Friday, August 21, 2015
The tank looked wonderful and doing water changes was a dream. But then on Tuesday, a young girl from a Pacific Science Center summer camp called us over to point out some very concerning looking worms.
We did not recollect ever seeing anything like planaria in our tank before. We promptly alerted our veterinarian, Dr. Maas, at ZooVet Consulting and sent him photos. Dr. Maas’ reply was reassuring, fascinating and gross.
Reassuring – The planaria we saw are freshwater flatworms that live in the water, eat debris, and are not parasites of the axolotl. They can coexist.
Furthermore, they don’t have any specialized breathing apparatus. We have lungs; many animals have gills or tracheae of some kind. Planaria use diffusion to move oxygen in and out of their cells. Their skin, constantly bathed in water, lets in new oxygen and carries away carbon dioxide. If their bodies are too large or thick, some cells will be too far away from the oxygen. Therefore planarians are flat for a reason – so they can breathe.