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Bad Type Bristleworms Control

Ways to Prevent and Remove Infestations

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A beneficial, but nuisance species in large numbers

Hawaiian Orange Fireworm (Eurythoe complanata)

Image by Debbie Hauter
Preventative Measures

Fireworms are typically introduced into an aquarium by hitchhiking in on live rock, so taking the time to inspect all new pieces of live rock for these animals before placing it into your aquarium is the first step in preventing an infestation. By laying the rock out on newspaper, a sheet of plastic or linen, if any of these worms are present you will see them sticking out of or crawling around on the rock. Take tweezers and carefully grab the worm as close to the base of the body as you can see sticking out, then gently wiggle and pull it out.

    Tip: It is advised to always wear a pair of gloves of some kind when dealing with Fireworms to avoid coming into contact with their stinging bristles.

Simple Removal Methods

  • Remove them by hand using tweezers or a net when you see them.
  • Buy a bristleworm trap, or make your own.
  • Use a baited nylon stocking.
  • Introduce a natural predator of these worms into the aquarium, such as a Dottyback, Wrasse of the Halichoeres family, Bird Wrasse (Gomphosus varius), Maori Wrasse (Cheilinus oxycephalus), Sunset Wrasse (Thalassoma lutescens), Coral Banded Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus) or Arrow Crab (Stenorhynchus setrcornis).

    Tip: Although the last option is very popular, caution is advised. An introduced predator will eat the bad worms, but species such as these will eat other types of desirable inverts and crustaceans as well.

Severe Infestation Solution

Although this problem is not likely to occur if the worms are removed when found, if your aquarium is overwhelmed by a severe bad type, or even a beneficial type bristleworms infestation, such as with those of the Eurythoe genus, you can quickly reduce the population by cleaning up the substrate and rocks. Here is what you can do.

  • Only remove small portions of the aquarium substrate at a time and either:
    • Spread it out on a plastic sheet, then sieve through the media by hand and pick the worms out using tweezers.
    • Place the substrate in a plastic container partially filled with saltwater, and stir it around. The worms should come up from the media each time this is done and be in the water portion of the container where they can be scooped out. A fine meshed fish net works well for this.
  • Remove the rocks one at a time and follow the rock cleaning procedure outlined under the "Preventative Measures" section above.

    Tip: Whenever working with live substrate media and rocks in the open air, it is best to keep it moist, which can be done by using a spray bottle filled with saltwater to dampen it.

~ Debbie & Stan Hauter

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