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How Do Feather Dusters Reproduce In Aquariums?

Although feather duster worms were once considered a pest in aquariums and removed by people within the fish keeping community, there are a number of beautiful color morphs available these days so their popularity within the hobby is increasing.

Over the last couple of years, there have been a number of people sharing photographs of their rare feather duster worm morphs on social media slowly increasing the interest in having them in aquariums all around the world.

In recent months, this really seems to have taken hold as the questions that we have seen people asking about keeping feather duster worms is drastically increasing.

We already have our article going over why feather duster worms leave their tube but we have noticed people asking how feather duster worms reproduce recently.

We feel that this is probably due to the ability of a feather duster worm to reproduce asexually meaning a single feather duster worm added to your aquarium is sometimes able to reproduce by itself.

Although this is rare, it can happen and often takes people by surprise and if your conditions are optimal for feather dusters to reproduce asexually then their numbers in your tank can rapidly increase so keep that in mind!

What Are Feather Duster Worms?

Before we go too far, it’s important to understand exactly what feather duster worms are so that you have a better understanding of how they live and reproduce.

Feather duster worms are marine invertebrates that are filter feeders meaning they rely on suspended particulate matter in the water column for their food source.

They have a long, “feather” protruding from their head (hence the name feather duster worm) which they use to collect food particles.

This “feather” is actually called a radioles and is made up of numerous cilia that are constantly in motion to create water current over the surface of the feather.

Although the “feather” used to be white, over the last few decades, some dedicated breeders have managed to develop a number of different morphs with red, blue, green, and orange feathers not being available.

The water current created by the radioles collects food particles which are then passed down to the mouth of the feather duster worm where they are consumed.

Feather duster worms are not able to move very much on their own and as a result, they often attach themselves to rocks or other hard surfaces in aquariums using a sticky mucus that they secrete.

This helps them to stay in one place as well as provides some level of protection from predators.

Although there are a number of different feather duster species, the ones most often seen in aquariums are from the Sabellidae family.

Is It Normal For A Single Feather Duster To Reproduce?

Although most people expect feather duster worms to reproduce by eggs being released into the water column and fertilized externally, this is not the only method of reproduction that they have.

Feather duster worms are what is known as a polychaete which means they have a segmented body.

This type of body structure allows them to regenerate lost body parts and as a result, they are able to reproduce asexually as well.

This process is known as fission and often happens when a feather duster worm becomes stressed for one reason or another.

It could be due to poor water quality, not enough food, or even because the feather duster worm is not happy with its location in the aquarium.

Because of this, it’s important to try and create an optimal environment for your feather duster worms so that they are less likely to undergo fission.

If a feather duster worm does undergo fission, the process is actually pretty simple.

Do Feather Duster Worms Split?

The worm will essentially split itself in half with each half regenerating the lost body parts over time.

This process can happen relatively quickly and before you know it, you could have two feather duster worms where there was only one before.

Because of this, it’s important to keep an eye on your feather duster population and if you notice any sudden increases, it’s a good idea to investigate to see if fission is the cause.

While fission is the most common method of asexual reproduction for feather duster worms, it’s not the only one.

Another method that has been observed is budding which is when a small portion of the worm breaks off and grows into a new, independent worm.

This process is not as common as fission but it has been known to happen from time to time.

Can A Pair Of Feather Duster Worms Breed?

Sexually, feather duster worms reproduce in a manner similar to many other marine invertebrates.

The male will release sperm into the water column which will then be taken in by the female.

Once the eggs are fertilized, they are typically encased in a mucus tube which is then anchored to a hard surface.

The eggs will hatch after a period of time and the resulting larvae will float around in the water column for a while before settling down and starting to grow their own radioles.

As they mature, they will start to look more and more like their parents until they are eventually indistinguishable.

At this point, the cycle will start all over again with the new generation of feather duster worms looking for mates and starting families of their own.