How to Get Rid of White Worms in an Aquarium?

Do you have white worms in your aquarium? You may be dealing with one of the two varieties of worm infestations or both simultaneously.

  • The first white worm being the Detritus worm.
  • The second one is (less common)- the Planaria worms .

Do not worry! We have got you covered.

The white worms floating and crawling in the tank are a common problem. They reproduce and multiply quite quickly.

When left on their own, they are the fastest-growing population in the tank competing for food and oxygen.

It, therefore, becomes a priority to remove all of the worms that can be found.

Before going on to how to remove them, let’s understand how the white worms enter the aquarium.

How Do White Worms End Up In The Tank?

Worms can enter into the tank through plants, new fish, snacks/food that is given to the fishes, or other new inhabitants of the aquarium like a snail, etc.

White worms also get transferred from the water and gravel of the infested tank.

They increase in number due to lack of change of water, overfeeding, and general lack of maintenance of the tank including gravel siphoning and filter changing.

Let us look into each of the worms and how to differentiate between the two white worms

Detritus Worms

Detritus worms are white and thin with strings-like structures. Their body is segmented with white or brown pigment quite apparent on the segments.

They are a phylum of annelids and belong to a similar class of earthworms and leeches.

They are usually seen wiggling through the aquarium and are found in abundance in the substrate (gravel).

Detritus wiggle upwards from the substrate to the other parts of the aquarium.

They have no interest in the fish. They feed on decomposed plants, waste material from the fish, and leftover food.

In smaller quantities, they may be beneficial as they eat up all waste and keep the tank clean.

The problem starts when their population increases as they lower the oxygen levels in the tank.

This, in turn, leads to low oxygen levels for the fishes causing them to become sick.

As time passes, they also increase in size and number making the aquarium look unappealing and creepy.

Planaria Worms

Planaria worms are white and small. They are flatworms from the class turbellaria.

They have a triangular arrow-shaped head and their eyes protrude from the sides of their head.

Planaria are much harder to remove from the tank compared to Detritus worms.

They are usually found crawling on the glass of the aquarium (their movement is similar to caterpillar crawling).

Being asexual, they reproduce on their own. Each of their parts can multiply into a new worm.

Planaria are carnivores and can harm the weaker fishes (munching on gills and eyes of weak fishes) and eat up the eggs.

Most of the time they leave the healthy fishes alone.

How To Get Rid Of Detritus Worms?

When you look at the aquarium and you see Detritus worms coming out of the gravel in hundreds, it’s time to clean them up.

Clean Up Your Aquarium

Take the fish out and put them in another temporary tank or bag.

Remove the plants and other accessories, decorations from the aquarium. Soak them in bleach for around 15-20 minutes.

Rinse them with running water and let them air dry.

Wash your plants as well. Make sure to use only a 5% bleach solution on them for about three minutes. Rinse and let them dry.

Use a water siphon to vacuum the gravel. Do this repeatedly and thoroughly. Vacuuming will remove the worms from the substrate.

Wait for three-four days and then clean the filter. This is done so that a balance of beneficial bacteria is maintained despite thorough cleaning.

Change the Water

Unclean water is one of the leading causes of an increase in the population of Detritus worms.

Do not do a complete water change at one go as it takes time for the fish to adjust to the changed water chemistry.

The fish can go into shock or stress with a sudden, drastic change in the environment.

A 30-40% water change at one go is sufficient. If the worm infestation is really bad, you may consider a 60-80% water change.

Reduce the Feeding Quantity

Most of the debris that white worms eat is the leftover food that sits down on the gravel. Do not feed the fish excess. Starve off the worms.

Give your fish only that much food that they eat up within five minutes.

A good method is to starve the fishes one day and feed them the next day.

This technique will not harm the fish. They are built to adjust for days between meals.

They can also eat the whole day if they get food in abundance. Remember it’s always better to underfeed your fish rather than overfeed them.

Do Not Overpopulate Your Tank

Excess of fishes and plants leads to an increase in waste along with depletion in oxygen levels and pH.

Maintain a balance. Do your research as to how much space your fish and plants require. Give them the exact space and volume of water accordingly.

Excess of waste will cause the population of worms to shoot up. The worms will eventually start competing for oxygen, food, and territorial movements.

Also read: How to Raise pH in a Fish Tank

Maintain a Good Filtration

Clean up the filters on time and ensure good oxygen is supplied to the tank. Poor filtration leads to dirty water.

This water becomes a breeding ground for worms and parasites. Try using mechanical filters as they require minimum effort.

Addition of Hydrogen Peroxide

Add one part of hydrogen peroxide to 5 parts of water.

Wash your gravel, decoration, and rocks with this solution. Hydrogen peroxide is not lethal and in fact harmless to sturdy fishes and plants.

It, however, kills the worms, eggs, and larvae.

How to Get Rid Of Planaria Worms

To remove Planaria worms requires a little bit more effort.

Following are the various methods you can use to get rid of them

Clean the Aquarium and Feed Less

Regular cleaning, vacuuming the gravel with the help of siphon, changing of water and other processes should be followed the same way as mentioned when cleaning the Detritus worms.

Planaria loves to feed on leftover food. Make sure you do not feed give excess food to your fish.

Skip one day and feed the next day. Preferably use half the amount of feed you were giving before.

Chemical Treatment

Fishes, snails, and shrimps that are sensitive should be removed before the treatment.

For double protection, it is a good idea to remove all the fishes to a temporary tank and then begin the chemical treatment.

If you see Planaria on the fish or snails, remove them manually with tweezers.

Before starting, get advice from the local aquarium shop professionals or an ichthyologist if you can.

This will help you know about the type of infestations in your tank.

Use a dog dewormer to kill all the planaria. In the United States, you can buy Panacur C canine dewormer. It contains fenbendazole and is quite effective. It is also shrimp safe.

Make sure to use the right dosage according to manufacturing instructions. Use 0.1 gms of fenbendazole per 10 gallons of water.

Here is the technique.

  1. Use 1 gm of fenbendazole in 100ml of water.
  2. Put the solution into an empty water bottle and shake it up really nice.
  3. Next, take 10ml of the solution with the help of a syringe and use it for 10 gallons of water.

Do not switch on any light.

It is a good idea to cover up the aquarium. LED lights are known to deactivate fenbendazole.

The dewormer kills all sorts of worms quite effectively.

If you have a bad infestation and Planaria are not killed in one go, re-dose the tank with the same concentration in 1-3 days again without changing water.

Once all Planaria are killed, change the water completely before placing your fishes back in.

Planaria Trap Leech Catcher

You can make this on your own or purchase readymade from Amazon or any other online distributors of aquarium products.

fantastic_008 Leech Trap for Aquarium,Planaria Trap Leeches Catcher for Cherry Shrimp Crystal Red Shrimp Dwarf Shrimp

To make your own planaria worm trap:

  1. Take a plastic container with a lid.
  2. Taking a sharp knife or a blade make an x shape on the lid.
  3. Push the corners inwards to form a little opening in the lid. Alternatively, you can also poke some holes in the base of the plastic container and leave the lid as it is.
  4. Next, open the lid and place bait inside like bloodworms, shrimp meat, or fish foods. Anything that is delicious enough for the Planaria to come inside the trap.

If you buy online you will get a glass tube with the lid on it. There are two-three holes on the sides of the tube. Open the lid and place the bait.

While placing the plastic jar or the glass tube inside the aquarium, make sure to cover the holes with your finger and open the lid slightly for the water to go inside the trap.

Place the trap with the holes facing the substrate so the planaria can get in easily.

Keep it there for 3 to 4 hours or overnight depending on how many planaria are trapped.

For optimum results remove it from the tank keeping a hand on the holes, remove the planaria. Clean and repeat the process using fresh bait.

Repeating this process a couple of times for a few days can make you get rid of planaria completely.

Add Some Healthy Fish

Yes, you read that right. Healthy fishes do eat up planaria.

If you decrease the dosage of feeding, the fishes will resort to eating Planarium, and very soon all the planaria will be gone from your tank.


I hope I have given you all the information you have been looking for. White worms can be disgusting but they can be removed.

Keep your tank clean. Vacuum your gravel regularly. Do regular maintenance and water changes and keep your filter clean.

Remember to clean all new plants in alum or 5% bleach for a few minutes and then wash and dry before placing them inside the tank.

Follow the right feeding technique.

Follow all the above instructions and rest assured there will be no more white worms in your tank. All the best!

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