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purple tunicates


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Two words: stay away.


Yes, they are very nice looking, but IME, and the experience of many others I have read, they are extremely difficult to keep. I made the newbie mistake of buying a blue (colonial) tunicate at one point, after listening to the lfs guy tell me it would be fine. The next day it went back to the lfs because it had started a rapid decline. I have no idea if it made it at the lfs or not. I do know that they had a similar tunicate in their 180 show tank, and that one looked good for 2-3 weeks and then disappeared, presumably melted down. Now, maybe a purple tunicate is a different beast altogether, but if it's anything like a blue tunicate (and I'm assuming it is), then it's not highly recommended.

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I have numerous purple tunicates in my tank....somewhere. I received three little colonies in my first livestock order (they were a gift from the store) and they have lived thru all kinds of horrors. mine were covered in algae and sadly they fell in the back of the tank so I cannot reach them. I can sort of make out the shape of them thru the cracks in the rock so I know they are there.

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Never bought a tunicate but sure have plenty. They seem to pop up a few months after the liverock goes in. I have them everywhere, blue and white, and they are doing just fine. They are a very basic filter feeder, not far up the evolutionary ladder. If you have feather dusters and they are living and looking healthy, then a tunicate should do fine. They are "bi-valve" creatures but not as complex as a clam. They eat plain old phytoplankton and do not need light. They are as common as pods and should really not be difficult to keep.

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Tunicates are actually chordates, the phylum to which vertebrates belong. They are much more advanced, evolutionarily speaking than any Cnidarian, worm, mollusk, Arthropod or Echinoderm.


Some tunicates appear to do well in aquaria, others (including the commonly offered purple ones you speak of) do not. One thing to keep in mind is that many of these have natural life spans of only a few months, and with the filtration most reefers have the planktonic larvae rarely survive to establish new colonies. But if you have no mechanical filtration and don't skim they probably will propogate just fine (again, not the purple ones though).

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I have had no problems with the purple ones but I might just be lucky.


Steve, I love the new tag, now all that is missing is an avatar to go with the title. Good to see you have a sense of humor. It's surprising how some people butt heads with ESPI and don't see the humor he mixes in with his sarcastic dribble.

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Like sjpresley said, they are species dependent... It is like asking if sponges are easy to keep. Some keep very well some die off. If your LFS gets them in all the time, just ask about them. I had a tank that used to sprout sea-squirts all the time, and my 12 has had an odd green one for a long time. Keep them OUT of the light!! The will be covered in a thin layer of algae, which will keep them from being able to syphon the water to pull out nutrients. They can also add to your tanks natural filter system, kinda like clams.

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