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FAQs about Sand-Sifting Sea Stars 1

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

Related FAQs: Sandsifting Stars 2, & FAQs on: Sandsifting Star ID, Sandsifting Star Behavior, Sandsifting Star Compatibility, Sandsifting Star Selection, Sandsifting Star Systems, Sandsifting Star Feeding, Sandsifting Star Disease, Sandsifting Star Reproduction, & Sand Sifters for Marine Systems, Sea Stars 1, Sea Stars 2, Sea Stars 3, Sea Stars 4, Sea Stars 5, Seastar Selection, Seastar Scavenger Selection, Brittlestar Selection, Serpent Star Scavengers, Seastar Compatibility, Seastar Systems, Seastar Behavior, Seastar Feeding, Seastar Reproduction, Seastar Disease Asterina Stars, Chocolate Chip Stars, Crown of Thorns Stars, Fromia Stars, Linckia Stars, Linckia Stars 2,

Starfish/Sand Sifting/Feeding - 2/28/2006 Good morning. <And a good morning to you.> First to let you know what I have, 29 gallon salt tank. The tank itself has been running for a little over a year. In the past couple of months I took out the crushed coral and replaced it with sand. (not live sand) 1" to 2" deep. I have about 6 pounds of live rock so far. ( I can only get a few pounds at a time due to lack of money). I currently have 1 blenny, 1 green Chromis, 1 clown fish, one turbo snail and 7 hermit crabs plus one sand sifting sea star. The question is..... The info that I read on your site pertaining to these sand sifting star fish is that a 29 gallon tank is WAY TO SMALL. I understand that I wish I would have read that before I got it. But you can't change the past. <Sure you can, take it back to the dealer, trade for something else.>  I don't vacuum the sand bed when I do a water change. Is there a way I could feed this little fellow? I have read that you could feed them shrimp. How big of a piece, how often would you feed him/her? Please help and thanks for your time.  <One method I use is to get a large syringe, remove the needle and draw in some prepared frozen food and inject a small amount into the gravel near the star.  It will soon find the food.  Cody, in future queries please do a spelling and grammar check.  We just do not have the time to edit queries before posting on the daily FAQ's.  Thank you.  James (Salty Dog)> Cody

White Sifting Star question Have a 55gal tank with a 10gal (refugium/sump) established for about 1 ? years with 50lb of live rock and 40lb of live sand  with a snowflake eel,  a harlequin tusk, <This fish needs more room> a cardinal, 1 ocellaris and 1 blue damsel fish. Also some coral/inverts like a crocea clam, frogspawn, green Goniopora, yellow polyps , some xenias, red mushrooms and a speckled leather coral, a couple of hermits and snails for clean up and 2 white sand sifting stars. I think because of the refugium, which has Caulerpa and 4 mangroves plants a good supply of what I think are amphipods have developed (I even discard some when changing the filter pads). The reason for this post is that after reading some pages of the Marine Invertebrates book in which mention that 1 sand star will require 6 square feet to sustain it I wonder  If my 2 stars are slowly dying. <Mmm, evidently not... some systems (like yours apparently) have much more food...> To me they look ok, they move around, burying and emerging form the live sand and even one of them re-grew one of its arms after the harlequin attacked it. I have had them for around  10 to 14 months. What do you recommend, taking out one of them and maybe put it in the fuge or give it to a fellow aquarist or keep both of them. <I would get a larger system period... if you can afford and fit it in... Bob Fenner>

Re: White Sifting Star question Thanks! I'm in the process of getting a larger one(125gals). <Ah, good> Just to clarify, the book I'm reading is not Marine Invertebrates, is one of your books Reef Invertebrates. <Yes> So far it's great, I'm now in the refugiums chapter of the book, lots of new information to me and been honest, I can't stop reading it! <Outstanding. Thank you for the report. Anthony and I really wanted to "expound" on the virtues of such technology... urge people to investigate, use refugiums... and really "used the excuse" to cover principal marine invertebrate groups as a springboard if you will... to proffer the hundred or so "other pages". Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Sand-Sifting Star, Cucumber, Or Both? - 11/25/05 Eric, ok if I ask a few more questions? <<I'm here to help...>> Again, tank info: 180 gallon with 6 ft. x 18 inch territory of sand.  Fish Stock: Starting with the largest inches from lips to tail) Naso Tang, Green Bird Wrasse, Hawaiian Foxface, Coral Beauty, True Percula Clown, Yellow Tang, Royal Gamma, 3 Striped Damsels, 3 Blue Damsels, Six-Line Wrasse.  Foods: Nori, Clams, Spirulina, Plankton, & Ocean's Formula 2.  Q1: Is there a sea star or cucumber that would make a good sand sifter for my aquarium? <<I utilize some sea cucumbers in my tank.>> If so, which is best? <<Holothuria thomasi, the Tiger Tail Sea Cucumber is a popular specie, as are some others in the trade.  Do stay away from the highly toxic "Sea Apple"...not a sand-sifter anyways.>> My Green Bird Wrasse is a hunter who has gone after crabs who now hide by day and eat by night.  I have stayed away from snails because of him so cleaning creatures that burrow or good hiders that only come out at night are a good fit with him in the tank. <<Mmm...if the wrasse goes after the 'cukes it could be trouble for the whole tank.>> Q2: Would our tank support another fish?  If so, we would like a Blue Hippo Tang.  Based on our tank size and tank mates, good or bad idea? <<I wouldn't, you're pretty full as it is...maybe too full once that Naso matures.>>   Debi Stanley-Viloria "Everything is ok in the end. If it's not ok, then it's not the end." <<Regards, EricR>>

Sand Sifting Star...Gotta Have One - 11/23/05 Hi guys, my sincere hope you enjoy your Holiday! <<Hello and thank you...hope you do the same.>> No pun, but I'm going to dive right in here.  I keep finding conflicting information about sand-sifting star fish.  Books and web based information claim sand-sifting stars eat algae and waste -including your fact page.  However, I have read your write-backs to concerned aquarists that sand sifting stars eat the fauna in the sand bed and you encouraged against keeping them. <<Yes, very effective at what they do.  They can decimate the biota in a live sand bed very quickly...and left to starve as a result.>> So I decided to see what I could find out about fauna and its life cycle and turnover rate.  I did find articles and tried to make sense out of what I was reading, but the articles did a better job of boosting my confidence that marine biology was alive and well with me guessing if I understood what I was reading.  Is fauna really waste that is generated through a cycle? <<Um, nope...fauna is the animal life found in a particular region, like in your sand bed.>> If so, then what creates it? <<The fauna is not "waste" but rather the worms/micro-crustaceans in your sand bed...though it likely feeds on much of it.>> I understand it's leftover food and fish waste. <<I think you may be confusing fauna with detritus.>> Is there such a thing as having too much fauna? <<Yes, in the sense of overstocking a tank with fishes, other large life...but not usually in the sense you are referring to.>> If sand sifting stars eat fauna, then it stands to reason a sufficient territory will both feed this species and still allow the regeneration of fauna. <<Agreed...but most home aquaria don't have sand beds of sufficient size to support these creatures in the long term.>> Am I on the right track? <<Mmm...sort of...>> I really want a sand sifting star because my research confirms they will eat waste day and night <<And a whole lot more.>>, not attack my fish, not climb on rocks or up viewing panes.  My tank, fish and food info are as follows: 180 gallon with 6 ft. x 18 inch territory of sand.  Fish Stock: Starting with the largest Naso Tang, Green Bird Wrasse, Hawaiian Foxface, Coral Beauty, True Percula Clown, Yellow Tang, Royal Gamma, 3 striped Damsels, 3 Blue Damsels, Six-Line Wrasse.  Foods: Nori, Clams, Spirulina, Plankton, & Ocean's Formula 2. <<If this sand bed is mature (12 mos.) and 4+ inches deep it "might" support a single specimen...but to the detriment of the sand bed in the long run...in my opinion.>> Thanks much, Debi Stanley-Viloria <<Regards, EricR>>

Re: The Person Who Wants A Sand-Sifting Star - 11/25/05 Someone wrote in about how and why he <<a "she" actually>> wants a sand-sifting star and EricR tried to discourage it. <<Yep!>> But you know in this hobby once we get a bug about getting something we tend to ignore warnings. <<Usually to the detriment of the livestock...>> So if it is that he really wants a sand-sifting star he can ignore this.  But if the real goal is cleaning the sand bed with something that will not disturb the view and will not change his landscape then there are lots of alternatives. <<Agreed>> There are micro brittle stars that only come out at night and they are too small (about the size of a dime from tip to tip) to move any rocks and there are worms, tiny sand dwellers that do a great job of cleaning and sifting and they will multiply according to the need.  And if he bought any live sand he probably has them already.  I have a 10 gallon and there are so many different kinds of tiny threadlike worms which clean my sand so I never have to. <<Thank you for sharing, EricR>>

Re: Sand Sifting Star...Gotta Have One - 11/25/05 Thank you Eric for your prompt reply! <<My pleasure Debi>> I sure didn't expect to hear so soon. <<We try to not let queries lay about for long...else the boss starts crackin' the whip! <G> >> Based on your explanation of Fauna, would an added treatment of Copepods do the trick? <<No, not really...the starfish will need much more than copepods to survive...and in quantities greater than you are likely able to provide.>> About a month ago a reef store told us we should think about adding Copepods to our tank twice a year. <<Would rather spend the monies on setting up a refugium myself, more overall benefit in the long run...to include replenishing the copepod population in your tank.>> Our tank is a year old, so we decided 'what the heck, we'll give it a try'.  We were told some of the stuff will remain microscopic and breed, and some will grow up in the tank to be like the little bugs we can see in our tank at night now.  Using a magnifying glass, we have seen tiny bugs smaller than a grain of sand that run about on our sand, also some that look like small clear shrimp, and some that look like little red and green Volkswagens. <<Excellent!>> We have also seen a few worms and one centipede looking creature, but they always stayed on or close to the rock.  If we add a sand-sifting star, would adding Copepods protect the integrity of the sand bed? <<Not at all...the plethora of life in the sand bed which you describe will soon disappear.  EricR>> Debi Stanley-Viloria

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>>

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 sandbeds 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.>>

Sand Sifting Star behavior 7/20/05 Hi Bob, been months since I wrote. Been nice to have a tank we can keep clean and enjoy. Sounds fishy, huh? <Watch that, this...>    After cleaning and giving the tank a water change today both starfish ran around as usual while the lights were off.  About an hour later one of my sand stars has perched itself up on it's tippy toes, well star fish style that is.  The body is straight up off the sand bed with the lower tips curled to lay on the sand floor with the very end of it's tips curled up in their usual radar style.  None of the fish seem to care.  Do you have any idea what this little guy is doing? <"Sniffing" the water so to speak most likely. Bob Fenner>   My other star is business as usual half buried in the sand. Debi Stanley-Viloria

Sand-Sifting Starfish (Needs Lots of Space!) - 07/16/05 I was thinking about purchasing a Sand-Sifting Starfish, and I was  wondering if it would harm other star fish? I have a brittle starfish and a  chocolate chip star fish. I also was concerned if it would harm a scooter blenny? <<As a rule no, it won't harm the organisms you mention, but do research/rethink this purchase (start by having a read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/sndsftstrfaqs.htm).  These creatures can/will deplete the biota in a sand bed very quickly.  This in itself is not good for your tank, but bodes even worse for the starfish.  Unless your tank is large (125g or more) with a mature DSB, this animal will likely starve to death within a year.  Regards, Eric R.>>

LED Lighting, Sandbeds, Worms?, and Starfish legs 7/7/05 Hi!     Four quick questions:  1) What's the latest on LED Lighting for reef tanks?  Any major developments?  I bought an LED flashlight a year or so ago and was amazed at how much light they can put out with relatively low power consumption and seemingly little heat.  Seems ideal for our hobby. < There is no update here yet.  But Tullio is going to be talking about this at MACNA this year.  So far they are the ideal light source that isn't available. > 2) What's the latest philosophy on sand bed depth?  Last I heard, everyone was talking four to six inches.  The other day a guy at my LFS said deep beds are out ("they're fine for three or four years, then they crash.") and one inch is now the preferred depth.  < I've always been a fan of 3 inches, and still think that is the most recommended option out there. > 3) My small salt water tank has been running for about three years (oops! and it's got a three inch sand bed....see question #2!!!) and is doing great.  < Then don't worry about anything. > When I put in any kind of meaty foods such as freeze dried brine shrimp, dozens of almost clear hair-like filaments one to two inches in length come out of the live rock and sand, groping for the food.  What the heck are they?  Nobody at the LFS seems to know exactly what they are, but everyone thinks they're a good thing and indicate a healthy tank. < I agree.  Don't worry just enjoy. > 4) A second sand-sifter starfish in my tank is losing it's legs.  The first one unfortunately didn't make it.  Is something eating them? < More likely a starvation problem.  I don't recommend them in a reef tank and I think they are hurting your tank.  I wouldn't be surprised if this second specimen is suffering from the lack of food due to the first specimen. I'd either directly feed it, or remove it. > What's going on?  I have some red-leg crabs, one emerald crab, Turbos and some Nassarius.  Fish are Chromis, clown and a lawnmower blenny. Nothing aggressive. Water quality, temp, etc. is all within acceptable limits.     It's amazing how many "experts" there are at the LFSs.... but everyone has a different answer!  This website is a fantastic service.  Thank you guys so much for donating your time and your expertise to his hobby. < You are certainly welcome. > <  Blundell  >

Sand sifting sea star Hi. Just want to say your site is the Best!! I read your FAQ as a favorite pastime of mine. Wish I had found it before I purchased some of my equipment, though. Guess that's why we always upgrade, huh? Okay, now to work. I have a 92 gallon saltwater aquarium, Filstar Xp3 canister filter, protein skimmer, power sweep power head, 2 large bubble wands, 400 watt heater, 30 lbs. Tonga deep water live rock, 3 inch sand bed..1-2mm grain size, Coralife 192 watt light fixture, with 10000K and Actinic bulbs. Water parameters are excellent.. Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrates are all 0. Salinity is 1.023, pH. is 8.2. I have 2 True Percula Clowns, 1 yellowtail Damsel, 1 Bicolor Pseudochromis, 1 Regal Tang, 1 Yellow Hawaiian Tang, 25 Cerith snails, 30 small hermit crabs, 2 Scarlet Skunk Cleaner shrimp, and 2 sand sifting sea stars, which are about 3-4 inches in diameter. About a month ago, I added the stars to sift the sand, and now after reading your site, I have probably made a mistake. They have acted fine until yesterday, one of hem came to the top of the sand, and has yet to bury himself. He is staying pretty well in the same 5 inch area, and assuming some weird "hunching" position. I have tried placing food under him, worrying he is starving to death, and he moves away from the food (very slowly), but not far. Just 1 or 2 inches. What is wrong with him? <Maybe parasitized, damaged in shipping, collecting... One thing though, I would slowly raise your spg to 1.025 for most of your invertebrates here, and endeavor to keep it there... using pre-mixed, matched water> He looks very healthy, but isn't moving from this one spot, and hasn't went underground for 1-2 days now. The other star is still active, coming up every hour or so to find a new spot to clean. I may have made a mistake getting these guys, but I do like them, and I sure don't want them to die. Please help me. Thanks so much, in advance. I have attached a picture of the "hunching" position for you.  Christy <Bob Fenner>

Sea star and white bugs 6/31/05 Hi. Thanks for your reply to my starfish earlier this week. If you don't remember me, I have the 92 gallon saltwater tank, and a sandsifting sea star that won't go under the sand. He still has not went back under the sand, but is moving a few inches here or there. Well today I noticed there are thousands of white bugs crawling all over the glass in my aquarium. The live rock was quarantined and "cured" for 3 weeks in a 30 gallon trash can (don't laugh, it was much cheaper that way, and very easy). It has since been in my tank for 2 to 3 months. I just noticed these bugs, but they are EVERYWHERE on my glass. Could this be why the star is staying on top of the sand? <Yes, probably feeding on the pods.> Do they eat these bugs? <It's on their menu.> The bugs, which I have been reading on, could be copepods,<I'm sure they are pods.> but I'm not sure. They are tiny, white bugs. They crawl very quickly, have antennas, and what appears to be a tail? It is hard to tell exactly what they look like, for they are very small. Would my rock have already created these guys? <They were present in the rock.> Do I need to buy some fish to control them, like a mandarin fish? If so, by the time I quarantine him won't these bugs really be out of control?<Mandarins do enjoy the pods, and the more pods the merrier. Problem is that once the pods are gone the mandarin starves as they are difficult to acclimate to other foods.> Please help me, I have read all about copepods on your site, but don't feel satisfied that this is what is in my tank. I also checked another site trying to figure this out, and it said they may be parasitic, but I see no evidence of them on any of my fish.  Do I already have something in my tank that preys on these things? To refresh your memory I have a 7" Regal Tang, 3" yellow tang, 2" and a 1" True Perculas, 2" yellowtail Damsel, 3" bicolor Pseudochromis, 2 Scarlet skunk cleaner shrimp, 2 sand sifting sea stars, 1 fancy red sea serpent star, lots of crabs and snails. Please help me, I was just sick at work today worrying my tank is going haywire!! It just ruins my day if I think something is wrong in there. Thanks so much for your wonderful site. I think you guys are the best out there. Sorry to be such a bother, too. Christy. <Christy, no need to worry.  They are a very good food source and they will disappear shortly as some of the inhabitants will consume them. James (Salty Dog)>

Sand sifting starfish !!! Hi guys. <Hello Marcin> I'm pretty new in marine systems but I find your site very helpful. I've had my tank (29gal) set up for about 3 months now. I have live sand (about 2'' deep) as well as LR (about 8lb) in my system. About a month ago I got one sand sifting starfish. I needed something to clean my sand and those guys from PetCo told me to get a starfish. I've been reading this site and I find mixed opinions on those animals. I have few questions for you. Is my sand bed deep enough? Is it true that sand sifting starfish eats needed fauna and bacteria in the send, much needed for a marine system to exist? What can I use besides starfish that would not destroy my sand bed and would be effective in moving sand? <Marcin, sand sifting stars are omnivores and eat pretty much anything, very small clams, worms, algae, detritus and microorganisms.  A two inch deep sand bed is really not deep enough to provide enough food to keep this critter alive for any length of time. A tank set up for just three months isn't going to be teeming with life in the sand bed.  I'd take it back if you can and give your sand bed time to age so it will be teeming with organisms for the star.  Do a google search, keyword "sand sifting starfish", on the WWM.  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks for all your help, Marcin

Amorous Starfish?--No Way to Know What They're "Thinking" (5/5/05) First of all: Thanks for an awesome site!  <You're welcome. It's pleasure to be a small part of it, Steve Allen.>  I've been looking through related subjects and searched the web, but still haven't been able to find the answer to this one:  I added 2 stars (4" & 3") to my 180 g tank 3 months ago. Both look to be doing really well, but the smaller is always (and I mean always) on top of the bigger one.  <Kinky>  If I remove it and place it somewhere else on the sand bed, it immediately returns.  <Obsessive>  I've heard before that this occurs in the wild when currents are too strong or during tide....another theory is that they're "affectionate" (I seriously doubt that...I mean - 3 months!).  <I could think of some humor here, but I'll pass. There's a Levitra commercial on my TV right now.>  It's no biggie, but I'm getting more and more curious as to why this happens.....oh - and how the one on top ever gets food.  TIA, Mikkel Boisen  <I honestly have no idea. Starfish have no brains, so their behaviors are strictly governed by primitive nervous systems. Maybe it has found a free ride agreeable. If it's been there for 3 months and is not wasting away, it must be eating something when you're not looking. If they both seem healthy, I chalk it up to the individual behavioral oddities of nature and leave it be.>

Puffers and starfish I recently purchased a sand sifting starfish without realizing that they are not compatible with puffers. I have a saddleback and was curious why these would be problematic to each other. I do realize that they will nip at other fish and invertebrates but did not think the sand sifter  was in its fooooood chain. <Jose, most invertebrates are not safe with puffers.  It's not worth taking the chance.  James (Salty Dog)>

Sand Sifting Seastar - Adam Cesnales' Reply 1/31/05 I have some question regarding a sand sifting sea star. I just recently set up a 37 gallon tank with about 2 inches of sand in the bottom and a nice lonely 4 # piece of live rock (that stuff is expensive!!).  <...But worth its weight in gold! The stability that comes from 1/2-1 lb per gallon or so of live rock will save you hundreds of dollars or more in livestock. Add more with caution... if it has not been well cycled, it could cause a dangerous ammonia spike.> I have one blue damsel and a coral beauty (so beautiful). I have had my tank like this for about 3 weeks and the sand started to get a little dirty looking. So I went to my local aquarium store and they told me that I needed a clean up crew. So he goes off and gets me 3 snails and 3 crabs (the ones that are in the shell). <These are reasonable numbers. Usually, cleanup crews are way oversold.> I figured this was all well and fine and then he told me I should get a sand sifting star. I asked him "isn't my tank to small" and he told me that he has been doing this for like 7 years and it will be fine.  <These sand sifting stars feed on the critters that you paid all of that good money for when you bought live sand. Sea cucumbers are much better choices for keeping the sand clean without destroying the beneficial critters.> He puts his hand in the aquarium, grabs the sea star with his bare hands, takes the star out of the aquarium so the star makes contact with the air (thought you weren't supposed to do that) and he puts him in a baggy with some water from the tank. <This is sloppy, but probably not lethal.> I asked him why one of his arms was half missing and he told me this is how they reproduce. So I decided I would take his word for it and go with getting the sea star. <Yikes! This is absolutely false. Sea stars with such physical damage on arrival very rarely survive. They can often endure it if they are well established and well fed, but not with the added stress of shipping.> I took him home and did all the stuff that I normally do to introduce a fish. Put the bag in the water for like 15 minutes. Open the bag pour out a little water, Pour in a cup from my tank, wait 15 minutes a repeat 3 times and then put him in the aquarium. <This sounds fine to me, although many aquarists suggest a prolonged acclimation period for sea stars.> Well I put him in the aquarium last night and he just burrowed himself into the sand and I've never seen him since. My question for you is first of all should I have even gotten a sand sifting sea star? <It is normal not to see these guys for several days at a time. I personally do not recommend these to anyone.> Is my tank to new to have introduced him? <Even assuming that you want it at all, I would say yes.> Is my tank to small to have him? <Even when it is well established, probably yes.> Was he lying about the reproduction thing? <Although some sea stars reproduce by fission, this is not the case with these sand sifters. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was just mistaken, but not intentionally lying.> Should they ever contact open air? Will I ever see him since he is in the sand? And if I can't see him how will I know he is still alive? This is my first visit to your site and I am new to salt water. Thank you so much for having such an informative wonderful site  <If it is still alive, you will see it occasionally. You will also see disturbed sand where it has burrowed underneath. If you don't see such evidence after a week or two, it has probably died. Glad you found the site! It is full of good info, so dig in! Also consider buying "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist" by Bob Fenner and/or "The Reef Aquarium" Vol.s 1 and 2 by Delbeek and Sprung. Best Regards! AdamC.>

Sand Sifting Seastar - Salty Dog's Reply Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2005 I have some question regarding a sand sifting sea star. I just recently setup a 37 gallon tank with about 2 inches of sand in the bottom and a nice lonely 4 # piece of live rock (that stuff is expensive!!). I have one blue damsel and a coral beauty (so beautiful). I have had my tank like this for about 3 weeks and the sand started to get a little dirty looking. So I went to my local aquarium store and they told me that I needed a clean up crew.  So he goes off and gets me 3 snails and 3 crabs (the ones that are in the shell). I figured this was all well and fine and then he told me I should get a sand sifting star. I asked him "isn't my tank to small" and he told me that he has been doing this for like 7 years and it will be fine. He puts his hand in the aquarium, grabs the sea star with his bare hands, takes the star out of the aquarium so the star makes contact with the air (thought you weren't supposed to do that)... <No, stars are not supposed to be exposed to air>  ... and he puts him in a baggy with some water from the tank. I asked him why one of his arms was half missing and he told me this is how they reproduce. <Wrong, starfish can regenerate lost limbs but they don't reproduce this way>  So I decided I would take his word for it and go with getting the sea star. I took him home and did all the stuff that I normally do to introduce a fish. Put the bag in the water for like 15 minutes. Open the bag pour out a little water, Pour in a cup from my tank, wait 15 minutes a repeat 3 times and then put him in the aquarium.  Well I put him in the aquarium last night and he just burrowed himself into the sand and I've never seen him since.  <Sounds healthy>  My question for you is first of all should I have even gotten a sand sifting sea star? Is my tank to new to have introduced him? Is my tank to small to have him? <Your tank is too small to keep one of these alive for any long term duration. These stars eat the sand fauna present in the bed and on a tank your size that food source will be depleted in no time.>  Was he lying about the reproduction thing?  <Yes>  Should they ever contact open air?  <No>  Will I ever see him since he is in the sand?  <Occasionally>  And if I can't see him how will I know he is still alive?  <I suggest you take it back to the dealer for a refund/trade as it will not survive in your tank. I've read somewhere one of these stars require 10 to 12 square feet of an active sandbed to exist.>  This is my first visit to your site and I am new to salt water. Thank you so much for having such an informative wonderful site <You're welcome, James (Salty Dog)> 

Sand-sifting starfish Hello; Simple question but I couldn't find the answer.  I added a sand-sifting starfish to my 55gallon tank, which has an aragonite reef sand layer varying from one to three inches deep. For a few days I saw him in different parts of the tank before I'd leave for work. Now, I have not seen him in over a week. Is it typical behavior for a sand-sifting starfish to bury himself in the sand and not emerge for some time? I've considered shifting the sand around to look for him but am concerned about injuring him in the process.  Thanks, you guys are a valuable resource to the hobbyists.  Dave >>>Hello Dave, Keep in mind that these stars sift the sand for food, thereby stripping it of most beneficial fauna that allows your sand bed to function. In the process, they run out of food and typically starve to death in captivity. You need a much larger sandbed than what a 55 gallon offers in order to keep one of these animals alive long term. Even then, you still have the sandbed fauna issue. Go ahead and poke around for him with your finger, you won't hurt him - but keep sand sifting *anything* (fish, stars, whatever) out of your reef tank. Cheers Jim<<<

Sand-sifting starfish - part 2 Thank you for your reply. I will definitely bring him back to the store if I can find him. If I may ask a follow-up question ... is it typical for these starfish to burrow into the sand and stay there for days? What portion of their time do they typically spend on the sand as opposed to in it?  Thanks again! >>>No problem Dave. They spend quite a lot of time under the sand, so what you're witnessing is quite normal. Cheers Jim<<< 

Sick Starfish You guys are great. I'm having a problem with my starfish. I had 3 sandsifting stars and all there legs started to fall off and eventually they died. I also had a red Bali starfish that I ordered on line. It was doing fine until a couple of days ago when it was missing a leg. I noticed that the tips of the legs are turning white and almost disintegrated. What causes this and what can I do about it? <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/stardisfaqs.htm and the linked files above (in blue)> 29 gallon tank that's a little over a year old. Checked all levels and everything was zero except for ammonia - 0.25. So I did a 25% water change but he's getting worse. How can I save him. Is he contagious? Tank mates are 1 yellow tang, 2 true Percs, 1 damsel, 1 algae blenny, hermit crabs, snails, and 2 cleaner shrimp & 2 peppermint shrimp. Any help would be great. Thanks <Your system is too small... there's not enough to eat... these animals are not easily kept... Bob Fenner> 

Sand Sifting Starfish Hi Bob Please could you help me, as I feel that I may have been wrongly advised I have a 50gal tank which has been set up for five weeks, (set up with RO water ... been testing... all is well) I recently went to buy something to help with a coating of brown algae on my 3inch sand bed, I was sold a Neon goby and a sand sifting starfish I looked on your website to read all relevant info on sand sifting stars, now I'm worried that my tank is to small and to new to keep it well fed I also have 2 turbo snails, 1 bumble bee snail, 1 shrimp and some live rock, (no fish yet) I run a Prizm skimmer and external Fluval 404   I have had the starfish for a few days .... so far all is well, Please advise Many thanks Sam >>>Greetings Sam, Your tank is indeed MUCH too small to keep a star such as this alive long term. Besides, it doesn't eat detritus, it eats the sand bed fauna that we work so hard to establish. Back to the point, it will slowly starve to death after it has depleted your sand bed of food. You need at least 12 square feet of sand bed to sustain one of these stars. Again, you don't really want one in your sand bed anyway. You need to look to nutrient export to get a  handle on your algae issue. Cheers Jim<<<

Sand Sifting Star, Archaster typicus fell apart! Howdy guys! <howdy> Once again, thanks for the awesome site Bob and Crew! Hours and hours and hours of excellent reading! Always an education. :-) <for us as well> I have a 70g new-ish reef (<1yr), 90lbs of excellent live rock, 60lbs live Carib Sea Sand, Pro Clear 150g wet/dry sump w/ skimmer, Eheim pump (700gal/hr), Current USA Orbit Quad Dual (10000K White / 6700K, Dual Actinic - 7100K Blue / Actinic 03) power compacts, Ebo Jager 250w heater. I add ESV B-Ionic 2-part Alk/Calc buffer system and Magnesium daily. Water: Ammonia/Nitrate/Nitrite - 0, SG: 1.0245, Calc: 460, dKH: 11, Alk: 3.1, <easy on the calcium my friend... 460 is too high and the very reason why your ALK is low/flat. Aim for more even keeled ranges. 350-425ppm Ca and 8-12 dKH ALK... but neither high at the same time> PH: 8.3, Phos: <0.1, Temp: daily low/high: 79.4-80.2. I do about a 20% water change monthly currently, but have thought about doing 10% twice a month instead. <much better... or more> Livestock: 2 False Clowns (Amphiprion ocellaris), 1 Scooter Blenny (Synchiropus ocellatus), 1 Rainford Goby (Amblygobius rainfordi). That's it fish-wise. Inverts and other stuff: 3 Emerald Crabs (1 BIG one; ~2.5-3" across including legs), 1 Sally Lightfoot Crab, 3 Hermit Crabs (1 red-legged), 2 Fire Shrimp, 10 various snails, 1 Abalone, 2 Sand Sifting Stars (Archaster typicus). <yikes... your tank and sand bed (depth) is not large enough to sustain even one Archaster sand star for even six months. They will starve to death... needing DSBs of 4-6" and tanks over 100 galls minimum (over 8 sq. ft of open sand min.) to have a prayer of surviving> I had 3 Stars, hence this email. About 3 or 4 days ago, one started visibly "falling apart". A chunk of a leg, then the whole leg. Today it started coming apart from the center and would not turn over when flipped on it's back, though it's "feet" were still barely moving; I thought a sure sign it was dying so I removed it immediately and put it in my QT tank. It died (at least I think it did) shortly there after; went rigid and non-responsive. I, of course being as paranoid as I am, panicked and checked all of the water, filtration, my fish, the other stars and all the livestock I could see (the crabs like to hide during the day). As far as I can tell, everything is hunky-dory except for that Star. I hadn't had it for long, a few months tops, but it seemed fine up until a few days ago. <they are poor shippers... it could be that simple> There was no necrotic or dead/hanging tissue, so I was really puzzled. Immediately I blamed "Hulk" (the big Emerald crab) as it seemed like the only critter capable of doing it. <this is true/possible> Just wondering if you guys could lend any insight here. Thanks! :-) ~Jeff <many possible reasons... without knowing how long you've had any of the three stars, I cannot say if it was attrition or not. I can say that you need not buy any more. Arriving healthy, they WILL starve to death in a short while. Most Asteroid species need 100-200 gall tanks min. Without them you get stories like this one or hear the blue Linckia stars are "hard to keep". Ahh... not so. Just not adaptable to small/home sized aquaria. Best regards, Anthony>

Re: Sand Sifting Star, Archaster typicus fell apart! Ah, a nightcrawler like myself! ;) <actively writing... nicely quiet time :)> Thank you again, Anthony for the reply. I appreciate your time, indeed. <always welcome> Unfortunately, another one is starting to shed the tip of it's leg. I contacted my friend at the LFS (they generally have outstanding stock) and he said he'd be happy to give me store credit on the healthy one (as this one is shedding it's tip, it probably isn't considered "healthy"). So I guess I will just have to ride it out with this last one that's losing it's tip. I can't very well give it to someone when I do not know what's wrong with it. <you might consider rotating specimens between friends/tanks in the local/regional hobby club> I tried to take a picture of it, though it's difficult to focus that small. This is about the best I could do:  You can see the tip of one arm starting to "pinch" and come apart. That's how it started with the other one. <a very bad sign indeed> I cannot put it in QT at the moment either. My old QT tank sprung a leak. I picked up a new combo setup (stand/tank) and plan on taking the 20g out of my main tank when I do the water change this weekend and putting it in the QT tank. So it would be at least Sunday before I could QT it. <Ack... no, mate. Anything that holds water can be a QT tank. Tupperware, Rubbermaid containers, etc... hang the power filter on or drop the sponge filter in, etc. Place heaters inside of PVC tubes so as not to melt the sides of the vessel, etc> I tested my Alk/DKH again this evening and it came back as such: 3.77/10.6, using the Salifert test kit. Is this closer to my target? I am doing a water change Sunday (my change water has been circulating with a powerhead in a Brute garbage can since Wednesday). I have about half a bucket of the Oceanic Natural Sea Salt (had the name wrong) left. If this is an inferior product I have no problem ditching the remaining and getting something else. What would you recommend? <like most salts... it requires water testing and adjusting to suit your specific needs. I'd recommend Tropic Marin sea salt above at currently> I'm also preparing my water with the Kent Marine Ammonia Detox. <I would not recommend this... not needed> I know a lot of people do not like Kent Marine, <bingo> but I've thus far had no problems. <OK> I will likely just use up this bottle and move to Seachem next. I do not have an RO/DI unit, but I do have a central water softener (Potassium Chloride). The water where we live is outstanding (very rural area) as it is drawn from an enormous aquifer deep underground here (the Edwards Aquifer). <very nice... the water softener may not even be needed> I plan on getting an RO unit eventually, though I'm not sure I need it. <agreed> What should I be looking for when I test my plain water pre-additives? <look for phosphates and get a bead on hardness for adjustment> Not sure if I mentioned this earlier, but I am using the ESV 2 part B-Ionic buffer for Alk/Ca. <very fine... but be sure to shake all such supplement vigorously before every use... else they may get dosed imbalanced> I've backed off on the Ca additive until I get it down to where I want it (not sure if that's the right thing to do or not, but it made sense to me). <correct... or simply add some calcium hydroxide or Chloride to get on par then carry on with balanced 2-part mixes> I also add a little Magnesium (per the dosage req.) and Iron once a week (very small amount, the min recommend, which is 8 drops). Both are ESV products. <a fine company> Thank you again, Anthony! I need to send you guys some Xmas presents. :D <your success with healthy animals is the best gift of all. Anthony>

Sand Sifting Star, Archaster typicus fell apart! III 11/1/04 Thank you again for the thoughtful and insightful reply! :) <always welcome> One thing is different with this particular specimen. The other Archaster lost the tip, then the rest of the arm very quickly. This one has not lost the tip. As a matter of fact, the "pinch" has been reduced. It almost seems to be re-attaching (if that's even possible)! Could this indeed be an injury from a full-grown Emerald Crab (approx 2.5" across)? <yes... most crabs are ultimately not safe in reef aquaria. They are opportunistic> I have found homes for both of them and will be moving them in the next week. One is going back to the LFS where my buddy Jason has a large tank that they grow Caulerpa racemosa and mexicana in (close to 400g I believe; the tank was damaged high up on the glass, so they fill it about 1/3 of the way and cultivate Caulerpa in it now). It's got a fairly DSB (probably 2-3") and I'd imagine they'll be happy in there. He agreed to take the possibly "sick" one as the tank is isolated from the main system in the store. <excellent> Can you recommend a Calcium Hydroxide or Chloride product for Ca balancing? <many good ones out there. Seachem for quality overall. B-Ionic too... very good> Once I am through with this bucket of Oceanic, I will give Tropic Marin a shot. <TM is the top shelf brand and well worth it IMO> I've not had any problems with Oceanic and it seems to dissolve really well, but I'm always game for improvement. :) Thanks again, Anthony. :) -Jeff <kindly, Anthony>

Sand Sifting Star, Archaster typicus fell apart! II 10/29/04 Thanks for the quick response, Anthony! :) <always welcome> My sand bed is about 4" thick uniformly. The tank is a 70g tall: 36x18x251/2. I bought extra sand just to have a thicker bed. <good depth as a DSB for NNR... but still too small for a sand sifting starfish. The footprint here is VERY small... and rocks cape covers even more of it. There is absolutely no way a single Archaster could live in this tank long term> The stars are have been in the tank for ~3.5 mo.s tops. I will not get anymore, as I don't think I could support them and have no desire to buy things I'm just going to kill due to malnutrition. <good to hear my friend. Bob and I do cover this subject (Asteroid stars) in great(er) depth in "Reef Invertebrates" (2003)> The one that died was (I think) full-grown; approx. 3.5" across. The two remaining are much smaller; 2-2.5" across. <please do trade or sell them ASAP. They really cant see more than 6 months if that on a bed this small> I had concerns about my calcium, so I've been working on getting it down with water changes. <good move> I was shooting for 420ish (or is that still a bit too high?). <no worries... 420 is quite fine... and expect ALK to run8 at 8-10 dKH> I figured my inverts must be loving it, the Fire Shrimp and Sally Lightfoot have both molted numerous times in the last six months. I use Oceanic Instant Ocean salt. <this sea salt "cheats" in giving the illusion of high calcium with really quite poor ALK in many folks opinion. Do test your ALK on a new batch of seawater and you will see.> There's a few spots that I allow some hair algae to grow on some of my live rock for my Blenny and Goby (as they enjoy nibbling in it). The stars occasionally seem to enjoy it as well. Is this a sign of starvation or they're just expanding their palette a bit? <tough to say... perhaps the latter as many/most are adaptable and not obligate> Also, on a slightly different yet related note, I've had a semi-recent explosion of Copepods. Well not explosion, but quite a few (hundreds probably) are easily visible on all glass surfaces. I have some Caulerpa mexicana and Caulerpa racemosa attached to fist sized pieces of live rock that came from a mature refugium to jump-start pod production for my Goby and Blenny (among other things). The majority of my live rock also came from a mature reef system that was torn down and sold. I had some pods immediately, but it seems in the last two weeks or so, the growth has been exponential. <very nice> I guess I just wanted to make sure that there's nothing wrong with this and I shouldn't worry about it. <no problem at all... a benefit, indeed> My fish seem to be enjoying it. They are both noticeably growing and somewhat "chubby". Thanks in advance for all your time, Anthony! :) You guys rock. :) ~Jeff <kindly, Anthony>

Re: Sand Sifting Star, Archaster typicus fell apart! Actually, that would be a relief really. :) <Good to hear/read> I was starting to worry about all these Archaster's. As an update, the one with the "pinched tip" on it's arm is still fine! The tip has not fallen off, it is still appearing to mend. :) Thanks! <Good. Bob Fenner>

Archaster Babies?....Or Asterina? (11/1/04) Believe it or not, MORE Archaster craziness! Anthony, you are a patient man for answering all my questions. Bless you indeed! :) <I will pass this on. Steve Allen responding since Anthony is out.> To add to the insanity, one of the Archaster's had BABIES. I've got a few, literally, the size of an eraser head. I tried to take a picture, but it was incredibly difficult as it was far back in the tank, glass distortion, very small, etc. So everything around it looks HUGE. Here's the pic: I'm not really sure how many I have as only two were visible, now only one. Hopefully some of these guys will survive and won't suffer from predators so I can pass them on. :) <Looked at the picture. Sorry to rain on the parade, but I doubt that this is a baby Archaster. Looks more like an Asterina to me. These common hitchhiker mini stars seldom exceed 1 cm in diameter. Look at some pix on our site and elsewhere to compare and be more certain.>

A Star Is Born...Well- Several Stars! Hi, <Hi there! Scott F. here today!> My name is Nanci and I have 2 sand sifting star fish which have successfully reproduced.  I saw the first babies about 1 1/2 weeks ago. <Very cool!> I have no idea how many are in the tank, due to the fact they are so small (1/8" - ?" in diameter) and are the same color as the sand. They seem to be at various stages of growth.  Some are still oval in shape while others have already started growing their arms.  Does this indicate they have reproduced more than once or just different growth rates? <Hard to say. Probably different growth rates in different individuals...> The "parents" are about 4"-5" in diameter.  What is the time line for growth? <Growth rates vary by species, but I imagine that you'd be looking at several months at the least.> Do I need to add anything to my tank to help these little ones survive?  Should I move them to another tank, and if so, at what stage?   <I'd leave everything as is- and I'd let them remain in the same tank> My 55 gallon tank is pretty self sufficient at this time, it's only been running for about 9 months.  I have 1 Kauderni Cardinalfish, 1 White-Tailed Damsel, 1 Orange-Spotted Watchman goby, 1 Kole Tang, 1 Ocellaris Clown, 1 Fridmani Pseudochromis, 1 Blue Damsel, 1 Condylactis anemone (nuisance, but cool), Finger Leather, Button Polyps, Xenias, Yellow Polyps, Green Polyps, hermit crabs, Turbo snails, Bumblebee Snails and 1 Blood Red Fire Shrimp.  Will any of these harm the babies?  Will the babies harm any of these? <Depending upon the species that you have, there will probably be little danger to the corals. If the adults are leaving 'em alone- chances are that the babies will, too!> The babies do climb the live rock, unlike the parents.  Any and all advice would be helpful. I haven't been able to find any info on the net. Thanks a lot and have a great night! Nanci <Nancy- if we could get a good picture, we could make a reasonable attempt at an ID, and give you some more definitive answers. Best of luck with your little stars! Regards, Scott F>

Questions about Sandsifter Starfish (9/16/04) This is a picture of my Sandsifter that I have had in my 100 GL aquarium for at least two years. <Nice picture.> I have never seen him/her exhibit this type of posture/behavior.  I have been noticing him in this position (off and on) for about the last three days. Is this something I should be concerned about? Thank you for your input! Donna Albright <This is a posture that many types of stars assume when eating corals and bivalves. As to why your Sandsifter is doing this, I cannot say. As long as it is moving around normally and shows no wounds or blemishes, I doubt there is reason for concern. Steve Allen.>

Sandsifter Starfish Follow-up Unhappy follow-up!  The starfish in question died Saturday.  I think that there possibly wasn't enough for him to eat in my tank.  Is there any additional additives I can feed to the starfish when they run out of natural foods?  I have another star of the same type that is about twice as large as this one. Thanks! Donna >>>He Donna, I would stay away from sand sifting stars, as it's very difficult to provide them with enough food over the long haul. 100 gallons is a relatively small tank. Jim<<<

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

Sand Sifting Starfish Hi Crew...I hope this finds you doing well.  Bob, if you are around, it was quite an honor to meet you and hear you talk at the MARS meeting in November.  Thank you! <A pleasure to share> My question is in regard to my sand sifting starfish.  I have had this animal for about 3 1/2 years, and until just recently it has been great.  Last night, however, I noticed that is not looking good.  It is still active, but it is definitely skinnier and several legs look damaged. <Not good signs... typically nutritionally related, but could have summat to do with water quality as well... or?>   Two legs are shorter than the others, and one is crooked...almost like it has been broken.  I recently added a green carpet anemone to this tank (100g with 2x250 MH and 4x55w PC) and suspect that it could be involved (like it may also be involved in the disappearance of one of my skunk cleaners).   <Yes> Water param.s are all great with the exception of a moderate level of NO3...I'm working on that...but I don't think that is the issue as this tank has habitually had detectible NO3.  Could it be that my starfish is getting old? <Mmm, not likely. Turns out some investigators consider the group of spiny-skinned animals (echinoderms... urchins, sea cucumbers, crinoids...) immortal... that's right, beyond senescence. They don't "get old"> What is the suspected lifespan of this animal?  My first thought was that it was starving, but it has never been interested in any food that I offered so that avenue is a brick wall.  Any suggestions? Once again...thanks!  Jason <I would move this Archaster to another system if you have one... most likely solution to whatever might be "ailing it". Barring this I would switch out or add more/new live rock (a good general cure-all...). Bob Fenner>

Starfish Questions (2/7/04)   Hi there (whoever is filling in, or if you are), <Steve Allen tonight.> You guys have been so helpful in the past, thank you for the great site. <Great to hear. This site helps me everyday too.>   I looked through the website but nothing answered my questions directly, perhaps I missed the answers.  I had sent an email concerning sumps, anemones and something or rather but did not receive a reply, not sure when I sent it (about a week ago), just wondering if you got it. <I haven't seen it myself. If you still need an answer, re-send.>   Today (Thursday, Feb. 5th) I found my starfish dead Sandsifter). <Sorry to hear.> Two of the legs looked as though they had melted and the center (at the anus) had caved in. <Yuck. They do decay quickly when dead/dying.> I tried to supplement it with food but it wanted nothing to do with anything I tried.  It had been acting really strange as of late, but was fine when I fist got it.  It acted normally for about a month, then in 4-5 days just stopped moving. <Sounds like some sort to toxin or bacterial infection. Stars are particularly vulnerable to both.> I have a 90 gallon tank with ~40 pounds of live rock so far, 3 clowns, 1 algae blenny, 1 coral banded shrimp and 12 hermit crabs.  The parameters of the tank were, when I found it dead: pH 8.2, ammonia 0 ppm, nitrite 0 ppm, nitrate 10-15 ppm and salinity at 1.0205. <Do you mean 1.025? Better to keep it at this level (and very stable) for stars. They need normal seawater SG and are very sensitive to fluctuation.>  I was just curious as to what may have happened and if the other inhabitants can catch it?? <If a coin, others could be vulnerable. Bacterial infection, not really. Echinoderms don't have as much immunity as fish do. Consider a water change (& slowly increase SG to 1.024-1.025 range) and carbon/PolyFilter.>   I also had a couple of questions concerning clownfish behavior which I wasn't able to find through your website.  At night the 3 clownfish kind of float on their sides at the top of the tank in the corner closest to the skimmer and heater, is this normal?? <Yes> They swim around all day and seem to be acting normal.  They have done this since day 1.  <No worries> Also one of the clowns keeps "picking" at the one of the other ones, sorry I don't know how else to describe it. <Typical. Threesomes don't work for clownfish. The one that is being picked on is doomed eventually. I'd get it out of there and into a safer place before it is damaged or killed.>   Finally I read that clownfish are not able to inhabit an anemone if they have been raised away from one.  <Not true exactly. Probably less likely to, but even old ones sometimes never do wither in the artificial, small environment of a marine tank.> My clowns are Amphiprion ocellaris which were tank raised.  If I introduce an anemone to the system some time in the future will they be able to inhabit it?? <Perhaps (but only a pair). However, anemones are VERY difficult to care for and should not be mixed with corals and limit your fish choices to. Best to avoid until you've been at this for a couple of years, if ever.>   Again, thank you very much for all the help, Todd Hawman <Hope this does.>

Sand-Shifting Star Issues (8/17/04) Hello Crew, <Hi. Steve Allen tonight.>   I have a question, Is it normal for a sand sifter Starfish To climb the tank and glass. <I would not consider it abnormal, but it may mean that it's not finding enough food in the sand. These voracious eaters can rid a sandbed of all life other than bacteria, though yours ought to be big enough to keep up.> I have 140 Gal, 1 year old. 150 lbs of rock, and I see copepods like you see ants on a hill. They are all over. <Are they on the sand too?> Every so often he climbs the tank. I also will see little white bugs on the glass. <Could be he senses them and is going after them. Or maybe he just wants to see the world. ;)> Also are you supposed to try to feed it shrimp? LFS said to put it on a piece of shrimp, tried it once and he ran away from it and does not eat it. <Stars often do not like being handled and will run away as soon as you let go. However, I hand feed all of my big stars. (I have no Archaster, however.) Sometimes they eat and sometimes they don't. A couple of them seem to have specific tastes. Perhaps it would take mussels or squid or something else. Perhaps it is getting enough already--many folks do not hand feed Archaster typicus. I would not worry about its wanderings as long as it appears healthy and is not wasting away.>   Also , I have a Bubble tip Anemone, I feed it shrimp with Secor (Sometimes with Secor) but every 3 days he eats, was doing good. for 5 days now he has been hiding behind a rock with the clowns, it is like he is hiding from the light. <Not a good thing. They generally like lots of light--need it to survive/thrive.>  Have not changed any lighting or anything in the tank Readings are all normal, He will not eat but I still see he is alive. <Hard to say what the trouble is here. I have not kept anemones because of my personal opinion that they should be left in the sea because too many die in tanks. I would recommend you read the anemone articles and FAQs on WWM, check for articles at www.reefkeeping.com and look for the article on BTAs published a few months back in Aquarium Fish Magazine at your local library. If you do not find these helpful, submit a new query about the BTA only and I will see to it that it gets routed to someone with more experience. Your query came to me because I'm into echinoderms.> Than you for your help <I hope this does help.>

Sand sifting star is dying Hello. << Hi, Blundell here. >> My husband and I got a sand sifter starfish 2 days ago. << I'm not a fan of these guys, I hope he does well for you. >>  I noticed after one day that one of the legs of the star had been chewed off, at least it looked that way. << Hmm, not sure what would eat them, so I'm surprised here. >> Here is my setup and I am wondering who the culprit is. 72 gallon with LR, fine sand substrate and the following: Percula clown fish scooter blenny six line wrasse << That would be a stretch, but a long shot possibility. >> 2 cleaner shrimp 1 coral banded shrimp << Another possibility. >> 2 sally Lightfoots 1 emerald crab assorted corals The only one that I can think of that may do this is the six line wrasse but I haven't found anything out there saying a six line and a starfish are not compatible nor have I seen him near the star. << Yah, I would think a water condition is much more likely. >>     The starfish isn't looking so great and I am not sure what to do for him.  Also, I am wondering if his detached leg will regenerate. << I would think so. >> This sounds odd to me but I think I read somewhere that the leg may be able to regenerate if some of the body was attached...if not, should I remove the leg?  Not sure if I need to catch six line and put him in time out.   Any ideas on this one? << I would just wait it out.  Anything you do to the star could cause excess stress.  And why would anyone take out their Sixline wrasse?  I mean come on those are some way cool fish.  So I wouldn't do anything in this case. >> Water Chemistry: 0 - Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate.  Ph-8.2; Salinity - 30 SG: 1.022 Any help you can provide would be much appreciated. Thanks. << Those stars require a lot of microfauna to survive.  They need many pods, so that is your best bet for keeping him alive and thriving. >> Michelle Peralta <<  Blundell  >>

Melting Star (8/31/04) Hi crew, <Hello! Steve Allen today.> I have a sand sifting star in my QT, that's losing an arm per day (it's down to 2 now). It's still alive (I turn it over, and it turns itself back). Oddly enough, another sand sifter I have in the same tank is perfectly fine (I also have a maroon clown in there too). I do 20% water changes from the main tank every other day, water quality is fine (all zeros nitrate/nitrite/ammonia, ph 8.2, 1.024 specific gravity). My questions are:  what's causing this, will it affect the other star, and will it effect the clown, and, frankly, should I just remove the affected star? <Hard to be certain, but it is often a bacterial infection or "rot" that is seldom reversible.> Also, I'm running a UV sterilizer in the QT (which I only use for the QT when I'm quarantining, otherwise it's off, so bulb life hopefully shouldn't be an issue), and the affected star in question had a white bead embedded in its center disc (best way I can describe it) ever since I bought it. <Uncertain what this could be.> Not sure if that information will help, but figured I'd add it anyway :) Thanks in advance, Rob <Well, most of these problems remain a mystery. Whatever it is, the UV isn't helping. I'm impressed that your water quality remains high. (Of course, there may be other toxins in there.) Stars do need very stable water conditions, especially pH and SG. Personally, I'd remove the star. At this point, there is little hope of it recovering, and its ongoing disintegration is a constant threat to water quality.>

Taking Care of A Sick Starfish I recently received 3 sand sifters 2 are doing fine, but 1 is loosing its appendages.  Water is 125 gal FOWLR 55# live rock tank is staffed with 2 small percula clown and a goby with 25 snails( 10 Nassarius 9 turbo and 6 margaritas) ammonia 0.0 nitrite .2 ppm nitrates 0 ph 8.3. What is wrong with the star and is it contagious? <Well, your water conditions sound just fine, so it's probably not an environmental problem in your tank. It could have been caused by a trauma of some sort, or, more commonly, by  Vibrio bacteria infection.> Should I get him out of the tank or is this something he will heal from. He lost the tip of one and most of a second.  As always I love reading your faq but find nothing on the star. <I'd remove the injured specimen to a separate aquarium for possible treatment, as well as a precaution against possible pollution if he dies undetected. Furan-based medications or antibiotics can help treat these problems. If you do effect a cure, the animal has amazing regenerative capabilities, and there is a good chance that it will grow back the missing sections of it's legs. Give a treatment tank a shot...Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

An asteroid in the sand Hi Bob, <PF here tonight, though I'm sure Bob will read this.> I have been reading all of the FAQ and email exchange. You are by far one of the most dedicated people to this hobby. I admire and Thank You for all the time you take to answer our questions. < Speaking on Bob's behalf, you're welcome, and yes, I believe he is very dedicated too.> Boy, the stuff you must cringe at:-) <The less said about that, the better.> I have a 30 gallon fish only, no live rock <I would advise getting some LR, and curing it in a separate container. Here's the FAQ on LR: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/liverock1.htm > just live sand <Your sifter is soon going to turn that into not-so-live-sand, that's the nature of the beast.> , 2 month old saltwater tank (almost immediately realizing it is toooooo small) <Good call on your part> but such is always the case with any addiction:-) I have received a sand star from etropicals.com I am from the old school and took a real chance ordering ONLINE. <Many fine etailers out there, but always do your research on the company before ordering.> He arrived with the tip of one of his legs cut but otherwise healthy. I acclimated him for about 45 minutes. <Just an FYI, in the future, do a drip acclimation, most asteroids (hey, I didn't name 'em) are very sensitive to salinity changes, the more we can do to help them, the better.> He took to the sand quickly but gradually (if that makes sense). <Yes it does.> He seems healthy and happy so far. <Good.> 1. What are some signs I can be looking for if he takes turn? <Stops moving for long periods (hours... days...) is one sign, drastic color changes is another, and falling apart is a really bad sign.> 2. What can I feed him to supplement his diet? He is not carnivorous <Well... that's a tough one. Sand sifting stars eat the organisms that make a sand bed live - amphipods, copepods, small bristle worms, etc. It will quickly sterilize the bed. I'm not really sure what you can feed as a substitute. A refugium that gravity feeds into the tank to restock the supply of detritivores the sifter eats may not be out of line. OTOH, it may just be happy eating waste from your fish.> I am not sure. 3. I have four small blue leg crabs and 8 small (tiny) bumble snails, will they hurt him? <I don't think they would, especially the snails.> 4. I am going out tomorrow to buy a hospital tank (in every article you respond to, you recommend a QT) I am sold. <A very wise decision.> 5. Can I set a QT without live rock. <Yes, to start the nitrate cycle, just use a small piece of shrimp (fresh or frozen) and a sponge filter, in a few weeks the tank should be up and running fine.> 6. Also do I keep the QT running all the time like my regular tank? <I would say yes, if you have the room for it.> 7. We are moving in September and my husband and I plan to move everybody into a 70 gallon tank, so I know they will be happier. <Good, they can use the room. If you decide to do a DSB in your 70g tank, the sand sifter will have to find a new home, it defeats the purpose of having a DSB. Kind of like using coyotes to herd sheep.> 8. We have: A healthy beautiful eating Yellow Tang:-), a watchman goby and his pistol shrimp buddy (purchased separately), two percula clown, a blue damsel <Might want to give the damsel a new home when you move, they get very aggressive.>, and the rest of the invert gang mentioned above. My water quality is high and I stay home so I feed small several times a day <Would that I could.> and monitor the tank constantly. I realize this number of fish etc is a challenge given the age of the tank but I have two young step daughters (8 and 6) who only come and visit from NYC three times a year and wanted the two clown fish to remind us of them when their not here (resist that one). <I'm with your there.> 9. Will we be ok until we can buy our fish their new 70 gallon house? < You didn't mention filtration. Be sure and use a good skimmer, it wouldn't be out of line to overskim a tank that full. And a method of running activated carbon would be good too. That is an awfully full tank. Have you given any though to setting up another tank (say a 20g long) and splitting the crowd out some?> Thank You for being a gift to the hobby. I am returning to it after 5 years of absence. <Welcome back. : ) > I read everything I can get my hands on <Now if only that attitude were infectious... ; ) >, but it always nice to have some consistent decisive advice. <Several years ago, when I first started writing and talking to Bob, he warned me if I hung around I'd wind up answering questions one day, I pass that warning on to you.> I look forward to hearing from you as I have envied all the folks  who receive a reply because I did not know until now how to get in on this. <Feel free to ask questions anytime, that's what we're here for.> Sincerely Christina <Good luck, and happy reef keeping, PF>

Falling Star? Hello gang, <Scott F. your man tonight!> Our sandsifting star lost the tip of one of its legs. He is healthy and happy. I have not taken the tip of the leg out of the tank yet. I was wondering will that little bit of leg regenerate into another star or is he not the species that does that? <Well, most starfishes display remarkable regenerative processes, and with steady, high water quality and careful observation, the animal should be okay...If it really starts to decline, you will want to remove the animal to a separate aquarium for more intensive observation and possible treatment with antibiotics to avoid infection as a result of the damage. Also, re-check all water conditions in your tank to make sure that environment did not play a factor in this problem, or think about the animal's companions in the tank...could any of them have harassed the animal to the point where it suffered this damage?> I know he will regenerate his leg if we take good care of him. Thanks Very Much. David and Christy Evans <I'll bet that it will, too! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.> David W. Evans

Mating Stars? (7/28/04) Hi there: <Hi. Steve Allen here.> I took this picture a few min.s ago (photo attached), these two have been this way for about two days now. Just wondering if they are indeed mating, and if there are any precautions we need to take to keep the little ones safe. <Could be, but hard to be certain. Echinoderms spawn into the water. No copulation involved. If they do reproduce, there is nothing you can do in a reef tank setting to protect the eggs or baby starfish. It is almost impossible for them to survive and grow to adulthood in there. Too many other things available to eat them. That's why they produce millions eggs in the wild--only a few survive. In the confines of a tank, they are even less likely to survive.> We have shrimp, crabs, snails, a yellow tang, two clown fish and a fish that looks like Dory from Finding Nemo. <Paracanthurus hepatus> It's my husband's tank, so I don't know all the fishes proper names :-) Thanks for any help or tips you might have and feel free to use the picture if you'd like. <Nice picture. Hard to say what they're really doing. As far as actually breeding starfish, you might want to do some searching on the internet for info if anyone is doing this successfully.> Thanks, Lecia Zinna

Feeding a Sand-Sifting Star (1/26/04) Hi Bob, <Steve Allen pitching in tonight.>    I have read over the info that I could find on the website and other sources but didn't really find my answer, probably just missed it.  I have a sand sifter starfish that doesn't move around a whole lot...does from time to time.  I noticed one morning that it was up at the top of the tank doing its thing.  Then later in the evening I found it at the bottom up against the glass looking all droopy...not rigid...kinda like a dying plant. <Sometimes they'll do this, but you might want to test your water quality parameters.>    I talked to my local aquarium pet shop...and was told to feed it some cooked/uncooked shrimp...just shrimp from the grocery store. <uncooked is preferable for nutrient value.> I tried this but it didn't even attempt to eat it...but it did get better...moved to a new location. I tried to feed it again but my Coral banded shrimp, recently purchased, steals the bit of shrimp from the starfish. <Yes, an aggressive feeder.> Is there a better way to feed the starfish? Do I need to feed the starfish? - I've been told I don't; just doesn't seem right. <How big is your tank? Only the sand bed of a rather large tank has enough life to feed one of these. I'd try some other marine foods like chopped clams, mussels, squid, etc & place it very close to the star.> Will this harm the shrimp? <No, they'll eat just about anything organic. Mine are quite bold at stealing from slower inverts.>  Just worried that everyone gets properly fed!! <Keep trying.> Thank you very much, <You're welcome.> Todd Hawman

Starfish Eating Shells 2 (1/25/04) My tank is only a ten gallon, so it's pretty easy to keep track of the different things in there, which is how I could tell he swallowed one of the shells.  Amazingly, he seems to be perfectly normal now! <Glad to hear it.> Thank you for your quick response! Sincerely, LeeAnne Strohmann <I hope all remains well, Steve Allen>

White Sand Star, Archaster sp Hi Bob, Once again I have done it.... Ordered something before researching. Now I have read your site (and others) and you don't think the White Sand Star, Archaster sp, is required to support a reef. <Hmm, no... there are reefs... wild, captive that certainly don't have them...> I now have discovered that some even eat inverts and coral. <Yes, can> The starfish has not yet arrived .... should I cancel? or take the chance he will enhance my environment. I don't really buy stuff for the reef just for looks... I do it to TRY and create a self sustained environment. Kind regards, Robert <"Worth the risk" in most all cases... don't know about your system... of size, has "enough" (a few inches) of softer, smaller substrate? This Seastar will very likely work out. Bob Fenner>

Archaster typicus Bob, What are your thoughts on the theory that the Archaster typicus starfish consumes too much of the bacteria in the live sand, depleting the aquarium of the bacteria needed for maintaining the biological equilibrium.  <Not a practical consideration. No problem> I have a 40 gallon reef tank that runs on the Berlin system, and I have one Archaster star; I was wondering if this was a legitimate issue. Thanks for the input. B. Brown <Not IMO/E. Bob Fenner>

Sand Sifting Star Detrimental to Plenum Setup? I have 40 gallon with a small sump (10 gallon aquarium) that has a 1" plenum and 3" of aragonite sand. Is it possible that the sand sifting star that is in sump could be removing the beneficial bacteria absorbing/eating it)? Or is it doing more help than bad by stirring it up and removing detritus? Are there better creatures for this? (stirring the substrate that is) <Good questions... the Archaster star is doing more good than harm. There are other organisms you could use instead, in addition. Please use the search tool, or marine index to read about "Sand Sifters"... on www.WetWebMedia.com Bob Fenner> Thanks in advance, Dan Sand-sifting Star Compatibility with Cleanup Crew? Hi guys, Haven't written to you in a while, but have been reading the emails everyday. Still amazing answers, just as ever!!  <thanks kindly> Today I'd like to ask your take on the following. I have 1 of the common sand sifting stars in my 125g tank. Now before I continue I'd like to say, yes, I know they are not good for the DSB,  <actually... I like them and recommend them. They serve the greater good in many displays for the sheer volume of diatoms they handle. Some other high profile, land-locked aquarists espouse to the contrary although their experience with large, mature reef aquaria seems to be limited> but as I said my tank is a 125g, and I have a refuge plumbed in that supplies lots of refresher buggy life to the main tank constantly, and my DSB has not diminished in performance.  <agreed and not surprised as one who used such stars in about 2,000 gallons of culture pools in my coral greenhouse> What I'd like to know is if they are compatible with various smaller cleaners like say Nassarius snails, or Cerith snails,  <definitely> or either a fighting or queen conch?  <hmmm... some concern about adequate food hear as the gastropods mature> I'm wondering especially about the small ones like the Nassarius, which I know can stand their ground against things,  <no worries> but is the star fast enough to catch them, or am I completely wrong, as the stars only eat micro-life and such? <exactly... this sea star is very low risk as an opportunistic omnivore... very "reef-safe" with all including the Nassarius. Best Regards, Anthony>

Starfish Bob, Would white burrowing starfish eat cleaner shrimp? (I don't want to buy the  shrimp if they do.) Also, do I need to feed these starfish or will they feed on detritus? Tammy <<The White Burrowing Starfish (Archaster typicus)<right> will not eat your Cleaner Shrimp (some other stars, e.g. Green Brittles will), and in an established system with plenty of live rock there is no need to specifically feed them. Bob Fenner>>

Angels And The Star... Hello can I keep a sand sifting sea star with a Blueface angel or a emperor angel? Thanks. <Should be fine. The angels may occasionally take a little nip at the starfish from time to time, but this is not a common occurrence. I wouldn't worry about it.  I'm sure that the angels will be much more interested in picking at your rocks for food items. Regards, Scott F>

-Insuring sand star survival- What can I do to insure the survival of my Sand Star? My tank is only two months old, I have a 80 gal. tank w/ about 45lbs. live rock and about a 3" sand bed. I have two sand sifting gobies <First, remove these guys, they're competing for the same food as the star.>,4 blue-green chromies,1Burgundy clown,2 cleaner shrimp, 1 royal Gramma, 1 bubble tip anemone, 1 hammer coral, 1 fox coral, 1lg. chili coral, Candy cane coral, that is all I have for now. Any suggestions for me. <Sand stars require an abundance of sand to keep going. IMO they have no place in an aquarium with a deep live sand bed since they devour the very critters that keep the sandbed healthy. -Kevin> Thank you, Mark W.

- This is the End of My Pets and the Tank - All starfishes and worms appears to be dead, and all begins to decay. :( :( :( :( :cry. And so well.. I should tell back the first storyline why this is can happened. I have a 3 gallon tanks (I guess; it was 60 x 30 x 36) and the inhabitants were living with harmony and living happily. The water was so clear, never polluted and nitrates were very low. But... When I want a horned starfish (Protoreastor) I see in the aquaria, I just foolishly selected it and without any guesswork and considers what could be happened. The seller were so clumsy and looked not so smart (did you know how he put the stars in the transport bags?? He took them out from the water and expose them to the air!! <Next time, don't buy them if the store clerk bags them up that way - refuse to pay for them and tell them why; seastars should not be exposed to the air.> and I'd be sure they became stressed) And, when I opened the bag in my home, milky saturation exists replacing the water. I ignoring it, and started to put the stars in my aquaria (sorry, this ones without acclimatization and I just put them into the small tank because of the heavy bag to put floating in aquarium.) and they starts to exudes the rotting secretion to water, and next  day the vision was totally obscured. So, I went to the second aquaria marketplace (with my mother began shouting to me) to buy two gallons of saltwater (hey.. in this country no salt mixes available for this; Bob Fenner maybe had been here, for diving in Bunaken and Bali) and using water changes for this. I change it, and waiting to Monday. Next day, all stars die (they as prominently exuding slime and ossicles were falling apart), worms sheds the crown and die. The only survivors is the semi-terrestrial mangrove Ceriths and they now hanging creeping above water surface. And I am fully aware and sure the water were boosting to high-ammonia, nitrites, nitrates.* sob, sob, waahhh !!!!* Mercifully, my mother did, tolerant this likely unforgivable event and I promised to be more careful in selection and care. So, I planned to restart all of this. I started with Archasters, and some others. Can you give me a recommendation for tankmates for Archasters? <Unless space is a real issue for you, can I convince you to get a slightly larger tank? Three gallons is smaller than small, and as you've now seen things can go badly very fast in a tank of this size. Even so, if you must keep this small system, I really wouldn't put much in it - perhaps one seastar, one Featherduster, and maybe one shrimp, but that's all. If you put too much life in this tank, you'll have a repeat of this bad experience.> (I would be happy if I can put some other starfish species and Brittlestars) and can I use the old sand (I scared if it was contaminated) for the new setting? <You should be able to use the old sand - just let the tank run for a week or so with nothing else in it.> Thanks a lot!!! Anargha. <Cheers, J -- >

Sand-Sifting Star Issues (8/17/04) Hello Crew, <Hi. Steve Allen tonight.>   I have a question, Is it normal for a sand sifter Starfish To climb the tank and glass. <I would not consider it abnormal, but it may mean that it's not finding enough food in the sand. These voracious eaters can rid a sandbed of all life other than bacteria, though yours ought to be big enough to keep up.> I have 140 Gal, 1 year old. 150 lbs of rock, and I see copepods like you see ants on a hill. They are all over. <Are they on the sand too?> Every so often he climbs the tank. I also will see little white bugs on the glass. <Could be he senses them and is going after them. Or maybe he just wants to see the world. ;)> Also are you supposed to try to feed it shrimp? LFS said to put it on a piece of shrimp, tried it once and he ran away from it and does not eat it. <Stars often do not like being handled and will run away as soon as you let go. However, I hand feed all of my big stars. (I have no Archaster, however.) Sometimes they eat and sometimes they don't. A couple of them seem to have specific tastes. Perhaps it would take mussels or squid or something else. Perhaps it is getting enough already--many folks do not hand feed Archaster typicus. I would not worry about its wanderings as long as it appears healthy and is not wasting away.>   Also , I have a Bubble tip Anemone, I feed it shrimp with Secor (Sometimes with Secor) but every 3 days he eats, was doing good. for 5 days now he has been hiding behind a rock with the clowns, it is like he is hiding from the light. <Not a good thing. They generally like lots of light--need it to survive/thrive.>  Have not changed any lighting or anything in the tank Readings are all normal, He will not eat but I still see he is alive. <Hard to say what the trouble is here. I have not kept anemones because of my personal opinion that they should be left in the sea because too many die in tanks. I would recommend you read the anemone articles and FAQs on WWM, check for articles at www.reefkeeping.com and look for the article on BTAs published a few months back in Aquarium Fish Magazine at your local library. If you do not find these helpful, submit a new query about the BTA only and I will see to it that it gets routed to someone with more experience. Your query came to me because I'm into echinoderms.> Than you for your help <I hope this does help.>

Re: My star fish Hi Bob, it's me again. I also have this Sand Sifting Star and never had a problem, it's only that I don't see her much!  <quite common with this nocturnal seastar> I have her for about 4 month and no problems. Bye, Berta <Good looking, hardy and utilitarian, a Sand Sifting Star, Archaster typicus. As with dealing with all sizable burrowing animals, make sure your rocky habitat is securely placed on the bottom of the tank (not the substrate). best regards, Anthony>

Sand Sifting Star fish...dying? Hi, I have a 55 gal FOWLR and some inverts - cleaner shrimp, peppermint shrimp, snails and hermit crabs, and two sand sifting stars. One of them is acting odd. It is rolling over exposing its underside. It's legs aren't really twisted or curled much. Not much movement on it's suction thingies either. But if I flip him he'll move around a bit and flip again. I can't compare him to the other, because I can't locate him. I do a 20% change every week to 2 weeks. My nitrates hover around 20 to 25, but other than that my readings are all right on. My cleaner shrimp molted last night, so I think the water is okay. I did recently loose a urchin. My yellow tang picked the spines off and finally ate him. Some of those spines are still mixed in the substrate. Is it possible that the star 'stung' himself? Will those spines break down and raise my nitrates? Have any thoughts on getting them out? Tweezers? I also just recently added two large wads of Caulerpa, but the star (my son calls him Patrick - from Sponge Bob) was acting odd before that addition. Thanks for your input, Mike <I would advise you lower your nitrates to accommodate inverts. Check any sponges, filters, etc. and clean regularly (at least weekly). You don't mention the type of substrate, but if it is coarse and can trap a lot of waste, take care of that. Do test for ammonia and nitrite.... I would remove the spines, perhaps with a net?  Maybe think about adding live rock and sand to keep inverts with lower nitrates. Hope this helps! Craig>

Starfish <Anthony Calfo in your service while Bob makes his way to the great continent of Australia. No worries in travel other than the full cavity searches at every stop along the way (not mandatory... Bob volunteers for them)> Quick question for you. I just added another sand sifting starfish to my tank. I currently had one. Immediately the new one went over to the old one and has been laying on top of it since (about 12 hours). Is this something I need to be concerned about? <a little strange, but likely nothing if they are the same exact same species...else separate to inspect for aggression (inverted stomach thingy)> Thanks for your help! Also, do you recommend a good site that has care information on corals. I'm just beginning and do not want to buy something that I'm not ready for. Victoria Notz <a lot of anecdotal information on the web...much of it good, but can be misleading. My best advice would be to find a local (and online if necessary) aquarium society. These clubs are the absolute best place to get free and honest information from people who are not trying to sell you something. Next, I'd get some good books. For the newest information, I like Borneman's Aquarium Corals and Tullock's Reef Aquarium books. Delbeek and Sprung's Reef Aquarium (1 and 2) are also great old standbys. And shamelessly, I must admit that I have a reef text available as well, Book of Coral Propagation. Much info (450pages) in a conversational tone. Do start with aquarium club... if you don't know of one, let us know your city and we'll apprise you of the closest one. Kindly, Anthony Calfo>

Re: Stirring my sand Thanks for the reply, and so you don't think I'm that lazy writer that never wants to research on his own, I did read the piece on "Gobies and their Relatives" (Along with just about all the other sections) prior to my writing, but it did not have much information on their sand-stirring abilities. Re: the starfish, I did find reference to it on WWM but not regarding overall size. I just don't want you to think I don't appreciate you taking the time to answer my frequent questions. <No worries, Bri. This Archaster species can get several inches across... but/just start with a small one (3" diameter let's say), and all should be fine... I would not necessarily add any more fish life to this system...> While I have you, one more quickie. Are all Chromis' peaceful? (i.e.: Blue Reef Chromis?) <Most members of the genus are far more to the left of center where aggression in damsels is concerned... in other words, yes, they're relatively easygoing>  Thanks again, Brian  <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Roman Sand Stars Hi again, Thank you for answering my lighting question so promptly. I am glad that I am doing the right thing. I have 7 sand stars to work the sand but I have noticed that for some reason there is 2 or 3 of them on top of one another, like a dog pile, there that way for a while then they move on. why do they do that??? are they mating??? or are the fighting??? none of them seem to have any damage on them at all. do you know why they do that? <I do not know what they are doing and I am not concerned about it either. What does concern me is their presence at all. These burrowing starfish tend to sift through the sand to eat the smaller creatures found there. I think 7 will quickly strip your sand bed of life and then starve. I would not use any more than one and I might not use the one either. -Steven Pro>

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