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Thread: Tegastes acropor**** (The Red Acro Bug or Red Bugs)

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    Tegastes acropor**** (The Red Acro Bug or Red Bugs)

    Tegastes acropor**** (The Red Acro Bug or Red Bugs)
    by Shadowramy 03-17-2010, 02:41 PM http://www.salt-city.org/showthread.php?t=16646
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    Pest, Predators and Prevention – The Series

    Volume 1: Tegastes acropor**** (The Red Acro Bug or Red Bugs)

    Well its been awhile since my last article and with the recent developments in pest prevention I thought it would be a good time to do a series on reef pests and preventions. Additionally, at this years KMAC (2010) I will doing a workshop on this same topic but it will be more of a general discussion on all pest and prevention.

    Let us start this series off with one of the better known pests, Tegastes acropor**** or as most have heard of it as the red acro bug or simply as red bugs.


    My experiences with red bugs started in 2005 when I first bought local frags and got ‘the bug’. One day I was reading about my newly purchased corals only to discover these ‘red bugs’ had become a threat to Acropora, sure enough after running down to my system and checking the new corals out they where there, little red dancers scampering across my newly purchased corals, and of course I panicked.

    Let me start off with some descriptions:

    Red bugs where first reported in the early 2000s when coral propagation was really starting to take off. They are said to be originally discovered in the Marshall Islands as copepoda: harpacticoida. Officially named Tegastes acropor****, the red bug is in the family Tegastidae and is actually in the subclass Copepoda (a copepod). Some have theorized that this is either a parasitic form of a copecod or micro-amphipod. Eric Borneman first believed that these to be “amphipods, probably of the genus Tegastes, but not T. a cropor**** (5th maxilliped is different)”. Additionally, Dr. Ronald L. Shimek described them as, “harpacticoid cop epods probably of the genus Tegastes2, but not easily distinguished even under the microscope.”


    Red bugs are said to host on corals feeding off the slime and waste products produced by Acroporas. They are parasites in nature and although they may not directly kill corals right away the will effect color, growth and survival rates, basically red bugs damage until the coral dies. This negative effect is a slow process of destruction and can take place over weeks or months.


    Visual Identification

    Since Red Bugs are copepods they are very difficult to see with the naked eye. Red Bugs are actually yellow in color with red in the middle of them. When you do see them, they look like little red dots on your corals, sometimes you can actually see them moving (rather fast) across a coral, others just stay firmly attached and stationary. They are approximately .5 mm in length, a little smaller than a standard text period ( . ). Sometimes shinning a flashlight on the suspected coral helps reveal them through their reflective fluorescent red glimmer.



    As stated, Red bugs are difficult to see, you will not be able to see these flea-like bugs by simply glancing over your corals they are just too small. However, there are couple ways to help identify this little beast by the symptoms they cause in corals.

    First off, we know that red bugs are drawn to SPS, specifically to Acropora species; therefore your birdsnest, stylos, pocilliporas, montipora, etc. will be safe. Secondly, Eric Borneman has stated; “They only parasitize Acroporids with enough coenosteum to move around (not the A. millepora type).” What this means is that they are more common on ‘smooth-skinned’ Acropora and are less prevalent on ‘hairy’ corals such as A.millepora. Borneman has actually tried to get them to host other SPS but states; “They die and will not go onto these corals.”


    Signs of Infected Corals

    There are several signs that a coral have been infected by Red Bugs and is slowing killing the coral. If you suspect that the overall health of a coral is declining you might want to look further, even remove the suspected coral from the system for a closer view of its surface.

    The initial signs of infection are reduced polyp extension followed by loss of color. The continual ‘biting’ of the coral then can succumb to tissue loss or a uniform brown color in the coral. Finally the growth rate is slowed; bleaching can occur followed by coral death.



    Typical Signs in Progression

    * Loss of polyp extension, less ‘puffy’ coral tissue.
    * Loss of color. The pigment is lost from the tips and branches and typically gets a more overall brown color.
    * The coral growth slow or stops.
    * Loss of zooxanthellae (pigment) results in the coral bleaching (losing tissue and turning white)
    * Death of colony

    Note that local spread to colony wide tissue lose is more than likely the result of Red Bugs colonizing other corals, stressing by consuming the tissue masses. Meaning, Red Bugs don’t stop at a single coral, they spread.


    Lifespan and Reproduction

    I believe this is still being debated but the typical consensus is 3 to 5 days, although research has shown after 3 days the Red Bugs are pretty much dead. We do know that Red Bugs can not survive in a system without Acropora species corals, they will simply die. They are direct developers so there is no larval stage to worry about. Red Bugs basically hatch, eat, lay eggs and die.

    Red Bugs pretty much stay stationary, however they do swim well, therefore they are not limited to a single colony. Some can embed themselves into the coral making very difficult to remove consuming coral tissue.

    This is some really good information when it comes to treatment and eradications of this pest; Life span is 3-5 days, they are free swimmers and egg-layers. Armed with this knowledge several hobbyist have tried many different treatments and as a result of their ‘experiments’ it is now possible to stop the red bug infestation completely.


    Treatments

    Let start off with a known reef safe, non chemical treatment. The Dragonface pipefish (Corythoichthys haematopterus). This pipefish will anchor itself to a coral and actually feed on redbugs. However it is not know if it will also feed on the eggs. Dragonface pipefish can be acquired for around $35-$30, they are peaceful but require at least a 50 gallon system. They are considered semi-reef safe. Although the dragon face is one of the hardiest of its kind, pipefish in general are difficult to keep due to their feeding requirements.



    I would rate this treatment as a 2 on a scale of 10.

    Next would be individual dipping. I did this for awhile but unless you do all of them at once it is really not worth the time over doing a full tank treatment. However, dipping newly aquired frag or colonies can follow these same procedures.

    Dip Suspected Corals

    It has been recommend that iodine dips work the best, which is basically Lugols solution and aquarium water for ~15 minutes. Another favorite is Reef Dip by SeaChem.

    Although I do not like or recommend iodine based dips on Acropora species, iodine can stain corals Acro in which they might never recover, I can see this as a “no other option” method.

    I prefer to use Two Little Fishes Revive or mix up a batch of Interceptor (see Full tank treatment for interceptor usage).

    I do not believe Revive will kill Red Bugs and it definitely does not kill Red Bug eggs however it will stun them allowing you to blow them off the coral. The recommended steps are as follows;

    * Prepare a container that will fully submerge the coral in which you want to dip.
    * Fill container almost completely with tank water.
    * Use 1 to 2 capful of Revive and mix with container full of tank water.
    * Submerge a power head or air-stone into the container full of tank water and revive.
    * Submerge a single coral into the container with the power head/air-stone running for 10 minutes. The power head/air-stone will act in ‘knocking’ the red bugs off the coral.
    * While waiting 10 minutes, prepare another container with tank water.
    * After 10 minutes, blow off the coral in the water and shake it in the water a couple time and move to the new container of just tank water.
    * With the coral in the new tank water only container, once again shake and blow off the coral. Inspect the coral thoroughly and place in a QT tank.
    * Keep and eye on your new coral and inspect daily. After 5 days to 6 weeks the coral can be place in the main system.

    I would rate this methods effectiveness as a 5 out of 10.


    Full Tank Treatment with Interceptor

    The full tank treatment with interceptor was originally developed by Dustin Dorton at ORA and refined by Eric Borneman. It involves treating the complete system with Milbemycin oxime. This is the active chemical in Interceptor a de-worming medication for dogs. This medication is only available through a prescription from a vet and has been found to directly attack the red bugs. However, interceptor is very invasive because the chemical is not discriminate on red bugs alone, amphipods, snails, crabs, shrimp.. all crustaceans may effected and/or be killed. This treatment is by far the best of the three options.



    Eric Borneman and refined the treatment further by upping the dosage up to 5 times that recommended by Dustin Dorton with up to 24 hours of exposure and considers interceptor as "coral safe' but is not "reef safe."

    I have done this treatment many, many times and follow the general guide lines of both Dustin and Eric however I believe it is not necessary to mass water changes at the end of the treatment cycle.

    The ShadowRamy Method



    Tools:

    * Enough interceptor to supply at least 1 large pill per 100 gallons.
    * Enough GAC to supply 1 cup of GAC per 100 gallons of system water.
    * A spoon and ceramic bowl.
    * Two ½ gallon containers.
    * Fish Net (just in case you can get that last shrimp out you might be able to save him later.

    Steps

    1. Remove any crustaceans, shrimp, crabs, etc, that you do not want to possibly lose. Fish and coral of course are okay.
    2. The dose is 1 large interceptor dog pill per 100 gallons of water. This doesn’t have to be specific, if your tank is 120 gallons you can do 1 pill, 1 ½ pill or 2 pills if you like. More is actually better in this case.
    3. Crush the dog pill using the back of a spoon an ceramic bowl. You basically want to turn the pill into powder. The finer the powder the better you can get it into the water without clumping.
    4. Turn off all Phosphate and/or Carbon reactors or remove phosphate and/or carbon bags. Do not turn off your skimmer but simply submerge the air-line into the water. The reason you do this is that you want the Interceptor to go through every part of your system but you don’t want the chemical taken out through skimming or chemical processes. I also like to remove any mechanical filtration (socks, sponges, etc.) Also, what the reactors and mechanical filtration in hot water before replacing in the system.
    5. Take approximately ½ gallon of tank water into a container and mix half the interceptor dosage into the water.
    6. Slowly add the interceptor mix to you system. I put a little in the main tank, a little in the sump a little into the frag tank until it is gone.
    7. Keep watch for the fish for the first hour. If you run into any issue with fish respiring too heavily and they look like they might be dieing, turn on your skimmer, connect a GAC (carbon) reactor and do an immediate water change.
    8. Most likely after the first hour everything will look fine, so you can mix up the remainder of the interceptor powder and distribute it through out the system.
    9. I let my system run for a minimum of 24 hours.
    10. After 24 hours you can turn back on your skimmer, and replace the GAC reactor (with new media) and/or Phosphate reactor.
    11. After about 12 hours with the skimmer on and reactors running if you have removed any shrimp, crabs, etc, they can go back into the system.
    12. You’re done.

    The reason I don’t do any water changes is that I believe that after 24 hours interceptor is ineffective anyways, so doing a water change doesn’t really help anything (unless you are do a water change). If it were effective then it could be used in re-made batches for frag dipping, I have tried it and it just doesn’t work after 24 hours, plus you would have to dip for at least 12 hours to be remotely effective anyways.

    This is by far the most effective treatment. And once treated should be retreat again in 3-5 days in case of any eggs that hatched and survived the treatment. Some people like to do a third treatment in another 3-5 to be sure, this is optional, and the two treatments usually do the job.

    Doing this treatment is not a scary as it once was, as a matter of fact I do the treatment every three months just to be safe and don’t think twice about it. However I no longer keep crabs or shrimp in my system and usually buy a bag of copepod a week after the treatment to restart my pod population.

    Since the Interceptor is coral-safe overdosing is not an issue, therefore ‘perfect’ measurements are not required, just get close estimates.

    Conclusion

    Red Bugs can wreak havoc in a system if remained unchecked. Treatment with interceptor is very easy and is by far the best treatment when use as a full system treatment. The life cycle of red bugs last from 3-5 days so dipping may not guarantee complete removal, but the full tank treatment will.

    The biggest thing I want to express here that doing a treatment should not be any more worrisome than doing a water change. Don’t let being afraid of tank crashes stop you from a full tank treatment.





    References

    Pests Invading the Reef Aquarium Hobby: Part 1 - Red Bugs & Nudibranchs
    Drs. Foster & Smith Educational Staff
    (http://www.liveaquaria.com/PIC/article.cfm?aid=120)

    The "CURE" for Red Acro Bugs
    (http://www.reefs.org/forums/viewtopi...55#439155%29by)

    Red Bug Treatment
    http://www.salt-city.org/showthread.php?t=6277

    Red Bug Treatment Thread on Reefcentral (http://www.reefs.org/phpBB2/viewtopi...9155#439155)by Dustin Dorton

    Red Acro Bug Cure Discussion on Reefcentral (http://www.reefs.org/phpBB2/viewtopi...er=asc&start=0) by Dustin Dorton

    Pests Invading the Reef Aquarium Hobby Part 1: Red Bugs and Nudibranchs (http://www.liveaquaria.com/general/g...al_pagesid=351) Liveaquaria.com
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    There is confusion in his article on the dosage, here is the update;

    The dosage used in an aquarium to kill redbugs is 25mg (0.025 grams) per 10 gallons of actual tank water . That is 25mg of the entire tablet. Each tablet in the pack of 6 will treat about 380 gallons. The tablets are ground with a mortar and pestle into a fine powder.
    The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. - Jacques Cousteau


    Wine is for wisdom, beer is for strength, but bourbon is the water of life.


    The New glass 300 build
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    Just came across a few alternatives to interceptor. Bayer advanced completer insect killer; http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/sh...t=bayer&page=2

    Ivermectin; http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/sh....php?t=1966226
    The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. - Jacques Cousteau


    Wine is for wisdom, beer is for strength, but bourbon is the water of life.


    The New glass 300 build
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