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FAQs on Parasitic Marine Worm Diseases: Leeches/Hirudineans

Related Articles: Marine Parasitic Disease, Parasitic Worms, Roundworms

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Mmm, two holding/sucking discs... tapered toward the cephalic end...

Marine leech problem Hey there,  M<Hi Erik, MacL here with you this evening.> I have been searching all over your site and the rest of the internet and still can not find any information on how to eradicate marine leeches. <I have got to say you surprised me on this one. I knew of fresh water and even brackish but not straight marine.> The picture you have on this page http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fshwrmdisfaqs.htm is as close as I can get to a description of this problem. These leeches are on my seahorses, gobies, and snails. I have tried pulling them off one by one with a pair of tweezers, freshwater dips, and formalin dips. While the formalin worked faster than the freshwater dips, all this does is kill the leeches currently on the fish. What can I do to completely eradicate them from my tank? Will I have to put the fish in quarantine after another formalin bath and then kill all remaining invertebrates in my display tank? I hope not! <I think there might be another way around this.> Do give you an idea of the gravity of the problem, the last formalin dip I did on my mandarin yielded 34 leeches of varying sizes mostly on the underside of the fins. The dip on my largest female seahorse yielded another 16 leeches of varying sizes. I have taken a closer look at some of my larger snails and I can clearly see the distinctive body shape of these creatures poking out of the shell.  <Youch your poor fish and invertebrates.> While so far all the fish are still eating and behaving normally other than a twitch here and there I am worried that if the problem persists for too long it will just get to large to control. I wish I could show you pictures but my camera is out on loan and I won't get it back till next week.  <Please please get some pictures I really have to see this. But in the meantime. You don't mention whether or not you have tried anything like neon gobies or cleaner shrimp or even cleaner wrasse? Some type of parasite eater? That would be my first suggestion.  Then I would pull all the live creatures out of the tank so that only the rock was left. Then dip all the fish again. Pull all the leaches off the inverts that you can. Add the cleaner shrimp etc and put them in quarantine.  Leave the leaches be in the main tank for at least six weeks. Keep a close eye on the fish, hopefully the cleaners will do their jobs and clean the fish and invertebrates. You may have to switch quarantine tanks later to keep the leeches from establishing there. I've asked another person to take a look at your letter as well. Perhaps they will have additional suggestions. Please keep in touch and let me know what's going on. MacL> Please help! Thanks in advance! --Erik DeLong

Saltwater leeches Hey MacL, <Hi again Erik> Thanks for your reply. I did end up getting a cleaner shrimp and a cleaner wrasse. <Good!>  I did not want to get them originally because of the shrimp will eat my seahorse fry and wrasse I thought would harass the seahorses too much. <Very possibly and you might not want to keep them long term but you definitely needed them for this.> Since the last dip I wrote you about, two of my seahorses had a leech each and my goby 2. Since adding the wrasse and the cleaner shrimp, I cannot see any leeches attached to any fish in the tank! WooHoo!!! <That's wonderful but these things cycle and you must keep a diligent eye on them. What about the snails? Do they have any? My thoughts were that the shrimps might take care of the snails and the wrasse the seahorses.> While I am happy for the mean time, I think the wrasse has done the job rather than the cleaner shrimp. My only concern now is that maybe I should get another wrasse to make sure leeches don't attach themselves to the fish that are supposed to be eating them! <Noooo that's vicious cycle.  And the point to getting a wrasse and a shrimp, they can take care of each other. But please watch them closely.> I have my digital camera back so I will take pictures if I see any more leeches and then send them to you. Thanks again for your help! <Please do.  Good luck, MacL> --Erik

Hitch hiker ID Please? Folks, <Howdy> The attached picture is of a "creature" that I found in my new 75 gallon reef tank. <No file attached>   The tank is cycling with live rock only at this time.  There are a few smallish crabs and snails and whatnot that came in on the live rock; no harm done.  However, I found this "thing" crawling around on the DSB yesterday.  It moves like an inchworm, attaching to surfaces with its mouth and pulling itself into a bell curve before attaching with its tail and so on.  The scary thing is that the oral opening looks A LOT like a lamprey.  Unlike lamprey, it has a suction cup like tail as well. <Ah ha! (imagine best Sherlock Holmes impression). Does sound like a leech> I've posted on many boards and everyone seems stumped.  I was wondering if you could help.  I do have SOME time as the tank is cycling.  However, I don't want to lose track of it, or "let it be" if it is harmful.   <I'd remove this animal> I'd sure be upset if I found it one day attached to and sucking the life out of my clowns or Dottyback! Thank you in advance David PS.  I've read the Reef Invert book from cover to cover and am on round two.  It's a great resource and is extremely entertaining in that "Fenner, Calfo, WWM" way. <Mmm, sometimes predictability is fine. Bob Fenner>

Re: Hitch hiker ID Please? Boy it's been a long week ;) Sorry.  Picture is now attached. <D> <Much more definitely a leech. Again, I'd give it the heave-ho. All Hirudineans are parasitic... Bob Fenner>

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