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Bristle/Fireworms Identification FAQs 1

Related FAQs: Polychaete ID 2, Polychaete ID 3, Polychaete ID 4, Polychaete ID 5, Bristleworm ID 6, Bristleworm ID 7, Bristleworm ID 8, Bristleworm ID 9, Bristleworm ID 10, Bristleworm ID 11,
FAQs: Worm Diversity FAQs, FAQs 2, FAQs 3, & Worm IDs 1, Worm IDs 2, Worm IDs 3, Worm IDs 4, Worm IDs 5, Worm IDs 6, Worm IDs 7, Worm IDs 8, & Worm ID FAQs by Group/Phylum: Flatworm Identification ID, Nemertean, Proboscis, Ribbon Worm ID, Nematode, Roundworm ID, Nematomorpha, Horsehair Worm ID, Acanthocephalans, Thorny-headed Worm ID,  Polychaete ID 2, Tubeworm ID, Hirudineans, Leech ID, Sipunculids, Peanut Worm ID, Echiuran Worm ID, & Bristle/Fireworms 1, Bristle/Fireworms 2Bristle/Fireworms 3, Bristle/Fireworms 4, Worm IdentificationPolychaete Behavior, Polychaete Compatibility, Polychaete System, Polychaete Selection, Polychaete Feeding, Polychaete Disease, Polychaete Reproduction

Related Articles: Worms, Polychaetes, Flatworms/Planaria

Hold The Sauce- It's Just A Spaghetti Worm!  Good Morning -  <Hello there! Scott F. with you today!>  Below are several pictures of hitchhiking organisms in my tank. My tank is rather small (45 gallons) and has been up and running for approx. 1 1/2 years. The 1st 3 pictures are of a worm of some type that I've had in my tank for most of the time I've had the tank. It used to only show up at night (dark) and would retract when exposed to light. It would appear to come out of the LR and I was/am not concerned about it since it does not appear to be causing any problems. Recently though, it has changed. It now comes out at all hours and it appears to have a central point that all of the appendages come from - almost appearing to be a calcareous tube. It has and continues to get larger and with more worm like appendages. I keep the tank fairly clean and clean out the skimmer often to keep excess nutrients to a minimum. I also have several stars and other scavengers to keep the detritus to a healthy level. Is this a Medusa worm and is there anything I need to know about it or be concerned about? It does not appear to be a segmented worm.  <To me, it appears to be a Terebellid Worm, more commonly known as a "Spaghetti Worm", typically of the genus Eupolymnia or Loimia. Interesting and harmless; I wouldn't worry about 'em...Enjoy the diversity>  The last picture is of what I thought was a sponge but I now am questioning that it is not some form of polyp - the picture may not be clear enough to make a distinction. Several of these have developed in my tank in various areas and are actively growing. They all appear spherical in nature, are different sizes and are actively growing. Any clue?  <I couldn't make a good call on that one. Would it be possible to send a more clear pic? Thanks!>  Thanks - Love your site. J.T. Craddock  <Thanks for the kind words, J.T.- enjoy the unique creatures that are popping up in your tank! Regards, Scott F.>
Hair and Spaghetti worms 6/10/03 Hello, <Cheers> I was looking at my live rock last night and saw a Long white tentacle coming out of one of my pieces of live rock. It stretched out about 5 inches!!!! What in the world do you think this is? <One of many harmless if not beneficial worms. The multi-tentacled ones are commonly referred to as "Spaghetti worms"... the ones with a single pair of tentacles (you perhaps saw only one) are Hair worms (Spionids). All are quite good scavengers.> What ever it is in that rock, it must be big. I'm scared to pick it up and look in fear it will take my finger off at the elbow!!!! Any Ideas? <Hmmm... yes: offer no more than to the wrist.> Regards, Jason Mobile, Alabama
<Kindly, Anthony>

Bristleworm Good evening! <Steve> Please see attached photos (sorry about poor focus). This creepy-looking 4-inch bristle worm just crawled out of my 5-month old LR (80G reef) this evening. It gave me the willies at first, but now I think it's kind of cool. (I find the plethora of small organisms on LR to be every bit as fascinating as the fish in my tanks.)  Should I worry about this worm and remove it, or "can I keep him, Mommy?" Steve Allen <Same ole SOP reply... I would leave it be if it doesn't reproduce (not likely) or start chomping on (more) desirable invertebrates. Bob Fenner, sheesh>

Re: Bristleworm Bob: Thanks for looking at the bristle worm picture. Sorry for the panicked, silly question. I wasn't quite certain it was of the harmless variety and was a bit spooked by the size <Actually, there are no "harmless varieties"> I know the crew gets a lot of questions about these worms. Perhaps posting a brief "good worm/bad worm" topic with "criteria for removing worms" and pix of the nasty kind. One could even be more thorough with "LR Hitchhikers--the good, the bad, the ugly." If you would like, I could try to put something together using NMA-RI and "Reef Secrets" (among others) as references. Steve Allen. <Will we have to rub elbows with Clint Eastwood in a series of Italian/Spaghettios westerns? Bob F>

Worm?? I attached a picture of a creature I found in my 55 gallon reef tank>  I think it is a really large bristle worm, it's about 5 inches long.  Can you tell me what this thing is? <A Bristleworm... an Errantiate Polychaete...> If so, should I try to get it out?  (this is the first time I have seen it in the 18 months my tank has been set up)   Love the site,  as much info as the sea has water!  Just started Anthony's book ( very excited).  I'm sure many people benefit from your knowledge, thanks again! <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/polychaetes.htm and the FAQs files linked (in blue, at top). Bob Fenner>

Errantia Question  9/28/05 Hello, <JackDan> I have a Marine Tank.  I identified these worms in my tank as  "Errantia" through your site. <Ah... yes... a "higher taxonomic" category of Polychaete worms... Sedentariate ones are tubiculous... make tubes, don't move... Errantiate ones, as in "to err is human" (sort of) are mobile... they move about>   Now that I have identified them, I'm having trouble finding out if they are good or not. <Most are no problem. Larger ones, or too many can become predaceous> Should I try to kill them or do they help the  tank?   I also have found these little roly polly looking things  (They look identical to them) that only come out at night  (they are  maybe 1/4th of an inch long). <These may be real trouble... do look up "isopods" on WWM, the Net...> As soon as  I turn on the light to my  tank in the morning , dozens of them scatter and hide in the rocks.    Are the Errantia good?   What are these roly polly things? Thanks! (I got my live rock from _www.flordialiverock.com_ ( http://www.flordialiverock.com)     Which I SWEAR BY.  My rock has been better than ANY I Have EVER Seen for a  fraction of the price.) <Take a few minutes more to look up Polychaete Compatibility, Isopods on WWM. Bob Fenner>

Polychaete terminology, classification Dear Crew, I'm a daily ready of your daily faq. They have certainly helped me become a conscientious aquarist. However, I have a problem in my tank. I'm not sure if I have Fireworms or a bristleworms. Any ideas on how to differentiate between the two species? <Mmm, actually... akin to large and small polyped stony corals (hopefully a good example), there are many species of both of these... in fact... like newts, salamanders... all Fireworms are bristleworms (just with larger, more-stinging podia...> I did a google image search, but both species look very similar. <Sometimes they are identical> Lately I've seen some dead hermit crabs in my tank. I'm not sure if these bristleworms/Fireworms are the culprit of these deaths. If you do not believe this to be the case, then there could be a hitchhiker problem. <Or other issues... water quality mainly. These are discussed on WWM> My parents recently added come corals without doing the adequate quarantine. As a result, they could have introduced some hitchhiker inadvertently. To verify this and to remove Fireworms, should I remove all the rocks and give them a high-concentrated dip (around 1.030)? Or would these be too harsh on the live rocks and biological filter. <... I would not do the above... instead, consider building, buying a trap or bait to use during the night... Bob Fenner> Bristle worm ID clarification 3/11/05 Dear Adam, I'm emailing you in response to an earlier posting regarding Bristleworm/Fireworm ID. Here's what was posted: (original message and response is between **'s) **"I just realized that I should have given you a description of the worms to determine how diligently I need to be in removing them. Unlike the smaller half orange/half grey, these are more of a solid steel grey with large white tuft like bristles. When the light hits them, they are almost iridescent (you can see hints of purple). They are also flatter and much wider than the common worms we have in the tank now. They look like some of the pictures of Fireworms but have no orange at all that I can see. Thanks for your quick response! <The orange color is a pretty diagnostic characteristic. The worms you are describing are almost certainly harmless detritivores. I would consider them innocent until proven guilty. Best Regards. AdamC.>"** I have a dozen or so 2"-3" long bristleworms with the front half being a dull orange and the rear half grey with tufts of white bristles all along its body. These are about 1/8" in diameter. So far they seem to mind their own business, although there was only one 4 months ago and I see more every day. After reading the Bristleworm and Live Rock hitchhiker ID, I am confused. One response states that these are harmless as long as they are <4", while another post recommends that you only tolerate the thin ones, implying that the fat ones with conspicuous bristles are harmful... <The list of "bad guys" is much shorter than the list of "good guys". I would rather describe the few to be worried about. They are the true Caribbean fire worms (which are bright orange), the long thin red ones that prey on snails and any that are clearly seen damaging another live animal. There are occasional worms introduced that look quite different than bristle worms that can occasionally be harmful when they grow large. Otherwise... innocent until proven guilty!> Your comment "The orange color is a pretty diagnostic characteristic" piqued my interest. In your opinion should these worms be removed? If yes, will traps work? I tried tweezers and these guys are faster and smarter than me. As for predators, my reef tank has none and I'd prefer to not add one since it will feed on the desirable critters too -I have plenty of amphipods, copepods and starfish I'd like to retain. Thank You, Narayan  <The little guys that are half dull orange and half brown are common and harmless. The bad guys are all orange. Thanks for giving me the chance to clarify! AdamC.>

- Bristleworm / Fireworms - Good day all.....hope the new years brings much joy and business. I was hoping that you dedicate a small amount of your time in describing the difference between the regular `Ol bristle worm and a fire worm. <Well, just to start on that note, Fireworms are bristleworms. Confused now?> To the average or seasoned keeper, what would one look for to id a worm as a bristle worm or a fire worm per say? <Probably all out size - there are a crazy number of worms and a large percentage of them have bristles, typically in rows along the length of the body. Of these, some are large and the bristles quite noticeable, and on others barely detectable with the naked eye. What makes a Fireworm a Fireworm is really just the hair-like bristles coming off in your finger or other part of the body... it hurts like the dickens.> Is there anything visual that would lend a more specific answer to this... and I apologize for this being such a broad question, but I do think it's a very very good tid bit to have out there, in regards to knowing which is which incase they are come upon, even though Fireworms are less common in home aquaria. <Fireworms are often very colorful, although this is not universally true. That being said, I would agree with your latter latter assertion, that most aquarists with live rock will encounter an large variety of bristle worms. Only very rarely will they encounter one large enough for one to pick it up with their fingers. If you do encounter one of size... pick it up, and you'll find out what the fire is all about.> I look very forward to you sharing whatever you can in regards to the difference of the two.  Thanks so much. <Cheers, J -- >

Ich Again? 12/29/04 A few troubles that concerns me is the fact that one of my orchid Dottybacks will not eat too much. Perhaps he isn't interested in brine shrimp, or the fact that he is still kind of small. <hmmm... do resist using adult brine shrimp... even baby brine is not that dense. Better still consider Cyclop-eeze or minced krill... Pacifica plankton or Mysid shrimps. All are more nutritious than brine shrimp> He eats about 5 brine shrimp, but it seems awfully little when compared to how much the pair of orchid Dottyback eats in the larger tank. Will orchid Dottybacks accept pellets? <yes, most Pseudochromids are quite amenable to prepared foods> Also, I've noticed some rubbing against rocks from the sunrise Dottybacks and the orchid ( only 1 of them)? Could it be the side effects after eating a Bristleworm? <Ooooh... not likely - either water quality or impending parasite infection> If it was ich, wouldn't my purple tang be the first be infected or the angel? <not necessarily... each fish has different tolerances and immunities (the tang less so if it had it once before)> And what is the main difference between a fire worm and a bristle worm? <Fireworms have some/more venom with the setae/bristles. They are fairly uncommon too... most people only see common bristleworms> Thanks a million, Best Regards... Alan <rock on my salty brother. Anthony>

Caterpillar-like Worm ID Can you please help me with this worm ID??  I am not sure if these pics are sufficient, but let me know and I can try for better ones.  I am going to try to remove it tomorrow. Thanks, Kim <Kim, it's hard to say for sure what you have there but it looks like a type of polynoid worm, a Polychaete.  They sometimes live commensally with Seastars and sea cucumbers.  I would keep a close eye on it but I think it's probably harmless.>

Polychaete worm pic 9/1/04 Hi there I've just posted an article in yr 911 forum asking for help but I couldn't find out how to attach a picture so I've sent it here for you to have a look and see if you think this is my problem. thanks <it looks like a harmless (as most in aquaria are) Polychaete worm. No worries. Anthony>

Spiky and slimy and...?! (4/29/04)  Can you please tell me what kind of worm this is and can you tell me if it is safe to have in a reef tank. <Judging from the picture, it looks to be a Bristleworm (likely Ampharete sp.). In smaller sizes they are excellent detritivores and shouldn't do any damage (4" or less). The larger ones can harm corals, you may want to trap them>  Thank You. <No problems. M. Maddox>

Identify mystery critters (this time with photos!) OK, after mounting a complicated and highly technical surveillance operation I was able to retrieve two examples from the tank tonight.  I have attached their mug shots (one guy has two photos).  Best I could do with the equipment at hand (canon a70 and magnifying glass).  These guys were tiny. <I'll say!> I would really appreciate any ID you may give.  If these are bad, I want to get them out.  If not, they are welcome residents in my 20gal.   <The first is an amphipod (crustacean), entirely harmless, perhaps even beneficial, the second a Polychaete ("Bristleworm") species of some sort... likely the same challenge as the "pod"> I have also noticed since my first email that my tr. percula may be developing ich.  The power went out a couple of nights ago and the temp dropped a bit.  He seems his normal goofy self but I want to avoid it if possible.  Will raising the temp to the mid 80's in and of itself get rid of the ich or are more drastic measures needed? <Raising the temperature will NOT likely eradicate the Crypt/Ich, but it might be worthwhile to just wait, hope for some sort of detente... add a cleaner (Lysmata shrimp, Gobiosoma goby...) and hope at this point, rather than setting up a separate treatment tank...> I also have a Firefish that has shown no signs as of yet. My original message is below.  Thanks again for all of the help! Keith
<I'd be studying up re these issues in any case. Bob Fenner>

Bristleworm (6/28/04) Hello guys, I have learned so much from your forums, thanks so much, I was hoping you might be able to ID some type of worm that I noticed sticking out from the bottom of my live rock.  Thanks for your time.  A picture is attached.  The creature is outlined in red. Chris, San Antonio, TX <The picture is too blurry to make out for certain. It is obviously some sort of Bristleworm or Fireworm. Most smaller Bristleworms are not a problem, but bigger ones and Fireworms can be. I'd suggest you search these terms on WWM and the Internet for more info and pictures to compare to. Hope this helps, Steve Allen.>

Mystery Worm ID Hello whomever gets this. <Scott F. here this morning!> Real quick ID question.  Saw a small worm, lots of legs, what I saw was about 3 cm long, extremely thin, no wider than your typical pencil lead, and when it pulled back under the rock it had an orange tail, which was spread out much like the tail from a Lysmata sp. or something.  The worm itself had legs on either side, on every segment, and was a black or dark color of some kind.  Any ideas?  Checked all over the net and posted a few messages and nothing so far.   Thank you! <Well- sounds a lot like a bristle worm to me. Many different types exist. These worms are either harmful or helpful, depending on who you talk with! Some reef keepers feel that they can prey on corals and sessile inverts, others assert that they function like earthworms in a garden, and help to "work" the sand bed. If you don't want them in your tank, there are lots of ways to stop them, ranging from the use of crabs (like arrow crabs) to Pseudochromis, etc. To confirm that these are indeed a form of bristle worm, do a search on the wetwebmedia.com site for more information. Hope this helps. Good luck!>

Monster in the live rock I  woke up today and noticed one of my clowns was dead. <Sorry to hear.> But I was disgusted when I noticed this 'worm-monster' :-) eating it! It came out of the live rock. I've never seen it before. It's pretty ugly I must say.... I'm wondering is there a way to get rid of those worms? What are they? <Appears to be a bristle worm. A common hitch hiker that comes in with the live rock. Most bristle worms are relatively harmless and help rid the tank of dead and decaying material. (As you have found). Do a google search (at the bottom of the main www.wetwebmedia.com) page for bristle worm and you will find all kinds of ideas. Good luck, Don> Thank you,

-Hard crusty specs- Help. I would like to know what these white dots that are spreading over the glass of my 45 gal salt tank are and if I should worry or is it ok. They are hard to the touch, do not seem to move, you can scrape them off (a bit crusty though) and the biggest ones are about the size of the head of a screw from eye glasses. Thank you <Those little dots are tube worms living in their calcareous homes. Look closely, you may see feather duster crowns sticking out of them. They are completely harmless, enjoy! -Kevin>

Neat pic... ugly worms: Eunice 1/21/04 Dear Crew: <howdy> Thank you very much for your helpful site and your answers to our questions! <our pleasure> My son and I have a 75 gal tank that has been set up for over 6 months, and has had 110 lbs of Florida aquacultured live rock in it since August.  We've had so much fun watching the critters on the rock, that we haven't yet added fish. <outstanding... I wish more folks would do this to allow the infauna and/or macroalgae to properly develop. Good for you> Some of our creatures have disappeared suddenly and without a trace (notably some kind of Zoanthid, and a number of small anemones).  Recently, our stony corals have been having trouble too, and we have started to wonder if predation is the problem. <hmmm... do consider that the tank even at 6 months old is way to young for most any stony corals> Question 1: Can a stony coral look just fine with nicely extended polyps for months and then suddenly look shaved?  This happened to our best coral recently.  After a few days some of the polyps are reappearing.  The question is whether they had been grazed on and are now growing back, or whether corals can naturally do this kind of thing. <hard to say here... cold be the tank is fine but simply still too young/unstable for stonies. I advise most all folks to be patient for at least one year before adding any stony corals... many good reasons for this. Yet the description (without a pic) does sound like it could be predation too> Question 2: As we have thought about possible predators, there are two at the top of our suspect list.  One is a small crab (unknown type - body about size of quarter, general "hairy" appearance). Frankly, the crab looks pretty innocent whenever we catch a glimpse of him hiding in a hole in the rock.   <they are a very high risk reef creature... no crabs are truly reef safe: all are opportunistic predators in time. And form follows function - if it has stout claws, they are there for a reason... and its not just for picking strands of algae.> The other suspects are worms.  We have bristle worms, included the bearded variety.   <highly overrated... more benefit than harm. Excellent for live sand/substrates> More recently we noticed another kind of worm that looks like it might be a Eunice worm.  We attach a picture of an earlier individual that we were able to isolate and eliminate when our live rock first arrived.   <A good pic, but not close enough for speciation. At a glance, it could be the long bristle Eunice (see Humann's "Reef Creature" book> We think we still have this type in the tank.  We saw an earlier post about a Eunice worm, and your advice was to get Peppermint shrimp to control the little ones, while attempting to trap the big ones, as these are known problem creatures in the tank.  If this is a Eunice, I assume the same advice applies to our tank.  Thanks, Tom <do consider reading/buying our "Reef Invertebrate" book (Calfo and Fenner 2003). It covers these families of creatures and so many more in great detail. I suspect you would learn much from it my friend. Best regards, Anthony>

Worm? Identity Bob: The other day I was walking on the beach in Ocean City, NJ when I saw what at first appeared to be a discarded cellophane cigar wrapper. Upon further inspection I found it to be a transparent "worm". It was on the wet sand about a foot from the water and appeared to be heading for the water. It was about 1/2 inch wide by 6 or 7 inches long. I didn't inspect it close enough, so I don't know if it had cilia and I didn't look to see if I could see any internal organs. Any idea what it was? Merv C. <Hmm, could be a few types as in actual phyla of worms... but most likely one of the many                       Errantiate Polychaetes... akin to what folks in the aquarium interest lump together as bristle                        worms... also includes the "Fireworms" used as bait on your coast... so you were wise not to                       handle this specimen.... it's cilia/podia can be painful to the touch. Bob Fenner>

Re: Worm? Identity Bob: I located a book on east coast sea life and the closest I saw picture of in there was common named "Venus girdle" which the book says can get to five feet long, but most are much smaller. I told you, I think, that this one was about 7 inches long. The book also said it is oceanic and tropical, so I don't know about this since Ocean City, NJ certainly is not tropical. <Though many tropicals do occur this far north on the U.S. eastern seaboard... this indeed may be              the animal. Bob Fenner> Thanks for your help. We'll narrow it down sooner or later. Merv C.

White hair worms? Hello again, Thank you again for all your help in the past. We have started the conversion of our fish only tank to our reef tank. With the purchase of our first piece of coral we are already being amazed. We bought a piece of live rock with some brown polyp coral on it. After a few days in our tank we noticed at intervals there were numerous hair like white projections that go in and out of the rock once they have 'caught' something that drifted by. I believe they are attached to tiny worms. I read the worm section and couldn't find anything that matched. Any ideas of their identification and are they harmful? <Likely some species of annelid, Polychaete worms. No worries> Also, in the rock was a stowaway crab. He is red in color, body is about 3 cm, not a fiddler and seems to pick the rock and break small pieces off. I could not find him anywhere either. Does he sound okay or will we soon start loosing fish to our uninvited guest? <Hard to say at this point. I would leave it be> Last question, for this week :-), we have recently been loosing snails. I have seen a hermit crab crawling on a snail. Do you think this is the criminal act of my lone hermit, or is it more likely that our new red inhabitant is to blame. I know this is not a court of law. Thanks again, Christine <Who could say? Perhaps a flashlight vigil at night? Bob Fenner>

Strange thing growing on my rock Hi This is my first marine tank and your site has been a great help in answering some of my Q's I have found a 'thing' growing on a LR in my tank (pic in attachment) and was wondering what it was. I was thinking it might be some sort of tube worm as it retracts completely in to the rocks at movement. it could only be about 5 mm or so. <Does look the feathery crown of some species of Featherduster/Polychaete worm to me too> Also I have some algaes I cant identify either. one is a sort of vibrant purple violet colour and there are only two small oval patches of this on the glass, On some plain rock there a red freckles. and there appears to be some sort of red slime algae as well. <Do agree here as well. "Some sorts" of algae... many possibilities.> Thanks for any help Ross <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Little white c's on the glass of my 39 gal reef tank I have some very small, a little bigger than a pin head, hard growths that look like little c's on my live rock and glass. They look like a worm or something could be in them but I have never seen anything moving. <Good observation, guess... very likely these are small tubiculous Polychaetes (worms)> They are quite hard to remove and are becoming unsightly. Do you know what they could be? How do I get rid of them?  <Mmm, they likely will "pass" with succession, aging of your system... You could keep wiping down the viewing panels... or place a fish, like a Toby/Sharpnose Puffer, Ctenochaetus Tang, Salarias or Atrosalarias Blenny (though the last groups mainly eat algae, they'll clean these off in the process of scouring... Growing macro-algae in a sump, the main tank would inspire populations of predators, competitors...> The snails, fish, emerald crab, starfish etc. seem uninterested. You had a similar question of FAQ but I did some research on the calcareous tube worm and found only X-tree worms which don't show what they look like when very small.  <Only one of many hundreds of species...> The ones in my tank never seem to grow any bigger. They just multiply all over everything. Thank you for any information. Carol <Be chatting my friend. Bob Fenner>

Trying to identify reef animal Hi Robert, Help! No one seems to know what this thing is that I got in my live rock last weekend. It pokes it's black head out of a hole in the coral and grabs food that floats by. It is all black, except for a white band around the neck. It seems to have 2 eyes that are external - like a crustacean? <Maybe> It also has 2 feelers. <Okay> People have told me it could be a bristle worm, but it does not look like a worm. It looks more like a centipede, with a rigid, segmented body, and it has many legs - not bristles. It moves rigidly in and out of the hole - I've seen at least 2 inches of it. It's not like a worm at all. <There are many types, species of worms...> Also, it comes out in the daylight, and seems to be drawn out when we shine a flash light on it. Well, I'm not making this up. I'm going to try and make a video of it tonight and take that around to people. What have I got? What could it be? Thanks a lot! Scott B. <Please read through the various "Marine Invertebrate" survey pieces posted on WetWebMedia.com  Bob Fenner>

Identifying Bristle Worms Hi Jason, now it's back to Tamara, <<Hello. Ok, let's go...>> I have to say this again, thanks for your kindness in spending time to help diagnose what went wrong so we don't make the same mistake again. <<You are quite welcome.>> Per your question, our protein skimmer, which hangs on the back, is a SeaClone and is supposed to be good for up to 100 gallon tank, ours is a 46. <<I'm not really a big fan of these - fancy box, poor performance/design. The fact that it collects next-to-nothing means something. A good quality skimmer with the inhabitants you had should have required weekly cleaning.>> We really haven't had to clean out the skimmer, only once after about 6 weeks we had 1/10 of an inch in protein build-up. We cleaned it last night, haven't changed the water yet, and there is nothing in the skimmer. (Per your advice however, I do have buckets that have been prepared and will make the change after it sits overnight....thank you) <<sound good>> The corals have survived but are wilting, and the brittle star is the only "moving" survivor, not counting the fuzzy worms (please pardon the lack scientific term). Glad you said those are not bristle worms. <<Egads, I re-read our original conversation, and perhaps I mis-identified them. I think of centipedes as more bug-like than worm-like, but that's just me... Don't panic - answer one question, are they long and thin or short and fat? As long as they are long and thin you are ok - these are the "good" kind of bristle worms.>> Thanks again Jason for all of your advice! Respectfully, Tamara Jorgensen <<Wow, sorry about the bad id on those worms, but with any luck, these are no big deal and you can continue with the water change plans. You may want to look into a better skimmer. Cheers, J -- >>

Follow-up on Identifying Bristle Worms Hello Jason, <<Hello>> Oh no, I looked this morning and cannot find either of them (maybe they just come out at night, which is when we originally seen them). <<well, keep your eyes out, I'm sure they'll be back.>> After I had written the original note to you I found some long, thin, multi-legged ones, purple like in color and some short fat multi-legged ones brown in color. Do I have a mixture of good and evil? <<does sound that way>> Thanks again.... Respectfully, Tamara Jorgensen <<Cheers, J -- >>

There's a Special on Worm ID Today! <<JasonC here, filling in for Bob while he's away diving.>> hi! I have a 90 gallon reef tank set up for a little over 1 year w/ 90 lbs live rock. I put 50 lbs of fine sand &ordered 10 lbs of GARF grunge from GARF, I know notice what looks like earth worms tunneling through the sand when looking from the bottom, they are 6-7 in long I couldn't believe how big they are. Are these worms depleting the quality of the sand? <<I don't think so, these sound like the beneficial bristle worms.>> I have noticed my sand star sometimes goes on the glass looking for food, I am worried that they are removing nutrients from the sand that is causing the star to go looking elsewhere. <<Seastars are just like that sometimes, no worries about the worms taking his food.>> This website is a god send for me there is so much helpful info here. I wish I knew of this place before I set up my tank, it would have saved me a lot of time & money, thank you so much for spending your time trying to help us beginners get on the right path. <<Thank you for the kind words, Bob will most certainly appreciate it.>> Kevin <<Cheers, J -- >>

Questions about Mystery Worms Hi Jason, <<Hi>> I do appreciate your prompt response to my E-mail! I also apologize for the lack of specificity. I have both types of worms. the "spaghetti worms" I wrote about refer to the long filamentous ones. The "bristleworms" I referred to were a couple of the shorter (1"), fatter, "hairy", caterpillar type worms. <<ok, you need to try and get those out. The spaghetti worms can stay.>> Both live on the same rock as the star polyp and those "bristleworms" dance on the polyps. Water parameters look good (all other soft corals Xenias, fingers, colts, & mushrooms doing fine) Incidentally, some corals have been freshly introduced and appear to thrive under my conditions (& the polyps were closed before new coral introductions). Lastly, I dose the system with Kent products (chelated iron, calcium, iodine, strontium-molybdenum) in amounts according to instructions, which again seems good for all involved. <<sounds ok to me.>> I hope this helps you to help me, and thanks again for the benefit of your wisdom. --Brad <<Hope that helps. Cheers, J -- >>

Worms, larvae, spreading fast (Polychaetes) Hi Bob, <Anthony Calfo in your service> This is my third time contacting you for information and I appreciate the time you take to respond. When something happens which I do not understand, or am unable to identify, I come running to you. We all do for that matter. We should be sending you a yearly advice donation. <single dollar bills would be most helpful for the spending preferences of this crew... hehe> My 30 gallon reef has been doing great. The current livestock includes a Percula Clown, Dottyback, about 9 scarlet red hermits, 40 or so lbs of live rock, as well as a recent addition of a torch coral, which has been doing quite well. Water quality is great. My question is an identification one, and I left my digital camera at work so I won't be able to get you a picture until tomorrow (if that would help). <no problem... most of my multiple personalities have a great imagination> Within the last 3 weeks or so I noticed some small, about 1/4 to 3/8" long, spiral, squiggly worm like buggers attached to the tank glass (very scientific terminology coming from a biology major, eh). They resemble thin cornucopias tapering from thin and threadlike at one end, and getting slightly wider at the other end with a reddish top at the wider end. In the last few days I have notice a huge bunch of them, attached to the glass, behind a section of live rock ( I didn't notice them 3 days ago). There must be about 20-30 of them in a bunch. I do not see them moving at all, I've sat and watched for about ten minutes now. They seem to be very flat, they are not attached each is a single organism. I realize the diversity here, they might not even be worms, but I figured you might know what I was talking about by description. Let me know if you might have any ideas. I will send a picture ASAP. <likely a Serpulid worm species...check out some of the neat incidentals from live rock and reefkeeping at this link: http://www.reefs.org/hhfaq/pages/main_pages/faq_rock3.htm> Thanks, Torrey Charlestown, RI <best regards, Anthony>

Bristle Worms? Robert, <Steven Pro this evening.> I am hoping you can tell me something that I have not yet found. I have an established salt water/reef aquarium of a little over 2 years. The bottom is lined with crushed coral. When I look really close where the glass meets the coral I can see little worms that look half orange/half brown. I'm guessing these are not good. <Quite the contrary. Most bristle worms are beneficial detritivores.> The bad news is, I bought all my live rock from my local fish store (of which I thought they cured it). I also have quite a bit of coral and am now in a panic. <No need to panic. These guys have probably been in your tank for quite a while now and doing no harm.> I have 2 Bristleworm traps set up in the tank, but by the looks of how many I see by the glass they will be able to reproduce quicker than the traps will catch them. (so far I've only caught 1). <You are quite right.> Basically all the info I've found has lead me to believe I'm screwed and unless I take out all my corals, they will become dinner. <You are reading the wrong material. Take a look here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/worms.htm and the various linked files.> The leathers and colt are attached to some big pieces of live rock. Is there anything else I can do? Do I need to panic? <No> ps....I have a yellow tang, royal gramma, 6 line wrasse, flame angel, and maroon clown. Corals....frogspawn, cabbage, pagoda, leather (2), colt, red polyps, trumpet, meat and 2 anemones. I really appreciate any help you can offer. Thanks for your time. Victoria Notz <I hope I have calmed you some. If you wish additional references, just let me know and I will give you a few more citations to appease you. -Steven Pro>

Worms Is there any web page that you know of that contains pictures of the types of bristle worms and which are harmful and which are good? we have quite a few in our tank but the only one that bothers us is on that seems to be very large. We have seen about 7" of him and we seem to be having inhabitants missing either all together or parts. thanks. <Start with the WWM page on Bristle worms and then go on to the Hitchhiker Id link. This should give you a good idea. Also, Dr. Ron Shimek's webpage is on the WWM links page. Truthfully, the vast majority of bristle worms are beneficial scavengers and it is an internet myth that they eat corals. It is far more likely you have some Nudibranch, parasitic snail, mantis shrimp, etc. Please reply with who was damaged and how to narrow your search.> Also if we could just get one of your books (which I just found out about) which one would you suggest. My daughter has hard and soft corals, clowns, damsels, several crabs, starfish, shrimp and an anemone. <"The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" is a book all marine fish keepers should have.> Thanks, Faroneve <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Spider-Web, errr, worm I have what looks like a spider web growing on my live Fiji rock. I tried to vacuum it off when I did a water change, but with no success. Is it ok or harmful >> Probably just the feeding end of some species of non-motile (Sedentariate) segmented worm (Polychaete)... same phylum as the bristle worms of so many species, but not harmful at all. Enjoy it! As it lays out those "tentacles" and swipes them back over its "mouth" to feed. Bob Fenner

Unknown Worms I have recently seen on outbreak of worms in my 25 gal. mini reef tank. These worms are small and tend to burrow in the crushed coral. They are orange (or reddish color) with long numerous tentacles which they appear to use for grabbing or feeding. They are only about an inch long or so but there numbers have seem to grow very rapidly. Is there an easy way to eradicate them. They don't seem to bother any of the corals or fish in the tank. But since there numbers have grown I know see them on my live rock. Now I consider them a nuisance and would like to get ride of them. I hope you can identify them with the information I given you. Please Help. >> These are very likely some sort of Polychaete, which hobbyist literature tends to lump together as bristle worms. Luckily you don't mention any getting big/bigger, there are some real monsters in the group. Many fishes will eat these smaller varieties, but I would need to know what you already have to make sure I'm not suggesting an inappropriate choice. What fishes, motile invertebrates do you keep currently? And, what sorts of livestock would you like to have/intend to add? There are a few worm eating Butterflyfishes to utilize, but all get too big for your twenty five... you could get some hermit crabs, but these might prove as big a nuisance in the long haul... or you could just "wait out" this worm invasion and see if they do no harm as their numbers naturally drop (they will) Bob Fenner

Unknown Worms > I have recently seen on outbreak of worms in my 25 gal. mini reef tank. These worms are small and tend to burrow in the crushed coral. They are orange (or reddish color) with long numerous tentacles which they appear to use for grabbing or feeding. They are only about an inch long or so but there numbers have seem to grow very rapidly. Is there an easy way to eradicate them. They don't seem to bother any of the corals or fish in the tank. But since there numbers have grown I know see them on my live rock. Now I consider them a nuisance and would like to get ride of them. I hope you can identify them with the information I given you. > Please Help. > > These are very likely some sort of Polychaete, which hobbyist literature tends to lump together as bristle worms. Luckily you don't mention any getting big/bigger, there are some real monsters in the group. Many fishes will eat these smaller varieties, but I would need to know what you already have to make sure I'm not suggesting an inappropriate choice. What fishes, motile invertebrates do you keep currently? And, what sorts of livestock would you like to have/intend to add? There are a few worm eating Butterflyfishes to utilize, but all get too big for your twenty five... you could get some hermit crabs, but these might prove as big a nuisance in the long haul... or you could just "wait out" this worm invasion and see if they do no harm as their numbers naturally drop (they will) Bob Fenner The unknown worms don't get any bigger than an inch, and I haven't seen any of the fish I eat these weird looking worms. I currently have a large maroon clown with a bubble tip anemone, two gobies I caught at a reef nearby, two crabs, and about 10 hermit crabs from the same reef. I would like to add a flame angel and a couple of Banggai cardinals. I would also like to add mushrooms to the tank to complete it. >> I'd go ahead with that plan. The one inch or less worms should be no problem and likely you will end up with one fat and happy Flame Angel (Centropyge loricula)... Bob Fenner

Unknown organisms Bob: I was wondering if you could identify a very small thin worm that I saw crawling around my live rock. It is a brown color, and has white rings around it too. It moves quickly and then is gone. It was less than an inch long, and maybe a 1/16th of an inch in width. This morning I also saw a couple of very small bristle worms they were red with white bristles. Do you know of a fish or other organism that will help me get rid of these little creatures? I had heard that I Six-line wrasse will eat them...is this true? Thanks for your repeated help with my tank Bob. Sincerely, Matthew S. >> The "lined wrasses" of the genus Pseudocheilinus are very useful for eating many species of small Polychaete/bristle worms... And most species of these worms are of no consequence... there are several thousand different species... can't identify these from descriptions. Bob Fenner
Identification problem Yesterday morning shortly after feeding I noticed these long skinny "things" in the water. One was probably 3 inches and the other about 5. I though they were fish yuck. However, they seemed to be moving independently like ribbons. When the end of one hit the rock it disintegrated into a whitish film. I got the net and fished the remaining out. Within seconds, it started to dissolve into this milky substance and to my horror, there were these dark little worms inside it!! Could they be some sort of intestinal worms that were passed? None of the fish exhibit unusual behavior and are eating heartily. The other problem is that I don't know what fish it came from. Are they harmful? The small worms inside are a dark color with bodies that appear to have horizontal lines on them (almost segmented like).  I've posted this on many of the discussion boards and haven't been successful with any ID yet. Any ideas? Thanks for the assistance. Erica >> Does sound like some sort of epitoke (Errantiate Polychaete worm) reproduction event.... and in an aquarium! Bizarre. Well, these are probably not going to be harmful per se to your livestock or system... but definitely caught your and my attention! Bob Fenner

Strange worms?? I have a 65 gallon reef tank. Lately I have noticed some worm like creatures in my LR. They look like some sort of tube worm. They are enclosed in a tube-like structure, all that is visible is two "feelers" like that of a snail. They emit a sort of cob-web like stringy material from them. What are these things, are they bad and should I try to remove them? Please advise Thanks, Sue >> Very likely not bad... related to bristle worms, but sedentary in existence (i.e., not crawling about)... some types called "Spaghetti Worms" for their tentacular white stringy feeding apparatus... I'd ignore, but enjoy them. Bob Fenner

Fireworm Natural History Notes Hello, I am sorry to disturb you again, but I was wondering if you could tell me some of the feeding habits and the habitat/biome of the fire worm I would really appreciate it Thank you! <Well, there really isn't one "Fireworm" but a few hundred species... most are predatory on smaller invertebrate life... and though some are tube-dwellers, the vast majority are free-living, burrowing in sand, mud, hiding between rocks by day... Bob Fenner>

Bristle Worm Studies Hello! I am doing a project on the Polychaete worm and I need your help. I have been looking for, but cannot find, the scientific name ( KPCOFGS) of it. If you could send it to me or tell me where I could find it, I would really appreciate it! Thank you <Hmm, there are thousands of species of Polychaetes... don't know the symbolism you are using... could you offer more input? My general coverage of these ill-reputed (though most are beneficial to benign) annelids is posted on our website: www.WetWebMedia.com under the section "Worms", "Bristle Worms"... Bob Fenner>

Mystery Worm Hi Bob. I am seeking help with a problem that has just occurred with my saltwater fish tank. There is some type of white worm like thing crawling on the inside glass. I have never seen anything like it in my life. I don't know what they are or what to do about it. Please respond promptly I am at great concern about my fishes well-being. The only thing that I think its from is the live brine shrimp that I fed them. Please help me!! Thanks Laura <This "mystery worm" sort of query is very common... and my/our stock response is not to worry... very likely this is a transient population of innocuous Errantiate Polychaete "Bristleworm" species... that are more beneficial, benign than trouble. Please read and follow the links here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bristlewrmfaqs.htm Bob Fenner>


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