keeping Spanish Dancers in aquaria

February 8, 2001
From: Kyle

PLEASE HELP ME .. my name is Kyle and I own a tropical fish store .. I just got in some Spanish Dancers - they look like flying nudibranchs .. and I was wounderring if anyone has any info about them. I got them from Jakarta, Indonesia. Are they reef safe if so or not what do they eat - phytoplankton?

Kyle, 2001 (Feb 8) keeping Spanish Dancers in aquaria. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Kyle,
The scientific name of the Spanish Dancer is Hexabranchus sanguineus. Have a look at the messages on the Hexabranchus sanguineus page. You will find information there on its biology. You will find that it eats a variety of tropical sponges, none of which will be available for sale. Have a look at the Hypselodoris bullocki pages and the general page for further discussions on keeping nudibranchs in captivity and complaints from people who have bought nudibranchs from tropical fish stores.

You will see from my comments on those pages that I don't think it is a very good idea buying and selling nudibranchs, because 99% of them will die because neither the traders nor the aquariists have any knowledge on keeping them in captivity. All nudibranchs are carnivorous and every species has a very special diet. Even if we did know what each species ate, in most cases it would be a sponge, soft coral, bryozoan or some other delicate colonial animal which you couldn't buy, and even if you could, you couldn't easily keep alive in an aquarium.

If there is a aquarium fish traders association in the USA I think you should protest to them about this trade. You are being tricked by collectors and traders in Indonesia and other places in the tropics into buying and stocking animals that you can't keep alive. As your customers begin to learn that they can't keep these animals alive, they are going to get depressed and blame sellers like you, which won't be good for your reputation. My advice would be to stop stocking nudibranchs, tell your customers why, and alert other shop keepers like you to the problem.
Best wishes,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2001 (Feb 8). Comment on keeping Spanish Dancers in aquaria by Kyle. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

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