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FAQs on Brackish Water Invertebrates

Related Articles: Brackish Invertebrates, Brackish Plants, Fresh to Brackish Fishes

Related FAQs: Brackish Snails, Brackish Plants,


shrimps, BR, UK     6/5/13
Hi wet web, especially Neale as he's an expert in the brackish field
<"Expert" may be too strong a word! More like an interest in brackish stuff...>
Where I live in the UK, fish stores sell "river shrimp".
<Quite so.>
They are very similar to the "ghost shrimp" Palaemonetes paludosus that a lot of people in the US seem to keep.
However, the "river shrimp" are kept in brackish water and are wild caught in local estuaries, salt marshes and brackish water ditches.
<This is what I've been told, too… collected in Essex and Kent, from the Thames Estuary.>
I did some research and I think these might be Palaemonetes varians as that species is common in Europe and lives in brackish water conditions.
<May well be.>
Unfortunately, unlike the Paludosus, hardly anyone seems to keep Varians long term (usually they are just feeders) so there's not much information on them.
<Oh, I have kept them, and without problems. Very hardy and easy to keep at room temperature in mildly brackish water. Main source of mortality is jumping out of the tank!>
I have a few questions for keeping them long term:
- Are these shrimp suitable for aquaria?
- Can they be acclimated to freshwater?
- What SGs do these shrimp prefer?
<Anything from SG 1.005 upwards; ideally around SG 1.010, i.e., a 50/50  mix of freshwater and seawater.>
- If kept in brackish water, would they breed?
<Unlikely if they have a planktonic larval stage, which is probable.>
<Definitely worth keeping. When I was a teen, these shrimps were often sold alongside Pomatoschistus species, and both are easy to keep with minimal effort. Put the tank somewhere cool, keep the water well aerated, and cover the aquarium well so they can't jump out. Pretty much it. Kept thus, you should find they do fine for 6-12 months, perhaps longer. For serious, long-term care, you'd almost certainly need a chiller to keep the water temperature down, around the 14 degrees C mark or lower. That's the tricky bit. Cheers, Neale.>

Brackish Invertebrates   1/14/12
I've used WWM for information on previous occasions, but I'm having trouble finding an answer this time around!  I'm trying to figure out what types of invertebrates are available commercially that will thrive in a brackish system.  I have a 90 gallon brackish tank with a nice assortment of fishes, a few fiddler crabs and 2 Nerite snails...but I want to know if there are any other invertebrate species (besides fiddler crabs, Nerite snails, and trumpet snails) that may do well, especially those that will aerate the sand (without reproducing wildly).  I would LOVE to know if fighting conchs would be able to do alright...as they are attractive when visible and heavy burrowers.  My specific gravity is currently around 1.01 (or at least that's what my hygrometer reads).
<Do you mean SG 1.010? And at what temperature? This is critical. SG 1.010 at 25 C/77 F is 15.5 grammes marine salt mix per litre, but at 28 C/82 F 1.010 is 16.6 grammes marine salt mix per litre. Since the standard temperature is 25 C/77 F, that's what most specific gravity recommendations assume. Check, and act accordingly when stocking.>
I would greatly appreciate it if someone could let me know any possible suggestions!
Thank you!
~Christina B~
<There is a HUGE variety of tropical brackish water invertebrates -- but unfortunately very few are routinely imported and/or explicitly traded as brackish water invertebrates. Some are traded as marine invertebrates, e.g., Clibanarius tricolor, the Blue-Legged Hermit. Others are traded, erroneously, as freshwater invertebrates, e.g., the Mangrove Horseshoe Crab, Carcinoscorpius rotundicauda. Even the odd coldwater marine species gets sold as tropical brackish water species, e.g., the Beadlet Anemone, Actinia equina. I do have a list of invertebrates over on my Brackish FAQ, here:
Clibanarius vittatus and Clibanarius tricolor are the two easiest brackish-tolerant hermits, widely sold as marine "clean-up crew" and perhaps the best bet for SG 1.010 at 25 C upwards. There are some great oddball Nerites like Clithon corona and Neripteron auriculata sold as freshwater Nerites worth considering as well. If you look over other livestock, review using their Latin name, and check to make sure they're described as "euryhaline" and found in brackish water. So far as I know, Strombus alatus are full marine animals and not found in brackish water.
Generally, estuarine snails tend to be nondescript animals lacking the spiny shells seen on reef or lagoon species. Cheers, Neale.>

Brackish water... echinoderms?    7/18/11
I was wondering if there was any brackish water starfish or brittle stars.
<Very few exist at all, and none are traded deliberately.>
I have a brackish water tank and I am always looking for some thing different to go in it. If so do you know where I may be able to find one or order one? Thank you for your time.
<There are brackish water invertebrates, including some species traded as marines (e.g., Clibanarius tricolor ) and freshwater animals (e.g., Clibanarius africanus). Depending on the salinity, there are a variety of snails and shrimps that can do well. But in most situations you're best off sticking with fish, if for no other reason that the larger brackish water fish will view invertebrates as food. On the other hand, if you're keeping small, low-end brackish species like gobies and livebearers at SG 1.003 at 25 C, then you'll find things like freshwater Nerites and freshwater shrimps do perfectly well and are worth a gamble.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Brackish water... stkg... echinos?    7/19/11

Any thing in your tanks you don't want that you kill give to me. I want to try it in my tank your going to kill it anyways wouldn't hurt to see if I can keep
<Hmm not sure I agree with you here. If an animal needs to be killed, I insist that it be done humanely, i.e., quickly. Experimenting with animals, for example keeping a starfish in a brackish water aquarium, just isn't acceptable. There is a HUGE scientific literature on osmoregulation in invertebrates, including much on those species, such as Carcinus maenas, known to be euryhaline. Read up, and in the meantime, peruse my Brackish Water FAQ that includes several pages on invertebrates in the final section.
Cheers, Neale.>

Viable Brackish stocking, or expensive buffet? 5/12/2011
I was wondering if I could trouble you for a second opinion on my stocking plan. I've tried searching online, but I can't find enough information to be confident in my choices. I have a 30 gal tank (36"L 12"W 15"H) with a Magnum 350 filter that I am planning on converting to a low-end brackish tank. I picked the tank up used when I needed somewhere temporary to keep the livestock in my Sumatran biotope tank. Unfortunately my house shifted rendering the tank non-level. I've since moved it to more stable wall and
now the 30 gal is sitting empty begging for fish.
My preliminary stocking plan is
1M:3F chocolate Lyretail mollies - hybrid of some type with a maximum size listed at my LFS comparable to the other shortfin mollies
<Indeed. A good species for brackish water systems.>
6 fairy gobies - *Redigobius balteatus*
<Another good species, essentially identical to Bumblebee Gobies in terms of care.>
10 Blueback blue-eyes - *Pseudomugil cyanodorsalis*
<A very rarely traded species, but known to be hardy and easy to keep, in brackish/marine conditions at least.>
10 Rudolph shrimp - *Caridina gracilirostris*
<Another good species.>
I'm slightly concerned though that the blue-eyes and shrimp would end up an expensive snack for the gobies. Would the pacific blue-eye (*Pseudomugil signifer*) fare a bit better since it's larger? or should I go with a different goby or schooling fish?
<I can't imagine the gobies eating the Blue-eyes. Shrimps are a bit hit-and-miss, but I wouldn't expect them to eat the shrimps either. Worth a flutter. These gobies are mostly eating zooplankton and small insect larvae.>
Also, 11 months of the year, our water is very hard (as in almost identical to lake Malawi). For the aquascaping of this tank, I was planning on including some mussel, snail and oyster shells, along with some of our local limestone and possibly aragocrete (as long as it doesn't look too marine-like). Would the shells, marine salt and my tap water push the hardness too high for a brackish tank?
Should I only be including shells during the month after the spring melt when our hardness plummets?
<I wouldn't rely on shells or rocks to stabilise pH and hardness. Instead, place a bag of crushed coral in the filter. A cup should do. Keep this clean by rinsing under hot water every month or so. It will dissolve into the water much more reliably than shells or rocks covered with algae and bacteria. In any case, your marine aquarium salt mix should be steadying pH and hardness all by itself if the specific gravity is at least 1.005, which it should be for these species.>
Thank you in advance for your help,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Black Pepper Size Critters in FW Tank - 7/2/08 Greetings from Georgia! <And reciprocal salutations for Hertfordshire!> We apologize is this is covered elsewhere on the site, as we found reference to white copepods, but not our 'bug.' Our 125 gallon community FW tank (1.002 salt) has been up 15 months. It has 2-3 inches of LFS gravel. <Ah, 1.002 definitely qualifies as "brackish" -- that's about 4-5 grammes of marine salt mix per litre of water, or about 10-15% the normal salinity of seawater. Great for livebearers, killifish, and other species that appreciate slightly saline conditions.> For the first time, upon vacuuming the gravel and changing water, our white buckets had 100's, perhaps 1000's of black (dark brown?) specks smaller than pepper grains moving furiously in the bottom of the siphoned water yesterday. I have never seen them before. <Likely only copepods, ostracods, aquatic insects or similar.> They seem to cling to larger detritus in the bottom of the bucket. Under a hand held magnifying glass, no visible legs, eyes, spots, antennae, stripes, etc turned up. Still looked like black pepper. Our fish are healthy; these are not on the fish that we can see. These are not visible in the tank. <OK.> They died pretty quickly in the sunlight in 2" of the water outside at 90 degrees F daytime temperature. <How mean!> What are they, are they harmful or good for the tank? <Harmless; indeed, somewhat beneficial as they will be helping to speed up the decay of detritus in the substrate, preventing anaerobic decay. They will also provide a certain amount of food for species that graze on or sift the substrate. If you have an excessive number of them, it likely implies that there's a lot of organic matter in the sediment, which implies you are either overfeeding your fish or under-cleaning the substrate. Either way, controlling the food supply will go a long way to restricting the population of these organisms.> Many thanks, Don <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Black Pepper Size Critters in FW Tank   - 7/2/08 Many thanks, Neale, we appreciate your advice. <Most welcome!> I have visited your area years ago, I think it dates back to the Bronze Age; I visited after that! <I see!> Thanks for clarifying that we are indeed "brackish." We will watch the overfeeding. <Very good.> Your answer begs the question: Since we need (want?) the gravel substrate to anchor our many plastic plants (oxymoron?), the UGF is along for the ride and we don't see getting rid of the UGF, it does the job. <Quite; UGFs can work very well, provided their limitations aren't a problem for your particular set-up. Turned into a reverse-flow system by adding a canister filter to the mix instead of powerheads/airstones and you have one of the single best filtration systems around.> What is the thinnest we can go on depth of the gravel and still accomplish the UGF function? We understand too deep is bad (anaerobic dead spots), and too thin does not accomplish the mission. <I'd recommend 8 cm/3". Does of course depend on the grade of the gravel; finer gravel will provide more surface area per unit depth.> It would seem that vacuuming and cleaning are simplified with a minimal thickness of gravel. We operate two Aqua Clear 400 power heads (1 in each back corner), and also a Fluval 405 and a Fluval 305. Again this is a 125 gallon tank with no live plants, and approximately 50 community fish. The gravel is on a raised plastic tray. We remove plastic plants, caves, etc to gravel so there is never a dead spot due to a fixed decoration. <Ah, I suspect a reverse flow system is precisely what you need. All you do is connect the canister filter outlet to the inlet of the UG filter plate. So water gets filtered mechanically by the canister (removing silt and organic debris) and then pushed from underneath the filter plate up through the gravel into the tank. As it goes through the gravel, the ammonia and nitrite are removed. The really big advantage is that the gravel now becomes 'self-cleaning' because silt and debris can't settle into it; instead the upwards flow of water constantly cleans the gravel, pushing fine particles into the water column.> Thanks again for your time and efforts toward this fishy fun. Cheers, Don and Rosemary <Cheers, Neale.>

Brackish Sponges and Regenerating Mangroves  4/17/08 Hello, I always read this amazing website for helpful information! I have a new (been running for 3 months) brackish tank with a SG of 1.006, and one Monodactylus (I did have two but he cruelly mauled the other one). <Not uncommon behaviour; I've found largish odd numbers, i.e., 5+ specimens work best. Mixing them with Scats and West African Monos seems to help, strangely enough. Perhaps stops any one fish becoming over-dominant.> I would love to keep coral, but I have found that they cannot live in brackish water. I have seen many pictures of colourful sponges growing on mangrove roots, and they look surprisingly like coral. Please could you tell me if you know there are any colourful brackish sponges available? <There are many brackish water sponges, and actually quite a few freshwater sponges -- but to the best of my knowledge none of them are traded. While some "reef" invertebrates have turned out to be shallow marine environment organisms that do well in brackish water at middling salinities -- Clibanarius tricolor for example -- I'm not aware of any sponges or corals that fit into this category. Beadlet Anemones (Actinia equina) do fairly well at reduced salinities to around SG 1.015, maybe lower, and despite being temperate organisms in the wild can thrive in well maintained tropical tanks. I'd recommend those perhaps as the best alternative, and sometimes they are traded as "brackish water anemones". I'm actually a bit dubious of their long term survival (they aren't normally found in mid- to low-salinity brackish environments) but some aquarists have had reasonable success with them If you live somewhere they are naturally found, as here in England, you can of course collect your own as they are very common organisms. When collecting wild livestock, do always remember to take the minimum number, minimise disruption to other organisms, and don't collect from places it is illegal or dangerous to do so.> Also, I have a few Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) propagules in a pot. Because it is very cold here, I keep them in a heated propagator. The other month, the pot fell over as I placed the lid on to the propagator and this chopped the crown off three of the mangroves, far behind the bottom growth nodes! Recently, little red bumps have appeared at the base of the stems, and They have grown into large glossy red buds! I am amazed, because I thought they would die for sure! A few years ago, I killed a mangrove that had a very long stem with 7-8 pairs of leaves by deliberately pinching the top bud off. I have a small photo attached showing the buds. <Nothing attached.> Hopefully they will grow further into interesting plants! <Indeed; good luck!> Thank you very much for your time. James <Cheers, Neale.>

Snail/Puffer Eco System  11/6/07 Hello, I am cycling fishless, currently waiting to set up a Figure 8 puffer in a 30 gallon tank. <Very good.> I have done a good amount of research and one of the things I have noticed is that a lot of sites say F8s dont need snails to wear their beak down, but the ones that seem devoted to the brackish fish all say F8s needs snails, including this one. <It's one of those points where "your mileage may vary". Figure-8 puffers do NOT seem to be among the Pufferfish species prone to overgrown teeth. South American freshwater puffers (Colomesus spp.) and the Asian genera Auriglobus and Chonerhinos seem to be much more troubled by this issue. This likely reflects different rates of tooth-growth, presumably connected to different types of food in the wild. But that said, Tetraodon spp. can get overgrown teeth. So providing at least some shelly food is a good idea, and snails are very convenient.> I am a bit of a softy when it comes to live feeding but under the right conditions (one being I really really like the fish, second being tank sustainability of the live feeder) I will. <Indeed. Sticking live food into a tank adds a load to the filter, and in the case of Pufferfish, there are clear advantages to keeping water quality as a high as possible.> My questions: What would be the minimum to feed F8s keeping them happy and healthy. Say, a basic Feed snails every six months for a week response. <It all depends. If you're giving the Pufferfish just soft food, such as bloodworms, day in, day out, then you may find the teeth become overgrown. In this case, using snails once a week would be a good idea. But if you're feeding them unshelled prawns, frozen krill, live woodlice and other prey that have shells already, the teeth may wear down just fine by themselves. So rather than looking at snails as a "cure", take an holistic approach instead. Try and make sure most meals are "crunchy" so that the puffer's teeth wear down all by themselves. The grocery store and the back garden will both provide plenty of suitable fodder. Unshelled prawns can be taken apart easily enough. You eat the yummy meat, but give the legs and tail-fins to the puffers. My puffers love woodlice, and these make a very satisfying crunching sound, suggesting that they are plenty hard enough to wear down the teeth if used regularly. And so on. Use your own common sense and see what you have to hand.> Second question is, is there a snail that will out reproduce my puffer or out reproduce my puffer enough that I would only have to buy a new set of snails every few months or so? <The ideal in many people's opinion are the small pond snail Physa spp. These are the semi-transparent snails often seen in aquaria. They are easy to rear in ponds. But I have to admit my puffers eat them only grudgingly, and normally only if I crush them first. So again, your own experiences will have to colour your actions.> This site states that the Malaysian Trumpet Snails are okay for Brackish water but I have read elsewhere that they cant live in any salt water. <Melanoides tuberculata will thrive at anything up to around 50% seawater salinity. They are phenomenally durable animals.> I do know they breed very fast. <Indeed. But some aquarists have connected broken teeth on their puffers with the presence of Melanoides snails. I have to admit to being skeptical of this, having watched Pufferfish crack open oysters in the wild, but in the interest of fairness I will at least recount those observations. I have Melanoides snails in many of my tanks, and puffers will sometimes eat the tiny juveniles. But they seem to show no interest in the adults. Quite possibly their shells are too strong for the small Pufferfish I'm keeping to open. On the other hand, I don't have "plagues" of these Melanoides snails in my tanks, at least not in the tanks with Pufferfish. So the puffers presumably do kill enough of the juveniles to moderate population growth.> I know Olive Nerites ARE brackish snails but also read they are slow breeders. <Nerites don't really breed at all in aquaria. Their life cycle seems to be fairly tricky to accommodate in captivity. Some people have had success, but it seems more by luck than judgment. Be that as it may, Nerites are practically bullet-proof, and small puffers don't seem to be able to eat them.> Is there another snail that would fit my bill? <The pond snail Physa is likely the balance between size, ease of care, and willingness to breed. Apple snails could be reared separately, but they don't last long in brackish water so would have to be added "one meal at a time".> Basically my thoughts are, if I have to feed live, I want to do it as minimal as possible, or set up a system where, with other then a few interventions, is nature-like and the live food can benefit from being in the tank also. I am I crazy? <Not crazy at all. I've found Pufferfish teeth get worn down "automatically" in tanks with a combination of Melanoides snails and silica sand; one or the other doesn't seem to work by itself. Possibly foraging in the sand combines enough grit with the prey animal to do the trick. Others have experimented with "feeding stones". These are rough rocks such as Tufa and pumice into which suitable food (such as prawn) is smeared and then any loose food rinsed off. To get the food, the puffers need to work away at the rock -- just as they would do in the wild. Yet others simply get into the routine of doing the dental work as and when required. It's really not that difficult, though admittedly requires a steady hand! Cheers, Neale>

Brackish Water Invertebrates  6/26/06 Hello Bob, <Nope, it's Pufferpunk here, to answer your BW Qs.> I came across your site - very interesting and informative. I have a brackish tank - it's been running about 3 years now and is populated with Bumblebee Gobies. Can you tell me if there are any brackish water invertebrates such as shrimp, etc which help keep the tank clean and not eat/get eaten by the gobies? <Ghost shrimp should work, if acclimated correctly.  ~PP> Thank you, Melissa Stanton Marine Inverts in Brackish Aquaria?  - 01/03/2006 I've looked all over the web on this question. <All of it? It's a big place.> So ya'll are my last hope on this one.   <I'll see what I can do Obi-Won...I mean Michael.> I have a light brackish 29 gallon with an Archer and a Leopard Puffer.  My question is can I buy a saltwater crab and acclimate it to my tank. <Generally speaking; no. Reef Invertebrates come from one of the most stable environments and can not adapt to such a change.> I am willing to increase my salinity, if need be. <Research WWM re: the proper environment for marine inverts.> I know puffers eat crabs and snails, however mine is pretty small and well fed with lots of cover in tank for hiding. <You'd be surprised how much damage that little beak can do.> Maybe a larger crab or hermit? <See above.> Thanks, Michael <Welcome, Adam J.>

Thread-Like Worms 3/12/05 Dear Crew, <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I have a GSP in a 10 gallon brackish tank. The fish appears fine and is eating fine. His right gill slit is slightly opened (you can see a pocket of pink) compared to the left but he is not laboring to breathe. I think he was like that since I purchased him 1 month ago? No parasitic infestations are apparent on the fish. There are however wiggly 3 to 5mm thread-like worms swimming freely in the water and appear to be multiplying (not sure). The fish is fed frozen and dried krill, blood worms and brine shrimp and also live snails a few times per week. He is feed once a day six days a week. The GSP is uninterested in these creatures but are these worms parasites and potentially harmful to the puffer? They do not appear to be Planaria or leaches or insect larvae. They might have a head-really hard to make out however. Please advise or reference. <The white worms you speak of appears in tanks that are overfed and contain less than optimal water. They are harmless, but the fact that they're in the tank means you need to feed less & do more water changes (50% weekly is recommended). A 10g will not hold a GSP for long. See: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/gspsart.htm  ~PP>

Anemone & Puffers?  1/18/05 Bob you have a great web site. <This is Pufferpunk here, but I'll thank you on behalf of Bob.> My question is if you think a Beadlet anemone would work in a brackish water system. I have read it would.  My specific gravity   is about 1.020, ph is 7.0 and since it is a new tank set up there is really not any ammonia. <Although 1.020 is actually considered low-end SW, I wouldn't suggest an anemone with your puffers.  They may try to eat it & get extremely sick.  I have heard of them dying this way.  I am concerned about your low pH though.  SW requires a pH of at least 8 to keep it stable & also your puffers & scat prefer a higher pH.  what kind of substrate are you using?  Using aragonite or crushed coral, should keep it around a steady 8.  Has that tank been cycled?>   I have 1 green Scat and 2 Green Spotted Puffers. <The scat will grow as large as your outstretched hand & the puffers will get to be 6".  Both are messy eaters & high waste producers.  Good filtration, a large tank & regular weekly water changes are in order for these fish.  As juveniles, it actually is best to keep these fish in a lower SG.  See: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/gspsart.htm> Also I'm thinking about purchase a Snowflake Eel, but the pet shop said the puffers were trying to consume the eel. Do you think that I should purchase the eel anyway?  I don't want to make the deal then find eel pieces later.  I think the problem was that the eel didn't have a shelter to hide in. (I have two). <I generally don't recommend keeping GSPs in with any sedentary fish.> Please help!!!!!!! Sincerely,  BrackishBeast <I hope this helps,  ~PP>

Brackish snails  4/13/04  <Hi, Pufferpunk here>  Are there any snails that can survive in salinity of between .006 and 012?  <Nope. There are no BW snails. FW & SW snails will die in BW. ~PP>

Brackish snails 4/13/04 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> Are there any snails that can survive in salinity of between .006 and 012? <Nope. There are no BW snails. FW & SW snails will die in BW. ~PP> I saw this posted today and I do believe that the Olive Nerites snail is a true brackish water snail native to Florida ( http://www.advancedaquarist.com/issues/sept2003/invert.htm).  I have a dozen of them in my brackish (1.010) tank and they do quite well. I also have several dozen in my freshwater tanks although soft water can cause shell erosion over time. These are the most versatile snails I've ever had since they eat algae, leave plants alone, are adaptable to a wide variety of water conditions, and my clown loaches don't eat them. They're also inexpensive at www.azgardens.com.  

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