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Gad-Zooks Cukes!

Sea Cucumbers: Not A Pretty Picture, Part I

To: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4,

By Bob Fenner

Paracucumaria tricolor, Pseudocolchirus violaceus

Sea Cucumbers, Class Holothuroidea: With body shapes ranging from spherical to long and worm-like, bizarre rings of tentacles circling a non-descript head-end, these slow-moving, drab to brightly colored and marked invertebrates are well-known at least by sight, by most aquarists.

Unfortunately they have a dark side. Like many other spiny-skinned animals, Sea Cucumbers should only be tried in captivity with knowledge, trepidation and utmost vigil. The reasons for my cautioning are offered here, as well as notes on general selection and care for the still curious.


Sea Cucumbers make up the Class Holothuroidea of the "Spiny-skinned-animal" phylum Echinodermata. Other living Classes comprise the familiar Sea Urchins, Sand Dollars, Sea- and Brittle Stars and the Crinoids, aka Sea Lilies and Feather Stars. Holothuroids are the odd-Class out in being secondarily non-radial appearing; often looking like strange ornamental sausages, some translucent, others opaque and warty. Cucumber-like! 

There are some 900 described species, almost exclusively marine, distributed worldwide. Sea Cucumbers are a major component of the deep sea fauna. Most are black, brown or olive in color, but many brilliant colored and patterned species are encountered. They range in size to barely over an inch (@ 3 cm.) end to end to over a meter in length.

Genus Actinopyga: "Toothed Sea Cucumbers", named for the series of five teeth ringing their anus.

Actinopygia agassizii, the Five-Toothed Sea Cucumber. Have five square teeth surrounding the anus. Short, knobby podia on back, sides. Brown to yellow on top, lighter colored sides. Bahamas pic.

Actinopygia lecanora Bronn 1860, White-rumped Sea Cucumber. Indo-West Pacific. Here in S. Leyte 2013

Actinopyga mauritiana (Quoy & Gaimard 1833), the White-Spotted Sea Cucumber, loli (Hawaiian). Frequently found in surgy, seaward, shallow water settings, holding on firmly to the rocky substrate with their tube feet. To twelve inches. Hawai'i pic. 

Genus Astichopus:

Astichopus multifidus, the Furry Sea Cucumber. White to brown and white bodied Numerous pointed podia, circled in white. To 16 inches in length. Cozumel 2016

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Genus Bohadschia

Bohadschia argus Jager 1833, the Ocellated Sea Cucumber. Western Indian Ocean; Madagascar, Seychelles to Sri Lanka. Pacific Ocean; Malay Archipelago to South Pacific Islands. Needs large quarters than captivity allows. To two feet in length. One in Moorea, French Polynesia, in Fiji and N. Sulawesi. 
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Genus Euapta:

Euapta godeffroyi Östergren, 1898. Lions Paw Sea Cucumber.   S. Leyte 2013

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The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.

Euapta sp. Family Synaptidae. Five rows of bulbous bumps on cylindrical translucent body. Here on a sponge in Mabul, Malaysia 

To: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4,

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