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Can I get a sea slug as a pet?

Can I get a sea slug as a pet?

Sea slugs are fascinating marine mollusks that come in a dazzling variety of shapes, sizes and colors. They live all over the world, mostly in shallow coastal waters. Thousands of sea slug species have been identified, and more are still being discovered. With their colorful patterns, interesting forms and alien-like appearance, it’s no wonder that some people consider keeping sea slugs as pets. But is it actually feasible to have a sea slug as a pet? Let’s take a closer look at what’s involved.

Basic Needs of Sea Slugs

Like any living creature kept in captivity, sea slugs have some basic needs that must be met in order to keep them healthy. Here are some of the main requirements for keeping sea slugs:

Tank Size A minimum 10 gallon tank, larger is better
Water Temperature 65-80°F depending on species
Water Salinity Fully marine saltwater
Water Flow Moderate flow and water circulation
Tank Mates Peaceful fish, some inverts
Diet Sponges, soft corals, other small invertebrates
Tank Decor Plenty of live rock, spaces to hide

As you can see, sea slugs require a properly cycled and matured saltwater aquarium setup. The tank water must be maintained within the appropriate temperature and chemical parameters for the species. This requires an adequate filtration system, protein skimmer, circulation pumps and regular partial water changes. Their diet in captivity consists of sponges, coral polyps, and other tiny marine invertebrates.

Challenges of Keeping Sea Slugs

While sea slugs are fascinating creatures, there are some challenges involved with keeping them in a home aquarium environment:

– **Specialized diet** – Most species need to eat live sponges or coral polyps, which requires providing a steady supply of live food. This can be difficult compared to fish that eat prepared foods.

– **Sensitive to water conditions** – Disruptions to water chemistry like pH, salinity, or temperature can quickly stress or kill sensitive sea slugs. Their tanks need stable water quality.

– **Easily stressed** – Sudden changes to lighting, water flow, or tank mates can irritate sea slugs. Significant stress may cause them to stop eating.

– **Short lifespan** – Many sea slugs only live for a few months, limiting the duration they can be safely kept. Species with longer lifespans tend to be rare and delicate.

– **Require mature tank** – They should only be added to established aquariums with ample growth of live rock and invertebrates. This takes patience and time to properly mature a tank.

– **Difficult to acquire** – Finding healthy sea slugs from a reputable source is not always easy depending on where you live. Many species are still uncommon in the aquatic trade.

Selecting a Sea Slug Species

There are thousands of sea slug species with a wide variability in size, lifespan, habitat, and dietary needs. Here are some of the most popular species successfully kept by home aquarists:

Species Max Size Lifespan Care Difficulty
Blue dragon (Glaucus atlanticus) 1.5 inches 3-6 months Moderate
Sea hare (Aplysia spp.) 12 inches 1-2 years Easy-Moderate
Lettuce sea slug (Elysia crispata) 2 inches 3-8 months Easy
Bearded sea slug (Flabellina iodinea) 2 inches 8-10 months Moderate
Leaf slug (Elysia spp.) 1-3 inches 6-12 months Moderate

When selecting a species, it’s important to research their specific care requirements and whether they will suit your tank conditions. Beginner friendly species like the Lettuce sea slug are more tolerant of minor husbandry mistakes. Avoid rare or delicate species if you don’t have prior experience with sea slugs.

Acquiring a Sea Slug

Sea slugs can periodically be found at saltwater aquarium stores and online retailers. Here are some tips for finding and choosing a healthy specimen:

– Check locally first – Visit nearby saltwater aquarium stores since sea slugs don’t ship well over long distances. Ask when they expect to have sea slugs in stock.

– Search reputable online retailers – Websites like LiveAquaria have a wide selection that can be ordered online when in stock. Read reviews about other customers’ experiences.

– Join sea slug enthusiast forums – Members will post when species become available both locally and for order. People also trade or sell directly to each other.

– Look for active healthy behaviors – Select specimens that are actively crawling around and responding to stimuli. Avoid sluggish or damaged animals.

– Quarantine new arrivals – Allow 2-4 weeks of quarantine in a separate tank to monitor health and acclimate to your tank conditions.

Sea slugs are specialty creatures that can take time and effort to obtain. Have the tank fully ready before beginning the search. Be patient since availability fluctuates at retailers.

Caring for Your Sea Slug

Once you have successfully located and acquired a sea slug, here are some tips on caring for it in your tank:

– **Slowly acclimate** – Float sealed bag for 20-30 mins to adjust temperature, then add small amounts of tank water every 10 mins.

– **Provide suitable foods** – Offer pieces of preferred sponges, corals, algaes, etc. Remove uneaten food to avoid fouling water.

– **Ensure adequate water flow** – Use powerheads or pumps to create flow across live rock surfaces where sea slugs graze.

– **Perform regular testing** – Check ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, pH, salinity, calcium, and other parameters frequently.

– **Do partial weekly water changes** – Replace 10-15% of tank water weekly or biweekly depending on stocking levels. Use marine salt mix heated to tank temp.

– **Use quarantine tank for sick slugs** – Isolate and treat any unwell individuals until they recover to prevent disease spread.

Monitor your sea slug closely for signs of stress like changed coloration or lack of appetite. Be prepared to treat for common aquarium pests like aiptasia anemones if they appear and bother your slug.

Key Takeaways

– Sea slugs have specialized care requirements including appropriate water quality, diet, tank size and decor.

– There are challenges to keeping them including short lifespan, sensitivity to changes, and acquiring live foods.

– Select hardy species like Lettuce sea slugs for the best chance of success. Avoid rare delicate species.

– Find specimens at local aquarium stores or reputable online shops. Take time to properly quarantine.

– Care requires stable tank conditions, suitable diet, water flow, frequent testing, and partial weekly water changes.


Sea slugs can make fascinating additions to saltwater aquariums when their needs are met. While they do present some husbandry challenges, certain species are viable pets for experienced aquarists with mature tanks. Make sure to thoroughly research care requirements before obtaining one. With their colorful diversity, sea slugs allow you to have a stunning piece of the ocean in your own home.