Detritus Worm In Fish Tank

Many aquarists don’t know what to do when they see detritus worms in their aquarium. If they even recognize these critters, they’re usually not sure if it’s an emergency or something that can be left alone. Because of this, there’s a lot of misinformation and conflicting advice being shared. This results in frustrated aquarists. In this article, we’ll dispel some of the myths and give you the facts about detritus worms so that you can make informed decisions about whether or not to remove them from your aquarium. You’ll also learn about some ways to get rid of them.

What Are Detritus Worms?

Detritus worms are small pests that can be hard to notice in an aquarium. They are in the same group of worms as earthworms, leeches, and ragworms. This group is called the annelid phylum. Sizes of detritus worms vary, but they are usually between 0.5 and 5 centimeters long. 

Red Betta fish
Red Betta fish

Most of the time, detritus worms live in the substrate. Because their bodies are so thin, they can easily move between sand grains or into small holes made by pebbles. When there is a lot of food for them, the worms will often move to the top layer of the substrate and then float through the water column. When there are a lot of them, you might see them floating around the tank or getting caught in the filters. 

What Do Detritus Worms Look Like?

Detritus worms are annelid worms that look a lot like earthworms and leeches. They are so small that you might not notice them in your tank at first. Detritus worms are thin and pointy, and their color is white-brown. 

Like most worms that live in soil, detritus worms have segments. Most detritus worms will keep growing until they are about an inch long. Since they are thin, they move around a lot. There are a lot of detritus worms, and most fish keepers will run into them at some point. 

They will be in the sand or rocks in your tank. This kind of worm eats dead fish and plant matter, so it won’t hurt your fish. In fact, aquariums have a lot of them. Overall, they are helpful because they help clean your tank and keep a healthy balance in the ecosystem of your tank. 

close up many Molly fish in tank

How To Get Rid Of Detritus Worms In Fish Tank

It can be hard to get rid of detritus worms. Keepers from all over the world have come up with the following ways to get rid of them and stop them from coming back.

1. Use a Gravel Vacuum Regularly

Gravel vacuums are very helpful for cleaning and taking care of your aquarium between water changes. If you want a good gravel vacuum, the Python Pro-Clean Gravel Washer is a good choice. It comes in different sizes and is a strong gravel cleaner that effectively separates and removes debris from your aquarium when you change the water.

2. Change the Water

This answer is pretty easy to understand. If detritus worms start living in your aquarium, the best way to get rid of them is to change the water. This means changing all of the water in the aquarium. 

3. Use Hydrogen peroxide 

You can also get rid of detritus worms with hydrogen peroxide. Most fish keepers use this method, which is a bit extreme. Hydrogen peroxide that has been diluted isn’t harmful to some aquarium plants, but it is to aquarium animals. If you want to use hydrogen peroxide or a similar chemical, you need to keep the aquarium animals away from the plants.

4. Change the Way You Feed Your Fish

Through the live food, detritus worms can get into your tank. If you don’t watch out, you might get detritus worms in your aquarium if you have carnivorous fish that eat live food like shrimp, small fish, and other small aquatic animals. And if your fish eat live food that has detritus worms on it, that can make the problem even worse.

5. Clean Aquarium Filters

Most of the time, aquarium filtration is to blame. It should move the water and the elements around in a way that keeps the ecosystem healthy and thriving. But sometimes the filters themselves need to be cleaned. If they aren’t, the water quality in the aquarium could be harmed, and detritus worms could start to grow.

5. Stop Overpopulating Your Tank

Because of the large amount of fish food and the waste that comes from the fish, your aquarium is a great place for detritus worms to grow. There are too many fish in a tank, which is bad for the fish because they have to compete, hunt for food, and defend their territory. You must limit the number of living things in your aquarium because detritus worms can thrive when there isn’t enough oxygen.

6. Take Care of The Plants in Your Fish Tank.

Plants in an aquarium can die, rot, and even get algae on them. How well your aquarium is doing can be judged by how well the plants are doing. Detritus worms eat trash, compost, and other things like algae, rotting plants, and dead leaves.Fish keepers must take care of their plants as well as their aquarium animals in order to keep detritus worms from taking over.

7. Use a Detritus Worm Trap

Detritus worm traps are a type of filter that can be used to remove detritus worms from your aquarium. They work by trapping the worms in a chamber where they can be removed from the water. This is a good way to get rid of detritus worms if you don’t want to use chemicals or change the water.

What Causes Detritus Worms?

Detritus worms can be found in many aquariums. But what cause detritus worms? In this section, we’ll go over some of the causes of detritus worms living and growing in a fish tank.

1. Hitchhiking

One of the most common ways that detritus worms end up in an aquarium is by hitching a ride on live plants. If you introduce live plants to your aquarium, it’s possible for detritus worms to come along with them.

2. Overfeeding

Another common cause of detritus worms is overfeeding. When fish are overfed, they produce more waste. This extra waste decomposes and can provide a food source for detritus worms.

3. Poor Water Quality

Poor water quality can also lead to an increase in detritus worms. This is because detritus worms thrive in environments with high levels of ammonia and nitrites.

4. Lack of Predators

Detritus worms can also proliferate when there are no predators present to keep their population in check. Common predators of detritus worms include certain fish, shrimp, and crabs.

5. Bare Bottom Tanks

Bare bottom tanks are more likely to experience an increase in detritus worms than tanks with a substrate. This is because detritus worms have a harder time attaching themselves to smooth surfaces like glass.

6. High Levels of Dissolved Organic Matter

High levels of dissolved organic matter can also lead to an increase in detritus worms. This is because these worms thrive in environments with high levels of ammonia and nitrites.

7. Old Fish Tanks

Older fish tanks are more likely to have an increase in detritus worms. This is because the worms can live and reproduce in the cracks and crevices of the aquarium.

Planaria Worms vs Detritus Worms

In the aquarium, there are many different types of worms. Some are slimy, some are segmented, and others look more like tiny tubes. But when it comes to freshwater aquariums, two of the most common worms are planaria and detritus worms. Below are the 7 key differences between these two types of worms.

1. Shape

Planaria are flatworms while detritus worms are tubifex worms. Planaria have a flat, oval-shaped body while detritus worms are long and tubular. You can easily tell them apart by their shape.

2. Size

Planaria are usually smaller than detritus worms. They can range in size from a few millimeters to a few centimeters. Detritus worms, on the other hand, can grow up to 5 centimeters in length.

3. Color

Planaria are typically white or translucent. Detritus worms can be red, brown, or black. When they are alive, detritus worms are usually red. But when they die, they turn black.

4. Life Cycle

Planaria have a very short life cycle. They can reproduce asexually and can go from egg to adult in as little as two weeks. Detritus worms have a longer life cycle.. They reproduce sexually and it can take them several months to reach adulthood.

5. Habitat

Planaria are found in all types of freshwater habitats. Detritus worms are usually found in stagnant or polluted water. They can also be found at the bottom of ponds and lakes.

6. Diet

Planaria are scavengers and will eat just about anything. Detritus worms are filter feeders, and they eat detritus, algae, and other small particles.

7. Behavior

Planaria are very active worms. They are constantly moving and exploring their environment. Detritus worms, on the other hand, are sedentary. They remain in one place most of the time and only move when they need to.

Where Do Detritus Worms Come From?

Most of the time, detritus worms get into tanks in pretty harmless ways. They are skilled hitchhikers and can easily move from one closed environment to the next, just like snails and other pests. Most of the time, they get into aquariums through fish, plants, and the ground. 

If you moved substrate from one infected aquarium to another, you might have taken hundreds or thousands of worms with you without knowing it. Detritus worms only eat dead plants and animals. When there is a lot of that food source, the worms can grow and have babies quickly. These worms reproduce quickly!

It doesn’t take long before there are well over a thousand detritus will live in your aquarium. Since there is nowhere else for them to hide under the surface of the substrate, they stick out their ugly heads and move into the open water.

What Eats Detritus Worms In A Fish Tank?

The truth is that pretty much all fish that eat meat or eat everything will find detritus worms tasty. Any species without a sucker-style mouth will eat them if they run into the worms floating in the water column. However, because most worms stick to the substrate, you may fare better with a bottom feeder. Here are 7 bottom-feeder freshwater fish that will eat detritus worms in a fish tank.

1. Plecos

Plecos are one of the most popular choices when it comes to bottom-feeders. They have a suction-cup mouth that allows them to scrape algae and other food items off of surfaces. Plecos are known to eat detritus worms, so they make a great candidate for your tank.

2. Corydoras Catfish

Corydoras catfish are another popular choice for bottom feeders. These fish are peaceful and easy to care for, making them a great addition to any tank. Corydoras catfish have a specialized mouth that allows them to eat small invertebrates and detritus.

3. Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus catfish are a small species of catfish that are often used as algae-eaters. These fish have a suction-cup mouth that allows them to attach to surfaces and scrape off algae. Otocinclus catfish will also eat small invertebrates, including detritus worms.

4. Loaches

Loaches are a group of fish that include species such as Clown Loaches and Yo-Yo Loaches. These fish are known for their scavenging habits and will often eat small invertebrates, including detritus worms.

5. Knifefish

Knifefish are a group of fish that includes species such as the Black Ghost Knife Fish and the Glass Knife Fish. These fish are predators and have long, sharp teeth that they use to catch their prey. However, knifefish will also eat small invertebrates, including detritus worms.

6. Eels

Eels are a group of fish that includes species such as the Moray Eel and the Electric Eel. These fish are predators and have sharp teeth that they use to catch their prey. However, eels will also eat small invertebrates, including detritus worms.

7. Catfish

Catfish are a group of fish that includes species such as the Common pleco and the Suckermouth catfish. These fish have suction-cup mouths that they use to attach to surfaces and scrape off food items.

What To Do With Detritus Worms In Shrimp Tank

Most aquariums have detritus worms, but you might never see them because they live in the bottom of the shrimp tank. But if you see them everywhere, like swimming in the water column, sitting on the glass, and sticking out of the substrate, you should do something about it.

Most aquariums have detritus worms, but you might never see them because they live in the bottom of the shrimp tank. But if you see them everywhere, like swimming in the water column, sitting on the glass, and sticking out of the substrate, you should do something about it. Here are  some things you can do:

1. Check Your Substrate for Anaerobic Spots

Detritus worms are anaerobic, meaning they live in areas without oxygen. If your substrate has anaerobic spots, that’s where the detritus worms will be. To fix this, add more aeration to the shrimp tank. You can do this by adding an air stone or increasing the flow of your filter.

2. Sift Through Your Substrate

If you see detritus worms in your substrate, it’s because they’re eating the decaying matter in there. To get rid of them, sift through your substrate and remove any decaying matter.

3. Add More Plants to Your Shrimp Tank

Plants are great for shrimp tanks because they help with water quality and add oxygen to the water. They can also outcompete detritus worms for food. So, if you add more plants to your shrimp tank, the detritus worms will have less to eat and will eventually die off.

4. Remove Uneaten Food from The Shrimp Tank

If there’s uneaten food in your shrimp tank, that’s probably what the detritus worms are eating. To get rid of them, remove any uneaten food from the shrimp tank, so they don’t have anything to eat.

5. Vacuum the Detritus Worms out Of the Shrimp Tank

If you see a lot of detritus worms in your shrimp tank, you can vacuum them out with a siphon. Just be sure to remove all the detritus worms from the shrimp tank, so they don’t come back.

6. Treat Your Shrimp Tank with An Insecticide

If you’ve tried everything else and you still have detritus worms, you can treat your shrimp tank with an insecticide. Be sure to follow the directions on the bottle and remove any uneaten food or plants from the shrimp tank before using the insecticide.

7. Get Rid of The Detritus Worms Yourself

If you don’t want to use an insecticide, you can get rid of the detritus worms yourself. Just remove them from the shrimp tank with a net or your hands or by using a worm trap.

FAQ

Are Detritus Worms Harmful To Humans?

The Detritus worms don’t hurt people directly, but they do hurt humans indirectly. The Detritus worms won’t bite you or make you sick, so they don’t pose a direct threat to humans. The danger comes from where they live, says Smart Aquarium Guide.

Are Detritus Worms Harmful To Fish?

Detritus worms eat dead fish and plant matter, so it won’t hurt your fish, according to Pets WebMD. In fact, aquariums have a lot of them.

Can Detritus Worms Live Out Of Water?

According to the website Science Direct, detritus worms can live in both aquatic and terrestrial environments. Therefore,  it is safe to say that they can live out of water. It is important to note, however, that detritus worms require a moist environment in order to survive. If the environment is too dry, the detritus worm will dehydrate and die. 

Do Snails Eat Detritus Worms?

No one has reported that snails eat detritus. But snails can help control the growth of algae and eat the leftover food and waste that gives worms something to eat, as mentioned by Aquaradise in their article.

Do Assassin Snails Eat Detritus Worms?

According to the website A-Z Animals, assassin snails will eat detritus worms if they are small enough for the snail to consume. If the worms are too large, the snail may not be able to eat them.

Do Shrimp Eat Detritus Worms?

Even though it has been said that shrimp eat Detritus worms, this is not usually the case. The loach is the only fish that is sure to eat the worms, says Aquaradise.

Are Detritus Worms Bad?

The good news is that detritus worms are bad, according to Aquarium Source. Keep in mind that these pests only eat dead plants and animals. They may try to hitch a ride on your fish and invertebrates, but they won’t hurt them in any way.

Do Guppies Eat Detritus Worms?

According to Aquatic Community, guppies eat detritus worms. Detritus worms are small, brownish-red worms that live in decaying plant matter and help break it down. Guppies are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plants and animals, so detritus worms make a good addition to their diet.

 Recap 

Detritus worms are small, brownish-red worms that live in decaying plant matter and help break it down. They’re not harmful to humans, but they can be harmful to fish if they’re not controlled. You can get rid of them by vacuuming them out, treating your shrimp tank with an insecticide, or getting rid of them yourself. Some aquarium animals actually eat detritus worms,  so they can be a good addition to their diet. In general, detritus worms are not bad, but it’s important to keep them under control.