To assess whether closely related host species harbour similar symbiotic communities, we studied two polychaetes, Chaetopterus sp. (n D 11) and Chaetopterus cf. appendiculatus (n D 83) living in soft sediments of Nhatrang Bay (South China Sea, Vietnam). The former harboured the porcellanid crabs Polyonyx cf. heok and Polyonyx sp., the pinnotherid crab Tetrias sp. and the tergipedid nudibranch Phestilla sp. The latter harboured the polynoid polychaete Ophthalmonoe pettiboneae, the carapid fish Onuxodon fowleri and the porcellanid crab Eulenaios cometes, all of which, except O. fowleri, seemed to be specialized symbionts. The species richness and mean intensity of the symbionts were higher in Chaetopterus sp. than in C. cf. appendiculatus (1.8 and 1.02 species and 3.0 and 1.05 individuals per host respectively). We suggest that the lower density of Chaetopterus sp. may explain the higher number of associated symbionts observed, as well as the 100% prevalence (69.5% in C. cf. appenciculatus). Most Chaetopterus sp. harboured two symbiotic species, which was extremely rare in C. cf. appendiculatus, suggesting lower interspecific interactions in the former. The crab and nudibranch symbionts of Chaetopterus sp. often shared a host and lived in pairs, thus partitioning resources. This led to the species coexisting in the tubes of Chaetopterus sp., establishing a tightly packed community, indicating high species richness and mean intensity, together with a low species dominance. In contrast, the aggressive, strictly territorial species associated with C. cf. appendiculatus established a symbiotic community strongly dominated by single species and, thus, low species richness and mean intensity. Therefore, we suggest that interspecific interactions are determining species richness, intensity and dominance, while intraspecific interactions are influencing only intensity and abundance. It is possible that species composition may have influenced the differences in community structure observed. We hypothesize that both host species could originally be allopatric. The evolutionary specialization of the symbiotic communities would occur in separated geographical areas, while the posterior disappearance of the existing geographical barriers would lead to the overlapped distribution.