Dogworm(Vermecane on italian) and Eunice

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Dogworm(Vermecane on italian) and Eunice

Often mistaken by the less experienced for a fearsome unwanted guest, it is instead a useful friend and silent inhabitant of our beloved reefs. Here are some explanations in order not to be scared at the sight of this particular invertebrate.
The vermocane or vermecane belongs to the class of Polychaeta and its scientific name is Hermodice carunculata. Many do not know that this type of animal is also present in the Mediterranean in the warmer waters so much so that a few years ago there was a real invasion of these worms on the Sicilian coasts! The vermocane in the aquarium, as well as in nature, has a length ranging from a few centimeters up to 30!
It lives among rocks and seabeds and finds its lair in the numerous coves made available by the rocks of the beef.
It feeds on decaying substances, uneaten feed, deceased or dying animals, and other debris. In short, a real street cleaner! Because of this predilection for suffering or dying animals, he is often accused of the death of clams as he is among the first animals to rush to clean the dying shell. The vermocane reproduces extremely quickly, like all annelids, both asexually (by splitting) and sexually and for this reason it is possible to find several dozen specimens in the tank.
Although this detritivore is a valid help for our reef aquarium, it dangerously resembles a predator feared by all marine aquarists: the Eunice is also an annelid but with very expensive food tastes. In fact, it preys on our beloved clams and in the aquarium it causes death most of the time.

But now let's see how the Vermocane can become harmful to the marine aquarium and to humans.

For the aquarium ecosystem, the vermocane becomes dangerous only if it multiplies quickly, forming too large colonies whose food needs are no longer satisfied only by the organic waste of the fish. In these particular and unique cases the vermocans can prey on corals, anemones, gorgonians, zoanthids ...
As far as the relationship with the man is concerned, the vermocane has stinging bristles along the whole body similar to soft eyelashes unfortunately highly stinging in the event that it is unfortunately decided to take a specimen without gloves.
In case of stinging symptoms are: redness, skin irritation, itching, in some subjects also swelling, hardening of the skin and in the most serious cases even dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
To remove the bristles it is recommended to use adhesive tape so as to tear away what remains thickly inserted in the outermost layers of the skin.

In case of overpopulation, how to eliminate dogworm from the marine aquarium?

You can have a mechanical approach but the animal, reproducing as above also by splitting, if not completely removed continues to be present in the aquarium so the operation is rather useless.
It is possible to take a stand at night, when the worms are most active, and remove them mechanically using always protective gloves and steel tweezers for aquariums. Another effective and less invasive method is to use the vermocane trap which basically consists of a cylinder or plexiglass box where the animals enter, attracted by a bait, and are no longer able to get out.
The last possible approach is the insertion of worm predators in fact, although in nature crabs are the main predators these are not compatible with our reef tanks, it is possible to insert the stenopus hispidus. Thanks to its claws, this animal can be able to capture and feed on even very large worms. Another useful animal is a snail, the Hidatyna, difficult to find and able to feed only on small specimens.

Difference between Vermocane and Eunice

We must not confuse the vermocane (Hermodice carunculata) with the eunice (rimini worm or better, eunice aphroditois). The differences between the two marine aquarium worms are stark. This is also a polychaete annelid but does not have the typical bristles of the vermocane, it has a less flattened body and above all the physiognomic difference is very clear in the apical area where the eunice has five antennae. The eunice is dangerous for the life of fish and corals, so it must undoubtedly be eliminated.
We conclude by saying that this animal, endemic in every reef tank, is a symptom of a good quality of the rocks (if bought alive) and is also a valid ally in cleaning the hidden ravines of our mini coral reefs.
Elimination and removal is never recommended except in the aforementioned mild cases of overpopulation.

Article written by:
Angelo Dell'Orso


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