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FAQs about  Brittlestars 1

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

Related FAQs: Brittlestars 2Brittlestars 3, Green Brittlestars, Brittlestar ID, Brittlestar Behavior, Brittlestar Compatibility, Brittlestar Selection, Brittlestar Systems, Brittlestar Feeding, Brittlestar Reproduction, Brittlestar Disease, Seastar ID 1, Seastar Selection, Seastar Compatibility, Seastar Systems, Seastar Feeding, Seastar Reproduction, Seastar Disease

At right, Ophiotheia danae in Malaysia on a sponge. 

Brittle Stars Let me introduce you to my dilemma and hopefully you can shed some light on the situation. I have an established 120 gal FOWLR and has recently started to grow some beautiful red algae and Caulerpa (Don't know where it came from). Like I said, I think it's beautiful and the turbo snails think it's delicious. There in lies my problem. I would like to keep the algae and possibly get rid of the snails if necessary. Would a brittle star and a sand sifting star be the answer to my problem?  <I'm not sure what the problem is here? Do you depend on the snails for microalgae control and hope that the stars will do that without eating the desirable algae? If so... the stars will not eat the microalgae or the desirable macroalgae. I suspect that your snails are Mexican Turban species (large). If so, consider that Atlantic Astraea tectum Turbos are very well behaved (eat bad algae but rarely eat plants> However, there would also be a scooter blenny competing on the bottom.  <the scooter would not compete with any of the above. Brittles are detritivores, Astraea eat diatoms and scooters eat fine zooplankton> Enlighten me! Thank you. <best regards, Anthony>

Brittle Star My precious Weed (aka Brittle Star) quickly and embarrassingly devoured a mass of Mysis shrimp yesterday. <<They are pretty voracious eaters.>> I am guessing approximately 10-12. Later I noticed a bump on his back - or a lump in his belly [I don't know brittle star anatomy]. 24 hours later the lump/bump is still there. I did a quick under water examination and the mass does move. Should I be worried? <<Not at all, these seastars have an odd habit of doing this, I'm not exactly sure what they are doing, perhaps moving things around internally, but it is normal - mine do this too from time to time.>> Are B.S's 'A' sexual and he/she might be preggers? <<Also a possibility, but I don't think so in this case.>> Should I do some massage therapy and make him yak up the mass. <<No.>> Is this just a BS thing? <<Exactly.>> Any help would be greatly appreciated. I will be devastated if I loose Weed. He is too cool. Rhonda ~ Bend Oregon <<Cheers, J -- >>

Brittle Star Legs I am trying to do a research project on the regeneration of Brittle Star arms but I need to know how long it will take to see some regrowth of the legs. My project has a time limit and if I can get some data to analyze then I need to pick another project. Thank you for your help. <regrowth depends on many variables... condition of starfish before the trauma, water quality and feeding after the event, etc. To generalize though, regrowth will begin/be evident within a month to some extent. Full regeneration can take several months. Regular feeding and good water quality/water changes will accelerate regrowth. Best regards, Anthony>

Brittle star Bob...I have yet another question for you. <<Well hello, I'm not Bob, but I play one on TV.>> I have read things on your site in the articles and FAQ concerning the green brittle star. I added a green colored brittle star to my tank a while back before I knew that species had a reputation for munching on fish. I have not had any problems so far, but have a few questions. <<OK.>> When you refer to the "green brittle star" that might eat fish what species are you referring to? <<Ophiarachna incrassata.>> Are there green colored brittle stars of other species that are not a danger to fish? <<Not that I am aware of, just this one... gets pretty large.>> If so how would you tell the difference? The brittle star in question is about 1 inch dia. at the body with about 4 inch arms. What size fish would this guy be a danger to? <<At this size, something in the one to two inch range. These are documented to arch themselves in the fish's sleeping space, and then dropping down while the fish is resting.>> Should I remove him from my tank? <<I would.>> If so how the hell do I get him out without having to tear everything apart? <<Easiest way is to offer some food, by hand, out in the open. These seastars have a good sense of smell and will go right after food. Continue to draw it out in the open, and then just pick it up by hand. Have done this myself, and isn't really hard at all.>> Thanks again for your insight and advise...Jeremy <<Cheers, J -- >>

Brittle Stars Spines Last night I noticed the spines falling off 3 of my brittle stars legs. He was moving around this morning, when I got home tonight apiece of one of his legs has fallen off, about 1 1/2"s. My ammonia, ph, nitrites & nitrates all check out. I hope you can help. Pat <if the seastars were not new (less than a week), then I suspect shock from a physical parameter...most likely salinity. A big batch of freshwater dumped in for evap top off or an inaccurate water change could have shocked them. The symptoms sound very bad... be prepared to remove the stars for fear of pollution promptly. Anthony>

Brittle Star, freshwater/marine algae, euryhaline sea minkees Hi, Bob and experts, <<And hello to you...>> I just brought two brittle stars and I would like to know whether is it safe to keep in a DSB ? One is a Banded Serpent Star (Ophiolepis superba) and one is normal brittle star (Ophiocoma sp). Both are about 3-4 inch big. <<As long as they aren't green brittle stars [these can be predatory] you should be all set. These seastars really don't do much below the surface of the sandbed.>> 2. Just curious to know whether a fresh water algae (seaweed) is able to grow in salt water ? <<No, I don't think so... different osmotic balance required in cell walls, etc.>> 3. One last thing, I planning to keep brine shrimp. Wonder I will stay alive in saltwater? <<You mean like Sea Monkeys? No, they need true brine.>> and if yes, can I add those stuff into my reef tank after it hatched? <<You could add it like food, but I wouldn't add these as inhabitants. The resulting die-off could spell disaster.>> Thanks Regards Danny <<Cheers, J -- >>

Re: Sand & Stars Hi, thanks for your prompt answer. <<Hello, you are quite welcome.>> In your mail you said that "perhaps it's time to put a little more sand..." but Anthony says "5 inches or more or 1" or less... right now I have a 1/2" - 1 1/4" from the front to the back of my tank... <<I had to call Anthony on the phone to make sure we both sing the same song. To clarify without putting words in his mouth, it is his observation that an inch or less is a zero-sum; no harm, no benefit. In between one and three inches is certain disaster - the sand bed will be neither anoxic or anaerobic. Something between 3 and 6 inches is best advised - three is great, four is better, five even better and so on.>> So I think I will run for a Brittle star... (one? two? <<depending on the size, one, perhaps two, no more.>> my tank is a 200 lts with sump) My actual animal inventory is: 1 damsel yellow tail, 1 damsel blue devil, 1 tang, 4-5 blue legged hermits, 4 Turbo snails, 2 little peppermint shrimp, 1 banded shrimp. nothing will fight with the Brittlestar?? <<There aren't many things that 'fight' with brittle stars, the seastar would bail out rather than fight.>> Thanks again. Carlos <<You are quite welcome. Cheers, J -- >>

Brittle Star Question Hello Bob et al; My 29 gallon tank is done cycling. Ammonia and Nitrite are 0. Nitrates are 15 ppm and algae is starting to grow. I plan to keep a few seahorse plus a clean up crew.  <"A few"... do check on the needs of the species you have in mind... a 29 is not very large...> I have a couple of brittle stars that came with my live rock, that are about the size of a dime. (this size is including their legs) My question is, Will brittle stars be safe with my seahorses? I have heard from some hobbyists that brittle stars can eat fish once they get big. I think they are safe. I rarely see them, and they always just seem to be cleaning up the substrate, when I do see them. <Mmm, likely to be okay... only the one big-green one is real trouble in general... Do look into building/adding a refugium to grow food for your Seahorses...> Thanks for keeping a great web site for all of us that are learning!!! Kevin <A pleasure, honor and duty my friend. Bob Fenner>

Hitchhiker ID Hi, I have been reading with great interest most of the info on this web site, it has opened my eyes substantially. I have just purchased a small piece of rock that had a couple of mushroom polyps on it, however I did not buy the rock for these, but the two little creatures (things!) that are also there. Each creature has 4 tentacles that poke out of a hole. I cannot see what is in the hole just the tentacles that protrude out, they move in the manner a snake would (it kind of reminds me of the old Greek mythology, Medusa's hair). They are about 1 inch long with hairs running down the tentacle. I have seen food particles be passed from one hair to the other until it disappears into the hole where the animal (something) is. The tentacles are black and white bands from top to bottom, no one in the shop knows what these are as they were just selling a piece of rock with a mushroom polyp on it. Can you help? <My best guess is a miniature serpent starfish. Please work your way through Dr. Shimek's key to positively ID your animals located here http://www.rshimek.com/Invertebrate%20Key%20to%20Major%20Taxa.htm> Thanks, Haydn
<You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Green Brittle star and Coris gaimard  Hi Bob, I have attached a photo of one of my two what I believe are Green brittle stars. <I think you're right> I have a Coris gaimard in my quarantine tank and he is ready to go into my 90 gallon with my Koran Angel (he's doing great) and one of my green brittle's that I moved out of my 125g Reef. Here's the question, since the Coris sleeps buried at night will the green brittle attack him?  <It's a possibility... especially if the Coris is small (just a few inches)> I have heard that green brittle's are bad news, and maybe I should remove both of them and donate to my LFS for maybe smaller brittles (non green). What do you think? Thanks Larry <Mmm, up to you re assessing the risk, taking it. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/brittlestarfaqs.htm Bob Fenner>
Re: Green Brittle star and Coris Gaimard Thanks for the quick response. My Coris is 4 inches and has switched colour to adult. However I am not willingly to take the risk of a cheap brittle star over the Coris. <Me neither> The green brittle stars are aggressive, if I feed my corals, say my frogspawn with bits of silversides, they come out of hiding and take the pieces out of my corals. They are easy to catch this way just put a large chunk of silversides in the front of the tank and out they come. Thanks again Larry
<Yikes. I say the heave-ho as well. Bob Fenner>

Small brittle stars Dear Bob: <Anthony Calfo in your service> I have recently noticed small white brittle stars poking out of my live rock during feedings. Was curious if there are any special requirements of these animals as I think I would like to keep them if possible. Any idea as to what size these will get to be? <livebearing starfish... adult size is fractions of an inch. They grow and breed naturally in systems with regular feedings but reef safe fishes, A fishless refugium is the best place to encourage their reproduction> Also have noticed small (1/8-1/4") white almost furry looking little "pods" on the back wall and some of the rock in my main tank. They appear to have an opening on the surface furthest from the glass. These "pods" do not move and are not appearing to harm anything, however I don't really like the appearance of them hanging around. The openings appear somewhat like the fan on a tubeworm only very small and do not close. Any idea as to what these critters are?? Was afraid they were "ich polyps" (not that I know what those look like either!) but there are no signs of ich?? <harmless Syconoid sponges...very common pillowy pods. Enjoy the diversity!> Thanks for your help Doug Tuhro Edwardsville, IL <with kind regards, Anthony>

Brittle Star Question. A few weeks ago I bought a brittle star for my newly cycled reef tank. I had two damsels and a chocolate chip star in with it. One day I came across my brittle star in full daylight sitting on my highest rock in the tank with all his arms sticking straight out. Also, he was excreting a white liquid into the water.  <from where did it originate? Assumedly from under the center of the body?> He has all his arms and no cuts anywhere. What is he doing and will it contaminate my tank?  <not clear just yet, but no it is not toxic and it will not contaminate your tank unless it is dying/rotting. I assume though that it moved on?> I'm willing to get rid of him because I mysteriously lost both damsels about a week after that. Thanks, Laura <yikes... easy on the knee-jerk reactions, my friend. I'd hate to be a bad child in your house <smile>. One strike and you're homeless! Hehe... I'm sure the starfish dis not kill the damsels. And if the starfishes behavior was related at all... it was due to the fact that whatever stressed and killed the damsels could have stressed the starfish first in to behaving so. Since it is a new tank.. have you confirmed that your chemistry is/has been stable? When in doubt, do a water change. Best regards, Anthony>

Brittle Star Question. Thank you for emailing back so quickly about my brittle star question with the white secretion it was emitting.  <my pleasure> I work for a pet store, so I'm pretty informed on a few things concerning brittle stars, but no one at work knew what mine was doing. I finally contacted the seller and he informed me it was a green brittle star (the ones notorious for sneaking up on sleeping fish).  <arghhhh! O. incrassata, the wily devil!> I traded him in for a safer cleaner... a hermit crab. So thanks for your quick response! For future knowledge, what was the white stuff my brittle star was emitting? It looked like it was coming from under his disc and he was doing it for at least a half an hour. Possibly sperm?  <possible but not likely eggs/sperm. More likely the product of digestion. Many echinoderms graze aggressively on the rock surface and pick up calcareous material (corallines, etc) to digest the organic material off of them (algae, bacteria, crustacea, etc)... the indigestible material is simply discarded. My educated guess without having seen the event I have no clue and everyone at the shop wants to know! Thank again! Sincerely, Laura <best regards, Anthony Calfo>

Serpent Star Hello Good Sir, <Anthony Calfo in your service> I have a green serpent starfish and the end of it's arms have either broken or rotted off. Just the very tips are missing and you can see the flesh. I have been adding some iodine and calcium to the tank for my coral. I hope it is helping with the healing process of the starfish. <yes... focus on good water quality and the iodine sounds nice...perhaps helpful> Any info would be appreciated. Also what types of food should I be feeding this guy and how often. <assorted meaty foods several times weekly will be fine (shell on for shrimp/crustacea). Do be warned that the green brittle star (O. incrassata) is predatory and will eventually catch and kill small fish and some other desirable reef invertebrates on occasion (like Tridacnid clams!). One of the only bad reef stars. Might behave itself for months but do keep an eye open or don't risk it at all. Anthony> Thanks, Chad

Green serpent starfish (and copper removal) Dear Bob, I purchased a green serpent starfish about 2 months ago. 3 weeks ago I had an outbreak of something that the pet store recommended that I treat with copper. I removed all my invertebrates during the treatment. I put new carbon filters in my filter set up after the treatment was finished (I had removed them during treatment.) After 6 hours with the new carbon, I put my invertebrates back in. My snails died within 48 hours, (I found out after that they don't tolerate copper). My hermit crabs are doing great, but my starfish, Stretch, is having trouble. His spines are all falling off, and he lost a small section of 1 leg. Are stars sensitive to copper?  <Yes, most are quite> Should I remove him from this tank. I have heard that once you use any copper treatment that you can never fully remove it from your system. I don't want to lose Stretch, what can I do? <Use a product called PolyFilter (tm) to assure the bit of copper that may be being "re-released" in your system is removed. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/curemovalfaqs.htm and beyond. Test to see if there is any discernible copper left... if this animal is not overly-toxified, it will regenerate its lost parts. Bob Fenner> Kathy

Re: Green serpent starfish Thank you for your help. Will try to find this PolyFilter in my area. Is there anything else that could be used? My pet store has a product called "Cuprisorb". Do you know if this is any good? <Do know this product. The Poly-Bio-Marine (PolyFilter) item is better... and will change color with absorption. As you will see. Etailers listed on WetWebMedia.com carry the PolyFilter product. Bob Fenner> Kathy

Marine questions, Shreemps, brittle stars, goby diffs! -Can I keep a pistol shrimp which is living in a symbiosis together with a Cryptocentrus cinctus (yellow goby) together with a peppermint shrimp, or will they start fighting? <My pistol shrimp have killed cleaner shrimp.> -My brittle star have got a lot of small brittle star babies, will a new brittle star eat them, and what shall i feed them? <The small brittle starfish are probably a different species. These mini brittle starfish are detritivores and do not need target fed.> -Do you know how i can see the difference on a yellow goby? -Arne <I am guessing you mean "difference" in the sexes of the fish. There are some subtle differences in size and girth of the belly when you see an obvious pair together. Baensch "Marine Atlas: Volume 1" was an in depth description. -Steven Pro>

Strange starfish pests Hi Bob... <You actually reached Steven Pro working his shift answering queries at WWM. Anthony Calfo and I are helping out for the time being.> I have been noticing lately while cleaning my 55 gal reef aquarium, that I have an abundance on small (1 centimeter or so) white critters that look a lot like serpent starfish. The perplexing thing about this find is that I have no serpent stars in my tank. I have an overflow filter that seems to catch a bunch of these things in the filter media and have also seen them cruising across the rear glass in the morning when I turn on the lights. Are they something I should be concerned about? They seem to be multiplying rather quickly. <They are nothing to worry about. You are correct, they are tiny serpent starfish. They are not babies, but miniature adults that are brooders and are quite prolific. They make excellent scavengers. -Steven Pro> Carrie

Serpent Star? Iodide/Lugol's I have a few questions about a variety of aquarium subjects. First, I received some rock from Marine Depot Live (a very good company in my opinion) <Yes, friends> that was covered in Caulerpa algae. In the midst of the algae I noticed what appeared to be four + arms. These arms appear about .5 mm in diameter, and they are banded maroon or red and white or light blue. The arms seem to radiate from a central vicinity but I cannot locate the exact center. These thin arms are long and stretch out and contract. They seem to move slowly forward and ?feel? in front of them before they grab on (the arms appear to be at least 10 cm long when stretched out). What I was wondering is if this is a serpent star (Ophioderma rubicundum possibly). If no, what would you identify this as? How could I help to keep this alive? <Should be able to keep alive... might actually be a polychaete worm of some sort alternatively...> Now onto other questions about additives/medications: Would you recommend Lugol?s Solution or the commercially available coral dips to do a protective dip for soft corals and/or other invertebrates? <I do recommend such dips... generally not with Lugol's but simple potassium iodide solution. Please read here: http://www.athiel.com/html/iodinerivers.html> I lost my old e-mails so I need to ask you this again: How would I make citrated copper sulfate solution (percentages, etc.)? <About ten percent (by weight) citric acid, copper sulfate pentahydrate (you can work out percent/weight composition), and distilled, DI or RO water> How would I make a potassium iodide solution to dose a saltwater aquarium (I have some KI crystals ? I just need to know measurements)? <See the above reference. Bob Fenner> Thank you, Kevin

Brittle stars hello , i have a green brittle star, in my tank, and i am wanting to buy a small snowflake eel, do you think they will get along ok <Yes, these two should. This species of Moray doesn't eat starfishes, and the Green Brittle Star should leave the Eel alone. Some info. on the Snowflake can be found on our site here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/snowflakemoray.htm and the Star here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestars.htm Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Re: brittle stars >thanks for the links, i just had a pet store to tell me i couldn't have an eel with my brittle star cause the eel would eat it <Mmm, no... this species mainly eats crustaceans in the wild. Take a look under the species name, Echidna nebulosa, in the scientific literature, e.g. fishbase.org. Bob Fenner>

Brittle stars Hi Bob Fenner, Jana here with the ichy sicky Ole the Kole Tang, who by the way is doing fabulous ! He just loves his hospital tank, I don't think he is going to want to go back to the main tank ! Anyway, I am writing because I have just discovered 3-5 or 6 or 7 (??) brittle stars in my tank. They are pretty small right now, about the size of quarter with their legs stretched out. Most of them are a creamy white color, the other few are green and white striped. I have looked on the wetwebmedia and can't really find pictures that look like them.  <There are many species of Brittle, Serpent Stars.> Do you possibly know if these little guys will get big enough to eat my fish in the future? <Doubtful.> If so, they are so out of there ! Also, do Aiptasia attach themselves to the glass?  <Can, but almost always found attached to rock> I have hundreds of polyps looking light brown "things" hanging just on one side of the tank. They are soooo tiny you need a magnifying glass just to make out their shape. Possibly the beginning stage of Aiptasia? <Not likely> Alright, I've picked your brain enough for now. Thanks for any advice you might have. Peace, Jana <And to you my friend. Bob Fenner>

Brittle stars hey , I have a green brittle star, i bought from a pet store, about 4 days later he started losing his legs in little pieces until finally all he has is five stubs, he is still alive, you think he will grow them back , The guy at the pet store picked him up for me by the legs, it says on the net you are not supposed to touch them , is this the reason he has lost them <Maybe regenerate... shouldn't be pulled, lifted out of the water... Please read the following section of our site and related FAQs file: http://wetwebmedia.com/brittlestars.htm Bob Fenner>

Red Serpent Star Needs Help Hello Bob, <Hi there> While surfing around trying to find some information for a friend's Red Serpent Star, I happed upon you site, and thought that just maybe you could give some suggestions that will help this poor fella out. <Okay> Here goes: The star is in a 20 gallon quarantine tank and has been there since his arrival around 5 months ago. It was noted at that time that this sweet fellow had some white (what appeared to be deteriorating patches) on his legs. They have multiplied : ( She feels it is a bacterial infection and has of yet to find a medication to alleviate the problem. She has had Blue Linckia who have arrived with he same problem but have never made it this long. <Yikes... five months? Likely if this is something infectious it is "not catching"... I would place this specimen in a permanent, stable, live-rock containing system> When last tested : PH - 8.2 Salinity - 1.0215 Temp. - 80 degrees Filter Rate: 301-350 gph Lighting low to natural light Heater size 75 watts Do you know of any treatments? <As stated... really no treatment per se... as in "medicine". Do simply move this animal (underwater, subdued lighting, in a bag, specimen container... into the main/display system. If conditions are favorable there it will improve. If it should perish, there is not much chance of trouble with pollution... and very unlikely any from pathogens> Any information, direction, encouragement, treatment, anything, anything will be appreciated. Sincerely Nina Daniel <Will "move up" on my writing schedule a better Serpent Star article. Thank you for your query. Bob Fenner>

Re: Red Serpent Star Needs Help Morning Bob, Thank you so much for your response. I will forward your suggestion to her immediately and will continue to frequent your site as the information I am finding there is wonderful. <Real good my friend. Be chatting. Bob Fenner> Again, thank you ~ Nina Daniel

Sick Serpent Star Hi, I read your responses to other peoples questions and they were very helpful. <Ah, good> I have a green Serpent Star named Pepe that is about 4 years old and he has recently become quite sick. I noticed that one of his legs has detached from the socket and then later that day, a piece broke off of another leg. <Not good signs> I recently had an algae problem and my water quality is not the best right now. I have a 33 gallon hex tank with only have one other fish in the tank with some live rock. I thought if I slowly changed the water over a period of time to improve the water quality, it may help him. I vacuumed and changed only 4 gallons of water. The next day he broke off half of another leg and the next day another half. He is still trying to eat but he is having a hard time getting food. I also noticed that he has two large vertical openings underneath his disc on each side of one of his legs where I can see his insides. I can't tell if those are the only openings. Also, where he lost is full leg, now there is an opening to inside his disk. <Time to make much more concerted attempts at improving water quality...> I read all of your responses to related questions and was hopeful that he may recover but now I am not so sure. Should I continue to change a few gallons of water everyday to help improve his conditions or will that make matters worse? I also don't know what to do with the detached leg pieces. The are still moving and although I know they can't live forever, it seems weird to flush them when there are still alive. <I would make a massive (like half) water change if you can be sure the new water is "okay"... better if it were pre-made up and stored ahead of use... but I wouldn't wait even if it had to be made now and used... And do gravel vacuum the bottom in removing the present water. Also, I would add some activated carbon to your filter... And clean out whatever filter gear you do have in the process. Do you have live rock?> I'm sorry to send you such a lengthy e-mail and I appreciate any information that you can give me to help save Pepe's life. <The length of these messages is of little concern. Supplying enough information, expressing yourself is. Good luck my friend. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Gina

Re: Sick Serpent Star Wow - I can't believe you responded so quickly. You are so sweet for sharing your knowledge with me. <An honor m'lady> I do have live rock in my tank. What percentage of water should I change at a time without hurting my other fish but still helping my Serpent Star? <Perhaps 20-25 percent.> You're the best. Thanks, Gina <Again, good luck my friend. Be of good life. Bob Fenner>

Serpent Star I bought a Serpent Star for my 55 Gal Tank about 2 weeks ago. This is my first attempt at keeping seastars. He has been eating fine and seemed happy until today. Yesterday I did a 20% water change. The temp didn't spike either direction. The salinity was almost a perfect match. Water quality is great with a slight rise in nitrates. I had to move all my live rock around in the process a very small piece of rock (maybe (1/8 lb.) tipped over and landed on my serpent's disk. I checked him out and he looked fine, not damaged at all that I could see. Today he has lost 2 arms and there is a hole in his disk. White "tissue" and some small green ball shaped things are visible inside him. Some of the green balls have come out and floated into my tank. Is there anything I can do to help him? <Best just to do what you can to keep the system optimized and stable...> He is still alive and moving, although I haven't been able to get him to eat yet... Can you offer any suggestions? Thank you! Phyllis <Spiny-skinned animals have remarkable powers of healing, regeneration... hopefully yours will persist. Bob Fenner>

HELP!! EMERGENCY!!! I have a 90 gallon tank, all the tests are in normal range, My serpent star is loosing it's legs. What do I do??? <Nothing without knowing more... they will regenerate if all else is okay. Bob Fenner> Thank You Tanya

Fish comp. letter correction Hi Bob, Just emailed you question about Jawfish getting eaten by starfishes. I stated it was a brittle star. Sorry. I just re-read the FAQ's, and it was a black banded serpent star. Is this common for them to eat Jawfish? Thank you so much, Jana <Not all that uncommon unfortunately... especially some of the larger (particularly "the" Green) species. Bob Fenner>

Brittle Stars Hello, Let me start by saying that this site is great and thank you for providing so much information for us hobbyists. <A pleasure, and pleasant duty my friend> I have a new 100 G. tank and am pondering what sort of clean up crew I want to get. FFExpress has reef clean up crews that include the Black Hawaiian Brittle Star and the Red or Black Banded Serpent Star. The descriptions sound all well and good. However, a friend of mine got a brittle star (not sure of the exact kind) that is very round in the middle with long arms and is black. The body is sort of spiny or prickly. This thing turned out to be quite a predator, racing around her tank, eating up everything! She had to remove it. Is the creature she ended up with the a Black Hawaiian Brittle Star?  <There is at least one Brittle Star from Hawai'i that fits your description... but many others that stay small/er and are far less predatory> I saw the one she got from a local fish store and I looked at the picture of the BH Brittle Star on the website and I can't tell if they are the same. I think hers was more round in the middle. Are these things (the Black Hawaiian Brittle Star) safe? How do you tell the predatory ones from the safe ones apart?  <Really only by size, actual use... species identifications are hard.> Thank you in advance for taking the time to read and answer my questions. Much appreciated! Cathy <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Reproduction in serpent/brittle star Hello Mr. Fenner, I was checking out the FAQ's on brittle/serpent stars and didn't see what I was looking for. It said that reproduction is sexual and fragmentation. I have a serpent star (small beige with tan stripes) and there seems to be something moving inside of it. Occasionally it swells and then these bumps appear to be swirling around inside of the body. When this is not happening it still appears "larger than usual" and the edges of the body seems to have something pushing outward. We first noticed it about 3-4 weeks ago. We have seen this star intermingled with another (light green, dark stripes) and didn't know if maybe it was pregnant. Any information is greatly appreciated. Thank you- Joanne Nobre <Hmm, interesting... could be developing gonads you're seeing, or a waxing/waning tumor of some sort, or a parasite... Keep a keen eye on it. Bob Fenner>

Basket star info please Hi, I've wrote you a small while ago about a couple of gorgonians i had (frilly, and a whip). The whip opened up and the other is doing good too. Anyhow my question is about a basket star i acquired recently. Any info you have from personal experience would help. -I skimmed the brittle/serpent/basket star part but it doesn't say a lot about these guys-. <Not a lot known about this groups captive husbandry. What little I know of is recorded on the WWM site. Perhaps a long search on the Net? Maybe you can write a definitive article for the hobby magazines? Bob Fenner> Any additional info would help. Thanks. Dustin.

Starfish letter, use Bob, I haven't written you in while. I have a 75 gallon reef system which I recently "rebirthed" after selling all my livestock and moving to Colorado. <Ah, good to get re-settled in> Anyway, I recently restocked my tank (with a FFExpress) order. All three of the starfish in the Reef Relief bundle have died (actually the Orange Knobby is losing it's battle right now. Here's a copy of the letter I sent them. Let me know if you have any suggestions or ideas. <Okay> To whom it may concern;  <I'd say/state "it concerns"> This is in regards to order number 77876, for Scot Davis. All three of the starfish in the "Reef relief: bundle have died now. The Hawaiian brittle star dies <died> on day #6, the Red Banded brittle died on day 9 and the Orange Knobby is dying now. All of them have kind of "rotted" away. A white, ich looking stuff is on the body on their "arms" fall off one by one. Everything else in the tank is doing great, including the Koran Angel. And the water tests out to normal parameters. Any ideas? Is there anything I can do for the Orange Knobby to keep is alive? Thank you for your time and consideration! Sincerely, Scot Davis Mancos, CO <Good letter (except for the one change in tense). Straightforward, to the point. Not much can relate to you re these species of Seastars suitability and needs in captivity that's not already posted on the WWM site... would have chosen other species, waited for a few months before introducing... Bob Fenner>

Sea Stars & Brittle Stars Classes Asteroidea and Ophiuroidea Hello Robert, my name is John. I really enjoy your articles on wetwebmedia. I also enjoyed your book "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist", I often look for advice from this book! <Ah, good to read they're of use> I am a little confused about brittle stars. I purchased one today for my 55G reef. The fish stores tank said black brittle stars, they looked black, about 4 - 5" or so from arm to arm. <Okay> After acclimating him (in near darkness) I couldn't really see his color. Once he was in the tank, (still dark) I noticed he looked greenish? Maybe it was because the lights were off, and I didn't want to turn on the lights and stress it. I will look tomorrow and see. <Can look very different when stressed, in different lighting... most avoid daylight exposure> What I would like to know is are the green and black brittle stars noticeably different in color? The black should have no green right? I have heard horror stories about the greens. If I check tomorrow and he's all green he's gone! They grow to about 5" or so right? (black) <Should look decidedly darkish... not bright or light green> Are the black's fish eaters? Any really good or in depth articles on brittle stars you know of? Thanks for all the help! <I'd look on the Net using your search engines> Keep them books coming! <Will do so my friend. Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

A sick brittle Star We have a green brittle starfish. He came in an aquarium that we purchased. He was doing fine for a while then we realized our fish had ick. After treating the ick, we noticed the starfish's legs were falling off in pieces. We were afraid one of the fish were eating him so we moved him and our other brittle star to our invertebrate aquarium. Now more of his legs are falling off and most of his bristles are falling off too, but he's still alive. What can we do? Is there any antibiotics that we can give him? Will he infect our other starfish? Will he hurt or infect our invertebrates? Please help!! Sarah <Hmm, not much can be done at this point... this animal (Ophiarachna) will either self-heal or perish. No to the antibiotics question, and likely no to it affecting, infecting your other starfish or other invertebrates... just remove it (the carcass) should the specimen pass on. Bob Fenner>

Sick Seastar I have a green brittle star that i just recently purchased...his legs are starting to fall off...first they are turning pink and then the spines are falling off and then his leg falls off. he is still alive but i want to make sure there is nothing wrong with him...i do have a horseshoe crab but the star is in a hard to reach cave...is there a bacteria eating him or is this normal. please help i am very worried. Thanks >> Not normal, and not a good sign... I suspect your brittle star was/is infected and its health impaired from collection, shipping and handling... It will either self-heal or perish... if the latter, do try and remove the remains from your system. Bob Fenner

Brittle star I have a brittle star or a serpent star. I read in your column that you do not trust them with fish. Could my serpent star be eating my fish? I have several established fish but when I add a new one it disappears. I also suspect a red lobster which I rarely see but know he's in there!  >> The Green Brittle stars (there are other safer species) are notorious for fish-disappearances-without explanation... as well as "reef" lobsters... I would exclude these from a reef set-up. Bob Fenner

Brittle star ambush Mr. Fenner I had an orchid Dottyback who was living inside an empty snail shell. This morning, I found my green brittle star next to the shell with the Dottyback in his mouth. I had heard that some brittle stars can be quite adept at catching sleeping fish, but had not experienced it first hand until now. Should I worry about the brittle star catching other fish? What can I do to keep this from happening again? Thank you. >> Yes. Remove it...  Bob Fenner

Banded sea star Hey Bob, Just a quick question about the diet of banded sea stars. The guy at the LFS told me the scavenge stuff off rocks, so I bought one. Unfortunately, I saw him attack one of my Astrea snails the other day and yesterday when I added some hermits and Trochus snail he came after them until I shoved him away. So what is the deal? Will he decimate my clean up crew? thanks, Kevin <<Hmm, yes, this Brittle Star will eat... most everything... in your tank, given time, opportunity... even your fishes... Bob Fenner>>

Real Serpents for Stars  I recently purchase two coral banded serpent stars and a colt coral to add to my75 gallon reef tank. the other night I saw the serpents star grab the colt coral and start to drag it away. I grabbed the coral and put it back in its spot. This morning I noticed that the colt coral is missing. will serpent stars eat these or any other corals, and if so how do I get them out of the tank  without dismantling all my rock? >> Yes, some (way too many) Serpent Star species have proven to be "eater uppers" rather than "cleaner uppers"... You've stated an extreme case! You should have success with baiting them out with something large, meaty, near the inside, bottom, front of the tank after turning out the lights... finally a use for that Y2K flashlight! Bob Fenner

Flower Anemone for Lunch Hi Bob, First off, I want to thank you for your response to my last question regarding the Tiger Tail Cucumber I had gotten. He's alive and well in the tank and seems to have grown quite a bit. I recently (about three weeks ago) got a Flower Anemone from a friend of mine who works at a fish store. He was doing fine and even took a shrimp pellet on occasion. That is until he wandered around to the bottom and got to know my powerhead. I found him partially sucked into a Rio 200. I didn't want to damage him by forcing him out, so I turned it off, and detached the plate on the intake to see if he would extract himself. Anemone and plate were put on a high area on my rocks. Towards the evening, he extracted himself. By the next morning, he had again made his way to the bottom and was pulled into the other powerhead. Same scenario here, but this time, I caught my Six-lined wrasse pick on him once or twice. For lack of a quarantine tank, or any better idea, I moved the anemone over a bit, kept both of the lower powerheads off, and turned the lights off, in order to trick the wrasse into going to sleep. Looking into the tank later, I notice the anemone had moved down the rockwork a bit and that one of my serpent stars was nearby. This did give me pause, but I didn't want to handle the anemone any more after what he'd been through. He was alive but not at all open, and I figured he needed to settle in. Since that night (2 nights ago) I haven't seen the anemone. What I noticed this morning is that one of my three serpent stars appears extremely fat. So, I guess my question boils down to this. Do you think there is any hope of the anemone re-emerging, or do you believe the serpent star treated himself to an opportune meal? If the serpent star did eat him, just how predatory are they? Should I be concerned about future victims? And if the anemone does re-emerge, do you have any recommendations to avoid this type of thing recurring? (My only thought at this point is to raise my powerheads an inch or so higher.) Thanks for you time and help. Rich >> Very interesting e-mail... and lots of room for pontificating... which us pet-fishionados love to do... (as you will know soon if not already). Yes, alas the anemone is gone, we knew him not well... and no, just moving the powerheads up and away doesn't really help. These animals seem to wander about, even floating, into any (or in your case, all) conceivable intakes... And yes, if the Pseudocheilinus wrasse wasn't bad enough, the Serpent Stars certainly did consume the anemone... and yes, these seemingly unlikely "cleaner uppers" are really "eater uppers" who will/do consume even sizeable fishes at night when they are "sleeping" on the bottom... I wouldn't put in another anemone, and I'd be selective about what sorts of fishes I place in the tank...  Bob Fenner

Flower Anemone eaten by stealthy echinoderms, news at 11:00 Hi Bob, Thanks for the quick response, and sorry to be a nag here. But if you have a minute or three, I want to squeeze in a follow up here. Currently I have 2 Ocellaris Clowns, 2 Yellow Tail Blue Damsels, the Six Lined Wrasse, 3 peppermint shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni), the 3 serpent stars, that cucumber, and an assortment of hermits/snails. Eventually, I plan to add a Yellow Tang, an orchid Dottyback (P. Fridmani), 2 cleaner shrimp, and down the line a selection of hard and soft corals when I finally upgrade my lighting. Would you suggest that I try to trade in those serpent stars? The clowns "sleep" in the upper reaches of the tank, but the damsels and wrasse hide in the rockwork (about 90lbs in my 55 gallon) I'd hate to have anymore of my inhabitants, existing or future, fall victim to the serpent stars. Once again, I thank you for your time and patience. Rich >> Hey, no prob. Rich, this is why I'm here: Yes, I would try to trade in those green pentaramous monsters. And the fishes that are already there are fine, as are most likely the list of organisms you state you want to add (though there may be Shrimp Wars... You might want to just stick with the current Lysmata species)... The present and future fishes are smart, fast species that know what those stars are up to... Still, I wouldn't trust them... I read the last chapter of that book, the stars win... fade to black. Bob Fenner

Shrimp/Serpent Star Deaths Help me, Bob! Three days ago, I purchased from my trusted LFS three cleaner shrimp (all large, two carrying eggs) and one beautiful red serpent star. All were carefully acclimated. Water parameters perfect. Have other thriving serpent stars. The following morning, I found the newly-added red serpent laying still. I allowed several hours to pass before reaching in to try to see if I could coax movement, to no avail. I put him on a rock so I could gauge his movement. Waited a few more hours to see what happened, and he just hung there - definitely deceased. I removed the poor soul. Later that day, I noticed that my three new cleaner shrimp were missing. It has now been several days and not a trace. The only fish in the tank that may have done them some harm would be my flame hawk, but I didn't actually see him do anything. Is this a case of I did something wrong, or bad stock from the LFS? I should add that I also bought a small arrow crab at the same time, but he is doing just fine. What do you think the culprit is? Thanks for your advice, as always. Marilyn >> Yikes, though I love a mystery, I do not like to see anomalous animal losses or hobbyist-friends suffering. Unfortunately, I'd almost bet anything that the culprits) are your existing (green) serpent stars. This, in the middle of the night missing livestock, script is there MO for sure. Yes, the hawk might eat one small shrimp, and the Arrow Crab can/will grow to bothering/bothersome proportions... and, yes, maybe the LFS had some bad livestock... but all these losses? No, it's the stars. Either remove and trade them in, or reconcile yourself to only larger, aggressive or non-tasty tankmates. Bob Fenner



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