Nobody wants to find tiny worms in their Betta aquarium. Yuk!
If you spot a mass of tiny, thread-like white worms living in the substrate, it is most likely detritus worms. These creatures feed on uneaten food, fish waste, and general litter in your tank, hence the name of the worms. These worms are usually a sign of a dirty tank!
However, in this article, we’re going to take a look at another common type of worm-like creature called Planaria that you can sometimes find in your Betta tank.
What are planar worms?
Planarians belong to the ancient platyhelminth tribe of flatworms and are related to other similar creatures, such as: B. Liver fluke. Planaria can be found in saltwater and freshwater fish tanks around the world and finds its way into your aquarium, hidden in plants, stones, substrates and even on fish.
These fast-breeding worms are hermaphrodites, which means they don’t need males and females in order to reproduce. Did you know that if you chop a planar worm into half a dozen pieces, if you chop a planar worm into half a dozen pieces, you will have half a dozen fully formed flatworms in a matter of days?
Most types of planarians graze on waste products in the substrate, although some are parasitic or predatory. These worms are deceptively advanced and have the ability to sense water currents through sensory devices in their heads and eyes. Planarians generally shy away from light, prefer darker conditions, and mostly exit at night, which can make them difficult to spot.
How to identify planar worms
Before you can start treating the worms in your aquarium, you need to clearly identify the species.
Planarians are about 10 millimeters long and have flat bodies. The creatures have a triangular head with two small eyes that are visible, and the worms can be white, brown, gray, or even pink, depending on the food they ate. You will most likely see these wrigglers gliding across your aquarium glass instead of living in the substrate, though you can sometimes spot a worm attached to your poor Betta or one of his tankmates.
Are planar worms dangerous to your fish?
Planaria worms generally do not harm healthy fish. However, they do enjoy feeding on fish eggs, which is clearly a major problem for you if you continue to fish eggs with your Betta.
Some species of predatory, carnivorous planarians also attack the eyes and gills of weakened adult fish.
These creatures come in two major types; those who eat detritus and those who are predatory.
Dugesia planaria worms
Dugesia planaria worms are black and brown. These creatures are harmless to fish. However, they feed on debris, including feces, biofilm, and uneaten food. If you have a population of these planariums in your aquarium, it is an indication of poor aquarium keeping. If you have a very dirty tank, you could potentially have hundreds or even thousands of these worms.
Although Dugesia planaria worms are not carnivorous, they can slide into the gills and other sensitive areas of fish, causing stress that weakens the fish’s immune systems and leaves victims vulnerable to disease. However, if you have shrimp in your setup, these worms can be a big problem.
These types of planarians are believed to secrete a toxin that can poison invertebrates. If either of these worms snakes its way inside a shrimp shell, toxins could be deposited directly in the tissues of the unfortunate shrimp, as it is known.
White planarians are classified as Procotyla fluviatillis. These animals are extremely predatory and will eat small worms, crustaceans, daphnia, and even other planarians. Procotyla attacks everything in range including shrimp eggs, prawns, and even adult shrimp. Though usually less common than Dugesia planaria, these pesky animals can still cause great damage to the peaceful shrimp that share your Betta fish’s aquarium.
How to get rid of planar worms
So you can see that you really don’t want a Planaria worm infestation in your tank. Unfortunately, both types of these stubborn pests are extremely resilient and can be incredibly difficult to eradicate.
If you empty the entire tank and start over, the worms will not move. They just reappear and multiply quickly to revive your aquarium. Changing the water temperature does not work either. Research has shown that planarians can survive without food in refrigerated conditions!
Copper treatments can be effective against planar worms, but they also harm shrimp and snails. However, if you don’t have invertebrates in your community, dosing the tank with a copper-based drug may help. As with any form of chemical treatment, read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and never exceed the recommended dose.
Betel nut palm extract
Betel Nut Palm Extract is a herbal treatment that is highly effective against planarians, eliminating the worms without harming your shrimp and fish. You can find betel nut palm extract as the active ingredient of an herbal product called No Planaria, which you can buy online at this link.
Just remember that you need to give your aquarium a thorough overhaul and clean it thoroughly with an aquarium vacuum cleaner to remove any dead and dying worms after the treatment is complete.
Chemical worm treatments
Since planarian problems can be caused by just a few worms that are difficult to spot, they are difficult to get rid of. Because of this, chemical treatments are usually the preferred method of eradicating the pests.
However, chemicals can be very harmful to fish, plants and invertebrates. So you need to be absolutely certain that planarians are the problem. When in doubt, catch a few worms in a planarian trap and ask your local fish store or veterinary office to confirm the type of parasite you are dealing with.
Once you know that you definitely have planar worms in your tank, it is important that you thoroughly research the chemical product you are using to make sure it is safe for your fish and other animals. In particular, remove invertebrates from the tank before treating the water. Some bottom eater species, scaleless or metynnis fish, may also be very sensitive to worm eradication treatments. We therefore recommend removing these fish from your aquarium prior to treatment.
Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines carefully when using chemical treatments in your tank, as overdosing can kill your fish. For your own safety, be sure to wear gloves when handling chemicals.
The most effective chemicals used to treat planaria include trichlorfon, a powerful neurotoxin. However, we recommend that you seek advice from your veterinarian or local fish shop when choosing a treatment for your aquarium.
Treatment of sensitive fish
As mentioned earlier, doing chemical treatments in a betta tank that contains delicate fish species can be very dangerous. You should therefore remove them and put them back temporarily until the main aquarium has been treated.
But what do you do when a sensitive fish or your betta has one of these random worms?
The easiest way to remove the worm is to treat the fish with a quick saltwater dip or bath. Read this in-depth guide to learn more about how to give your bettafish a salt bath or bath.
Before returning the fish to quarantine or the main tank, use blunt tweezers and carefully remove the weakened worm from the fish’s body.
Panaria worms can be a real nuisance in your aquarium, especially if you keep shrimp. In order to get rid of the worms effectively, you need to apply chemical treatment. However, first remove any sensitive fish species.
After the treatment is complete, give your tank a thorough deep clean by vacuuming the substrate. Going forward, make sure your aquarium is clean and free of fish waste, leftover food and general waste that can feed the worms.