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Red Bugs can cost you thousands of dollars

Red Bugs on Acropora in Red Sea Max 250

Red Bugs on Acropora in Red Sea Max 250









Have you looked closely at your corals recently? Does your tank have Red Bugs or as the scientists call them Tegastes acroporanus? Reach back to your general biology knowledge from high school or college: it is an arthropod – an invertebrate (no bones) with an external skeleton and related to other arthropods like the scorpion, spider, shrimp, crabs, lobsters and over one million other species of arthropods.

How do you identify Red Bugs?
Are your corals losing color,  have stopped growing, receding and refuse to extend their polyps, then look closely at your corals, and if you see tiny, almost microscopic yellow dots with a smaller red dot, then you have Red Bugs. However, they are only found on smooth-skinned acropora corals in the aquarium and can be seen moving around. To aid in identification, use a magnifying glass or a zoomed in or macro shot of corals with your camera.

Do you need to get rid of Red Bugs?
Not necessarily. If they have no effect on your corals then you don’t need to. However if you have Red Bugs and your corals start to lose color, stop extending polyps and coral starts receding in size, you should get rid of those Red buggers. IT’s the irritation from Red Bugs that cause these unwanted effects.

How do you kill Red bugs and their eggs?
Yes, they lay eggs! You need a dog heartworm medication called Interceptor available by prescription from a veterinarian. It has to be Interceptor and not any other heartworm medication. The necessary active ingredient is Milbemycin oxime.

Does it affect other corals, fish or other living things in my reef aquarium?
It has no visible effects on fishes, corals, worms, flatworms, snails, starfish, clams, sea urchins according to the developer of this treatment method.
It kills amphipods and copepods however, both of which are arthropods and related to Red bugs. Interceptor may also kill crabs and shrimps.

2 Treatment methods:
1. Dipping: Take the affected corals out of your tank and dip in a solution of Intercepor in salt water.

Positive: The amphipods, copepods, crabs and shrimps in your tank will not be harmed.
Negative: There may still be Red bugs and/or Red Bug eggs elsewhere in your tank that will not be killed and continue to affect your corals.

2. Treat the whole tank multiple times.

Positive: You will kill all Red bugs and Red bug eggs.
Negative: You will have to remove your crabs and shrimps but I wonder if they can carry Red Bugs and reinfect the tank? Probably not.

Treatment (whole tank):
You will need 3 treatments one week apart to kill all Red Bugs and Red Bug eggs.
Dosage is 25 milligrams (mg) of Interceptor tablet per 10 gallons of aquarium water.
Take into consideration the volume of your tank and sump. Don’t forget to subtract the volume created by your rocks and other masses in your tank.
For example: I have a 65 gallon tank without a sump. It is about ⅓ filled with rocks, so
65 gallons – 21.67 gallons equivalent volume of rocks = 43.33 gallons
44 gallons / 10gallons = 4.4
4.4 x 25mg = 110mg of Interceptor tablet

Note: If dipping your corals, use the same above concentration.

1. Remove Carbon, GFO and turn off ozone and UV sterilizer if you have any of those in your tank or sump.

2. Measure appropriate amount of Interceptor using this scale (I used this cheap and accurate scale). Crush tablet with the back of a spoon and measure powder. One of my Interceptor tables weighed 0.98g (treats 360-400 gallons).

3. Dissolve powder in 0.5-1 gallon of tank water.

4. Add to tank.

5. Allow to circulate for 6 or 12 hours.

6. Change 25% of water.

7. Add fresh carbon.

8. 24 hours later add back any crustaceans.

9. Repeat again every 7 days 2 more times.

Remember, it is necessary that all of the areas and equipment that are usually exposed to your tank water need to be treated. Your skimmer has to not skim but still be exposed to the drug. You can leave your skimmer on but detach the air feed hose.

The original treatment method was developed by Dustin Dorton. I used the whole tank treatment method above and successfully eliminated all traces of Red Bugs. I lost a Skunk Cleaner Shrimp I couldn’t catch.

Disclaimer: Use at your own risk. I have shared what worked for me and Dustin’s method.

One Comment

  1. This is my first time pay a quick visit at here and i am really pleassant to read everthing at single place.


  1. Red Sea Max 250 reef destroyed! | Red Sea Max Reef - [...] terrible thing has happened: Acropora Eating Flatworm (AEFW) invasion. After the Interceptor treatment for the Red Bugs pests, these…

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