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Re: Unusual aquatic catepillars(?)

Hi people:

I have finally re-setup my 50gal aquarium after moving (ok it took 2 years). I have been following the list though and I
think I have an interesting and novel observation.
My tank currently has as many fast growers as I could cram in e.g. Hygro difformis, H. polysperma, H. corymbosa, Elodea
densa, C. thalictroides, rotala rotundifolia and a few others. Lighting is 120W NO flourescents, CO2, laterite. Fish load
is 12 cardinal tetras, 4 ottos, 3 cory cats and a reasonable snail population. The setup has been running for about 3
months and growth has been pretty good.
Recently I began to notice alot of leaf litter floating on the surface and in the uptake of my filter. The source was
mainly the H. polysperma. The plant itself looked like it was being eaten. Many holes in the leaves and the stems snapping
off in the middle. Coincident with this was a marked slowing of growth. Other plants though were growing reasonably well.
Except the Elodea. After initially growing very well the leaves were being stripped and the stems snapping off in the
middle as well.
At first I thought it was the snails going on a rampage since the fish population was quite plant friendly. Then I noticed
a little worm encased in some leaf litter inching it's way along the front glass. I plucked him out and offer these
observations. It was about 1/4" long with legs on the anterior end and furry or spikey. It looked like a small catepillar.
The beast had fashioned 3-4 detached leaves around itself and dragged it's camoflage around with him. It secreted some
sticky goo that held the leaves together and anchored it's posterior end to the leaf house. The worm could duck into the
leaf house similar to a turtle hiding into it's shell. My tank was full of these things. I probably found about 30 of
these little worms and their leaf houses. They are difficult to see because they blend in well.
The catepillars are undoubtedly the reason for the plant destruction I have been experiencing.
What to do... well I have been systematically removing the cretins as I know of no other intervention, short of tearing
down the tank.
Has anyone ever seen these things? Can we identify them? Ive kept a couple in a small tupperware container to see if they
metamorphose into something.
These catepillars are quite destructive.
Any thoughts on this?

Marshall Wilkinson
Calgary Alberta