If you have managed a saltwater aquarium before, there is a good chance that you have encountered bristle worms in your tank. If you have not, you likely will at some point. Bristle worms or sometimes spelled bristleworms are segmented worms called Polychaetas.
Most aquarists will leave them in their tank because they are really good tank cleaners, but sometimes people will want to remove them. Sometimes, your tank can get overloaded with them, and you may want to get them removed. If you have ever had tank with too many in there, then you know what I am talking about. Also, some bristle worms are bad like fireworms. These are generally more colorful, and their bristles are more pronounced. Also, if your tank gets a lot of them, they may start attacking some of your soft corals, so it is a good idea to keep them in check.
Many crustaceans and fish eat bristle worms including, wrasses, arrow crabs, trigger fish, dottybacks, gobies, coral banded shrimp, puffer fish, horseshoe crabs. Of those, the two most recommended would be arrow crabs and wrasses. Any fish that is a carnivore may go after them, but there are several that seem to have a little more tendency to gobble them up.
List Of Fish That Eat Bristle Worms
Their are several types of Wrasse that eat bristle worms. You should be able to find success with Six Line Wrasses. These fish are also reef safe which is an important consideration to take before adding fish to take out pests. You will need to make sure that it has plenty of places to hide. It will also need to be well fed because it tends to be aggressive towards mild mannered fish when it is not fed well. But, they may not be a problem if you have an overabundance of bristle worms in your tank.
Halichoeres also seem to do well going after them. These include Melanurus, Yellow, Christmas, Dusky, and Red-Lined Wrasses. The Melanurus is costly, so if budget is an issue, the others are more affordable. Wrasses will eat some snails and shrimp, so that is something to consider as well.
The Flame Hawkfish is a a good choice for smaller reef tanks because it does well in smaller size tanks. They will bother shrimp, so if your tank already has them, then you will probably need to look at another fish on our list. They like to hang out around rocks, so this is good because bristle worms tend to hide out in your rocks.
Longnose Hawkfish will also go after bristle worms. These are pretty easy to care for as well.
There are so many different types of gobies available, but if you get a Yellow Watchman Gobie you should be good to go. These are very peaceful and easy to care for fish, and they are good in reefs. It should be easy to locate one, and they love to munch on worms.
A Neon Dottyback is also a solid choice, but they are semi-aggressive.
This fish has been known to seek out pesky worms in your saltwater tank. I wouldn’t recommend this to get rid of worms if you are a new reefer because they can be picky eaters sometimes. Plus, they are not really suited for reef tanks, and they tend to pick on invertebrates.
List Of Crustaceans And Inverts That Eat Bristle Worms
Arrow crabs or spider crabs will destroy bristle worms like it is their goal in life (usually). The only problem with them is that sometimes they will go after slow moving fish and shrimp. They are opportunistic feeders, so if they are hungry, they may go after something that you don’t want them to. But, if your goal is eradication of worms and if you have a lot of them, they shouldn’t be starving for food.
Coral Banded Shrimp
These will go after some of your smaller bristle worms, and they do the job well.
Why Won’t My Fish Eat Bristle Worms?
Each fish is different and each situation is different. Sometimes you may have a Wrasse that aggressively pursues bristle worms, and sometimes you may not. You also may have a fish that is opportunistic meaning if one crawls right in front of it, it may eat it. But, that same fish may not go out of its way to find one to eat. Let’s put it this way. If your fish is hungry enough and its a carnivore, it will eat one of your worms.
(Featured Image Source: Wiki Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_polychaete_(bristle_worm)-_geograph.org.uk-_1087795.jpg)