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How to Get Rid of Bristle Worms

Imagine this scenario: you’re relaxing at night after a long day at work by admiring your aquarium. But you noticed a pinkish worm popping out of a rock that you’ve just added to the tank.

You hold your breath and realize it’s a critter. And after doing some research, you learn that the creature is called a bristle worm.

And this leads you to ask: “how to get rid of bristle worms?”

You’re not the first aquarist to ask this question. For many years, bristle worms have been notorious for being hideous creatures that ruin saltwater aquariums.

And while these critters are not considered harmful to the fish and plants, you’d still want to remove them from your tank, right?

Removing Bristle Worms

How to get rid of bristle worms in a saltwater tank? First, you need to prepare the following materials:

  • Pair of Gloves: Wearing a pair of gloves would protect your skin from getting in contact with the critters. Bristleworms can bite or sting, which can lead to swelling, inflammation, burning, numbness, and pain.
  • Flashlight: It’s recommended to use a flashlight with a red light to avoid scaring off the worm. If you don’t have a flashlight with a red light setting, you may cover the bulb end of a flashlight with red acetate paper.
  • Tweezer
  • Small and transparent water bottle
  • Plastic straws
  • Cutter
  • Bait like small shrimp or piece of meat

Step-by-Step Guide

removing bristle worms

Manual Removal

  1. Wearing a pair of gloves, get a tweezer.
  2. Drop your hand into the water and look for the bristle worm. More often than not, a bristle worm would be hiding under the rocks.
  3. Using the tweezer, pull the bristle worm out of the tank. Make sure that you hold them right in the middle so as not to break them.

This method is the simplest to do. However, this has some pros and cons. It can work best if you are pulling large bristle worms or those that are at least 10 cm long.

One disadvantage, however, is that it can be hard to do this when removing smaller critters. As mentioned earlier, there is also the risk of the worm breaking into pieces if you’re not careful in handling it.

And keep in mind that the bristle worm can regenerate itself after. Therefore, you must be careful and patient in removing the worm via a tweezer.

Using a DIY trap

If you have no success in removing bristle worms using a tweezer, then try using a Do It Yourself (DIY) trap.

To do so, prepare the materials from items 4 to 7.

  1. First, cut the straws. The ideal length is 1-2 inches.
  2. Cut small holes in the water bottle. The holes should be enough to fit one end of the straw
  3. Insert one end of the straw into each hole. Make sure that the straws tightly fit the holes to prevent the critters from crawling out of the bottle.
  4. Add bait like a piece of shrimp or meat into the water bottle.
  5. Close the cap of the bottle.
  6. Put this DIY trap in the aquarium, preferably near rocks where bristle worms tend to hide.
  7. Wait for a day or two before checking if there are critters that have been trapped inside the water bottle.
  8. Dispose of the water bottle properly.

But what if you’re too busy to do the two methods discussed above? One option would be to introduce fishes that eat bristle worms. Not only would this spare you time and effort, but can also add more variety to your tank.

Some of the fishes that are known to devour bristle worms are neon dottyback, flame hawkfish, longnose hawkfish, six line wrasse, orchid dottyback, and melanurus wrasse.

Other Helpful Tips

Keep in mind that bristle worms are nocturnal creatures. They are easily distracted by lighting. Therefore, you should turn off the lights even before attempting to manually remove them from the tank.

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Also, avoid making brisk movements when trying to manually get rid of bristle worms. These creatures hide when they detect rapid movements in their environment. Make sure you stay still when attempting to pull the critters out of the tank.

The bristle worm population also increases if there is an increase in food supplied to the tank. You might want to consider cutting back on your feeding if you don’t want bristle worms from thriving in your aquarium.


Removing bristle worms should not be a cause of concern for aquarists like you. The critter can be difficult to spot especially at daytime but it doesn’t mean you can’t get rid of it.

You can pull bristle worms out of the tank using a tweezer. This may take some patience, however, especially since these creatures are known to hide under rocks.

If you don’t have a lot of time to spend on waiting for bristle worms to emerge, then you can try using a DIY bristle worm trap.

Finally, you may also add fishes that eat bristle worms in your aquarium. These fishes include: neon dottyback, flame hawkfish, orchid dottyback, and melanurus wrasse.

These three methods are guaranteed to answer your query: “How to get rid of bristle worms?”

how to get rid of bristle worms infographic

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