Aiptasia and Austraeolis ornata

June 10, 2000
From: Ian Anderson

Dear Dr Rudman,
I am currently studying 3rd year marine science at Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia. One of my units is an industry practicum involving the feeding habits of Aeolid nudibranchs. This is in conjunction with Underwater World (a commercial aquarium) where they have a problem with the "weed" anemone Aiptasia sp. This anemone reproduces via pedal laceration and can become a plague in aquariums under controlled conditions. I currently have tanks containing Aiptasia sp and Austraeolis ornata which are being monitored to understand the feeding habits of A. ornata. It looks like the nudibranch will graze on very small Aiptasia sp but not the larger of the species, therefore it will keep populations in check, but not completely eliminate the anemone.

We are basing this experiment on the Caribbean Aeolid Berghia verrucicornis which predates solely on Aiptasia sp and is used as a control in aquaria.

There is little information on A. ornata or any of the Australian aeolid species that I can find in relation to this subject of predation. If you have any information that I could source or any ideas yourself, I would greatly appreciate this information.

Yours Sincerely
Ian Anderson.

Ian Anderson, I., 2000 (Jun 10) Aiptasia and Austraeolis ornata. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Ian,
I am interested to hear of Aiptasia causing problems in an Australian aquarium system. I didn't realise it is in this part of the world. Do Underwater World sterilise their sea water before discharging it or are they letting Aiptasia out into the marine environment?

There is quite a correspondence on Aiptasia control on the Berghia verrucicornis Page in the Forum. I have prepared a page on Austraeolis ornata on the Forum but I'm afraid we don't know much about its feeding habits. It belongs to a family (Glaucidae) which are on the whole hydroid feeders, but there are some species which have a much more catholic diet. Hermissenda crassicornis from California is a good example. I don't know of any published information on the feeding habits of Austraeolis, but in aquaria it will eat bits of carrion, anemones, other aeolids etc and Ian Loch once observed one desperately trying to eat a jellyfish. So even though it doesn't belong to the family Aeolidiidae, which is best known for eating anemones, it's not particularly surprising to hear that you have observed it feeding on anemones as well.

If you really want to try an anemone-eater see if you can find Spurilla australis. It and its relatives feed exclusively on sea anemones. Another species in Western Australia is Spurilla major.

Hope this is of some use. Please let me know if you know anything about the status of Aiptasia in the wild in Western Australia. For all I know it might be widely spread, but if not, its presence is quite worrying.

Best wishes,
Bill Rudman.

Rudman, W.B., 2000 (Jun 10). Comment on Aiptasia and Austraeolis ornata by Ian Anderson. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from


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