European fan worm

Body contents

European fan worms (Sabella spallanzanii) can form dense colonies and consume vast amounts of food to the detriment of native species. It fouls infrastructure and can increase operating costs for industry.

This pest has no known predators in Australia.

What to look for


  • spiraled fan for feeding
  • fan is white, pale yellowish brown, orange, banded red or brown
  • flexible, brown, leathery ‘tubes’ from which the worms fan can protrude
  • occurs alone or in groups
  • up to 40cm long.
European fan worm

Where to look

Look in or around:

  • artificial structures
  • mud
  • rocks
  • sand
  • shells.

Likely habitats include:

  • burrowed up to 30cm deep
  • hard and soft surfaces
  • shallow waters, up to 30m deep.

Established pest in parts of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmanian and New South Wales.

Similar native species

These native species look similar to European fan worm. They do not need to be reported.

Sabellastarte species

European fan worm


  • fan is not spiralled
  • fans are white or purple with orange, purple or brown bands
  • usually alone, not densely clumped
  • grows in tubes up to 20cm long.


  • hard surfaces
  • shallow waters, up to 200m deep.

Known locations include New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and the north-west coast of Western Australia.


Report it

See something unusual? Report it. Even if you’re not sure.

If you see something you think is a pest:

  • note the exact location (screenshot your map app or enable photo geotagging on your phone)
  • take a photo (use something for size reference, like a coin or note)
  • contact your state or territory authority.


Stop the spread of marine pests

Start with these simple steps:

  • Inspect and clean your boat or yacht. Make sure you check hard to reach areas.
  • Treat the hull of your boat or yacht regularly.
  • Clean and dry your fishing and diving gear after every use.

How you can stop the spread of marine pests.

Your location

Check our marine pests map.

The map shows known pests and pests to look for around Australia.

European fan worm (Sabella spallanzanii)

European fan worm (Sabella spallanzanii)

In Australia

Features:Grows inside tubes, up to 40cm long. Fan is white, pale fawn, orange, banded red or brown, spiralled for feeding.
Habitat: Hard or soft surfaces, shallow waters near shores.
Affects: Infrastructure, native species.
Movement: Vessels, and fisheries and aquaculture.