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worms > Phylum Annelida > Class Polychaeta
Beautiful fireworm
Chloeia sp.
Family Amphinomidae
updated Oct 2016

Where seen? This beautiful worm is sometimes seen on some of our shores. Once seen swimming actively at night, in groups of about about 6-8. It is also sometimes seen washed ashore in large numbers on Changi beach. Although it is among the most beautiful of our worms, its bristles can give a nasty and painful rash. Don't touch them.

What is a fire worm? It is a segmented bristleworm belonging to the Family Amphinomidae, Class Polychaeta, Phylum Annelida. The polychaetes include bristleworms, and Phylum Annelida includes the more familiar earthworm. Many members of the Family Amphinomidae are known as fireworms because of the burning pain they produce when handled.

Features: About 10cm long. The worm is flat and broad with lots of elaborate hairy bristles along its sides, and a pattern of triangles or spots along the centre of the upper side of the body. According to Leslie Harris, the one with the circles in the centre of the segments is Chloeia flava. The other with triangles in the centre of the segments remains unknown. It is said that these worms swarm at the surface during breeding season. Otherwise, they usually hide under stones and rocks.

Fiery worms! The bristles are sharp easily penetrating bare skin. The bristles are filled with toxins. When irritated, the bristles are erected and break off easily, releasing the toxic contents into the wound. These cause a burning sensation, intense itching, inflammation and numbness that can last for days and even weeks.

How to stay safe: Wear covered shoes and long pants to cover all skin exposed to water. Do not touch bristleworms.

What does it eat? The worm is a predator, feeding on coral polyps, sponges, anemones, hydroids and ascidians. It lacks jaws but sucks out the juices of the prey.

Chloeia flava
Raffles Marina, Apr 04




Changi, May 08

Washed ashore and attacked by springtails.

Beautiful fireworms on Singapore shores

Photos of Beautiful fireworms for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map

Pulau Ubin, Jul 17
Photo shared by Abel Yeo on facebook.

Berlayar Creek, Oct 15
Photo shared by Johnathan Tan on facebook.

Sentosa Serapong, May 12
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.

Kusu Island, May 16
Photo shared by Dayna Cheah on facebook.

With grateful thanks to Leslie H. Harris of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County for comments about these worms. and identification of Chloeia flava.


  • Jones, R.E. (Ed.) et al. 2000. Polychaetes and Allies: The Southern Synthesis Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra. 465pp.
  • Humann, Paul and Ned Deloach. 2010. Reef Creature Identification: Tropical Pacific New World Publications. 497pp.
  • Gopalakrishnakone P., 1990. A Colour Guide to Dangerous Animals. Venom & Toxin Research Group, Faculty of Medicine, National University of Singapore. 156 pp.
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