Tiny white bugs on reef tank glass can be small aquarium pests. However, some of these little white aquarium bugs can be beneficial for your tank.
This guide reveals the five types of small white bugs that can be in reef aquariums.
You’ll find out how to identify these white bugs, the risks they bring (if any), and the ways to get rid of them.
Marine copepods are tiny white jumping bugs in the reef tank aquarium.
Marine copepods are flea-like crustaceans that appear as tiny white specks of dust on the reef tank glass.
These are beneficial organisms for your reef tank aquarium. They’re known as the cleaners of the fish tanks because they feed on the algae, detritus, and fish waste in the tank.
Marine copepods are also food sources for the fish in the reef tank. Many fish species in the reef tank prefer to eat these nutrient rich microbes.
Reef tank owners also add marine copepods in their reef tanks because of their benefits.
Marine copepods are in abundance in all types of water bodies, including saltwater bodies, in nature. They’re a vital part of the oceanic ecosystem.
So, if you’re noticing little white flea-like creatures on the reef tank glass, then consider it’s a blessing for your reef tank.
Marine copepods pose no risk to the corals and fish in the reef tank. It’ll be best not to get rid of these beneficial crustaceans from your reef tank.
Like the marine copepods, the amphipods also form the part of natural clean-up crew in the reef tank.
But the amphipods look different than the marine copepods.
The most significant difference is that the amphipods are transparent. And they’ve got flat long C-shaped bodies.
The amphipods are tiny and white. But some of them can be light brown, green, or dark brown.
Amphipods play a significant role in nutrient recycling inside the reef tank. They’re also nutrition rich high quality food sources for the fish in the tank.
It’s a general practice to introduce amphipods with rocks in the reef tank because of their ability to keep the tank clean.
The most common places where you can notice amphipods in the tank are on the reef tank glass, rocks, filter pads, and on coral substrates.
You don’t need to remove amphipods from your reef tank. They’re beneficial aquatic life for your reef tank.
If you’re seeing tiny white bugs on the viewing pane and on the substrate, then it’s ostracods.
Ostracods are less than 1 mm in size with elongated bodies.
Ostracods feed on the organic debris in the reef tank’s filter and on smaller invertebrates in the tank.
These microbes can eat marine copepods and amphipods in the reef tank.
That makes them crucial for the tank’s ecosystem because ostracods will keep their numbers balanced.
Ostracods, also known as the seed shrimps, are not harmful for fishes in the reef tank.
Ostracods are food sources for many benthic fishes, like dragonets, mandarin fishes, and sleeper gobies, in the reef aquarium.
When observed under the microscope, ostracods aren’t typically white.
They’re oval-shaped, white with black patterns on their bodies, and have appendages at the rear end.
White flatworms are nuisance pests in the reef tank. But you shouldn’t take their presence lightly.
It’s because their presence can signify the presence of their harmful counterparts, the red flatworms.
The white flatworms have elongated bodies with a pair of pointed ends. Their body shape is like the ghost from the movie Casper.
And they move like Casper too. White flatworms are fast movers. They’ll glide over the surface using their ciliated undersides.
White flatworms are visible on glass of the reef tank, especially in the corners or by the sand margin.
When the infestation level is low, the white flatworms are difficult to spot. But when their numbers increase, they’re easily visible in your tank.
White flatworms, belonging to the Convolutriloba species, are not a threat to the fish and the corals in the reef aquarium.
It’s the red flatworms that are harmful for your reef tank.
The body shape of the red flatworms is like the white flatworms, but they’re red.
The red flatworms compete for food with other microorganisms inside the reef aquarium.
And they will damage the biodiversity and micro fauna inside the tank.
Red flatworms don’t eat coral. They’ll hide in the cracks and recesses of the rocks where their prey resides.
It’s hard to notice the red flatworms when the infestation level is low. But it doesn’t take long for their population to spike up.
I highly recommend doing a tank-wide treatment on noticing white or red flatworms.
Hydroids are tiny, white, and sometimes fuzzy-looking jelly fish like microorganisms that can attach to the glass of reef tank.
Hydroids in the reef tank can attach themselves to any surface, including the rocks, inside the tank.
Most reef tanks get hydroids. It’s an inevitability.
Hydroids are pests in the reef tank that get inside the tank by hitchhiking on live rock, macroalgae, or sand.
Hydroids are notorious stingers. They’ll sting corals, fish, and most notably, sea horses inside the tank.
Hydroids can also sting you while you’re cleaning the tank.
The best way to get rid of hydroids in the reef aquarium is by physically removing the hydroids and the rocks.
Wash the rocks with hydrogen peroxide and follow it up by cleaning them in saltwater before putting them back in the reef tank.
Marine copepods, amphipods, ostracods, white flatworms, and hydroids are the five tiny white bugs on the reef tank glass.
Hydroids, and the dangerous close relatives of white flatworms, the red flatworms, are threats to the marine environment in the reef aquarium.
Marine copepods, amphipods, and ostracods are harmless. They’re beneficial white bugs that help in maintaining cleanliness in the reef tank.
It’s important to identify the specific type of tiny white bugs in your reef tank to determine whether they are beneficial or harmful.
If you are unsure, it’s best to observe them closely and seek advice from experienced aquarium hobbyists or professionals for proper identification and guidance on how to manage them.
For your reef tank aquarium, just like for your swimming pool, good hygiene practices are essential.
Regular water changes, proper feeding, and tank maintenance go a long way for the better health of your reef tank and its inhabitants.
Dr. Thomas Orbert, the Microbial Maestro, dances with the tiniest of creatures as an entomologist extraordinaire! With a PhD in entomology, his passion lies in unraveling the secret symphonies of insect-microbe interactions. From minuscule marvels to captivating complexities, Dr. Orbert unveils the hidden world of bugs, igniting curiosity one buzz at a time!