Through talking with endless customers about bristleworm infested tanks, I’ve learned the identity of the largest cause of proliferation little monsters. Now some of you may be saying that they are good, and I would have to agree with you, but I’ve heard this stated as a problem so many times, I realize some hobbyists really hate them. It is to the bristleworm hating crowd that this is addressed.
The single largest cause of bristleworms is something that most would not guess to have anything to do with it, but time and time again, I’ve traced tanks back to this very same root. Vacation, but more appropriately the problem is what happens with your tank during vacation. Most reef keepers choose to have someone take care of their tank while they are gone, but what we have to realize is that people who are not in the hobby do not understand how sensitive these tanks are. Telling a non-reefkeeper to feed every other day might as well be the same thing as telling them to feed twice a day while the lights are out and the fish are sleeping. Excess nutrients are just the thing to start off a huge breeding population of bristleworms, at which time they turn from helpful scavengers to little monsters that will kill and eat anything to survive.
Here’s a couple of tips to help you come home to a tank that is as balanced and beautiful as when you left:
1. Tell your tank sitter to feed half as much as you would really like, because I guarantee they will exceed your instructions.
2. An even better option is to hide the food and say nothing about feeding. Most fish we keep can easily go over a week without food, and will usually pick the tank clean of anything that can be had during this time. Not eating for a week is less stressful on your fish than ammonia spikes due to too much food.
3. Educating your tank sitter can be a very good option especially if they have a desire to learn.
4. Finally the best option is to find someone in the hobby who understands that when you say every other day, you mean it!!!
These tips should help keep your tank balanced and stable while you’re on vacation, and you may even come home to your tank looking better than ever. Just remember, bristleworms are a sign of a healthy tank, so if they are not causing problems, let them clean for you.