- (M) A little info on Fireworms
by daveo/omews18.intel.com (David O'Brien) (27 Nov 91)
- (M) A little info on Fireworms
by kvk/kaos.sw.stratus.com (Ken Koellner) (27 Nov 91)
- (Marine): Bristle Worms (again)
by fssmith/venus.lerc.nasa.gov (Greg Smith) (5 May 1992)
- Bristle worms and arrow crabs [M][R]
by menudo/irene.mit.edu (Roberto Estrada) (Mon, 30 Nov 1992)
- Liverock organisms
by steve/celia.UUCP (Steve Tyree) (30 Nov 92)
- Liverock organisms
by fssmith/venus.lerc.nasa.gov (Greg Smith) (1 Dec 1992)
- [M] How do YOU trap bristle worms ?
by wayne/phillips.boulder.co.us (Wayne F. Phillips) (Sun, 12 Dec 93)
by daveo/omews18.intel.com (David O'Brien)
Date: 27 Nov 91
This is a repost of an message I wrote in April of 1990.
After reading a really great article about one mans triumph over a
plague of fireworms (Wisniewski p. 22), I was prompted to do a little
further reading on this subject. I once found a 10" fire worm
munching happily in one of my tanks and played all kinds of games to
try to get him out, so this subject struck home with me. Here's what
I found out.
A fireworm is a type of bristleworm. The common name fireworm is used
to describe a number of worms that fit the same general description of
appearance and action. A good example is:
Class: Polychaeta: Polychaete worms
Species: Hermodice carunculata
This flattened segmented worm, reaching 30cm in length, has groups
of white bristles along each side. The bristles are hollow,
venom-filled setae which easily penetrate the flesh and break off if
this worm is handled. They produce an intense irritation in the
area of contact, hence the common name of the species. When
disturbed the worm flares out the bristles so they are more exposed.
Hermodice carunculata can feed on living corals. It will engulf the
last few centimeters of the tip of a branching coral, such as
Acropora cervicornis (staghorn coral), in its inflated pharynx and
remove the coral tissue from that portion of the skeleton. The worm
will remain 5-10 minutes at each branch tip, visiting several, and
the branches attacked are apparent by their white ends.
The fireworm is abundant on reefs, beneath stones in rocky or
seagrass areas and on some muddy bottoms. It has also been found at
or near the surface in flotsam and occurs to at least 60 m. It is
found throughout the tropical western atlantic and at Ascension
Island in mid-Atlantic. (Colin p.323,326)
Another reference started with a more fuller description of the class.
The segemented worms of interest to the aquarist are all in the
class Polychaeta, the bristleworms. This is the largest and most
primitive group of annelids, and the majority are marine. They are
often strikingly beautiful and very colourful and, unlike the other
two groups of annelids, they show enormous variation in form and
lifestyle. Apart from the head and terminal segments, all the
segments are identical, each with a pair of flattened, fleshy
lobelike paddles called parapodia, which are used for swimming,
burrowing and creating a feeding current. The bristles, or chaetae,
on the parapodia are immensely variable betwen species. In the sea
mice, for example, they form a protective mat over the back of the
worm and give the animal a furry appearance. The bristles of
fireworms, on the other hand, are long and poisonous for defense,
and are shed readily if a worm is attacked. Fireworms are voracious
predators that usually feed on corals, but are known to attack
animals, such as anemones, ten times their size. The species
Hermodice carunculata is sometimes accidentally introduced into the
home aquarium; take great care when handling it. (Haywood and
Wells, p. 22)
Moe had some stronger warnings to say about fireworms.
The bristleworms are not called fireworms just because of their
bright orange and red colors. The fine, needle-like bristles are
hollow and contain a potent venom. The sting caused by these worms
feel like fire and last a long time. Don't handle them with bare
hands. The common Caribbean species is the fireworm, Hermodice
carunculata, in the family Amphinomidae. Several other species of
fireworms in this family may occasionally show up in marine tanks,
and all are dangerous. The orange bristle worm, Eurythoe
complanata, is common in rocks around coral reefs. It is a long,
segmented orange worm with a line of short white bristles on each
side. This species can easily reproduce in marine aquariums, and
rocks and filter beds may develope large populations of this
polychaete bristleworm. (Moe, p.450)
There was one really interesting thing I found on reproducing.
Another interesting polychaete is the fireworm from Bermuda. When
the worms come to the surface, the females start to emit a greenish
phosphorescent glow. This attracts the males, which dart towards
the females, emitting flashing lights at the same time. As the
different sexes approach each other, the sec cells are shed.
(Haywood and Wells, P. 25)
Wouldn't that be something to see in a home aquaria with all the room
lights turned off.
So generally, fireworms are hated in the marine aquaria. The article
I referred to at the start was written by one aquarist who found
lots of fireworms in his tank when he viewed it at night for the first
time. It just so happens that is when I found mine too. These guys
are shy of light and can feel the vibrations in the floor. I used
only a sliver of a flashlight beam to find mine and tip-toed up to the
tank quite slowly.
My final attempt to remove my fireworm consisted of a pair of pliers that I
tried to pull him out with. I ended up only getting about 3/4 of the
worm out and assumed the rest died and decayed. (I haven't seen
another worm since, and i've looked, a lot.) In the article in MFM,
the author describes how he made the same mistake I did, but corrected
it by finding the way to get the fireworms out. He created a trap out
of a tube and baited it, simply removing it every morning with
I highly suggest anyone who has a marine tank read the article in MFM.
It's a good one. I also suggest you get up one night a few hours
after turning out all the lights and see what is happening in your
tank. You never know what you might see.
Colin, Dr. Patrick L. "Marine Invertebrates and Plants of the Living
Reef." T.F.H. Publications, Inc. 1988.
Haywood, Martyn and Wells, Sue. "The Manual of Marine Invertebrates."
Salamander Books Ltd., 1989.
Moe, Martin A. Jr. "The Marine Aquarium Reference, Systems and
Invertebrates." Green Turtle Publications, 1989.
Wisniewski, john. "Fireworms in the Marine Aquarium", Maine Fish
Monthly, April 1990, p. 22.
Dave O'Brien (daveo-at-ichips.intel.com)
by kvk/kaos.sw.stratus.com (Ken Koellner)
Date: 27 Nov 91
In article <1991Nov27.064745.25113-at-ichips.intel.com> daveo-at-ichips.intel.com (David O'Brien) writes:
> (good stuff on fireworms deleted)
The first time I checked out my tank at 2AM, I found about 1/2 dozen
of these ugly buggers wandering around.
The most effective way I've found to catch them is to use a small 2AA
size flashlight with a piece of red celophane over it. I beat them
over the head with the flashlight and then... just kidding. You can
see well enough in the dark with the dim red light but the red light
won't scare the worms as easily. I scan the tank with the flashlight
and then use some standard plastic aquarium tongs to grab the worms.
I take them over to the kitchen sink and give them the disposomatic
I check my tank out late at night every week or so and still catch one
once in a while. I think that the bigger ones I had were in the tank
long enough to breed so I find little ones every now and then.
I've found that the later at night it is, the further the worms will
have wandered from safety. An hour or two after the lights go out
they'll be on rocks not far from their hiding holes. At 3AM, I find
them all over the place like on the front glass where they have no
place to hide. At this time, they are very easy to catch.
-Ken Koellner (kvk-at-sw.stratus.com)
Disclaimer: The above writings are the ramblings of one human being
and have nothing what-so-ever to do with Stratus Computer Inc.
by fssmith/venus.lerc.nasa.gov (Greg Smith)
Date: 5 May 1992
In article <u4o9rINNrrq-at-stanley.cis.Brown.EDU>, jle-at-dam.brown.edu (Jon Elion) writes...
>A fews weeks back there was a thread about bristle worms showing up in
>reef tanks. I only skimmed the items, amused that anyone would be so
>careless as to allow such a thing into their tank.
>Yep, you guessed it, I found one in my reef tank last night! Nice specimen,
>actually, about 3/8" long, brightly colored. Definitely bristle worm.
>Sorry to have to ask for a repeat of this on the net, but the answers
>never really "registered" since I didn't think I had the problem.
>QUESTION: What does a bristle worm bother? Does it eat coral polyps?
>QUESTION: What eats bristle worms (i.e., how to get rid of it/them)?
usually scavenges on leftover meaty foods. If none are available munches
on corals. Is eaten by arrow crabs and coral banded shrimp. However both
of these will eat leftover fish food and brine shrimp preferentially over
bristle worms. The coral banded will also eat the arrow crab sooner or later
if you have both in the same tank. My suggestion -- Get a pair of coral banded
if possible. Ifv not get a single coral banded shrimp. Feed the fish sparingly
if at all and manually remove bristle worms whenever you see them
by menudo/irene.mit.edu (Roberto Estrada)
Date: Mon, 30 Nov 1992
For those of you worried about bristle worms...Here's a somewhat well known
solution: Buy an arrow crab. They usually cost around $10. They pick at worms
and decaying matter. Do not bother good worms like tube worms and feather
dusters. Do not bother shrimp. And it is so much fun to shine a light on your
tank and see an arrow crab munching on a bristle worm that you know would of
taken you along time to find and catch.
Description: looks like a long-legged spider with a long pointy head.
Down-side: It's not a good idea to buy a pair unless they are mated. I hear
they fight with coral banded shrimp but, I only like cleaner shrimp so
I wouldn't know .
by steve/celia.UUCP (Steve Tyree)
Date: 30 Nov 92
In article <ByG807.Gw0-at-ra.nrl.navy.mil> tse-at-ra.nrl.navy.mil (Anthony Tse) writes:
-> I wonder about that, everyone said bristleworms are definite no no
-> in a reef, but I got quit a few of them in my tank and they don't seem
-> to hurt anything. Has anyone eye witnessed a bristleworm attack on
-> coral? Or is it just another one of those millions of folklore floating
-> around in the reef hobby?
There are many species of "bristle worms". Some do eat coral. I beleive that
the fireworm species does indeed eat coral. It has a particular color pattern
which I can research for you. They are not common. The particular species
of bristle worms which usually populate our reefs, eat micro algae. This can
be very beneficial. Mine have white bristles, flesh body color with red on the
perimeter. The bad "fireworm" has a certain color of bristles or needles.
You also need to worry about species of planularia(sp?) which eat coral. The
best way to determine if you have a coral eating pest in your tank is to observe
the coral with a flashlight at night. Look for bristle worms, snails, nudi-
branchs and planularia preying on your coral.
Steve Tyree - Reef Breeder
by fssmith/venus.lerc.nasa.gov (Greg Smith)
Date: 1 Dec 1992
In article <ByG807.Gw0-at-ra.nrl.navy.mil>, tse-at-ra.nrl.navy.mil (Anthony Tse) writes...
>In article <1992Nov27.164151.4740-at-esrican.uucp> bschwarz-at-esri.com writes:
>>Recently I added a 2nd 30 lbs of live rock to the tank.
>>Before I put in the last rock I noticed a bristleworm (sp?).
>>It was like a dew worm with spikes and coloured red. The
>>Pet store fellow said to remove it but don't touch it. I
>>tried, but I ended up breaking it with part of it remaining
>>in the rock. I ended up putting the rock in the tank.
> I wonder about that, everyone said bristleworms are definite no no
>in a reef, but I got quit a few of them in my tank and they don't seem
>to hurt anything. Has anyone eye witnessed a bristleworm attack on
>coral? Or is it just another one of those millions of folklore floating
>around in the reef hobby?
> Speaking of worms, I saw this silver ribbin like worm one night
>with a flash light after all the lights are out, it's about 6" long, a
>couple of mm wide and it was spinning around in the water. Any idea
>what that may be?
YES, I have seen one happily munching away on an elegans coral in the reef
tank at Sea World in Ohio. I do not give them the chance in my tanks. They
will also eat left over fish food and may prefer it to coral but why take the
by wayne/phillips.boulder.co.us (Wayne F. Phillips)
Date: Sun, 12 Dec 93
In <mdege.79.755378247-at-novell.com> mdege-at-novell.com (Mike Dege) writes:
>Fish netters - I have had my 29 gallon up for about one and a half years.
>I am about to remove most of the fish and start moving to a reef tank.
>I noticed today in a crack in the live rock, a BRISTLE WORM. It looks
>just like a picture I have and its about 1 cm long. I saw it during the
>day and tried to grab it with tweezers. The worm was not real fast but
>did escape, my questions are :
>1. How bad are these things really? Which corals are most susseptable?
>2. I only saw one, how fast do they reproduce? Are they hemophrodites(sp?)
> that is, can they reproduce by themselves.
>3. What is your best method to capture or kill these nasties ?
> Thanks Mike Dege, mdege-at-novell.com
I had a major outbread of bristle worms in my 35 gallon tank one or two years
ago. The worms remained fairly small, and never bothered the invertebrates,
but there were MILLIONS of them throughout the gravel.
My solution was to buy a very nice fish, a DRAGON WRASSE. This guy eats them
like candy. Only problem is, he is now about 3 inches long and may threaten
to outgrow my tank.
However, if you can find one of these they are very interesting fish. Bristle
worms did not disappear, but they remain small and deep in the gravel. If any
stray on the surface PUFF (my dragon wrasse) nails them!
Wayne Phillips wayne-at-phillips.boulder.co.us
Boulder PTSD Center, Boulder, CO (303)440-4599