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Bristle Worm vs Fire Worm?

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Ok so I did some lights out investigation with my tank and I spotted a huge bristle worm. Probably 3 to inches or so. Should I remove it and any tips? It quickly retracts inside the rocks when I flash the light on it. Harmful or harmless? How do you tell the difference between a fire worm and a bristle worm?

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Hi Tony,


Fireworms are a type of bristleworm; all true worms in the class Polychaeta (poly= many, chaete= bristles) are commonly known as bristleworms. Bristleworms derive their name from the rows of chaete or bristles that line the dorsal surface and flank of their segmented body. Some fireworms from the family Amphinomidae have hollow bristles that contain toxins, which cause a burning sensation when contacted, hence the name Fireworms.


These are maligned creatures - most are harmless and scavenge, though some species in the genus Eunice may be opportunistic predators. Otherwise, many of the errant (free living and active) polychaetes are useful clean up crew that help mop up excess food. So, my advice would be to leave this particular specimen alone unless you find fish missing.


If you really need an ID, a good picture of the worm - dorsal whole, and a closeup of the head would help.


Hope that helps

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Great reply, picotankie! For more information, start here:


Dr. Shimek's has many other writings on worms that may be useful as well.


BTW, 3 inches is not too big for one of these worms (depending on the species, of course). I have three 6 inch individuals in my tank right now... :)

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the common bristle worm is small and thin. It can easily get long and I've seen mine stretch to atleast 7 inches long. This was just the part I could see. No telling how much more worm was left in the rock since it never really leaves.


Fireworms are nasti due to size. They can reach 14" plus and are rather wide. You can google and find images of one compared to a tape measure. These worms are not only long but are really wide at almost an inch. The common bristleworm isnt much wider than 1/8 inch.

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