Mystery Reef Bug
I found some sort of “bug”
with white tentacles in my reef
tank. Should I be worried?
Looking at the photo that
accompanied your note, I would
have to say that is a very cool
little bug, and it has apparently
started building itself quite a burrow from
the gravel of your sandbed! Resembling the
larvae of a caddisfly, these are worms of the
family Spionidae. Like the caddisfly larvae,
they build homes by attaching small grains
of sand and rock together. These worms eat
small particles from both the water column
and the surface, so they act as detritivores
in the aquarium. They’re perfectly harmless,
although there are some amusing reports of
them cementing entire sand beds together
(usually in overfed aquaria).
Do you have any advice for
grinding down a puffer’s teeth?
He’s small and needs it done,
but I don’t want to hurt him. Any advice?
The teeth of a puffer fish grow
constantly and are generally
worn down by their diet in the
wild. Their wild diet includes
many shellfish, including snails, crabs, and
other crustaceans, and even bivalves, such
as clams and mussels. All this constant
crushing naturally wears down their teeth.
Unfortunately, in the aquarium, we tend to
give them relatively soft foods, and their
teeth quickly grow and become unmanageable.
Once their teeth have reached this point, it is
necessary to trim them.
The puffer should be gently and carefully
transferred from his aquarium to a tub big
enough to keep him covered with water.
Depending on the size of the puffer, nail
clippers, cuticle scissors, wire cutters, or even
a rotary tool can be used to trim the teeth. Care
must be taken to trim only the teeth—you do
not want to cut the fish’s lip (or your fingers).
When dealing with larger marine puffers,
the aquarist should also be aware that puffing
is just one of the fish’s defensive mechanisms.
Many puffers have sharp spines that become
an issue during handling. Use caution. Keep
the fish underwater as much as possible
during the process; puffers should never be
allowed to puff up with air, as it may kill them.
Many aquarists will use an anesthetic on
the fish before trimming their teeth. If you go
this route, make sure you do your homework,
as some of the solutions available for this can
be quite hazardous for the fish if not used with
the utmost precision.
Bicolor blenny (Ecsenius bicolor ) perched on a Maldives reef.
The teeth of a pufferfish continually grow but are worn down by their crustacean-heavy diet
in the wild. Given that prepared foods are softer, aquarium specimens may occasionally
need their teeth trimmed.