Pictures of sea slugs to drool over

by Owen James

Sea slugs like Thecacera picta make even reef tanks look relatively mundane

Sea slugs like Thecacera picta make even reef tanks look mundane

(All pics: The Sea Slug Forum)

They may be very common in the wild, but sea slugs are rarely kept in captivity. A visit to The Sea Slug Forum proves it’s not through any lack of beauty, however.

Rather, it’s the absence of specific specialist foods that dooms the majority of captive sea slugs to starvation.

The Sea Slug Forum delivers field reports and photographs from divers and scientists worldwide. A daily procession of spectacular creatures is the reward for anyone who keeps an eye on the forum’s message feed.

The pictures below are from the last few days alone.

The forum also features some information on keeping sea slugs in aquaria, and on identifying hitchhikers that come in via live rock.

One interesting note concerns Berghia, a sea slug that has been bred and sold to reef keepers to defeat plagues of Aiptisia anemonies. The Sea Slug Forum suggests the species we’re using is actually called Aeolidiella stephanieae.

New and beautiful sea slugs

Cadlinella subornatissima comes from the Red Sea

Cadlinella subornatissima comes from the Red Sea

This Singaporean sea slug could be Bornella stellifer

This Singaporean sea slug could be Bornella stellifer

Chelidonura livida is a stunning black and blue beauty

Chelidonura livida is a stunning black and blue beauty

What fish keeper would want to keep the undulating Hydatina physis?

Any fish keeper would like to own the undulating Hydatina physis...

Unfortunately the Australian sea slug Hydatina physis only eats these polychaete worms

...unfortunately the Australian sea slug only eats these polychaete worms

Perhaps one day we’ll be able to keep more sea slugs. Maybe they’ll be captive-bred like the Aiptisia eater, and fed specialist foods aquacultured and packaged by dedicated reef creature suppliers.

It sounds far-fetched, true. But I own old marine aquarium books urging readers to avoid trying the impossible coral Acropora in captivity. Yes, the coral we now propagate by snapping like twigs!

I certainly wouldn’t suggest sea slugs are actively caught and bought for the aquarium trade given our current state of knowledge. But in the future, who knows?

Read the Ultimate Secrets To Saltwater Fish And Invertebrates.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Brown 02.05.09 at 1:11 pm

You are correct about the name change of the nudibranch commonly called Berghia verrucicornis. It was reclassified several years ago as Aeolidiella stephanieae. In the US and other countries we have continued to call this slug “berghia” because that is the name people in the hobby have been calling it for many years. It a little like trying to stop calling a tissue “Kleenex” when you have used the name “Kleenex” to describe a tissue for 30 years. People in the hobby know what a Berghia is when that name is used.

Owen James 02.06.09 at 12:19 pm

@Lisa – thanks for the extra info, and I’m sure your right. I’ve seen this happen a lot with cichlids and catfish over the years, too, so what chance does a poor sea slug have? 🙂 Please do drop by again!

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