At one time or another, aquarists may experience having Planaria and/or Hydra in their tank. These pests are often the results of poor tank care.
Planaria are flatworms while Hydras are classified as coelenterates. Planaria commonly affects freshwater shrimp tanks and is usually associated with overfeeding and the presence of dirty substrate in fish tanks. When there is too much uneaten food on the aquarium substrate, it creates an ideal environment for these pests to thrive in. Both of these pests are also known to consume small shrimps and fish fry.
Tanks with carnivorous fish are prone to infestations of Planaria and Hydra. This is attributed to the fact that these fish species have digestive systems that tend to allow a lot of undigested and unabsorbed food to pass through their alimentary tract, thereby making the undigested food available to the Planaria and Hydra.
Although these pests do not put your fish in potential danger, they are unsightly to look at and are revealing indications of poor tank maintenance and hygiene.
Apart from using a chemical dewormer known as Fenbendazole, aquarists have various methods of dealing naturally with these tank pests based on the principle of reducing food source and making frequent partial water changes. Typically, cleaning your tank and avoid feeding of excess food can dramatically reduce the population of Planaria and Hydra.
Here are some of the most popular:
- Vacuum the tank substrate thoroughly and perform a 30-50% partial water change. You can also try to stir up the substrate every day until all waste and excess food are filtered through the tank’s mechanical filter. Partial water changes should be performed weekly until all the important water parameters are within an acceptable range.
- Reduce amount of food while performing weekly water changes of at least 30%. Stirring the substrate while doing a water change will ensure that no leftover food and debris are trapped in the substrate. Partial water changes should frequently be performed when you have an overcrowded tank.
- Conduct water changes (25%) daily while sucking the worms up using a siphon. Feeding should be reduced to once a day.
- Since fish can thrive for several days even without food, some hobbyists have tried fasting their fish for several days. Once they get hungry, they can feed on some of the Planaria in the tank.
If you are into fish breeding, you can try to remove the worms manually, since they will also feed on fish eggs. If their source of food is eliminated thoroughly from the aquarium, the worms will eventually die of hunger.
There are also quite a few species of community fish that will feed on these squishy little invaders. Some of these include Paradise fish, Gouramis, and other anabantids. Other predator fish species include mollies, guppies, angelfish, platys, and dwarf cichlids. These fish species spend time browsing and scouring through the tank substrate and can keep an average population of Planaria under control.
Peter Hartono is the online marketing executive of Just Aquatic.
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