Irradiation with swift heavy ions causes the deformation of Ferric nanoparticles in direction of the ion beam. Fe nanoparticles with mean diameter of about 20 nm were prepared by gas flow sputtering and subsequently confined within silica films. Two silica films wherein two different densities of Fe nanoparticles are encapsulated were irradiated with 50 MeV Ag ions with fluences of few 1014 ions.cm−2 at 300 K and normal incidence. Transmission electron microscopy analysis shows that the spherical Fe nanoparticles are deformed into prolate nanorods aligned in direction of the incident ion beam. The depth distribution profiles of irradiated particles reveal the presence of a critical fluence above which the elongation kinetics becomes dependent on the nanoparticles density. Analysis indicates that for the lower density particles, a saturation length is reached under irradiation to fluence between 3–4 × 1014 ions.cm−2. However, for the higher density, collective growth into aligned nanowires is presumed to take place. Hysteresis curves of the saturation magnetization and coercivity indicate an increasing magnetic anisotropy, which can be correlated with the deformation of nanoparticles in the direction of the ion beam. © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.