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Snails and worms

>Date: Tue, 01 Apr 1997 20:30:16 -0500
>From: Jeff & Denise Dietsch <dietsch at voicenet_com>
>Now for a few questions:
>   I am aware of the benefits of Malaysian Trumpet Snails in the substrate
>of a planted tank as in aeration and consumption of organic waste. I have
>also heard of the negative impact of some types of snails carrying
>parasites and other undesirable critters that can be harmful to the fish.

There is one parasite that I know of which is carried by snails.  This
parasite's life cycle involves snails, fish, and birds.  Unless your
aquarium contains birds, or you get your snails from outdoors, you won't
see this parasite in your tank.  If you do somehow manage to get it, it
will only last one generation.

The only other danger that snails can pose to your system is if they all
die at once, or if one or more large apple snails decide to drown at the
same time.  This possibility is easily dealt with by observing your snails
and removing dead ones.  If you find that one's died and been eaten by
other snails, do a bunch of water changes and you'll be fine.

>With that in mind, what about a healthy population of say blood worms or
>white worms along with the snails.  

Those blood worms that survive a few days will live off of food in the tank
and pupate, eventually leaving the tank as midges if they aren't eaten.

White worms are a terrestrial worm and will not establish in your tank.

>So what type of negative side effects
>are there allowing a population of blood worms to occupy the substrate of
>the tank.   Although, I hear they become flies, and while the cats may
>enjoy the perpetual toy, I know my wife will not.  

I'm not sure about this, but I don't think the bloodworms will actually
live in the substrate of your tank.  I think they will live on top of the
substrate, eating whatever they find as scavengers.  This assumes that
blood worms can handle the water temperatures of tropical aquariums.  I'm
not at all sure on that one.  

To breed blood worms, I've been told that you only need a pail of water
with a few inches of rotting leaves in the bottom.

Some fish do not chew their food, but swallow it whole.  I've heard reports
of blood worms eating their way back out of certain fish, like Corydoras

>Would they offer similar
>benefits as the snails, I am sure they would be a nice food source for the
>fish, would they produce to much waste of their own, are they to short
>lived to really help and their dead mass to live mass would be bad.  Would
>they compete with the snails and cause problems, would they over populate
>the bed.  

Since they have to pupate and become flies before they can reproduce, I
don't think you'll have a problem with overpopulation.  It would be much
more likely for you to find that you have to continually add them and that
you never get a second generation.

>Do they require different water conditions then what is in a
>regular planted tank and thus die of.  I remember many years ago when I
>feed live worms to my fish, while they loved them, they would occasionally
>miss a few and before I knew it I had a booming population in the gravel.
>At that time I didn't even know they were there and if they did present a
>problem, I probably wouldn't have even recognized it.  I just got ride of
>them.  Now that I can not find any live ones, I was wondering if I should
>try it.  These guys that lived in my gravel for a while were red, but
>defiantly worms and not larva.  

The worms you mention here are almost definitely tubificid worms, either
black worms or tubifex.  Both live on decaying organic matter and are
capable of establishing themselves in a substrate with plenty of
undecomposed waste.  Unfortunately, these worms are very capable of
carrying certain fish parasites, such as tapeworms and possibly hexamita.

It might be worth your while to check out the live-foods mailing list in
addition to this one for more information on live foods.  It's not as busy
as this one, averaging maybe 10 postings per week, but it has good
information.  To subscribe, send email to majordomo at aquaria_net with the
text: subscribe livefood
in the body of the message.

I hope this helps,

David W. Webb in Plano, TX.