Preventing and Removing Aiptasia from a Reef Tank

It takes time, money, and effort to maintain a reef tank, and most saltwater tank owners take great pride in their work. But, what happens when you take a look one day and discover something you definitely don’t want in there? Aiptasia. Aiptasia reproduces fast and can be devastating for a reef tank, but don’t worry, there are a few things you can do.

How to prevent an aiptasia breakout to my reef tank? how to remove aiptasia from a frag? This, and more, will be answered below.

What Is Aiptasia?

Aiptasia is a small anemone known to cause big problems in reef tanks. It has made its way from the ocean and into people’s saltwater reef tanks, and they often come in with other corals, animals, and plants. 

They reproduce very quickly, and a polyp is developed with only one cell, which means one polyp quickly turns into two, 10, 20, 50, and so on. For someone who is inexperienced, they may not notice the sneaky aiptasia in time, something that could cause significant damage to the reef before you get it under control.


Something that may go by unnoticed is expected to be small, but aiptasia can (and has been known to) grow to become up to 4 inches long! Their width can be up to 2.5 inches and they are often brown or white in color.

Stinging Abilities

The aiptasia has an extremely powerful sting – one of the most powerful stinging abilities in this type of anemone, and it has the ability to kill other corals in your tank, as well as clams and additional life forms. The aiptasia stings to make more room for itself, contributing to its ability to conquer territory in the tank.

Problems Caused by Aiptasia

When the aiptasia stings, it stings to kill, and this becomes a problem mainly as it starts to grow – requiring more space. The aiptasia isn’t one to “ask nicely,” and it will simply eliminate any other coral, plant, or animal that happens to be in its way. 

How rapidly it spreads is also an issue, because while one or two isn’t necessarily a big deal – 30 or 40 certainly is going to be. It sounds like a high number, but it is something you are going to end up with unless you take action.

Preventing an Aiptasia Outbreak

The best way to keep your tank safe is to work to prevent an outbreak. Carefully inspect any stones, corals, or objects that you put in your tank to make sure there is no aiptasia attached to it, and remove it or quarantine if needed before introducing it.

If you get your corals and plants from a pet store or aquarium shop, have a close look at their aquariums before you make a purchase. It may require a little bit of training, but if there is aiptasia in the tank, you should be able to see it. If you spot it, consider purchasing what you need somewhere else, or quarantine it while removing the aiptasia. 

Here it is important to understand the risks with quarantining. Aiptasia can hide, and you may leave your rock or coral quarantined for many months without seeing any issues, only to have the aiptasia come out once it is moved to the main tank.

Aiptasia Entry Points

Aiptasia attaches itself to anything from stones to coral, but it can also come in through the plumbing, with the water, and on frags. No matter how many precautions you take, you may one day find yourself staring at your first (but hopefully last) aiptasia. It is recommended that you have an action plan in case this happens.

How to Get Rid of Aiptasia

Getting rid of aiptasia can be far from easy, unfortunately, and the main issue is how fast it spreads. How do you stop something that multiplies so rapidly? Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to get the pest under control.

Aiptasia Killer (Kalkwasser)

There are specific chemicals that may kill the aiptasia, but it can be tricky. This process is also known as juicing and is performed using calcium hydroxide products. The problem is that these chemicals can change the water pH and may also burn other corals, and you need to know what you are doing before you get started.

Hydrogen Peroxide, Boiling Water & Lime Juice

All these can be injected into the stem of the aiptasia to kill them, one by one. It is effective but requires patience and precision. What it does is vaporizing the aiptasia by turning the water in the cells into hydrogen. 

Peppermint Shrimp

One of the best things you can do if you have aiptasia in your tank is to invite a new tank tenant – the peppermint shrimp. Peppermint shrimps are predators known to feast on aiptasia, and they are aggressive enough to get an infestation under control.

Peppermint shrimps are usually very safe to keep in your tank and they are not known to present a threat to other shrimps, fish, and coral, provided you choose the right species.

Other Predators

The peppermint shrimp isn’t the only predator that eats aiptasia, and other good options are different species of butterflyfish, such as teardrop, longnose, Auriga, copper band, and raccoon. There are many benefits that come with introducing predators, as you don’t have to remove the aiptasia manually.

Removing Aiptasia from a Frag

If there is just one aiptasia in your tank and if it is sitting on a frag, your best strategy is to deal with it right away. Peppermint shrimp will eat it, but you might as well get rid of the problem manually if you just have one or two. 

Lift the affected frag out of the tank and remove the aiptasia by scraping it off, killing it with a paste of RO/DI water and lime, burn it or use any other method you have available. Some choose to add super glue to the spot where it was sitting afterward, to make sure there is nothing left that can regrow.


Aiptasias present a direct threat to a saltwater reef tank and should be taken seriously. If you can see only one or two, the best method is to remove them manually, while a predator like a peppermint shrimp will handle a bigger infestation. Keep a close eye on your tank to make sure you can eliminate aiptasia as soon as possible.


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