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Anchor Worm Adventures- Treatment 'Nots' & Nods


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I wanted to start a new post about Anchor Worms and my experiences with various treatments, as I think it will be a help to others. There is not much general information out there online about Anchor Worms (Lerrnaea) as they have not been as common of a problem as say Ich or Flukes.  I believe that there will be more of a need-- especially with outbreaks taking place at large retailers- and those purchases ending up in the home aquarium.


My topline judgment, for those who do not want to read my pontifications, is:    If you see one anchor worm on your Goldfish- Please Order the Dimilin X Pond treatment immediately, so you have it, as the infestation will get worse.  Its $25 American Dollars on EBay.   (Credit for this information to Shihpuff who has also posted on this forum).  Most likely the inside of the fish’s mouths and gills will also have the worms attached to them in- either in the invisible larvae or adult form.  (Gross!)  Dimilin is the only treatment that has worked for me- more on that and the treatments that did not work- later.


Anchor Worms are brought in from the outside- and fish do not need to be stressed or be in poor water conditions to have them.  I was foolish not to quarantine a fish from Pet Smart which then infected my entire tank.   My water conditions were perfect, and I had a very light bio load, so there were no other stressors in my tank to make this parasite worse.  I, in turn, made the situation worse, and lost time with a misdiagnosis.


Some key observations that got me confused as to what it was I was dealing with:

-An anchor worm infestation can mimic fluke-like symptoms- with bottom sitting fish, lethargy and a general sadness of the population. There is so much information on the web about flukes- with good reason- but that hype made me jump initially to the wrong diagnostic conclusion!


-Even if you just see one or two Anchor Worms on the outside of the fish- the gills and inside of the mouth is also probably heavily infested- especially if your fish are showing lethargic behavioral symptoms.  The invisible larvae also house themselves in the gills of fish, so if you have an adult AW in the tank, chances are you’ll have young Klingons that you cannot see festering in the gills.  In sum- You may have them multiplying in areas that you cannot or did not think to previously observe!


My Treatment Notes:

-Fluke medicine (Prazi) and the API’s Parasite Guard will not address Anchor Worms, even if other  sources they say they do.  The API Parasite guard simply damaged my filters instead.  I have Prazi on hand at least - if I should ever get flukes in my tank!


-There is a solution on the market that treats the ‘conditions’ caused by Anchor Worms- but it does not take care of the worms themselves, Please read labels carefully!


-Salinity was increased in my tank to 3 TSP / gal- (just under 3.5 of AQ Salt total cups for a 55 gal tank) while this helped with preventing infected wounds & secondary disease caused by the Anchor Worms- it did nothing to control the worm population or their spread.  This is also a common statement/solution on the web- which did nothing for my situation.  If I were to do it again I would still salt but probably at 1.5-2 tsp per gallon- as 3 tsp per gal is very hard on the bio filter.


-The heat was turned up to 79F- to help speed the lifecycle of the worm, this probably made them spread faster- but I wanted them to move through their lifecycle so the treatments I was using would also work sooner on the eggs and future larvae, coming up through the ranks.  I’d still recommend increasing the heat during treatments.


-1 methylene blue dip was done  per day on the fish at 1 TSP per 5 gallons for 30 minutes- I believe this helped with secondary bacterial/fungal prevention but it did nothing to eradicate the worms attached to the the gills, mouth and outer scales.  I’d still recommend doing this for lethargic ‘sad’ fish as this helped pep them up a bit.  Methylene blue is a mild anti-fungal/bacterial agent that also helps the fish with gill function and oxygen absorption.


- Minn Finn, is a Peracetic acid based medication that is left in the tank for 30 min (up to an hour if the fish can handle it) with a neutralizing solution to clear the medication at the end of the treatment period.  It states it will control Anchor Worms in 2-3 treatments.   Nope, nope and nope.  I used this as directed for 1 hour over 3 treatments/days as directed- and it simply did not work.  This killed my bio filter from kinda dead -to D.O.A. 


Now my notes on Dimilin:

Dimilin X is the only thing that worked on this parasite.  Because Anchor Worms are crustaceans they go through several life stages where they molt their outer skeleton.  Dimilin is an Insecticide, NOT a medication.  This insecticide interrupts the molting cycle of the worm- not killing it right away- but killing it as it moves through its lifecycle and molts its exoskeleton.  In my online ‘research’- it’s the only real guarantee out there for getting the job done. There are university studies done on it for aquatic agriculture.


Dimilin is not going to be sold in a big box pet chain store- nor will it likely be in your local indie fish shop.  I wouldn’t even try looking for it.  You might find it at a specialty koi pond store, if there is one in your area.  Its really marketed for larger ponds and for treating koi.  The word ‘Insecticide’ sounds scary, but Dimilin is much safer to humans and fish than Formalin, Potassium Perm and other really harsh nasty treatments on the market. Please don’t waste your energy, money and time with other ‘cures’ that say they will work, you’ll just lose equity and valuable time.  It’s also noted on the label that it will not stress or harm the bio filter in a system- another huge plus!


I used Dimilin X- based on the dosage of 1 TSP per 500 gallons.  Have a friend in the hobby?  Split the cost as it’s a very very concentrated formula and again is formulated for ponds.  I calculated this to a little bit less than 1/8 TSP for my 55 gallon tank!


The first 24 hours after treating with Dimilin there was no noticeable change in behavior or the number of attached Anchor Worms- this is understandable as the insecticide is systemic and focuses on exoskeleton formation.  It will not kill the parasite immediately.


 About 30 hours (1.5 days) later- the fish started acting more alert and more like themselves, with more active swimming, attentiveness and less sadness.  I caught the fish and noticed that the Anchor Worms attached to the fish were still slightly attached- but appeared to be dead.  The ends of the worms closest to the fish’s body looked to me to be almost disintegrated- 'slimey' instead of solid.  The worms pulled off with very little effort or discomfort to the fish. When pulling a live anchor worm off a fish- you need a strong tug and the will to pull them out!


48 hours later (2 full days) the fish are acting almost normal- with active swimming and the desire to eat.  One of the fish- hit the hardest with bite wounds is still being dipped in meth blue on a daily basis.  A couple of worms are still attached to one of the fish but appear to be hanging on dead.


60 hours later (2.5 days) the fish are acting normal- no sign of the attached worms on anyone that I can see.

So finally in summary!- I spent two weeks trying to combat this problem with medications/methods that did not work.  Dimilin eradicated the pestilence in less than 3 days!



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