How to Handle the Discovery of AEFW


Acro Eating Flatworm Eggs

You come home from work, tired and dreading the routine tasks that lie ahead with your reef tank. You crawl out of work clothes, grab a cold beverage, and head to the aquarium. Perhaps along the way you grab the fish food out of the freezer, and as you approach the tank you count all your fish and give your corals a quick once over. Everything seems fine on the surface. Your fish are all accounted for, the corals haven’t fallen over, so you proceed with your daily activities, all the while still inspecting the gorgeous Acropora corals that are in your possession.

The corals all look fine, except for that piece you got from the frag swap a few weeks back. The polyps aren’t really extending, the color kind of sucks, and you’re assume maybe it’s in an area of bad lighting or poor water flow. You grab the step stool, get armpit deep into your aquarium, and realize there are white spots on the underside of this new coral. Fearing the worst, you yank the coral out of the tank faster than a hobbyist can grab up free crap at a local get together, and proceed to dip it in an iodine solution. Fingers crossed and heart pounding, you pray for the best but expect the worst. And living up to your expectations, you see a small, flat, pinkish colored worm peel off your Acro. Your heart sinks, your jaw drops, and the emotions and thoughts run wild. The frag you got came from a respectable source. The hobbyist you purchased from is a legend in your community, or at the very least is well respected. You even dipped the coral prior to putting it in your aquarium. Despite these perceived safe routes you have taken, you now have Acropora Eating Flatworms (AEFW), or as experienced reef keepers like to call them…Reef Herpes.

So how do you react? Do you get on the local forum site and send out a warning to other hobbyists? How about a lengthy expletive-filled post ripping the guy a new one? To exact revenge and public humiliation at this point seems so justifiable, right? The guy did, after all, give you one of the most notorious pests in the reef aquarium hobby. And now you don’t have just a few daily tasks to take care of before getting to relax in front of the computer or television. Instead, you’ll spend the next several hours dipping and inspecting corals, and the next several weeks potentially battling an infestation.

Keep reading below for the honorable thing to do when discovering you just contracted reef herpes, aka Acropora Eating Flatworms (AEFW).

When situations like this arise, the best thing to do is focus on the tank. Begin the process to get your aquarium healthy and pest-free once again. Take your time, be calm and collected, and when you get a free moment from the daunting task, contact the person from which you bought coral to inform him or her about the AEFW. Chances are they aren’t even aware of the problem. Additionally, let anyone who has recently bought frags from you know the situation as well. There’s no need to inform the entire community of your plight, unless you want to of course, but at this point I would just let those who you possibly infected know what’s going on. Some of the hobbyists who bought from you may be pissed off, but chances are most will thank you for telling them of the issue and proceed to inspect their corals for the pest. If you run around blasting people on your local community’s website, you’ll not only damage the reputation of the person you are calling out, but people won’t look too favorable upon you either. So keep that in mind before you fly off the handle.

Photograph above courtesy of Marc Levenson of Melev’s Reef and Reef Addicts.


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