could you give me a little more specific information as to what this particular species does eat?

Thank you for your help.
John Brady


Brady, J., 2000 (Jun 11) What does Phyllidia elegans eat?. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/2543

Dear John,
We still have a lot to learn about the biology of phyllidiid nudibranchs, including what they eat. What we can be very sure of is that they are sponge feeders and definitely not algal feeders. The specific sponges eaten by about 12 species have been identified, and from the anatomy of the other species there is no reason to believe they are not also sponge feeders.

Concerning keeping phyllidiids in your aquarium. My advice is DON'T. Have a look at my reply to a similar question from Rob See last year. Basically, phyllidiids have special defensive glands in their skin which exude nasty chemicals which at least in some species can kill all the fish in an aquarium overnight. I am not sure if Phyllidia elegans would do so, but it's hardly worth the risk. Also you have no guarantee the shop has correctly identified the slugs it has, since it obviously doesn't know what they eat. Have a look at the photos on this page [above and below your message] of P. elegans to check the identity. If you go to the Species List you will see there are many species of the Phyllidiidae, none of which would be a good idea in an aquarium, unless you are happy to keep them in isolation and watch them slowly starve.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman.

Rudman, W.B., 2000 (Jun 11). Comment on What does Phyllidia elegans eat? by John Brady. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/2543


Phyllidia elegans

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