Planaria – how to get rid of a parasite

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White or milk planaria is a primitive invertebrate creature belonging to the class of ciliary worms. It is found in freshwater bodies of water or aquariums, where it can be seen with the naked eye. White Planaria is a free-living organism that, unlike most flatworms, in its natural habitat poses no threat to either animals or humans. Another thing is an aquarium, where the parasite enters with food or aquatic plants. In an artificial ecosystem, a freshwater planarium can cause a lot of problems for the inhabitants.

White Planar Characteristic

The white planar is easy to recognize. The worm-shaped creature has a translucent leaf-like body of a milky hue up to two centimeters long and not more than five millimeters thick. The front of the body is expanded, has tentacles serving as organs of touch. On the thickening are two eyes. The rear end of the body is narrowed and pointed. The right and left sides of the body of the parasite are mirror images of each other. The conditional axis of symmetry runs along the entire body.

The worm moves due to the contraction of the skin-muscle sac and thanks to the movement of miniature cilia covering the entire epithelium of the parasite. Between the cells of the skin there are special glands that secrete a bitter mucous substance. Mucus is secreted mainly during times of danger and protects the microorganism from being eaten. In addition, it provides smoothness and speed of movement..

Due to its simple structure, the worm has extreme survivability. The body of the parasite has the ability to regenerate. If you cut an adult worm into separate pieces, then over time a new organism can recover from each of them. Even when the head is cut off from the body, the worm is able to gradually grow a new one. This feature allows the white planaria to survive in the most adverse conditions..

Lifestyle & Habitat

The natural habitat of the white planaria in fresh water near the bottom, under snags and medium-sized stones. Some species of this parasite can live in salt water, occasionally even on land. The lifestyle of the white planaria is mainly nocturnal; during the day, creatures hide among the leaves of aquatic plants. The worm moves very smoothly and evenly, distinguishes between top and bottom, has a certain direction of movement.

Planaria can crawl along the bottom of a reservoir, stones, leaves of aquatic plants or swim effortlessly in the water column due to the movement of cilia, invisible to the human eye, covering the entire skin of the microorganism. Thanks to the mucus secreted, the miniature worm is capable of laying tracks on solid objects for repeated movement.

Planaria is a predator. Its diet consists of simple organic compounds, undigested food residues of larger aquatic inhabitants, snails, small crustaceans, shrimp eggs, sometimes even fish fry. The mucus secreted by the microorganism swells in water, becoming a kind of web, with the help of which the worm envelops its prey, enclosing it in a cocoon. Miniature creatures are able to smell prey at a considerable distance. Feeling nutrients, ciliary worms leave their shelters and move in whole colonies to places where prey is concentrated.

Specialists attribute such organisms to the category of harmless parasites. Unlike parasitic flatworms, planaria does not need intermediate or final hosts during the entire life cycle. It can be considered a parasite only in the case when it chooses the shell of crustaceans as its dwelling. If there are too many worms, they clog the gills and the mollusk dies due to respiratory failure.

The primitive structure of the creature gives him the ability to withstand aggressive environmental factors. With a lack of oxygen or an increase in temperature, microorganisms become inactive and even spontaneously break up into separate parts. When favorable conditions occur, from each such piece a whole organism can recover.

Planaria in the aquarium

Planaria in the aquarium

You can bring the parasite together with live food for fish, algae and aquatic plants or in the shells of snails. Once in the aquarium, the planaria violates the biological diversity of the species of artificial reservoir, destroying shrimp, crustaceans and small fish. Parasites live in the ground, among the vegetation, occasionally they can sit on the glass of the tank.

Although worms prefer to hide under stones and among plants during the day, their presence can be detected by the friction of the inhabitants of the aquarium with gills on the ground and solid objects. Parasites penetrate the gill slits and gnaw pieces of flesh. These creatures multiply rapidly, so when detecting it is necessary to take action. Aquarium fish do not eat worms due to the bitter mucus on their bodies. Exceptions are young gourami or cockerels. Unfortunately, the latter can be aggressive towards other inhabitants of the aquarium, therefore, keeping them in a common ecosystem is not advisable.

In order to avoid infection of an artificial reservoir with these parasites, it is advisable to observe preventive measures:

  • do not use live food;
  • thoroughly wash any objects and decorations when immersed in the aquarium;
  • Do not bring plants from natural reservoirs;
  • Do not overfeed the fish;
  • thoroughly siphon the soil;
  • when buying new fish or crustaceans, observe quarantine.

Planaria structure

Flatworms are the first three-layered creatures that appeared in nature, except for the ectoderm and endoderm, which have a mesoderm in structure, consisting of muscle fibers located across the body of the parasite. When the transverse muscles contract, the body becomes longer and narrower. This provides a typical way to move a worm. Longitudinal muscle fibers are located under the transverse and connect the abdominal and dorsal parts of the body. Organisms lack a body cavity. The spaces between the organs are filled with connective tissue, consisting of a loose mass of cells – the parenchyma.

The body of the parasite includes the following systems:

  • musculoskeletal;
  • digestive
  • excretory;
  • nervous;
  • sexual.

The internal organs of the worm are located in the skin-muscle bag. If you consider the cross section of the body of a white planaria, you can find:

  • ciliary epithelium;
  • transverse, longitudinal and oblique muscle fibers;
  • intestines;
  • testis and ovary;
  • parenchyma.

The circulatory and respiratory systems of the parasite are absent. Nutrients and oxygen are distributed throughout the body on their own. This does not require special organs characteristic of more developed beings. Worms breathe oxygen dissolved in water. Its entry into the body occurs through the skin, as does the removal of carbon dioxide. This contributes to the large surface of the flat body of the parasite..

Digestive system planaria

The digestive system begins with a mouth opening located on the ventral side of the worm’s body. Attacking the victim, the planaria envelops it with special mucus swelling in the water. This helps her immobilize prey. The planaria presses itself against the victim and swallows it with a throat, similar to a retractable proboscis. After this, the food advances and enters the intestine, which has three branches. Due to the branched intestines, the parasite can swallow large-sized food.

In the digestive system of a flatworm there is no anus. The parasite has a closed intestine, consisting of a single layer of cells. Under the influence of the digestive juices secreted by the cells of the intestine, the food is digested, the nutrients are absorbed into the cells of the body, and undigested residues are removed through the mouth.

Planaria Nervous System

Most of the nerve cells of the worm are concentrated in the head part, where paired nodes are located, which are a collection of neurons. This is a kind of brain of a microorganism. Two spinal cord nerve trunks pass along the body, from which numerous nerves depart. Sensitive tactile cells are located over the entire surface of the body of the worm. On the head of the body are paired tentacles – special organs of touch. Nearby are primitive eyes. With the help of vision, the worm can evaluate the level of illumination. The parasite also has an organ of balance..

Planaria Nervous System

Reproductive system

Flatworms are hermaphroditic organisms, in other words bisexual. This means that the same individual has both female and male genital organs. Seed plants, which are an accumulation of numerous vesicles, are located in the parenchyma. They are connected by tubular vas deferens with an aggregate bag. This is the male reproductive system. Female organs are located in the front of the wider part of the body. They are represented by paired ovaries and oviduct tubes, going to the copulation bag.

Excretory system

Branched tubules penetrate the entire body of the parasite. These are the organs of the excretory system. Each tubule begins in the parenchyma with stellate cells called “fiery” cells. Each of them has a bunch of long cilia. Their wobble is like a tongue of flame. Due to the movement of the cilia in the tubules, a current is created. The tubes merge into two large channels running along the body and several holes on the outside of the worm’s back. A liquid is excreted from the body, consisting of harmful substances dissolved in water that are formed in the process of life.

Reproduction of the white planaria

The presence of the reproductive system does not prevent flatworms from reproducing in an asexual way. In this case, the body of the parasite breaks up into two parts that are capable of existence. Gradually, each of them restores the missing tissues and organs necessary for life. So two complete individuals are obtained. But more often worms reproduce sexually.

Two individuals come into contact with the abdominal sides of the body for several seconds. Mating occurs. Male reproductive cells of one worm enter the female reproductive system of another. There is internal fertilization, directed in both directions: individuals fertilize each other. After this, the creatures disperse. Ovum binds to sperm.

When moving down the oviducts, the formed zygotes are first surrounded by a supply of nutrients, and then covered with a dense shell. The eggs of the parasite are a brown cocoon the size of a pinhead. Worms attach them from the underside of leaves of aquatic plants to a special stalk or hide them behind stones. Small worms emerge from the eggs a few weeks later.

How to get rid of parasites

For humans, the parasite is not dangerous, but lovers of aquarium fish can cause many problems. Worms breed very quickly, so if you find them in an aquarium, you need to take immediate action. To combat parasites, you can raise the water temperature to 32 degrees. But do not forget to take into account the interests of the fish: not all of them are able to bear it. During an increase in temperature, you need to provide the aquarium with good aeration..

Effective installation of traps for worms. To do this, wrap a piece of meat in gauze and lower it to the bottom for 15 minutes. After that, remove, scald the collected parasites with boiling water and discard with the bait. The procedure should be performed in the dark or in low light: worms lead a nocturnal lifestyle. It is advisable to set traps for several days in a row.

Pet stores sell specialty products such as Flubenol or Febtal. The first one is available in powder form. For 100 l of water, add 0.2 – 0.3 g. After 3 days, replace half of the water in the aquarium and add a new portion of the medicine, corresponding to the amount of water replaced. After a week, you need to repeat the treatment and siphon the soil well. Febtal use one tablet per 30 liters of water. Unfortunately, snails and some fish species cannot tolerate this treatment..

Helminth drug Polyvercan resembles refined slices. A quarter of a cube is enough for 100 liters of water. Kills all invertebrates. The drug NO-PLANARIA was developed specifically to combat these parasites. One scoop of powder will destroy the worms in the 50 L aquarium. Ptero Aquasan Planacid is different in that it is safe for shrimp, fish and plants. After bullying parasites, you need to get rid of the corpses. To do this, you need to carefully siphon the bottom. Mandatory water change of 20-30%. It is advisable to repeat any treatment after a week..

Some aquarists advise against the use of chemicals, and instead do not feed young individuals with gourami or macropods for several days. Hungry fish very quickly deal with worms. But be careful: if gourami are civilians, then macropods can bite other inhabitants of the aquarium. Fish with long fins are especially affected.

Planarium photo

White planaria

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