Mactan Island, The Philippines
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While providing great clean up services of algae when all other members of the clean up crew refuse to eat it, I feel they are a last resort and should only be kept in a reef aquarium under supervision, in that I mean keep an eye on them. They have extremely powerfull "beaks" as mouths and have no trouble at all in taking bites out of rock. So if you value your coraline algae, these would not be a good choice. Also, if you have an acrylic tank, those same beaks can chew right through acrylic just as easily as it can rock. Personaly, I dont allow them in my tank, simply because they can be very destructive by their eating habits and just by plowing through the reef and knocking every thing over. The only ones that I have kept were not by choice and came in hidden on live rock, one type was the black long spined and the short spined rock boring type, yes...rock boring. They can turn a nice piece of live rock into a very artfull recreation of swiss cheese. I imagine there are types that can do well within a reef tank, for me, I just haven't had that kind of luck with them and would only add one as a desperate measure to wipe out a large algae problem.
Do note that not all sea urchin species are herbivores. There are quite a few species that during their grazing, will consume all life that is found on what ever patch of rock they happen to be feeding on. Some species have been known to eat soft corals as well.
Just as with all animals being considered for your aquarium, you should research each species for its suitability. Be aware that some species are venemous and can pose a health risk to you as well.
Anatomy and Biology of Sea Urchins - An extremely good article by Dr. Ron Shimek.
Sea Urchins Genome insight - A very interesting read on the simularities between humans and sea urchins.
Sea Urchins, A chemical perspective - A chemical side to sea urchins that may be of interest.
Sea Urchins as part of the Clean Up Crew - A detailed guide as to the benefits and hazards of keeping sea urchins.
Sea Urchin Identification - A good resource for being able to identify a good number of sea urchin species.
Used by permission. Many thanks to Charlies and Linda Raabe for their support. www.chucksaddiction.com