Feather Duster Worms

Polychaetes
Mesmerizingly Hypnotic!


We can just sit and watch these guys for hours. They are hypnotic, and VERY relaxing to watch just swaying in the water.

While they look very plant/coral like, these guys are actually worms. The feathers are really a ring on the mouth of the worm (like very hairy lips). Their body resides in the tube at the base, and they will actually completely retract into the tube. This only happens once in a while, as it usually means their feathers are full of food, and they want to pull in, and sift it off into their mouth, or, they've been startled.
Photo is courtesy of "Marine Reef Aquarium Handbook" by Robert J. Goldstein.

But on the rare occasion that you actually get to watch them slowly tighten their feathers, and pull in...it's just beautiful. Rivaled only by when they come back out. Slowly pushing out, with the current catching their feathers, and slowly fanning them out in a spiral. Just mesmerizing.

To give you an idea what I'm talking about:



The Hawaiian Giant Feather Duster

The Hawaiian Giant was the first one we got. I picked him up from the bucket (after the aclimation process), and he very quickly yanked back into his tube. It had roughly the force of firing a gun. Scared the CRAP out of me. Anyways, put him in a hole, and he took right away.

The Hawaiian Giant Featherduster.
It's hard to recreate how hypnotic it is watching them wave about in the tank, with a still shot.

These guys use Calcium (bicarbonate) from the water and mucus to form their home (tube).

Here's a close up showing you his tube, and the outside of it's mouth.

This guy was big to begin with, but he has grown even bigger since we've gotten him. He's defintely a dominent presence in the tank, and undoubtedly the first thing you notice.

Just to give you some scope as to the size of the Giant in the tank, here's a shot of half the tank.
You can see he's pretty large! (and this was two months after we got him).



The Purple Dwarf Feather Duster

The dwarf...well, when I purchased him, it was truly an excersize in patience. I was at the local fish store (just looking). They had a tank with about roughly 50+ feather dusters (and their tubes). All of which were tangled together in one big heap. In the middle of the heap, I saw this one little beautiful purple guy and I had to have him.

So I told the clerk that I wanted THAT one. But when the fish store clerk put his hand in the tank, ALL 50+ feather dusters DARTED back into their intertwined tubes. And in that instant, we'd both lost track of which tube he was from. I told the clerk I'd just wait until he came back out...I definitely wanted that specific one! (as all the others were brown or gray).

Well, at home, my Giant only takes about 10-15 minutes to come back out, so it couldn't be that long of a wait, right? WRONG! Time passed, other (not-so-pretty) ones came out, went back in, and repeated. I waited slightly over an hour for this tiny little scared-ie cat to poke his purple feathers out. So, after waiting an hour, I wasn't going to loose him again. So I had no choice but to reach in myself, and grab him!

I was very relieved when the clerk understood, and didn't kick me out immediately. Anyways...I got him now, and I must say, he was worth the wait. He's maybe 1/10th the size of the giant, but he sure is a beautiful little guy!

This is what it looked like when we first got it. He
was pretty beat up (from the travel, stress,
and competition of the other tank inhabitants).
You can see how his feathers are all kinked up and
a bit damaged.


But he's since turned into a VERY pretty specimen.
What the dwarf lacks in size, he more than makes
up for in beauty. The color is just beautiful.

Feather duster worms come in MANY different varieties and species. Their feathers are just as different in arrangement as they are in color and size. Some are just round circles. Some have many round circles getting bigger as they go out. Some are spiraled. Some have two sets of circles, etc. Just with these few I have, there is so much difference.

Here you can see how the Dwarf's feathers are in a spiral,
as opposed to just rings of circles like the Giant's.


Tthis picture is a little blurry, but is shows the size difference between the two.



The Other Feather Dusters

If you haven't figured it out already, we REALLY like these guys. Anytime we're in the fish store, if we see one that stands out, or is different, we have to have it.


As filter feeders, these worms are a big help in keeping the water clean and clear. So it's no wonder that in my opinion, you can never really have too many of these guys.

So when we saw this beautiful green one, we bought him. Once added, he seemed to be doing fine for the first week. But apperantly, the stress of the transition from the LFS to our tank was a bit much for him. So he did what some Feather Duster's do when stressed. He shed his feathers (crown). While not a good sign, it IS normal behavior.

But after a few weeks of getting used to things, and growing back a new crown, he's doing much better.

To the right, you can see a pic when the new crown which isn't completely grown back yet.



With so many different beautiful varieties and colors, I was very suprised when I came accross this one.

It was Jet Black with white spines. While he's devoid of color, I still thought this guy was very different and I found him to be quite beautiful.

So, yet again, we found ourselves adding another feather duster.

But a very neat specimen, I think.


I like the color contrast of this guy compared to the rest of the tank. It makes him stand out.


The Hawaiian Giant was Added to the tank on March 13th, from the Pet Loft, Mt Airy, MD.

The Purple Dwarf was added on March 21 2005, the Green Feather duster was added May 7th,
and the black/white one was added on June 12 2005. All from Congressional Aquarium.

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Last updated 10/13/05