References - Bristle Worm Removal

Bristle Worm Removal

Albert J. Thiel

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Introduction to Bristle Worms
Checking for Bristle Worms
Trapping Worms and other Undesirable Animals
Kinds and Types of Traps
Home Made Models and How to Use them
What to put in the trap
How to fabricate the Trap

An Introduction

Bristle worms can be, and usually, are a real problem for reef hobbyists. Indeed, they create havoc in the aquarium, especially when they grow to larger sizes. Bristle worms grow quickly! Real quickly! They feed on anything they can find in the tank and grow to sizes that amaze most hobbyists. This process does not take long either.

Whereas small bristle worms may look really harmless, larger specimens that have grown to sizes of 24 inches or more in length are quite impressive and can cause serious damage. Remember too that the size you see is not necessarily the size of the worm. It may be retracted and look short and thick, but it can stretch itself to a real long size and be very thin. In either case it is a voracious eater.

In addition to feeding on left over food small crustaceans, and detritus from which they extract uneaten parts, bristle worms attack corals and sometimes other animals too (anemones are a good example of the latter). Because of the damage they do, they absolutely need to be physically removed from the aquarium. This can be quite a task and is not as simple at it seems at first as many of you may have found out over time.

Most hobbyists are well aware of this, but just do not know how to go about removing them, or if they do, they are not too sure about all the details of the various methods described in magazines, some as the cure-all for bristle worms (which they often are not). Before being successful many attempts may be necessary (again, as many of you may have found out).

Let me dispel a myth: the small bristle worm traps that are sold in stores will often not work. The trap is either too small or it just does not live up to your expectations. It may trap some real small worms but it will, in the majority of cases, not trap the real large ones, the ones you really need to get rid of as they are the ones that cause most of the damage.

Many methods have been advocated in magazines to rid the aquarium of bristle worms. Most work but often a lot of patience is required before you actually get all the worms out of the aquarium. There are some that work better than others and those are the ones I will describe here. You may have to try several before you actually have the success you wish. Not all methods work in all tanks and with all worms (note that there are many types of bristle and other carnivorous worms).

To find out whether or not you actually have bristle worms in the tank is not always that easy. It is even harder to do so during the day because they hide inside rocks and in crevices. To determine whether any are present, the tank should be looked at during the night, several hours after the aquarium has been in the total dark.

Note also that you need to look at the tank with a "red" light. No other light can be used because the worms will re-disappear as soon as regular light is used. They are sensitive to it and go into hiding. When red light is used they remain in the open, where you can see them.

Mind you, when you look at your tank at night you may discover that you have plenty of other animals too, not just bristle and other worms for example. You really have (own) two tanks:

To see the worms and other animals, the room needs to be totally dark too. Having just the tank lights off is not quite enough. The darker the room is, the better and the more creatures you are likely to see crawling and roaming around the aquarium. Often you had no ideas these were present in your tank. Why? Simply because they are night animals and do not show themselves during the day.

When approaching the aquarium with your red light, do so "slowly". Do not make brisk movements. Your presence and rapid movements "may" result in some of the animals you normally do not see during the day to go into hiding. Do everything in slow motion. Play it safe.

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