University of Central Florida Undergraduate Research Journal - Preventing Introductions to Sustain Healthy Ecosystems: Establish Eradication Protocols for a Popular Aquarium Seaweed
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Aquarium release, a vector that introduces non-native species, recently caused the costly invasion of the green macroalga (seaweed) Caulerpa taxifolia along the Californian, Mediterranean, and Australian coasts. C. taxifolia was classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as one of the world's 100 worst invasive species and cost California over $7 million to control with black tarps and chlorine bleach. Since the incident, educational efforts at conferences and conventions have influenced more than 50% of surveyed hobbyists to switch to another green macroalga, Chaetomorpha, as their primary alga in their saltwater tanks. C. taxifolia and Chaetomorpha have many similarities, including broad environmental tolerances, high nutrient uptake rates, and the ability to survive and reproduce from very small fragments. Previous studies have focused on physical ways to responsibly eliminate unwanted Chaetomorpha in home aquariums (e.g. boiling, freezing, etc.), yet the only effective eradication method documented is acetic acid. The goal of this project was to determine the minimum treatment combination (quantity and exposure duration) of acetic acid needed to eradicate aquarium Chaetomorpha. We found that a 4% solution exposed for 10 minutes caused 100% mortality within 24 hours. We additionally tested and determined that commercially available vinegar (4-6% acetic acid) was likewise effective, which creates a convenient and safe eradication method accessible to all households.

KEYWORDS: aquarium release, Chaetomorpha, Caulerpa taxifolia, non-native species

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