New Reefer
I've had a Feather Duster Tubeworm in my 8 week old 30 gallon reef tank for over two weeks. All of my water parameters are fine. The tubeworm is suddenly hanging about half way out of its tube (about 2 1/2 in out) and its feathers are lying on the sand. It's still moving but this behavior just doesn't look good. Does anyone have any insight they can shed on this? Do they ever leave their tubes? Is is dying?
Mike D.


Experienced Reefer
I'm sorry that this response was delayed! I thought that I had submitted it before I left on Tuesday, but when I returned to the lab today I found that this was still waiting to be sent on my computer...

For a tubeworm to be hanging halfway out the tube is never a good sign, Mike. The most likely reasons for this are extreme stress due to unsuitable water conditions, low oxygen or physical attack by one of their tankmates. It could also be a post-shipping stress response if the animal was not handled with sufficient care during shipping or acclimation. Likewise, shedding the crown is almost always a sign of stress, although there is a wider range of possible stresses that could potentially trigger such a response. In some cases, this could also indicate poor water conditions, low oxygen, physical attack, or shipping stress disorders, but it could also indicate starvation or some other long-term problem.

Given the age of your tank, long-term stresses such as starvation seem unlikely, and I would be inclined to guess that some other stress is the root of your problem. You say that all water conditions are fine, but "fine" often means different things to different people, so that is hard to assess. Also, it is rare that people test for parameters such as oxygen level, and depending on which supplements you use in your tank, it is also quite possible that what you are describing is a toxicity response to unnaturally high levels of magnesium or some other supplement. The bottom line is that it is really hard to even make an intelligent guess at what could be the ultimate cause of the animal being unhappy in your aquarium without knowing a lot more about your tank, the water parameters and the history of the animal in question.

If you're looking for more information on worms and how to keep them, I include links to a variety of more detailed articles on tube worms in the Bristleworm FAQ. This also includes the links to my detailed article series for Aquarium.Net on each of the more common families of worms found in reef aquaria. I discuss the sabellid tube worms (soft tubes) in Part 9, and the serpulids (calcareous hard tubes) in Part 10 of the Reefkeepers Guide to Invertebrate Zoology.

That should at least give you a good start on what sort of conditions these animals need to thrive in the aquarium...

Good luck,


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