Fan Worm (Sabella spallanzanii)

Key features

Crown with two radioles, one is spiralled.

Mature worms:

  • are up to 30 cm long
  • have a crown that can be orange, or white with red/brown bands
  • have two different sized radioles (fans), one of which is spiralled.

Underwater picture of fan worms showing spiralled radiole.

Fan Worm Sabella spallanzanii
(Photograph by CRIMP - CSIRO Marine Research)


Which native worms look similar?

Sabellasarte spp. and Sabella pavonina but they do not have a spiralled radiole.

Picture of native fan worm Sabella pavonina showing lack of spiralled radiole. 

Native worm Sabella pavonina
(Photo by Sue Daly from

Picture of native fan worm Sabellastarte spp. showing lack of spiralled radiole

Native worm Sabellastarte spp.
(Photo by Peter Morrison - Fisheries WA)


  • in shallow subtidal areas between 1 - 30m depth on soft or hard substrata
  • often in harbours where it colonises man-made structures (eg. pylons, channel markers and pontoons)
  • can form dense beds.


Map of Tasmania indicating in red the distribution of the fan worm in the Mersey River.
The distribution of the European fan worm is currently restricted to the Mersey River (Devonport).

Permit Required!

To reduce the risk of further spreading this marine pest, it has been listed as a noxious species under the Living Marine Resources Management Act 1995. To collect and possess this species requires a permit which may be obtained from the Department of Primary Industries and Water by calling 6233 6208.

What you can do:

  • clean and anti-foul boat hulls regularly
  • clean/wash shellfish and clean/dry aquaculture gear before transporting to a different lease
  • report sighting of the fan worm to the Marine Environment contact officer.

Further information: