How to Get Rid of Bristle Worms in a Salt Water Tank

Bristle worms can wreak havoc in your saltwater aquarium. They grow quickly -- up to 24 inches. While they typically don't pass on disease or parasites to fish, they can outcompete fish and interfere with the ecological balance of your aquarium.

Place a bristle worm trap in the aquarium. Most pet stores sell these traps, and you may need to try a few before you settle on one that works. Trapping is easier than catching because bristle worms frequently burrow into holes, making them nearly impossible to catch.

Fill the trap with bristle worm bait. Cooked shrimp, raw scallops, clams and fish, such as salmon or tuna, are all highly effective baits. Wait 24 to 48 hours, then check the trap for worms. If the trap didn't catch any worms, try a different trap.

Place the worms in a separate tank or donate them to a museum or fish store. Some hobbyists keep bristle worm tanks, and the animals are large and interesting enough that simply killing them is unnecessarily cruel. If you can't find a way to dispose of the worms, consider investing in tank mates that eat bristle worms; this also will keep the worms from coming back. Wrasses, sand perches, dottybacks, goatfish and trigger fish all will eat these worms.

Items you will need

  • Bristle worm trap
  • Bait food


  • Bristle worms don't always need to be removed. If your tank is large enough, they may be able to coexist with your fish. If you don't notice any problems in your tank, the worms can become a part of its ecosystem. Small bristle worms can help remove debris and keep the tank clean.


  • Avoid touching the worm's bristles, which can sting.

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About the Author

Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.