The Great Worm Incident
My first 500 gal reef system was started in February of 2001 with about 800 pounds of Fiji live rock. All went along swimmingly for about two years. In early 2003, I began to notice the severe recession of soft corals like ricordea, xenia, and zoos. While this occasional recession was always present in the past, it was now getting to the point of being ridiculous. I suspected that something was feeding on these corals as they would be fine by day and gone by morning.

I staked out the tank one evening with a red lens flashlight in an attempt to catch the suspected villainous shrimp or crab. What I saw caused many sleepless nights. Through an opening in the live rock, I spied what looked like a worm with a diameter of about ¾”. This worm was passing through this live rock opening...and passing...and passing...and then passing some more...just how long was this thing? Suddenly, the worm stopped...and way over on the other side of the tank,

I saw the head doing a lawn mower action on a ricordea stand...and not on the cheap greens ones; but rather, the $25 orange ones. With the villain now exposed, I was able to determine that this was a Eunicid worm native to the Fiji area.

But what perplexed me was, how did this monster that I estimated to be a least five feet long be able to escape detection. After a few more nights of observation, I determined that this worm was living in the ¾” PVC rock supporting structure. He would come out at night and feed, while retreating to the safety of his PVC tube by day. I now knew that his removal was mandatory.

I wanted to remove him as a single piece; therefore, grabbing and pulling him out of the PVC tube was not an option for fear of breaking him into several worms. The only course of action was drastic, but necessary.

I had to remove all the live rock and corals to remove the PVC rock supporting structures with the worm inside. After finally achieving this task, I was in awe at what I found.

This worm had grown to completely fill the diameter of the ¾” diameter PVC pipe and reached a total length of 7 feet. I had to disassemble the rock supporting structure piece by piece to fully remove the worm. Even with my care, I still broke off an 18 inch piece of his tail section. I’m sure that this worm came in on the original load of Fiji live rock as a 6 inch or less worm. With this in mind, that means that this worm was growing at a rate of 3 inches per month to reach his 7 feet of length at his removal two years later.