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Includes articles on new aquarium product spotlights, guides, or detailed reports on product effectiveness in aquariums.

Bumblebee Snails: an alternative solution to nuisance aquarium worm control

Bumblebee SnailWhenever most aquarists see that first dreaded bristleworm in their aquarium, they immediately run out for the nearest Dottyback or Sixline Wrasse or Arrow Crab or little plastic trap. There’s another, often overlooked, little critter that can help out even more than any of the “traditional” solutions – the Bumblebee Snail, Pusiostoma mendicaria.

Bumblebee Snails are flashy little snails, as saltwater snails go. They have solid black shells with thin yellow stripes and only grow to about one inch in length. Bumblebee Snails are more carnivorous than many other species and are known to feed on other snails, ornamental feather dusters or the occasional coral polyp if their supply of leftover foods, tiny crustaceans or small worms in the substrate grows too low. The risk is usually well outweighed by the benefits though to anyone with a bristleworm problem; A sturdy (nuisance level) bristleworm or flatworm population can keep several Bumblebee Snails well-fed enough to leave their tankmates alone as long as the population lasts. While Bumblebee Snails aren’t quite as proficient sand-sifters as the ever-popular Nassarius Snail, they do sort through the substrate and aquarium rockwork to find their food – the same places that the dreaded worms hide.

So, if you’ve tried the traditional solutions or want to cut a bristleworm or flatworm problem off before it starts, try adding a few Bumblebee Snails.

A Simple CO2 Solution for the Planted Aquarium

Brandon here. If you’re like me and want to get the best growth and color out of your planted aquarium, you’ll probably want to add CO2 to your tank at some point.  The addition of CO2, in conjunction with adequate lighting, will greatly increase the rate of growth of your aquatic plants and is almost a necessity for certain hard to keep species.  Here at That Fish Place we carry a number of supplies for dosing your aquarium with CO2.

Turbo CO2 Bio System from Red SeaThe first CO2 additive that I used on my planted 20 gallon was the Turbo CO2 Bio System by Red Sea.  This system is relatively inexpensive and fairly simple to use.  It works by attaching the reaction chamber to airline tubing which runs into a small powerhead.  A mixture of yeast and sugar inside the reaction chamber produces CO2 and usually lasts four or five weeks.  The downfall to this system is that the CO2 generated cannot be regulated and the duration of the mixture is usually inconsistant.

Once I upgraded to my 55 gallon aquarium, I decided I should upgrade my CO2 system as well.  To save money, I bought a 20 oz paintball tank instead of a larger tank similar to the ones we use in the fishroom.  To diffuse the CO2, I purchased a Maxi-Jet 400, attaching the airline to the venturi.  This actually diffuses the CO2 very well.  To regulate the CO2 coming out of the tank, I bought the CO2 regulator by TAAM.  The regulator comes with a needle valve for adjusting the amount of CO2 released into the tank and a solenoid so I can control when the unit operates by attaching it to the same timer as my lighting system.

Dual CO2 Regulator for Paintball Tanks from TAAM My plants have never been healthier since I began CO2 additions.  I have several different species that have grown almost too large and need constant pruning, such as my watersprite, bacopa, and bronze wendtii.  If you decide to run CO2 on your aquarium, be aware of several complications you may run into:

CO2 will displace oxygen in the water.  If you add too much, your fish may suffer.

A high degree of surface agitation will drive the CO2 out of the water and make the addition of CO2 worthless.

CO2 will also lower the pH of the water.  Be sure your carbonate hardness is within the proper range (3-8 dkH).

CO2 will increase the rate of growth of your plants when used with adequate aquarium lighting.  Fast growing plants will deplete trace minerals in the water (iron, potassium, calcium, manganese). Plants that are deficient in these minerals tend to have health issues and even die.  Be sure to test your water and dose with trace minerals accordingly for the best growth.

Hope this helps,

Until next time,



Until next time,


New HID Lighting on Aquatic Life Aquarium Lighting Systems

HID Bulb from Aquatic LifeThe possibility of encountering and getting to use new gadgets is definiately one of the coolest perks in working at That Fish Place. Particularly in the aquarium hobby, lots of technology is constantly being developed to make things easier.

The most recent example of this has come in from a new vendor for us: Aquatic Life.

Several of their new aquarium lighting fixtures come with a bulb known as HID, or High Intensity Discharge. Not familiar with this term, I quickly shot an email right to our vendor contact. 

Aquatic Life Aquarium Lighting Systems With HID, T5HO and Lunar LightsA quick response back told me all I needed to know. Developed by OSRAM GmbH in Germany, The HID lamps are single-ended, G12 base metal halides with output similar to comparible double-ended HQI models. The single-ended design allows Aquatic Life to position the bulbs both horizontally and vertically, depending on the demands of the fixture. The single ended design with a built-in reflector allows the light to be extremely focused for greater lighting power. The technology used is common overseas, but has only recently reached the States. Being metal halide bulbs, you still get the shimmering, dappled effect on the water too. The Aquatic Life website gives viewers access to independant bulb output tests too if you’re interested.

Thanks for your help guys.

Aquatic Life RO SystemsAquatic Life also markets a line of compact fluorescent and T5 lighting fixtures; as well as advanced monitors and RO units.

Feel free to pass along any information you have on this technology or your experience with the Aquatic Life items.

Until Next Time,


Extreme Makeover: Aquarium Edition – Our 350 Gallon Cylinder Display

Have you ever gotten bored with your house and completely re-arranged your furniture just for fun? We here at That Fish Place/That Pet Place do it with our display aquariums. We get tired of looking at the same old tanks and get ants in our pants to re-model them. The most recent benefactor of this behavior is the 350 gallon acrylic cylinder tank in our Custom Aquatic Design Studio.

Over the first five years of operation, the display cylinder has had a few different themes as far as the fish that we had in the tank. For the last couple years its been a brackish community with puffers, scats, monos and catfish.

The decoration in the tank has been largely the same over this time, and was fairly limited because of the design of the tank. The tank itself is 4’ tall, and 4’ in diameter. Pretty big, however, there was a center overflow box in the tank that dominated the design. We hid the box as much as possible with a few hundred pounds of hand carved lava rock, but it was still the dominating feature.

The first thing we decided to do as part of the display’s extreme makeover was to remove the overflow box. We changed the filtration method from an overflow box wet/dry to a closed loop system. This would open up the tank visually, as well as add approximately 50 gallons to the total volume. To accomplish this, the overflow box had to be cut out. With the help of a few power tools and couple of busted knuckles later, the box came out without too much trouble. With the overflow removed, the interior of the tank was wide open, so I took advantage of the opportunity to repair some of the scratches that were on the inside of the tank. Anyone who has an acrylic tank can appreciate how easily they scratch.

Seriously limited in available space for filtration under the aquarium, I needed to come up with a system that would give us good performance, at the same time take up as little space as possible. What I decided on was a combination of a Aqua Ultraviolet Ultima II canister filter, and a series of Pentair aquatics Lifegard modular filters. The Ultima II filter will handle the mechanical and biological filtration. The Lifegard modular system includes a mechanical canister for water polishing, a chemical canister for activated carbon (or other chemical media), and a heater module. A 15 watt Aqua Ultraviolet sterilizer rounds out the filtration, and is the only carry-over from the original filtration set-up.

To really change the appearance of the aquarium, we kept the furniture to a minimum. A large
piece of driftwood is the centerpiece of the new decor, and it also acts as a cover for the central filtration return. Some strategically placed rocks and artificial plants hide the rest of the internal plumbing, as well as provide some cover and habitat for the new fish.

The new inhabitants will primarily be schooling tetras, and other South American community fish. The new, open design of the aquarium will be really spectacular as the numbers of schooling fish increase and mature.

One of the interesting aspects of cylindrical aquariums is the visual distortions that are created by the curved surface, everything inside looks much larger that it really is. Without the overflow box in the middle, everyone’s immediate reaction is that the tank looks much bigger than it used to, now that you can see all the way through the tank. This effect will really show off the brilliant colors of the tetras and other fish as they mature. So far the makeover has been a big hit.

Hmmm, what can I tear apart next?

I’ll let you know when I decide, so stay tuned for the next project!


Bristleworms. The Good, the Bad, the ITCHY!!

Hi, Craig here with some cool stuff about Bristleworms.

It’s late in the evening, you have gotten home after the lights on your reef tank have gone out. Walking by the tank you look down and notice a little fuzzy worm poking out of the rocks. Startled, you press your face close to the tank and …ZIP!!… the little worm is gone. Thinking to yourself that you have a cool new critter in your tank, you forget all about the worm. Days go by… weeks go by… another late night at work and you again arrive at home to a darkened tank. Looking into the aquarium again, you see dozens of little worms now! Crawling everywhere! Now you are a bit concerned. What in the world are these things?! And why are there so many?! And how does one get rid of them?!

What you have discovered are members of a large class of worms called Polychaete worms. There are probably more polychaete worms on this planet than virtually any other creature. Feather duster worms and Christmas tree worms as both included in the class Polychaeta. Some Polychaete worms live over hydrothermal vents in the deepest reaches of our oceans and are amongst the most heat tolerant animals on the planet. Another species of Polychaete worm lives over cold seeps in the ocean and may be the most long lived animal on Earth, reaching perhaps 250 years of age. Most are marine worms, but some species have even adapted to living in humid terrestrial environs.

The little boogers you have just discovered in your tank are very common, most likely from the genus Hermodice or Eurythoe, and often carry the common names of “Bristle worm” and “Fire worm.” These names are derived from the rows of needle-like bristles that line the sides of their bodies. These bristles are often venomous and can produce localized swelling and, in some cases, extreme burning sensations. There is some debate as to the danger of these creatures in the home reef aquaria. While there is no doubt that many species of bristle worms will predate upon soft corals, gorgonians, and tridacnid clams, some of the smaller members of the genus Eurythoe can certainly be counted as some of the best detritivores in the business.

So how do you decide if you have one of the big nasties or one of the little janitorial worms? That will take a little research. I have seen what may literally be dozens of different species. Each one a little different than the other. From the foot long Hermodice carunculata that is white to grey in colour with white spines, to the small red-headed Eurythoe spp. that are rarely more than 7cm in length. If you have tiny worms that are white to black with red heads, chances are they are actually doing you a lot of good. However, even in large numbers, the little guys could become a nuisance. If, on the other hand, you have one of the large white or pink ones… well… those eat things. Trapping and population control through predation are almost always good ideas. Which method you choose will depend greatly on the size and number of the worms.

Six Line WrasseIf you have smaller species of Polychaete worms, it is very likely that you will be able to control their population size by using various natural predators. Of the different creatures used to control bristle worms, there are a handful that are stand outs. At the top of the list are the Pseudocheilinus wrasses. Six line wrasses (Pseudocheilinus hexataenia,) the disappearing wrasse (Pseudocheilinus evanidus,) the Twelve line wrasse (Pseudocheilinus tetrataenia,) and Mystery wrasses (Pseudocheilinus ocellatus) are all well known for their appetites towards bristle worms and flatworms. Generally considered to be well-mannered in community reef tanks, these wrasses make a very beautiful and curious addition to any tank. Another genus of fish that is known for it’s ability to eat small bristle worms are the dottybacks. There are a handful of Pseudochromis that have shown consider skill and appetite when it comes to eating bristle worms. The most notable are Pseudochromis fridmani, Pseudochromis sankeyi, and Pseudochromis springeri. Each of these species is a very inquisitive and entertaining addition to a reef tank. While most Pseudochromis show a very high level of aggression to tank mates, these three species have shown to be quite tolerant of neighbours. Any of these fish would make a very beautiful and prized inhabitant to your home aquaria. Another excellent, if somewhat voracious, predator of bristle worms is the arrow crab. Members of the genus Stenorhynchus are very well known to eat bristle worms. Using their very long claws to extract worms from rockwork, these unusual crabs eat the worms as though they were eating a fuzzy piece of spaghetti. The only negative to these crabs… if there aren’t any worms around… they will catch whatever they can to keep themselves fed. Other crabs, shrimp, and small fish are all on the menu if the arrow crab gets hungry enough. Continuing with the invertebrate solution for bristle worms, there is a particular genus of shrimp that can be somewhat helpful in controlling populations of the smaller worms. The coral shrimp of the genus Stenopus have been noted to eat bristle worms in modest numbers. These shrimp are very attractive and can be kept in mated pairs. This ability to keep them in pairs makes the coral shrimp a really wonderful member of your aquarium. In regards to keeping the arrow crab or the coral shrimp, it must be noted that some individuals will preferentially take to eating prepared fish food rather than putting the effort into hunting worms. But, really, who can blame them when they know that there is a free meal coming to them? No matter what your choice in biological bristle worm control, you will no doubt be pleased with the addition of a beautiful and interesting new resident to your reef.

Having just spent an entire paragraph on predatory control of bristle worm populations, it should be stated that predation upon large specimens is virtually impossible, so trapping them would be the most efficient way of removing them from your aquarium. There are several commercially available traps, but almost all of them are for smaller worms. To make a trap that is capable of catching a larger worm take a little bit of imagination as well as a little McGuyver. Using 1/2″ PVC, cut an 8 inch length. Then, cut two small pieces of nylon window screening and rubberband it on each end. On one end, cut a small slit to allow for entry by the worms. Before you submerge the tube into the water, you will want to place a piece of shrimp all the way inside the tube as far as you can get it. Leave the tube in overnight. Check the tube first thing in the morning and see what you’ve got! It may take a handful of tries, but this method will often bring results.

You may be tempted to try to remove the worm with a set of tweezers or tongs. Take care in doing this… for if the worms breaks into pieces, each of those pieces can form a fully functional worm! With patience, either technique mentioned in the above paragraphs should yield results in controlling or eliminating your bristle worm population. Remember that small numbers of the small Eurythoe spp. actually considered somewhat beneficial, but if you keep soft coral and tridacnid clams, you may be better off having some sort of control in the tank. Another helpful tip in controlling populations, keep your tank on a regular, weekly water change schedule. Weekly 15% water changes will help keep organics down to a minimum, thus keeping the food source for bristle worms down to a minimum. So, if you ever encounter any of these little beasties and want to be rid of them, try a trap or a natural predator. If, on the other hand, you decide to keep your new critters, you will have some very curious and odd pets to observe! The shy nature of these worms can even become somewhat endearing if you give them the chance!