It all started with our utter frustration after 4 + years of battling Aiptasia. Nasty Aiptasia, that seems to sneak in every time a new coral comes in. The RedSea chemical only set them back a few weeks & then voila - they were back. So, more research. Hmm, Raccoon Butterfly Fish actually eat the stuff, once they are introduced to it. Sold!!! Found a nice healthy Raccoon at our favorite shop & home we went. There were a number of Aiptasia in the overflow section so we popped Mr. Raccoon in there so he could discover his fondness & feed off them. Separated from the rest of the tank it was essentially Aiptasia or be very hungry. He chose the Aiptasia & within about a week they were gone. We were already quite smitten with him & now he'd exceeded expectations. Carefully netted him & introduced him to the rest of the tank. He was pretty darn happy with all that room, more Aiptasia to eat & even the rest of the fish were not that harsh on him. Our research & observation taught us that he is indeed a voracious carnivore. Will not touch the pellets of seaweed etc the other fish love so much. Essentially it's meat or nothing. So we slightly increased the frozen brine, mysis, etc we fed the tank on in the evening to ensure he received sufficient food. He was growing, looking really good & full of energy.
Among our corals were two nice, healthy clumps of Hammer on the left reef of our tank. We weren't paying enough attention but when one morning we noticed the one clump totally gone & checked for the other one only to find it also gone we were initially mystified. A few days later yet another coral just disappeared over night - what the heck? Then the morning came when our entire patch of GPS didn't awaken with the day, only the purple corpse remained. Mr. Raccoon had literally been eating his way through our corals! We reached out to folk at our wits end because by this time we really, really enjoyed him for himself, but we also enjoy our corals.
The ONLY solution we were offered was a flat - get rid of him. "Once a Raccoon starts eating your corals you can either say farewell to having corals in your tank or get rid of him. "
Well, that didn't sit well so we decided to try something. Thanks to Covid, we're home all the time & have nothing but time. Mr Raccoon was going after our Kenya tree & our Gorgonian by this time. Spent literally hours just sitting by the them & scaring Mr. Racoon away from them every time he even went near, let alone tried to take a nip. After about a week, our Tang seemed to get into the spirit of things & would literally chase Mr. Raccoon away from the those corals. At the same time, observation noted he was seriously into feeding both in the pre-dawn our lighting provided & again in the moonlight. We therefore made feeding adjustments & gave him a protein snack in the moonlight & again in the pre-dawn. All the other fish, except the clowns are asleep at that time so Mr. Raccoon has a belly filling nibble & is much more agreeable about leaving the Kenya Tree & Gorgonian alone. He has shown that he can be trained, which is huge but it does take a lot of time & patience. He is now testing us with the Toadstool & so we are doing the same thing along with the reinforcement from the Tang. It's day 2 of his attention to the Toadstool & he is now able to swim past it without undue interest about 75% of the time. I suspect we will have to go through training with each and every coral.
I wanted to share this saga if there are others out there struggling with the same issues. If you have the time & patience they can indeed be trained to leave your corals alone & they are a truly delightful fish. Once we have trained him from all the corals currently in our tank we plan to begin replacing the eaten ones & then carefully train him from each one.