The problem was that they have been breeding. From a half-dozen or so, suddenly my little tank was buldging with a couple of dozen, or more, and new babies are appearing all the time. I would have to thin their ranks.
It wasn't only the hermits that were multiplying. From time to time, a miniscule red worm, barely a twisting hair, has appeared in the sand or among a bit of seaweed that goes into the tank. Some time ago, I started to see large worms poking their heads out of the sand, stealing the hermits' food, yanking seaweed down into their tunnels. Recently, the heads have been big, the worms fat. In the evenings, three or four would be out at a time. They circled the walls of the tank, stretching easily to eight or nine inches, with the tails still underground. And they lifted themselves straight up, climbing the walls almost to the top of the aquarium. A bit more, and I would be finding them on the floor.
I wondered how many there really were under there.
When I changed the water this time, I scooped out all the sand and washed the worms out. There were 8 big guys, several 3 or 4 inchers, and many tinies. The big ones crawled around two sides of my bucket; an easy foot, without half stretching.
They were beautiful; sleek and fat, wearing vibrant, dancing colours, reds and greens and neon blues, with pink triangular paddles along the side.
The camera doesn't do justice to these, probably because they're underwater.
Crawling up the side of my bowl. The top few inches are out of the water.
Beautiful or not, there were just too many of them. I returned the smaller ones, and three of the mid-sized ones to the tank. The rest went down to Crescent Beach with the hermits. At the first suitable setting, part sand, part rocks, well below the high tide line, I released the lot. Within a couple of minutes, all the worms were buried in the sand. The hermits had scattered in every direction; some had already found a cosy corner beside a rock. They'll do fine; they've had a good start, with no predators and plenty of food, and they're back in the same waters that they came from.
I've put together a video. Let me warn you; if snakes give you the shivers, you might plan to skip the movie segments.
(The camera dulls all the video segments to a blah brown. I think I'm going to invest in some really good lighting for next time; that may help.)
*More about these worms tomorrow. Here: Of paddles and orgies.