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shunyata 12-13-2011 02:44 PM

Need to ID/get rid of worm
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I have this worm in my FW invert tank. There are no fish here - just snails and shrimp. I have searched and searched but can't find out:

What species of worms are these?
How do I get rid of them without hurting my inverts?

As far as species goes, I am pretty sure they are some sort of 'flatworm', but I can't get anything more specific than that. Also, all the info I find about flatworms is in relation to fish, not inverts. I know there are worm treatments out there, but I can't find any that are safe for other inverts.

They are on average 0.5cm in length and 1mm wide. Most are a darker silver/grey (gunmetal?) on top and a pale flesh color on the underside. Some larger specimens are a rusty red on top, but these are rare. They are flat and ribbon-like with a well define spade-shaped head.

They will swarm if freeze dried bloodworms are floating in the tank and show mild interest in sinking pellets. They will also swarm newly hatched apple snails and eat the flesh of living, but injured applesnails. They seem to leave healthy applesnails and my other critters alone.

Any advice is appreciated!

Applesnail (Pomacea diffusa)
Thiara cf. winter
Tylomelania zemis Poso Orange
and a long, thin brown snail who's name I can't find anymore

Blue Pearl (Neocaridina cf. zhangjiajiensis)
Cherry (Neocaridina heteropoda var. red)
Yellow (Neocaridina heteropoda var. yellow)
Caridina babaulti "green"
Caridina babaulti "black"
Caridina babaulti "stripe"
Caridina cf. propinqua orange
Amano (Caridina japonica)
Malawa Shrimp (Caridina pareparensis parvidentata)

P.S. Sorry the picture is blurry; these are very hard to photograph. I placed a sheet of black plastic into the tank to give the camera a fighting chance at focusing. Also used flash and macro-mode. Willing to try other setups to get better pics though. :)

InvertPlanet 12-14-2011 10:34 AM

note the diamond shaped head.

they are planaria

lots of info on the web on how to control them

shunyata 12-15-2011 09:34 PM

Planaria, eh? That makes sense. But despite lots of reading on the subject, I still don't know what to do.

I have already tried to starve them out (and killed half my apple snails in the process). Vacuuming is rather impossible to do in a thorough manner; my tank is heavily planted. Water quality is solid too.

"Flatworm eXit" seems to be the treatment that comes up most. But I also found something called "No-Planaria". Both claim to be freshwater and invert safe. However, I can't find any info on their use with apple snails, and some posts say you -will- lose snails and/or shrimp when these are used.

Some say just live with them since they are harmless. But I've seen them eat my apple snails.

Quarantining seems to be pointless; since the worms reportedly invade the shells of adult snails. Though I could, if no better option is advisable, sacrifice my adult apple snails for the sake of the tank. I have a clutch of eggs on my tank wall that hopefully will hatch in a week or two. I could quarantine these young easily enough until the tank is fully treated. But there is a catch; what about my more uncommon snails? Won't they re-infect the tank if I quarantine, or die if I expose them to treatment?

Some posts say get a fish that eat them. Ironically, it was the removal of a Betta that lead to the worm-bloom. However, if I get another Betta he will eat my baby shrimp. I know my shrimp are slowly turning into hybrids, but they are breeding prolifically. Also, the shrimp hide a lot more when there is a Betta around; I really enjoy watching them swim openly. Besides, the fish only control the worms they can access; it would never been able to eradicate those in the substrate.

Thus my confusion over how to proceed; every 'solution' causes a new problem. If there is a method I've missed or if I've been reading misinformation, I would appreciate more experienced guidance.

Mikaila31 12-15-2011 10:42 PM

Get some bottom feeders. Like small loaches, cories, ect that are more shrimp friendly. Planaria are harmless. I've had them before and probably still do. I haven't seen any recently but I don't really look for them. They use to show up in my yarn spawning mops and canister filter. I've never had any negative impacts associated with them. They are usually detrivoures and free living. They never bothered my ramshorn snails or even the fish eggs.

Some planaria can be predatory. This may be what you are seeing. But I don't really think it is. A few planaria species are opportunistic predators. Most are not predatory at all.

You need to control wastes. This doesn't mean not feeding, it means cleaning. I am assuming its a planted tank, but you should gravel vac if you want to control them. The gravel is where most planarians stay and thats were a lot of their food is.

I would avoid meds unless fish and proper maintenance does not control them. If it comes to meds you don't want to focus on the name of the med, but the active ingredient. A lot of times the best and cheapest dewormers are gonna be cat or dog medications. In the end it doesn't matter what they are marketed towards. What matters is the active ingredient and the proper dosage.

InvertPlanet 12-16-2011 01:22 PM

one issue is that this an invert tank, and not a species only one at that.

The worms are fairly self regulating and shouldn't be a problem. If you reduce the diet it will help. The fact that you CAN see them means that they are in search for food. Further reducing that food source will help the problem.

Adding another bioload to the tank to combat a problem caused by bioload is not really a good choice in my opinion. I am not saying it can't be done, but it is not curing the root problem. Over feeding and substrate debris are the underlying issues. Get those in check and you will see many more before you see less ;)

shunyata 12-18-2011 06:30 PM

Thanks! I now have a rough action plan:

* I had already started physically removing them, via net, as opportunity has risen. This will continue.
* I figured out how to vacuum the substrate between plants. It isn't 100% clean, but a lot of detris came up. Must be working, right? *heh* I did have to re-plant a few. However, I think this is worth the effort.
* I think part of the root cause was a food sample I tried. It was grain-like pellets that settled into the substrate quickly where the shrimp & snails could not get at it. I will not use this style food again; even if free!
* I believe I finally found the balance point for how much food the shrimp & snails actually need. Though I'll keep an eye on this and keep adjusting.
* Checked nitrates again: about 15ppm just before regularly scheduled water change. So I agree that bio-load is already high enough and will skip the fish idea.
* Will increase water change frequency to get nitrates back under 10ppm consistently and give me a chance to vacuum more of the substrate. I understand that 10ppm is the target for a heavily planted tank like mine.

FWIW, I just don't have the space to keep more than one tank (I've tried!). This is the only way I get to enjoy this level of diversity; like a freshwater version of a reef tank. :)

Mikaila31 12-19-2011 02:50 AM

nitrates are not really important. I believe a heavily planted high productivity tank is suggested to have 20ppm of nitrates. I've kept and had cherries reproducing in tanks with 40ppm of nitrates. I had planaria present in the same tank, but they were never an issue.

InvertPlanet 12-19-2011 07:58 AM

On Nitrates:

Nitrates are the only measurable number to gauge tank pollution. The numbers will tell you when to do water changes. With a planted tank those numbers are skewed as the plants absorb the nitrates but can not consume all the detritus that causes them. If that was the case a "planted tank" would always read 0 Nitrates.

I believe that the OP has the right plan of action. Keep the nitrates low via water changes / substrate vacs as it represents an immeasurable amount of tank pollution.

Mikaila31 12-19-2011 05:18 PM


Originally Posted by InvertPlanet (Post 925072)
On Nitrates:

Nitrates are the only measurable number to gauge tank pollution. The numbers will tell you when to do water changes. With a planted tank those numbers are skewed as the plants absorb the nitrates but can not consume all the detritus that causes them. If that was the case a "planted tank" would always read 0 Nitrates.

I believe that the OP has the right plan of action. Keep the nitrates low via water changes / substrate vacs as it represents an immeasurable amount of tank pollution.

A planted tank can read always zero if you set it up with that goal in mind. I greatly disagree that nitrates indicate when a water change needs to be done. The place I am currently living has 0 nitrates in the tap, compared to the 20ppm nitrate tap water I had at my parents house. I like to stock heavy too so some of my tanks would reflect that, 40ppm was normal in my big hi tech tank. In the end its difficult to gauge exactly how nutrients flow in a tank. But for a shrimp/snail only planted tank 15 ppm is high IMO unless you are talking like well over a hundred shrimp and/or a number of large apple snails. Either you have feeding issues, plant growth issues, both, or some of that is coming from the tap.

Its not hard to get a planted tank to fully control nitrates. Regardless water changes should still be done. Plants don't prefer nitrates, but in the correct setup many people underestimate their effects. I found this to be very true when I first tried filterless tanks. Plants prefer ammonia and thus the biofilter competes with the plants turning their ideal food into less ideal food. I had 24 fish +shrimp/snails in a 15 gallon filterless tank with a capped dirt substrate and it just destroyed the nitrates in the tap at my parents house. If I postponed WC the tank could hit 0 within 2 weeks(which I didn't even expect). Regardless when ever I did WC to that tank I was adding nitrates not removing them. It ran for about a year before I moved. After I moved it started having weird problems. Water quality was never an issue, but most the fish started dropping one by one. Eventually I removed them and now it sits with just shrimp and snails whom have been happy the entire time. After I moved the tank started producing large amounts of detritus/crud/something from who knows were(joy of the shrimp). It never gives me any detectable nitrate.

InvertPlanet 12-20-2011 08:07 AM

Yep, yep.

That is the problem with using nitrates as a basis for water changes in a planted tank.

Given the exact same situation with fake plants, that 15ppm of nitrates would probably be off the scale.
it may be a matter of opinion but here's my 2 cents worth:


I greatly disagree that nitrates indicate when a water change needs to be done.
( I know you, Mikaila31, already know this but for the benefit of the board)

Your fish put out a bioload. That bioload is eventually put out as "x" amount of nitrates. When that number hits the upper limit of acceptability (usually 40ppm), that is a good indication that a water change is due. I usually recommend 50% and you can adjust it up or down from there.

So the tank is at 40ppm and you do a 50% water change. You bring it down to 20ppm. After 1 week you test again. It may read 40ppm or higher or lower. That number is the key. That number tells you exactly what your bioload is in the tank. Suppose at the end of one week the Nitrates hit 45ppm. You now know, that your tank is putting out 25ppm of nitrates weekly and is a) overstocked or b) larger weekly partials are due. The opposite is also true. Also, if you know the formula, you can actually track it back to how much ammonia is being produced. If your tap from the utilities are adding nitrates to the water, you must subtract that amount to get the actual bioload.

That is the only number we test for that determines the pollution level in our tanks (without having a professional lab).

unfortunately, planted tanks are different... it throws that number off almost completely.

** as a side note for Mikaila31:
You mentioned that your parents house had 20ppm of nitrates in the tap? That is double the accepted level. For human consumption the max is supposed to be 10 ppm or 10 mg/L. I would speak to the utility company and see what was up.

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