Are Detritus Worms Harmful to Humans? 

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Before getting a home aquarium, you want to do extensive research so that you come across few surprises in the future. However, you may have missed the lesson on detritus worms. 

If you notice some tiny worms in your tank, these are likely detritus worms. Luckily, you don’t always need to panic in the face of detritus worms. 

There are lots of things you can do to eliminate your detritus infestation. Some of these include:

  • Quarantining new organisms
  • Feeding less often
  • Cleaning the tank regularly
  • Using a high-quality filter
  • Using hydrogen peroxide

You may also be wondering if detritus worms are harmful to humans. Luckily, detritus worms are not directly harmful to humans, so you don’t have to worry about getting bit or infected.

However, the presence of detritus worms can sometimes indicate issues in the tank that can be harmful to humans. To learn more about detritus worms and how to treat them, read on!

What Are Detritus Worms?

Detritus worms are tiny worms that can make their way into your tank easily. These worms are seen as “pests” and are typically unwelcome in your tank.

These tiny worms are considered scavengers as they spend most of their time hiding in your substrate. Because they often feed off of dead plant and animal material, they act like little bottom feeders.

A few detritus worms are not to be worried about. They’ll just snack on some substrate and won’t pose any harm to you or your fish.

Too many detritus worms are a large concern, though. Often, detritus worms thrive in environments with lots of dead plant matter, algae, and animal matter. 

If you have lots of detritus worms, this means your tank is likely extremely dirty and unhealthy for your fish. In this case, you should clean the tank and eliminate the detritus worms immediately. 

Where Do Detritus Worms Come From?

Detritus worms can enter your tank from one of three places:

  • Your fish
  • Your plants
  • Your substrate

Before adding any new fish or plants to your tank, you should quarantine them for at least 24 hours. This will help you see if they are carrying any parasites or creatures such as detritus worms before adding them to an already-established tank. 

You should also thoroughly clean any substrate before adding it to your tank, just in case any detritus worms are still lingering in it. 

How Can Detritus Worms Harm Humans?

Luckily, detritus worms can’t actually directly harm humans. They can’t bite or infect you, so you don’t have to worry if you touch a detritus worm.

However, detritus worms can be an indicator of other potential dangers to you. If you have an infestation of detritus worms, your tank is likely filthy and unhealthy for your fish.

This also means the tank is unhealthy for you. After all, murky waters teeming with dead plant and animal matter are bound to be filled with bacteria too, which can cause infection. Yuck!

Always take proper precautions before attempting to eliminate a detritus population to keep yourself safe. 

How Can Humans Protect Themselves Against Detritus Worms?

There are a few different things you can do to protect yourself and your fish from detritus worms. Use this advice to keep you and your fish safe!

1. Quarantine All Fish and Plants

Before adding any new fish or plants to your tank, you should quarantine them for at least 24 hours. This will help you determine if they are carrying any parasites or creatures such as detritus worms.

Discovering this before adding them to your established tank will give you an opportunity to eliminate the detritus worms before adding the new organism to your tank. 

2. Feed Fish Less Often

If you feed your fish too frequently, you may find that your tank’s water becomes dirty quite quickly. Murky water can indicate that you are feeding your fish either too often or too much at one time.

Too much food contributes to waste in the tank, which detritus worms love. You should keep feedings to a minimum to keep the water as clean as possible.

3. Clean Tank Regularly

As mentioned previously, detritus worms love feeding on dead material. If you don’t keep your tank clean, you can end up with a detritus infestation in no time.

Change your tank water and vacuum your substrate regularly to keep the tank clean and healthy for your fish. 

4. Get a High-Quality Filter

Another way to keep your tank clean is by getting a stronger-than-average filter! This is a great option if you have a species like goldfish which produce lots of waste that detritus worms like to feed on. 

5. Use Hydrogen Peroxide

Finally, the last resort would be hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide should only be used in true infestations to kill your detritus worms, but you’ll have to remove all animals from your tank beforehand as the hydrogen peroxide can kill them. 


If you ever find detritus worms in your tank, don’t panic! Take the above precautions to keep your fish happy and healthy.

If you’ve ever dealt with a detritus worm infestation before, let us know how you solved it below. If you have other questions about your home aquarium, ask in the comments and we may pick your question to write about next!

*image by doritoburrito2112/reddit

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