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FAQs about Sea Star Environmental Disease 

FAQs on Starfish Disease: Seastar Disease 1, Seastar Disease 2, Seastar Disease 3, Star Disease 4, Star Disease 5, & Asterina Disease, CC Star Disease/Health, Fromia Disease, Linckia Disease, Sandsifting Star Disease,
FAQs on Starfish Disease by Category: Diagnosis, Nutrition, Genetic (poor species selection for captive use), Pathogenic Disease (Infectious, Parasitic), Predator/Pest, Trauma, Treatments

Related Articles: Sea Stars, Brittle StarsAsterina Stars, An Introduction to the Echinoderms:  The Sea Stars, Sea Urchins, Sea Cucumbers and More... By James W. Fatherree, M.Sc.

Except for the very smallest (e.g. Asterina) stars, these animals need SPACE... large ones hundreds of gallons, of ESTABLISHED system; NO ammonia or nitrite present... STEADY NSW (near seawater) quality

Assistance please; Killing Seastars, flooding the floor     8/1/13
<Hi there>
I inherited a 57g saltwater tank about a month ago. It included LR and LS and I kept about 15g of the previous tank water.
<A nice gift>
A few days ago I added some peppermint shrimp, crabs, Nassarius snails, and a sifter starfish. All appear to be doing well except for the starfish. 2 nights ago, he disconnected one of his legs.
<Too soon to add asteroids. Common beginning of their all-too common loss.
See WWM re the species>

 I've read this can be due to stress and a defense mechanism. He hasn't moved much and as far as I can tell hasn't eaten. I isolated him in a Tupperware container in my sump so that I can place some flakes in front of him.
<? What species is this?>
I had to isolate him because the shrimps kept pulling at his open wound. He hasn't moved there either and hasn't eaten the flake. Is there anything I can do to help him? Poor guy.
<Keep reading>

Also, my tank has some kind of stain along the bottom edges on the silicone. No one seems to know what it is.
<Is evidence of imminent failure sorry to state... You should take this tank down... READ re resiliconing it... new inside beads (which this doesn't have) at least, or perhaps just replace. Is a bunch of work to take apart...>
 My guess it has something to do with the sand since the stain is on all of the silicone at the bottom and up about 3-4" high. Any ideas?
<Oh yes; have seen on quite a few occasions. I suspect "it" is at least partly biological... but this seal is going>
Thank you,
<In future, adhere to our stated limit on image file size. Bob Fenner>

Sea Star Air Exposure   2/8/12
I hear a lot of people cautioning not to expose your sea stars to the air.
<Best to not>
I've heard things like "Exposing them to air will slowly kill them. If they get air bubbles inside their digestive tracks, they'll dissolves from the inside out...".
<Mmm, sometimes harmful... not as bad as poriferans>
I don't know anything about starfish but this reasoning makes sense. I'm wondering if this has been verified by anyone?
Has a study been done to determine whether or not this is true?
<Not that I'm aware, no>
 I often see some species of star fish (Pisaster ochraceus)
<Ah yes... and its congener here on the US west coast>
hanging around out of water at low tide by the hundreds so I'm wondering if what applies to them applies to subtidal genus such as Fromia and that the air bubble theory is a myth?
<Got me>
Thanks for helping me clarify this,
<Perhaps a college thesis... Bob Fenner>

I'm clueless - ID needed: Egg Ribbon -- 3/18/08 Hello! <Hi there, Sonny!> Hope you can help me to identify this creature. <Sure hope so!> I set up a nano reef tank about 7 month ago. I am into the hobby about 9 years now. All my water parameters (including Mg, Ca, Sr..etc..) are close to perfect. I keep my temperature at 78-80 degrees. 15-17 lbs of live rock, 20 lbs of aragonite, Marineland C-160 canister, Hydor Koralia Nano powerhead, AquaC Remora Nano skimmer with MJ 900. Current Satellite light system, 1 dual actinic and 1 dual daylight, 40 W each, 80 Watts all together, set up with a timer. Only 8 hours daylight. 1 small colt coral, 1 green eyed and 1 yellow polyps, trumpet coral. 1 six line wrasse, about a dozen hermits, about the same amounts of assorted snails. 1 sand shifter <Sifter?> star, 1 red thorny star, <Uh-oh, these two stars need much, much, more room in order to survive. They will not make it in a small tank.> ..and 1 cleaner shrimp. Very happy and healthy environment. Yesterday I noticed something on one of my live rock, something I never seen before. If you look at the picture the creature is right above my fish, and it looks like a target. <Nice photo!> Round shaped, and has circles inside.. The color is kinda clear whitish...Please help me identify this new critter for me! <Hmmm, it looks like an egg ribbon, possibly left by a Nudibranch or snail. No worries, these things pop up from time to time and usually disappear within a few days - as food for the system's inhabitants! Please see these links for examples of Nudibranch egg ribbons: http://www.seaslugforum.net/display.cfm?id=1128  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nudireprofaqs.htm> Your help is truly appreciated, Sonny <You're very welcome! Take care, -Lynn>

Re: I'm clueless - ID needed: Egg Ribbon -- 3/18/08 Thank you very much Lynn! <You're very welcome, Sonny!> I forgot to mention this is a 10G tank. <Yep, I had a feeling it was when you mentioned the light fixture, but didn't want to assume.> I also forgot that I just introduced a lettuce Nudibranch (beautiful creature, I never had one before) about a week ago, so I suppose he's the source of those eggs. <You got it!> The sand sifter looks very happy, I don't see him too much though. <Unfortunately, these need a large area of mature DSB to survive.> The red thorny star is not the African red knob sea star, but I'm sure you knew that. <Well, I wasn't sure if it was Protoreaster lincki or Echinaster echinophorus, but unfortunately, neither is suitable for this size tank.> When I purchased him (I bought him and the Nudibranch at the same time) they told me they won't grow bigger than 3-4 inches. <Yes, although I've read differing reports on their size (ranging from 4-8'). Most say it's around 4', so I'd be more inclined to go with that number.> Should I take him back? <Yes, actually I'd take both of those stars back. They'll starve to death in such a small system.> He seems healthy. My only concern is that ever since I introduced him to my tank, he's not moving a lot. Looks like he settled down on one of my live rock, and he's been there ever since. I see him moving his tentacles and arms, but he just "sits" there. I don't know.. He's beautiful bright red and orange color.. Any thoughts? <Yep, if he's been in the same place for a week, that's not good. Even if he was doing well though, I would still recommend taking him back.> My heavenly Nudibranch is all over the place, grazing for algaes all day. Actually I don't have too much of nuisance algaes of any kind anymore, is there any supplement I can use if unfortunately ( I can believe I said that:-) I run out of algaes? <Hmmm, you could try Nori, but I'm not too confident that it will be eaten. These sea slugs are nothing if not picky little eaters! They tend to like one particular algae and that's it. Some like Bryopsis, others eat Caulerpa, etc. Sadly, they're usually short-lived in aquariums.> Again, thank you very much for the infos and those great articles, I think you made my night much better. <You're very welcome. I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news about the stars, but they really do need to be in a much larger system.> If you have chance Lynn, please let Anthony know that He rule the saltwater world.. By any means, He is the greatest. <Hey, what about Bob! I say he's the greatest! :-) Sorry, but I can't help being partial. LOL I just couldn't let that go without saying something! I've never met Anthony Calfo but he does seem like a terrific guy -- knowledgeable, funny and kind. I'm hoping to meet him at IMAC in May. At that time, I would be most happy to relay your message!> Thank you Lynn, good night <You're most welcome, Sonny. Goodnight to you too, -Lynn>

Sea Star Help...but what kind?  4/26/07 Hello, <Hi.> I'll start off with some specs: <Okay.> 29 Gallon FOWLR <A bit cramped for most sea-stars.> 30lbs Live rock My levels are:   Ammonia: 0 Nitrite: 0 Nitrate: 10 ppm <Needs to be lower.> S. Gravity: 1.022 <Needs to be higher for invertebrate life...1.024 at least.> pH: 8.2 I purchased a red sea star from LiveAquaria.com the other day and received it yesterday. <What species?> After about an hour of drip acclimating it, I finally  decided it was ready to be put into the tank.   <No quarantine?.. and I prefer to acclimate Seastars longer, they are very sensitive to differences in water quality.> Everything seemed well, but when I woke up this morning it looks as if all its insides have come out. <Not good.> I looked up the articles on starfish but I really didn't know what to search for with this.  It is still alive and moving, but why has everything "fallen" out of it?   <Hard to say without knowing what species this is...> Its only tankmates are a Percula Clown and a Serpent Sea Star which hasn't even come near it as far as I can see, it tends to stay in its cave at the complete opposite side of the tank.  Is this normal? <See above comment^^.> I'm rather new to the hobby and my tank is only about 6 months old,  but it doesn't seem like something that would be normal for anything, to have its guts fall out.   <Good be a reaction to the shift in water quality; I would like to give you a more detailed answer but first shoot me a response with the species (Latin/scientific...if you have it) name. Should be on the LiveAquaria site or on your invoice.> Thank you, Brittani
<Adam J.>

Cyano problems and problematic stars 6/14/06 Dear Crew <Hi> I'm having a pretty big problem with Cyanobacteria.  My phosphates are high, so I'm currently using PhosGuard to try to bring it down.  <Check for the source as well, better to never have it in the tank than try to remove it later.>  Other than phosphates, ammonia and nitrites were 0, nitrates were 15, and ph was 8.0. <PH is a little low, but not to bad.>  A marine biologist at a local fish store said to put a dose of erythromycin in the tank to kill the Cyano and then to vacuum it out along with a water change.  She also told me to put snails and a Sandsifter starfish in the tank to eat the organics and detritus in the substrate, and to help aerate it.  Unfortunately, I woke up the next day to find all of the snails and the starfish dead.  This brings me to my first question: Are there any flaws in my plan of attack against this Cyano?  <Oh yeah.  Erythromycin, along with killing the Cyano, will also kill most of your biological filtration, leading to a whole bunch of problems.>  I don't want to do anything harmful to my fish or not do enough so that it comes back.  <Will come back as long as it has a food source and PO4 as fertilizer.> I also want to know, what does a starfish look like when it is dead?  I heard they get soft and jelly-like.  <Sometimes> My starfish definitely is not soft.  It is quite hard actually.  I believe it is dead because it did not move once since I purchased it last night.  This morning, when I lifted it up to see if there was any movement from its structures underneath, I noticed a lime green/yellow on the sand where it was laying. <Not good.> The starfish did not bury itself at all or move to a new location.  Even though it is not soft, is my starfish dead? <Could be, if it has not moved at all and you see no tube feet moving, likely dead.> Thank you, Mike <Find the source of the phosphates and manually remove as much Cyano as you can.  With time/effort can be overcome.  Stay away from quick fixes like antibiotic, nothing good every happens fast in aquariums.  Also few creatures consume Cyano so don't overdo it snails and other cleaner.> <Chris>
Cyano and stars Part II   6/16/06
Chris, <Hi> How can I find the source of the phosphates? <PO4 test kits.> What are common sources? <Tap water, food.> I don't overfeed the fish.  <Frozen food often can pollute the tank quickly.  Also some pellets/flakes contain phosphate.>  Also, when I do find the source, how will I remove it. <Ro/Di unit for tap water.  Switching food and feeding in a different manner.> Thought I'd let you know.  The starfish is without a doubt dead.  Got home today and now its a pale white/yellow.  So much for him.  <Sorry to hear.> Thanks, Mike <Anytime> <Chris>

Astropecten polycanthus...Not For A 29 Gallon Tank - 11/10/05 I recently purchased a Sand Sifting Star.  I notice the second day that it had lost two of its arms.  I have a 29 gallon tank with one Coral Beauty Angel, live rock and sand.  The water tests fine with the nitrate a little high <<how high is "a little?">> with everything else in the normal good range.... Do you think the angel got it or is the nitrate level? <<Could be the nitrates...doubt it is the angel.  More likely, the starfish was already sick/injured when it was purchased.>> Thanks for you advice Sandy <<Please do be aware, injured or not, Astropecten polycanthus will not survive in your tank...it is much too small.  These animals need much more substrate than your tank can provide in order to find enough food, and even then, will quickly decimate the biota in the sand bed.  Regards, EricR>>

Starfish dead or dying? - 10/28/05 Hi,  <Hey! Paul here> I bought a red sea star yesterday... I was told that it needed to be acclimated for several hours, that it was intolerant to changes in salinity, ph, temperature, etc. I acclimated it for 2 hours, first getting temperature even and then slowly removing some of the water from the bag and adding my water every 5 - 10 minutes for at least 1 1/2 hours.  <In most cases this would be sufficient but sometimes it can go much longer. I recommend up to eight hours depending on the animal but again, two hours should be sufficient.> After placing it on the sand bed in the tank it made its way up the wall. I moved around little by little all day. It did have its stomach out while on the glass, but later at night it put its stomach back inside and looked as if it were only using 2 legs to attach itself. Last I checked it was 1 AM. This morning around 7:30 AM I went to the tank and found it upside down laying in the sand. There was this white looking small glob of something stuck to the glass a few inches down from where the sea star was last night. I had to go to work, but I flipped over the star and tested the water readings... (also did the same before introducing it yesterday). Both yesterday and today I had readings of 0 ppm ammonia, 0 ppm nitrite, 40 ppm nitrate (I know this is high and I am in the process of removing my bio balls and plan on a big water change tonight). Alkalinity was at 3.5 or so meq/l, PH a steady 8.2, calcium at around 450 - 500, salinity is around 1.024, and temperature never was higher than 77.2 and lower than 76.7. Is this star dead?  <Possibly. A healthy star should have the ability to right himself on its back. There is definitely something of an issue here. Hard to say what specifically could be wrong, though. Do read our FAQs and Seastar pages available to you here on WetWebMedia. Otherwise do notify the retail establishment where you purchased the star from.>  Could it possibly recover from whatever happened?  <Sorry for the lack of a definitive answer, but anything could happen. Though it does not look promising if it did not right itself on its own>  Anything I can do besides waiting to see if it moves and or starts disintegrating?  <Water changes is about all you can do right now. Sorry to not be of more help. ~Paul> 
Seastar Trouble Follow-up 10/29/05
Many Thanks for your prompt reply, it nice to finally find somewhere that will tell you exactly what you have to do. <<You're very welcome, Scott.>> I introduced the Seastar but drip feeding tank water into the bag over about a 2 hour period and then gently let it out on to some live rock, <<Very good, though in order to best time the acclimation period, you need to know the parameters (especially salinity and pH) of both the bag water, and the tank the specimen is going into.>> ..so in answer to one of your other questions, there is quite a bit of live rock in the tank! <<Fantastic, after 8 months I'm sure it's probably looking good.>> Also fearing that water poor quality is the main reason for the seastar's disintegration, how can I ensure stable water conditions over a long period of time especially for the levels I cannot test for? <<Stability of source water if you're mixing is important, and if you haven't already, do consider setting up a reverse osmosis unit. The water from an RO (or, better still, but spendy - RO/DI) absolutely MUST be buffered before mixing. If you can find Seachem products in the U.K., that would be my recommendation. I cannot recommend RO units, as I've not much experience using them (have usually gone with natural seawater which presents no problems). However, we have much information on site. Do remember to hit that "cached" link so the search terms are highlighted for you.>> I change water regularly (just over every week/twice in 3 weeks) <<At what percentage? Also, I don't recollect any other information about the system and set-up itself. Size of the display, filtration, test results (including what kits are used), etc. If you're going to change less often than once a week, then 33% would be a minimum, 40% might be more in order as a rough estimate - again, depending on the size of the system.>> I use high quality salt and don't overfeed, the external filters seem to run fine but I do struggle keeping PH up at 8.2 and Ammonia at 0, and also struggle sometime as the water get a little cloudy. What do you suggest the process is to keep the tank and water in the best possible way for the occupants? <<This should not be happening in a fully cycled system. Ammonia readings (assuming a good quality, fresh kit such as Salifert) indicate to me that you do not have a stable colony of bacteria to convert (oxidize) the ammonia (e.g. Nitrosomonas) to nitrite. While your live rock really should not be "allowing" this to occur, it is what it is. I suggest, if you can find it at all, you give an inoculation of Bio-Spira. This is a live colony of bacteria that require refrigeration, but man o man, it works. Also, cloudiness tells me you could possibly be going through a "mini-cycle" - the bacteria that oxidize nitrogenous wastes are benthic, that is to say that they are attached to substrata and other tank surfaces only, they do not reside in the water column. Not to be redundant, but see here if there are any questions regarding the marine nitrogen cycle http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/biological/biofiltr.htm  The pH bounce is very problematic, enough to kill many fishes and inverts. My answer would be to begin including a buffer, again, Seachem has a very nice product line that is usually quite reliable. However, if your pH is stable at 8.0, then leave it be, that is fine and far less harmful than bouncing even a couple of tenths of a point. Not knowing the specifics makes it difficult to make any recommendations as to how best keep your system stable, but it starts with live rock, good quality salt mix, and regular water changes (which, you're already doing, yeah?).>> Ideally in the future when the tank is mature enough (how long do you think this will take?) I would want to turn it into a reef tank etc. . <<A year to begin being considered "mature", by two years, as long as all is stable, you'd be there. Observation is really the key, as well as the ability to maintain stable conditions.>> What do you suggest for? <<For..? The tank? I'm not sure what you're asking.>> The fish in the tank are: Pomacentrus coelistis Damsel (Blue Devil), 2 Common Clown Fish (small orange & white stripped) 1 Smallish Empior (emperor) Angelfish and 1 Copperband & a small regal tang, these fish seem fine and eat well but I'm now concerned how happy they are if the water quality is poor. <<What affects a fish and what affects an animal like a Seastar may not necessarily be one and the same. Also, without knowing specifics, I cannot speak.. specifically.>> What can I do to improve this for them? <<I don't see this as a problem for the fish if they are vital and growing.>> Many Thanks ScottW <<You're very welcome, and if I may, I'd like to suggest you add a book to your library if you haven't already. "The Natural Marine Aquarium - Reef Invertebrates", by Bob Fenner and Anthony Calfo. This would be best utilized for transforming your fish-only system to reef. Actually, I think this book would be indispensable to you. However, look for authors such as Martin Moe, Julian Sprung, Eric Borneman, John Tullock, and many, many others. I think that http://www.reefs.org/ has a recommended reading list that would be an excellent start. Best of luck, don't worry about the fishes, just know that the Seastars are delicate creatures indeed, you'll sort it out soon enough my friend. Marina>> 

Sand-Sifting Starfish Disintegration 10/10/05 Ok, here is my second of two questions. I asked about the Bristleworms yesterday. Thanks, that was super helpful. <Welcome.> You guys truly rule. 55 gal ~100lb of live rock pH: 8.2 at night, varies by <.2/day Ammonia: 0 ppm Nitrite: 0 ppm Nitrate ~0 ppm (might be /slightly/ higher than 0ppm, but less than .05, I'm partially color blind, so it's tough to tell sometimes) Calcium: 400ppm Temp is about 79-80 degrees (I know a little warm, but it gets really hot under my lights during the summer, and I can't afford to keep the house at 70 degrees to cool it off) Specific Gravity: 1.020 Lighting: AquaClear 300 light strip with (2) "10,00k 65w Daylight," (2) "True Actinic 03 Blue Lights" and (4) blue LED moonlights  The tank is 24" high. (mechanical) Filtration: (1) AquaClear 300, (1) Fluval 204 (which I think I shouldn't have purchased after reading your website) and (1) CPR "BakPak" protein skimmer thingie (I'm going to lose the AquaClear and Fluval, per your advice in previous email) <Good idea.> I have read over your website, and I haven't really seen too many postings about Sandsifter Star disintegration.  <Echinoderms, especially Stars, do tend to be prone to disintegration due to bacterial infections or possibly starvation. Likely the issue here> Most of the starfish questions are Bristle Stars...which I am morally opposed to since one ate my favorite Peppermint Shrimp last year... <Brittle Stars are a diverse bunch... Some, especially the Green ones, are active hunters. Most others, in my experience, are fine, notably the plain brown ones. Big ones are generally a bad idea, though.> Anyway, I came home last night and my Sandsifter Star was sort of holed in a corner of the tank, and to my horror its skin/scales were falling off of it. It was just disintegrating. It was fairly obvious that it was in the dying process, so I attached some pictures of it after I pulled it out of the tank.  <Again, cannot view pics. Luckily this problem is common enough that it does not need any.> It looked like its skin was just falling off of these dark green things inside the legs. I'm guessing the green things were the Star's nervous or skeletal-type system (they tracked what would be its spine/femurs if it had such bones).  <Yep, more or less.> The Star had been in this tank for about 9mo w/no problems.  <Getting enough food? Sand-sifting stars need a lot to function, and most sand beds simply don't contain enough biodiversity to sustain them for an extended period of time.> I am a tax attorney, so forgive me for not knowing the anatomy non-spine type creatures. <You have my forgiveness.> Anyway, I was pulling the live rocks out of the tank the night before because my Tang got Ich, and the Goby (the only other fish in my display tank) wouldn't come out of the rocks to let me move him to the quarantine tank.  <Welcome to the world of fishkeeping.> Well, so you know how cloudy the water gets when you start taking live rocks out, so during this process I looked down and it looked like one of the rocks had fallen on the head/center part of the Sandsifter Star. <Could very well have led to a bacterial infection, then disintegration.> That was almost exactly 24 hours before he (it?) started disintegrating. I confirmed from your website that stars don't get Ich, so I assume it was the fallen rock that killed my star?  <Indirectly, yes. The rock cut/bruised the star, opening it up to bacterial infection.> I assume it was the rock, but if there could be something else, I would like to know that before I start working on putting corals/anemones back in the tank. I guess the green tentacle-type things inside its body were what concerned me. The green things were wriggling around independently of the star, so I was afraid this could have been some sort of parasite or something.  <As far as I know, there are no such parasites.> More likely it was a part of the Star that was just in a lot of pain. So sad...  Rusty, Columbus, Ohio  <Indeed. Unfortunately, odds are good that the star is already long gone once it begins to disintegrate. Best, Mike G> <<Please note: these invertebrates do not have the type of nervous system that would "allow" them to feel pain as we higher order vertebrates would/do.  Also, Seastars can be treated for bacterial issues, often effectively, if they are separated and treated early on.  Google "Marina, Spectrogram, starfish/Seastar" on WWM.  Hit the "cached" link to find what you seek more quickly.>>

Chocolate Chip - Not Even a Cookie Hola!!! <<Hola, como esta?>> Thanks for all your hard work. Your site offers great advice to help me with every aspect of my tank. I have a CCS that is not doing well. My 20-gallon tank is just over 6 months old, and Choco has been living there for just under 3 months. He shares his habitat with a bi-color blenny, yellow wrasse, tomato clown, and everything that lives on and in the 25 lbs. of live rock in my tank. <<Ok.>> Every time I have had a tank emergency, Choco has carried through like a little trooper. However, he now seems to be wasting away. Over the past week, he has started to act sick. He has started holding himself up against the glass with two of his arms distended away from his body. Being a fairly active sea star, Choco moves about the tank quite a lot, but when he stops he curls his arms up over his belly. When I try to feed him some shrimp, I put it under his stomach, but he just creeps away from it as fast as he can (to the great joy of the clown, wrasse and blenny who have a shrimp-a-palooza until I pull the chunk out of the tank). Choco has not been willing to eat for a week, and he used to eat a lump of shrimp every 2-3 days. <<That is odd. I see below that you've measured some parameters, but not all. What are your nitrite/nitrate readings? High levels will cause the feeding response to diminish, often significantly. Also, do you see ANY necrotic tissue? AT ALL? If so, it's time to act quickly, remove the star to a separate container (heated/filtered - bucket will do) and try treating with Spectrogram.>> The water conditions in my tank are very stable (pH is 8.3, salinity is 25, ammonia 0). All the other fish are doing well and excited at the prospect of moving into a 55 gallon tank next month. <<The other fishes aren't a good gauge by which to measure the parameters for any starfish, including the CCS. It's actually the other way around - starfishes tend to be the "canary in the coalmine". Assuming there have been no large shifts in pH or salinity, I can only guess at this point that nitrite/nitrate are an issue. Otherwise, the possibility of certain metals being built up exists, but have no way to test for at home. Large water changes are my usual action of choice in situations like this. Be sure it's aged, matched for pH/salinity.>> Please help me save Choco and get him to start eating again. Thanks, Seth <<At this point that's about the best advice I can give you, Seth. Do some water changes (do test those other parameters, ammonia's only one, and not the only one that's toxic). Have that Spectrogram on hand anyway, it's good stuff. Marina>> 

Chocolate Chip Star Question I have a 3-gal. Eclipse tank w/two Chocolate Chip Stars which were living in harmony for over a year, at least until about 2 weeks ago. I noticed that two of the smaller star's arms seemed to be "broken" off and one of his "chips" started turning white, but thought he was just injured by falling live rock (my pencil urchin is quite an excavator). Yesterday, however, I noticed that the larger star appeared to be eating the smaller one. I pried him off and isolated the smaller one in a specimen box (inside the same tank). He seems to be moving and eating OK now but I was wondering, does he have a chance? I was also wondering if there is any difference between the colors of chocolate chip stars--the larger one is grey/black and the smaller one is bright orange.<Go to the link I pasted. There are several FAQ's that will help you. James (Salty Dog)>  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/chocchipfaqs.htm  

Causes of Starfish Death (11/21/04) <Sorry for the delay, I've been out for a couple of weeks, Steve Allen.> Today, I took in a sample of my water to a Petco. They tested the water, and said that the water was great. The nitrates and nitrites were low, and the ammonia was low. <Well, low is not zero, and starfish are very intolerant of ammonia and nitrite and rather intolerant of nitrate as well.> The pH was where it should have been, and so on. <Would be nice if they gave you real, useful numbers, not non-specific generalizations.> she also said, though, that the water might have been a little hard. <What does this mean. Again, useless information. Do you have a qualified marine LFS around that will give you real numbers and carefully considered advice?> Could that have caused the two of them to die? <Doubtful> I am also having a problem with brown algae. It is all over everything, and I am required to clean all of the components of my tank everyday. The people at Petco said I could cure it by leaving the light off for awhile, but could this algae have killed the cc star? <No, the algae did not kill the stars, but is a symptom of excess nutrients (nitrate, phosphate) that could be related. Your stars may have had a bacterial infection. Impossible to be certain. I do suggest you read the FAQs to learn of the real solution to nuisance algae, which is not reducing light,, which has a negative impact on desirable photosynthetic organisms.>

Sick African Star (5/29/04)   Hi, <Steve Allen here>   My fiancĂ© and I purchased a beautiful African Bump Starfish <Protoreastor lincki?> about a month ago for our 20 gallon saltwater tank.  He has always been pretty active and enjoys climbing all around the sides of the tank.  Last night, while we were out, the power went out at our house for about 2 hours. When we came home, we noticed that one of Oscar's legs looked like it is falling off. Is he okay? <No. Something happened during the power outage that damaged the star. It is at high risk for infection and death. I suggest you remove it to a quarantine tank where you can monitor it closely and treat with antibiotics if it looks infected. The chance of success is small, but it's worth a try.> Thanks, Kelli S. <Hope this helps.>

Bloated Star (4/18/04) Hello, <Steve Allen tonight>   I have a red general starfish.. I have had him/her since December ... After doing a water change last night, I noticed something strange today when I woke up... I called the fish store where we always buy our friends.. and they were stumped!  My starfish looks BLOATED!!!!  So bloated that it looks like his "flesh in pulling apart"... I am frustrated.. everything is fine in the tank.. ammonia is 0 same with nitrates, nitrites, phosphorus is fine, salinity is 1.021 (same as it has been since I set the tank up in November)..<Stars will be healthier if kept closer to the salinity of real ocean water -- 1.024 range> I currently have a 55 gallon with 2 clowns and 1 chocolate chip star..( whom has been curled up all day)  I am very worried... can you help me? Andrea <Echinoderms are sensitive to sudden changes in water conditions, especially pH and SG. How do you measure your salinity? Those cheap plastic meters are notoriously inaccurate. Also, do you check the pH of the change water? The most likely thing her is some sort of imbalance or toxicity. Check your other parameters (ammonia, etc.) too. It's hard to think of another cause for this bloating if the entire star is swollen. It does not sound as if the CC star is very healthy either. Make sure conditions in the tank are stable. Consider another water change to maintain same pH and increase SG slightly to 1.022. Go slow with changes and make sure you are using an accurate tool. Take some water that you think is 1.021 to your LFS and have them check it with a hydrometer if you're not already using one. Hope this helps.>

Falling Stars?  Hi,  <Hi there- Scott F. at the keyboard today!>  I have a 55 gallon aquarium that has been running for about three months. It is completely cycled, very little nitrates, no ammonia, nitrites, copper, salinity at 22. It is occupied by Bar gobies, Chromis, Horseshoe crab, and one Damsel. My water is resin filtered. I bought one Chocolate chip star and he seemed fine for about a month. I had a sudden temperature drop from 78 to 70 degrees and he died. I assumed this was the reason.  <Well, it certainly could have contributed...Dramatic environmental shifts are not well-tolerated by these animals>  I bought a second one, and it was only active for a brief period and then stayed in one place. After a few days, it died. I had the water retested and found that the PH had dropped to 8.0 and the Phosphates were high ( I hadn't been checking them before). I have other friends with thriving star fish at 22 salinity, so I didn't consider that to be a problem.  <In and of themselves, these factor are not problematic...But when you experience a sudden shift, it becomes a problem...>  Question: Could the rise of phosphates kill a starfish that quick? or is there some other unknown substance lurking in my water?  <I doubt that the phosphates could do it, but the rapid changes in the environment could...Stability is very important. And, yes, there could be some pathogen or other toxin at work in the tank.>  There is no algae to speak of growing except some diatom which is receding after I treated for phosphates, I feed the fish brine shrimp with Spirulina everyday mostly, the star would have eaten that mostly. Did it simply starve to death? Thank you. Randy  <That would take a rather long time. I think what you're seeing is a reaction to unstable environmental factors, possibly combined with some other problems. My thoughts for future prevention would include careful selection of very healthy animals at the dealer, combined with initial quarantine and environmental stability. Continued use of activated carbon and/or Poly Filter, as well as frequent small water changes, aggressive protein skimming, and continued good feeding practices. In the end, this should do the trick...Keep up good husbandry practices, and I'm sure that your luck will improve! Regards, Scott F>

Super Sick Sea Star >Hello hello!   >>Hello. >Ok, background...um, I have a 55 gal salt tank, probably 50 or 60 pounds of LR, ~120 pounds of LS, a skimmer than I run sporadically. >>Curious as to why sporadically, unless you're also running a good refugium. >A good filter and all tank specifications are good except recently I noticed a tad of ammonia in the tank about (.25ppm) so I did a water change and the ammonia didn't get any better... huh ponder ponder, sure enough the tap water itself has ammonia issues. >>Damn!  Good backtracking, though. >Ok, so I have fixed that issue and now the water I use for changes measures in at 0ppm for ammonia.  The tank is also registering 0ppm.  The ammonia problem actually occurred maybe two weeks ago and sometime around then my starfish - Archaster typicus - >>Commonly known as a burrowing star, or white burrowing star. >..began slowly falling apart.   >>This is NOT good. >In my mind these events only very roughly happened about the same time, but ammonia is a huge player in tank problems so it's worth mentioning.   >>Absolutely, and it's enough to send the animal over the edge. >Anyway, I think he may have been injured by another fish (taste-testing maybe?), it started as almost a bite-sized piece missing out of one of his legs, I am almost certain that none of the fish are picking at him anymore (I have never once seen them take a shot at him, although that doesn't mean they don't do it anyway)   >>Not unlikely, but just as likely that the animal is dying, as it would look just as you described. >..but this little bite-sized hole has spread, and his body is systematically falling apart.  It's very odd, I mean I can tell you exactly which piece will fall of next, it has a definite pattern, the "skin" stops fitting his legs closely, and then the little "bumpers" on the sides of his legs fall off and then a few days later the boning structure that supported it all, falls off.   >>Once you've seen enough starfish go, it's not odd at all.  Disheartening, but not odd.   >It's definitely not the work of another fish at this point...He's moving around like normal but right after the first little spot was missing I did notice that he acted a little sick...I read your FAQs but most people either weren't working with the same species I have or they described his legs as being mushy in appearance, his legs are definitely not mushy, they are like normal, except all the components of his legs are dis-associating...it's very sad to see, I've had this guy for a year come December.  He hasn't been moved recently, and the tank has been stable in its animal life (excepting the addition of a pair of scarlet cleaner shrimp), so there's really been nothing new to stress him.  I would normally guess the ammonia caused his problems, but the scarlet shrimp have been breeding continuously through the ammonia problem and ever since, having larger and larger broods, while this poor star has been getting worse and worse -- even though the ammonia is gone.  I don't know whose indicators to trust when I'm trying to figure out the problem!   I'm so sorry this is so long, and thank you so much for your patience and advice, it's very much appreciated. :)   Rachael >>Rachael, other inverts are not always the best indicators of water quality when considering starfishes.  They're definitely more delicate than the shrimps, and I'd wager the ammonia problem touched off a bad series of events.  However, if it's still alive all is not lost.  I would set it up in a small hospital, and try Spectrogram.  I've seen this stuff pull other starfish looking VERY bad back to the land of the living (at Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, MUCH to my surprise, as I thought they were GONERS).  So, give this a try, use water from the main system, mixed half and half with newly mixed water.  Plan on doing large water changes daily, so a 2-5 gallon bucket should work just fine for the starfish.  Hope this has gotten to you in time, and I do hope it helps!  Marina

Sick CCS Hi <Hello> My name is Kai and I have one Chocolate Chip Starfish for about one month and CCS was fine until our tank has ICH. I saw my CCS's skin rot...and I can see the white thing...(is that CCS's bones?) <Likely part of the exoskeleton, yes> What should I do? (I am changing the water because of the ICH but I don't know how to cure the CCS) <If you have an older, established system, move this Seastar to it... quickly. If not... Bob Fenner> Sincerely,
Thank you very much

Linckia Starfish Hello! I hate to bother you guys with a "is the doctor in" type fish questions... but I am really quite concerned and after researching for 3 nights a total of 9 hours, I can't find any solid information. I hope you will tolerate my inquiry.... <Certainly> I recently purchased a purple Linckia via mail order. I say purple Linckia not just because that is what the retailer called it. <Many animals sold as Linckias/Linkias... please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seastars.htm > I have studied pictures of both the supposed Linckia and the purple more predatory star it is often confused with. I notice the other star has sort of brighter orange feet, while mine has sandy colored feet. Mine has 5 arms not 6- although I'm not sure if that matters and although he might not be a Linckia it is my educated guess. <Doesn't sound like a Linckia laevigata... perhaps a Tamaria... a predatory species.> A day prior to his arrival I decided to do a partial water change. My numbers seemed great, nearly negligible, but I had very slight ammonia and nitrate so I thought some exporting might help perfect his new home.  <Detectable ammonia? Not good> After testing after the water change... both were higher. Maybe from water exchange stirring the sand?  <Perhaps... but perhaps from a dissolving, decomposing Seastar> I tested my source water and it appeared that my tap has a high (25) ammonia level. I'm not sure what to think except maybe ammonia and chlorine are related?  <This is a BIG question... you should not have twenty five ppm of ammonia... with an OTO test method? Chloramines are how high in your tapwater? Please contact your municipal water district (their number is on your water bill), and ask re the titer/method of administration of what sorts of sanitizer they employ... And by all means, irrespectively do make-up and store your new water per something like the protocol described here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/water4maruse.htm? I didn't treat the water I tested, (and when I water change I do aerate the salt water mix at least a day prior... also my kit is Red Sea... and I'm not sure of its accuracy.) At any rate.. he was already on the way and it seemed like more water change might make the picture grimmer so I just held my breath. <All these issues are not easy to discuss here, independently... you should either treat your new water (if it's not coming through an R.O. or D.I or both device) with a dechloraminator, or store, aerate it for a week or more before use> On with the tale... he arrived after a bit of delay... about 1PM rather than 9AM and it must have been a stressful trip. In the order also were 2 Mithrax, 5 peppermint, 3 Chromis, 1 blenny. The blenny was dead and one Chromis died. <Arggggg> I drip acclimated him and after he entered the tank he climbed onto some live rock and stayed there. He is in a prominent position, but not really high traffic. I only have a royal Gramma who doesn't create traffic. (The Chromis are in quarantine) I did not quarantine him because I am not confident how well cycled the quarantine tank is and the 2 fish bioload seemed enough, also there is no live sand or rock in there and if he is a Linckia he is supposed to eat detritus... however he is right in the light... and at "dusk" and at night he doesn't move either. <My friend... your quarantine system must be stable, you have to make sure that you can rely on stable, high water quality there> After he climbed up on his perch he curled his toes a little. 6 hours later they were uncurled. He makes a sort of cobweb above him. I know he is making it because I wiped it off one leg and it was back within the hour. The perch is in fairly high water flow. <Yikes...> Here's the problem... I'm coming on 48 hours and he has not moved.  <...> Today I lifted him off of it (I wasn't hard he doesn't even use all of his feet to attach) and dipped him for one minute in a Lugol's dip (mixed with the tank water).  <What? Why?> No difference now. He didn't like the dip. He curled his toes. I flipped him over while he was in the bath and I did not see anything imbedded in him or any abrasions. I also gave in and did another partial water change (although smaller) last night. We are leaving in 5 days for vacation. (the first in 2 years- of course I feel guilty anyways) If this guy dies in there while we are gone... he could wipe out the tank. I feel really bad for him. Although his toes look fine and he isn't showing any degrading of tissue he doesn't seem healthy. Any advice? All other tank mates seem happy and busy, Anthelia polyps are open. <I would move, isolate this animal in your quarantine system... move all else before your trip.> I appreciate your time, greatly. (If relevant... 33L, 220 PC full/actinic 14/12 hours a day.) <Not> P.S. Your site appears to be non for profit. Can I donate? How? I do have a PayPal account. -Brooke <We do have an Amazon "begging bowl" at the bottom of the homepage and indices... But please donate your time when you are back, rested from your trip and can focus on a longer term plan for your aquatic hobby... We can start at "square one", perhaps help you develop a relationship with a local dealer... a better regimen of set-up and operation of your quarantine procedure. Do enjoy your holiday away. Bob Fenner>
Re: Linckia Starfish
I thank you for your time. It would seem from your response that I am doing things sloppily but I do research for hours and hours each day and I am really attempting to be responsible... <You are close to a more complete understanding I assure you> The link you gave me regarding the Linckia (sounds like a bad pun) did not work so I was hoping you can repost it, if he is not the Linckia (I thought it was the predator star with the orange feet... you think it is the true Linckia with the orange feet?) that is important to understand. <Search the index yourself here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/inverts/index.htm the area is an article on Seastars, their FAQs posted near the bottom with the other Echinoderm pieces> Prior to our trip I will quarantine him. Also... I mean he moves enough that I do clearly know he's moving; he's just not "on the move", if you follow me? <Yes> I will attempt to bring a higher level of care to the husbandry of these beautiful marine animals. Believe me, it's not for lack of desire. Both tanks appeared well cycled with zero readings. Only after the order did the readings go askew. I suspect my test itself to be of low quality... another is on the way. <Good> Please do not feel burdened with a response, I know you are too busy already. I just wanted you to know that I welcomed and appreciated your feedback. <Never a bother. Bob Fenner> Brooke

Starfish hi my name is Zach I just purchased a chocolate chip starfish and it is moving a lot but the top where the  chocolate chips are is kinda puffed up do you think this is normal for them ?  I have 1 more question I just set up this tank to but I made sure the salt is right and the temperature is right to and I have a under gravel filter so does that mean that the tank is going through a cycling period? will it hurt the starfish? and if so is there anything I can do about it? thanks please email me back ASAP. < The star is likely fine for now but will have a hard time making it through cycling.  Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/index.htm Cody>

Starfish dying 3/22/03 My 220 gallon reef tank has been running well for about 5 years. The past few days, my orange serpent and orange Linckia stars have all been dying, losing legs, etc. One species of soft coral seems to be dying also. All other parameters OK.  Nothing new or changed.  Help! Ron <cheers, Ron :) Not sure what could be ailing your poor inverts on a general symptom... but, making an educated guess from among the many sudden echinoderm and gastropod ailments we hear... I'm wondering if you didn't switch brands of sea salt recently? Over the years, I have heard this complaint with a couple of brands regularly (stunning or killing starfish and snails particularly). One of these brands has had a prominent surge in popularity as of late. FWIW... I favor Tropic Marin, Instant Ocean and Omega brands. If no salt change, I wonder if there wasn't a belated evaporation top off or other sudden change of salinity. Else, do consider if there are any other symptoms or anomalies you can share for the diagnosis. Best regards, my friend. Anthony>

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