Hawaiian Feather Duster

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Dec 27, 2004
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Common Name(s): Hawaiian Feather Duster, Giant Feather Duster

Scientific Name: Sabellastarte sp.

Family: Sabellidae

Origin: Hawaii

Maximum Size: Could grow up to 6-7 inches

Conditions: Generally prefers higher tanks.g.'s, 1.023 - 1.025

Care: Hawaiian Feather Dusters are one of the most attractive invertibrates outside of corals that you can add to your aquarium. However, you will find mixed input as to how easy they are to care for. The feather duster is actually an annelid or segmented worm (similar to earthworms) that secretes a parchment-like tube that it lives in. It grows a large radiole or beautiful fan which it uses to help catch plankton which it feeds on. It is not photosynthetic. When this feather duster is disturbed, it will retract into it's tube which is usually anchored at the base of the LR. It CAN move. They prefer medium flow as this is what carries it's food toward it and carries it's waste away. They are reef safe, peaceful creatures and when their radioloe is extended, they are quite beautiful. The radiole can have amazing colors and beautiful shades of purple. They should really be housed in a large well-established aquarium. They DO prefer excellent water conditions. They are reef safe and usually are not predated although some wrasses may have a go at them.

There are actually two similar appearing fan worms. There is Sabellastarte sanctijosephi which is characterized by a two tentacular head crown and Sabellastarte indica which is most likely the one that we get at the pet store..it is most commonly sold.

Feeding: Feather dusters are filter feeders and they are omnivores. They will feast on live brine shrimp, rotifers and you can prepare your own concoction. I've heard that they like clam juice. As you would do for your corals, turn off filtration while feeding them. When these worms grow larger, they prefer larger zooplankton.

IMPORTANT NOTE: One of the most common mistakes in feeding feather dusters is that people tend to target feed the center of the radiole. These worms actually generate current from the OUTSIDE of the fan near the base and EXCRETE from the center of the fan. When you target feed the center of the fan:
  • the worm usually retracts rapidly from the disturbance
  • current from the outside of the worm exits centrally and pushes the food away
Feed from the outside of the fan near the base.

Breeding: Little is known but apparently the worms have been seen to break in half and the 'tail' end can develop a head.


Dropping of the Crown

On observing your tank, if you find that the worm has disappeared and/or you see the radiole abandoned on the substrate, the worm has taken 'emergency' action. They drop the crown and exit the tube and hide or move in response to stress. Reasons include:
  • malnutrition
  • stress of acclimation
  • predation
Most commonly it is STARVATION. You will most likely find your worm in another location and regrowing it's crown. However, the likelihood of this repeating leading to death depends on your feeding habits, tank size, inhabitants, etc.
RECOMMENDATION: These worms do not belong in nano tank systems. The water column is too small to support them over time. As with many nano tanks, inhabitants that require heavy or frequent plankton feedings MAY foul water conditions.

Response to Starvation

Abandoned radiole


Trying to regrow and survive


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