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FAQs about Sea Cucumber Disease/Health, Pests, Problems

Related Articles: Sea Cucumber, Marine Scavengers, Sand Sifters

Related FAQs: Sea Cucumbers 1Sea Cucumbers 2 Cuke IDs, Cuke Behavior, Cuke Compatibility, Cuke Selection, Cuke Systems, Cuke Feeding, Cuke Reproduction,

Pentacta anceps, pink Cuke... Reading         5/8/13
Whatsup guys?! So a few weeks I acquired one of these. He looked very healthy in the store. His feeders were out and he was plump. So he would always have his feeders out for the first week or two in my tank. Though, now, he rarely extends his feeders all the way. When I put food in the water (live phyto, frozen phyto, oyster eggs, and the leftover juice from the fishes' frozen meal), he opens part way, but rarely all the way. And he closes up soon after. I feed live phyto daily (Nannochloropsis and Tetraselmis),
<... for what reason/s? Of no use as food to this animal>

 and oyster eggs every other day. So I hope he's not starving. Is this behavior normal?
<Not normal to be closed much of the time>
And I have not seen anything pick on him, except the cleaner shrimp who bothers the cucumber when he goes to clean him. Thoughts? Thanks.
<.... water quality issue likely... some aspect/s out of whack... No data proffered re... Time for you to read through all that's posted on WWM re Holothuroids. See you, Bob Fenner>

Hitchhiker Crab Identification and Relationship: Pea Crab on Sea Apple – 5/30/12
<Hello Kevin and Amber, Lynn here this evening.>
Two days ago we adopted a Sea Rose, more specifically I believe to be Pseudocolochirus violaceus.  His tank is currently (and will remain) fallow. 
However, he appears to be distressed and we noticed a friend clinging to him and even appearing to move him about.  By distressed, he is shedding a mucous like coating and has some ulceration near the oral cavity.
<Not good>
My questions are first, can you identify the crab?
<Not to the species level, but I’ve seen this little fellow before.  It’s a Pea Crab of some sort, (Family: Pinnotheridae - many genera/species).  Please see the FAQ titled “Sea Apple Hitchhiker: Pea Crab - 3/21/08” at the following link for more information and a photo for comparison:  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/Arthropoda/CrustaceanPIX/SWCrabs/Crab%20IDs/swcrabid10.htm  >
Secondly, is this likely a symbiotic relationship of some sort
<I don’t believe so, no.  I think the relationship (in the wild and under normal circumstances) falls more under the heading of commensalism.  That is, one organism (the crab) benefits while the other (the Sea Apple) is neither helped nor harmed to any significant degree.>
…or is the crab most likely stressing him out?
<I think that at this point it might well be adding to the Sea Cuke’s stress so I’d separate the two.>
We have searched, read, and learned a great deal about this Cuke from your website. However, these questions remain. Of course, I am hesitant to move the crab until we can figure out what is going on.
<I can understand that but at this point I’d separate the two.>
<You’re very welcome and good luck.>
Kevin and Amber
<Take care, Lynn Z>
Re: Hitchhiker Crab Identification and Relationship: Pea Crab on Sea Apple – 5/30/12

<Hello Kevin, Lynn here again.>
The attached images were taken about 9 hours after the ones I sent in my last email. As you will note, there are some substantial changes and white areas.  Any thoughts?
<My guess is that it’s been injured and is deteriorating.  The fact that it’s happening quickly is not a good sign.  Hopefully, with good water parameters and getting the crab out of there (in case it’s picking at/irritating those areas), it’ll at least have a chance to recuperate and survive.   On the plus-side, at least the Cuke is in a tank by itself, so if it does decline quickly overnight or tomorrow, it won’t nuke any other inhabitants.>
Water parameters are 0 Ammonia, 5 nitrates, 0 nitrites.
Again, he was placed here about 2 days ago. The crab does not seem to have been near some of the areas that are white; however, we have not been watching constantly the last 48 hours <grin>.
<Heeee! You mean you haven’t watched it every second of every hour?  Seriously though, my concern with the crab is that it might be further irritating the Cuke when you’re not around.  It could be picking at the dying tissue.  At the very least, the last thing the Cuke needs at this point is further irritation.>  
<You’re most welcome.>
<Take care, Lynn Z>

Pink and Green Cuke (Another common tale) -- 12/21/10
<<Greetings all>>
We have had a pink and green sea cucumber for a few months in a 200 gallon tank with live rock and various fish.
<<Marvelous creatures, but is a filter-feeding species that requires a bit of specialized care -- and are best kept in mature reef-like settings with very high water quality and an in-line refugium to provide planktors/natural food items. Even then, many succumb slowly to starvation without some kind of supplemental feeding. Start reading here and among the links in blue at the top of the page: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seacukes.htm >>
He seemed to be doing fine until recently when he began to not put his feeding tentacles out and every few hours he twists his top half and seems to squish out his bottom half to make it seem fatter. (photos are attached).
<<I see these>>
We recently inherited the care of the tank and are curious what he is doing.
<<Mmm, possibly responding to some imbalance in water chemistry 'but almost certainly this animal is on the decline - from starvation>>
All of the chemical levels test at a good level except nitrates,
<<This could/would be a factor if levels measure much above 5ppm>>
which we are working on but our tap water has high nitrate levels and would like a recommendation on what to do about that as well.
<<Several options (see here/the associated links: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm ), but for long-term use I would go with a RO/DI unit to treat your tap water top and salt mix use>>
Thank you in advance,
<<Happy to share>>
The staff at Wolf Furniture
<<It's not likely you will be able to save this specimen. Also be aware these animals are toxic to varying degrees (depending upon species, and maybe even time kept in captivity)'¦and release said toxins upon death/decomposition. Depending on its level of decline, you might be able to trade/give this animal to someone with a system better equipped to keep it. Eric Russell>>

I responded to two days back. Please send a well-resolved photo. B
re: Is My Sea Hare Under Attack?  11/10/10
I sent this the other day and hadn't heard anything back yet. Just checking in...
Evening all! Tonight I saw my sea hare "Shrek" crawling by and noticed a rather large (approx 2") white "worm" near the side of his head. The "worm" had a small purple and orange marking on it's tail and it was about 1/8" thick (fatter than spaghetti). I attempted to remove it, but it seemed rather attached and after a second attempt, Shrek became stressed and released some purple ink. He then crawled behind some rocks and I was unable (as of now) to get a photo. Earlier today, the worm was not on him,
so I'm wondering if he picked up something from within the live rock. I'm paranoid. I'd be devastated if Shrek was being harmed by this creature and have searched the web for the last few hours trying to find info as to what it may be and what I should do. Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
<Mmm, could you send a well-resolved image along? Bob Fenner>
Is My Sea Hare Under Attack?  11/10/10
After doing MORE research on Sea Hares and their anatomy, and the death of Shrek, I was able to conclude that this "white worm" thing was, in fact, the Sea Hare penis.
(Yay me, for trying to remove it. Duh).
However, I also discovered that when this happens, it is a sign that the Sea Hare is sick. True, because Shrek died yesterday. I'm still not sure what caused his death because he was eating and moving about up until yesterday, although my husband said he noticed Shrek seemed a bit smaller than normal.
<Sea cucumbers, all echinoderms can/do shrink down in size under adverse conditions>
Anyway, hopefully this will be some information that someone else may be able to use in the future... I've been worried and researching for days now trying to find answers to my questions, only to wind up finding out that he was sick and now dead. Despite my utter ignorance of thinking this was a parasite, it's also rather embarrassing when you come right down to it.
Anyway, if anyone else out there sees a long, white worm-looking thing hanging off the side of their Sea Hare's head on the right side, it's probably the sea hare penis and your sea hare is probably sick.
<Thank you for sharing. BobF>


Re: Is My Sea Hare Under Attack? 11/10/10
I responded the next morning with a picture in the email. I guess it didn't come through until I sent it as an attachment. SORRY, and thanks for being there. :)
<Glad to share. BobF>

Pink Cucumber Problem  11/16/08 Wet Web Media I am having an issue with my pink cucumber. I have had this cucumber for years. Within the last few months it has been shrinking in size. When it first started to shrink, the feeding tentacles did come out but not as much as when it was really healthy. <Sounds like it is starving to death...> Lately I have not seen them come out at all. I am trying to figure out what has changed that would cause this effect. I did add some 100 micron filter socks that I change out every few days. I did not notice if however, if the decline started before or after adding these filter socks. My PH is normally around 8.2. Salinity is at 1.025. No readable nitrates, ammonia, or nitrites. I did some reading and it suggested stirring up the sand bed so I did do that to help get some nutrients in there. I turned off my skimmer and took out the filter sock for the night. When I was reading, it stated that the cucumber likes to be on the live rock. Mine has stuck itself on the glass. It has only moved a couple of inches in the whole time it has been in the tank. Should I think about moving it to some live rock? <No... if that's where he wants to be, I'd leave him for now.> Would DT's Phytoplankton <DT's phytoplankton and maybe oyster eggs... might help. You might also try baby brine... or just any really small, fine particle food you can find... maybe some kind of fish larvae diet. But do spot feed these things and be careful not to hurt your water quality with too much.> or the Liquid Life Phytoplankton <This would not likely help as much.> be a good source of food to start manually feeding? If so, how many times a week would you suggest? <I would spot feed a little bit every day, perhaps even twice a day until it starts to put out tentacles again.> I am trying to do everything I can here so any help you could give me would be awesome. Thank You Tony <Good luck, Sara M.>

Re: Pink Cucumber Problem 11/17/08 Should I keep the 100 micron filter socks removed? Will they remove the food or are the food particles too small to get captured if I leave them in? <If the socks are easy to remove and replace, I'd take them out before feeding and leave them out for an hour or so after feeding... then put them back if you want.> Thanks Tony <De nada, Sara M.>

My sea apple or cucumber, hlth. mostly   9/22/08 <Mmm, all Sea Apples are Cucumbers... Holothuroids> don't really know the difference, but its feeders on its mouth are gone, <Interesting... that it didn't poison your system> we had our power out for about 20 hours and I did about 10 water changes small ones all night and day. Will they grow back or should I take it out? <... up to you. May well grow back...> It does have like two small white ones, not sure it they grew back that way or what, I don't see it letting any liquid out or anything. Also its opening it mouth like its still feeding its just the two small feeders are too short to go in. Unsure I would appreciate any info you can give, I have and still will be reading your site. Thanks Kelly c <Do so... Here: http://wetwebmedia.com/cukecompfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Sea Apple Hitchhiker: Pea Crab - 3/21/08 Hi, <Hi there Joe> I am researching this for someone and I haven't been able to get an answer as of yet, I was hoping someone here could help me. <Hope so!> This particular issue is with a Sea Apple <Uh-oh> it showed signs of not doing so well for a few days. There was a white portion of it looking like it was deteriorating and expelling its insides. <Not good> Since then and further observation the owner noticed that there was something inside the sea apple, it was a small crab or what looks like a crab. <Yep> Do you know or have heard of this happening, <Not specifically with Sea Apples/Pseudocolochirus spp., but I've heard of it in relation to other Cukes/Holothuroids. Sea cucumbers can be hosts to many different organisms, including Pearlfishes/Carapidae, Polynoid Polychaete worms, Periclimenes shrimps, as well as crabs (Pinnotherids, Portunids/Lissocarcinus orbicularis, Eumedonids/Hapalonotus reticulatus, etc.).> and what type of crab this is. <Looks to be a Pea Crab, family Pinnotheridae. These are small crabs that live in Cukes, tunicates, bivalves, etc., with varying degrees of commensalism to downright parasitism. While some live and do only low key, if any damage to its host, others can cause more threatening damage, such as atrophy of the respiratory organs/'trees'. Here are some examples of this family of crabs: http://www.unige.ch/sciences/biologie/biani/msg/teaching/photos%20liste/Pinnotheres%20pisum.JPG http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/2762668420086890761xKfyFR > I attached a pic for reference, <Thanks, good photo!> up until the white deterioration of the portion of the apple it was healthy and doing well. Tank is a 150gal, 0 nitrates, salinity 1.024 and pH 8.4. <I'm guessing that the crab has been removed permanently from the Sea Apple. If not, I would do so. I would also recommend keeping a close eye on the Sea Apple for further decline. They can do significant damage to a system when they die! Please see this link for more information re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seacukes.htm > Joe Brillon <Take care, -Lynn>

Re: Sea Apple Hitchhiker: Pea Crab -- Now, Sea Apple in Trouble - 3/24/08 <Hi Joe> Thank you very much for your response as I have passed the info on. <You're very welcome.> It appears now that the area of concern has worsened. <I'm so sorry.> And the cause is unknown...any idea's what could of caused deterioration in the body of this animal? <No, I'm sorry to say that I don't. There are many possible causes including predation/picking/rough handling at some point. It could have gotten too close to a heater, pump intake etc, or it could be starving and deteriorating. These are notoriously difficult animals to keep. They need pristine/stable water conditions, a good supply of food, and lack of predation to survive - and in this case, to have a shot at recovery. Also, unless the Sea Apple is in a species tank/kept alone, I would move it to a quarantine tank to avoid the possibility of its poisoning the other tank's inhabitants. At the very least, I'd run carbon/PolyFilter, and have a large amount of prepared water on hand for a major water change should the Cuke decline further/die. Signs of decline would include deflation, expelling of insides, and losing color. Either way, I'd have a QT set up for either the Cuke to go into immediately, or the fish/shrimps, etc, to be moved into should the worst happen. Please see this link for more information regarding Sea Apples/tank poisonings. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/cukeselfaqs.htm > Joe Brillon <Sure hope everything works out for your friend and the Sea Apple. Take care, -Lynn>

Crab soup du jour?

Sea Cucumber Disease/Health (4/2/05) Good evening,  <Hello, Steve Allen here.> I have a pink & black cucumber that is about 2 years old.  <What species? This is not a common name with which I am familiar.>  Yesterday she came out from under the live rock and she had what looked like a small bloody ulcer... <Some sort of sore, but not bloody, as these creatures do not have blood.>  ...about 5mm in dia. with amphipods picking at the edges. I transferred her to my quarantine tank.  <Good idea.>  Is there any thing I should treat her with.  <If the sore does not appear to be healing, you might want to try a broad-spectrum antibiotic intended for aquarium use.>  I added just a little bit of iodine to the quarantine tank.  <Probably not really much help.>  The quarantine take is a 20 gal with no substrate, so I am concerned about her not having anything to eat while she is in there.  <Being uncertain as to what species you have, I have to ask is it a filter feeder or a detritus eater?>  My main tank is a 80 gal reef tank w/ 100lbs live rock 50 lbs homemade Aragocrete 3-6"dsb, 20 gal sump/refugium 1-2" sand bed for amphipods 15lbs Aragocrete w/AquaC EV120. I do a 5 gal water change every 4 days (Coralife). My parameters are Temp 78, ph 8.2, Amm 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 0, calcium 450, Alk norm, (what ever that is, I got the Red Sea kit, Salinity 1.023.  <This all sounds reasonable.>  I hope there is something I can do, I received her by mistake 2 years ago in a livestock order but I don't want to lose her.  <Understood. Excellent water conditions and possibly the antibiotics is about the best you can do. Little is really known about diseases and treatments for echinoderms. Good luck.> 

Damaged Cucumber Hello, I have had a brown sea cucumber for at least 2 years which is about 5 inches in length. Last night I noticed a yellow bulge on top of it. It has never changed colors. I moved the rock it was on to see 2 gashes in its sides about 2 inches long. There was white stuff flowing from the gashes. After consulting my LFS I removed it from my tank. <Good!> Unfortunately, and I know you'll be disappointed, I do not have a quarantine tank. I placed it in a bucket (tank dedicated) with the rock. <Ok, but you really should have that quarantine tank.> This morning a chunk of skin had fallen off. About half of the body looks "okay". The end where its feeders are is sunken and it has a brownish ooze. My LFS is unable to quarantine this for me. I am unsure whether to make shift a QT or euthanize. <I would at least hold it for awhile in the bucket. Add some aeration, heat, and make small daily water changes and see what happens. Mix up a gallon or two, drain that amount from the cucumber bucket, siphon replacement water from the main tank, and add the new salt water to the display.> I was told sea cucumbers normally don't live beyond 2-3 years. What is your opinion? <I would not give up yet.> I would like to give it a chance, but I don't want to take a chance of it harming the rest of my tank. <No, for sure leave it separate.> Sincerely, Peg <Good luck! -Steven Pro>

Cucumber Hi  hope everyone is ok. <So far so good> I have a 90 gallon tank that had 2 yellow tangs 3 blue damsels 1 purple Dottyback and 1 maroon clown. I started with 2 bubble tip anemone now I have 7 of them my water quality has been great since I started this tank (after cycling of course). I came home to find all fish dead except the clown. I assume that my pink and green cucumber has died and has poisoned the tank, for I have not seen him since this happened. I got all the dead fish out except for 1 damsel that was in the back, I seen my serpent star and hermit crabs eating him, I have corals growing on my live rock and would hate to disturb them trying to find this cucumber, my question is will the crabs and star eat him or should I take out the rock and find him? <I would remove it.....carefully> I am afraid of doing more harm than good. Also the corals look stressed even after 3 -30% water changes and the anemones turned green but seem to be improving, are they going to die anyway? <Not necessarily> Anyone who puts a cucumber in their tank should think twice before they put a potential time bomb in their tank, I have put too much time and money and have learned my lesson. Thank you in advance, Kevin <I would test the water (ammonia/nitrite/nitrate) to be sure the biological filtration is still functioning and try to find and remove as much of the Cuke as possible. Think about where the currents predominantly carry wastes in your tank and start there first.  Many varieties are extremely toxic in these cases. I would expect stress but success with removal and sufficient water changes. I would keep an eagle eye on those anemones too. Best of luck. Craig>

Re: Sick Sea Cucumber Hello, <Hi!> As you may recall I wrote earlier regarding my cucumber and its unsightly gashes. It was with difficulty I decided it could not be saved. My question at this point is regarding the live rock that was with the cucumber. Would poison be retained by the rock? <If you haven't noticed any ill effects by now you're probably in the clear> If I rinse the rock and vacuum it, will it be safe for my tank (fish & inverts). <I see no reason why it shouldn't be okay as it is...But if cleaning the rock will make you feel better...> Sincerely, Peg <David Dowless>

A Rotten Apple? (Sea Apple In Peril?) Hello, <Hi there. Scott F. with you today!> I hope you can help me. I have a sea apple that has slowly deteriorated. I can't seem to find any information on the web on the care for this animal. I've had it two years and I believe my clown and wrasse have chosen to pick on it. It started having little white lines all over his body. I thought these might be scars. The Sea Apple went and hid under a rock somewhere and I couldn't find him. I was cleaning my tank and looking for him and found him all shriveled up and what appeared to be his insides coming out. Isn't this a defense mechanism? <I suppose it could be...Usually, this happens as a response to some sort of stress...> Well, I scooped him up and put him in a zip and am floating him in the tank. I also heard if they die they can poison everything else. So I'm not sure what to do. How do you know if they are dead? <You'll be able to tell quite obviously. A very "deflated" appearance, and off color.> He still has color, but looks real bad. I have another tank with a golden puffer in it, that maybe I can transfer him to. Not sure if puffers eat sea apples. <Well, he might take an exploratory "bite". Personally, I would isolate this animal in it's own tank. The potential for a release of toxic material is great. Err on the side of caution, and make sure that whatever tank he is in has aggressive chemical filtration, with activated carbon and/or PolyFilter running 24/7.> My puffer doesn't even bother the snails. Okay, hope you can help. I don't want to keep the sea apple in a bag too long, but don't want to pollute my tank either. I have a hospital tank but I'm at work now and it will be late this evening before I can do anything. Thank you, glad y'all are here to help. Liz <Well, Liz- I guess the best course of action is to isolate the animal in that extra tank as soon as possible, and maintain good water quality and stable conditions. Hopefully, that could help bring about a recovery for the animal. HTH! Regards, Scott F>

Cucumber Troubles (3/24/04) I have had a pink and green cucumber about 3 inches, I think it is a Pentaca anceps <yes, fascinating creatures>, in my tank for over a month now completely oblivious to its potential for toxic emissions. <Though all cucumbers have some toxic potentials, Pentacta anceps has a good reputation as relatively safe.>  I just noticed a small spot about the size of a nickel that looks a little like a fungus. <Uh, oh> I have though about moving it to my hospital tank but there is still some residual copper in there so I have been hesitant. <Smart. Any copper could be lethal.> Is the spot something to really worry about? If so is there any way to treat it without moving it to the hospital tank and if I should move it, how dangerous is the copper in that tank to the cucumbers continued health (hopefully).  <The spot could be bacterial or fungal infection or simply degeneration. There is generally little to be done successfully if this is the case. Removing it to a copper-free QT and trying a broad-spectrum antibiotic may work. You will need to feed it carefully. The other option is to leave it in your tank and keep the water in pristine condition. If the spot is spreading or the cucumber appears to be going downhill, then remove it sooner rather than later for the safety of your tank. Hope this helps, Steve Allen.>

A Cucumber In Trouble (3/17/04) Hi, <Greetings. Steve Allen here tonight.> I have a 75g SW tank with live rock and clean up crew only.  It has been set up for 8 months (no fish yet, taking my time) <Impressive patience.> I have a Tiger Tail Cuke that looks different than usual.  Tank parameters are normal, Ammonia 0, nitrate 0, Ph 8.1. Sal 1.0235 . I am in the process of raising the temp in the tank, eventually to 78) I have kept it at 74 and I have raised it up to 75 over the course of 1 day. The Cuke is shriveled up to about a 2" length (normally 4-6"s) Additionally, it appears to be "shedding its' skin". I read on the site about eviscerating and I am wondering if this is what I am seeing. Do Cukes lose their outer flesh, is this healthy? <No and no> Or am I looking at his guts? <Hard to say without a picture. If so, you should be able to see it originating from the end.> If so, will the eviscerated material kill the hermits, brittle stars or snails? <Always a bit of a risk, but this species does not have the bad reputation of some others.> I hate to toss him out in haste, but... <If he does not look better soon, I'd say pull him out.> thanks, Brian <Hope this helps.>

Safe handling I would like to know how to safely handle the sea cucumber Actinopyga agassizii. Thanks Jonathan <Best with gloves, though can be handled bare-handed... just wash your hands immediately afterward, and underwater, as in simply lifting the specimen and placing it into a submersed bag/container (not lifting it into the air). Bob Fenner>

Cucumber Problems (5/23/04) Hey guys, thanks in advance for enlightening me on yet another subject, I speak for many by saying we'd be hurting without the WWM Crew! <Steve Allen tonight. Glad to be playing a small part.> Anyway, I have a 75 with a 29 DSB sump, about 8 fishies, some soft corals and polyps Mac algae and thousands of other little critters. Water parameters are perfect due to the DSB with high flow support (about 13x per hour). Everybody is doing great except for this one cucumber I have. He is one of the more "safe" Cukes (i.e. not a sea apple cucumber), pink and green with pointy feet, a side of many pod feet, and a crown of tentacles that he cleans off in his mouth. <Pentacta anceps> I've had this guy for well over a year and he has had a very nasty habit of climbing to the top of the glass of the tank (I have two other Cukes, and they seem to find plenty to feed on away from the top - one even split into two separate organisms!). <Yellow ones (Colochirus robustus) most likely. Smaller and seem easier to keep, IME. I bought two last fall and now I have six. Truly amazing to see them twist up and split.> But this guy likes to hang out at the top of the glass. <Better circulation, perhaps? Once they find a suitable spot, they don't move much. One of mine has been in the same spot for four months.> This is a serious problem for me because these guys are very hard to move <Easy to tear their tube feet off--they stick to the glass like glue.> and I have to do regular weekly water changes. He always positions himself so that he is out of the water during the water change. At first, I would use a metal scraper to slowly work him from the glass and deposit him elsewhere (far elsewhere), but he would just go back to the same area. Eventually I left him there because I felt that being out of the water for a few minutes might be less stressful than scraping him off where invariably some of the pod feet break off (I swear I was really careful and tried my best not to hurt him). <Understood> He didn't seem to mind and things went like this for the better part of the year. However, over the last week or so, he has been getting soggy, and I am afraid that he might be dying. <Sounds bad> He is still hanging on to the glass by a part of his body. <If only part of it is holding on and the rest is droopy, it's a goner.> I don't want to kill the poor guy (I already feel responsible for his current state), but I also don't want him to croak and poison the tank as I have read even the "safe" Cukes are not really that safe when they die. <If you have a very large tank, a small one like this will not likely cause harm, especially if you use chemical filtration (carbon/PolyFilter) and are doing water changes, but there is always a risk. I wouldn't bet my reef on it.> At the same time, they do have regenerative prowess and I am an optimist. <Cucumbers are probably not as regenerative as Seastars. Any echinoderm that starts to melt (for want of a better word) is almost certainly doomed.> Should I leave him be? <Since you only have 75 gallons, the safer course is to remove it sooner rather than later.> Should I euthanize? <Hmm, I am really not aware of how to euthanize an echinoderm. I suppose the freezer is a faster death than drying out. Remember, though, that echinoderms do not have brains. It is very unlikely that they experience pain or distress like fish do.> I feel like any kind of moving will mean his demise, which is why I didn't put him in QT. Thanks everyone and sorry for bothering you with my problems. <No bother.> No more Cukes for me. <Stick with the little yellow ones. I suspect your Pentacta either has not gotten enough nutrition or has been harmed by the exposure to air. This can certainly be damaging. On the other hand, there are may echinoderms that live in tidepools and are frequently exposed to air.> 

Cucumber Problems (1/11/04) Hello again resplendent friends. <Hmm. Not looking particularly resplendent this time of night personally. Steve Allen at your service.> I have another cucumber question I sincerely hope you can answer. A couple weeks ago I was at LFS and noticed they had a new black sea cucumber. It's a young Holothuria atra and he/she didn't look happy. <Could be dangerous to take home a potentially ill sea cucumber given their toxic potential.> They had no idea how to care for it and so, despite their reputation (of which I am well aware), I took him home and named him Bort. <?> I built a small species refugium beneath my 200 Gal display tank w/ separate filtration as well as plumbing to main sump - I will seek other arrangements as he grows. I put down a few inches of sugar-size LS and built him a little cave out of LR. His only other tank mates are a few small leather corals (Sarcophyton sp. and Nephthea sp.) that I'm procreating and a half dozen Astrea snails. He seemed to be getting on quite well until this evening. He is out and about long before the lights are set to switch off and he is clinging to the glass, which struck me as a bit odd. <Indeed, this is a sand-sifting species that should keep itself to the sandbed. Is there enough food for it there.> And yes, I'm sure about the taxonomy. I can see his tentacles feeding as though he were grazing. What worries me is the milky viscous mass that spears to be emanating from his side. <uh-oh> These threads appear to be Cuverian in nature, but shouldn't they be coming out of his mouth? <Unless he ruptured.> And why has he released them? <If he ejected, but could be that his side split open for whatever reason.> No ammonia or nitrite and almost no nitrate (20ppm-ish). pH is a bit low as is Alk; <number, please.> can't figure out why, but working on it. Phos shows smallest possible reading. SG 1.0245. Temp 77-80ish. So what gives? <I trust you acclimated slowly over a couple of hours or longer.> Also, should I try to remove the threads from the system or will that just further agitate him? <I would not do this, you might totally eviscerate it.> I have a strong skimmer, added carbon and do frequent water changes. Don't really care about anything in his tank except the cucumber. Do, of course, care about display tank. Should I isolate his tank? <Definitely at risk of poisoning the entire system if any connection.> That will leave him with no heat or skimmer so I'm a bit hesitant, but I will try to arrange something if his continued exposure to the main system threatens its major contents. So yeah, please help. How do I make him happy? I'd appreciate any insight or advice you might be able to share. Thanks. -Dekon. <Sorry to say, but I strongly doubt that you can save a ruptures cucumber. The only hope is probably a sandy hospital tank with lots of food in the sand and a broad-spectrum antibiotic to treat/prevent infection to see if this rupture heals. Even that is a long shot at this point. We really don't know much about how to treat diseases and injuries of these creatures, regrettably. If you are seeing any progression of this lesion, I'd say it's safest to give up and remove him from your system.>

Sea Cucumber Curiosity! Hello Bob and Crew. <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> I'm happy to report my tank and all its inhabitants are in great shape and that's thanks in no small part to your help. <We're glad to have been of service!> As soon as I can afford it, I hope to setup a grow-out tank and start aqua-culturing some of my more prolific corals. <Excellent! And very ecologically sound- we certainly encourage captive propagation of marine animals!> Anyways, thanks again for everything. I write today in hopes you can help solve a bit of a mystery at the LFS. There, I help take care of their cucumbers since they don't really know how, nor will they stop ordering them despite my repeated pleas. I figure if I can't get them to stop altogether, at least I can try to see that they do it right. <Most noble of you!> For whatever reason, their supplier doesn't identify the cucumbers by species, so every time they order more, something new comes in. This last bunch were Tigertails (H. hilla). They have separate tanks for more sensitive or dangerous creatures and since these guys are both, they got their own 75gal with few fellow tank mates. They insist on putting a few things in to make the tank look more appealing (not to mention space is tight), so in addition to the live rock and 2" of live sand there is some Green Star Polyp, an Umbrella Leather, a couple Purple Gorgonians, a tiny bit of Pulsing Xenia, a handful of mushrooms, dwarf hermits, Turbo snails, a Purple & Yellow Tang, a Raccoon Butterfly - I know, I know. nothing I could do.- a blenny of some sort, a Pseudochromis (sp?), and an Amphiprion percula or ocellaris (not sure which; they say "True", but I disagree). The tank has its own hang-on filter with skimmer (not sure what kind) and a couple of powerheads, one with a Quickfilter and some Phosguard. Dual fluorescent lights of some ilk, and an actinic, all on a 12hr timer. The tank has been running for awhile with all residents except the Cucumbers and the Clownfish, both of which were added last week. Oh yeah, they also put in a small Condylactis, but at least he's on the other side of the tank from the Echinoderms. The tank previously served as a hospital for sick fish (about two months ago, I think) but hasn't been medicated since well before then, and was tested for copper before being converted to its current state. <As long as there is no additional presence of sick fish in the tank, it sounds satisfactory to me.> I'd like to add at this point that as far as pet shop-folk go, this lot is all right. They don't lie to people and will caution their customers to the best of their knowledge when making a sale. <Excellent for long term survival; and for their clientele!> They keep their tanks and equipment clean and in good working order. They tend to the livestock as much as they can and most of them are hobbyists themselves. With the exceptions of some overstocking and occasionally ordering animals for which they can't properly care, they run a pretty respectable shop - by far the most responsible in the area and one of only two that is exclusively saltwater. <Cool!> Anyways, on too the big mystery....Okay, so the cucumbers came in looking very healthy; all eight made it through shipping seemingly fine (no Cuverian secretions or eviscerating in bag). They are young, 4" stretched out, max. The sand is sugar-grade fine and I rearranged the LR to make plenty of caves and crevices for them to hide in. We acclimated them over a period of an entire afternoon and within a day most of them were eating (I know because they were pooping). Then yesterday, exactly a week after they came in, one suddenly eviscerated. Today, three more did! Three have already been sold and I've been unable to track down the new owners. One seems fine. My question is, what's causing this?!? I tested all the water parameters: Spg 1.0235; pH 8.1; nitrate <10; nitrite 0; ammonia 0; dKH and calcium within normal range. The phosphate was high, nearly 1.0ppm, but I'm thinking that may have been because they spit their guts into the water and undoubtedly we didn't get them all with the vacuum and certainly not right away as in all cases it happened overnight. <Well, the first thing that you need to be aware of the high level of sensitivity that these animals have to environmental changes of any kind. They simply don't take well to rapid changes in their environment, and even well-intentioned acclimation protocols may result in a damaged or dead animal...That being said, the evisceration process generally only occurs when the animal is stressed, which is either due to environmental lapses (unlikely, based on the conditions that you described) or some sort of stress resulting from capture, transport, and acclimation. Despite your best effort, they are still subject to the whims of nature, unfortunately.> Another thing: today one of the gut-less little guys was crawling around out in the open and both the tang and the raccoon were actually taking chunks out of him. Not a good thing> I figured they'd stop after a bite or too, but to my surprise they just kept on eating him like it was a tasty treat. Needless to say he didn't make it and has been removed from the tank. The others, save those that were sold, still remain. I know those which have eviscerated stand little chance of making it, but they are clearly still kicking (as a figure of speech, that is; they don't move around much now), and since the fish seemed fine even after their macabre meal, we decided to let them all stay in the tank. Which brings me to my next question, aren't cucumbers supposed to be poisonous? <Some are, some aren't!> Shouldn't the fish at least get sick? Shouldn't all the toxins released into the water have had some effect? <If there were toxins released, and if your filtration system and husbandry techniques cannot overcome the pollution, then this us certainly something that is possible> I mean, everything looks fine. I don't get it. <Let's keep en eye on the fishes and count ourselves as luck here!> Anyway, my big question is again, why are they suddenly doing his? Is this species one of the sort that naturally eviscerates on a seasonal basis and if so, is this the right time of the year? <I'm not aware of this as part of "routine" behavior.  My understanding is that this is a response to stress. However, some species are known to "absorb" their own innards to survive for extended periods of time without other food.> I have no idea if they were tank-raised or caught, nor whether or not it matters. These aren't the first cucumbers they've had, but they are the first Hillas. Since I've been helping out this is the first major problem we've run in to and its driving me nuts. I feel terrible. Please help. Any insight would be most appreciated. <Well, first off- don't feel bad! You're doing a great job, and it's obvious that you care very much about the animals you're working with. As mentioned above, these are part of a group of animals that simply are very sensitive to changes in their environment (even if the conditions are good!). Perhaps you are dealing with a group that are extra-sensitive; perhaps they were initially collected and transshipped poorly, dooming them from the outset. Or, it could be that they were unhealthy to begin with. Lots of possibilities; unfortunately, there is no one perfect answer here. My thinking is that you simply need to try a different supplier, and continue your slow, careful acclimation with new specimens. BTW, here is an article in the latest issue of "Conscientious Aquarist" online magazine here on the WWM site by Jim Fatherree, which addresses some of the unique aspects of Echinoderm husbandry, selection, and species. Keep your chin up! Regards, Scott F> http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/cav1i4/echinoderms/echinoderms.htm

Sea cucumber Hi Bob, I have a question related with sea cucumber..... I've noticed my Holothuria edulis has the skin wrapped and you can see many white mucus-like spots along the body, is that normal or some pathology? this happens since he/she came right from sea... please write me back as soon as possible, thank u Daniela Hill Ecuador :) <Likely no problem... saw the same species today while diving in Hawaii! And we're back visiting Guayaquil and Galapagos in April! Bob Fenner!>

Meds > could you give me an idea of a good broad-spectrum med. for parasites and > bacteria, yet is still safe for inverts. this is for quarantine tank. also, > is it safe to treat tiger tail cucumber with meds. am expecting shipment soon > and would really appreciate your advice. thanks, Carla. > >> > Actually, there are NO safe, effective broad-spectrum (not implying > antibiotics only) "medications"... for parasites or bacteria for > quarantine... that I would use, encourage others to carte blanche in > quarantine or elsewhere... > There are some less-general (though still trouble in ways) therapeutic > agents that are at times, worthwhile using... but no way to (in short spaces > here) relate all the possible scenarios in which I'd use them... > Some considerable background on these issues ("medications", "toxic tank > syndromes", "disease...") can be found at my site: www.WetWebMedia.com... I > would strongly encourage you to read them over. Standard operating procedures > for receiving, acclimating, and quarantining your new livestock can be found > there... all without the express use of "treatment chemicals". > No to treating the Sea Cucumber with anything but "kid gloves"... you > upset this animal and it will poison your system. > Bob Fenner

Sea Cucumber woes, worries Thanks so much for your help thus far, you are the best. BTW, my leather opened up and he looks better than ever, again you were right on. <Ah, good> EMERGENCY!!! I have a rather large pink Cuke in the take (about 1 inch in diameter and about 8 inches long). He looks "sliced open" and his white (almost cotton looking) insides appear to be "draining out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" What should I do with this guy? <Yikes, pull it out! Place in a tank by itself... it may self-repair (they have amazing powers of regeneration)... but in the main tank may be real trouble> Thanks so much in advance!! Talk to you soon. Rich <Have been out of town. Hope this response is reaching you in time. Bob Fenner>

Cucumber Death I don't know if I "dodged a bullet" or not.  <ya... I almost went to see that Britney Spears movie too. Anthony Calfo> I recently bought a very interesting looking sea cucumber that LFS told me was safe.  <you are going to have a very rough road in the hobby if you take everyone's word at face value without being an educated consumer (study a creatures needs/dangers before you buy it for everyone's benefit). At least use a book in the store before purchase for reference> He /she was in the tank (110 Gal Reef) for about four days and seemed to be cruising around the tank sides and live rock. Then yesterday when I came home from work, he/she was laying in a lump seeming life less. I checked my ammonia level immediately and it was 0 ppm. I found what look to be some yellow entrails on one of my fake plants. When I went to net the creature I found more of the yellow entrails sticking out of one end. Is this the evisceration that you mentioned in your article on WWM?  <yes, indeed...can be dangerous. Do a water change, use carbon/chemical media and skim well> Is the cucumber dead?  <not necessarily... they eject innards under duress/fright... but do regenerate them> Its actually too late because I removed it from the tank thinking that it may not have released its poison yet. <if you just discarded this possibly still live animal, lets at least learn from the experience. Had you been armed with knowledge before you bought it, this living creature might not have died in vain. Sorry to be a bummer... but truth be told. For your tank, you made the right decision. But as an aquarist, you should have had it in a quarantine tank from go, or could have removed it to there for a chance to live. May I strongly suggest that you read Bob Fenner's Conscientious Marine Aquarist book? Again, sorry for being the heavy. I truly wish you the best in this beautiful hobby. Kind regards, Anthony Calfo>

Chopped cucumber Gents: Try as I might to do the right things by my tank, I had an unfortunate accident. One of my "turd" cucumbers got its oral end/head into a powerhead and lost about 3/8 inch of the oral end. I quickly unplugged and retrieved the rest of the body. I have moved it to a quarantine tank. Is there a chance it will regenerate, or should I euthanize? <I would take a wait and see attitude for now since it is in a quarantine tank. Be sure to perform a few extra water changes in the main tank to rid yourself of any possible toxins from the cucumber. The use of Chemi-Pure and PolyFilter would be recommended, too.> Thanks for a hopefully speedy reply. Stan <Good luck! -Steven Pro>

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