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FAQs on Biological Cleaners for Disease Control

Related Articles: Biological Cleaners, Cleaning Symbiosis Among Fishes, Medicines/Treatments for Marine Diseases, Cleaner Shrimps, Genus Labroides Wrasses, Genus Bodianus (Hogfishes) Quarantine, Quarantine of Marine Fishes

On Marine Diseases: Marine Parasitic Disease, Parasitic Marine Tanks, Parasitic Reef Tanks, Cryptocaryoniasis, Marine Ich, Marine Velvet Disease, Treating Parasitic Disease, Using Hyposalinity to Treat Parasitic Disease

Labroides dimidiatus, the "real thing", but still a historical catastrophe in captivity.

Dear Bob,
I am a newcomer to the aquarium hobby and I absolutely love the magazine, I want to absorb as much information as possible, so I would like to pick your brains!
I read James Fatherree's article last issue 'Keeping things clean' and I am fascinated by cleaner fish and their relationship with the larger fish hosts that they clean. I have a small system at the moment, but I would like to upgrade to a larger aquarium where I can view this relationship first hand. I have space to keep a 7x2x2 aquarium, and I really like the Miniatus grouper, and I would like to keep a neon goby to take up the cleaning responsibility, among other fish. But, I don't want to risk this fish being eaten by the larger grouper; apart from keeping all fish well fed is there a way of minimising this risk?
Thank you,
Katie Linton 

            I too greatly enjoy studying, observing fish behaviour. Ever-fascinating for sure. Oh, and James and I are good friends, having dive-traveled together and given many presentations while both attending hobby conferences. The size system you list will be a real stunner, with a good deal of room to stock and experience fish-fish and more interaction. There are a few choices of symbiotic animals you might keep with a small to large size Cephalopholis miniata, including Neon Goby (Gobiosoma and Elacatinus spp.) you mention. As you're likely aware, though these species have distributions that don't overlap in the wild, they almost always recognize each other as symbionts; with the Bass seeking out the Goby for cleaning, not consuming it, and the Goby performing such duty.
            Additionally though in a system of your proposed dimensions I'd add other fishes and other potential cleaners. Most suitably, look to species of Hippolytid Shrimps, like the popular members of the genus Lysmata; particularly the Pacific L. amboinensis and Blood Red L. debelius. A bit more aggressive are the Boxer Shrimps of the family Stenopodidae, but these can also make great displays. The common Boxer, Stenopus hispidus is a common offering in the trade, but other species can be ordered through your stockist. (I've sent images on of these).
            As the saying goes Katie: 'The more you look, the more there is to see'. Enjoy your fish-watching! Cheers, BobF.

Raccoon Butterfly cleaning  12/6/10
Good afternoon, I see after reading through the forums that its common/normal for a fish to want their gills cleaned. How normal is it though for a fish to open its gills and want a cleaning multiple times (dozens) a day almost every time he passes my Lunare wrasse?
<Not abnormal...>
There are no visible or physical signs of parasitic infestation. Ammonia zero, nitrates 20ppm, nitrite zero and ph 8.2. I'd like to hear an experts' thoughts on this.
Thank you
<Well... twenty ppm of NO3 may be irritating... But I'd likely add a "real"/as in purposeful cleaner here. Please read:
and the linked files above. Happy holidays. Bob Fenner>
Re: re: Raccoon Butterfly cleaning  12/6/10
No offense to anyone at the crew but boy do I like when you reply to me.
I always get a solid, consistent and sure answer.
<Heeeee! If I've either not imbibed too much caffeine that day, or ethanol the night before!>
Thank you
<Cheers, BobF>
Re: re: Raccoon Butterfly cleaning, Crypt presence/omni?   12/6/10
Hahahaha! That's too funny. Bob, while I have you....am I reading the literature correctly that Ich really is present in all systems?
<Some folks believe so. I do not... though it is likely present in a majority, though non-symptomatic in most>
Basically from what I gather, its just a matter of it getting out of hand and uncontrollable based on the status of the fish's immune system.
Just want to make sure I am understanding correctly with all those "big" words.
<Welcome. B>

Cleaner Gobies Or Shrimp, purposeful biol. cleaners for dis./parasite control   4/19/10
Hello Crew.
<Hello Sean>
I truly appreciate all the information posted on this site.
<Thank you.>
My current tank is a 150 gallon FOWLR with a 40 gallon sump. I'm running a UV, skimmer, Chaeto in my refugium and once in a while Chemi-pure. 90 pounds live rock covered in coralline algae. 200 lbs live sand.
Tank parameters:
Temp. 78f
pH 8.2
Ammonia 0
Nitrate 0
Nitrite 0
SG: .26
Livestock : Adult yellow tang
Juvenile Imperator Angel
Flame angel
Kole tang
Achilles tang
Strawberry Dottyback
True percula clown
I've read that you recommend cleaner shrimp/gobies for the Achilles tang. I've quarantined all the fish in my tank except the last addition, the Achilles tang. I believed my 30 gallon QT was too small.
So far, (one week after adding the Achilles) all the inhabitants are eating, happy and other than some minor harassment by the yellow tang, there have been no problems such as crypt or anything else. I've never had any disease in the tank to date. I feed Nori, Spectrum pellets and Angel frozen formula.
I did formalin dip the Achilles for 40 minutes during acclimation. <<40 min.s!!? RMF>>
Should I add cleaners as a preventative measure?
<You may have misinterpreted that information. Bob does state in his Achilles article that
"The presence of the cleaner will go a long way to reduce stress in your system... even if strictly speaking these cleaner organisms can not, do not remove the parasites themselves."
The cleaners will not prevent or reduce disease outbreaks.>
Will my Dottyback kill them?
<Should be fine with them.>
Thanks for your help!
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Cleaners not consuming Crypt   3/5/08 Bob Quick question for you. Will cleaner shrimp and cleaner gobies, like say the skunks and Neons, eat the cyst shelled stage of ich that would be laying on the sand and live rock? Will they eat the other two stages also? Thanks again for your time, Todd <Mmm, not the resting stage really, or should I state, not reliably... the other stages can't be seen...

Percula Clowns not wanting to be cleaned   2/13/08 Hello there, <Hello!? I have recently been reading over the material on your site for several reasons and I must say I am very impressed. <Pleased to hear that? I have been keeping saltwater aquariums since I was very young (about 20 years or so) and almost always Fish Only. Until this year, I collected all my animals from the waters of South Florida. (well in accordance with laws) I usually have a lot of success with these animals, and very rarely have trouble acclimating them or having outbreaks of disease. From experience, I have always avoided store-bought fish. First of all, all my species are Caribbean and Atlantic, and most store bought fish are from other oceans. Every time I've done this in the past, you almost always have compatibility and disease issues (even with QT), so I just always avoided it. However, in the past few years it has been increasingly more difficult to collect, as the areas legal for collection have been getting smaller and smaller. <indeed> So, this year, I decided to set up a "Store bought" tank. It's a 40 gallon tank, good water quality and temperature. (I don't want to go into numbers here). It's been up and running for about 2 months, with pieces of "dead" coral to provide the sculpting. I have in the tank (2) 3 Stripe Damsels (1) Blue Damsel (1) Red Firefish (1) Neon Goby (2) Tank Raised False Percula Clowns (1) Blue legged hermit crab (Collected from bay) (1) Cleaner Shrimp and a Sally Lightfoot crab that I moved to another tank after reading on your site about him eating fish. In the first few days I lost a couple damsels (Not listed) to bacterial infections due to wounds received from fighting in the tank. <Indeed; you speak of compatibility issues earlier, but have 3 of the damsel family in the tank - one of the more pugnacious species so not surprising> After that, everything was fine. All the fish settled on their territories and there weren't any more problems in that respect. <Hope it stays that way!> After a month I added the Cleaner Shrimp, and even from day one most of the fish made a point of getting cleaned on a daily basis. The blue damsel even had a spot on his tail (which I assumed was Ich) that the shrimp removed completely within the first few days. He now spends his time (the damsel) attacking his reflection. <So vain!> However, two days ago I noticed a few white spots on the fins of my clownfish. They are still eating, but have been slowing down a little bit. It's not a large infection and no spots are apparent on the body of the fish and it should be able to be cleared up by the cleaners in the tank, however; they show no interest in being cleaned. Is this because they are tank raised fish? I was hoping to clear the infection naturally and already raised the water temp to 83F. Is there anything I can do to induce them to visit the cleaners? Thanks in advance Cory, Miami <I don't believe it has anything to do with being tank raised. In my experience with the species, clownfish just don't seem to appreciate cleaner shrimps. I'd be happy for any of the other WWM to chip in with any experiences to the contrary, especially observance from the wild, but in my opinion, they just don't use them like say for example, pelagic fish. I cant see a way to encourage them either. Maybe it harks from their lifestyle, living in commune with anemones, and hardly leaving their tentacles, it's not a behaviour replicated in the wild. If your clowns may have an illness, I suggest you have a look round WWM and try and identify what is may/could be and take that advice on a course of treatment. I wouldn't rely on a cleaner shrimp helping. Hope that helps, Mike I>

Cleaner Organisms 1/2/08 Hey Crew, <James> Is there any biological cleaner organisms I can put in my tank with a large Lionfish? I have a large Raccoon Butterfly in there with some sort of white, wormlike, burrowing parasite on his side, but I can't think of anything I can put in there that wouldn't become an appetizer. <Best to quarantine and treat specifically for the problem.> Or are lions smart enough not to eat cleaner gobies/shrimp/etc? <I don't believe they care what's on the dinner table. Never saw a Cleaner Wrasse cleaning a Lionfish, not yet anyway. Maybe Bob has, but unlikely. James (Salty Dog)><<None that wouldn't be potentially inhaled. RMF>> Jim

Cleaner Wrasse or Cleaner Shrimp?   4/16/07 Hey what's up, I just bought and undulate triggerfish from my LFS and it is doing fine. It is in a tank with a green wolf eel and a tesselata or honeycomb  moray. I was wondering if I could put a cleaner wrasse or cleaner shrimp in the tank with them? <Nope, cleaner wrasse are unsuitable for captivity http://www.wetwebmedia.com/labroide.htm and cleaner shrimp will most likely become a snack for the eels.>  Would they eat it or recognize that it is doing no harm and let it clean them? <Most likely eat them at some point.> Which one would I have the best luck with them not eating it? <Not eating?  The wrasse, living beyond a few months at best?  Neither.> (The wrasse or the Shrimp) Thanks for the info!! <Chris>

Natural predator for parasites... Shades of an SNL skit...Could You be More Vague?   3/21/07 Hi crew, <Hi Mohamed, Mich here.> Is there a predator that will feed off parasites including those nasty slugs that feeds on corals especially SPS? <Mmm, not sure what parasites and which slug you're referring to here.  Can you provide the scientific names or at the very least the common names?  It is impossible to help otherwise... just a little to vague.> Thanks <Welcome,  -Mich> Mohamed

Re: Natural predator for unnamed parasites   3/21/07 Hi Mich, <Hello again Mohamed> No, I do not know the scientific or common names.  I'm referring to them in general, all parasites and slugs that eat SPS.   <Most parasites have specific predators, so there really is no panacea.  The best thing to do would be to dip, where appropriate and quarantine all new corals to hopefully prevent any parasites from entering your display tank.  More here and related links in blue: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/quarinvertfaqs.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/flatwrmfaq2.htm  > Thanks <You're welcome.  -Mich> Mohamed

Cleaner Goby et al. Compatibility I want to try to keep a cleaner goby, but what risks do I run into by keeping it with a porcupine puffer and a Sebae anemone. <Besides the risk you're already running with keeping those two, very unnatural tankmates together? I would stay away, never know when the porky might get hungry...but if you have plenty of rockwork should be fine.  I would definitely find a new home for that Sebae anemone though> I read your FAQs and don't want to use a cleaner wrasse and shrimp would possibly become a treat for the puffer.  What is your opinion on what I should do. <I wouldn't worry about anything...and either turn your aquarium into a species tank for the porky or the anemone, not both.  When you've done this, then add a neon\cleaner goby :) - M. Maddox> Cleaner Gobies Needed? Thank you! I already have 6 Lysmata shrimp in the tank. Two peppermints, two skunk cleaners and two fire shrimp. The shrimp are about the same size as the fish and the fish don't allow themselves to be cleaned!!! Would they allow a cleaner goby to approach them? << I think they would.  It often takes a few days, but eventually they do.  Plus the captive raised gobies are just so much healthier and do so well. >> I can't thank all you guys enough! Narayan <<  Blundell  >>

Ick Hi-<Howdy!>I sent in a question the other day and just wanted to say thank you. You helped me out a lot. <I'm glad we could help!> My question was about ich. But like usual I have another question. In my 20 gallon tank is it better to get a cleaner shrimp or a neon goby? I have live rock and live sand (if the means anything).....My ich has subdued and I am expecting for the parasites to start their second cycle again and attach to the fish, so I thought that getting something that may help my fish cope a lil bit would actually help me from having to dip them all the time. <The neon goby would probably be more efficient.  These guys will probably not be able to control the ick by them selves and will likely need quarantine and treatment.  Cody> Thanks-Heather Cleaner shrimp overuse? 3/8/04 Greetings!  Thanks again for providing a wonderful site!  I always learn so much while reading through the FAQ's.  I have scanned and have not found anything like what I have now so perhaps you could shed some light on it. <Hi Ray. Adam here.  Let's see what we're dealing with...> I have a 55gal mini-reef.  I got a coral beauty last Sunday after waiting 5 weeks for one to come in with the right colors (I love him!).  He is in my main tank now after only 3 days of QT (damn dog, knocked over lamp and broke QT tank, lucky I was home to respond).  I did do a quick fresh water & formalin dip (didn't like it past 1 min). <What an unfortunate event!  I am sure you know that a quarantine period of more like 3-4 weeks is optimal.  Also, FW dips less than about five minutes are very ineffective.  The fish often appear to be very stressed, but it is best to tough it out.> Thursday (day after putting in coral beauty) I saw that both he and my yellow tang (been in there a while and was doing fine) were scratching.  On closer exam I saw several small black dots (10-15) on my tang.  I did a quick search on WWM and realized that it was most likely black spot disease.  After a long and wet battle, I managed to get the tang out and gave him a 5 min dip of pH and temp balanced RO/DI with formalin.  Thinking my Coral beauty was infected the same, I did the same with him and he tolerated the 5 minute dip well this time.  By Friday, no black spots were visible on the Tang and neither was scratching on the rocks. <"Black spot" is very common in yellow tangs.  It is an external parasite and as you have seen, it responds very well to FW dips.  Your five minute dip is still at the very minimum.> Friday I went to my LFS and the guy that works there was kind to my situation.  He sold me a scarlet skunk cleaner shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis ) from one of his display tanks (been in there months) so I could bypass my now destroyed QT with little chance of introducing anything. <This is very bad advice.  Biological cleaners like shrimp, neon gobies and wrasses are helpful, but in an aquarium environment they don't have a chance of preventing or stopping outbreaks of common parasitic diseases.  Quarantine should still be considered a mandatory practice!> It took all of an hour for my Coral Beauty to find the cleaner shrimp and he visited it almost every 5 minutes for the remainder of the day.  He will go up to it, tilt on his side and open his mouth and gills for it.  Now for my questions (thanks for sticking with me this long).  Can a fish over use a cleaner shrimp?  Will too much use hurt my fish?  Is there still something infecting my coral beauty and if so, will the shrimp get rid of it?  He is eating great and everyone else in the tank is doing fine.  Tank parameters optimal. <If the fish is still infected with something, the cleaner shrimp might help, but it will likely be too little too late.  All biological cleaners have the potential to injure the subject they are cleaning, but in the case of the shrimp, the fish would simply swim away and regulate it's own cleanings.  It sounds like you are likely safe in terms of disease, but please do replace your q-tank for future additions and don't rely on cleaner shrimp to prevent outbreaks!  Best Regards.  Adam>  Thanks -Ray

Smart shrimp, dumb fish Hello WWM cleaner-shrimp guru :<IanB here> I have a very active white banded cleaner shrimp that is aggressively try to clean any of the fish in my 100 gal reefer (4 assorted small, apparently all retarded.) None of them seem to know what to make of the shrimp and don't allow it to get too close.<some fish don't like little pesky cleaner shrimp> None have any visible parasites, but the shrimp's been in there 6 weeks now and the fish don't seem any more interested in utilizing the shrimp's services.<some don't like shrimp and some shrimp don't like fish...some dogs like cats and some don't> I stick my hand in the tank often, and this shrimp just tackles it, cleaning and pulling and scouring all over my fingers and forearm.<yes, they tend to do that> This may be the poor shrimp's only cleaning exercise that it gets, so I feel obligated to do this.<You can do this if you would like. As long as the little shrimp  eats he should be fine, no worries my friend (its cleaning services are just a bonus. they don't need to clean to survive. they are very content with eating leftover food> Any idea why the fish don't care?<good luck, IanB> Thanks, SLC

Cleaner fish? Hi, I wonder if there are any hardy fish (marine) that, like cleaner shrimp, will eat Ich/Velvet (marine) off small-med sized fish? <Neon Gobies are cleaner fish, I even have one of my own and he does probably as good or a better job than a cleaner wrasse!, IanB> Thank you, Luke

Over Cleaning from the cleaner? <Hi Amy, PF here tonight.> Hi crew.  I have a question pertaining to the cleaning routine provided to marine fish by a cleaner shrimp.  I have a 55 gallon setup with five fish (1 Percula clown, 1 tomato clown, 1 yellow tang, 1 long fin bannerfish, and a shrimp goby), several invertebrates (sand sifting star, 5 blue leg hermit crabs, 1 fighting conch, 1 blood shrimp, and 1 skunk cleaner shrimp), and about 40 pounds of live rock.  The tank has been running several years but I just had a heat fluctuation in my tank which resulting in an Ich outbreak. <Yipes!> I quarantined the fish in a 20 gallon long for six weeks while treating with Coppersafe. I left the main tank go fallow for the six week period with just the invertebrates in it to provide no host to the Ich. <Good going, no fatalities.> My fish have returned to their 55 gallon tank now and the tang and Heniochus frequently go to the cleaner shrimp to be cleaned.  I haven't seen a single Ich spot since their return, all water parameters appear to be within the WetWebMedia desired ranges (temp 78 degrees {and stable!!!}  , NH3 & NO2 zero, NO3 less than 10, salinity 1.024, alk 9), all five fish eat like monsters, and no one is scratching.  Could you tell me is it normal for the fish to go to cleaner shrimp once an hour to be cleaned or do you think there is another parasite I am battling? <I'm not sure about that one. Are you seeing any other signs of infestations? It might be that they are have the spots that were infected cleaned off. The fish equivalent of picking at a scab.>  I feel comfortable saying Ich is (92% sure) not my problem. If you do think I am experiencing another problem, could you give any hints to what could be going on.  I would love to think my fish are suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder and don't have another problem! Enjoy your holiday, Amy <Hope you are enjoying yours as well, have a good night, PF>

Biological Cleaners Dear WWM Crew, <Scott F your Crew guy tonight> First, I'd like to say that I truly love this website.  I stumbled across it in my endless search for more information.  My question is a quick one and hopefully a simple one to start with (I know I'll have more questions later). <They never end...I ask dozens every week!> Is there a biological cleaner that can be put into a 180g fish-only with semi-aggressive fish, knowing that you don't recommend any Labroides sp.  I can't seem to locate any information on the Senorita Wrasse (Oxyjulis californica).  The rundown - a dog-faced puffer, a French angel, a sunset wrasse, a Harlequin Tusk, a purple tang, a Picasso Trigger, an arc eye hawk, a maroon clown, a snow-flake eel and 2 small ("survivor") damsels.  None of the fish are greater than 4-5 inches and the eel is about 9-10 inches. I definitely prefer the approach outlined in Bob's book (The Conscientious Marine...) i.e. biological then physical then chemical disease control.  Any advice would be much appreciated. <Well, you certainly could employ some Gobiosoma gobies ("Neon" Gobies). This little fishes are generally left alone by the majority of fishes-and they actually do a good job! Also, you could try some Lysmata shrimp. They often do a good job, but sometimes seem to display little interest in cleaning in captivity, unfortunately. Do a little research on these species, and I'm sure that you'll find some animals that pique your interest. Have fun! Regards, Scott F>

Your books Hi Bob, Antoine, and all the WWM crew! I have been reading through your spectacular Web Site and I found that many of the FAQS refers to one or two of your books, if I'm not wrong, one of those is "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist", and the other is from Anthony "Book of Coral Propagation". In the past, I have only read a hand book named "Marine Reef Aquarium Handbook" by Robert J. Goldstein. It really was a helpful guide. So, I'm wondering what of your books you advise me to buy first... maybe I will buy two of them, but one by one... I have a 200 lt tank with 35 pounds of liverock and I'm trying to build a reef tank. <If you want a reef tank, I would have to recommend Anthony's book as Bob's is more of a fish book.> Thanks! Your responses are always appreciated. I will take advantage on this opportunity to make other question... A few days ago you advised me about buying a cleaning fish. I went to my dealer and he told me that a red banded shrimp will work better, because if the fishes in my aquarium are healthy (thing that is always the goal) the cleaning fish eventually will die. <I don't think anyone here advise you to purchase a Cleaner Wrasse. We are all adamant against their collection. There are other fish that will clean, such as Gobies of the Genus Gobiosoma, but they eat prepared foods in addition.> So, the shrimp will work as good as the fish? <The best cleaners are shrimp such as Lysmata graham or L. ambionensis.> Greetings, Carlos D?z <Good luck! -Steven Pro>

RE: Your books Hehe, you are right Steven, you wouldn't advise me to buy the cleaning fish, was another folk, hehe, sorry for the bafflement. <No problem. I mostly wanted to be clear for the other readers of the FAQ sections.> I will looking for the shrimp. the last one, (disclaimer: the last this day, this time, no promises for no question in the near future) Where can I buy the Anthony's book? <Amazon carries it, but Anthony runs his own website at http://www.readingtrees.com/ where you can purchase it directly from the author.> and how much it will cost me? Carlos <It is $36 with the shipping included for anywhere in the USA or Puerto Rico. Anthony has an email address on the order form page for questions regarding international shipping. -Steven Pro>

Re: Cleaner Wrasse Thank you Steven for the advice. <You are welcome. This is what we are all here for.> I absolutely agree with you on a better non-starving cleaner animals being the shrimp rather than cleaner wrasse. I actually wound up getting a pair of peppermints about 6 months ago (for Aiptasia it worked, thank you ), boy are they definitely non-starving creatures. (eat like pigs) I looked at the cleaner wrasse just the other day in the pet store and figured before permanently removing them off my list, I should ask another party for their opinion. Perhaps there is a slim chance that they eat something other than parasites. <Yes, a slim chance, but by far the exception to the rule.> Oh well, now they are off my list permanently. And now, a bunch of question(s), please forgive me. My shrimps were very friendly up until I introduced two more fish to the tank. I have a 55g with 60lb LR, 3 anemones: LTA, Condy and Heteractis C, 2 ocellaris clowns, Fire Goby (Magnifica) and Green Polyps as well as a bunch (20-25) snails, 2 hermits (blue leg I think). The new fish are Coral Beauty and Diamond goby. 1. Are my shrimp scared permanently or this is a temporarily response (they are constantly hiding now, but still eat, when I hand-pick stuff for them)? <Probably just the temporary response.> 2. Can I get more of the Lysmatas, say L. arboynesis (scarlet)? It does seem like all the caves are occupied by anemones and gobbles, so I don't want to freak the peppermints out. <Yes, many of the Lysmata species blend well with one another.> This is a question for June-July, since I did not use Q tank <Oh shame on you!> and my coral beauty brought ick with her (a week ago). Now all but inverts and polyps are in the 20g Q tank with CoperSafe floating about. My coral beauty in addition to Ick has also a white spot (looks like a split eye brow cut) above her right eye and her blue tail has a black patch with some white spot at the edge. I assume this is HLLE <Not likely yet. Probably a secondary infection.> and am changing the diet, especially in the Q tank, where there is no LR. Can I do anything else to fix the environment/diet? <Nori seaweed is one of my favorite foods.> As of last night I have started to reduce specific gravity (salinity, same thing?) <Not exactly. Salinity is a measure of the salt content expressed as part per thousands (ppt.). Specific gravity is a comparison of the density of your sample to a set reference.> in both tanks with a goal of 1.017, Temperature was at 78-80, but is going up to 85. The Q tank (20g) has Cooper Safe added to the water. Both tanks have a Seaclone skimmer, BioWeels 170 (20g) and 330 (55g), powerheads. 38W (50/50, 10K and Actinic) on 20g and 120W (same combo as on 20g) on 55g (I should be receiving the 130W Power compact light any-day now to better conditions for anemonies and polyps). I feed all (polyps and anemones incl) frozen shrimp defrosted in selcon, chopped shrimp/squid/scallops/some white fish and life fish occasionally get flakes/pallets. I was relying on algae in the tank, but I think I need to change that by adding vegetarian matter to the food. <Yes, agreed.> I will stop the practice of lettuce and broccoli and switch to Nori. Any other suggestions in terms of vegetables? <I also like many of the fine frozen food products from Ocean Nutrition.> Did I miss anything? <See complete, but if you left out anything, give me another holler.> I can't believe I wrote all this/you read all this.... sorry. I really should get out more often. Thank you, Oksana <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Cleaner Wrasse Question Hi Bob, <Steven Pro in this morning.> You should be proud of me... I'm reading... and thus have a question. Is it true that cleaner wrasse will not survive in a captive system with no parasites present? Is there any way to save these hard-working creatures after they have saved the rest of the tank inhabitants? <While their are some people who have been able to keep cleaner wrasses alive, the vast majority perish inside of a year. Any real claim of success with any fish must be measured in years. Someone that keeps a fish alive for six months has not really accomplished anything yet. In many instances, it merely takes that long to slowly starve to death. If you a looking for a cleaner animal, take a look at the Lysmata species of cleaner shrimp. Very hard workers and easy to supplement their diet with prepared foods.> Thanks, Oksana <You are welcome. Steven Pro>

Cleaner Wrasse/Ick Hi, Can cleaner wrasse get, carry and/or transmit ick ? <My opinion and experience point that all fish carry Cryptocaryon and Oodinium at all times and something triggers the parasites to multiply out of control and endanger the fish.> I decided to let my 180 gallon fish tank go fallow for 1 month to rid it of ick. I removed all the fish except a cleaner wrasse that hid in the live rock or sand. Do I need to remove the wrasse? <At this point probably not a problem if your cleaner wrasse has been symptom free for one month. I do have to mention that cleaner wrasses are a truly difficult fish and I would prefer if no one purchased them. They have a awful record of captive care. Cleaner Shrimp are a far better choice. -Steven Pro> Thanks, Chris PS great website !!

Biological Cleaners Hi Bob, I have a 110 gallon system, amonia 0, nitrite .1, nitrate 40, w/ 60 lbs Live Rock, one Longnose Butterfly fish, one Diamondback Goby, 2 Maroon Clowns, 3 Fire Gobies, 4 Skunk Cleaners, 2 Royal Urchins and 10 Turbo Snails, I have an outbreak of Ick in the tank, the Butterfly Fish is the one w/ spots all over him, he was moved to a quarantine tank and treated w/ coppersafe. <What about the other fishes? They likely will have some spots soon...> The cleaner shrimps are keeping the other fish free of the Ick. But when I turn my skimmer and filters off I can still see the Ick parasites swimming around the tank. <Yikes, good vision!> Is 4 cleaner shrimp sufficient to get rid of the problem, or should I add more, also the Butterfly Fish wouldn't let the cleaner shrimp clean him, would I have better luck w/ neon gobies? <Maybe yes on the gobies, no more on the shrimp... You will likely have to remove all the fishes... let the system go fish-less for a good period of time... Please read starting here: http://wetwebmedia.com/parasittksfaqs.htm> I don't have sufficient space to move all my live stock to a quarantine tank for a month to let the tank go fallow. Is it possible to get rid of ick w/ only Biological Cleaners? <Yes, but not likely... and not permanently... becomes more of a "predator-prey" relationship, with some parasites/hosts... I would move the non-fish if you can... and treat the fishes in place... Bob Fenner> Thanks for your help.

Re: clown fish Mr. Fenner, I have read through your web site, which I might add has helpful solutions, but I still do not know what a bio-cleaner is. Please provide me with a brief description so I can purchase one if you indeed feel I need one. Thank You, Jason Cohen <Please use the Google search feature on the site, and the terms "biological cleaner"... Bob Fenner>

Cleaner Species Hi Bob, If you get a chance, I'd appreciate it if you could answer a question for me. I just transferred all of my fish and live rock from a friends 150 g. tank to my new 180. It's been a week or so, and I've just noticed a few spots of ich on one of my yellow tangs. <Maybe not ich... maybe not a living thing...> I've seen other fish in the tank taking advantage of the cleaner species that live in the tank (three cleaner and one fire shrimp), but not any of the yellow tangs. Is this because these shrimp aren't found in the same regeions as yellow tangs, making thier utility invisible to the tangs?  <Good question, but no... more of an individual preference, lack of awareness of this one perhaps... Cleaners are found in all the world's oceans, places... In Hawai'i, have pix of Zebrasoma flavescens being cleaned by Stenopus hispidus (CBS), other organisms...> If so, can you recommend other types of cleaners, such as gobisoma gobies or something, that the tangs will take advantage of? <Do consider a Gobiosoma, or if another crustacean will fit, a CBS (Coral Banded Shrimp) Thanks, Dan <You're welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

follow up on spots on huma Hello Bob, Thanks for getting back to me so promptly. You suggest using a biological cleaner. I'm sure I know what a biological cleaner is,but am drawing a blank. Please explain. I pride myself on being informed, so this is mildly embarrassing. <No worries> Thanks much, Steve Browne <A species of animal that removes parasites, necrotic tissue from others. There is some coverage of the topic including images on the site: www.WetWebMedia.com Bob Fenner>

Cleaner wrasse imposters?? Hi Bob, I stopped by a newly opened Petco chain store today. In the tank with Coral Catfish were what appears to be cleaner wrasses. They were almost completely black and white with a very small hint of blue around the eye. Their mouths were much bigger than any cleaner wrasse that I've seen. They appeared very healthy and had been at the store for 4 days. The mouth on these fish didn't really seem like it was meant for parasites. After searching the web I found a picture of Aspidontus taeniatus at http://www.mpi-seewiesen.mpg.de/~knauer/wickler/mim2.html. This is not the fish I seen, but made me wonder if these fish are imposters. Any thoughts? >> The Saber Tooth Blenny? If this is what they were/are, they're no bargain... and we (the industry) destroy these look-alikes if/when they come mixed in shipments with Labroides (dimidiatus)... check out their mouths... as this is the single easiest way to discriminate between the wrasse and blenny... in the latter they're underslung, the former, terminal... You don't want Aspidontus, period. Bob Fenner

Aggresiveness A few months ago I added a six-line wrasse to my 20g tank, containing about 20 pounds of live rock, a royal gramma, bicolor blenny, and two pacific cleaner shrimp. A day or so after I added the wrasse, I noticed him chasing the shrimp around the tank and when I came home the next day, both shrimp were dead. They had been in the tank for a couple of months. One was almost completely gone (only found a piece of a tail, the other dead as well. Is this normal for the wrasse to be so territorial of his cleaning area? Will I have problems when I switch to a 50g in a couple of months if I add another cleaner shrimp? Thanks, Jonathan >> Hmm, unusual for the species mentioned (Pseudocheilinus hexataenia) to be so destructive... and be labeled as a "cleaner"...  Bob Fenner

I have been reading about "cleaner" species of fish and shrimp. I've narrowed it down to two choices, either a cleaner shrimp or a neon goby. Let me tell you about my tank, I have a 50 gal tank. And I am going to have a snowflake eel and a porcupine puffer in the tank. And I was thinking it was probably wise if I was going to get the shrimp to get them first, so they can kind of establish themselves before the big guys get there. But my concern about the shrimp is that the puffer will eat it. (the little compatability thing on the FFexpress said they were not compatable and some of the stuff I've read says the puffers may eat a shrimp and other inverts). As for the neon gobbies I am wondering if they will get enough to eat unless I feed them (and if so what should I feed them?). The other thing about the gobbie is the compatability guide said that the eel and gobbies were not compatable HOWEVER, what I have read says eel's tend to be 'really nice' to cleaner fish. One final thing I'm unsure about...I have two cleaner shrimp "owed" to me by ffexpress (two I had from another tank died). But the shipping I have to pay for those "free shrimp" is probably more than I would pay in a store (although I am VERY unhappy with the fish store's in my area) I was toying with the idea of getting the shrimp I'm owed along with a neon gobbie or two. And just see what happens. Anyway, thank you for your input. Steve Weatherly ps. I was reading on your website and you said that you shouldn't use nets on the eels. you were referring to taking them out of the tank...what about putting them in? How do you recommend putting them in the tank? (I don't want, nor should I put the shipping water in the tank) Also, what about freshwater baths? Is it safe to do these with an eel? Thanks again for your help, sorry about typing your eye's off. (as apposed to talking your ear off..haha) < Good choices on those cleaner organisms... these are the best for almost all types of systems. And you're right re the puffer and shrimps and crabs of all types... both the puffer and the eel might eat the shrimp. However, in many cases, whether the intended host/cleaner actually occupy overlapping ranges in the wild, they do recognize each other as non-food, and do partner up. So I would give it a go. Do place the shrimp(s) first. Ditto to the use of the Gobiosoma gobies.     Re moving/placing eels, I do the "Boris Karloff" pour in/spill out trick with these, carefully siphoning or pouring out much of the shipping water, and replacing it with system water... a few times. Most eels are pretty much free of infectious disease and parasites coming from the wild, but they can/will tolerate a freshwater dip fine... make the temperature about the same, and add some sodium bicarbonate to elevate the pH to 7.8 (this is about as high as this "trick" will go). Bob Fenner>

Angel sick with ick Bob, About adding the cleaner shrimp, gobies--I would love to do that. However,  I'm concerned about the Lionfish 6.5 inches and the Picasso 3.5  inches. Will they harm the cleaners? <Unfortunately, there is definitely a possibility of this... you might consider a small angelfish, smaller specimen of a hogfish (Bodianus spp.) instead... but even these, larger than lionfish mouth size... Bob Fenner> Angel sick with ick Bob, > We have a French Angel (juv. changing) that has contracted ick (pretty > sure). He's the most expensive fish we have so we don't want to lose > him. I have moved him into a 29 gal hospital tank with Copper Safe. Is > this the right thing to do? Could I do something better for him? He's > eating but he shakes or flickers (guess that goes with the ick). > Thanks > Peace and all good, > Tony > >> >Yes, and do manipulate the angels environment in the following ways: >1) Lower the specific gravity to about 1.017, >2) Raise the tank temperature to about 83F. >These changes favor the fish/host, disfavor the parasite... After the fish is >totally cured, slowly return these values (over a couple of weeks) to your >main tanks parameters... and add a cleaner (Lysmata shrimp, Gobiosoma gobies) >to the main tank to help fight the entrenched ich problem now in your system. >Bob Fenner

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