Observing sea slugs in aquaria

March 14, 2002
From: Sarah Bredensteiner

I live in Hawaii and am interested in collecting sea hares and nudibranchs for observation and fun (of course!). However, I know very little about keeping them in captivity. I recently brought home a common sea hare (Dolabrifera dolabrifera). When I found it it seemed particularly interested in the ear seaweed so I brought some home with it. The sea hare seems very unhappy curling in a ball and not moving much. I have no live rocks in the tank should I get some?? I don't want to kill it, please send me information as soon as possible. Also, can I cultivate sponge for the Hexabranchus sanguineus? And does it "get along" with the Dolabrifera.?


Bredensteiner, S., 2002 (Mar 14) Observing sea slugs in aquaria. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/6222

Dear Sarah,
You may have gathered from various comments I have made on the Forum that I am not in favour of people keeping sea slugs in aquaria. I am not in favour of people thinking they can get instant gratification by going to their local shop and buying a beautiful animal which will live without food forever.

I am fully in favour of people like you who have ready access to the sea and wish to learn more about these animals by bringing one or two home. You can learn a lot about their biology - sometimes new information - by carefully observing them and learning to care for them. With ready access to the sea it is much easier to test possible food organisms and replace the food if or when it dies.

To answer your questions:
From Brad's message Dolabrifera seem to live quite happily in aquaria. I am not sure what algae it feeds on naturally but I am sure it will eat the bacterial and algal film that grow over surfaces in aquaria. Certainly some natural rock surfaces would be more comfortable for it than a shiny glass surface. I am not sure what your 'ear seaweed' is but if its name is based on its shape it sounds like the brown algae Padina. I'm pretty sure Stylocheilus doesn't eat this, and more importantly browns are a bit of a problem in aquaria as they exude many nasty chemicals. It could be why your Dolabrifera doesn't seem too happy.
As long as your Hexabranchus is not too large it should be ok if you can find a sponge it will eat. If you go to the Hexabranchus page you will see a link to a page of references on its biology. [There is at least one reference to The Veliger which should be available in your museum or local university library]. It apparently feeds on a variety of sponges - so again the problem is finding one it will eat and which is common to replace regularly in your aquarium, or hardy enough to survive in your aquarium even when under attack by the Hexabranchus. Its certainly worth a go, but you will need to approach it slowly and systematically. Finding what things eat and how to keep them alive in an aquarium can be a rewarding experience.
Good Luck,
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2002 (Mar 14). Comment on Observing sea slugs in aquaria by Sarah Bredensteiner. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from http://www.seaslugforum.net/find/6222

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