How to prevent bugs in fish tank gravel

How to Prevent Tiny Bugs in Fish Tank Gravel?

You may have been noticing bugs in fish tank gravel, and you want to know what they are, how they got there, and what you can do about them. These bugs can come from any number of sources, such as dirty gravel and plants that need to be replaced. Regardless of where they came from, it is important to get rid of bugs in a fish tank as soon as possible.

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How to prevent bugs and pests in a fish tank?

Quarantining or Bleach dipping. These two ways are the most common ways to prevent the chances of pest production in your aquarium.

  1. Bleach Dipping

    To start with the Bleach Dipping, make sure you have taken all the precautions and have your safety gear.

    Clean each and everything like artificial plants, substrate, rocks before preparing the bleach bath.

    To prepare the bleach bath, create a solution of 10% bleach and 90% water.

    Soak everything for a couple of minutes in this solution. Allow the bleach to react by swirling it around or shaking a little if you have bugs on plants, rocks, etc.

    Then take it out and rinse thoroughly with regular tap water.

    Image Source: Youtube @Lifewithpets
    Bleach dipping treatment

  2. To prevent bugs from appearing again after you have taken care of them, use the quarantine technique to keep your fish tank pest-free forever!

  3. Quarantining

    Quarantining is done when there are new arrivals of fish or live food that could carry any pests such as parasites or other microorganisms.

    Set up a new aquarium for them for all the essentials they may need.

    If this has happened then, do not place these items anywhere near your aquarium until after they have been quarantined and found to be pest-free at least 24 hours later.

    Get an old aquarium or container that has not been used before; add some new substrate (gravel) on the bottom.

    Make sure there are no bugs hiding among these rocks. Add plants if desired but remove artificial ones as they can carry bugs too.

    Fill up with fresh filtered water and place healthy fishes inside this newly created quarantined environment as soon as possible.

    Keep under observation for bugs and remove if they appear but make sure to quarantine the fish again after removing bugs from inside this environment.

    Do not buy new fish before you have completely cleared your original tank of bugs!

    The quarantine time should last for up to two weeks for big bugs like worms but only three days max of bugs like snails.

    Image Source: humming3578 (pixabay)

Most Commonly found bugs in a fish tank.

Before getting rid of the bugs in your fish tank, it is important to know more about the type you are dealing with. There are quite a few types of bugs that you will find in your fish tank from time to time. Here is the list and details of a few commonly found bugs and pests in a fish tank

  1. Planaria
  2. Copepods
  3. Limpets
  4. Detritus Worms
  5. Hydra
  6. Snails
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We will be describing each of the types in detail below so that you can identify the type of pest you have in your fish tank gravel.

Planaria bugs

Planaria bugs are small bugs that usually come in a variety of sizes but range from large to tiny. They’re often found at the bottom of fish tanks, and they can also live in gravel or on plants. These bugs feed by filtering microscopic food particles out of the water using their gills. About 10 millimeters long and with a flat head, these worms are usually harmless and can be found in the gravel, substrate, plants, and glass of the aquarium.

Planaria bugs cannot be seen with the naked eye unless there is an infestation, so it’s best to keep a close watch for them if ever suspected. They like moist places where food and oxygen are abundant, such as near plants at the bottom of tanks, especially Java Moss, or along rocks below any surface decorations.

One of the main reasons that you should look out for these pests is the rapid speed of reproduction. Planaria bugs lay eggs that hatch into larvae bugs after becoming fertilized with male sperm cells. The life cycle starts all over again once these newly hatched bugs become adults capable of reproducing themselves, releasing an endless cycle of bugs in the fish tank.

Planarian flatworm
Image Source: Fishlab

How do Planaria bugs appear in your aquarium?

It’s possible to release these bugs yourself when you clean your aquarium, as they can easily hitchhike on plants and other objects that are removed from the tank or during water changes. Planaria bugs cannot be seen with the naked eye unless there is an infestation, so it’s best to keep a close watch for them if ever suspected. They like moist places where food and oxygen are abundant, such as near plants at the bottom of tanks, especially Java Moss, or along rocks below any surface decorations.

How to get rid of Planaria bugs in the fish tank?

  • Get a water change filter and keep the water clean of any detritus. While changing water, make sure to stir the gravel and substrate to remove any detritus that has been settled down at the bottom of the fish tank.
  • Do not add bugs to the tank as they can reproduce and get out of control, so it is important to ensure that anything you’re putting into your fish tank is free of such pests.
  • Stop overfeeding your aquarium inhabitants as planaria worms live and thrive on leftover food.
  • Put some vinegar on the gravel, and it may kill bugs in the fish tank. Vinegar is toxic for bugs. Acidic properties are effective against these tiny insects that love hiding places such as cracks and crevices.
  • Add predators in your fish tank; most Bettas and Pleco varieties love having them as snacks.


Copepods are microscopic bugs that are commonly found in a fish tank. They are often the most common pest to hit your aquarium and can also be among the hardest bugs to get rid of. These bugs, while not always harmful to humans or animals, will eat algae which is essential for maintaining life in any aquatic environment, and may even harm marine invertebrates such as shrimp or crabs if they have no food source left available from other bugs.

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Copepods like living on gravel as it provides them with some protection from predators near their home base. But at the same time, gravel allows them access to live food sources close by when needed without expending too much energy getting there themselves. The presence of these bugs in your tank’s water usually means you need less intense maintenance than you would otherwise need. Some fish keepers raise their colonies to create a source of feeding for the young fish fry.

Image Source: Roland Birke / Getty Images

How to get rid of Copopeds in a fish tank

  • To ensure that your aquarium is not flooded by their colonies, you must maintain clean and healthy water conditions in your fish tank.
  • Avoid overfeeding your fish tank inhabitants.
  • Remove any potential food sources for bugs in fish tank gravel.
  • Clean the filter regularly to avoid a build-up of bugs and other pests.
  • Keep your aquarium away from warm, dark places.
  • Use RO (reverse osmosis) water instead of tap or well water to prevent bugs from appearing due to various impurities that may lurk in these waters.
  • To help you get rid of bugs in fish tank gravel, use chemicals tablets with care as they can be harmful.
  • You could also try using Beneficial Bacteria, which is an all-natural remedy that works wonders on bugs in tanks without side effects! The only downside? It takes time, so patience must be exercised.


Limpets are gastropods resembling clams but with only half of the shells. They use their small foot to crawl around on rocks and the sand. They are often used in saltwater tanks because they can survive better than other snails that would usually live there. Limpets may be pests in a freshwater tank, but if you want bugs in your fish tank gravel, then having limpets is an excellent choice!

They are members of the Patellidae family. Limpets feed and live on rocks or other hard surfaces in their natural habitat and also in the fish tank. They can survive in low oxygen levels and are often used to clean up bugs in a fish tank.

Limpets, like other marine life, will need saltwater for the transportation of minerals into the snail’s body cells. For this reason, it might be best not to house them with freshwater containing fish or snails.

header limpets
Image Source: Rebecca Kordas/UBC

How to remove limpets from your fish tank?

  • Limpets are the common bugs in a fish tank and can not be easily removed. 
  • You need to remove them manually by bait traps or by using a toothbrush. 
  • You will need to scrub your finger against it or use tweezers but don’t let go of them! Hold on tight until you have pulled them away from the gravel.
  •  Keep doing this process as long as there are no more bugs that need removing.
  • Keep your aquarium clean and regularly change waters to control its population. 
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Detritus Worms

Detritus worms are the most common bugs in fish tank gravel. They usually grow to about three centimeters and live in your substrate. You can identify them by their pure white, segmented bodies with tiny black dots all over them. The detritus worms are completely harmless for your fish tank and don’t reveal themselves mostly.

detritus worms
Image Source: aquariumscience

How to get rid of Detritus Worms?

  • They appear when the tank environment has been neglected for a long time or not properly cleaned. Therefore it is imperative to regularly clean your fish tank.
  • It is important not to use too much food or feed foods that contain high amounts of protein; this will produce excess waste, which will also attract these bugs.
  • Make sure you have enough room for plants at thewater surface so they can help absorb some nutrients from detritus before it sinks into the ground.
  • Add predators like loaches or corydoras to control the population of detritus worms.
  • Siphon or vacuum the substrate to remove any hidden leftovers; make sure to stir the gravel or substrate to remove any underlying detritus.


Hydra bugs are small bugs that can be found in the bed of a fish tank. These bugs may feed on tiny organisms in your fish tank and have the ability to sting. It’s important to quickly clean up any messes because they can reproduce at a rapid pace if given enough sustenance.

How to get rid of Hydra bugs?

  • It is necessary to change the water once every week even though you will not see these bugs. They live under rocks and stay dormant for the most part during daylight hours.
  • Add predators like Rasboras, Bettas, Tetras, or guppies to control Hydra infestation as these varieties may consume hydra as a snack. 
  • If you don’t want to introduce another species into your tank in order for it to eat bugs, then adding some plant life will help as well. Anything from floating plants or aquatic grasses can be added! In addition, this type of vegetation also helps with oxygenation within the water column, which may reduce any bacteria levels on the surface area or at least lower its concentration.
  • Using the chemical should be the last resort as it may harm your fish in the tank.


You may find that after following these steps, your pesky bug problem will be solved! Remember, prevention is key. Cleaning the filters regularly and changing the water every two weeks are some easy ways you can prevent pests. A little work on preventative maintenance goes such a long way for keeping those tiny bugs away. Let us know if this article helped you get rid of these bugs.

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