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Getting rid of worms

5221 Views 18 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  iasuka
I've had an infestation of aquatic annelids over the past year in one of my soil tanks. I didn't mind the little guys and their complimentary dirt mounds at first but now after a year and a severe overpopulation of them I have two inches of soil on top of my gravel and a buried hc carpet. I thought my fish would eat them but they live in the substrate three inches down and VERY rarely do I see one out. A month ago I tore down the tank to find millions of them in each cup of mud I scooped out. I redid the tank bought fresh flourite new dirt new plants - started over...and I have a couple tunnels up against the glass and dirt mounds already. I'm wasting time and money. How can I get rid of them?


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I would think that most of the semi to aggressive fish would just eat them up. How did you get those in the first place?
I've got those in my eco-complete substrate and evey now and then, I'll rummage around a bit and pull a few out to let the fish eat them. Consider collecting them and selling/trading them as live food here on the forum. I'm sure someone will want to feed them to thier fish. Mine love them.
What kind of fish are you keeping in this aquarium? I'm tempted to suggest a bottom feeder like a cory cat; supposedly they love worms and are constantly scouring the bottom of my NPT for food. Those worms may be too big for them to handle, though. Snails might be a potential solution, too. They'll eat fish eggs so I would think they might enjoy worm eggs as well. Trumpet snails may or may not burrow deep enough to get at them, though.

If nothing else, you could also remove the plants/fish and dose the aquarium with copper sulfate or something similar.

I'm far from an expert, though, someone else will likely have better suggestions.
They look as if they are Blackworms. It is possible they are something else. I fed Blackworms a long time ago and the worms that did not get eaten would infest the gravel.

Cories are scavengers but they are serious predators. Cats get extremely animated when they are finding worms in the substrate, I would expect that a group of Cories would make short work of the worms, if they can reach them. And yes they can accomodate the size. It will not be unusual for anything eaten, including worms, to be protruding from the fishes mouth until it can be gotten into the fish. Tails and other parts of foods are normal things to be observed sticking out of mouths on a regular basis.

If the worms are not causing any problems just observe them. The worms are just another creature trying to get along the best way they can.
I would love to have these worms in my substrate, they would keep the substrate aerated and fill the niche of an earthworm! I wouldn't like as many as you have though! Amazing that they would stir up so much stuff, are your other plants still rooted and happy? Buried HC is not cool!
This sounds like a really cool new option. Having worms to aerate the soil and provide live food source for fishes. Turning the soil is not good but maybe if we keep the worm under control with predators this will not be too bad.
Are live worms (? oligochaete) in tank too natural for El Natural :scared:
I had barbs and tetras in the aquarium and yes they are alive. I thought they were neat at first but after while the dirt piles up and there's a couple inches of mud ontop of your carpet plants.
Introduce some yoyo loaches
Some soils contain aquatic Blackworms. Totally harmless and can be a great benefit to soils.

You need to add some bottom-feeding fish to your tank. Many fish will go crazy for these worms! My Rainbowfish wouldn't rest until every single worm was gone from the tanks. Since these worms must come up to keep aerated, a persistent fish will eventually get them.

Please don't add copper. It will kill the worms and they'll rot in the soil. Then you'll have real problems.

Your soil layer is a little deeper (2") than I recommend. These worms may be keeping it healthy.
I too have worm problems, and looks like to do aerate the aquasoil since my aquasoil is kinda old and flat now. I though my neon would clean them up but now they are just way too much. Specially when you just turn on the light they are all over the glass or hundreds of them on top of a fish food or dead shrimps sometime. They look kinda semi transparent and the head looks bigger than the body. I try to have some left over food there as a bait with lights off for a while, than turn on the lights and drop some of the Seachem Acid buffer in that area and kill them like that...
My next move is try to take everything out and them crank up the co2... cause one time I have aCo2 over dose and them all came out. Of course lots dead shrimp and fish.
How about just stopping feeding?

That should make the fish more hungry for worms.
LOL - My GBRs have been classically conditioned to follow my hands and python as I'm cleaning my tank. It took me a while to figure out if they were being territorial, or what (that's what I thought at first).

Seems when I was feeding Blackworms almost a year ago, several decided to make my substrate a home... I see them occasionally when I'm moving stuff around or pulling up plants - that's when the GBRs really go nuts.

But everywhere my hand or python goes, they're right there waiting for a meal...

- Jeff
How about just stopping feeding?

That should make the fish more hungry for worms.
I think my neon trying to eat them than the spit it out. I am start thinking my shrimp population are less have to do with it. Alot of time I saw freshly dead shrimp was cover hundred of them. But most of the time you don't really see these guys. They are no longer than 1/2 inches and very very thin. I can also see the tunnel on the side of the tank near the aquasoil.
I'm not sure if this works in aquariums, but in a pond when you have the little red worms and leeches, you put in epsom salts to get rid of them. Harmless to fish!
Dear Ms. Walstad,

Your book inspired me to get back into the aquarist hobby. I have previously given it up on two different occasions because I grew tired of the maintenance. But your low tech and low maintenance approach to a lush looking aquarium pulled me back.

I now have a 75 gallon tank with about 1.5 inches of potting soil covered by about 1.5 inch of small gravel that has been set up with plants and shrimp for a couple of months. I am currently battling algae by reducing the light and dropping charcoal in the filter. It's a young take with lots of different types of plants. Hopefully some will thrive and tip the balance away from Algae. I also have some water lettuce on order to help.

My real concern, however, are some worms that must have hitchhiked on the plants that I ordered on the internet. They resemble tubifex worms, but I believe they are different. Like tubifex worms, these are burrowing worms that wave back and forth above their holes. But instead of filtering the water, these worms seem to be eating the potting soil. I can see them “pooping” the potting soil underlayer onto the top of the gravel. I first noticed them by the soil mounds that they created, which look very much like prairie dog mounds. I do not think they are harmful to the shrimp and would not worry about them, except that they are turning my substrate inside out. Right now there are only a few, but when they multiply I fear they will destroy my tank.

I have googled various things to no avail. Do you know what they are and how I can get rid of them? Thanks.


Welcome to El Naural! Little different from High-Tech. Huh?

Fish are all you need to take care of your worm "problem". What you have are harmless aquatic worms, often called California Blackworms. They are related to tubificid, but do not come from sewage. Fish love them! I purchased live Blackworms from Wet Thumb Aquatics and kept them for awhile for my Rainbowfish. It was fun keeping them.

The worms do churn up the substrate. This keeps it aerated, which is a good thing in new tanks. If their activities are making the water cloudy, that can be a problem you might want to work on. Lower the water movement or get a good mechanical filter. I use the AquaClear 300 Powerhead with Quick Filter attachment to clarify water when I want to polish water after tank has been grossly disturbed.

Yes, the worms will turn the substrate upside down. I wouldn't worry about this, as it happens in some of my tanks.

Since you've got shrimp in the tank, I know that you are reluctant to add fish. However, in my opinion this is your best solution. Any chemical that kills the worms will almost certainly kill your shrimp.

Also, there are several other threads in the El Natural Forum on aquatic worms that you'll find by searching this forum for "aquatic worms". They'll have ideas on which fish are best. You might just have to add suitable fish temporarily. The right fish will get the worms in no time. That's because these worms are semi-aerobic. They wave their "tails" in the air to get oxygen. This is when a smart fish can get them! :p
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I am start thinking my shrimp population are less have to do with it. Alot of time I saw freshly dead shrimp was cover hundred of them. But most of the time you don't really see these guys. They are no longer than 1/2 inches and very very thin.
Hmm, sounds like planaria to me. Please look at this macro picture:

If it looks familiar - you may be in trouble. :( Planarias, although small, are predators, they hunt small shrimps and fry. Some people even report them attacking Malawi cichlids. Fish generally don't eat it, because they taste awful.

I've had planarias in my 10 gallon shrimp tank last year and managed to get rid of them only by most drastic measures: I boiled gravel and bleached tank and aquarium tools.

Best regards.
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