Christmas tree worms and other inhabitants (pict. intensive)


New member
Disclaimer to prevent this thread be filled with posts "they have a dismal record of surviving in captivity": they have dismal record of surviving in captivity, it's serious :rolleyes:

ID worm specialists and Xmas tree rock keepers, please, contribute!
What kinds of Christmas tree rocks do you have, what are the differences - in appearance, inhabiting creatures, requirements? Share experience on care and for how long are you keeping them.

All 3 at glance:


The first one, small boulder type, since Mar 15, 06 - porites only, works were dead at arrival or were eaten by sharpnosed puffer. Progress in time and creatures:
At arrival:

June - note porites color and polyps extension:

Now - become greenish, polyps are longer in the shade:


The new polyps at the bottom are green, not brown on the green background:

Will continue.


New member
The only inhabitants, appeared just recently, are the vermetid mollusc (wild guess) and medium feather dusters:


The second Xmas tree rock: the biggest, long brown polyps, big worms, Spirobranchus sp., since Jul 17, 06. Kept away from the puffer this time:
At arrival:

The system for it's keeping, 5-6g hexagon (good shape for a flow), Aug:

Close up, Aug 06 and Jan 07:


Together with a number 3, Feb 07, note larger worms' crowns:

Other inhabitants on it: big feather duster (ID?) and vermetid molluscs too (ID?):



New member
The second one survived the tank crash in November (caused by string of deaths: blue sponge- chromodoris nudibranch - eviscerated cucumber), when all other sps died, porites bleached and worms looked like a wet hen. Restored.


Note pieces of waste above.


note the white lining of the wormhole and absence of collar on the it's opening (the #3 will have this different):


The third Christmas tree rock:
The third one is miniature version in light beige: small crowns, small porites (if they are porites too), and is most rich in other worms:

Note yellow "collar" at the neck of worm hole - it's bright yellow with black-blue:

And the crowns of more intence colors and a cold shader:

Will continue.


New member
Other worms on it (ID, please):





and the small encrusting sponges in the shade.

Saltcorner mentioned, that the smaller kind may be of Indo-Pacific variety, thile the bigger - Caribbean link.

Share your experience, ID on creatures, useful links for differential care, please.


New member
Thats pretty amazing, you are successful at keeping porites alive and make them thrive.
may I ask for your conditions? What are the water parameters and what type of lighting do you use??


New member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=9274115#post9274115 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by venwu225
may I ask for your conditions? What are the water parameters and what type of lighting do you use??
Don't become terrified - really basic.
But well fed and PC light is supported by sunlight (1 ft from southern window, Canada), shallow sand bed (aragonite) or bare bottom. Water turnover 20x-30x, no direct blast, otherwise porites become closed. Starting from the big and pretty one (July), trying to keep them close to the surface. Water changes - to the level of the crowns, could be several times.

Water parameters could be better:
ammonia, nitrites - 0, nitrates - max was around 20 ppm, usually less, 0-5 ppm. Phosphates - max 0.5 ppm, usually 0 (or input of food matches consumption, and macroalgae helps, or, later, skimmer and some caulerpa in the sump are doing their job). Used PhosGuard at beginning, no ill effects. Calcium - was around 380ppm, now around 450 ppm, magnesium is made up to 1350 ppm the last half of year (together with calcium). pH varies from 7.8 to 8.4, alkalinity 8-9 dKH (water, added at water changes, has alk. ~15 dKH, IO). Alkalinity drops fast (in 4 days), have to use additives. Tests - most are AP, alkalinity checked by Salifert, Ca and Mg - Seachem Reef tests.

IO salt in tap water (I know, I know) :D , SG 1,026 by refractometer, temperature varies from 78F, up to 82F in the sunny midday.

The smallest and the biggest Xmas tree rocks (#1 and 2) were in 5g hexagon (light varied from 20W Coralife combo PC to the 27W 6,500K daylight bulb from hardware store):

the first one (small, without worms, now green) started in 10g tank on the left, with the same desktop lamp:



Later it was 20g tank for a short time (sun + the same 72W PC light as on picture above - long lamps):

After Nov, all are in the first 10g tank under 72W PC (10,000:actinic=3:1) plus sunlight. Only now with 4g side sump and protein skimmer ASM Mini, because of the food for a scooter blenny, who lives in this tank. Practically, it's all the tank, excluding tubing, connecting tank to the side sump, and a couple of LPS corals on the left and GSP on the right.

The small one on this photo still recovering from touching the glass for a long time (white spots), now - OK (green photos).
Food for the tank: mysis and marine cousine, and water from them (second change, or PO4 will grow), was in 5g a lot of dried cyclop-eeze, now a little, phytoplankton is growing on the glass walls. Micro-Vert, Chroma-Plex and Zoo-Plex didn't made a difference.

Did I missed anything?
I know, that tanks with such look are insult for reefkeeping, trying to make systems work, and after - make it pretty (started other way, it didn't worked).

BTW, have a permanent trouble removing detritus from under the rock - all the structure is in danger. Blasting by baster or flow doesn't help - all sets back on the bottom. The flow in micron filter sock is 150gph (it's for 10g tank). Will appreciate help.


New member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=9279966#post9279966 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by supervdl
What type of cucumber caused your crash and how large was the tank? Did you run carbon?
The detailed thread with photos is here , the cucumber was a victim of crash, just added own toxins in existing mix, silver-grey sand-sifting variety. Carbon - yes.

Poisson Voyageur:
About porites and worms - more details, what kind, what is specific to it, photos, tips on care - anything (please).


New member
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=9301314#post9301314 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by sandshifter532
Wow I heard those Christmas tree worms were hard to keep. How do you keep up with all those tanks?lol
You had seen the same 10g tank in different times :D , apologies for not being clear about that.
I'm overloaded and deadly tired of too many systems, trying to downsize, asked fro advice a few times, details are in this thread.

Below are some links from other thread:

Some good illustrated articles about different feather dusters:
- with cross-sectional drawings at DT site,
- Julian Sprung,
- Hitchhiker FAQ for ID,
- Ronald Shimek,
- Rob Toonen,
- ID.

Feather dusters keepers:

My main interest was Christmas tree worms, so I have a little more links on this.
Christmas tree rock, info and keeper's experience:

Enemies of both:

Any other links, other than articles and posts of these authors?
Feel free to add or share personal experience.


Premium Member
Oh yea! another chance for me to show off my new pride and joy!

I bought this rock in Febuary. I always wanted a christmas tree rock, but neverhad the lights for them, I was running PC's.
Just before I went to the BAR frag swap, I bought a set of T5s for my tank.

While at the store called Atlantis down there in the bay area I saw this rock....I almost fell on the floor. I negotiated briefly on the price and walked out the door with it, I had to repack the ice chest we had all our frags in from the swap just to make room for it. This is the best xmas tree rock I have ever seen.

It is being kept under T5 lighting, at about 80 degrees, with my parameters rangeing between 8.1 and 8.4 PH, 1.020 and 1.025 salinity. My nitrates are usually up around 40, and mt nitirites, and ammonia at 0, my phosphates tend to get high now and then.

This tank has been up for a year, and goes through many changes. It is not quite completely stable, not all my fault, but some is.
I have not noticed any worm loss, and have seen a slight growth in the porites.
The porites are a reddish color with neon green polyps. Occasionally I see the porites sticking out tiny little sweeper tenticles.
I do nothing but feed my tank porites now and then. And every other week I filled a couple of CC's of DT's into a syringe and got down in the water flow a couple inches from this rock and slowly squirted the DT's out.
The porites close at night and open during the day, and the worms are always ducking in and out.
This rock also has what looks like small shrimp in a few holes, and the have fan like appendages that they sweep through the water to collect food.

So any suggestions on ways to make sure this rock lives as long as possible is more then welcome advice for me.
I also talked to a guy recently that says that he actually had his xmas tree rock grow, about an inch in 3 years. but hey it's growth. He also claimed it has about 8 more heads then we he had bought it. So I think there is hope. He is the one that suggested the syringe with DT's.

This first picture is the whole rock. The second picture is me trying to get a picture of the green porites, but my camera sucks.



Premium Member
here are a couple newer pictures since moved stuff in the tank. The third picture came out bad, I was trying to get a shot of one of the shrimp that live in the rock, he is in the center, kinda hanging out of a hole. He is tiny, and looks like one claw is bigger then the other, kind of like a pistole, but way to small to be one.




Premium Member
That rock is a beauty!

It's really hard to tell from the image (yeah, too fuzzy) but I think you might have a Paguritta hermit crab. These are incredibly nifty hermits that have adapted to living in empty burrows instead of shells. They filter feed with feathery antennae and use their large claws as doors to block predators from following them into the tubes. There's some good images of different Paguritta species at


Premium Member
The one in your third link looks like them, the third one down.

I assume there are atleast a dozen of them in that rock, most of them I only see the little fan like appendages sticking out of a small hole somewhere in the rock, but I have seen as many as 10 of those fans sweeping at the same time in various holes.

That's kinda cool. I am hoping I can get the porites to spread to another rock, is that feasible? From what I have read it is a really slow grower.


New member
Nice to see the other fellow Christmas tree rock keeper! :wavehand:

Very unusual color of the worms, never seen anything like that.

You don't mind a some questions?
- What is wattage of the T5 lamps set,
- is the depth of the tank 24",
- are you using the natural sea water, if not - what salt mix and is it RI/DO or tap water,
- what is alkalinity, pH, and magnesium; any additives you are using,
- what is the substrate - shallow bed of crushed coral?
- how high is water flow, location of the powerheads or pumps,
- how much are you feeding the tank, who else is in the tank,
- what filtration are you using?

Just want to get the whole picture for comparison, may be I could improve conditions of mine.


Premium Member
- What is wattage of the T5 lamps set,
The lights are a tek fixture with 6X54w bulbs. I have 2 actinics, 2 super actinics, 1 1k and one 12k bulb. This will soon be made a little brighter by replaceing one of the super actinics with a 10k, or 6500k soon.

- is the depth of the tank 24",
I think my tank is 18 inches deep, and my lights are 6 inches above it.

- are you using the natural sea water, if not - what salt mix and is it RI/DO or tap water,
I am useing tap water with Oceanic salt mix

- what is alkalinity, pH, and magnesium; any additives you are using,
My alk and calcium is way high right now, Don't remember what my alk was, but calcium is about 540 to 560 for the last month. I don't have a mag tester. I add the two part B-Ionics, and coral vital.

- what is the substrate - shallow bed of crushed coral?
My sand bed is about an two inches deep mainly argonite with some crushed coral mixed in for my jawfishes.

- how high is water flow, location of the powerheads or pumps,
I have a ton of flow, I have three Maxi jet 1200's in the tank just for flow, one postioned towards the top of the water blowing from right to left, and two at about mid tank mixed into the rock work, both are blowing into the front glass, but one is pushing towards the right alittle, the other towards the left a little. Then I have a fourth MJ1200 on my skimmer which has a turned downspout pushing water from left to right near the top of the water, and then I have a mechanical hang on the back filter with just carbon bags in it that flows anout few hundred gallons per hour...yes all of this in a 55 gallon.

- how much are you feeding the tank, who else is in the tank,
I was feeding 2 of the frozen mysis shrimp cubes once a day, but then I was getting nitrate spikes, so I went to feeding one cube a day, then added a few more things to the tank, so now I feed one cube, twice a day.
-3 A.Ocelaris clowns
-2 pearly jawfish
- 1 lawnmower blenny
- 1 firefish
- 1 strawberry fish <until I catch him>
- 1 tiny yellow tailed blue tang
- 1 yellow watchman goby
- 1 cleaner shrimp
- 1 peppermint shrimp
- good sized bubble coral
- dozen or so mushrooms
- pulsing xenia
- three types of zooanthids
- couple of SPS frags
- few ricordias
- some button polyps
- tons of bristle worms
- tons of copepods
- a lotta snails

- what filtration are you using?
My filtration is a CPR backpak skimmer, a walmart brand mechanical filtration that I stopped useing the sponge like filters in, and just started putting the bags of carbon in it. Other then that my tank takes care of it self. I do water changes about once every two months.


New member
Thank you very much!
Now I have data to compare with mine. Will need to improve the light later, and have significantly lower flow and not so good water parameters. Have to work on this :D
Started to use coral viral few days ago too.


Advanced Bewilderment
I've not had much luck with Porites in the past, but I have a blue one (which turned brownish/blue) in my tank that has grown quite a bit in the year that I've had it. Any chance that worms will take up residence?
Porites are somewhat featureless anyway. Anyone seen corals with worms besides Porites? On a dive last year I saw these, but they're Caribbean and so unavailable.