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Substrate worms ID?

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#1 Squeaky McMurdo

Squeaky McMurdo
  • NANFA Guest
  • Afton, WY

Posted 16 August 2016 - 08:29 PM

There are white, maybe light pink worms in my sunstrate. What are these little worms and can my fish eat them? *Background* I grabbed a bunch of wild aquatic plants that were probably white water crows foot to test out in an uninhabited tank and it all melted away killing the mayfly nymphs, caddisfly larvae and everything else that stowed away, but was welcomed to my aquarium...or so I thought. Before I got the tank it was outdoors in storage and I cleaned it thoroughly (cats are gross) and substrate is new, the filter media came from my established 75 gallon native tank and it does not have these worms. I can only assume these came on the plants from the cold water spring and survived the dead plant goo apocalypse last week.


There is a mayfly nymph and I've seen somehing else swim by too. I did a 95% water change to try to rid the tank of plant bits and they somehow survived. The worms didn't show up until today!

#2 gerald

  • Global Moderator
  • Wake Forest, North Carolina

Posted 16 August 2016 - 10:36 PM

Most likely they're some type of Turbellarian flatworms (the group that includes Planaria and many other smaller flatworms) and/or Oligochaete worms (Aeolosoma, Stylaria, Nais, and others).  They live in nearly every freshwater body and aquarium, but you only see them when there's enough decaying matter to make them reproduce in high numbers.  Yes, many fish will eat them.  We tend to see them more in tanks with big predatory fish that don't bother eating things that small.

Gerald Pottern
Hangin' on the Neuse
"Taxonomy is the diaper used to organize the mess of evolution into discrete packages" - M.Sandel

#3 Matt DeLaVega

Matt DeLaVega
  • Forum Staff
  • Ohio

Posted 17 August 2016 - 06:47 PM

Turbellarian are hard to mistake. A flat phallic shaped worm. More people mistake them for leeches than worms. They move entirely different than leeches, more like a snail or slug.The ones that I am familiar with are more Brown, grey, black than pink.  Oligochaete are going to look more like the one you are most familiar with, earthworms. Maybe you picked up some tubifex, kind of reddish and like detritus.They typically will anchor into the substrate with the rear end and rhythmically wave their bodies in the water unless disturbed, then quickly retreat to the substrate. All food for the right sized fish as Gerald mentioned.


I have found tubifex in some downright nasty water. Not sure I would want to collect them for feed in these areas.

The member formerly known as Skipjack

#4 Irate Mormon

Irate Mormon
  • NANFA Member
  • Crooked Creek, Mississippi

Posted 22 August 2016 - 10:42 PM

Tubifex are known to like nasty water.  i haven't found any nice colonies, but I would suspect purging them for 24H or so would render them edible.  

-The member currently known as Irate Mormon

#5 swampfish

  • NANFA Member

Posted 24 August 2016 - 12:58 PM

I commonly find small numbers of tubifex worms associated with good quality habitats. I suspect that tubifex are like many other animals that can survive nasty conditions. Because they can handle nasty conditions, they are able to thrive there due to lack of competition. It has been my experience that tubifex do very well in good conditions as long as they don't have competition from other worms. Like many people in the world, just because they can survive in nasty conditions doesn't mean they prefer or need them. The worms are probably fine to feed to your fish without purging.


Phil Nixon

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