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Feather Duster

Feather Duster Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

This care sheet covers a variety of feather dusters, including:

  • Feather duster
  • Colored feather duster
  • Coco worm
  • Cluster duster
Feather Duster


Sabellastarte sp., Sabella sp., Protula bispiralis, Bispira brunnea

Feather dusters are polychaete worms found living in most tropical waters around the world. They make homes in numerous locations, from rock holes and coral rubble to sandy substrates. Feather dusters are filter feeders and utilize cilia on their feathery filaments to generate current and pull food towards their mouths. Because they are filter feeders, phytoplankton and zooplankton foods must be provided to keep them healthy. Feather dusters retract into their tube homes when disturbed or threatened. Like most marine inverts, feather dusters can be sensitive to environmental changes.

Table of Contents

Typical appearance and behavior

  • Feather dusters are peaceful filter feeders who can be kept singly or with other annelids
  • Feather dusters come in many beautiful colors, depending on species, and can live 1–2 years or more with proper care
  • Feather dusters prefer average current so that plankton can be brought to them; they then use their feathers to trap the plankton for food
  • Feather dusters can lose their feathers for a variety of reasons, including stress, malnourishment and getting ready for mating season
  • Most feather dusters create their leathery tube homes using a secretion and items like detritus, sediment and sand
  • Coco worms secrete a hard calcium carbonate to construct their tube
  • Cluster duster worms tend to grow in colonies


Care difficulty Beginner to advanced, depending on species
Average Life Span Depends on species
Average adult size up to 10 inches, depending on species
Diet Omnivorous
Minimum habitat size 10+ gallons, depending on species
Water temperature 74–80°F
Specific gravity 1.023–1.025


Habitat size

A minimum of 10+ gallons is recommended for feather dusters; however, water conditions can change rapidly in smaller water volumes.

Building your habitat

  • Water health
    • Provide proper filtration to ensure optimal water quality to help maintain health; slow to moderate water circulation, depending on species, should be provided to mimic water currents found in the feather duster's natural habitat
    • Stable water quality (pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite) and water temperature are critical to the health of aquatic life
    • If you are unsure of your water quality, bring a sample to Petco for free testing
    • A protein skimmer can help maintain great water quality and high dissolved oxygen levels
    • An aquatic heater should be used to stabilize water temperature, ensuring it does not fluctuate more than +/-2 degrees in a 24-hour period
    • The specific gravity should remain stable; do not allow specific gravity to fluctuate more than +/-0.001 in a 24-hour period
  • Provide sand or coral rubble substrate to assist with tube creation 
  • Live rock can provide a natural food source while also enhancing biological filtration
  • Provide full-spectrum lighting


A well-balanced feather duster diet consists of:

  • Live, floating microplankton
  • Supplemental feedings of phytoplankton and zooplankton should be provided
  • Vitamins or trace minerals can be beneficial to all marine inverts

Things to remember when feeding your feather duster:

  • Feed supplements 3–4 times per week by dispersing food just upstream with a pipette or straw

Feather duster care

  • Maintaining great water quality with regular water changes and adequate filtration is important to help keep your feather duster healthy
    • Daily: Check filter, water temperature, specific gravity and other equipment
    • Weekly: Check water quality at least once a week
    • Monthly: Change 10–25% of the total volume of water every 2–4 weeks, or as needed; change filter media monthly
  • Coco worms require proper alkalinity and calcium levels to grow their tubes
  • Copper-based medications are toxic to marine inverts
  • Avoid overcrowded conditions, which are a major cause of stress and disease

Where to buy feather dusters

Various feather dusters are available for purchase at Petco online and in store; availability varies by location. If visiting you local Petco Pet Care Center location, please call ahead to check availability.


Tank mates

  • Clownfish
  • Damsels
  • Reef-safe wrasses
  • Gobies
  • Dartfish
  • Blennies
  • Peaceful invertebrates


Signs of a healthy feather duster

  • Bright, even coloring
  • Extended tentacles and tube are intact

Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian)

  • Loss of color or appetite
  • Limp plume of tentacles
  • Missing or deteriorating tentacles
  • Dissolving tissue
  • Missing crown

Common health issues

Little is known about diseases that affect invertebrates. If environmental conditions are stable and food is provided, invertebrates are fairly resistant to disease.


  • Where can I buy a feather duster? Various feather dusters are available for purchase at Petco online and in store; availability varies by location. If visiting your local location, please call ahead to check availability.
  • What do feather dusters eat? Feather dusters are filter feeders and will feed on floating microplankton within the aquarium, but they should also be provided supplemental feedings of phytoplankton and zooplankton.
  • What eats feather duster worms? Many species that are not reef safe, such as certain butterflyfish, large and small angelfish, triggers and predatory invertebrates—like decorator crabs and peppermint shrimp—can feed on feather duster worms.

Additonal Care Sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all aquatic life are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as atypical mycobacterium and salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your aquatic life or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for aquatic life and should consider not having aquatic life as a pet.

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at for more information about aquatic life and disease.

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.