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Detritus Worms

Author Topic: Detritus worms  (Read 6483 times)

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Offline Dr Um

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Detritus worms
« on: September 14, 2017, 01:12:14 PM »
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Hi all,

I'm getting very excited, as my tank appears to be getting close to completing the cycling process (fishless), but, to my dismay, I spottd a load of tiny, wriggling white worms on the glass last Friday.  A bit of research seems to indicate that they are detritus worms, as I can't see any sort of triangular head shape.  The recommendation was to clean the substrate and do a water change.  So, last weekend, I emptied the tank right down to the substrate, and gave all the sand a good poking before syphoning it to remove any worms that were loitering in there and any trapped air.  I gave the glass a good wipe down, then refilled and conditioned the water, and carried on with the cycling process.

However, after a day or so, I've started to see the worms in increasing numbers again (along, it would seem, with the world's teeniest snail!).  So, is there anything else that I can do to get rid of them?  Wondered if there was some sort of chemical treatment that it might be safe to do while the tank is fishless, as obviously, I'll be doing a massive water change before adding fish?

When I get fish (cherry barbs to start with), will they help to sort the problem?  If they do, could this cause an overfeeding issue?


Offline MarquisMirage

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2017, 02:31:56 PM »
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The detritus worms being visible means that the water in the aquarium is becoming deplete of oxygen or if there's not enough food to feed the entire detritus worm population (often missed out in online articles) as normally these critters will hide out in the substrate and only be visible on bits of rotting plants/leftover food.  At the moment they're still adjusting to what the tank can currently support.

Cherry barbs aren't too choosy about what they eat and an open swimming detritus worm will not only be food but also stimulation.  It shouldn't lead to overfeeding issues as long as you're not adding too much additional food for the barbs.  Loaches are best for eating these beasties but they'll eat any snails (especially juicy little ones) or shrimp in the tank and many bigger ones will uproot your plants.  Small loaches like chain loaches (Botia Sidthimunki) would be your best bet but... maybe loaches aren't part of your finished aquarium plans.

Detritus worms are usually beneficial for a planted tank as they turn over the substrate like worms in the garden do.  As their name suggests they eat left overs and basically break it down into compost.  I have some in my Amazon and Papua New Guinea tanks as they often come free with plants.  Consider if you really do want to get rid of them all.  When you get the feeding balance right these wrigglers will barely be noticeable.  They did wipe out my population of cherry shrimp but only because they were competing for the same algae wafers and a swarm of these beat the shrimp for eating speed.  As it was a shrimp only tank I got rid of them by completely breaking the tank down and steam cleaning it.  Which is not what you want to do.

I don't know what treatments can be used.  They're are annelid worms so treatment should be along those lines.  @Sue knows her treatments much better and can hopefully recommend something.

Offline Sue

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2017, 03:02:11 PM »
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Those tiny little white worms are not a problem in a tank, they just make it look messy. Once you have fish, they should not be a problem provided you don't overfeed the fish. Most people call these worms planaria, but a member on here said that they are actually detritus worms.
I would avoid adding anything to kill these worms. I found out the hard way that some types of medicine linger for a long time in tanks - I killed some nerite snails by putting them back in the tank too soon after medicating  :(

If I remember correctly, this is a 125 litre tank? Provided it has a 80 x 30 cm footprint, that is the minimum for dwarf chain loaches.




Incidentally, Botia sidthimunki is a very old name for them. They were Botia, then Yasuhikotakia, now they're Ambastaia sidthimunki  :)  Though Seriously Fish does still find them under Botia.

Offline Dr Um

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2017, 06:20:49 PM »
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Thanks for the replies.  I'm hoping that they're visible due to lack of food, rather than oxygen, as I'm only adding 1ppm ammonia every other day or so at the moment and nothing else, although small plant leaves do accumulate slowly on the sand over time, I suppose.  I have the filter on the spray bar setting (recommended for plants in the filter manual), and there's plenty of surface movement of the water, so I hope that's enough for gas exchange.

I'm pretty sure they're not planaria, due to their motion and lack of traingular head, but they're so small it's difficult to be sure.  Apparently planaria can be more problematic in a tank as they can affect the fish.  At least now I know they might actually be a good thing; my initial reaction was pure horror!

It's good to know that the barbs will enjoy hunting the worms down.  I don't think the loaches you mention will suit my fairly hard, pH7.4-7.6 water, although it looks like Rosy loaches might just about.  My plan is cherry barbs, x-ray tetra and then three-lined cory once the tank is more mature.  I think I'd prefer to make sure I have a healthy number of each of these rather than try and wrangle in any more fish, but I'll definitely keep them in mind in case the plan needs to change (I'm slightly concerned about the 40ppm nitrates in my tap water for the cory - I'm going to add some floating plants as recommended by @Littlefish and see if that helps).

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2017, 07:57:22 AM »
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Don't get your hopes up with the floating plants @Dr Um because they won't bring your nitrates down drastically.
I use the API test kit, and when I test tank nitrates, and compare the colour to a tap water sample, the tank sample colour is slightly lighter than the tap water sample, but not enough to take it down to 20ppm, for example. However, I have found that the floating plants do help, and stops the nitrates getting any higher.
If you have concerns about the cories, the answer (in my very limited experience) is to use a mix of tap water and RO water to recreate the water parameters that the fish need.
Saying that, please keep in mind that a lot of fish that have been commercially bred for a considerable amount of time have become more tolerant of a wider range of water conditions, but tolerant is not the same as the fish thriving. It is quite a complicated and controversial topic, that I don't plan to go into here.
However, I will say that my tap water is relatively hard, with high nitrates, and I have peppered cories in my temperate tank, and panda cories in my betta tank. Both groups appear to be doing well, and have reproduced.
Speaking to staff at my independent LFS, and their main suppliers (who also breed certain fish) have harder water than we do here.
I use a mix of RO and tap water in my river tank because at least one species of fish in that tank is wild caught, as far as I know (another controversial topic that I'm skirting around and moonwalking away from).
So, apologies for the rambling response, but I just wanted to make sure that you would know that floating plants are not a miracle "cure" for your nitrates, but will help, and that your water conditions will not necessarily keep you from keeping the cories that you want, but you may just want to ask your LFS where they have come from, the conditions that they have been kept in, etc (also bearing in mind that it is almost certain that your LFS has the same water conditions that you have at home).
Keep us posted on your progress.  :)

Offline Dr Um

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2017, 04:15:27 PM »
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Thanks @Littlefish .  Yes, I certainly wasn't expecting a miracle cure from the floating plants, just really aiming to do a bit of damage limitation on the tank water nitrates creeping up above our tap water levels.  Interesting to see that you keep cories successfully, as your tap water seems to be very similar to mine.

Offline MarquisMirage

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2017, 07:55:22 PM »
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Alfagrog, specially selected lava rock, and other high porosity filter medias will grow anaerobic bacteria in the filter.  Anaerobic bacteria eat nitrates so will help the tank overall.  Unlike the other bacteria in your filter the anaerobic type can take up to six months to establish.

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2017, 08:18:34 PM »
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That's interesting.
I've just had a look at their website.
Have you used the product?

Offline MarquisMirage

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2017, 08:25:34 PM »
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I have a large bag in my Amazon sump filter as the apistos and panaques prefer high quality water so I try and keep nitrates low.

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2017, 08:36:45 PM »
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Are your nitrates in your tank now lower that those of your tap water?
As my tap water isn't great I might get some for my external filters, as they all have some spare room.
Although I keep on top of the nitrates with water changes & plants, it would be nice to be able to perhaps get them a bit lower.

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2017, 09:08:32 PM »
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I have 20 litres of Alphagrog on one side of my sump, it is fully submerged and at the bottom of that media stack so the bio filtration above it should also be consuming oxygen which should help the anaerobic bacteria. The tank has been running for just over a year now, but I'm not sure about its abilities to deal with Nitrates. It may be having an effect but it was not until the algae scrubber established and I added plants to the sump that I saw a dip in weekly nitrate production. I'm sure its a good and cost effective media and it certainly wont be coming out of the sump, but I am fairly sure it wont be a magic bullet.
I store water for the next change in a wheely bin to condition it, its just possible that a planted water store with Alphagrog in the bottom might help and it would be easy to measure any Nitrate reduction over a week given there wont be any additional Nitrogen inputs (providing its not a Chloramide treated water source)
I would offer to run a test by swapping out my sump Alphagrog but we don't have Nitrates in our supply.

Offline Matt

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2017, 09:21:07 PM »
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Just wondering if you'd ever heard of these...
https://www.fishkeeper.co.uk/product/ocean-free-hydra-30-internal-filter-and-depurator

I can't say if they work or not but they are certainly a bit different...

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2017, 10:13:12 PM »
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I would offer to run a test by swapping out my sump Alphagrog but we don't have Nitrates in our supply.
@Andy The Minion  Yeah, yeah, rub it in why don't you.  :P
Thanks for the information and the offer though.

@Matt I have heard of the Hydra products. One of the guys I know at MA has a Hydra Stream in line with his external filter on his tank and said it reduce tank maintenance, so I spent some time having a look for more information. I wasn't completely convinced that adding one to my set up would help. The general feedback seemed to be that they were good as filters, but didn't help improve water quality if there was already enough filtration.
I guess one way to solve the problem of the nitrate in the tap water is to move to an area with low nitrates.  :o
I think I'll probably just be stick with the water changes and the plants for now, and the RO mix in the river tank.  :)

Offline Andy The Minion

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2017, 11:13:38 PM »
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@Littlefish Sorry for the accidental gloat. I do have brown 5h1te in my drinking water if that helps redress the balance? See the filter I put on the mains after a week, inbetween the two is a clean cartridge for comparison. :sick:

Offline Sue

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2017, 09:08:50 AM »
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I have heard of the Hydra products. One of the guys I know at MA has a Hydra Stream in line with his external filter on his tank and said it reduce tank maintenance

Just a comment to say that using something to lower tap nitrate won't reduce the need for tank maintenance as those of us who have low tap nitrate will tell you  :) The fish still poo, bits of plant still die, the fish still excrete chemicals and secrete hormones, all of which have to be removed  ;)

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #15 on: September 16, 2017, 12:02:49 PM »
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I think I may just be fussing over nothing.
My tap water has 40ppm nitrate, and short of moving house, or constantly going down the tap/RO mix routes (both of which would cause other problems), that's not going to change.
The maintenance regime I follow ensures that the nitrates don't increase, and the use of plants (esp. floating plants) are a great help.
Although not overly happy with the nitrates in my tap water, things could be worse, and my tanks are stable.
My hard water has led me to choose some very entertaining fish & amphibians, and when desperate to have certain fish I have tried to alter my water parameters using RO, which seems to be working, but something that I couldn't maintain for all tanks.
If I had soft water I would have tanks full of harlequins, rummy nose tetras, and coolie loaches.

@Sue I completely agree. The comment about reducing tank maintenance made me think it was part of their sales pitch, but hoping that they were using the term to include syphoning, cleaning, plant trimming, and water changes in one phrase. I quite enjoy getting my hands into a tank, and always hope that it's part of getting the fish used to human interaction, encouraging them not to hide when there are people around the tank, and being more sociable. Well, you know what I mean.  ;D

Offline MarquisMirage

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #16 on: September 16, 2017, 12:24:33 PM »
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The alfagrog and other high porous material have reduced my nitrates a little but my tap nitrates are also not high to begin with.  It's not something that will fix your tank straight away as you'll need to experiment with flow and quantity to get the most out of it and as such is best used in either a second external filter inline with your main filter or a sump.  Still, a little in a normal filter and plants will help a bit.  I haven't had it running long enough to fully 'tune' it yet.

Pfk magazine did a review of the Hydra 30 in 2016 (Nathan Hill) and he confirms my initial thoughts looking at the page linked.  Where is the info on how it actually works?  If anything claims great new tech that will allow much better ability (in all things not just aquariums) I want a decent explanation.

Offline Matt

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Re: Detritus worms
« Reply #17 on: September 17, 2017, 09:17:04 AM »
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There are some vids on YouTube which explain it... basically it works via electrolysis.  I feel similar to others though i must say... That that said i always try and keep an open mind to new technologies and I cant find anything that says categorically that it doesn't work... I suppose the question would possibly be "Is it needed" or " does it make enough difference" especially compared to no-energy consuming options like porous media... I think the answer to these questions at the moment is no at the moment, but if the tech can be improved then you never know I suppose!!

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