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FAQs about Sea Lilies, Feather Stars

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

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A crinoid feeding at night in Fiji.

Crinoid Question -- 12/20/10
Hello-
<Nate>
I will start by saying that I am not one of the people that ventured into Crinoid ownership without thought! I have been running my tanks for 12 years and studied marine zoology in college and beyond. My invertebrate zoology texts are not that useful in regards to crinoids, however.
<Or re practical husbandry matters period. Not their intended or stated purpose>
I have a 90 gallon reef tank. It has a deep sand bed, good lighting as my corals grow and are happy - they grow fast enough that I produce a goodly number of frags each month. I have almost no trouble with the system I have setup. pH is between 8.30-8.40 w/a nightly decrease off set slightly by Kalkwasser and a lighted sump (cycle opposite of tank) filled with algae and other fun life (snails, mini sea stars, various crustaceans, etc..).
<Good "bio-indications">
I have several "expert only" specimens of gorgonians and coral (goni!) that have been happy for over 4 years in comes cases. I also have an organ tree sponge that unlike a lot of your readers experiences has grown constantly.
There are also numerous blue and orange "random" sponges all over the place in my tank. Oh the orange tree sponge has these very small white little things living on the surface that look like little trees with knobby ends.
I can only see them with my magnifying glass. I cannot find much on them in the literature.
<Perhaps Hydropolyps of some sort>
Water quality is maintained with weekly changes of 10%, auto top off, skimming, UV, and testing. All the bad guys - nitrate, ite, ammonia, and Phos are rock bottom. Temp is controlled within 1 degree on each side of 76F.
In the course of the 12 years I have made mistakes and lost a few things - seemingly mostly shrimp - and the occasional fish jump. Sad. But I have GIGANTIC shrimp in my tank that are bigger than eating size. Blood red fire shrimp that are a little scary they are so large. They came to me years ago and have been growing ever since.
<Neat!>
I have two crinoids and yes they on occasion break off an arm.
<Happens... quite easily>
Some seem to come back, but one is 2 years in my tank and one is 3 week. I believe that my combination of endogenous food generation and daily feedings (2x) because of having mostly Anthias contribute to their general okness in my tank.
<I do agree re this influence. Hence my early, frequent and passionate endorsement of refugiums>
But now I have a problem, I think. I noticed once that in my Linckia star (which is so large now, after several years, it is starting to be a little creepy!) there seemed to be a reddish brown worm living amongst the tube feet. It is about 1/2" long. Then one day it was gone, only to turn up across the top/mouth/anus of one of my crinoids. I am a little worried that given how needy these animals are that this worm might begin to suck away the food and cause me some trouble.
<Might>
Remove it? Leave it? Watch it? Thoughts?
<I'd observe (not guilty till proven so) for now myself>
If I attempt to remove it, I am going to have to somehow get the Crinoid into a specimen bowl and have it open up to remove this worm. Not sure how I can do this and not upset the animal. I have a full compliment of bionic scopes and inbox tools left over from grad school, so I am capable, but just not sure it is worth the risks.
Ideas?
<Best to "train" Crinoids onto walking onto a stick... wiggle one end of a wooden dowel at, near the base... have "walk up", put a water-holding container under to "lift" out of the system if manipulating. Don't touch! Or move into the air>
Thank you,
Nathan
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Crinoid Question 12/24/10

In case you are curious:
<Oh yes>
I coaxed the Crinoid into a specimen bowl and looked at this situation under a low power binoc scope. The worm that is sitting on the Crinoid is some kind segmented worm with large (in relation to the body) paddle shaped feet.
<Ahh, an Errantiate Polychaete. Quite common species>
It was about an inch when I got it off the Crinoid. I then placed the Crinoid back in the tank carefully. I think this worm was making it unhappy as it looks a little lest "fluffy" than it's conspecific that also is in my tank. The worm had its head dug down into the mouth of the Crinoid for certain.
I am not sure what the worm is, but it is no longer with us and I don't have the setup anymore to photograph through my binoc.
Thank you,
Nathan
<And you for this follow-up report Nathan. BobF>

Feather Star Impulse Buy (Another Creature Best Left In The Ocean) - 01/16/07 I bought a Red Feather Star (about 12 inches across when extended) without researching first. <<Not good>> I feel terrible. <<Mmm...>> I have now read the FAQs and I am horrified! <<Lesson learned I hope...please learn/develop the habit of researching "everything" before you buy>> I have a 205 gallon tank.  I have the nitrogen tank below that finally has all nitrates and nitrites down to a consistent 0. <<I'm sensing you are new to the hobby>> It also handles the Phosphate.  My water tests have been consistently perfect including water temp, salinity & calcium. <<Numbers please...subjective values do us no good>> I have a lot of fish in my tank and this year at least I have no coral.  My tank is only a year old but doing well.  I am a slave to this tank.  I have been told I am obsessed. <<A common affliction [grin]>> The Red Feather is the most beautiful creature I have ever seen in a tank and I had to have him. <<Indeed...wondrous creatures...we just don't know enough about them yet>> Nobody at the store told me how difficult it was to keep them alive. <<No excuse, but they too may have been ignorant of this>> I am new to all of this but I am learning, unfortunately, at the expense of a really beautiful creature. <<It is more than likely this creature would be doomed whether you had purchased it or not.  Unfortunately, making the sale may induce the store to try to acquire another>> In one of your answers to another person you said you would email him the product/s you feed your Feather in a private email so not to encourage others to buy them.  Could you Pleeeeeeease do the same for me? <<Hmm, a quick search didn't turn up this particular query but I suspect that may have been Anthony Calfo.  If so, you should be able to access him on Marine Depot's forum pages...sadly he no longer shares his time with WetWebMedia>> I promise not to share this with anyone. I just want this awesome creature to have a chance of survival. <<As you are now aware, that chance is "extremely" slim.  It is thought this animal's best chances are a large and mature refugium and the endogenous foodstuffs generated re.  Prepared foods are generally just too large to be if use.  Does your tank have a fine sand bed?  If so, stirring the upper layer may provide some nutritional elements...is at least worth trying...as is feeding the "liquid" from thawed frozen foods.  Though I think at best you can only hope to slow the inevitable>> Thanks soooo much, Terri Crow <<Regards, EricR>>

Feather Star Hitchhiker - 08/14/06 Hello to my American Mates! <<Cheers Terri!>> I bought a large coral garden rock for my reef aquarium on Saturday.  This morning, a huge orange and black feather star crawled out of it! <<Fascinating creatures!>> I was completely surprised by this. <<No doubt!>> I have never even considered purchasing one of these critters as I am aware how delicate they are to keep. <<Indeed my friend, will likely starve to death.  I don't think we even know for sure what these creatures feed upon or require for sustenance/growth/vigor/health>> Now I don't know what to do. <<Is a "pickle" for sure.  About all you can do is "read up" and try to provide the best care possible>> It has crawled around to the front of the tank and attached itself to a rock in an area of high flow. <<Ah...it is hungry...>> All legs are still attached, at least for the moment. <<Mmm, yes...these crinoids do tend to be fragile/tend to "come apart" when the animal is not doing well>> I target feed my corals with a variety of items.  Mysis (for the Tubastrea), Marine Snow, Spirulina powder, Coral Frenzy (Sharky's reef) and freshly hatched baby brine shrimp.  I have a large green water culture and a large rotifer culture for my seahorse fry.  Would these items in combination be able to sustain the feather star? <<Mmm, maybe...but this creature's history in captivity does not foster much hope.  I doubt the algae culture will be of much use (though who really knows?), but the rotifers and baby brine "might" be of use.  And I seem to recall that stirring up detritus (blowing off your live rock with a small jet of water) tends to induce feeding responses, so this strategy may also be of use>> Since I have it I figure I should try to save it. <<Am in agreement>> Ideally it should have never arrived in my tank in the first place.  It should be on the reef where I saw them last time I went diving. <<Indeed, though it sounds like this time it may have been an incidental and unfortunate hitchhiker, rather than a deliberate collection>> Any suggestions appreciated. <<Research, research, research...starting here and among the linked files in blue: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/crinoids.htm >> Terri <<Regards, EricR>>

Crinoids in captivity - 03/11/2006 Hi Crew, <Valerie> I feel very fortunate to have a LFS that is very knowledgeable.  I trust them implicitly and have never had any reason to doubt their advice until now.  When I first saw the Feather Star I purchased I thought it was some type of plant but was informed that it was a Feather Star and that it was somewhat difficult to keep.  I was told that it was a filter feeder and required daily feedings.  I have had good success with other difficult to keep marine life and felt that I could easily care for the Feather Star.  I enjoy the time I spend feeding many of my corals so I felt confident that I could care for this animal.  I was advised to increase the addition of DT's <... don't live on micro-algae cultures> from every other day to every day. I acclimated the Feather Star with the slow drip method for a span of three hours. <Mmm, hopefully the conditions in both systems were similar> When I released the animal in the tank, it seemed to adapt quickly and has done well for the last three weeks.  Today I noticed what appeared to be a tiny piece of the Feather Star floating in the tank. <Very common for these...>   This prompted me to do some research and what I have read really disturbs me.  Marine Invertebrates by Ronald L. Shimek indicates that the Feather Star feeds through crini, which are tendril like grasping organs described as a tube foot.  The book states that this creature is very selective about what it eats and that they choose to feed or not to feed based on numerous factors. <This is so> Furthermore, the information I read indicates that these beautiful graceful animals usually starve to death while slowly falling to pieces.   Is this true?   <Yes> Is there anything that I can do?  I honestly do not understand why these or other creatures that cannot survive in captivity are captured and then sold. It is horribly cruel!   <A/the "state of the trade", and human condition... Some crinoids do exist in captivity for a time... growing, shrinking... Usually these are large, older systems, with not much fish life, large refugiums, DSBs... for endogenous "food" production> Thank you for your time. Valerie     <Thank you for sharing, caring. Bob Fenner> Feather Star 10/18/05 Hi Crew,  <Hello Matt> We bought a feather star.  <Whoops> Researched later ..a common mistake I guess.  It's losing fronds at a fairly rapid rate.  My nitrate levels are rather high and pH is a tad acidic although I  am doing what I can to bring this down.  I have been feeding it during the day with liquid food.  Do you think there is more chance of it loosing fronds because the  Nitrate is high or because it is starving as I have only just begun  feeding it at night?  <The fronds are called cirri. Matt, most of these animals are not easy to maintain by the average, even advanced aquarist. Most are nocturnal feeders and should be fed often. Acclimation is critical as they are very sensitive to changes in specific gravity, temperature and ph. Most problems are due to transport/shipping, changes in oxygen levels. Because of this they usually do what yours is doing, necrosis of the cirri (legs) or whole body. Starvation will also cause this.  These animals are best left on the reefs. There are reports of some who have kept these alive for a long time but the odds are definitely not in your favor.  I've posted a link here with info that may help you keep your feather star. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/crinoids.htm  James (Salty Dog)> 

Feather stars  07/02/05 I have done a lot of research on these animals and I would like to buy  one. The only problem is I don't know where to buy one. Do you know anywhere on  the internet where I could by one. Do you think it would be ok in my pipefish   aquarium. thanks. <They are difficult to locate because most species are extremely delicate and not possible to maintain by the average aquarist, therefore most dealers will not carry them.  I know of no shop that handles them.  James (Salty Dog)> Feather Star Care (10/27/04) I will first say one thing, I purchased a feather star about 3 months ago before I knew they were difficult to keep. I wouldn't have purchased him if I had known better. <Pays to do research first, eh? However, I condemn the irresponsible dealer who sold you this creature. They are so cool as to be nearly irresistible to buyers. I would not call them merely difficult to keep, but rather virtually impossible.> With that said here is my dilemma. I have been feeding my feather star nightly with Liquid Life Bio Plankton. I have now noticed that the ends of the arms are breaking off in about 1/4 inch pieces. <Due either to starvation, infection, or toxin.> I was doing lots of reading on your site and noticed one reply about a person who also had one. He has been feeding 4 times a day with DT's and Liquid Life. I went out and purchased DT's also and increased my feedings starting today. I also have a tiny little crab that came with my feather star. He is black with white spots on him. He kind of looks like a dwarf zebra crab but I am not sure what he is. <hermit?> He blends it perfectly with my feather star so it makes me wonder if they are supposed to live within one. <Many small crustaceans live in such places, but I don't know if it must live there to survive.> I just don't want him to be causing any harm. I noticed the crab when I first got him. I moved him to the opposite side of the tank and a few days later noticed the crab right back on the feather star. He crawls around on the arms. <This is probably not harmful.> I'm just not sure what else to do. <Probably nothing can be done. Have you tried frozen Cyclop-Eeze?> I know I will not purchase another one or encourage anyone else to as well but I don't want to lose this guy either. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank You, Anthony <regrettably, I cannot really offer any more advice than you have already received at the chat forum. There's a reason that every major author strongly discourages attempts to keep these creatures. Few of us have the time and $ to figure out how to care for them. I would not be surprised to find that feather star that had been in a guy's tank for 2 years eventually died as well. Try the foods from the forum. That's abut all you can do. Sorry, Steve Allen.>

Feather Star Follow-up (10/30/04) Thanks for the reply. <You're welcome.> I have been feeding with Cyclop-Eeze when I feed my other stuff. I will increase that feeding also when I feed the rest more often. Can't hurt. <Just don't ruin your tank with too much nutrition.> I was even thinking of moving him to my 10 Gallon tank and adding more food that way he can be sure to eat more but that was just a thought. Thanks for you help. I love your website it has lots of great information in it. <A pleasure or me to play a small part. If you do succeed with this creature, please share. Just remember that success in keeping creatures with long

Re: Nanoplankton and other food stuffs and info. on a Feather Star Thanks for the info. Better than what my dictionary gave me. <Interesting. I gave my "best explanations" for these terms> Would any of these products, or others that you know of, contain the other materials. i.e.. flock, colloidal, epiphytic? <Mmm, yes... that is to state, many commercial products, including fish food prep.s, utilize flocculants, are colloidal solutions... and a few (not many) capitalize on epiphytic materials> The reason I ask is that I've been also doing searches on feather stars. We bought one, green, a few months after we started reef keeping  and didn't know any better. That was almost two years ago and 6 months in to the hobby we found WetWeb and many other informative sites like this one and boy have we learned a lot and changed our ways. <Ahh, pleasing to me to read of your progress, enjoyment> Since then I've been kicking myself for being so ignorant. Any way, I've read info from several sites referring to these types of material that the feather stars might consume. <Yes... and likely does consume... in your system... from live organisms principally located in your substrate and live rock> I try to provide a variety of feeds for it, since know one really knows what it eats, and I'm constantly on the look out for new things to try. So far we've had it for almost two years, since then part of it was broken off during an earth quake. The rock it perches on all of the time tipped a bit and sliced of a small section which is still alive, about 8 months now. Arms on the original star have started to regenerate. <In good health, these animals are incredibly tough> The severed segment has moved to a perch close to the larger one and exhibits the same behavior as I will describe. I'm hesitant to submit this info as I don't want to encourage others to try to own one after reading this and thinking I have been successful, but I would like to get any feed back that may make the chances of this little creature surviving a little better. <I understand, and think others will too. I thank you> But then again, what is better, a slow death or a short one. <Are these the only choices? Hee hee!> As of now, it is target fed a mix of DT's and Liquid Life Bio plankton. I feed this in small amounts 4 times daily until it curls up its little arms. When feeding begins, it unfurls its arms and the little pinnules wriggle about then, it either gets all of what it can use in the mixture, or it gives up looking, and curls up its arms. When curling up it's arms, it will do one of two things, curl up one arm at a time hold it there for a few seconds then unfurl it again or close them all up slowly until it looks like a green ball of yarn. It usually does the first of the two. Just in case it can get any nutrients out of the other tank feeds that I use for the fish and other inverts, I spray a little on to the feather stars before feeding it to the rest of the inhabitants. The particle size is probably too big even in the broth that the frozen foods make but I figure may as well give it a shot since it's going in the tank any way. I also "dust" my LR. <Both good practices. Even the liquid component of these foods is nutritive> I've attached a turkey baster bulb on to a larger piece of plastic flex tubing and gently blow off, with tank water, sediment that has accumulated on the LR and the acrylic shelving it is on. The feather duster immediately opens up and starts the curling and unfurling arm motions until the water has cleared for a few min. Then it either remains partially open or closed. It resides in a 125 gal. reef tank with a 60 gal. sump/fuge which has a fine DSB as well as the Main tank. It has anchored it self to an immovable piece of LR a few inches in front of one of our pumps we use for current. We have also implemented the bi-weekly 5% water changes, Scott Fellman recommended and the tank parameters are excellent. I hardly have to add any supplements for the inverts/corals as he said would probably happen. Any helpful advice is welcome. <Outstanding. I would change none of your routine, set-up. I would like to encourage you to record your observations, perhaps make a few images and submit them as an article to the electronic and print magazines. If you would like help with this placement, please make this known. Bob Fenner>

Re: Nanoplankton and other food stuffs and Feather Star I'll keep up the routine, I just hope I'm not putting it through prolonged starvation. <Not likely... these animals actually require very little food... can "wait out" conditions where there is even less> "Outstanding. I would change none of your routine, set-up. I would like to encourage you to record your observations, perhaps make a few images and  submit them as an article to the electronic and print magazines. If you  would like help with this placement, please make this known. Bob Fenner"  I'll do so. By images, do your mean drawings or photos? <Mainly photos, but drawings are also nice, useful> Thanks again to you and the whole crew for all of the info. you all have  provided. This little creature wouldn't have made it this long with out this  web site. <Perhaps you will join us in time. Bob Fenner>

Possible duplicator of fossil Uintacrinus socialis to Comatula rotalaria Good Evening! How are you? <Fine, thank you> My tanks will be restarted in few weeks and I can't resist to restock it!! This impatience usually causes several aquarists doomed by "new tank syndrome". <Yes> Anyway, I'm still curious about crinoids. Those beautiful prehistoric creatures are abundant in shallows of Indo-pacific region, especially seas with clear water and good strong currents. Few of them living on abyss plains and still retains their stalks (hence "sea lilies") and anchored to soft ooze. A species of shallow water tropical crinoids named Comatula rotalaria bears resemblance to fossil crinoid Uintacrinus socialis, and thus, still in research of paleobiology and marine biology. <Have seen this postulation> Both having no cirri, sitting on soft sediment, and both depicted to be having arms vertically arranged. Again, for my database, do you have any pictures of Comatula rotalaria? <Unfortunately no> It's no problem if you don't have any, because it's only for additions of several species of crinoids. Thanks! Hopes for your success and joy, Anargha. <Thank you my friend. Will redouble my efforts at finding, photographing this species (and any shallow water Sea Lilies for that matter) while on dive trips. Bob Fenner>

Feather Star Problem Hi I am helping a friend with the set up of his reef. Its been going about 5 months and is quite stable now. He bought a red feather star today, and introduced it to the tank. This was done quite slowly, yet it has dropped two arms. Will these generate into new stars or should they be discarded.  <Will not "turn into" new feather stars... I would not discard this animal... if the system is agreeable, stable, properly set-up and maintained... it may rally> also will the arms regenerate.  <Hopefully> I realize after reading your article and FAQs that they are not that easy to maintain. <Not easy, no> Can you tell me what the chances of its survival are after dropping two arms like this. <Not good, but better than zero. Bob Fenner> Brett Moloney Brisbane, Australia

Feather stars and the Challenge/Problems of feeding Bottled Phyto Hi All, <cheers, friend> Writing from Australia so you're probably all sleeping now.  <ahhh... one of the beautiful aspects of our WetWebMedia machine: we have a crew spread across three time zones answering queries and I'm a night owl on a shared zone. We have almost 24 hour coverage of responses <G>! Anthony Calfo in your service> Firstly your site is great thanks for all the help thus far.  <our pleasure> I recently went to my LFS to buy a bristle star fish and the one I chose was all wrapped up in a feather star.  <for future reference it can be easily led away with shrimp pellets or some other fragrant fish food in the water> I didn't want the owner to damage the feather star trying to get to the star fish and he seemed happy in there,  <the brittle star may have been happy but the feather surely was not> so......yes I bought the two together.  <Ughhh! Now that silly twit of a merchant is going to reorder yet another starfish to starve in captivity. Aiiiieeeeeee :p > Only then did I check out your info on feather stars. Realizing they are not easy to keep I need some advice.  <indeed, my friend... although this is categorically one of the most difficult animals in aquatic science to keep alive. You will go though extraordinary feats to succeed but it will be rewarding> I've read all your FAQ's but I have a few questions of my own. This is the situation. The feather star has a bristle star fish living in it. There is also a baby bristle star living in it which I discovered the other day. Along with those two there are two very small black crabs or shrimp not sure but they have little claws similar to that of a tiny coral banded shrimp. I don't think I can get rid of these guys, and am wondering if they might harm the feather star and or the baby bristle star. <you may need to lead all away with stinky food as bait and remove the feather star to a species tank or at least a fishless in-line refugium dedicated to it> Next can the large bristle star damage the feather star, <absolutely yes... and likely in time> its totally wrapped up in it the whole time. Hasn't left it alone since purchase 1 week ago. Next, am feeding the feather star every third night with a frozen zooplankton type food. Cant remember what its called, but its basically for invertebrates, corals etc. The feather star was bought in good shape. Many arms intact. Very responsive, still looks good. <hmmm... I appreciate the effort but I cannot underscore the fact that feather stars feed on nanoplankton... microscopic food... phyto, floc, colloidal matter, etc. Nothing that you or I can offer from a bottle of cube even has a prayer of being remotely close to being small enough to be edible. This starfish will starve in months if not weeks.> Any ideas as to how to keep it this way will be appreciated. Once again I made the mistake of purchasing and then reading up. <no worries this time... we learn from our mistakes of course. The silver lining is that you may enjoy some new techniques learned in trying to keep this animal.> Didn't plan on a nice bristle star using a feather star as a home. <understood... I would have liked to see a more experienced and professional response from the vendor to simply lure the brittle away with bait, or better... not sell feather stars at all without telling customers how to keep them alive. The short story is that you can either set up a separate live food culturing station to grow rotifers and phytoplankton (very tedious!) or you could set up a refugium for your feather star. The refugium is highly recommended with hope that it will generate enough natural plankton if you have the resolve to leave it fishless. Have good strong flow too to support the starfish or it will not open up. Another possible food is bottled phytoplankton (or a slurry of your frozen product). However, the trouble with all liquid suspensions is that they must be blended electrically every single time they are fed to reduce the particle size. Here is a piece I wrote with liquid phytoplankton and other liquid foods in mind: "My reference to the "inappropriate/heavy" feeding of phytoplankton specifically refers to the common misapplication of the bottled products.  When it comes to feeding corals... prey and particle size is everything down to a species level for some.  Some bottled phyto products are very fine indeed but they are commonly misapplied and some have outright poor instructions for application. I have not personally done the studies on phytoplankton, but I have read/heard the reports of those that have. Notably, Rob Toonen has described that even the best bottled phyto (whatever that is by species or nutritional composition for your purpose) is effective in a very narrow range.  The limitations have to do largely with "clotting" or coagulating of the product as it ages rendering the prey/product size too large for many of the fine polyped phyto feeders.  Some recommendations...  Bottled phyto ideally should be packaged, transported, sold and kept refrigerated throughout the chain of custody for the longest shelf life. (on this point most people succeed)  Said shelf life is arguably 6 months at best after which time the efficacy degrades markedly (particle size increases significantly). Such products are used best in 2-4 months, 6 months max. (on this point, most people are willing and able).  With every application, the phyto sample should be whisked in an electric "blender" to reduce particle size... hand shaken is largely ineffective. (Ahhh- ha! on this point, who really does this? Sure.. I have a few kook friends that actually do... but most aquarists know not or will not commit to this tedious application and simply feed more hoping for the best).  Some defenders of the "no-blending" school assert that the undigested or oversized particles still degrade into useful dissolved organics. I'll be the first to say that I am not qualified or interested to test that theory. But by the same line of logic... does that mean that small bits of dissolved cheeseburger also have some potential use? On a more serious note... what of rotting nuisance algae... is that helpful just the same? I don't even want to form an opinion on such matters. If we are talking about delivering particles of phytoplankton to an animal that feeds organismally (whole prey/particles!), then I do not want to make or hear excuses about possible ancillary benefits of dissolved matter.  And so... the reality of some or many folks misapplying such bottled foods (you can extend this argument easily to the chunky gumbo bottled foods that I usually refer to as "pollution in a bottle") is aggravated by the fact that many of the same folks are feeding said product to animals that are unlikely to eat or even known not to eat phytoplankton. The fact of the matter is that most of us has corals that decidedly favor meaty fare (zooplankton). So... unless you have a herd of gorgonians or a gaggle of Nephtheids... I'm not so sure I would be dumping bottled phyto in like it was hair tonic.  To be clear, I think the notion of using a product like bottled phyto in most tanks at least in small quantities is a great idea! I just think that it is misapplied too often. In a perfect world... everybody would have a phyto reactor instead."> Look forward to your reply, Doron Milner. Sydney Australia. <my best regards to you for your efforts still to help this creature. Sincerely, Anthony Calfo>

Feather Star- I promise I didn't buy it! OK, this is the last question for a while, I promise. <no worries> I'm at the advanced-novice phase of reef aquariums. So here's the dilemma. A friend saw this "really pretty and very cool" feather star at a LFS in Los Angeles and bought it for me as a gift.  <Ok...stop right there: remind me to use my frequent flyer miles to fly out there and kick your friend in the jimmy...Ha!> I had already read enough to know that I shouldn't even attempt one of these for years, if ever.  <bingo...goombah> That was about 4 months ago. There's precious little information on the care and feeding of feather stars out there.  <hehe... yep. That would be because it is not even clear what they eat by most measures. It would help if we knew how organismal their feeding was. If they fed on particles, we could at least focus on supplying appropriate zooplankton (rotifers, Cyclops, enriched new baby brine) or phyto substitutes. If they feed more by absorption then it will be exceedingly difficult for you to satisfy it or know how to replicate it. More likely it will hang in for some months before finally starving to death from a net daily deficit> There are a lot of sites that tell me all the reasons I shouldn't try it - I've got that information, thanks. But now that I have this in my tank, I don't want it to die. So far things have been going all right.  <how can you tell that it is not losing weight by looking at it? hehe... true!> I've carefully noted the length of its arms against other things in the tank and it appears to either be holding steady or maybe even getting a little larger.  <no sarcasm here at all... it could just as easily be panning farther because of the plankton less desert it now finds itself in just like corals that appear to "grow" in systems with light that cannot compare to reef sun and stretch out their feeding polyps rather far. Logically, your observation if accurate is a bad sign. It stands to reason that in a high food environment, the feather star would not extend its vulnerable feeding arms any further than it had too. Sorry to be a buzz kill> There are no broken legs and the couple of shorter ones that I noticed when it first came here have grown out a little. So far, so good. But in the last couple of weeks it's started doing two things that make me wonder. Instead of feeding only after the lights go out, it's now feeding almost all day long.  <yep...> I have a very congenial tank and there's nothing that picks at it, but the information I have so far says feather stars can't really learn, per se, so this change in its pattern makes me wonder if it's hungry all the time and that's why it's feeding. T <yep...> the second thing is a discharge it puts out after I put the supplements into the tank at night to feed it. It starts shedding long, white strings from all its arms. I've had people guess that it was defecating but it's just a guess.  <nope...too copious. More likely sloughing mucous to export undesirables. Back off of this food as mucous production takes a lot of energy. Don't stop per se... be substitute something else in experimentation> The bicolor blenny and tomato clown I have love these strings.  <indeed... they attract bacteria and yummy microscopic plankton> As soon as I put the plankton into the water they swim over by the feather star and gobble as many of the strings as they can. The other fish (pygmy angel, venomous blenny, Sailfin tang) will eat one if it floats by, but don't chase them down.  The feather star lives in my main tank and feeds on top of a shell at the top of my living rock, right in the return jet from my circulation pump. This is the unfiltered water, it just circulates bottom water to the top of the tank and provides high current.  <do consider moving this creature into a fishless downstream refugium with a deep sand bed and a rubble zone or some Seagrasses (for plankton and aliotoms). Also, live rotifers and hours old brine are worth a try> When it isn't feeding it curls itself up under the shell. I'm really hoping you can tell me whether this means <Sure... it is the underwater signal for "Shoot me now!" Hehe...> I've stumbled onto a regimen that works with this particular feather star  <I don't follow> and not that this is just the beginning of the end. If you'd like to know what I'm doing for feeding, I'll be happy to private e-mail it to you, but I'd prefer that it wasn't posted publicly. I don't want to contribute to more feather stars starving to death. :-( <we certainly appreciate you sharing and being a good sport in the process. It will not be posted if you wish, but I would rather post it without your name. We will learn from the failure and the success either way. Please do send more info if you like. Kindly, Anthony Calfo>

Re: I promise I didn't buy it! <Ok...stop right there: remind me to use my frequent flyer miles to fly out there and kick your friend in the jimmy...Ha!> Yeah. I tried to be gracious about it, but wound up saying "You realize you just spent money buying me a gift that I can watch starve to death over the next few months, right?" He left in a snit. <hehe... yep. That would be because it is not even clear what they eat by most measures. It would help if we knew how organismal their feeding was. If they fed on particles, we could at least focus on supplying appropriate zooplankton (rotifers, Cyclops, enriched new baby brine) or phyto substitutes. If they feed more by absorption then it will be exceedingly difficult for you to satisfy it or know how to replicate it. More likely it will hang in for some months before finally starving to death from a net daily deficit> I've experimented with several different things and have latched onto something that's - well, it's probably stupid but the feather star seems to be responding to it. Whether for better or worse I can't figure out. <how can you tell that it is not losing weight by looking at it? hehe... true!> Unfortunately I can't. :-( <no sarcasm here at all... it could just as easily be panning farther because of the plankton less desert it now finds itself in just like corals that appear to "grow" in systems with light that cannot compare to reef sun and stretch out their feeding polyps rather far. Logically, your observation if accurate is a bad sign. It stands to reason that in a high food environment, the feather star would not extend its vulnerable feeding arms any further than it had too. Sorry to be a buzz kill> Well, a harsh truth is better in the long run than a polite lie. <<Truth>> <nope...too copious. More likely sloughing mucous to export undesirables. Back off of this food as mucous production takes a lot of energy. Don't stop per se... be substitute something else in experimentation> OK - I'll keep experimenting. <do consider moving this creature into a fishless downstream refugium with a deep sand bed and a rubble zone or some Seagrasses (for plankton and aliotoms). Also, live rotifers and hours old brine are worth a try> My tank does have a sump, but it's a fairly sterile one. No sand bed, just a place to store an extra 15 gals. or so of water and put the protein skimmer. I designed the plumbing so I can add things - maybe I'll need to add one. If I put in live rock and sand it'll need lights, won't it? <we certainly appreciate you sharing and being a good sport in the process. It will not be posted if you wish, but I would rather post it without your name. We will learn from the failure and the success either way. Please do send more info if you like. Kindly, Anthony Calfo> OK, misunderstanding. I have no problem posting the above letter and response - I think it would probably be a good idea, in fact. I just don't want the feeding regimen posted. Some brainiac might decide to try it and there goes another feather star. I don't want to feel responsible for that. I'm involved with animal rescue for land animals and it'd be a little hypocritical of me to take a different tack with the sea animals I'm keeping in my living room. <<Do understand, accept this as reasonable. Will delete this part of your response/input>> What I've been doing so far (and at least the rest of the residents in my tank have been happy about it) is this: <<Deleted>> My tank is a 90 gal. + 15 gal. sump with 100 Lbs. of live sand and ~90 lbs. of live rock. It's also supporting various leathers, a couple of finger sponges, the fish I named earlier, a coco worm, a feather duster, three anemones, a couple of giant clams, three cleaner shrimp, a coral banded shrimp, a couple of clumps of penny alga and a few volunteer sponges and disk mushrooms that have popped up since I first populated it. Since I started overfeeding the supplements and adding the brine shrimp eggs my nitrate levels went from around .2 to just under 1, but they've stabilized there. My coco worm has taken to floating his little brown pellets every day and the leathers and mushrooms have gotten fat and sassy. One of the on-purpose sponges (I bought it instead of it just showing up uninvited) has put on nearly an inch and firmly attached itself to a new rock. The last two weeks I tried reducing the total amount I'm putting in by using a syringe and "injecting" the liquid supplements directly in front of the feather star and that's when it started the strings. I was hoping that was working and the strings meant it was eating well, but I guess not. I'll stop that immediately and start experimenting with other supplements I can add. Do you have any idea where I could get Mysid eggs? I keep hearing Mysid shrimp are more nutritious than brine and right after they're hatched they're small enough to be eaten by more than the fish. <<Look on the Net under the name: Pacifica. Bob Fenner>> Scott Carpenter

Feather Star I have had my Red Feather Star for about 2 months now. He has been fine up until the past couple of weeks. I have noticed that he is losing his fronds. Well, I realize they lose some occasionally in the circulation. But, after closely observing him last night, I found a small crab living directly under his fronds. I did not recognize the crab type. His body is circular and his legs are elongated forward with 2 pinchers. He is a maroon color. Has he been breaking off the fronds? <Maybe... but these crinoids do have commensal crabs that associate with them as well...> Or, is the nemesis the Coral Branded Shrimp? <It's possible... need to catch the nemesis "in the act">  Both the crab and shrimp have been moved to my aggressive tank as of last night. I was wondering if you had heard of such. Thanks, Barry >> <Yes, unfortunately. I think you did the best thing by moving the crustaceans. Bob Fenner>




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