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FAQs about Non-Vertebrate Animal Identification 1

Related Articles: Marine Invertebrates, Quarantine of Corals and Invertebrates, Feeding Reef Invertebrates, Lighting Marine Invertebrates, Water Flow, How Much is Enough,

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Tubiculous (tube-building) polychaete worms... some can be tiny. N. Sulawesi pic. 

Live Rock Hitchhikers……just Google WWM… 10/10/05 Hello, I'm starting up a new tank about day 15 in the process, most of my time is spent watching the dozens of different species popping out my live rock. Since I'm new I am not familiar with a great deal of these species.  Is there a photo gallery, book or web tool I can use to identify these and possible other more common live rock residents? <Have you searched the site? http://www.wetwebmedia.com/lridfaqs.htm  See this an the related FAQ's and Links, Adam J.> <<reefs.org should actually have a forum section dedicated to this.  Marina>>

LR hitchhiker  9/19.5/05 First let me say what terrific job you have all done with WWM. After laying off the hobby for about 15 years, I'm now back in ways I hadn't planned, WWM has been a wealth of new information. I'm fascinated by this LR thing which wasn't around much way-back-when. My question is that I have a small LR in my 29 gal. QT (3 weeks) and have just discovered the latest and  most troubling hitchhiker. What looked to be just a coralline encrusted lump on the rock has revealed itself  as a 1" clam of some sort. How can this even be alive in an environment that has virtually no outside source of nourishment? <Mmm, yes...> The troubling part to this is that I had intended on putting the LR into my FO display tank, but don't know how to care for it (the clam), and don't want to set up a reef system. It  makes me sad to know that this creature will probably starve in a FO, or now I guess, FOWLR environment. What can I do?? <I would place it and not be concerned... perhaps there is/will be enough food produced...> Thanks again for such a wonderful job! Roger <Thank you for your kind, encouraging words, and welcome back to the hobby. Bob Fenner>

Creature 7/5/05 Hey guys, <Michael> Need a little help with an ID. I have found a picture on the site of the creature but not a name or reference for it. Here is the link: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marinvind1.htm. It is the whitish critter on the top of the column of creature photos. It is in my tank, but I don't have a clue what it is. <Not a critter, it is macro algae, don't recall the name of it though.  Do a search on the WWM, keyword "macroalgae".  James (Salty Dog)>                                         Thanks

Critter IDS 9/9/03 Please take a look at the attached photos. What is the red net-like growth that looks like it will eventually cover coralline algae. Good or bad? <it is Gelidium, a red algae. Tends to be a nuisance if you have excess nutrients in the tank to feed it - invasive and not readily eaten. Urchins may be necessary to control it. Aggressive skimming and good (weekly) water changes are better to simply prevent it from taking over> If bad, what can be done? It is not exactly widespread but there are a couple of significant patches and Sailfin Tang seems only mildly interested. Also, what are the little white fuzzy things on the floor of my sump? <harmless/helpful filter-feeding Syconoid sponges of the genus Sycon. Do enjoy!> There are about 30 of them in a 40-gallon sump and the largest are about 1/4". Have not seen anything like them in the display tank. System is a 165 that has been running for almost 4 months and is very lightly stocked so far; Snails & Hermit Crabs, 5 Chromis, 1 Sailfin, 1 Leather, 1 Brain, 1 Trumpet and put in a small Acropora frag 2 weeks ago to test the system and so far it looks good as does everything else. Regards, George. <all good... best regards. Anthony>
Chiton ID 9/9/03 I found this guy this morning right in the middle of my hammer coral.  It is about size of a thumb, does not appear has a shell.  It will be great if you can ID it for me and like to find out if it is reef safe. Thanks, Wayne <your critter is a chiton, and likely an algae grazer as most are. They move very little if there is sufficient microalgae to graze upon. No worries... but do keep an eye on it. Best regards, Anthony>

Microscopic white spots on the tank glass II >Thx for the reply.   >>You're welcome, sorry for being so long with this next response, death of a friend and all, had to take some time off. >What's PODS and why is it good?  I read other PODS related articles on your site, but am still not 100% clear on PODS.  Since they stick to the glass, how do I clean the tank glass w/ scrub without killing these beneficial bacteria/(what's the right name for them)? >>"Pods" is actually the tail end of bigger words that describe the different families of "pods".  There are isopods, arthropods, copepods, many many pods.  They are not bacteria, they are.. "their own thing", little critters.  They are good because they can indicate a general health of the system (being invertebrates), and they feed many creatures we like to keep in our systems.  You won't kill them when you clean the glass, the vast majority will be living in, on, and around your live rock and sand. >Can the Vermetid worm grow big and be harmful to the fish/crustacean in the tank? >>No. >Thank you very much for your advice.  Adrian >>You're welcome, Adrian.  I hope this has helped.  Marina

LR Identifications Dear WWMCrew: <Hi there> I've attached two pictures.  These are of things that came on Florida aquacultured live rock. <I see> The first picture is of a purple bushy thing. We have two of these, and one is placed close to the light, the other far from the light.  Both appear to be dying (they were shipped to us only a week ago).  Could this be a type of sponge, and we need to get them out before they pollute the tank too much? <Not likely a sponge... but could be. Looks to be an algae. I wouldn't worry about it> The second picture shows a horn shaped creature with alternating maroon and cream colored "pie slices" on the horn viewed from the front.  If you look closely, you also see small tentacle-like things on the horn, especially around the edge. <Yep. Some sort of polypoid animal... maybe an anemone...> The second picture also shows what appears to be a small anemone, tan with a little white.  It's harder to see in this picture, but if you had a guess about it's identity that would be welcome too. <Can't do... too small, obscure> The live rock also has some corals, which I assume are stony corals.  They appear to have survived shipment and their polyps have opened up after a few days in the tank.  How can I tell if they're doing OK? <They are... as they appear to have survived the rigors of collection, processing, shipping... and so much life is... part of your shipment. Enjoy it... as this and much more will unfold, supplant, be supplanted by other forms in time. Bob Fenner> Thanks. Tom

Re: Identifications Thanks, Bob. <Welcome> It's fun to get a reply from you, though I can't complain about the helpful previous exchanges I've had with others on your crew. <Good to hear/read> Since my son and I started this project with naivet?and three books (one yours) last June, common refrains in this household include ... "Fenner says ...", "According to Fenner ...", "What does Fenner say about that?".  Yours became the book we most trust. <Around here it's "That knucklehead said what? Just get back to 1) vacuuming, 2) making meals, 3) writing..." Do you have a recommendation of a good field guide to invertebrate life in the Caribbean? <Oh yes! The best bar none is Humann, Paul and Ned Deloach's wonderful series "Caribbean ... Guides"... you can find these most anyplace... maybe take a look on seachallengers.com re>   I'd like one good enough to identify these creatures that we continue to find on the live rock. <Is fun, never-ending source of wonder. Be chatting, Bob Fenner> Tom

-Atlantic live rock hitch-hiker- I recently purchased a 10lb live rock (Atlantic aqua cultured) which seemed to relatively sparse of life. As with all live rock, there are some things that weren't present at first now showing themselves. I have a question about this one because I have not seen anything in my two months of reading that indicates what this might be. So my best to describe it to you since I don't think I can get a decent picture. <ok> It appears to have very long tentacles, which stretch out from a central point at the base of the rock. These tentacles are a pink/salmon color, and have no visible cilia. The tentacles are thinner at their outward ends, and slightly thicker at the base. They seem to move around, expand and contract, and are responsive to light. These tentacles are very thin in comparison to their length, some appear to be 8 inches or more in length with no more than 1/10th an inch in diameter at the base. <I'd wager that it's a polychaete commonly called a spaghetti worm. You'd notice that it can reach out for a small piece of food, then reel it in with one or more of its arms> I understand that in the future I should quarantine any life form to be introduced into my tank, but I am at a very early stage (started just over a month ago) and have been just placing the rocks into a bare tank. I have no fish, only one coral and three crabs, all of which were additions made with live rock. I am concerned with this particular item because it is able to reach out so far. If it is a stinging celled animal, I am not sure what kind, or what to do to eliminate it if that is the best course of action. <No need to worry, completely harmless and beneficial> As always any information you can provide is very much appreciated! John <Good luck! -Kevin>

Xeniid shrimp id AntBuboine, can you id this Palaemonid for me? You had said someone sent you a pic recently... Boub

Hippolyte commensalis (Xeniid shrimp) Holy cow, Bob! How did you see this little bugger?!?!? <Found by the dive guide... I would gladly 'fess up otherwise 'twere it so> You are the man... seriously: Hippolyte commensalis <We're da fishmen!> a gorgeous critter on a gorgeous coral <G>. I should not be surprised to admit it... and it took me long enough (thanks mostly to your tireless efforts)... but, I'm a dreaming and a hankerin to do some serious (but safe <G>) reef diving. <Omigosh!> Still got tons to work out at home... as you know, my grandparents were/are everything to me. These years are precious. We took my gram to the docs today too for more tests... there are some sobering concerns re: leukemia now. Will be taking her for second tests next week :( And then to Cape May, NJ for a quaint retreat for a few days thee following week (Di knows/likes Cape May Point?... 'tis my speed :) <Okay> At any rate... the dive vacation that I promised myself after we finished NMARI... I will take after NMA RF <VBG>. Time and funds allowing :) Maybe Fiji. <Let me know when, and let's go> I thank you sincerely for your inspiration in so many ways to me, my friend. Antoine <The feeling's mutual compadre. Bob F>

Nobody Knows the Pods I've Seen! >Hello, >>Hello, Marina today. >Sorry for the long email.   >>What?  Apologizing already?  We haven't even gotten into it! >Just too many interesting, mysterious things happening to my tank. I've a 55 gal saltwater tropical tank w/ some hermit crabs, Astrea snails, Nassarius snails, emerald crabs, 2 Firefishes, 1 longnose hawkfish, 1 yellow watchman goby, 1 maroon clown, 2 shrimps, anemones, and some live rocks and plants.  The last several days, I've noticed some microscopic white spots (size of dust) on the tank glass and become more everyday, and they crawl on the glass.   >>Cool! >I hope they are not parasites or some bad bacteria growing in the tank.   >>Parasites don't normally infect glass, and bacteria is usually microscopic.  You, my friend, have a real case of the PODS going on there.  But guess what.  It's a really good thing! >Do you have any idea what they are?  Are they eggs of any invertebrates?   >>Nope, I know of no eggs that walk. >There is another interesting discovery I want to share with you.   >>Heh.. alright.  I hope you didn't pick it from anywhere upon your body.  Ok, I know.. EW. >I have some live rocks in my tank.  Last couple weeks, I notice a worm like thing is sticking out of a hole on one of the LR. It's kind of white, has width of a thread and moves around.  I even once saw gravel/sand/stone bits falling out of the hole.  I wonder a worm/something is growing in the LR and has matured enough to come out of the LR.  Do you know what that is? >>Sounds like a Vermetid worm for me.  There are many critters that lodge in and on the rock, and send out long, sticky "threads" with which they catch "goodies" (detritus is a "goody" to these guys), reel it back up (just like my favorite bass fishin' game!) and eat it up YUM. >Finally, my friend gave me something like [link]. >>Oy.. can't follow a link in a response, mate.  Time to c&p I s'pose.. Well, if it was a moon polyp (zoanthid), why didn't ya say so?? >...and I put it in the tank.  After couple weeks, a polyp is growing  on one of the dead rocks in the tank.  It looks like one of these: [that would be a bad request], [another bad link], or [another bad link] I think they're all zoanthids].  It's brown.  When I put my finger close to the opening at the middle, it closes up.  Is this possible?  Thanks,  Adrian >>LOL!  Yo! Adrian!  Of course it's possible.. unless you're on some mind-altering drugs, eh?  Yes, it's possible that the zoanthid would close up when you stick your finger close to it.  ;)  Have fun, but be careful where you stick your finger, my friend.  Marina

Unidentified Snail >Hello again Crew...Attached is a pic (little blurry) of an unidentified snail in my tank.  They are multiplying like crazy, and was wondering if I should be alarmed.  They are all over the live rock, and sometimes venture up the glass.  I hope you can make out the pic.  Please let me know If I should snap a couple more pics for you.  Steve >>Steve, great shot of the penny, the snail looks like a booger.  Marina

Funny creature... Flatworm eating copepods 9/1/03 Crew. I have had two of these little things making rounds on my glass.. its fun to watch them.. they almost look like some sort of jelly fish, appears they maybe are feeding on diatoms? <actually a flatworm/Planaria feeding on copepods... quite harmless> I was wondering if you might be able to help me identify it? They shrink and expand their bodies to move around. I don't think it would cause any trouble, but any information is appreciated. Thanks! See image here: http://www.johnslife.com/images/squidly.jpg   Thanks again! John <they wax and wane with the copepod population. Anthony>

Hitchhiker ID Here's one of the attachments, the three jpegs together are 591K. <Got it! Is some sort of polypoid animal... Anthozoan, likely an anemone species of some sort> You can't tell from the photo, but these polyps are really small, the largest is about 1/4 inch. The ones in this photo have spread from a zoanthid frag. They seem to be stinging the Zo polyps on that frag because the zoanthids are closed most of the time. <Maybe because of this organism... I would try to isolate, remove them... perhaps with the help of the same organisms employed to eradicate Aiptasia> Thanks so much! <Good luck and thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner> > <Images not loading. Can you resend as attachments? Bob Fenner> > Can you ID these polyps? They are small (about the size of GSP), > brown, > and translucent, rather like Aiptasia. Each polyp has eight feathery > tentacles. They resemble green star polyps, but they don't appear to > have a sheath, and are not joined by stolons. It looks like each is > attached to the rock individually. > I'm worried because they've rapidly spread to the main rockwork in > one > tank. They hitchhike on various corals and frags. All our tanks have > them.

Caulerpa? Hydroid! I have taken these photos of some mysterious things that recently appeared on my glass.  Thousands of them all over my glass.  They are tiny, I took the photos with a magnifying lens.  The snail in one of the photos is a pretty small snail, I would say less than 1/2".   I thought it might be Caulerpa because I was getting some from a local supplier to feed to my tang.  One of the larger sections turned white and I removed it from the tank, but less than a week later I had all this new growth.  I read all the Caulerpa FAQ's but it never really talked about what this stuff looks like when it starts out and can it grow on glass? What do you think? <These look like hydrozoans, hydroids to me. Not really desirable... nuisance, sting-everything sort of creatures. Hopefully they will "cycle out"/disappear on their own... and soon> It seems to be anchored to the glass in the middle and has branches that move in the current.  The branches have thin and bulbous sections and each individual has a different number of branches. <Place the term "hydroid" in your computer's search engine/s. Bob Fenner>
Uninvited Guests? I have taken these photos of some mysterious things that recently appeared on my glass.  Thousands of them all over my glass.  They are tiny, I took the photos with a magnifying lens.  The snail in one of the photos is a pretty small snail, I would say less than 1/2".  I was just wondering if you know what they are and if I should let them grow or try to get rid of them. I have 2 clownfish, 1 tang, 1 spotted mandarin, 1 goby, live rock and live sand.  Some hermit crabs, emerald crabs, snails and 2 starfish. I thought it might be Caulerpa because I was getting some from a local supplier to feed to the tang, but he does not think that it is. <Well, to me- they look a lite like baby Turbo snails...Maybe Trochus, if the shell is more "pointy". Either way, they are beneficial, and you can always supply your buddies with some good algae grazers!> I have been told sand sifting starfish, but they appear to have more than 5 legs and there are thin areas and bulbous areas.  I was also told coralline algae, but I could not find photos to support that either. I have been told to leave them, and to remove them. Any input would be greatly appreciated. <Well, if it were me, I'd leave them alone for the time being. If you are seeing some "collateral damage" as a result of their presence, then get 'em outta there! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Creature IDs 8/27/03 Greetings, Anthony, Are these mean looking things dangerous? Thanks as always, Stormbringer <the first pic is fine and desirable calcareous sponge... the second is a zoanthid, very nice. No worries my friend. Anthony> Ascidians 8/27/03 Hi There! As always a sincere thanks for the time and effort spent on such quality community oriented effort! <our pleasure> I have an unidentified something on a live rock that I purchased about 2.5 weeks ago. When I first got the live rock these things were not so scattered, and were smaller/darker blue. Can you give any insight into what this might be? Any info is appreciated! http://www.johnslife.com/images/unidentified1.jpg <they are filter-feeding Ascidians... AKA Sea Squirts or Tunicates. Short-lived bacteriovores for the most part. Very beautiful and varied. Anthony>

Marine creature IDs 8/25/03 Hi Guys, <howdy> I just noticed a strange fuzzy white ball-shaped mass hitchhiking on the back of one of my Margarita snails and I don't know if I should be concerned about it or not.  The margarita is a healthy snail around an inch or so across and the mass is about a quarter inch in diameter.  It appears to have some dark flecks throughout as well.   Any advice would be appreciated greatly.   <its tough to make any ID without a pic or better description. Still... I'll play the odds and guess it is a small Syconoid sponge. Do a web search of our site and beyond for the genus "Sycon"> Thanks.  Also, a couple of other odd snail like creatures about a half inch long very slender ice cream cone shaped with dark coloration and some circular striping. Also don't know about and whether to be concerned.  Thank you again! <perhaps harmless and beneficial Cerith snails. This might be a good place to plug our new book, "Reef Invertebrates" Fenner/Calfo which covers most any non-cnidarian invertebrate you can think of <G>: http://wetwebfotos.com/store/nma-ri.html  International Shipping Available> Sincerely,    Richard Schulde    Misawa, Japan <best regards, Anthony>

Identification of worm - 8/17/03 I found this worm-like creature crawling on my leg while I was doing dishes.  Can you please help me identify it? <hmmm... nope, but it does remind me of how humid FL is and how I dread the bugs there <G>> Thanks Michelle Robertson Florida <an underwater pic would be easier for the ID. to see the setae, if any, and the appendages. Best regards... wear thick stockings. Anthony>

My Snail Looks Like a Worm - 8/13/03 Thanks in advance for any help. I have some sort of a worm that showed up just recently and I am hoping you can ID it. I have a good pic. It is forming an orange spiraling tube and as far as I know never sticks out passed the end of it of course I may not have witnessed it yet too. Any help is appreciated.  Thank you, Shane <your creature is a sessile Vermetid snail. Looks very much like a spiral Serpulid worm... but not so here. Filter feeds similarly, although you may notice it putting out a mucus net to catch food on occasion. These creatures and so much more <G> are pictured on page 197 of our new Reef Invertebrates book (Calfo and Fenner). Best regards, Anthony>

Critter ID? - 08/12/03 <Hi Steve, PF on call tonight> In my 45 gallon, 45Lb Fiji LR, 45 Lb live sand tank, I have a serious cleanup crew, <personally, with all their antics, I find mine kind of humorous>2 Pepp. shrimp, 1 emerald crab, 2 chocolate chip stars <these are not clean up critters, these are "scour the life off the rock" critters, be aware they will anything they can>, 2 false clowns, and 1 queen conch <FYI Steve, these get big, real big. Like to keep one, maybe you should have a tank about 10 times as big as your current one. Consider this a fair warning>...I have noticed a couple of snails who have stayed alive, and not placed by me in the system. They are growing and one is roughly up to about 2 mm in length...guestimate!  They are 2 toned striped lightish brown/khaki with the other stripe being a little darker brown.  They make their way around the rock and sand...mostly rock.  Any ideas? <Well, in all honesty, no. At that size, they could be juveniles of some sort, or perhaps a species of very, very small snail. I'd watch them, and make sure they don't nibble on anything, but if they just appear to be eating algae, you've scored yourself some free clean up critters> The other things I am trying to ID might be a little tougher.  I find them mostly floating on the top of the tank, and don't seem alive.  The are small maybe 1 mm long tubular things that from afar look like worm segments.  Up closer they look tubular still...but...one side of them looks transparent, and they other much darker and opaque.  The transparent end almost looks like a tail, and comes to a point...while the darker end is more rounded.  It has equidistant segments to it...with microscopic points (seem under magnifying glass) coming out of the side in am almost flat tubular body(?) shape.  they crunch and flatten when squeezed between fingers (exoskeleton?)...nothing in the tank eats them to the best of my knowledge...and like I said are mostly found floating.  I have tried to be as descriptive as possible, and hope you can help!  Steve <Well Steve, in both cases a picture is worth a thousand words. Your little floaters could be some kind of worm, there are thousands of undescribed species out there, and they don't sound familiar to me. Sorry to give you two "your guess is as good as mine's in a row, but with the incredible variety of life out there that hasn't been seen, ID-ing something off a written description is a tough proposition. At any rate, if they're not harming anything, I wouldn't worry about them. Good night, PF>

Tiny star-like creatures on glass - cannot identify Dear Crew, Okay.  I have read through the microbiology FAQ and info.  I checked some other sources, but to no avail.  Also, I have a friend who has seen my creatures in his tank before, but has no idea what they are either.  They are probably harmless, but I have seen a very noticeable bloom over the past two days.  Anyway: 20 gallon, live sand, 40 lbs. live (dense Florida) rock, fully cycled, with fairly high nitrates - about 18-25 - (I'm still working on trial and error with feeding the arrow crab, brittle star, peppermint shrimp, hitchhiker anemones (not Aiptasia, thankfully) and 2 hitchhiking tiger gobies (Gobiosoma macrodon - very tiny, 1" and very low body mass).  Also, 10 snails, 15 or so blue-leg hermits.  Calcium is high - 500 (it's the Coralife salt mix - I want to change as soon as my bucket is used up so I can set up a drip system with limewater to help precipitate phosphates and assist with maintaining alkalinity), phosphates are at .03 - .08, depending on feeding, and alk is at 2.5 - 3 meq/L.  Using CPR Bak-Pak and Custom SeaLife actinic/white PC fixture (2 x 65w) with moonlights. Creature description (I do not have a digital camera): 1-1.5 mm round center with many 1 mm hair-like appendages radiating outward from the central disc.  They are white, and stuck all over the glass.  The shape resembles a sunburst shape.  I have not seen them move, but they weren't there before, so they must at some point.  What are these things?  Anything to worry about?  Indicators of some underlying problem, or something good? <These could be a couple of things, hard to pin down without a photograph. More than likely (at the size you are describing) they are foraminiferans, harmless bacteriovores who are an interesting boost to your system's biodiversity. Scrape them off all you want, they will come back.> Thanks so much for your input. Erin
<Best, Chris>

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