Aiptasia Eating Filefish: Care Guide

Aiptasia eating filefish, also known as brown filefish or Scribbled angelfish, are a fascinating species gaining popularity in the marine aquarium hobby. As their name suggests, these fish are known for happily munching on Aiptasia anemones, a pest anemone that can quickly overrun reef tanks.

With their big eyes, peaceful temperament, and appetite for Aiptasia, aiptasia eating filefish are a prized addition for many aquarists. However, they do have specific care requirements to thrive. This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about keeping these unique fish, from tank setup to diet, behavior, and more.

Aiptasia Eating Filefish

Overview of Aiptasia Eating Filefish

Aiptasia eating filefish belong to the genus Acreichthys, with the species name Acreichthys tomentosus. They are also commonly known as the brown filefish or scribbled angelfish.

These fish have an elongated body shape with large, expressive eyes. Their head is compressed sideways, and the mouth points upward like a duckbill. Coloration is generally light to dark brown with an intricate pattern of squiggly lines and spots.

In the wild, Aiptasia filefish are found in shallow lagoons and reefs of the Indo-Pacific. They typically live solitary lives, only pairing up briefly to breed. While peaceful towards most tank mates, they can be aggressive towards others of their kind.

Maximum size ranges from 4-6 inches in captivity. These fish can live 5 years or longer in a home aquarium with proper care.

Tank Requirements

Providing the proper aquarium setup is key to keeping aiptasia eating filefish healthy. Here are the recommended tank parameters:

Tank Size

A 30 gallon or larger aquarium is best suited for these fish. Their elongated shape means they need ample swimming room.

Water Conditions

  • Temperature: 72°F – 78°F
  • pH: 8.1 – 8.4
  • Salinity: 1.020 – 1.025

As tropical fish, aiptasia filefish require warm, stable water conditions. Use a good quality heater, thermometer, hydrometer, and pH test kit to maintain ideal parameters. Strong water movement from powerheads provides necessary oxygenation.


Aiptasia filefish are peaceful community fish that generally ignore most tankmates. Good options include:

  • Small wrasses
  • Dartfish
  • Assessors
  • Rabbitfish
  • Fairy wrasses
  • Chromis
  • Clownfish
  • Blennies

Avoid keeping with lionfish, eels, triggers, and large aggressive species that may eat them or nip their long fins. Also use caution when housing with shrimps or crabs, as filefish may snack on tasty invertebrates.

Never keep more than one Aiptasia filefish per tank, as conspecific aggression is likely.


Provide plenty of live rock for grazing, shelter, and territory establishment. These fish also appreciate some open sand bed. Aquatic plants, driftwood, and rocky caves offer additional cover.


Use robust filtration to maintain exceptional water quality. Canister filters combined with protein skimmers, biomedia reactors, and algae scrubbers help manage waste from filefish and their diet. Strong water flow is imperative.


Filefish tend to sift through substrate looking for food. A 2-3 inch bed of fine aragonite sand allows for natural foraging. Bare bottom tanks also work well. Gravel should be avoided, as filefish are prone to ingesting it which can cause impaction.

Diet and Feeding Aiptasia Eating Filefish

With their specialized mouths, aiptasia filefish have unique dietary needs.

Natural Diet

As the name suggests, Aiptasia anemones are the natural prey of these fish. Their mouths and jaws allow them to nip off and eat tentacles and portions of this pest anemone. They may also graze on small worms, crustaceans, and Aufwuchs in the wild.

In Aquaria

While Aiptasia will provide part of their diet, it is essential to provide other foods to ensure complete nutrition:

  • Meaty items: Mysis shrimp, vitamin-enriched brine shrimp, chopped seafood, pellets, gel foods
  • Vegetables: Seaweed, spirulina, marine algae
  • Live foods: Black worms, brine shrimp

Soak dried foods in a vitamin supplement before feeding. Offer 2-3 small meals per day, providing a variety. Target feed with turkey basters or feeding sticks to prevent other fish from stealing food.

Observe fish for signs of bloating, constipation, or wasting, and adjust diet as needed. Overfeeding can be problematic, so monitor intake.

Price and Availability

Aiptasia eating filefish are somewhat uncommon but gaining popularity in the trade. Expect to pay $40-$60 for a healthy juvenile specimen from a reputable retailer. Availability may depend on locality.

These fish are infrequently bred in captivity, so most offered are wild caught. Be selective when choosing a filefish and avoid any appearing stressed, ill, or underweight. Purchase from trusted saltwater sources.

Online vendors to check include:

  • Blue Zoo Aquatics
  • That Fish Place

Local fish stores are another good option, especially those specializing in marine fish. Joining reefing forums and groups can help locate Aiptasia eating filefish when they do come into stock.

Aiptasia Filefish Care Guide

Caring for aiptasia eating filefish is moderately difficult. While hardy, they have some specific care needs. Following these guidelines will keep them healthy long-term:


Use a slow drip acclimation over 1-2 hours to safely introduce filefish to their new home. This prevents shock from parameter shifts. Turn off tank lights and reduce activity during the process.


Always quarantine new fish for at least 2-4 weeks before adding to the display. A bare 29-40 gallon tank allows close observation of health, eating, and behavior. This prevents introduction of fish diseases and parasites to main tank inhabitants.

Tank Maintenance

  • Perform 25% water changes weekly to remove waste and replenish trace elements
  • Check and adjust temperature, pH, salinity, and other parameters daily
  • Test calcium, alkalinity, and magnesium levels weekly. Keep calcium over 400 ppm, alkalinity 7-12 dKH for marine fish
  • Clean protein skimmers regularly to prevent overflow
  • Replace filter media monthly
  • Clean algae off glass as needed
  • Check plumbing for leaks
  • Clean up uneaten food daily

Health Concerns

Aiptasia filefish are fairly sturdy but prone to common saltwater fish diseases. Watch for signs like:

  • White spots (ich)
  • Rapid breathing
  • Clamped fins
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy

Quarantine and optimal care helps prevent most illnesses. Use copper-free marine medications as needed, following package directions. Maintain pristine water quality.


Filefish have delicate bodies and fins. Avoid handling them when possible. Use two nets or aquarium gloves if needing to move them. Never grab dorsal and tail fins. Scoop gently underneath the belly if relocating.


Although peaceful, tankmates should be chosen with care. Monitor all new additions for aggression or compatibility issues. Have backup tanks available in case separation is needed.

Predator Concerns

Moray eels, lionfish, triggers, puffers, and large aggressive fish may prey on filefish. Their small fins are also tempting targets for nippy species like damsels. Only keep filefish with safe community fish.

Reef Compatibility

Many reefkeepers wonder if adding aiptasia eating filefish will jeopardize corals, invertebrates, and other delicate tank residents. The answer is not clear cut. Here are some considerations:

  • Filefish are generally reported to leave sessile invertebrates alone, but may munch on shrimp, crabs, snails, clams, etc. This is more likely if underfed.
  • Small polyp stony corals (SPS), zoanthids, mushrooms, and large polyp stony corals (LPS) are usually safe from filefish. Use caution with leathers and xenias, as nibbling has been reported.
  • Filefish may disturb corals with their movements or damage them by darting into rockwork. Allow open swimming space.
  • If targeting aptasia, filefish presence is temporary until the nuisance anemone is controlled. No need to consider compatibility long-term.
  • Always have a backup plan if the filefish proves too destructive, like a separate tank for removal.
  • Research the individual fish’s disposition before purchase and select a mellow specimen

Common Questions About Aiptasia Eating Filefish

Some of the most frequently asked questions about aiptasia eating filefish include:

Do Aiptasia eating filefish actually eat Aiptasia?

Yes, filefish readily consume this pest anemone in reef tanks. Individual appetite varies, but most filefish become skilled at nibbling the tentacles and main body column of Aiptasia. This provides natural control.

How many Aiptasia will a filefish eat daily?

Consumption rates differ based on anemone abundance, filefish size, and other food availability. One 4 inch filefish may eat 5-10 miniature Aiptasia daily. Watch to ensure other diet needs are met if Aiptasia levels are low.

Can I keep filefish permanently for Aiptasia control?

These fish do not typically live solely on Aiptasia. They need supplemental feeding for nutrition. Filefish may be kept long-term if proper food, tank size, and care are provided. Have another Aiptasia remedy if the filefish expires before the anemone is eradicated.

Will filefish eat my corals too?

Proper reef compatibility is discussed in detail above. Most filefish do not disturb sessile invertebrates if fed well. However, exceptions are possible, especially with large polyp corals. Quarantine the fish initially to monitor behavior before allowing access to an entire coral system.

How long until the filefish eats all the Aiptasia?

The timescale depends on the Aiptasia infestation extent. A few isolated anemones may be quickly controlled in under two weeks. For heavy infestations covering rockwork, treatment can take 1-2 months. Patience is required for full eradication.

Alternatives for Aiptasia Control

While popular, aiptasia eating filefish are not foolproof. They may expire before finishing the job, or prove incompatible with certain tanks. Here are a few other effective options for Aiptasia control:

Aiptasia Eating Nudibranchs

Nudibranch mollusks like Berghia verrucicornis and Berghia stephanieae feast exclusively on Aiptasia. They are smaller than filefish, reproducing until all anemones are gone. However, they can be tricky to locate for purchase.

Aiptasia Control Shrimp

Peppermint shrimp, harlequin shrimp, and other cleaners will eat Aiptasia. Results are mixed though, and shrimp may ignore them in favor of other foods. Best used for maintenance after initial knockdown.

Copperband Butterflyfish

This aptasia eating fish is reef safe but requires a large tank. It may snack on coral polyps too. Use with caution and have backup food prepared.

Chemical Control

Aiptasia killing products like AiptasiaX physically destroy anemones. Effective but labor intensive for large infestations. Use as a spot treatment if Aiptasia persist after other methods.

Manual Removal

Physically removing the base and tentacles using a knife, toothpick, or blunt needle can work for small numbers of Aiptasia. Combining manual efforts with biological control is most effective.


Aiptasia eating filefish offer an appealing natural method to battle the Aiptasia pest anemone in reef aquariums. When provided with proper housing, diet, tank mates, and care, these unique fish can thrive while helping rid systems of a stubborn nuisance. However, they are not a standalone fix-all, requiring supplemental foods and consideration of long-term compatibility. By following the guidance in this care guide, aquarists can successfully leverage aiptasia eating filefish to their advantage in the battle against Aiptasia.