Bristle worms

How do you handle bristle worms?

• Bristle worms can inflict a painful bite.

• You must not try to handle bristle worms; only ever use gloves or tweezers.

• Be very careful of the fire worm.

How do you locate bristle worms?

They are most active at night so shine a torch into the tank when it is dark.

How do they get into the tank?

Mostly in live rock or sometimes on corals.


How do you limit their introduction to the aquarium?

• Quarantine tanks are helpful to enable you to observe the new piece before it is added to the display.

• In the quarantine tank for live rock, you may choose to have a resident fish to eat them.


How do you get them out of the tank?

• See the question How do you make a shrimp trap (mantis shrimp). The same trap is useful to catch bristle worms.

• Coral-banded shrimp can eat small bristle worms.

• If you are unsuccessful, leave the cap on the coke bottle and drill a hole in it, to create a smaller hole to decrease the chances of them climbing out.

• To lure them out, don’t feed the tank for over a week, then place a piece of bait at the front of the tank. Turn off the light and watch because they will often come out looking for food once the light is off. As them come out of the substrate you may be able to grab them (with tweezers, gloves or in a net).

• Place some bait in nylon stocking so the worms get tangled in the stocking.

• You could try removing parts of the gravel at a time and wash it in a bucket of tank water.

• Put fish in that eat them. It is best to place the fish in after the live rock has been placed in the tank and remove it before you put the coral in.


What fish eat bristle worms?

• Many wrasse, dottybacks, triggers and butterflys will eat them but may eat coral too.

• Coral banded shrimp are great.


What are the advantages of Bristle worms?

• They aerate the substrate.

• Eat debris.


What are the disadvantages of Bristle worms?

• Bristle worms often damage coral and clams.

• They have been known to eat fish, they often catch the fish when they are asleep.


by Paul Talbot