How to Get Bristle Worms Out of Your Marine Aquariums

Written by amy reynolds
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How to Get Bristle Worms Out of Your Marine Aquariums
Bristle worms are an undesirable marine aquarium inhabitant. (aquarium fish 9 image by cherie from

Bristle worms wreak havoc on all other life forms in any marine aquarium, so their removal is a high priority for saltwater aquarium keepers. Bristle worms have voracious appetites and grow quite large --- up to 2 feet in some instances. Removal is necessary to protect the other species of marine aquarium life you want to see thrive. You can determine bristle worms' presence with a surprise inspection. After a few hours of complete darkness in the aquarium, you will often find the culprits out and searching for food.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Small opaque plastic food container with lid
  • 1 piece of raw clam, mussel, scallop or fish
  • 1 piece of cooked shrimp (optional)
  • Knife or razor blade

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  1. 1

    Make a homemade trap or buy one premade. Follow the manufacturer's directions if using a premade trap. Saltwater aquarium hobbyists often cite homemade traps as more effective than premade.

  2. 2

    Cut an X-shaped hole in the lid of a plastic container with a knife or razor blade if making your own bristle worm trap. The "X" should be slightly smaller than the diameter of the worm. Push the cut plastic inward so that bristle worms can enter the baited container but not get back out.

  3. 3

    Place your choice of bristle worm bait inside the container. One small cooked shrimp or chunk of raw clam, mussel, scallop or fish is sufficient bait to catch bristle worms.

    How to Get Bristle Worms Out of Your Marine Aquariums
    Using shrimp intended for humans seems to have better results as bait than those sold for fish food. (shrimp image by Liz Van Steenburgh from
  4. 4

    Fill the baited container with aquarium water to sink it to the bottom of the tank. Place it in an area where bristle worms are likely to hide.

  5. 5

    Turn off any lighting to draw out the bristle worms. They come out when it is dark and hide from the light. Change the bait food at least every 48 hours to help prevent fouling the water.

    How to Get Bristle Worms Out of Your Marine Aquariums
    Bristle worms prefer the cover of darkness to make an appearance. (shrimp and eel image by Travis Hiner from

Tips and warnings

  • It may take repeated tries to rid your marine aquarium of bristle worms. Stay vigilant.

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