Planaria and Shrimps. How to remove them.

Shrimp with planaria

Today I will give you all everything I have about aquarium planarian flatworm. You will know what it is, its life cycle, types, what causes the infestation, prevention measures and how you can get rid of it.  I will give you detailed information about the proper usage of all the most popular products. Let’s start.

Planaria (or Planarian as a singular form) are not a rare guest in aquariums. They usually appear when you overfeed your inhabitants leaving too much-unfinished food in your tank. When it happens these flatworms starts to reproduce very quickly.

Planaria body structure

In order to fight these worms, you need to know your enemy in the face.

Planaria can be easily distinguished from other unwelcome parasites in your aquaria like detritus worms and hydra. It is a flatworm with a triangular head with a pair of light-sensitive eyespots. Lobes (auricles) extending from every side of the head contain extremely sensitive cells. Which it uses to locate the food. Once the food is found it starts consuming it with protrusion muscular pharynx. Through rhythmic contraction of the muscular pharynx, planaria pump the food into its stomach with a siphon-like action. The flatworm has an acoelomate body (no internal cavity to hold organs), without lungs and circulatory system. Instead of an anus, it has flame cells, which function to remove waste.

Even if you stretch out the planarian flatworm, it will barely reach 1-inch length.

 Reproduction of Planaria

Planaria are hermaphrodites (asexual reproduction), but they can also reproduce sexually. Two flatworms will mate up and inseminate each other’s eggs. Then they release them in a cocoon.

Depending on the temperature, there are two types of eggs:
– Summer” eggs (thin-shelled and translucent)
– “Winter” eggs (black)

The incubation period of summer eggs (It lasts a couple of weeks) is shorter than winter eggs. In nature, winter eggs can survive throughout the winter.
After hatching the embryo looks like an exact copy of the adult version.

Planaria are famously immortal creature. If you cut it in half, the two parts will grow into two new ones. Even more, according to scientific research, in order to restore its full body planaria need only 1/279 part of their body! After that, they will regenerate everything in two weeks.

 Types of Aquarium Planaria

There are two types of planaria flatworms, which can be found in aquariums:
White and brown planaria– White planaria (Procotyla)
– Black and brown planaria (Dugesia)
Both types are carnivorous. They can eat living or dead animal matter. That is why for aquarists there is no big difference between these two types of planaria.

 What Causes the Planaria in the Aquarium.

These are the main reasons why one day you may find these little worms in your aquarium.

1. Overfeeding
You can read more about “How and what to feed your shrimp right here.
2. Not systematic maintenance.

3. Brought with plants, driftwood, substrate, and etc.

Planaria and Shrimp

For shrimp breeders, planaria can become a disaster. The point is that they definitely kill shrimp and snails. So how do they kill the shrimp?
Planaria usually kill only weak/small or dying specimen. Keep in mind that this is very easy for the planaria if the shrimp has just molted. Without its shell shrimp is very vulnerable.

As soon as planaria have an opportunity, they will try to attach or crawl onto the shrimp. Most shrimp has the ability to jump and throw the planaria off. Planaria’s slime can stun the shrimp so they will not do anything to protect themselves.

Then the Planaria start searching for a soft spot to enter the shrimp’s body. When they find their way into the shrimp, they will eat it alive. That is a very sad story for all shrimp breeders.

 Ways to Getting Rid of Planaria

 They are two popular ways to get rid of planaria and some other remedies (I will mention them as well).
1. Chemicals treatment and natural products.
2. Planaria traps.

If you have some fish in your aquarium (like Bettas, Neon Dwarf Rainbowfish, and Pleco varieties) you may consider yourself lucky. Because they will eat them and deal with this problem for you. The only bad thing is that these fish can eat shrimp with the same pleasure.

Overdosing or Do You Really Know How much Water you Have?

Before even start talking about the products to treat planaria, I would like to say one thing and this is very important.

People usually do not know the exact amount of water in their aquarium. They think that they know, but they do not! Almost nobody takes into consideration what else you have there. However, what about the substrate, filters, driftwood, plants, stones, bricks, decorations, and etc.?

Did you think about it? As a result, almost everybody, even experienced aquarists (which you can see on the youtube in their product reviews) make this simple mistake and overdose it! DO NOT overdose your aquarium!

 1. The Chemical and Natural Products that You Can Add to Treat Planaria.

No-planaria control in 72h

One of the most popular product is called No-planaria control in 72h. It’s a natural Betel nut palm extract (safe for shrimps and plants). Be careful, as even though it is a natural product it will most likely kill your snails.
The bag weighs 50g and has a measuring spoon.

Proper usage

  1. Remove any snails from the aquarium.
  2. Better to remove your carbon filter before dosing. Because the filter can obstruct the work of the product before it has a chance to work.
  3. Make sure you have good aeration and oxygen supply.
  4. Add No-planaria control in 72h
    – First day – one spoon per 50 liters (13 gallons)
    – Second day – ½ of the spoon
    – Third day – ¼ of the spoon.
  1. The Fourth day 40-50% water change.
  2. Put the carbon filter
  3. After 7 days – 20% water change
  4. Once the planaria are dead, take a spoon (or siphon your aquarium) and take out as many as possible, in order to avoid ammonia spike.
  5. Keep a closer look at your water parameters during and after treatment.
  6. It is possible that you will have to repeat the treatment in 2-3 weeks to remove those who hatched from the eggs.

The planaria will not die immediately. It can take some time.
It is also advisable not to feed your shrimps during the first 3 days of treatment in order to prevent further contamination.

Benibachi – Planaria Zero

planaria zero Another product, which uses Betel nut extract as the ingredient. Actually, it is very good against over parasites like Hydra as well.  In a few days, it will get rid of all planaria. The best thing is that it is safer compared to using Panacur C or other doses of Fenbendazole (I will tell about them later).

Some negative opinions about it. In most cases, people say that the product works very well. Nevertheless, in some rare situations, people claim that it could kill brown planaria but was not very inefficient against white planaria.

Proper usage

  1. Remove any snails from the aquarium.
  2. Better to remove your carbon filter before dosing. Because the filter can obstruct the work of the product before it has a chance to work.
  3. Make sure you have good aeration and oxygen supply.
  4. Add
  • First day – dose 1 g (2 spoons) per 50 liters (13 gallons)
  • Second day – dose 1 g (2 spoons) per 50 liters (13 gallons)
  • Third day – dose 0,5 g (1 spoon) per 50 liters (13 gallons)
  • Fourth day  – 20% water change and put your carbon filter back
  • Day 10 – dose 1 spoon per 50 liters (13 gallons) (if you have some planaria left)
  • Day 11 – 20% water change
  1. Once the planaria are dead, take a spoon (or siphon your aquarium) and take out as many as possible, in order to avoid ammonia spike.
  2. Use the aquarium test kit to check the ammonia level.
  3. It is possible that you will have to repeat the treatment after 2-3 weeks to remove those who hatched from the eggs.
    In order to improve treatment efficiency. It is recommended not to feed your shrimps during the first 3 days of treatment in order to prevent further contamination.

Benibachi – Planaria Zero (link to check the price on Amazon).

Canine Dewormer safe-guard

Dog DewormerA lot of people use a Dog Dewormer (link to check the price on Amazon) that they can get on Amazon or from the local pet store. Canine Dewormer contains Fenbendazole (a drug prescribed to treat intestinal parasites). It has been proven that the dog dewormer works fantastically against planaria.

Unfortunately, it can be lethal for your snails. That is why, if your snails form part of your healthy shrimp eco-system you must be very careful. Remember that if you do have snails it will cause an ammonia spike when they die. Which is likely to kill more shrimp than the planaria themselves. The same goes for a large number of planaria. If you have a lot and they die they will also cause an ammonia spike.

Shrimp are very sensitive to ammonia as well as nitrates and nitrites. If you want to prevent ammonia spike you can do a daily water change of 20% for the next three days. This is the reason why some people prefer to use the planaria traps. Because they do not have to worry about big ammonia spikes or chemicals that might harm the shrimp.

Presumed dosage and usage.

  1. Remove any snails from the aquarium.
  2. Dose your tank with 0,1g per 10 gallons (~45 liters).
  3. Wait 48-72 hours
  4. Dose your tank with 0,1g per 10 gallons.
  5. Wait 48-72 hours
  6. If you still see some planaria dose again.
  7. Once the planaria are dead, take a spoon (or siphon your aquarium) and take out as many as possible, in order to avoid ammonia spike.
  8. Next day – 20% water change
  9. Again – 20% water change
  10. And again – 20% water change
  11. Repeat the treatment after 2-3 weeks to remove those who hatched from the eggs.

It is hard to say should you feed your shrimp or not during the treatment? The point is that the product does not mention anything about aquarium use at all.
All aquarists use it at their own risk. In my opinion, we should follow the main rule here. Food restriction will help to prevent further contamination.

Panacur ® Suspension 10% for dogs.  

Panacur (link to check the price on Amazon) is another product with Fenbendazole. It has a liquid or a pill form. Note, that Panacur (or Canine Dewormer) was not created for aquarium use as well. As a result, absolutely any dose rate (which you can find on the internet for all these products) is an assumption of that particular person. Thus, it is very hard to make an exact dosage. That is why I am giving you a summary of aquarists’ experience who were successful.

Presumed dosage and usage.

  1. Remove any snails from the aquarium.
  2. Add 2 to 4 mg per 1 gallon. (5 to 1 mg per 1 liter)
  3. 30-50% water change after seven days
  4. Once the planaria are dead, take a spoon (or siphon your aquarium) and take out as many as possible, in order to avoid ammonia spike.
  5. Repeat the treatment after 3 weeks to remove those who hatched from the e
  6. ggs.
    Panacur was tested by many aquarists and received a lot of good reviews from them.

Hint. If you have a pill formed product, you will see that it does not dissolve in the water very well. Nevertheless, there is a good way to fix it. Take any test tubes (or a bottle) and put there the dose of Panacur, crush it and add some tank water. Shake it. After that, you can use it as mentioned above.

2. Planaria Traps

You can obviously buy a trap (link to check the price on Amazon) at your local fish store. However, why buy if you can make one. It will take you less than one minute because it is very simple and easy.

  • You need a 500ml bottle (or any size, just make sure it fits in your aquarium).
  • Then take a needle and poke a few small holes at the bottom. Four holes are more than enough but you can do more if you want. Make sure the holes are very small. Because planaria can easily fit in almost everywhere.
  • Add two or three different types of food in small amounts inside of the bottle. For example, fish flakes work great. Do not add too much because it can cause an ammonia spike.
  • Close the bottle and push the air out by submerging the bottle and squeezing it while holding it upside down. Let the water replace the air completely. Otherwise, the bottle will float.
  • Push the bottom of the bottle a tiny bit into the substrate and leave it for 2 to 12 hours depending on how many you want to catch.
  • Repeat it daily until you see that you have not caught anything. Normally you only have to repeat it three times and that it as simple as that.
  • Rinse the bottle thoroughly and keep it for next time you have a problem.
  • Repeat the procedure after 3 weeks to remove those who hatched from the eggs. You do not want the second invasion.

Alternative Homemade Trap

To do this you need to put beef, squid meat, fish flakes and etc. in a gauze bag. Put the bag on the substrate near the plants for a night. Turn the light off in order to attract more planaria. In the morning, (ideally without turning light on) carefully remove the bag with the worms and put it in boiling water.

Electricity vs Planaria

When people become desperate, they can do some strange and dangerous things. I am talking about the electrical execution of planaria. Yes, you heard me right. There is a rumor that some people were successful with this method. They simply passed a current (12V/32V) through the water. Here is the description.

Two bundles of copper wire (without insulation) submerged into water at the opposite ends of the aquarium. Be careful, leads must be carefully isolated from the metal frame of the aquarium. Turn the current on for 1-3 minutes. Shrimp, fish, and plants should be OK. Do not do it for a long time (like 10-20 min) or you will get “The dead sea” in your aquarium.

Personally, I do not support these drastic measures. Even more, I have serious doubts about it. The point is that the water will be saturated with copper ions. There is a chance that it can kill everything in your aquarium. I will repeat that I do not recommend it in any way. Even if it can kill the parasites like planaria, hydra, and others.

Some Experiments with Planaria Survival

In order to fight this plague, the aquarists are trying to use everything that comes to their mind.

Unfortunately, I could not find any specific research or scientific experiments about it (the way we need it). All we have is information about products, which can kill planaria and some reviews and opinions about it. That is why (mostly out of curiosity) people are taking these experiments in their own hand. These are some results of the conducted home experiments with Brown planaria.

Brown planaria. Home experimental conditions with solutions and heating.

– 10 planaria were kept in each solution for 30 minutes.

Experimental results
1. A pink solution of potassium permanganate

Did not affect them.
2. Weak table soda solution (1g per 1 liter)
Almost did not affect them.
3. Saltwater
Started falling into a coma. Once you return them into clear water, they come to life in a couple of hours.
3. A weak solution of vinegar 0,5% (solution of acetic acid)
Death in a few seconds. Once you return them into clear water, some of them come to life in one day!

Water heating (for 10 minutes):
30 ° C – did not affect them.

35 ° С – become more active.
40 ° С – movements are slow, but still alive.
45 ° С – led to “temporary death”. Once you return them into normal water, they come to life in a couple of hours!

The conclusion of the experiment.

It is extremely hard to kill brown planaria with common methods. The survival rate is amazing. Unfortunately.
Some people even say that brown planaria also have a high resistance to fenbendazole (even if you use 2-3 time more doses). While it kills white planaria without any problem.

Some More Facts about Planaria

– They don’t like the light very much. If you shine a flashlight on the worm, it will try to move away from the light. Which is why they are more active during the night.
– Planaria eat from the center of their bodies and not from the head.
– According to researches, if you cut planaria in pieces, flatworms retains the memory and experience of the body from which it was regenerated.

Prevention of the Planaria

1. Feed less.
Do not overfeed your inhabitants. Your good intentions will lead to their death. One of the easiest ways to control the feeding process is to use feeding dishes. You can read more about “Feeding dishes for shrimp” right here.
2. Clean your tank systematically.
3. Take precautionary measures.
Be careful what you are putting into your aquarium. Buy plants and substrate only from trusted sellers (brands). Quarantine plants. If you are going to use sand, gravel, and etc from your garden, you need to clean, rinse and boil it.  The same goes for any driftwood, boil it for 5-10 minutes at least.

Lastly.  You should always wash your hands thoroughly after you handle the organism or anything it has touched.

Read also my article “Understanding Dwarf Shrimp Diseases and Parasites”.

 

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