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Aquarium, Fish Parasites, Worms; Planaria, Nematodes, Detritus, Anchor
By Carl Strohmeyer-PAMR 35+ years experience
In Aquariums & Ponds
The Index below index breaks down the Worms into their three Phylums:
*Platyhelminthes, *Nematoda, & *Annelida
As well as information about Feeding Worms & Anchor Worms, which are not worms, rather copepod crustaceans.
- Platyhelminthes (Trematodes, Flukes, Fish Lice, Flat worms, Planaria)
- Nematodes (Round Worms)
- Treatment of Internal Nematodes (& some Internal Trematodes)
- Suggested Treatments/Preventatives for Both Internal/External
- Annelids (Segmented Worms), Detritus Worms
- Anchor Worms
- Feeding Worms including:
Basics, Identification, and TREATMENT in Aquarium and Pond Fish.
Information is included about non parasite Detritus Worms (commonly seen when an aquarium is cleaned or in aquariums with high bio loads and is an area with much confusion especially on the internet and often mis-identified as PLANARIA (Freshwater). More about Detritus Worms further into the article.
Information about: The Truth about Planaria in Aquariums
For information about "Whirling Disease" caused by the myxozoan parasite "Myxobolus cerebralis", please refer to this related article from "Aquarium/Pond Answers:
Whirling Disease (Myxobolus cerebralis) in Fish
(Monogenea, Trematodes/Flukes, Planarians)
Platyhelminthes consists of the unsegmented flatworms, which include both free-living and parasitic species.
These worms have bilateral symmetry, and can move by using layers of muscle or by gliding along a slime trail using cilia.
Flatworms lack a circulatory system and complete digestive system, instead flatworms absorb nutrients through their skin and excrete wastes using specialized "flame cells".
*Flame cells function like a kidney, removing waste materials.
A few flatworms have primitive light-sensing "eyes" that allow them to move either towards or away from light, while other species have different types of sensors on their bodies, including chemical, balance, and water movement receptors. Most species of flatworms reproduce both sexually and asexually.
The trematodes belong to the Animal Kingdom Phylum Platyhelminthes, and are commonly referred to as flukes.
Trematodes usually have flattened bodies, a primitive digestive system, suckers for attachment to their hosts, and are hermaphrodites (an organism that possesses both male and female sex organs).
The Monogenea are the class ectoparasites that infect fish.
Planaria are both marine and freshwater and can be parasitic, but this is generally rare and the few that are, generally are parasitic toward corals, eggs or other stationary "victims".
See the section on Detritus Worms for more about Planaria since these are all too often confused with Detritus worms even though a completely different Phylum of worms.
Internal Flukes generally use intermediate hosts such as snails or other mollusks. The eggs must get into water in order to hatch and be able to infect their first host, a freshwater snail. The fluke develops in the snail and then burrows out to seek the second host which is a freshwater fish. Many species of snail and fish may carry these internal flukes.
Gill flukes (Dactylogyrus) will appear on the gill filaments as tiny dark spots 0.04-0.08 inches (1-2mm) long.
Gill flukes can infect freshwater and saltwater fish and are found on fish from the wild as well as farmed fish.
These parasites attach to the gills of the fish and feed on mucus, epithelial cells (cells that line the inside of gills and perform the tasks of secretion, absorption, protection, and transcellular transport), and blood from the host.
The pictures above display first a standard microscopic slide of an isolated gill fluke and then to the right a Scanning Electron Microscope view of a gill fluke attached to gill filaments.
It is noteworthy that 100% positive identification with the naked eye is impossible.
Other than scraping the gills (which can be fatal to the fish) and then preparing a slide, your best recourse is an "educated guess" based on redness in the gills (which can be other issues too such as ammonia poisoning burns), and scraping of the fish against objects in the aquarium or pond in the area of the gills.
More about Gill Flukes;
Much of the mucus being produced by the fish is in response to the physical injury caused by the parasites.
Damage is physical and inflammatory, with secondary bacterial infections such as septicemia. Small or weak fish may die from the stress of acute infestations.
Gill flukes reproduce via eggs that drop away to hatch in about 2 to 4 days depending upon temperature.
The hatchling Dactylogyrus is ciliated similar to a paramecium. Once a host is found the water-borne Dactylogyrus larvae has eye spots that enable it to swim away from light and burrow into the fishes' gill cover as the fish respires.
From my experience in a healthy aquarium or pond, even if one or two fish in the aquarium/pond have a large enough parasite infection to be irritated, if the larva fails to find a host, it dies.
However in poorly filtered and/or crowded ponds or in particular aquariums, these conditions increase the likelihood the larva will find a host. Once attached, it may take a week to mature and start producing eggs.
The adult Gill Fluke is assumed to only live 5-10 days.
Improving filtration and over crowding is as important as treatment.
With larger ponds, generally isolating the fish in a tub or small "play pool" is all that is necessary for treatment, assuming crowding and filtration is not a problem or improved.
Common aquarium carriers of gill flukes include: Plecostomus, Otocinclus, Corydoras, Koi, Discus, Characins, livebearers (Poeciliidae), some tetras (Characins) and Barbs (Cyprinidae), and Elephant Nose (Gnathonemus petersi).
For more about Monogeneans Flukes, which are a group of parasites best described as flatworms but are now considered a different class from Trematodes, please see these articles:
*Monogenean Parasites, Marine Fish
*Monogenean Parasites in Fish
FISH LICE (Argulus):
These are often round, flat and green.
They are similar in treatment to flukes and anchor worms. These can be physically removed with tweezers, and then the wound treated with Mebromin, hydrogen peroxide or even Neosporin followed by a 30 minute Methylene Blue Bath.
Reference: Fish Baths; Basic Ingredients, Methylene Blue
The Acoel flatworms commonly observed are “Redbugs” or “Red Planaria”, of which the genus Convolutriloba is a member as in the picture to the left of Convolutriloba retrogemma.
While Convolutriloba retrogemma are often blamed for coral attacks, in reality this is rare. Rather, they breed rapidly and reproduce either sexually, laying eggs or by the asexual processes of fission/ budding where the worm simply splits up, producing a bud that forms a new worm.
Therein lies the problem: the flatworms crawl along the coral in search of food and, as they rapidly multiply, they block the coral's light as well as hamper nematocyst capture of the coral’s prey. The coral is thus deprived of symbiotic nutrient nourishment, as well as planktonic food, and slowly starves to death.
The use of "Reef Dip" or a freshwater dip of corals or similar is the best prevention for these flatworms.
Where to purchase: *SeaChem Reef Dip
Treatments for External Flukes or Worms (including Flatworms/Planaria):
Clout and other "in tank" treatments are often more effective when accompanied by baths or dips, as well, if a parasite such as a camalanus worm is exposed, treatment is often more effective.
Where to purchase: *American Aquarium Products Parasite treatment, Clout
For marine applications, I generally will treat twice with a water change and carbon treatment in between.
ALL invertebrates should be removed during treatment (Corals, Shrimp, Anemones, etc.).
Prior to re-introduction to the treated aquarium, all corals should be dipped in pH stabilized freshwater for 25 to 45 seconds.
A standard dose of Potassium Permanganate or Clout can be added to this dip for extra measure.
This can also be used for nematodes, camalanus worms, or internal protozoans; although sometimes multiple dosages may be required.
This can be used as either a bath (as well as mixed with Methylene Blue) or 'in-tank. treatment.
This is highly effective when used as directed for external parasites
Mild effectiveness for internal parasites
Where to purchase: *AAP PraziPro
- AAP Potassium Permanganate
- Tetra Parasite Clear from AAP
Nematodes, also known as Roundworms, are a very common phyla of animals of which there are many parasitic forms. Nematodes are one of the simplest animal groups to have a complete digestive system, with a separate orifice for food intake and waste excretion unlike the Trematodes mentioned above. Reproduction is usually sexual and males are usually smaller than females.
Parasitic Nematodes can have quite complicated life cycles, moving between several different hosts or even locations in the host's body.
If the Nematode has a direct life cycle, then it does not need an intermediate host and infection can spread directly from one fish to another by means of a fish ingesting of eggs or larvae.
If the Nematode has an indirect life cycle the nematode eggs or larvae enter an invertebrate intermediate host (such as copepod, tubiflex worm, or insect larva) or a fish intermediate host (these fish are then consumed by larger carnivorous fish) prior to being eaten by or entering the final host fish.
Indications (Diagnosis) of Nematode Infestation:
A method of diagnosing a nematode problem is generally just a guess. This is particularly plausible when a fish is eating regularly yet continues to lose weight, metabolizing body musculature to stay alive.
This is usually seen as thinning along the back on either side of the dorsal fin. This often results in a well-fed fish starving to death.
White feces can also be an identification tool, however this can be misleading as to a true Nematode (worm) infestation, as long thin white feces along with bloating are just as often an indicator of a bacterial infection; generally Aeromonas or possibly a digestive issue.
This can also be an indicator of a combination bacterial (again Aeromonas) and protozoan Flagellate infection, usually Hexamita.
Loss of appetite along with the other mentioned symptoms (such as thick white feces, along with some bloating on one side or both of the fish) can also be an indicator of a Nematode infection, especially a Eustrongylid nematode infestation.
Much More Information:
Gram negative, Aeromonas Infections in Fish
Generally a more positive identification of internal Nematodes is a thread like worm protruding from the anus.
True identification begins with a microscope (& often requires a necropsy of the fish after death).
Nematodes are smooth, cylindrical, relatively long worms, which distinguishes them from the flatter, segmented tapeworms and from the wider and shorter Monogenea Flukes.
Here is a list of some other general symptoms of nematode infections (besides the above already mentioned symptoms):
- Body Hemorrhaging
- Lumps or nodules on outer body (epidermis)
- Bloated or the opposite, wasting of the abdomen (the fish may continue to eat or show otherwise normal behavior).
It is noteworthy that bloating in particular is generally a better indicator of a gut infection such as caused by Aeromonas Bacteria and/or a poorly functioning digestive system (which could also be the result of poor fish osmoregulation)
- Cysts, Inflammation, or Granulomas
A Few Common Nematodes:
Capillari is probably the most common nematode due to the relatively non-complex life cycle and ease of transmission, as Capillaria spread from one fish to another by ingestion of infective larvae that live in the intestines of cichlids such as angelfish, discus, gouramis, tetras, cyprinids (and some other fish as well).
Symptoms common to this particular nematode include a bulge in the lower abdomen near the vent, or Capillari worms protruding from the anus.
Eustrongylid nematodes are found in muscle within the body cavity or encapsulated on the liver and other organs. These nematodes can affect a number of different species such as guppies, gar, danios, angelfish and other cichlids.
Affected fish typically have bloated abdomens (similar to dropsy of bacterial origin), as these nematodes often migrate into the body cavity and can be quite large.
Unfortunately the treatment of these Nematodes usually fails due to the location of the larvae within the coelomic cavity or in the muscle of the fish, which is often misdiagnosed as bacterial Dropsy leading to the somewhat misleading statements that “Dropsy is un-treatable” when in fact the problem was NEVER Dropsy!
Reference: Dropsy in Fish
Symptoms (but not necessarily proof of infection):
- Usually, the first CLEAR indication of infection is a red worm extending from the anus of a fish (sometimes mistaken for feces).
- Scoliosis; Lateral curvature of the spine
- The lower part of the fish' body is hollow and wasted
- Parasite infested fish show very slow or no growth, as parasite is taking the food.
- Fish is fading away, looks as if it is starving to death.
The life cycle of Camallanus worms passes through three phases;
- A free-living stage
- A series of molts during which time the worms infect an intermediate host (crustaceans such as Cyclops and Gammarus)
- Then another molt that takes place in the final host/fish.
If the intermediate host crustacean is eaten by a fish, then the third-stage larvae becomes active and will start feeding again.
After two more molts, it will become a sexually mature male or female adult worms.
These are the distinctive red worms aquarists see protruding from the vents of infected aquarium fish.
TREATMENTS for Internal Trematodes and Nematodes:
Before you treat, I suggest reading this article also from the "Aquarium/Pond Answers library:
Fish Diseases | How to Treat Sick Fish
The above article is very helpful in that often even milder mediations are much more effective when ALL PARAMETERS are spot on.
In particular, I have seen the relatively mild Metronidazole/Praziquantel combination work well for Camallanus worms when parameter are spot on (this includes a balanced Redox by keeping oxidative stress as low as possible) and not work at all when these are not.
This why we need to be careful with anecdotal advice when it comes to statements that "Metronidazole/Praziquantel will not work", as when we dig deeper as per my long time experience with fish treatments, we will often find that there is a reason the treatment failed, and it was not the medication.
- Metronidazole is a mild treatment, but it can be even more effective when combined with SeaChem ParaGuard (or Quick Cure) in tank and then used as a medicated food soak (do not use ParaGaurd as part of the fish food soak)
Aquarium Medications; Food Delivery of Medications
Recommended Product Sources that support this FREE Information and the Aquarium/Pond Keeping Hobby::
- AAP General Cure
General Cure (which contains Praziquantel, Metronidazole) or Jungle/Hikari Parasite Clear (which contains Praziquantel, Metronidazole, Acriflavin, Diflubenzuron) can be used as a medicated fish food soak for internal parasites. Of the two, General Cure is the better choice since Acriflavin & Diflubenzuron are intended only for external parasites.
- General Cure can be used as a medicated fish food soak by using 1/2 a packet for an average 60 gallon bio load medicated fish preparation. Fish food should be soaked for 15 minutes. After soak, pour entire contents into aquarium
- Parasite Guard can be used as a medicated fish food soak by using 1/2 tablet for an average 60 gallon bio load medicated fish preparation. Fish food should be soaked for 15 minutes. After soak, pour entire contents into aquarium.
Recommended Product Sources that support this FREE Information and the Aquarium/Pond Keeping Hobby:
*Tetra/Jungle Parasite Clear from AAP
*AAP General Cure
- Levamisol One of the most effective treatments for nematodes.
Most commonly available as Levamisol HCL which is slightly diluted of the active ingredient of Levimisol.
See this article for use:
Aquatic Medications #3; chemical and parasite treatments
Treat with Levimisol once followed by a water change and treatment in 3-7 days. Treat a third time after 1-2 weeks following the second treatment.
Be careful, as Levamisol can kill many worms quickly, which with most internal nemtode infections is not an issue since they are not generally widespread. HOWEVER with use for widespread worm infestations, this can be a problem which is why this should NEVER be used to kill Detritus Worms (often misidentified as Planaria)
Here is a source for Levamisol:
- Combinations such as the above mentioned AAP General Cure that have Metronidazole as an ingredient as this medication is often effective for secondary bacterial infections such as Aeromonas and even better for possible Hexamita infestations of the gut, as witnessed in a white feces diagnosis where the aquarist is unsure of whether this is a worm or Aeromonas/Hexamita infection.
Adding Neomycin to the Fish Food soak may help with secondary infections and/or gut infections while adding Nitrofurazon to external "in-tank" or hospital/bath treatments can help with secondary infections, especially Aeromonas infections.
Recommended Product Sources:
*AAP Nitrofurazone (Furan 2)
- Epsom Salts; While not a treatment, the use of pure Epsom Salts (do not use scented products such as Lavender Epsom Salt) can help with passage of the parasite when used in a bath and or a fish food soak.
For a fish food soak (along with medications such as General Cure), I suggest 1/8- 1/4 tsp of epsom salt along for every ounce of food prepared.
The addition of AAP/SeaChem Garlic Guard to this fish food preparation can further help with palatability.
Recommended Product Source:
*AAP/SeaChem Garlic Guard
- Medicated 30 minute baths using Methylene Blue, Aquarium Salts, as well as the antibiotics such as Metronidazole or Nitrofurazone at double normal recommended tank strength; This will aid in absorption of medications and osmoregulation that is VERY important, especially with internal parasite infestations which are difficult to treat even with strong medications.
The Methylene Blue will be absorbed and aid in oxygen delivery although it is only mildly effective against the parasites, Methylene Blue aids in the fish’ general health.
- A good follow up treatment as well as preventative which also improves fish immune resistance via improved Redox Balance (lowering oxidative stress) would be an AAP Medicated Wonder Shell.
The AAP Medicated Wonder Shell is also a good part of a everything but the kitchen sink type treatment when it is not clear whether the problem is nematodes or an internal gut infections
If a medicated fish food soak is being used, the Medicated Wonder Shell would also be useful as an in-tank treatment to fight infection and improve fish immunity.
AAP Medicated Wonder Shells
- Berberine (Oregon Grape Root Powder): While a new use in the aquarium hobby, growing evidence for the use of Berberine best found in Oregon Grape Root is growing in human studies. Since more funding is available for human studies, this often makes these studies more valuable and accurate.
"Berberine has demonstrated significant antimicrobial activity against a variety of organisms including bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoans, helminths, and chlamydia. Currently, the predominant clinical uses of berberine include bacterial diarrhea, intestinal parasite infections, and ocular trachoma infections."
Reference: Berberine; US Library of Medicine
Another benefit of the use of Oregon Grape Root as a source of Berberine is this herbal treatment can work with many other standard treatments such as Metronidazole to improve effectiveness.
Current suggested use is 400 mg of power per 10 gallons of water and used as a additional treatment in aquariums and fish baths, not the sole treatment.
Further Reference: Aquarium Medications Part 4; Oregon Grape Root
Recommended Product Sources that support this FREE Information and the Aquarium/Pond Keeping Hobby::
*AAP Nitrofurazone (Furan 2)
*Methylene Blue from AAP
*AAP Medicated Wonder Shells
How to perform a Medicated Fish Bath:
*Medicated Fish Baths; Dips, Swabs
Salt is advised not only in the baths at 1-2 teaspoons per gallon, but also in the display or quarantine tank at 1 teaspoon per gallon to 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons as this will also aid in mucous generation and the movement of fluids inside the body cavity (osmoregulation).
Correct Calcium Levels are also important for osmoregulation that will aid the fish in “battling” a parasite infestation (especially internal).
Also see these article for more about medicated baths & fish quarantine:
“Aquarium Disease Prevention; Quarantine, Baths”
Prevention is the BEST treatment for Nematodes, Marine Flatworms, and Flukes, especially Internal Nematodes
This is accomplished by regular water changes, the purchase of fish from a known quality resource, removal of the final host (in the case of Eustrongylid nematodes; birds and pond sanitation), or any intermediate hosts (tubiflex worms or other oligochaetes).
It is noteworthy that many (if not most) fish farms are located OUTDOORS, so the spread of nematodes via intermediate and finals hosts is easier than one may think. Knowing your source for your pet fish is very helpful as often many internal nematodes will not show symptoms in fish for over 30 days after arrival in your aquarium.
A final note as to treatment of nematodes in particular is that nematode infestations are generally internal, making treatment and medication “delivery” very difficult. More so with Eustrongylid nematodes since they are found in difficult to deliver mediation internal body locations.
My point here is, hopefully one can start treatment early or prevent an infestation altogether, however from my experience this is not a “real world” expectation as I have often failed to detect and treat with success (assuming it was treatable in the first place), so one should not be too hard on failures in treating internal Nematodes, as I have had my share of both successes and failures even under the good care.
Annelids “Segmented Worms” - Including:
The annelids are the phylum of segmented worms which include earthworms. Most annelids are NOT purely aquatic in fresh water; the annelids found in freshwater are all oligochaetes (which means "few-bristled") and are not very important in the freshwater ecology as are their marine cousins, the polychaetes (which means "multi-bristled").
All the oligochaete worms are hermaphrodites (an organism that posses both male and female genitalia) and many are nearly microscopic.
Detritus Worms (from the group of worms called Oligochaetes, sub group naidid worms) are often misidentified in the aquarium hobby as Planaria without close inspection by many internet articles such as about.com.
Many of these worms are accidentally introduced by live plants, gravel (especially in the case of common Detritus Worms) live fish foods, and even brought in with fish transfers.
(Click picture to enlarge)
Many not familiar with Detritus worms will label these as everything from midge larvae, Planaria, to baby earthworms, of which none is true. They are very common and most often seen during vacuuming and other cleaning procedures.
These worms generally are not a problem and often go un-noticed living in the gravel aiding in breakdown of wastes, however high numbers of particular species can indicate low oxygen levels, cloudy water, poor Redox and low filter productivity.
This very often suggests some degree of pollution caused by poor cleaning procedures, over crowding, over feeding and poor filtration.
When the population explodes these worms often leave the gravel and cling to the sides, usually close to the surface as oxygen depletion due to the cumulative affects of increased organic mulm (often resulting with pH/KH drops, higher nitrates, poor Redox Balance), cloudy water and simply too many Detritus worms. This then drives them from the oxygen poor gravel where they normally hide/exist.
It is when these worms are crawling up the sides that most aquarium keepers take note, often not realizing that these worms have been present for some time living quietly in the aquarium substrate before a population explosion and often subsequent oxygen depletion drives them into the open.
Do NOT make the mistake of treating with Levamisol to rid your tank of Detritus Worms (aka false Planaria) as so many forums and websites advice.
I know for a fact that the die off can kill off many fish and that simply taking care of the cause of the worm population "explosion" will remedy this issue!!!
Please reference these sources for even more identification (and further information so as to dispel the internet aquarium myth that these are Planaria):
Detritus Worms/Planaria in Aquariums
The above article is THE article to read on the subject!
Aquatic Life: Worms
As stated earlier, control of these detritus (composting) worms is brought about by good vacuuming procedures, proper feeding, good filtration, lowering bio load, and addition of fish that will eat these.
Anchor Worms as seen to the left are a genus of copepod crustaceans (Species Lernea) that are parasitic to freshwater fish, especially coldwater fish often raised in ponds such as Goldfish.
I also have personally caught Trout that have been covered in Anchor Worms, but it is noteworthy that these trout were in a small, man made lake that by late spring is too warm for Trout to live in.
The point about the trout is applicable to the many anchor worm infestations I have dealt with in goldfish, in that it was much more common in warm or warming months where water temperatures are higher than is best for goldfish, @ 80F or higher.
The Anchor Worm is not always noticeable as pictured here, often it starts out as a small red sore. These red sores then multiply followed by small thread like protrusions that are the anchor worm.
Other common symptoms include frequent rubbing/flashing, inflammation on the body of the fish, and generally lethargy of the fish such as sitting on the bottom or floating on the surface of the water.
Best treatment is to use tweezers to remove the worm from the fish. The fish should be gently cradled in the palm of your hand so as to not injure the fish as a net can. After removal, the wound SHOULD/MUST BE treated/swabbed with Methylene Blue (Best) or Hydrogen Peroxide.
If the Anchor Worm cannot be removed, this is especially true with very small anchor worms, a direct swab of 50% water Potassium Permanganate & water on the sore with the worm should be performed.
With either procedure, a bath should also follow that consists of Methylene Blue, Salt, Nitrofurazone, & possibly Metronidazole.
Recommended Product Sources that support this FREE Information and the Aquarium/Pond Keeping Hobby::
For serious infections and to prevent reinfestation, an in tank treatment with AAP Clout (Dimilin is similar), Tetra/Jungle Parasite Clear, PraziPro, or a ParaGuard/Furan 2 combination can be used (this is in order of strength). AAP Clout is about the only one that will kill the Anchor worms while still actually on the fish, otherwise most medications kill Anchor Worms in the free swimming stage.
If a secondary infection is also present (which is common), such as red sores, a combination of AAP ParaGuard and Triple Sulfa OR AAP Furan 2 is often the best choice (beside the before mentioned physical removal and baths)
Beware of non aquarium professionals often in social media forums that will recommend herbal products such as Microbe-Lift Herbtana & Artemiss. There are no published ingredients from these discount seller products and more importantly these products negatively affect your aquarium's Redox balance which would be the last thing you would want to do with a fish suffering from an Anchor Worm infestation especially one that is accompanied by sores and/or Septicemia.
Reference: Aquarium Medications Part 4; Microbe-Lift Herbtana & Artemiss
Recommended Product Sources that support this FREE Information and the Aquarium/Pond Keeping Hobby:
*Clout from AAP
*PraziPro from AAP
*Tetra/Jungle Parasite Clear from AAP
*AAP Nitrofurazone Furan 2
A follow up in tank treatment with a Medicated Wonder Shell can be helpful too, regardless whether a previously mentioned strong in tank treatment was used or not.
Where to purchase: *Medicated Wonder Shells
WORMS USED AS FISH FOOD
Whiteworms (Enchytraeus albidus):
These are worms commonly used in feeding for larger fish; for instance, Gouramis and Cory cats love Whiteworms. Microworms (which are Nematodes not Annelids as are Whiteworms) are used for fry.
What we typically refer to as a "white worm" in the aquarium hobby is a segmented round worms (Annelids) that are closely related to the earthworm from the family enchytraeids. Whiteworms are an excellent food source for many amphibians and other aquatic creatures.
These worms can reach over 1 cm or more long. They are NOT a parasite danger to fish or other inhabitants of aquariums and are often seen wiggling up the sides or even at the surface. Whiteworms are basically a worm of de-composition and can multiply rapidly when over feeding is a problem. At this point the biggest danger is oxygen depletion from over population of these worms and a good vacuuming is in order. Many a customer has called or written me about these worms worrying that they have a parasite problem when in reality these worms are good for composting and are at worst an indicator of too much decomposing food and other organic debris.
A smaller version of White Worms are the popular Grindal Worms (which are also Annelids) often cultured as fish food (and named for a Swedish Aquarist).
All the worms that fall under the popular term of Microworms are Nematodes (roundworms) and include Vinegar Eels, and Walter Worms. Microworms (Panagrellus Redivivus) are non parasitic and small (0.5 - 1.5 mm.) worms, which make excellent supplementary live food for fry which are either too big for infusoria or have outgrown the infusoria stage.
Walter Worms are about half the size of the Microworm. These are recommended for feeding the very smallest fry. Walter worms generally live in the water longer than the Microworm.
For home grown Micro worms (Walter Worms) as well as Vinegar Eels, this is healthy source (the microworms are gut loaded with Spirulina):
Over A Copper Moon Betta; Feeding Supplies
Vinegar Eels are also a nematode are readily cultured in large numbers, provided certain procedures are followed. These worms (also nematodes) are a little smaller than micro-worms, a great size for most baby fish. The worms must be grown in natural cider vinegar that has not been chemically treated to inhibit the growth of bacteria or yeast upon which the worms feed. Advantages of Vinegar eels is they do not breath oxygen so don't create any problems in the fish tank, live a long time in the aquarium, and swim in the water column and stay towards the surface.References:
*Camallanus (Camallanus cotti & C.lacustris)
*Microworms (Panagrellus redivivus)
* Diagnosis of Fish Poop
* Introduction to Freshwater Fish Parasites
*http://www.inkmkr.com/Fish/CamallanusTreatment/ *University of Florida; Nematode Infections in Fish
*University of Florida; Fish Disease Diagnostic Laboratory *Department of Zoology; University of Oklahoma
Other Recommended Aquarium Information:
*The article below is a MUST READ for anyone interested in moving from basic aquarium keeping to more advanced aquarium keeping, including better Redox Balance:
Aquarium or Pond UV Sterilization; Level 1 Sterilizer Use
Also for level 1 capable UV Replacement Bulbs
*Aquarium UV Bulbs; American Aquarium Level 1 UVC
Aquarium Lighting; Information about T5, Metal Halide, CFL, SHO, PUR, PAR, more
This is THE article for in-depth, researched, and regularly updated information on the subject of aquarium lighting; a MUST READ!
NilocG Aquatics; Planted Tank Liquid Ferts
NilocG Aquatics PROFESSIONAL GRADE planted aquarium liquid fertilizer products. Products designed for persons who want to have a more advanced planted aquarium without the hassles need for a degree in science to do so. Meant for use in "The Estimative Index of Dosing, or No Need for Test Kits" method of planted aquarium aquascaping.
Aquarium Filtration, Filters; Help
Aquarium Fish Nutrition; Important Ingredients in Fish Feeding
*FISH AS PETS
Fish as Pets contains articles and commentary of Interest to the Aquarium Hobby
POND CARE INFORMATION
TMC V2 RO Filter systems; the very best you can buy with TDS meter (far superior to 4 stage RO/DI systems sold via Bulk Reef Supply, Amazon, or eBay that use the inferior cellulose triacetate membrane made by Dow):
Reverse Osmosis Aquarium Water Filters; with TDS Meter
Aquarium Silicone, Tank Repair, Applications, DIY, How To Use
By Carl Strohmeyer-PAMR 35+ years experience
What Silicone to use and what not to use, Aquarium Repair (& leak identification), Aquarium construction.
- Silicone Basics
- Aquarium Applications
- Aquarium Repair
- For DIY (or NEW) Aquarium Selection (including forward comparing glass to acrylic); Glass Thickness & Type
- Silicone Needed Calculation
*Also how to use silicone to repair an aquarium (three different applications)
*DIY Aquarium Glass Thickness recommendations.
*YouTube Video demonstrating application of silicone for aquarium crack and hinge repair
This is a subject I have had a great deal of experience in, in part because one of my aquarium maintenance services was aquarium re-building, and I re-built many over my 30 years professionally employed in the aquarium maintenance business.
More importantly, I give credit to Bill of "Prestige Aquariums" (which unfortunately went out of business after his death). Bill took me under his wing in 1979 and provided me with free tutelage in the art of aquarium building and I learned a lot from him as a part time apprentice aquarium builder for a couple years.
Much of my experience as well as newer research is relayed in this article.
Silicone rubber is a unique synthetic elastomer made from a cross-linked polymer which is reinforced with silica.
Its characteristics are such that it provides a balance of mechanical and chemical properties useful for bonding glass aquariums (not acrylic).
The basic formula is: Me3SiO(SiMe2O)nSiMe3
100% RTV Silicones (RTV= "Room Temperature Vulcanising") are the silicones commonly used for glass construction and is often sold in Home Improvement and Pet Stores (or Online).
Premium Silicone Resource that supports this FREE information page:
American Aquarium Products (AAP); 100% USDA Approved Silicone
RTV Silicones consist of polydialkylsiloxane with terminal hydroxyl groups (groups made up of an oxygen atom and a hydrogen atom connected by a covalent bond), which are reacted with organosilicon (chemical compounds containing carbon silicon bonds) cross-linking agents.
This operation is carried out in a moisture-free environment and results in the formation of a tetrafunctional structure (A chemical structure that possesses four highly reactive sites).
Curing takes place when materials are exposed to moisture. Atmospheric moisture is sufficient to trigger the reaction, and thickness should be limited if only one side is exposed to the moisture source. Curing is also relatively slow, reliant on moisture ingress into the polymer which produces Acetic Acid vapors.
However some Silicone formulas will scavenge moisture quicker than other, thus curing in less time.
Generally quicker curing is not as desirable for aquarium manufacturing or repair as this can make the silicone more difficult to work with for larger jobs and also result in the silicone pulling away from the glass panels being held together by the silicone.
Thus working with silicone in lower humidity is almost always more desirable.
As noted, different formulas and (combined with temperature and outside humidity) will affect cure time.
Dow Corning, AAP, and GE have proprietary formulas (although Dow is often packaged under other brands such as All Glass & Aqueon Aquarium) that cure at an even slower rate as compared to some cheaper formulas often sold in hardware stores that are generally used in construction where this is not an important factor.
This however is important for aquariums to have an even and slow cure time as even some 100% silicones I have used such as such as CRL, would cure too quickly resulting in a less than desirable bond.
Also some NON-100% formulas such as GE Silicon II have a mildew inhibitor (which would be toxic to the fish).
100% RTV Silicone Rubber Sealant produces a flexible, durable weather resistant seal between similar and dissimilar materials; 100% RTV Silicone provides excellent adhesion to tile, glass, porcelain, ceramic, fiberglass, non-oily woods, plaster, painted surfaces, and metal.
It will withstand temperature extremes from -60°F. to +450°F. and is waterproof for freshwater or saltwater use.
It is noteworthy that plastic (which is made from oil) is not mentioned.
RTV silicone is not useful for bonding acrylic aquariums and the oils within acrylic will eventually cause peeling away (lack of adhesion).
The bottom line is do NOT use silicone for repair of Acrylic/Plexiglass aquariums (or other acrylic applications)!
For Plexiglass/Acrylic aquariums you would need to use Plexiglass or PVC Cement (Glue) which works by “melting” the Plexiglass panels together.
This is best applied with a needle applicator between the Plexiglass panels along with applying pressure. Silicone is often used after initial Plexiglass construction to provide more water tight seal along the seams of a Plexiglass/Acrylic aquarium, but this will peel after time (it can be re-applied) and provides NO strength for the actual plexiglass panels.
Silicone can also be used to form a seal where water pressure will push the glass panel against a surface that it would otherwise would not adhere well to (although once pressure is removed after initial filling, the silicone will likely not “seat” again in such an application where silicone does not properly bond).
100% "food grade" RTV Silicones are useful in the construction of glass aquariums and sealing the joints in DIY wooden aquariums. As noted earlier, Silicone is NOT useful for acrylic aquariums as it will peel away over time due to the inherent oils in plastics.
Not all silicone formulas are the same, as stated earlier, Dow Corning, AAP, and GE produce a RTV silicone that cures at an even and slow rate necessary for aquariums. It is also noteworthy that most silicones labeled as 100% RTV, are still not food grade.
Why is this important?
As I noted in the Basics Section, too fast a cure will not allow proper surface adhesion especially in important seams.
It is also hard to work with in building aquariums and the person needs to work very quickly (usually too quickly) for proper aquarium construction.
Also you want to purchase pure 100% RTV Silicone as many (including silicones produced by Dow Corning) have other ingredients for different applications such as fiberglass.
A good example of a silicone you do NOT want to purchase is Dow Corning Marine Sealant which I have actually seen recommended for aquariums in Yahoo Answers and other Internet sources!
This product is great for fiberglass hulls of boats however it lacks the proper strength for aquariums due to added ingredients that allow for adhesion to plastic.
As well any silicone that advertises that it can be painted on after curing has added ingredients and is not 100% silicone and NOT safe for aquariums or food use. Many silicones sold as hardware stores such as Home Depot have additives that are NOT aquarium safe, so BEWARE if you think about purchasing your silicone from such a retailer!
Finally, many silicones available for sale, especially generic brands often sold at big box home improvement store may be 100% RTV Silicone sealants, but these are not Agricultre Canada, USDA, & FDA approved.
This means these cannot be legally used for sealing any container, equipment, etc used for human food production or storage.
While this may not mean too much to some fish keepers, for me it is important to know that the silicone I am using on my expensive aquatic specimens meet such specifications, since I would not want to place my pet fish in an environment tainted by chemical residuals of a less than pure hardware store brand silicone or silicones often sold via eBay or Amazon.
YET SADLY many aquarium keepers do just this to save a dollar or two, if that, over the FEW aquarium silicones such as AAP Aquarium Silicone approved for use where food is manufactured!!
This poor logic is baffling to me, as your fish are 100% immersed in the water that is constant contact with the silicone. Even foods processed in containers that have silicone seals only have a short time of exposure, unlike your fish. So to purchase one of these silicones at Home Depot, Lowes, or online on Amazon, eBay, etc, is fool hardy.
If the USDA, FDA state that short term exposure for foods in contact with these unapproved silicones is not safe, what does this say about long term exposure by your fish??
Here is an inexpensive Food Safe Silicone Resource that also is a large contributor to FREE aquarium information web sites such as this one:
USDA Aquarium Silicones; AAP
Most Silicones last as to the stated lifetime from the manufacturer from my experience in keeping literally 1000s of glass aquariums, however being under water, and the acids, etc., do take their toll on the silicone.
However in an aquarium has been used, then left dry, I have found that the silicone will often leak when water is then added again. This is not a problem with a stored new/unused aquarium unless stored in sunlight.
In the case of a stored aquarium with dried or cracking silicone, it is best advised to remove the old silicone and re-apply, do NOT apply new silicone over old silicone.
With a good silicone, you can perform a few repairs yourself.
The picture/diagram to the left shows what to basically to look for as to silicone coverage in the important joint where two glass panels meet. This is where most of the strength is obtained from the silicone.
If the silicone is missing or pulled away (as can be easily observed by looking through the glass at each joint to see if air or water is present in place of silicone), you may need to repair this.
The addition of silicone in the inside corners gives added strength and small leak protection, but is not as important for aquarium strength as the silicone in the joint.
If any of the exposed silicone appears/feels dry and easily pulls or flakes away, it should be replaced.
This is also important that braces (if your aquarium has a brace), have this silicone as well.
(please click the picture for a better view
Often small leaks are the most difficult to find (identify the source of the leak so as to repair).
I have been called out by a client who thought that their tank had a leak on the bottom (which would require a strip down of the tank and stripping of silicone and reapplication), only to find that the aquarium actually was only seeping water from the top (often under the trim) and this small bead of water would run down the side seem in a manner that went unseen.
This type of leak can be found more easily by gently running a paper towel along the sides to look for trace amounts of water which the paper towel would quickly find.
If this is your leak, this could be from the trim (which is often a plastic material and does not adhere to the silicone as well and can often be repaired by simply lowering your water a few inches and stripping the silicone around the trim and then replacing this silicone.
Sometimes simply adding silicone in gaps in the trim or even lowering water level or reducing condensation of water on the glass top which may find its way around top gaps in the aquarium and then to the bottom of the aquarium (often resulting in a wet stand or similar condition)
- Empty aquarium
- Remove ALL old silicone with a razor blade (I prefer a single edge razor blade, see picture to the left).
For removing trim or cutting plastic back strips, I usually use a utility knife, always with a fresh blade (see picture below).
- Clean and prepare surface with fine sandpaper (some like to use alcohol, but I have not found this helpful and my mentor at Prestige Aquariums whom I apprenticed under did not use alcohol).
- Make sure all surfaces are dry.
- Apply silicone (a caulking gun works best), making .5 (or smaller) cm. bead in the inside edges.
- Tighten all outside corners with strong reinforced duct tape. For tanks over 75 gallons I recommend wooden clamps.
- Immediately use your index finger to smooth ALL inside edge beads into a smooth surface, quickly wiping away excess silicone.
- Your repair is complete in 48 hours.
For clean up, both before applying new silicone and more for clean up of silicone that was misapplied but not "set", rubbing alcohol can be used.
Set silicone rubber will not dissolve in alcohol, however remnants left behind from scraping are often more readily removed by rubbing alcohol. Set silicone will swell to some degree depending on the type of silicone and degree of cross-linking of the polymer. When this happens, the silicone polymer is essentially trying to dissolve, and taking solvent into its structural lattice. But when the alcohol is removed and allowed to evaporate, it will return to the original state, it had not dissolved, or melted.
- Drain aquarium down to the area of the chip.
- Inspect/ clean/ repair the inside area in needed.
- Clean out broken glass on the outside chip area
- Carefully clean out broken glass (gloves are recommended), a razor blade followed by fine sand paper works best.
- Inject new silicone followed immediately by a piece of glass that fits reasonably well into this chip.
- Add more silicone if necessary.
- Smooth repair and add a piece of wax paper (or similar waxy or mildly oily band aid), followed immediately by strong reinforced duct tape to hold this repair in place.
- This “band aid” can be removed in 24 to 48 hours and the aquarium re filled.
- Remove old hinge
- Place both pieces of glass on a firm level surface
- Run a .5 cm bead of silicone carefully down the area where both pieces of glass come together.
- Immediately, using your index and middle finger, run these fingers over the top of this silicone bead forming sharp peak of silicone between both pieces of glass. Remove excess. Bare hands (index and fore fingers) work best as the oils present repel the silicone from adhering too much to your fingers.
The silicone should look sort of like this after running along it with your index and fore finger pressed together: /\ (YouTube video located below demonstrates this)
- After 24 to 48 hours your new and more durable hinge is ready.
- Drain water down to whatever level it takes to move the brace back to its original fit (in other words to take out the "bow" in the glass)
- Remove ALL old Silicone
- If your aquarium has a plastic center brace, please note as stated elsewhere in this article that silicone does not adhere to oil based products well and eventually fails, so repair of this is doomed to eventual failure again.
My suggestion is to either cut or have cut (at a local glass shop) a glass center brace to replace the original plastic brace.
OR as noted by a member at Everything Aquatic, the use of an aluminum bar and drilled holes thru the bar and the original brace, then put rivets into the holes drilled.
- Place an even bead of quality silicone on just the tank portion of where the brace needs to be placed back into.
- Finally clamp the brace as shown in the picture.
- Clean the area on BOTH side of the crack thoroughly with a razor blade (no solvents).
- Apply bead of silicone as described above and in the video below forming a ridge with your fingers evenly along the crack (adding a plate of glass on the inside side of the crack will greatly increase strength). Flip the aquarium and repeat on the other side.
- Allow at least 24 hours to dry, allow 48 hours is better.
- This repair is ONLY recommended for aquariums under 10 gallons with single cracks, generally on the bottom.
For MAJOR cracks (only single cracks, not “spider” cracks)
For larger aquariums with single cracks I recommend adding a plate of glass to the inside of the crack repair in step #2. This plate need only cover the crack plus an inch or two, not the full bottom or side (although that would certainly be better yet).
I generally do not recommend this repair for tanks over 100 gallons, although I have cut glass panels to fit over the entire bottom without replacing the old cracked panel for larger aquariums or multi cracked smaller aquariums.
Otherwise I STRONGLY recommend replacing the glass panel.
Here is a YouTube Video we made for aquarium crack and hinge repair using a DAP Silicone utilizing Dow Patent Rights (Please note that most DAP Silicone is NOT certified Aquarium Safe!).
This video also shows how to correctly apply silicone and cut glass:
Here is another YouTube Video link that does a good job demonstrating stripping and then applying new silicone in an aquarium repair.
Please note that I do NOT recommend the silicone sealant he is using as this is a generic silicone (of which I have used many similar types out of China packaged under different generic names); as this silicone will not cure at the correct rate leaving potential gaps that show up over time.
As well the long term durability is questionable and safety for use around aquatic life is questionable since it is NOT Agricultre Canada, USDA, FDA approved for use around human foods which for me makes me question the use around fish (consider a Dow, GE or AAP (American Aquarium Sealants) brand silicone for your important aquatic pets!.
YouTube Video; Glass Aquarium Silicone Reseal
FOR DIY AQUARIUMS (or simply what to look for in a new glass tank)
Aquarium Selection Forward:
I have purchased and even built many aquariums over my career (mostly for clients), this includes both glass and acrylic and while I often here that one is better than the other or one is more likely to leak, often what is stated does not mesh with the reality based on the literally over 5000 aquariums I have serviced, fixed, sold, built, etc over the last 35 years.
The facts are a well built glass aquarium is AS GOOD as a well built acrylic when built to correct specifications and limits of the material used.
In fact I have been witness to more catastrophic acrylic tank failures than glass aquarium failures as a percentage of the number kept!!
Often with glass tanks, the problem is incorrect construction, poor quality silicone, or of late the use of tempered glass instead of float glass (which is much more pliable as noted a little later in this article).
A good example is many 55 & 60 gallon aquariums are built with 1/4" glass all around when these should be built with a 3/8" glass bottom then 1/4" in the sides. The result is premature leaks or bottom cracks.
With acrylic aquariums, the problem is often incorrect application of the cement that literally melts panels together, which the end result is a panel catastrophically totally failing with the tank emptying in a matter of minutes.
The bottom line is to select what works best for you, keeping in mind if the weight is an issue (if only for carrying the tank into place), the acrylic tank may be for you. As well for tanks much over 200 gallons or 8 feet in length, this is also where a WELL MADE acrylic tank should be purchased.
However, especially under 75 gallons, do NOT feel you are getting an inferior tank if you purchase a glass tank unless you purchase one with too thin of glass, with poor quality silicone or with tempered glass (in particular on the the bottom, which should always be float glass).
Recommended Glass thicknesses:
(Length x Height x Width)
|Aquarium Dimensions||Recommended Glass Thickness|
|2 x 1 x 1||5mm glass|
|2 x 1 x 1.5||6 mm (1/4") glass|
|2 x 1.5 x 1.5||8 mm glass|
|2.5 x 2 x 2||10 mm glass|
|3 x1 x 1||6 mm glass|
|3 x 1.5 x 1.5||8mm glass|
|3 x 2 x 2||12 mm glass|
|4 x 1.5 x 1.5||10mm (3/8") glass|
|4 x 2 x 2||12 mm (1/2") glass|
|6 x any size x 2 feet max.||12 mm glass|
Please note that the formula for gallon calculations is L x H x W divided by 231 = Gallons. Multiply this by 3.785 for liters.
I do NOT recommend a glass aquarium over 250 -300 gallons!
• Please keep in mind that when either building or purchasing a glass aquarium, the thickness of the glass, which should be float glass (*NOT tempered glass), along with the type of silicone used, and finally construction methods are what will basically determine the quality of the finished aquarium.
*Tempered glass is too brittle for most aquariums over 60 gallons and even in 60 gallon aquariums it still should NOT be used in the bottom.
Float glass on the other hand is much more flexible and gives into the natural bowing/flexing of an aquarium holding water (based on 35 years of aquarium repair as well as apprentice training at a leading premium aquarium builder).
Avoid previously mentioned quick drying silicones, even if 100%. Use the appropriate thickness of glass.
Finally use float glass as while tempered glass might seem like a good idea, it does not have the strength and shatters easily into small bits.
Thankfully if purchasing an aquarium, I do not know of any reputable aquarium manufacturer making aquariums out of tempered glass for tanks over 60 gallons and actually not too many under. One reason would be insurance for a tempered glass aquarium would be higher due to higher risk of breakage. I can make these statements since I worked for a top notch aquarium manufacturer many years back (Prestige Aquariums).
The trim (which is generally plastic) offers LITTLE support other than providing a “cushion” between the bottom glass and stand and as well a “convenient” way to place the lid, lights, etc., on top.
Of coarse the trim does certainly add to the attractiveness, but as someone that has worked with high end aquarium manufacturers and built/repaired many myself, I can tell the reader here from an experience that the trim offers little in support and if it is necessary for support, you have a dangerously poorly built aquarium!
As well, I have removed trim from many tanks (including large ones) and filled them with water with no difference other than the unattractive aspect.
For calculating the amount of silicone needed for a job, I would recommend this link:
Caulking Usage Calculator
I would recommend a bead slightly wider than the width of the glass.
As an example, a 60 gallon aquarium with 1/4 inch wide glass would require a 3/16" bead of silicone. One tube of standard caulking tube of silicone would produce 43.378 feet of silicone at this width. So one 60 gallon would require about 24 feet for the initial seal of a complete build or rebuild of of a 60 gallon and another 14 feet for a double inside seam seal, so this would be 38 feet or slightly less than one tube.
Can you easily purchase the proper silicone at a Home Improvement Store?
The answer is yes, just do not purchase anything other than 100% Pure Silicone (color does not matter) and I strongly recommend brand loyalty as there are good reasons behind GE, AAP Sealants, and Dow Corning patents.
To be safe, if you are unsure of the silicone you are buying, do not try and save a few dollars at the local hardware or discount store when your local Pet Store or Aquarium Store as well as Premium online aquarium supply sellers may have the correct product for maybe a few dollars more (unless an exploding aquarium in the middle of the night is your idea of excitement).
More importantly, this popular resource (Aquarium/Pond Answers) is only FREE due to the sponsor who pays for the upkeep and research that goes into "Aquarium/Pond Answers". Purchasing via eBay, Amazon or others as is now very common will likely result in this free information going away some day
If you can not find quality Aquarium Sealant (either Dow Corning or American Aquarium Sealants; or one of their repackaged brands such as All Glass Aquarium; which hold patents for a good reason), please click on the picture to the left for an online source that supports and pays this web sites bills.
See link Below:
AAP Aquarium Silicone; at "American Aquarium Products" 100%, USDA Safe
Other Recommended Aquarium Information & Product Resources:
LED Aquarium Lights, Lighting
A unique web site with great insights into what determines the best in aquarium LED light fixtures
- Water Pump Specifications, Tips, Recommendations, Limitations
A MUST READ FIRST, if you looking to purchase a water pump for your aquarium, pond, or fountain!
Patented Aquarium Sponge filters from the sponge filtration experts; AAP
- UV Bulbs; Page 1, Compact; Replacement UV-C Lamps for your aquarium sterilizer, clarifier, or home/office purifier
This is THE article for in-depth, researched, and regularly updated information on the subject of aquarium lighting; a MUST READ!
The API SuperClean Aquarium HOB Filter
The best HOB filter in its class, with higher bio capacity, and flexible cartridge solutions. An example:
SuperClean 50 Power Filter
- Filtration; Aquarium Filter Help, Troubleshooting, Reviews
API/Rena Filstar High Performance Canister Filters & Parts
Premium Canister Aquarium Filters
- Aqua Master Premium Tropical Fish Food-Enhance Immunity Food
The brand favored by show Japanese and Taiwanese Breeders!
Aquarium & Pond Plumbing Parts
Difficult to find or unique parts found nowhere else!
Including: T Water Diverters, Hose Barb Adapters, Couplings, & Reducers, Ball Valves, Swing Check Valves, Return Adapters, Intake Adapters
Pond Veggie, Bog Bio Filters
POND VEGGIE (PLANT/BOG FILTERS); The four basic types of Veggie Filters and how to install them.
By Carl Strohmeyer-PAMR 35+ years experience
- Suggested Bog Plants
- Additional Tips
- Veggie/Bog Filter Methods of Construction
Bog Plant or “Veggie Filters” are very popular with many pond keepers. I have been using this method for pond filtration for a few decades, long before the term veggie filter became popular or a fad.
I should also point out that many Veggie/Bog filters are not set-up/constructed for optimal filtration & efficiency!
Veggie (plant) filters are excellent for removal of many nutrients that cause green or cloudy water, including nitrates, phosphates, etc., this allows a Veggie Filter to be a compliment to a good UV Sterilizer/Clarifier such as the Premium AAP/TMC Advantage High Dwell Time UVs.
In fact when used together, not only is algae control better (including non suspended algae), but over-all pond and fish health is markedly improved as per my years of experience. This is why over time I would no longer accept maintenance contracts for ponds that did not have both a Bog/Veggie Filter AND a quality level one capable UV Sterilizer
A well constructed Pond Veggie/Bog filter can also help control hair/string algae as well by robbing many of the nutrients from this algae. In fact I have witnessed many times over the years that even with good filtration and a good true UV sterilizer, it was only after the addition of a healthy Veggie/Bog filter did string algae issues improve considerably.
TMC Premium Pond Advantage UV Sterilizers
There are two basic methods the in-pond and separate; with the more popular method nowadays is a separate pond filter. While the separate method may be more popular due to the faddish nature of so many article and blogs on this subject of late, this is NOT my preferred method.
However both work very well when properly constructed, although any are not based on incomplete information for set up from what I hear and read whereby certain key aspects are ignored (I will discuss each later with the in-pond broken down into sub methods).
Any plant with a good root structure that grows fast and has the majority of their leaves above water (basically a bog plant) is a good candidate to start with. I recommend water iris for their strong root structure, fast growth, great nutrient absorption, and a great place for baby fish (fry) to hide feed and grow (when used in one of the in-pond methods).
I prefer my Bog-plant filters within the pond as these look more attractive in my opinion and give the fish fry a place to hide, except in the case of the waterfall or cascade plant filter.
The area of the veggie filter should be relatively shallow as well to force water movement over and through the roots.
There are many other excellent plants as well such as Sweet Flag, Parrots feather, Bluebells, Umbrella palm, Papyrus, & bull rush. Make sure these types of plants (plants with roots in water and leaves above) are planted in an area of good, but not strong water movement. This ensures that they will do their job as plant filters.
Here is a video showing how the proper construction of an "in-pond" Bog/Veggie Filter coupled with a TRUE UV Sterilizer (in this case the TMC Pond Advantage, do not use an economy UV) can make a big difference in just a couple of days:
Pond Tips- Veggie Bog Plant Filter; YouTube
Please note that having a few Water Iris, Umbrella Palms, etc in a pond does NOT constitute a Veggie (Plant) Filter. For these plants to work as a filter you must have a small current of water around the roots or tubers, as well the use of substrate such as Volcanic Rock further increases filtration by allowing for the propagation of nitrifying and de-nitrifying bacteria as well as some mechanical filtration as well (trapping of debris). The mechanical aspect can be further increased by the addition of coarse polyester filter pads in the water column entering the Veggie Filter.
Often person will consider many floating Lilies a Veggie Filter, however they do not constitute a Veggie Filter, as although they certainly help block sunlight and remove some nutrients form the water column (which in turn can help control green algae), Lilies or other floating plants due not have the substrate roots, effectively remove nutrients and work with the substrate around them the way a true Veggie Filter can that uses Bog Plants.
A FEW SUGGESTED VEGGIE FILTER/BOG PLANTS (& Online Sources to purchase them)
This website here in Oregon ships beautiful Water Iris that can be used in your Water Garden, Pond; in particular your Veggie/Plant Filter.
The Water Iris is my personal Favorite, and grows in most climates from mild winters to more harsh winters (check individual specimen). Several varieties of Iris thrive in water gardens. I enjoy their graceful upright leaves and elegant blossoms. Iris flowers are several inches across and appear in early to late spring (depending upon climate) and dead blossoms should be clipped so as keep plants looking good and healthy. The plants will spread and form large tubers if given enough room. The yellow water Iris requires full sun, but the other varieties will bloom if they receive a minimum of three hours of direct sunlight, although they may become spindly.
This is tropical bog plant, but can be grown in some cooler climates (such as high deserts of California if a freeze is not too hard).
Stems are 3-4 feet tall with the classic “umbrella (similar to the Dwarf Papyrus except the foliage is broader and the stems are taller). Best grown in full sun, partial shade, or filtered light. Plant Umbrella Palms in wet soil or in water up to 6 inches deep. For cooler climates it can be over-wintered as a houseplant if kept wet and given enough light.
The Umbrella Palm can take over a pond if not contained, so either use pots or keeping them strictly in sectioned off Veggie Filter.
Another popular bog plant for pond veggie/plant filters.
Arrow head pond plants grow 2-3 feet tall in full sun and have large leaves and small white cupped flowers. These are best planted in 2" inches of gravel/fine volcanic rock in your Veggie Filter, with no more than 6" inches of water over the base of the plant or in pots with good top soil covered with gravel. Best in full sun or in partial shade.
Cattails are a popular plant for large lake ponds as well as a pond Bog Filter Plant. Cattails are generally easy to obtain (often growing wild in many areas) and will fill in a bog filter within a month or two (with even faster growth than a water iris).
Cattails prefer shallow, flooded conditions of 1.5 feet or less in depth and easily get established along the edge of the pond. When unimpeded however, the cattail beds will expand and can extend their rhizomes (a stem of a plant that is usually found underground or in a bog) well out into pond surface, actually floating above much deeper waters. Cattails have a tendency to grow in thick, nearly impenetrable stands, blocking the view of open water with the potential to take over and cover a pond.
These are also useful in a Veggie/Bog Plant Filter!
*Blue Bells Bog Pond Plant
*Water Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus)
A FEW TIPS
I recommend starting your veggie filter plants in pots (I prefer ceramic or even the bio degradable type) as these will contain the plant roots in the beginning, yet allow growth of the roots out of the pots. I highly recommend using Volcanic Rock in the area around the pots to fill in the gaps and allow for additional filtration. The advantage of volcanic rock is that its porous structure allows formation of aerobic bacteria for nitrification and anaerobic bacteria for de-nitrification. This further enhances your veggie filters ability to keep a clear pond by removing the nutrients necessary for green water/algae.
The volcanic rock is also an excellent growth substrate for the plant roots as your veggie filter grows.
Where to find: Volcanic Rock for ponds and Aquariums
The picture to the left demonstrates a potted bog plant (Bluebell) where the use of volcanic rock is employed in the pot. The owner of this pond brings his Bluebell pot in for the winter since it is not tolerant of freezing temperatures.
Tropical Potted Bluebell for Sale
If water movement is poor in the area of your Veggie Filter (plant roots), I would recommend a submersible pump placed near the veggie filter with its outflow aimed at the veggie filter. Make sure this current is not too strong, so angling the outflow if the current is causing too much disturbance of the roots, volcanic rock, etc. Another way to circulate water in the area of an in pond Veggie Filter is to add a fountain to your submersible pump so as to have a more gentle spray in the area of the plant/veggie filter.
With many "In Pond" Veggie/Bog Filter, a good design that allows for an embedded water pump to pull water into the rock around the Veggie filter can also act a "Skimmer", thus replacing the need for a skimmer (which I personally do not recommend anyway based on issues of "skimming" Lilies and other desirable surface plants). Leaves, pine needles, etc. are often pulled to the outer surface of a well constructed "in Pond" Veggie Filter where it is then easily scooped out.
I generally use a pump with a flow around 500 -1000 gph around veggie filters in a pond of approximately 300- 1200 gallons (this may be increased or decreased depending on the pond size). The SunSun JBQ-3500 Pump is an excellent pump for use here with a flow of 740 gph.
Other suggestions include the Rio HF Line of Pumps, JAP Amphibious, and AAP/SunSun JTP-12000 High Output/Efficiency Pond Pump for larger water flows or multiple applications.
The AAP/SunSun JTP-12000 pictured here is one of the best available for high flow needs in that its design produces a flow rate of 3170 GPH while at a "cost" of only 100 watts of electricity!
Aquarium Pump Resource:
SunSun JBQ-3500 Pump, 792 gph
AAP/Rio High Flow Line of Pumps
AAP/SunSun JTP-12000 High Output/Efficiency Pond Pump
AAP/JAP-8500 & 18000 Amphibious Pumps; 2245 to 4755 GPH
Be patient with a veggie filter as unlike many other forms of pond filtration, a veggie filter takes a while to become effective (often a FULL growing season!). This is why it is a good idea to have additional filtration as well such as a Pressurized Pond Filter and a UV Sterilizer.
Pressurized Pond Filter
Unique UV Sterilizers
SOME MISTAKES TO AVOID:
- Failure to utilize volcanic rock or similar bio material; This a major key to success, especially early success as this bio rock becomes both an aerobic and anaerobic filter medium, usually within 6 weeks, which is far faster than the plant roots/tubers generally start removing nutrients effectively.
As well this rock becomes an effective mechanic filter too, trapping debris and allowing better and more reliable function of a pump that is being used to pull water through the Bog/Veggie filter or True UV Sterilizer that is connected after the pump
- Failure to have some flow through the Veggie/Bog Filter; While a stagnant Veggie filter does work, it is not nearly as efficient as one that has a water flow through the rock and plant roots/tubers.
This is Unfortunately a common mistake to not have water flow, let me give this analogy; In an aquarium, say you had a sponge filter and decided to just sit this in the tank without connecting to a water or air pump for flow, will this work well or even at all? The answer is water movement near the sponge filter will allow some bio filtration, but very little resulting in less than optimum results from you bio veggie/bog filter.
Simply put, a water pump directing flow through the Veggie/Bog filter is a must for an efficient/effective filter.
- Failure to utilize a true UV Sterilizer; As noted earlier in this article, the use of a true UV Sterilizer, not a UV Clarifier which are more commonly sold, works "hand in hand" with a pond Bog/Veggie filter
Besides running this device off from a separate filter, a simple and very effective method is to run a PVC pipe with slits or holes cut into its length, then attached to the inlet of the submersible water pump placed in the far side of the Veggie/Bog filter buried in the Volcanic Rock from where the water first enters.
This works as both an excellent mechanical filter removing debris and water and improving water turbidity prior to entering the UV Sterilizer, which is key to effective use of level one capable UV Sterilizers.
Reference: UV Sterilization; Water Turbidity
The picture/diagram to the left displays this optimal method that is often missed in other articles/videos/instructions to set up a Veggie filter to include this mechanical and aerobic/anaerobic filtration along with a true level one capable pond UV Sterilizer.
VEGGIE FILTER METHODS & CONSTRUCTION:
Before the common methods are discussed, let me point out some basics in construction that is common to all.
First is sizing, generally I have found a Veggie filter that consists of not only the plants/roots, but also has 6-12 inches of volcanic rock in the root/substrate area will work vastly better than several potted or otherwise randomly placed bog plants (due to added filtration by bacteria and the trapping of debris for plants to also more easily utilize).
Assuming this combination of plant roots and tubers I have found that a mature Veggie (plant/bog) Filter of about 10% in surface volume as compared to the surface volume of the pond works well.
I have found that surface area works fine as compared to other calculation methods (which work too), as it is often the surface area that determines gas exchange & sunlight exposure. I will admit that this method of calculation does not take into consideration fish numbers, but considering average depths of 2-4 feet and healthy stocking numbers this has rarely failed me in calculations.
Some sub-methods of these basic designs include pulling water through the Veggie Filter bottom or pushing it upwards using slotted PVC. This idea certainly has the advantage of increasing flow to the roots and aerobic bacteria for ammonia/nitrite removal, however the downside can sometimes adversely affect some plant roots/tubers and often does not allow for de-nitrifying anaerobic to propagate for important nitrate removal (which is important for green water control). For this reason I do not promote this method of construction.
For me a better advanced addition to these methods (listed below) is to add an egg crate (or similar) before water enters the Veggie filter to support a pre-filter of coarse filter media and sometimes micron filter media as well. For corner Veggie Filters (or others) the use of a spray bar where the pump irrigates the water over this pre-filter works well too.
Place your plants in a shallow corner of the pond with ½” -2” rock under the plants to allow the roots to better establish themselves, do not use sand or soil. The water depth is best if the roots are barely covered by water. Add a slow to moderate (200- 600 gph) separate water supply (a diversion from your main water pump or a separate pump) to these plants make sure the water passes through the plant roots, not just over them.
An air pump such as a Fusion 700 or Million Air 600 can also be used and placed in the middle to draw water in via the rising air column.
Fusion 700 Air Pump
Million Air 600 Air Pump
Similar to above, place your plants in a shallow corner of the pond with ½” -2” rock under the plants to allow the roots to better establish themselves, do not use sand or soil. The water depth is best if the roots are barely covered by water. In this case, allow the water to move from one pond to the other thru this constriction area in a manner that maximizes root exposure to the water flow (again, not high a flow)
In this method the plants are in the waterfall or cascade or separate waterfall/cascade area of the pond (or just prior to this area). Again place your plants in a shallow corner of the pond with ½” -2” rock under the plants to allow the roots to better establish themselves, do not use sand or soil. The water depth is best if the roots are barely covered by water. This method can be combined with other methods.
The picture at the top of the article displays two "separate waterfall/cascade" type Veggie Filters.
With this method I recommend the use of some loose fitting bricks or slightly more tight fitting rocks to contain this filter (plant roots/tubers and volcanic rock). These rocks/bricks can be used to contain this filter on both sides(upper falls/pond side and cascade/waterfalls side). The use of rocks or bricks is also useful for constriction or corner Veggie Filters.
The downside to this method if used by itself is it does not give the fry a place to hide and often water flows and water depths are harder to control for maximum efficiency, however this method still works especially when used in combination. The upside is the simplicity of design since the natural water movement will pull water through this filter.
Gravity Fed Separate Veggie Filter;
This is a more popular method lately, although my least favorite, not because these cannot work if done correctly with irrigation of water over lava raok and plant roots, but because these cannot be hooked inline with a good true UV Sterilizer such as the AAP/TMC Pond Advantage. If a recommended UV is used, it would have to be on a separate line with its own pre-filtration for optimal UV effectiveness.
In this method you would make a separate small pond or use a container such as a tub or small pool and pump or better "irrigate" water into these “Plant Filers”, then water flows back via gravity into the main pond.
I have seen nicely set up separate veggie filters where they are actually constructed into the ground or into a terrace, these do look better than the tub methods (these are more similar to the waterfall method). My problem with this method is similar to the waterfall method in that flow around the roots and water level (just above the roots) is hard to control to maximize benefits of the plant root structure. You also loose the benefit of a place for fry or breeding adults to hide as in some of the other methods.
The pond below displays a pond with a built-in Veggie/Bog filter as well as one as part of the main pond (Courtesy Danville Aquarium Club).
One variation of the "Separate Veggie/Bog Filter" that is often a good fit for small ponds (under 750 gallons) utilizes pump such as the SunSun HQB-3500, HQB-2500 Pump or Rio HF Pump placed in a plastic large container or flower pot with multiple holes cut into the container/pot.
The pump is inserted inside this pot followed by volcanic rock and a bog plant such an Iris.
This allows for the pump to draw water to the Veggie Filter where large debris can be easily removed and the water is directed to a waterfall, fountain, or both (with a diverter valve).
While a rather small Veggie filter, this "Flower Pot" method does allow for reasonable bio filtration, including nitrate removal as well as mechanical filtration (even similar results to a skimmer that would normally be employed, if at all in much larger ponds).
Product Source: SunSun HQB-3500, HQB-2500 Medium Duty Pond/Fountain Pumps (528-792 gph)
A Veggie or Plant Filter is an excellent compliment or even stand alone pond filter depending on the volume and filter (root) area and exposure of the plant filter.
A good compliment in a small pond would be a Hydro Pond Filter . The Hydro Pond IV can be connected to your Pump as a pre filter (these are rated up to a 1500 gallon pond).
A UV Sterilizer can be added "in line" would further compliment this system & is highly recommended (best if used at slower flow rate and it is important to change the UV Bulb every 6 months in warm climates; 12 months in cool climates).
More about: Pond Ultra Violet Sterilizer & UV Bulb
Please reference this very in depth article that is a MUST READ for anyone interested in moving from basic pond keeping to more advanced pond keeping:
Another complimentary filter for a smaller pond (under 500 gallons) would be the SunSun CHJ-1503 Pond Filter combination.
For larger ponds complimentary filters could include DIY water fall filters utilizing volcanic rock, plastic mesh, and poly pads or multiples of filters such as Pressurized filters (which are among the most efficient in design in my experience).
A good pump for medium to larger ponds that can run multiple features (including your Veggie/Bog Filter) would be the Via Aqua 18000 Multi-Duty, which is a hard pump to beat when one considers performance, reliability, design, and price.
As for the pump, I recommend the Rio HF Line of Pumps or SunSun Heavy Duty Pond Pumps as they are a good combination of state of the art impellers coupled with proven electromagnet motors and value.
SunSun CHJ-1503 Pond Filter
Clear Stream Pressurized pond filters
Large, High Flow Pond Water Pumps
Rio High Flow Water Pump
SunSun Heavy Duty Pond Pumps
FOR MY FULL POND ARTICLE, please visit this link:
“A CLEAR POND, PROPER POND FILTRATION, CLEANING & MORE (even pond scarecrows for predatory birds)”
For Replacement UV-C Bulbs/Lamps to keep your Pond Sterilizer/Clarifier at peak performance:
UV Bulbs; For Ponds & more
I recommend changing your UV-C Bulb every six months for warmer climates (So. Calif., etc.) and once per year in cooler climates.
This link takes you to true high output low pressure UVC replacement lamps, UNLIKE the majority now sold that are often lower output medium pressure UV lamps (which cost less to produce)!!! Beware that if you use Google, their now extremely spam ridden search engine mostly takes users to sellers of mostly junk UV Sterilizers and replacement bulbs
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• Pump Specifications, Recommendations Page
Other Recommended Reference/ Product Resources
Amphibious Pond Water Pumps; 2245 to 4755 GPH
*Aquarium & Pond Nitrogen Cycle
*For a friendly, Knowledgeable, aquarium forum with in a family atmosphere;
Aquarium Forum; Everything Aquatic & Forum Board
*API Pond Care Barley Clear
"The natural properties of peat contained in Barley Clear buffer the pH for a more stable pond environment."
*Pond Algae Information; Green Water & Blanket Weed
*Pond & Aquarium Pumps Specifications Table
Pondmaster 1700; Small/Medium Pond Pump/Filter
Aqua Master Ultra Premium Fish Foods
There is no better fish food for your pond koi, goldfish, etc. Recognized as the best by leading Koi breeders/showers in Asia!!