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FAQs about Sea Star Disease/Pests/Health 2

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

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

Sea Star Query I have had my Pentaceraster cumingi starfish for about 4 months and he has been doing fine.  However for the last few days he has been at the bottom of the tank moving around very little and his arms do not seem ridged anymore. I have tested the water and everything has tested in normal parameters and there have been no drastic change in the water.  I have a chocolate chip starfish and a brittle starfish and they have been doing fine.  If you can help me at all I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you, Mike >>>Mike, Echinoderms are EXTREMELY sensitive animals. Also, the diets of many of them are either not fully understood, or difficult to replicate in an aquarium setting. They are also very susceptible to acclimation stress, and often take weeks to die. Any number of things could have killed/be killing your animal. Once they reach the point where you can SEE obvious signs of trouble, they are impossible to save. Chocolate chip stars are very hardy, as are brittle stars. Most other species, much less so. Cheers Jim<<<

Injured Chocolate Chip Star (10/21/04) Hi! <Hello. Steve Allen tonight> I am still very new to saltwater systems but learning more every day, thanks to your great site.  I have had a Chocolate Chip Starfish since almost the beginning of the 75 gallon set-up but have since learned that he will not be reef safe :(  <This is true, but they are cool to have in a proper system.> In any event, I recently purchased a Dwarf Fuzzy Lionfish and was told that they would be compatible.  Two days after putting them together I noticed that my CC Star looked shriveled and one leg was white and deteriorating...he was at the time attached to my powerhead and my husband surmised that he must've gotten his leg "stuck" somehow <Possible, this does happen and can result in injuries that easily become infected.>...24 hours later when I woke up the Lion was aggressively checking him out as the CC star was attached to the front wall of the tank.  All levels in the tank have been perfect, a protein skimmer is running, and all the other fish (copper banded butterfly, velvet damsel, who I realize is not a great choice now, and a Protoreastor lincki sea star, <Another beautiful star--also not reef safe.> also live rock about 50 lbs.) are doing o.k. but the other star is not as active as the choc chip ever was.  Is the lionfish the problem with the CC star and is that the reason that the other star is not as active too? <I doubt the lion is the problem. A Trigger yes, a Lion no. Did you quarantine the lion first? I'd be suspicious of some bacterial pathogen introduced with any water that got in there from his bag. Are your water parameters proper and stable? I would consider removing the star to a quarantine tank and treating with a broad-spectrum antibiotic.> Thanks a lot you guys are the best! Carol <Hope this helps.>

Linckia Problems (10/21/04) Hi. <Sorry for the late reply. Just got back after a week away from WWM and found this in my inbox. Perhaps someone else replied earlier. BTW, please capitalize "I" and punctuate in the future--it makes it much easier to read and respond to a query.> I have just started a tank about 2 months ago <better to wait several months to add most stars> and I just got a starfish and it isn't doing so well...it is a blue 5 legged star <Linckia laevigata, notoriously un-hardy. The vast majority die within days or weeks of purchase. In fact, most are already dying from poor handling by the time they get to a dealer.> and I think he is actually eating himself. <More likely disintegrating. I can't see how one would eat itself.> I just got him less than a week ago and I think it may have been damaged when the woman at the store removed it from the coral it was attached to because some intestine looking piece fell off his stomach. <Already dying there as noted above.> The starfish used to be very active around the tank but is not anymore and I am pretty sure he is picking at his own tentacle..<tentacle? Starfish do not have these. They have arms and tube feet. Not tentacles.> My fish recently got the Ich and I have been treating them outside <very smart> of the tank so as to not harm the starfish or my other invertebrates but I still don't know what is wrong with my poor guy. Any suggestions as to why he would be eating himself or acting like he is dying? thanks so much, Charlene <Sorry to say, your star is dying and there is little if anything you can do to save it. I'd guess it's already dead. If still alive, you could put it in a hospital tank and treat with a broad-spectrum antibiotic. How did you acclimate this star to your tank? How did the store acclimate it to theirs? It requires slow-drip acclimation over a couple of hours because these animals are very sensitive to changes in salinity and pH. If you want a star in the future, I would recommend the much hardier Fromia species. Hope this helps, Steve Allen.>

Chocolate Chips and Lionfishes Hi all!!! <Hi, MikeD here> I believe, sadly, that my Chocolate Chip Starfish is dying. He seems to be melting away (one limb gone and seems to be spreading). The arm was white 2 days ago, I found him "stuck" to my powerhead and removed him.<It's being stuck is due to it's weakened condition as a normal chocolate chip starfish has plenty of strength to walk away, even one that was injured.> I checked your great site and learned that the white might possibly be caused by stress. He also looked quite shriveled that day, but became very active once removed from the powerhead...I assumed that stress was the cause.<Stress may have been a contributing factor, but it sounds like your animal may be the victim of an active infection that I've seen before in sea stars.  While it's unknown as to whether it's a bacterial or viral infection, it seems to be almost universally fatal and highly contagious to other sea stars as well. The one consolation is that it seems to affect the sea stars only, having no effect upon sea urchins, sea cucumbers or any of the other echinoderms.> The next day, I saw that my fuzzy dwarf lionfish was "aggressively" checking him out.<Any interest by the lionfish was purely in looking to see if there were any small sea creatures actively attacking the infection site, such as small shrimp or isopods which would have been greedily gobbled up.> Are they able to peacefully cohabitate as I was told that they were? <Without question, yes they are.> Alas, my poor Chocolate Chip now looks as if he were dipped in milk, will he eventually die or is there something I can do? He is still active and eating...Please help!!<This is one of those situations where I truly believe that there is nothing that you can do, with the exception of removing the animal in hopes of preventing the spread to other sea stars that you might have.  If you have none, I strongly suggest that you wait a month or two before introducing another, one of the things that makes me suspect a bacteria, virus or even parasitic protozoa that needs sea stars to survive and dies off without their presence..... I've never had a spontaneous reoccurrence of the "disease" once it's run its course and killed all the sea stars in an aquarium. In all instances where I've had this occur, it was shortly after the introduction of a new sea star....it may be possible to bring it in with an introduction of another animal, such as a fish or coral that was kept in an open system at the LFS that contained sea stars, a reason why even invertebrates should be kept in isolation as a preventive measure, but this is pure speculation as, again, any instances I've seen were with the purchase of an infected animal.> Carol

Starfish keeping Hi I have just started a tank about 2 months ago and I just got a starfish and it isn't doing so well...it is a blue 5 legged star and I think he is actually eating himself I just got him less than a week ago and I think it may have been damaged when the woman at the store removed it from the coral it was attached to because some intestine looking piece fell off his stomach. <Uhh...> the starfish used to be very active around the tank but is not anymore and I am pretty sure he is picking at his own tentacle...my fish recently got the Ich and I have been treating them outside of the tank so as to not harm the starfish or my other invertebrates but I still don't know what is wrong with my poor guy. any suggestions as to why he would be eating himself or acting like he is dying? thanks so much, Charlene <Charlene, please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/stardisfaqs.htm and on to the linked files (in blue, at top) re starfish selection, systems... Bob Fenner>

Starfish ID and health 10/14/04 Hello Crew  I am an avid reader of your site and have benefited greatly from your advice.  Honestly,  everything just sort of came together and started working for me when I read and followed the suggestions on your site for frequent small water changes.  It is truly nice to have someone to turn to for help who is not taking your money.  For some reason, an open cash register seems to magically change a tanks stocking limits and fish temperament /compatibility.  Thank you. <Basic care and a little research prevent and solve a lot of problems!  Glad you have benefited from what is here.> On to my question... I am trying to get a positive ID of a starfish that I have had for over a year.  I was told by the LFS that it was a common red star.  But mine doesn't seem to match pics that I have seen on the web.  Hopefully you can help.  Here's a couple of pics. <Looks like Fromia sp.> Also what information do you have about the life expectancy of this animal? <Should be many years, but it is impossible to know how old the animal was when captured.> He has started acting "weird" and I am wondering if he may be nearing his golden days.  His appearance has not changed but I noticed him lying on the sand with all of his legs pointing up several times lately...something he has not done in the past.  Also, he was hanging by only one arm from the glass at the top of the tank and just sort of let go and fell to the bottom.  I have seen this before but this time he just laid there all crumpled up for a long time before ~slowly~ righting himself. <Could be age, but it really sounds like a water quality issue.> All water parameters are in spec and I have not deviated from any of my normal maintenance routines. <Always list the results of your testing.  Trace ammonia, and pH or salinity slightly out of range (especially if sudden) can be very harmful to delicate echinoderms.  Salinity in particular should always be near NSW values (1.024-1.026)> I am sure he is not being picked at. <With that big mean harlequin tusk, I wouldn't be so sure!> Any help is greatly appreciated.  Thanks again. Kirk <Hope this helps!  Please do reply with water quality tests and the brand of salt that you use, and perhaps we can get to the bottom of this.  Best Regards. AdamC.>

Echinoderm Quarantine (9/8/04) Greetings crew. <Steve Allen today.> Can't find what I need in the FAQ archive. I am planning to get a starfish for my minireef.  After extensively researching my choices, I am leaning towards a Fromia sp. of starfish (waiting for a pretty red or orange one to come in). <Best choice. Most Linckias die.> I am wondering if I should set up my QT differently than I do for my fish and corals? <Bare bottom is fine. Echinoderms are happiest at normal seawater salinity (SG around 1.024).> Is there anything special that I should do for keeping a starfish for 4-6 weeks? <4 is fine. You will need to feed it things like frozen Mysis.> I currently have a 10-gal with heater, 20w of PC, powerhead <Consider leaving this out. Definitely use a screen to keep the starfish room getting stuck in the intake.> and a whisper 30 filter. Plenty of PVC <not really needed for the star, but no harm.> and a fake Caulerpa plant as well. <Again, not needed.> Anything else I should have on hand just in case of problems? <Not that I can think of. The key factor is slooooow acclimation (use drip--read article on WWM). This will also be the case when moving to the display. Stars tolerate only very gradual changes in SG and pH especially. Temp and other factors are important as well.> Just wondering before I get my new reef family member. <Smart to learn first and buy after. Good luck.> Thanks again for all your help. AA pleasure.> -Ray

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.>

Chocolate Chip Problem (8/22/04) I have read through your site on sea stars with special attention to the chocolate chip.  Mine had a little black bump on one of the chips that make up his crown last night.  Today when I got home from work  one of the chips on his leg had a white spot like the tip (of the chip, not the leg) was sliced off, very very small piece.  I touched him, he is still very firm, very active, and as always <Good signs>, wanted to climb on me as soon as I put my hand in the tank.  Background info: 29 gal tank w/ coral substrate, tank up since June 13th, water is very stable ph 8.2, temp 79, s.g. 1.022, Amm 0, No2 0, No3 around 12.  Currently fallow (except for Cookie) to kill velvet outbreak, last fish died 8/1.  <Be patient and wait 8 weeks to add fish again--the prolonged time will reduce the risk of recurrence.> The only change I have made since then is to add a piece of live rock (cured, no change in any tank numbers, checked daily) 4 days ago.  I have started doing weekly water changes of 3 gal. He eats well, 1/4 in piece or shrimp or scallop (defrosted in tank water) every 2 or 3 days.  I want to act fast since he is still firm. Is there anything I can do  to help him (I am scheduled to change 3 gal   water tomorrow) My QT/Hospital tank is just in start up and still hasn't cycled. <It is tough to say what is the cause of this. The white spot seems more concerning than the black bump as it sounds like more of a deterioration. Since you have no fish in there, you should be able to keep excellent and stable water conditions in the main tank. I'd do that and keep an eye on things. If this seems to progress, then I'd move it to the QT and consider antibiotics there. This is about all you can do.> Thanks, Beth <Hope this helps. Keep us posted. Steve Allen.>

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.>

Upside-Down Chocolate Chip Star (7/25/04) Every morning my starfish is laying on its back. We give it time to turn over but it does not seem to want to or able to. Is this normal? Does this mean something is wrong with this Chocolate chip starfish? Should we continue to turn him over or leave him alone? Thank you for your help! Sincerely, Robin Hirschi <Well Robin, where does he start out the night before? It is rather common for stars to fall off of the glass, especially in a high-flow tank. However, they can almost always right themselves because they are impressively flexible. I do find that they have a much harder time righting if there is not a nearby rock or glass to grab. Lying flat on its back on sand, it may not be able to right. If it appears intact and healthy and moves normally and eats well, then it is likely OK and it should be fine for you to turn it over as needed. Hope this helps. Steve Allen.>

Dying Stars (7/22/04) Hello, <Steve Allen, echinoderm enthusiast, with you tonight.> I'm not your expert salt water aquarium keeper. I live in Daytona beach and use the ocean's natural water in my tank. I know this is frowned upon, please forgive me. My kids and I often find washed up sea life and bring them home to the tank. <Might be better to put them back in the sea. You have no idea what diseases they may bring with them. Where are you located? Lucky to be so close to the sea.> We do have a "Nemo" from a pet shop, we've had him for about a year. During the season when the Sargasso sea washes up the seaweed, we find little shrimp, file fish, crabs, sea slugs etc....Anyway, we recently found many starfish in the tide pools, this is not a common occurrence. We saved about eight of them that night. <Do they usually die if left behind?> When we arrived home and saw them in the light I noticed each one had a red bump on it. I've never seen this before and wondered if it was some sort of disease. <Hard to say. Many Seastars have various colored bumps, but usually in symmetrical patterns. Were these spots in the same location.> Well, gradually they have started losing their limbs and dying. It's quite sad. <Yes> We're down to four and I wish there was some way to save them. <Likely not, unfortunately.> I wish I could even return them to the beach, but I'm afraid I would injure them if I pulled them off the wall of the aquarium. <They can be gently removed safely. I do it all the time. With gentle traction, they will let go.> Is there any way to save them? <I seriously doubt it. Once they start to "melt," they usually don't stop. A separate hospital tank with perfect water and a broad-spectrum antibiotic is a long-shot at best. Don't let them rot in your tank--too much pollution.> Any information or advice you could give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Distressed. <A question: did you just plop them into your tank, or did you slowly acclimate them over a couple of hours. Echinoderms do not adjust well to rapid changes in salinity or pH. They will often die as a result of shock. They also may well have been doomed from the start by some disease or the shock of being washed into the tide pool. Tough to say. There is so much we don't understand about these fascinating creatures.>

Blue Linckia Problems (7/5/04) Hi, <Hi. Steve Allen with you this evening.> First off, I would like to thank everyone from your crew for keeping such a great and informative site available. <Thanks. It's my pleasure to play a small part.> And here to my problem, which I hope you might know how to resolve or identify....I recently bought a blue Linckia starfish at my LFS. It seemed to have acclimated well after introducing it to the tank, moving around, climbing up on rocks and glass. <How long did you acclimate for? A couple of hours I hope. Linckia stars are particularly difficult to acclimate.> However, after a couple of hours....something started to come out of the mouth of the starfish which looked almost like a tapeworm or maybe even its guts. <More likely the latter.> It started with just one worm like thing and ended up with three things hanging out of the mouth, each about 4-5 inches in length. I have attached a picture. <I did not make it.> Ever since these "worm/guts?" have detached from the starfish it moved back to the sand bed and hasn't moved since, not sure if it is dead or dying or else. I have not attempted to move, because I read it is best to leave them alone. I has no sign of discoloration so far. Have you ever seen or heard something like this???? Could this actually be its guts that it is expelling (like sea cucumbers do to get rid of parasites in the digestive system???) or could this even be a tapeworm??? <I am not aware of tapeworms infesting invertebrates. The most common parasite of Seastars are a species of snail. I would fear that this material is part of the starfish and that it is disintegrating. Keep an eye on it and remove it if it stays put and begins to "melt." Do read up on this species. The vast majority do not survive the trip from ocean to tank. Mortality is likely over 90% and most are already dying by the time they are purchased. Fromia are a much better choice, but all echinoderms require slooooow acclimation.> Thanks in advance for any advice <I hope it helps.>

Asterias forbesi and Asterias vulgaris (6/20/04) I have these 2 species in my tank, but now they seem to have gas  bubbles and some float to the top, but are still alive. <Odd> I also noticed that there stomachs are out of there mouths. <This is how Seastars normally eat--they evert theirs stomachs over their prey/food and start digesting it outside their bodies. However, they should not have theirs stomachs everted constantly.> Do you know what might be  happening? <A toughie?> Its been 3 days like this and they are still alive. <How long have you had them.> Can feeding them  bay scallops be the cause? <I doubt that, because this ought to be something they would normally eat. These are North Atlantic species that should not be kept at tropical temps. I hope you have a chiller. Heat could be a cause or toxins or a host of other things. I would test ammonia, nitrates, nitrites. Also, all echinoderms are very sensitive to fluctuations in salinity and pH. I hope this gives you some things to consider. Steve Allen.>

Not Enough Info to Help Hi, <Hello, Ryan with you today> I'm concerned about my Devil's Hand Coral and my starfish. I'll start with my starfish. It was perfectly fine, but then I came back after a weekend away (I have an automatic feeder) and the tips of two of it's legs were missing and it had a sore on it's main body, I thought it must have gotten into a fight or gotten stuck in the filter or something. I have 2 clownfish, 1 yellow tang and a blue damsel. Is there anything I can do to help it, or should I just wait for it to regenerate on it's own? <I'm not convinced that you have the type of tank a starfish is going to prosper in.  They need large, established reef systems with lots of room to graze.  If this isn't your system, I'd return him to where you purchased.> I'm also having problems with my new Devil's Hand Coral. This is my first coral, so I don't know if what it's doing is normal or not. The way I put it in my tank made it sink off to the side of the live rock. It sunk over so far that it detached itself from the live rock and fell into the sand. I picked it up and put it back on the rock in a way that it was secure. Now it's covered in some sort of white film that's also attached to the rock. I don't know what to do, is this just how it reattaches itself? If not what should I do? <You should include some details about your system so that I may help.  What type of lighting are you using?  What are your water parameters at this time?  You coral is going into shock, and is excreting a mucus to protect itself.  Please update your question with the pertinent information I requested, and we'll do our best to get these animals healthy.  Thanks, Ryan>
Devil's Hand Coral and Starfish
<Ryan on the follow-up> Actually, I think I need a larger tank (mine's only 30 gallons) and more experience before I work with starfish and these corals, so I gave them to a friend of mine who has a 150 gallon tank that she's had for years. Thanks for your help <No problem.  It's nice that you made the correct choice for the animal and the owner.  See ya, Ryan>

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

Starfish Hello Bob, <Hi there> I have been on a school trip to some local rock pools and saw some starfish that had legs missing I was told that they can grow back. Do you know how long it takes for a starfish to grow a new leg. Thank you for your help. Ayrton (aged 6) & Hannah (aged 9) <Starfish legs can regenerate given "good conditions", taking several weeks to months to do so. If a large enough piece of the leg is excised (removed) it may also grow into a new individual! Bob Fenner>

Sea star contagion? 5/24/04 My name is Bridget Hiller and I work in a facility that has just opened a brand new touch tank. Unfortunately, 3 weeks after the opening, our Common Sea Stars have started to perish. They (sea stars) have started out with canker sore like spots on their aboral side, then it seems as if they eviscerated (like a sea cucumber would) from the areas that were infected. I do have another sea star right now that is starting out the same way. I have separated it to "hospitalize" it but, I can't seem to find out what is going on. I am wondering if this in individualistic to each sea star or is it endemic to our tank? <hmmm... perhaps neither. As a commercial/scientific facility, you surely have quarantined all new arrivals for a standard/minimum 4 weeks before adding them to the display. If so, the chance of such a virulent and indiscriminate pathogen lurking in the display are unlikely. Predation is much more likely. A parasite on Echinoderms or simply a macro-organism (snail or crab) are strong candidates> There are horseshoe, spider, hermit crabs as well as sea urchins and whelks in the tank and I would not want anything to happen to them if it is not an individualistic matter. <the whelks and hermit crabs in particular cannot be excluded as predators. If the stars removed to QT heal promptly, and were clean in initial QT, it sounds like a predator to me. Peep them at night if possible> Please, if you have any information or re-direct me to a place that would, I would be quite appreciative. Thank you for your time and help. <best regards, Anthony>

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

Starving Star? (4/16/04)  Guys, <Steve Allen tonight.>  I've done it again! <Some folks never learn.> An impulsive buy.... I'm they guy who wrote to you about a rippled coral goby, Banggai cardinal and a pajama cardinal in a 20G QT. BTW, the goby died of starvation... And I returned the pajama, because the Banggai was trying to starve him too.  Getting to the point, as I returned the Pajama cardinal, I noticed that some of the angels at the pet store had too much body slime and decided to not get any fish. But I couldn't resist this Red Sea Star (looks like a Fromia milleporella...?!) <OK> that was with a bunch of brittle stars in a separate tank with just a power head and no mixing of water with the fish tanks - I know, they still use the same nets and everything.... But, since I was going to QT it anyway, I got it! It's been 2 days and the star hasn't eaten. <Sometimes they take a while.> I've put pieces of shrimp right under the starfish and placed the star over it and he just move away! He doesn't care for Mysis, daphnia or the algae in the QT!!!! Should I just keep offering him food a few times a day until he accepts it? <It may only eat a few times a week.> He finally got sick of me bothering him and just climbed up the side. <Might want to leave it alone for a while & see what happens.>  Question two -the star has no external parasites or necrotic tissue as far as I can tell. Both Bob Fenner's book and the WWM website talk about the use of drugs against fungal and bacterial infection--what isn't clear to me is whether I'm supposed it use it as a routine part of QT with stars or just in case an infection is noticed???!!! <No, I would not treat in the absence of a sign or symptom attributable to an infection.>  BTW, as I was vacuuming the bottom of the tank and tried to vacuum accumulated debris off the star, I noticed a flap of skin peel up on the dorsal side of one of the arms, near the end and a fluid that looked like pus or sperm ooze out. <If out by the tip, this is not a normal thing.> The closer I got, the more the flap opened and more stuff oozed out.. I kinda got overzealous and ended up sucking the arm, all the way up to the body, in to the siphon!!! Sorry! I didn't notice any visible damage though... <Hmm. Do be more careful careful. Wounded starfish seldom survive.>  Thanks for being there and for the advice. Narayan Raja <Be patient, keep the water in good shape and hopefully things will work out. Steve Allen.>

Upside Down Starfish (4/12/04)  I have had my Red African Starfish <Protoreastor linckii> for approximately 4 years now and just recently noticed that it has been spending a lot of time upside down. <Strange> While upside down, his tentacles <tube feet> are moving (searching for food maybe?). <More like trying to find something to grab on to and move around. These tube feet are the star's means of locomotion.> I have put his food in and sat him atop it, only to find him upside down a few minutes later. He does eat the food, but goes back to the upside down position -- and stays there. <This is highly unnatural behavior for a star. An upside-down starfish should right itself very quickly as this position makes them highly vulnerable and they should avidly seek to right themselves.>  I have 1 blue line puffer, 4 blue damsels, and copepods, as well as live rock and green algae. The water has tested fine, salinity is 21, <Stars prefer higher (1.024 range)> temp is 78. I turned him over tonight to find that he is losing one of his points. Is this normal? <No. In fact, any break in the skin can serve as an entry portal for an eventually lethal bacterial infection. It probably got rubbed off on the substrate or bitten-off by the puffer.> Will the points regenerate? <Not likely> Thx! Angi <Well, this is a strange behavior problem indeed. I can't think of a good explanation. Perhaps it is old or ill. Perhaps the puffer is knocking it over. When you have time to observe, right it and watch for a good long while. You may want to set up a quarantine tank using water from your system an place the star there for observation. --Steve Allen>

School Starfish Project Crisis (4/12/04)  Dear Sirs, <Just Steve Allen tonight.>  Please HELP! My son is doing a biology project about starfish. The original project, that we started in Jan. was suppose to show how they find their food. <Sounds like a hard one to me.> We have had 7 starfish so far. <What kind> At this point they have all died. None lived long enough to do an experiment with. The tank should be fully cycled at this point. Some of them died because the filter stopped working in the middle of the night <They should have been able to survive this.>, We believe the tank is properly working at this time. The problem is what experiment can we do ? I would greatly appreciate any help. We obviously should have picked something different than starfish, but it is too late. His results have to be turned in soon. Sharon Sooter  <I read and responded to your posts on the forum. It's hard to think of something else to do. My kids' school district has a strict policy prohibiting projects that involve live animals. I wish all were that way. Seven dead starfish are only a very tiny part of the loss of life incurred in such projects nationwide. One thing that pops to mind is to get some serpent stars and test their response to light or to the introduction of food into the aquarium. These are much more durable than genus Linckia stars, if that's what you've lost. Maybe there's someway to use the deaths of the other stars to report on the difficulty of keeping them alive. Sorry I can't be of much more help.>

Dropping Chips, or Friends Off at the Pool? Starfish  >I have a chocolate chip starfish. the other day I was looking in the tank & I noticed he had part of a point missing! I'm not really sure how it happened. I don't have any type of fish that would attack it. (I made sure of that when I bought it) my biggest question.. will it live, & if so will the point grow back or will he just have a lil nub?? Angy  >>Angy, starfishes are among the most delicate creatures we can keep in our tanks. Even very small changes in salinity can cause their demise. What you must determine is whether or not the animal appears to be disintegrating. If so, it is dying, and you must make sure you've got the best water quality possible to help it along. If it isn't disintegrating, then chances are it got itself caught somewhere, and just needs time to heal. With good water quality their regenerative abilities are almost as amazing as those of sponges. Marina

Starfish trouble at School Hello, your site is very informative. <Good to hear. > I am at an elementary school where we have three saltwater tanks set up. <Wow, who paid for that?> One has a large set of live rock and some feather dusters and small fish (I think damsels) and one brittle star.  That tank is doing great.  Another tank has Nemo and Dory <I hope it's a big tank--Dory needs 120 gallons when she grows up.> and some feather dusters and sea anemone and two African starfish. <The red-knobbed kind (Protoreastor lincki)?>  Today one of the starfish turned white and we had to put him in a hospital tank.  He looks gross but not yet dead.  His little bumps turned white and fell off.  He has lived in there for more than two weeks. <Probably not much longer. Will almost certainly die.> This is the second star like that to die.  We have a local company helping us but as I read on your site these seem to be not the best star choices. <True. They eat a lot of things that many aquarists would rather not have eaten, and they get quit big. I have one, but not in your typical reef-type tank.> Could you recommend some hearty happy healthier starfish so that our first graders do not have to keep witnessing their friends dying? <Look to genus Fromia stars. Some are very pretty and they are hardier. You could also consider the sand-sifting star Archaster typicus, but it will spend most of its time buried in the sand. In your situation, I would shun al other Seastars. Don't let anyone try to convince you to try a genus Linckia star--99% chance it will die--most are already dying on arrival. When adding a Fromia, remember that all Seastars require slow, careful acclimation over at least a couple of hours. Do read more on WWM about all stars.>   We are very good with the tanks and the children do not handle them, only very rare petting of them with a teacher holding them and only with washed hands. <Best not to pull the stars out of the water. It can destroy their water-vascular system, which is fatal. At public aquaria that allow petting, they keep the stars immersed in shallow water.> Any suggestions would be appreciated. <There is an excellent chapter on echinoderms in Anthony & Bob's "Reef Invertebrates" book. he best treatment of echinoderms for aquarists is in volume 4 of the Modern Coral Reef Aquarium by Foss?& Nilsen. Also, I put a bunch of URLs in a recent answer to someone else that you can find here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seastarfaq5.htm >   We love providing them with the ocean experience since we are in an at risk neighborhood in Las Vegas. <A great way to teach them the wonders of nature and our duty to respect and preserve it.> Katie <Hope this helps. Thank you for your efforts to help and educate the next generation. As a pediatrician, I understand what you are dealing with.>

Chocolate Chips (3/8/04) Hi.  <Howdy. Steve Allen tonight.> I have had a chocolate chip starfish <Protoreastor nodosus> for 2 months. Recently, I have noticed that it's "chips" are turning from brown to almost black and I also noticed that it has a "bubble" on its arm. What is causing his "chips" to turn color and what is the bubble? Please let me know. Thank you.  Cori <Well, darkening of the "chips" is probably not a problem if uniform and if it's eating & acting normally. I can't really say much about the "bubble" without seeing it. Can you send a digital picture? I am concerned that this could be an infection or parasite.>

Keeping Genus Linckia Stars (3/7/04)   Hi Bob! <Steve Allen helping out today.> I'm hoping you can help me with a question on my starfish. After years of freshwater I decided to make my dream come true and start a salt. I've setup a 46 bowfront, 50 pounds. of live rock and sand, with skimmer. It's been setup for almost 3 months with only snails, hermits, a brittle star, a Sally Lightfoot, an Emerald, a Blood shrimp and three recently added soft corals as occupants. <Don't be surprised if one of your crabs eats the shrimp. Also, Emeralds have been known to eat fish.> After reading as much as possible, I've decided to wait for about 5/6 months before adding fish. <That sort of patience certainly give the reward of a much more stable system.> Now for the question/problem.   I'm working with a man from a LFS who also sets up and maintains saltwater systems professionally for restaurants, offices etc. Needless to say I've been placing more trust in him then myself. Even though I read as much as I can so that I have as much knowledge as possible. Three days ago I added an Orange Linckia and Blue Linckia. Nothing I've read has stated that either are particularly hard to maintain. Now after looking at you site I've afraid I was duped :( The man I've been depending on is extremely nice and seems to know what he's doing. Am I wrong? Please help! :) <Genus Linckia is problematic. I killed several myself before giving up. If you get the rare one that is not already dying of the rigors of collection/transport, and if you slowly acclimate it to your tank, and if there's adequate food, they actually do well. If they survive the first month, they'll probably be fine. It is important to keep your water quality optimum and avoid fluctuations in SG and pH because they cannot adjust quickly enough. Very important to do small daily top-offs (evaporation replacement) with RO water so the SG does not bounce up and down. Stars like an SG closer to real seawater than fish need. I'd say about 1.024. pH should be around 8.2 and stable. Consider and electronic monitor--much easier to use than color-change test kits, IMO. If these stars die and you really want something, do consider genus Fromia instead. Hope this helps.>
Linckia Follow-Up (3/7/04)
  Sorry Steve! Didn't know it was you. <Back with you again.> LOL I'm planning on getting a Fromia soon. :) <Good choice> However, now I'm confused Steve. I was expecting you to "yell" at me for making a big mistake on the Linckias. First, THANK YOU for not doing that! LOL But why didn't you? LOL <Because I made that mistake several times in the past myself. Naturally, when you're new at this, you expect that if an LFS is offering something for sale at a relatively low price (generally under $20) it is actually a viable option. Live and learn. It's not the buyers who need to be chastised, it's the dealers.>   My tank's pH, ammonia, nitrate and nitrite levels have been great. <zero, zero, and not too much right?> My SG has remained at 1.025 since setup, so I guess I'm doing something right. :) <The mark of a conscientious marine aquarist. :)> I have PC lighting and a Remora hang on skimmer with a filter box which I find has helped with the "scum" floating at the water level. <Yes, and makes the skimmer more efficient.> However, my skimmer stopped working earlier this week. <Hmm> It suddenly started up again although I still checked the pump. Today it seems to be doing the same thing. Could something be going wrong with it? <What pump did you choose? Some are more equal than others. Output can be variable from day to day due to tank conditions. Review the owner's "manual" (one sheet of paper!) for anything you might try. You can always e-mail AquaC and ask them for help. Jason Kim is very customer-friendly and conscientious.>   (You guys are great BTW! SO patient with us newbies!). <Everyone's been a newbie at everything they now do well at. Always worth remembering.> As for the Emerald. Do you think if I return it and get a mated pair of Banded Coral shrimp it would be all right? I've read about the Banded being aggressive at times but would the fact that they were a pair make a difference? <I've never had a problem with mine. A pair would be very nice and they supply plenty of egg & larvae to feed fish. There is some risk to your fire shrimp (Lysmata debelius) with having Stenopus though. Consider adding another fire shrimp instead. As hermaphrodites, they should get along and mate.>   Again, Thanks for all the help! And forgive me if I bug you a lot in the future! I just found your site and am thrilled that I did! I make sure to check through by searching first though, so I don't bother you too much. But sorry, I just know I will!! LOL <No problem. It's good for the mind to try to find the answer oneself first, but we're all happy to help here.>

The Linckias Didn't Make It (3/15/04)   Hey gang! <Steve Allen again tonight>.> Just wanted to give you an update on my Linckias. Just to remind you, I have a 46 gallon bowfront that at the moment has a cleaning crew, (including a bristle star, Emerald crab, Sally Lightfoot, snails, hermits and two Cukes), and some soft coral and a Blood shrimp. Yes, you told me about the risks between the crabs and shrimp. LOL But I also had 2 Linckias. A blue and an Orange. Well both have gone to that big beautiful reef in the sky! :(  <Sorry to hear, but not unexpected as we discussed before.> Unfortunately I was unable to retrieve the orange until it was pretty much "gone". Hadn't seen it for a while but didn't realize it was dead. You know how stars can be! Out in the open some days and hiding the next. <Yep> But I was able to get the Blue out sooner. So obviously I suffered from a Nitrate spike. :( I hope this won't cause too much trouble. The tank's been up for 3 months now and has a lot of purple coralline algae and copepods etc. I did a water change so I would think it would be O.K. What do you think? <Nitrate shouldn't be to much of a problem. Ammonia and nitrite are much worse. A couple of extra water changes should do.>   Question #2-- I'm planning on sticking to Fromias <Better choice & quite attractive> from now on but am interested in a Tiger Star--Ophiolepis superba. What do you think of this star? <Very nice serpent star. I have 4 myself. Easy to find. Very active and hardy if carefully acclimated. Tend to lose a leg (or part of one) here & there, but grow back readily.> Is it reef safe? <Should be. Pretty much sticks to detritus and seldom gets big enough to go after any fish.> Is it hardier? <Yes> Will it be as secretive as my bristle? <IME, serpents are seen a bit more than brittles. Should come out when food hits the water, especially in subdued lighting.>   Also, I have only 24 lbs. of Arago-Live which makes a bed of about 1 inch. I've left the back of the tank without any sand so that I can clean it better since the sand is larger and from what I've read any deeper can be a  nitrate trap. I'm hoping in the future to add a sump to add a DSB in. I think switching now would be a mess and would take up a lot of swimming space. What do you think? <There are pros & cons here. Adding more sand will be messy and take up space because it needs to be 4+" deep. A DSB in sump would be easier. On the other hand, if you add slowly with a long funnel, you can get the sand in without too much mess. Really a matter of your choice here.> Thanks again for your help! Now I must go and light a candle for my stars. :( Eileen :) <Thanks for the follow-up & I hope things go better with stars in the future.>

More on Linckias (3/15/04)   Thanks Steve!  I placed the snail back in my reef, since it is not of the menacing variety.  It sometimes buries itself in the sand...seems to feed on detritus. <Typical of Nassarius. I like them myself.>  Good to hear maybe I'll have some luck with the Linckia (knock on wood!).  The reference materials I have on Linckias say they are "easy to keep", but after posting in some reef forums, I discovered most folks have bad luck with them. <It's the initial period that gets them. Successfully acclimated ones with lots of food available do very well. Unfortunately, most are already "dead stars walking" when the leave the store, with no hope of recovery (even though they look fine outwardly). Wondering if once the sponge is gone, should I feed maybe some sponge-based angel food? <That stuff seems to float too much. Hopefully it will eat other things.>  Water is (me bragging here) PERFECT in my reef, so I don't have to fight that battle. <I hope you didn't just jinx yourself ;). On your trip to Madison, if you get a chance, stop by the Great Dane Pub downtown.  Great joint for micro-brew and nice atmosphere:) <Alas, I'll be at a meeting at the Fluno Center the whole time. Oh well, Epic Systems is a wonderful host.> Thanks again for the help:) <My pleasure, Steve Allen> Vicki, Madison, WI

Purple Star Problems (3/6/04) Hello my name is Dwayne. I bought a purple star (Tamaria stria, perhaps?> 4 weeks ago. I'm getting lots of brown clingy things from the ends of his tips, 3/4" to 1" long that wave around in the water. What is it and what do I do about this? Thank you, Dwayne.   <First off, please capitalize and punctuate your sentences, capitalize your name and the noun "I", use apostrophes in your contractions, and spell-check your e-mails in the future. We post these inquiries and replies on the web forever and like them to be as readable as possible. Our volunteers will have a lot more time to provide helpful answers to queries if they don't have to spend time fixing them. Thanks.   Now on to your question. It is hard to say for sure what you are seeing without a picture. Do these strings actively move on their own or simply passively wave in the current? If they're active, perhaps they could be worms of some sort. More likely is that they are part of the star's innards oozing out. I have seen this before as I watched more than one Blue Linckia slowly fall apart before I gave up on the genus. How does it look on the underside? If the strings are coming from the area where the tube feet are on the underside, it's in trouble. All you can really do in that case is maintain pristine and stable water conditions, hope for the best, and remove the star when it appears clear that it is dying. Almost none survive if they start to disintegrate.   Linckias and Tamarias are notoriously delicate stars. The vast majority die within a couple of weeks of being put in a tank. In fact, most are already dying from the rigors of collection and transport when they're purchased and taken home. They also require several hours of careful acclimation to the fish store's tank and to your tank because they are very slow to adjust to changes in pH and salinity. If this star should die, I would recommend you consider the genus Fromia instead. These are demonstrably hardier an quite attractive (though smaller) in their own right. Hope this helps, Steve Allen.>

Starfish Pieces (2/29/04) Hi! <Howdy. Steve Allen tonight.> Yesterday I bought a purple starfish for my aquarium.  He seemed fine, but then lost 3 legs.  They seem to be alive and not losing color.  What should I do-leave them in the tank or throw them out?  Also what should I do with the original starfish?  He is still alive and climbing on the side of the aquarium?  Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Gayle  <Well Gayle, it's hard to be certain here. Did you carefully acclimate the star to your tank over a period of at least a couple of hours? Starfish are very sensitive to changes in water chemistry, and many are killed in the process of transferring to a new tank. It is indeed possible that the remaining part of your starfish can regenerate and even that the broken-off legs can grow into new starfish. You need pristine water conditions for there to be any hope. As long as nothing seems to be further degenerating, you can leave them be for now & see if they show any regeneration. If there is further degeneration, I would dispose of any part that is obviously rotting. Hope this helps.>

Mushy Linckia (2/27/04) I have a Blue Linckia star fish. <How long have you had it. More than 90% die within a few weeks of being introduced into the tank. I killed six of them before giving up. I should have stopped after just a couple, but I'm too stubborn.> Last night it was very alive and okay. I noticed , there was white damage one of his arms. This morning it just collapsed on tank floor and crawled. His three legs getting mushy but the other two is okay. After I checked your web side I separated it to another tank. I don't know anything about it and Please help me How can I help him. (I bought him 5 days ago it lives with 4 damsel and one anemone)  What kind of antibiotics I have to buy. Or it is already dead. It is not moving ,but one mushy leg it seems getting okay. Thank you for time. Beril <Sorry to be pessimistic, but your star is almost certainly doomed. Most develop infections & die due to poor collection/transportation practices or to failure to acclimate very, very, very slowly. You could try some sort of broad-spectrum antibiotic in combination with pristine water conditions, but I'd say the prognosis is exceedingly poor. Do read on WWM or in Reef Invertebrates about the many disadvantages of this genus. Next time, try a Fromia. Yes, they are smaller, but they are very colorful and are much hardier. Good luck, Steve Allen.>

Another Dead Linckia (3/2/04) Hi Steve, As you said my starfish died. Thank you very much for your time and information. Take care, Beril <So sorry Beril. I know exactly how you feel. :(  Do consider a Fromia next time. They're quite attractive, though small, and much hardier. Steve Allen.>

Grey Sea Star Lump 2/11/04 <my apologies... I was finally able to open the attachment> I have a grey sea star that was doing fine.  All the other sea stars have not had this problem.  The one grey sea star has a very large "mass"/ "lump" on the top of its body.  The mass/lump is closest to a leg that is being regenerated, but has been doing well.  The mass/lump is not secreting anything, and nothing seems to be coming out of the sea star.  Just wondering if this is a disease or abnormality or what?  I have attached a picture of the mass/lump as well.  Thank you very much for your time, Katie <its tough to say here... at best it could be reproduction: some sea stars reproduce by brooding and releasing offspring through the ruptured central disc. Else, I'm not sure what more we can say without an idea of how long you've had it, what its been eating, how often, and how many other stars are in the tank (this species you have here needs deep fine sand beds and is to be stocked at 1 per 200 gallons! In Contrast to many other Asteroids that can go max 1 per 100 gallons. Else it/they will starve to death slowly over time most likely. Anthony>

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.>

Dying Star 2/2/04  I am new to saltwater, and have had a tank going for 3 months. My parameters have been fine (ph, nitrates, ammonia, salinity).  <Whenever you ask a question where water quality may be relevant, please list all of the results for these tests. In this case, salinity is very important. Starfish are very delicate and can be damaged by changes in salinity or salinity maintained below 1.024 (1.025 is recommended with inverts).>  It is a 46 gallon bow-front tank with plenty of live rock and an AquaClear 300 filter. I have a Kole Tang, Clown, Goby, Hawk, Yellow-Tail Damsel and hermits. Whenever I try to add a starfish, it dies. I began with a Chocolate Chip, and it was dead 4 days later. Then, a General Star that is dying after 3 weeks. The store is stumped, telling me they must have a disease when I get them because my water is testing out fine. A friend tells me I need a protein skimmer, and he cannot keep one alive longer than a few years. What are your thoughts on this?  I'd really like to have one. Thanks! Lisa  <Starfish are often lethally mishandled in shipping and holding. Ask your dealer to hold one for you for a week before purchase. After purchase, these animals should be very slowly acclimated to your tank water before introduction. Protein skimmers are highly recommended, but not mandatory with good care and water changes, and probably has nothing to do with your problem. Do also keep in mind that the stars you mentioned like most thick armed stars are very hungry carnivores that will need to be fed often and can be a risk to slow moving inverts. Brittle stars and serpents stars (avoid the green spiky armed ones) are excellent scavengers and won't harm any tank mates. Best Regards. Adam>

Seastars and dancing shrimp - 1/30/04 A quick question.  I accidentally put dancing shrimp into my tank and now can't catch them to get them out. <How do you accidentally put dancing shrimp in a tank?? :) There are great many DIY and commercial traps available online. I am sure there is something out there for you> Can you suggest how to trap them? <I think you can search the internet for a trap solution, but my question is why do you want to take them out?>  Also at the same time I put in a lovely little blue sea star only to find within the week that it had it's entrails hanging out from it's oral orifice one day. <Is the star alive. Many Seastars use their stomach to feed by placing it over food items and digesting before ingesting so to speak. So this is a feeding strategy>  Do you think that the dancing shrimp could have done this or do you think that it may be one of the as of yet un-identified crabs that came with live rock that attacked that star? <What type of Seastar? I think that the shrimp are not responsible here. Do look into Echinoderms on our website (http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seastars.htm) and you will find many stories of Seastar and starfish evisceration. It is important to ID your inhabitants before purchasing them so that you know their needs for acclimation, their foodstuffs, their compatibility with other inhabitants, as well as a great deal of other necessary needs. (don't always believe what the dealer tells you) Also important to note, that starfish, regardless of type, need to be acclimated slowly with very special attention paid towards water quality. >  Any suggestions on a good location to search for info about traps besides direct answers to those questions in red would be appreciated. <start with searching on Google with the key words "DIY aquarium traps" and then change the key word search as you see fit to get what you are looking for. Don't dis-count some of the fish traps available either. All can be made suitable for shrimp ~Paul> Thanks again . Greg

Starfish Eating Empty Shell (1/24/04) I am hoping you can give me some advice. This morning when I looked in my fish tank I saw that my chocolate chip star fish had a HUGE lump on him.  Turns out that he has somehow swallowed one on my empty snail shells. <How did you figure this out?> It looks very painful. <Not likely. There I no evidence starfish can feel pain, though they o respond by withdrawal to noxious stimuli.>  What can I do to help him or should I just let him work it out himself? <He should be able to expel it. Any effort to remove it is very likely to injure his innards.>  Is this going to kill him? <I doubt it.> Please let me know what to do in this situation. <I think you'll just have to wait this out. I am optimistic that it will un out fine. This must happen sometimes in nature, though I haven't hear of it before. I suspect he'll eject the shell once any nutrients have been scoured of.> Sincerely, LeeAnne Strohmann <Hope this helps. Keep us posted, Steve Allen.>

Lethargic Chocolate Chip Star (1/23/04)    I've read through just about everything I could find on your website about chocolate chip starfishes (and there was a lot) and I am still not certain what is wrong with mine. My starfish has been rather lethargic for about two weeks now. I have a 55gal aquarium with the starfish, a Clarkii clown, 5 small damsels, and a peppermint shrimp. The salinity is 1.023 and the temperature is 78.    I have had the starfish for about 6 months now. He is not missing any limbs or any pieces, he's his normal color, but he won't move. I have tried placing food beside him but he will not go to it to eat, so I have had to put him on top of it. <Does he eat it then?> I know starfish move slow, but this one has only been moving about an inch per day. I have noticed very tiny spots of a red colored algae in the tank recently, is this a sign of a bad water condition that could be affecting my starfish? <Could be that your nitrate level is high enough to be toxic to it. I'd check ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH for sure. A water changes would be a good idea, maybe 20-30%. Just make sure you keep the SG the same. Also, if the pH if out of whack, fix it slowly. Sea stars are very sensitive to changes in SG & pH. That said, it can be very difficult to figure out what's wrong with a sea star. Hope this helps, Steve Allen.>

Chocolate Chips are Falling Off! >I have had a chocolate chip starfish for a few weeks and yesterday I noticed one of its chips fell off.   >>This is not good, it sounds kinda funny, but it is not good. >I had it in a tank with a spotted moray eel, but the eel never bothered it.   >>Eels wouldn't be a concern, but certain shrimps (that WOULD be eaten by the eel), triggers, and puffers are known to munch stars. >Today it is keeping 3 of its legs curled up and it seems to be losing more chips and turning white.   >>Bad signs, my friend.  If it appears the animal is disintegrating, there are only a very few things that can be done for it.  These creatures are among THE most sensitive to water quality, salinity, and acclimation.  I doubt it's an acclimation issue if it's been a few weeks.  Water quality, especially in a tank with an eel is another story entirely.  It is imperative to keep the water as pristine as sea water. >Is it just sick or is it dying?   >>It very well may be dying, especially if it appears to be disintegrating.  If the central disk appears to be falling apart at ALL, I'm afraid there is, for all intents and purposes, little to no hope. >I have already separated it from all my other fish so it doesn't ruin the tank.   >>This was a very wise decision. >If it is sick what can I do to cure it and when can I put it back in my other tank?  Melissa >>Melissa (now I feel as though I'm talking to my sister), water quality issues aside, the only method I know of to help a sick sea star is to try an antibiotic called Spectrogram.  I would treat for a week, using FRESHLY made up water, not tank water.  I would make certain that the water in the tank is perfect and make certain that I have the best test kits I can buy - Salifert and SeaChem are two excellent kits for the money.  (Salifert is often out of stock, Dutch company - SeaChem is in Georgia.)  Many times correcting the water quality is all that is necessary if necrosis is very limited.  Marina

- Need Help ASAP! -  We need your help ASAP! We set up a 20 gallon quarantine tank and it has an Emperor 280 Bio-Wheel Filter and we have an air stone and heater and a couple PVC pipes in it. We are keeping the temperature at 81 degrees. <You do know you can keep that a little cooler - perhaps 78 degrees if possible.> We bought two clown fish and a chocolate chip starfish about two weeks ago and put them in to quarantine. The problem is today we noticed our chocolate chip starfish is on the bottom he is moving a little but not like he was and his arms are all curled upward.  Our nitrites are reading at 3.0 and we can't figure out why they are so high. <Nitrate being the end of the line in the nitrogen cycle, the leading way to eliminate them is via export - water changes.> The ammonia tests are reading 0 and the nitrates are reading 0. Do you think this is why our chocolate chip starfish isn't doing well? <Probably not... does it have anything to eat? I wouldn't bother quarantining a Seastar and would go ahead and add this to your tank.> Also, what can we do to bring the nitrites down? We do a 25% water change about twice a week. <Three parts per million of nitrate is not high, and not a danger to much that I can think of. I wouldn't be too concerned.> Help! Also, our starfish has like a white mucus floating on one of his chocolate chips. What do you think that is? <Hmm... not good, get it into the main tank where it can find some food.>  Your help would be greatly appreciated!  Thank You, Bret  <Cheers, J -- > 
- Need Help ASAP! Follow-up -
We will go ahead and turn down the temperature on the quarantine tank. We give our starfish shrimp pellets twice a week  and he does sometimes eat them.  He is now looking a lot better after much more frequent (almost continuous) water changes. Our Nitrates are still reading 0  it is our nitrites that are still reading at 3.0 12 hours after a 50% water change. <Yeah... someone on the crew pointed out to me that I responded to your last mail by saying that a nitrate reading of 3.0 is not high. My bad, you said nitrites, and this most certainly is bad news for the Seastar. You really need to get that animal out of there and into the main tank - no need to quarantine it.> Since the last response from you we have done a 75% water change yesterday and we just completed another 50% water change.  Once we did the 75% water change the starfish is doing better.  The funny thing is our clownfish seem fine during the high nitrites. <Clownfish are an order of magnitude more hardy than Seastars... but still, any tank fresh/salt/quarantine will need to have the nitrogen cycle firmly established, or made insignificant by regular [daily] large water changes, there is no other way. The presence of the nitrites is just he nitrogen cycle becoming established.> We decided to quarantine our starfish for the only reason that our main tank had Ich (and our LFS suggested it). <Seastars don't carry Cryptocaryon and would be fine to leave behind as long as you're not treating the main tank with any chemicals.> That was Dec. 11th.  The only thing we have in our main display is live rock (65 lbs.) and hermit crabs.  We had about 9 snails in the tank as well and they died off one by one till the last died around the 22nd of Dec. We were wondering if we could add a little live rock to the quarantine tank to help cycle the tank (and if so how) so we don't have to do 75% water changes every day to keep the nitrites down. <I would not add the live rock to quarantine - better to just work with daily water changes of about 25%, perhaps 50% every other day.> What would you suggest? Thank you very much for all your great and valuable advice. Thank You, Bret <Cheers, J -- >

Inside-Out Sea Star (1/6/2004) Hello, <Hi. Steve Allen tonight.> First Of all I would like to thank you for all your help. Having said that. I have a Chocolate Sea Star in a 180g fish only tank. The reason I am writing is because it is doing something that I have never seen or heard of before. It sits on the side of the tank and it looks like it is grazing but it looks like its stomach is on the outside, its a mucus- like blob under it then a while later its gone. I have looked through your pages on Sea Stars and can't find anything about this. Thanks for all the help. Tom <Good observation on your part, Tom. In fact, this is how many Asteroids feed. They evert their stomachs over their prey and begin to digest outside their bodies as they pull the partially-digested item back in. Actually rather interesting to observe from the ventral side through glass. I have several sea stars, including a Chocolate Chip and an African Red-knobbed (Protoreastor lincki). I often feed them by placing a chunk of seafood under them on the front glass of my tank. It takes several hours for them to completely ingest the chunk. They seem to like being fed that way. I know they want food when they come to the front wall several time per week.> <Most Asteroid Sea Stars need direct feeding. In their excellent "Reef Invertebrates" book, Bob and Anthony advise placing food close by in their path rather than handling them because that might provoke a fright response. I was not initially aware of this recommendation, so for a long time I have been feeding mine by placing food directly under their mouths and then placing them against the front glass. They attach themselves to the glass and go merrily about eating the food. They are used to this and associate my touch with feeding. BTW, it is very important not to lift them out of the water, which may damage their water vascular system. Personally, I think all echinoderms are truly fascinating creatures--enjoy.>

A Bright New Star...? Bob, <Scott F. here today!> We just started a saltwater aquarium about 2 months ago.  We waited about two weeks and added two clownfish.  They were doing well and then we left on vacation for a week and turned down our skimmer and when we came back from vacation we believe they had Ich and other various diseases.  Probably from bad water quality since we turned down the skimmer. <Well, poor water quality is definitely a contributing factor to stress, which can lead to disease...> We then did a 50% water change and bought an UV sterilizer. Our fish died on Dec. 11th and we were looking at getting a chocolate chip starfish.  We have a quarantine tank already set up and we were curious if we kept him in the quarantine tank for a week of so and then introduce him to the main tank do you think the tank has had enough time to get rid of the Ich? <I recommend at least a 3 week quarantine for all new animals. It gives time for potential problems to show themselves. As far as the tank "ridding itself of Ich"- you really need to let it sit "fallow", without fishes, for about a month or so. This will cause the majority of the parasite population to crash for lack of hosts (i.e.; fishes!). Perform routine maintenance (i.e.; filter media replacement, water changes, etc.) during this time> Will our starfish be susceptible to Ich? <Nope> Also, our local pet store tells us that we don't really need to feed our starfish that he will eat things out of our tank.  Is this true? <Well, the Chocolate Chip Starfish (Protoreastor nodosus) is a pretty heavy-duty feeder. Being omnivorous, it can derive nutrition from a variety of sources, and will need to at least have some supplemental feeding to avoid having it munch on your corals and other sessile inverts. I would not call it a "reef safe" animal, but it is an interesting hardy creature if well cared for.> We have hermit crabs and snails in our tank which we have had since the beginning of our tank setup.  The hermit crabs are doing well but within the last two weeks our snails have been dying about one every day. We have checked our salinity and our nitrate, nitrite and ammonia. Everything has been good.  We are not sure why they keep dropping like flies.  Any suggestions? <Could be anything from some sort of chemical contamination in the water (Were you using any medications or copper? That could be the cause right there..) to a parasitic illness of some sort. There is a definite possibility, by the way, that your starfish might further contribute to your declining snail population...> Thank You, Bret Weddle <My pleasure, Bret. Just keep a close eye on things, check and recheck water conditions, and adjust as needed. Go slowly, and I'm sure that your tank can make a happy recovery. Regards, Scott F>

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>

African Knobby (likely a Oreasteriid Seastar) Bob, <Cynthia> I think my African Knobby is in dire straits. I have had this star for about 2 months. It is in a 29 gallon tank with one yellow tang and two clown fish. The star developed white spots on the tips underneath and they are spreading underneath toward the center. My water has been fine. It looks like the red color is peeling off, like paint peeling from a wall. Last week, I changed about 4 gallons of the water out and was told to do this once a week. It has stayed on the floor until today. For the first time in 2 weeks, it crawled up the side of the tank. I'm not sure what to do, or if there is anything I can do. I assume it will die. (?) Any feedback would be greatly appreciated! Thank you, Cindy Huff <Do take a read through the accumulated FAQs we have posted on Seastar disease: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/stardisfaqs.htm Bob Fenner>
Re: African Knobby
I had previously read through before emailing you, but didn't find anything relative to what I'm seeing. Cindy Huff <Unfortunately, there is not much (more) known, "standard" re the pathology, even general husbandry of these echinoderms. Being careful on selection (waiting for a few days post-arrival), taking care in transport, acclimation, providing a suitable aquarium environment per species, adequate food/forage, maintaining optimized, stable water quality is de rigueur in their long-term care. Once specimens begin showing signs of diminished health, it is generally too late to reverse... no general "treatment" has proven expedient in slowing, curing "falling apart" by Seastars. Bob Fenner>

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

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

- Injured Fromia - Hi, My wife and I bought a Fromia star the other day. All legs ok no injuries. Monday morning I noticed the tip of one leg was almost completely cut off. I caught a box crab last night and removed it from the tank. The leg seems to be crumbling. But the star is as active as before and moves around the rock and tank quite fast for a Fromia. I notice some reddish feathery tissue at the open wound and my flame angel occasionally goes by and takes a bite. <This is probably where the tip of the leg went originally.> I was wondering if I could put super glue over the open end to seal it. <I would not do this.> Super glue has been used for wound closure on people, even eye surgery. <True, but I'm not sure a Seastar would react the same way a human would - have you ever put super glue in a cut? It hurts.> Should I cut the end clean before I start? <Clean cutting the edge might help, but I'd be looking for other causes/culprit. Do check your nitrates to make sure they are within reason, as well as keeping an eye on that angel. Unfortunately, there's not much to a Seastar and they frequently voice protests about their environment by dissolving into thin air... or actually water in this case. Again, I would not go the glue route as this might expedite the Fromias departure.> Thanks for your help.  Joel and Karen <Cheers, J -- >

Orange tile starfish Today I came home and found my star fish folded in half is this normal??? <did the fish fold in half completely? I have seen this before...many times when the fish is near the front glass. they tend to fold themselves over. Is the starfish making an effort to "unfold itself"? Do you have a pic.. it would help tremendously. IanB> Thanks,  James Wisson

Bristle worms harmful to starfish - 9/29/03 I have two starfish currently. <very good. Hopefully in a very large tank> a chocolate chip who has been thriving for as long as my tank has been up, <OK....How long is that?> my "Bali" star <???> was up until I noticed many bristle worms in my tank. <Not unheard of at all> I have never seen any worms up until now and mine come out all hours of the day. <As do mine. Usually when I feed the tank> they are orange in color, and I have noticed many what look like little grey shrimp swimming around eating the shrimp I place in for my stars. <Amphipods likely. Very nice to have in the tank. They are more or less scavengers. Eating detritus, scraps, even algae at times. Good to have. Sort of closer to the bottom of the food chain. When a description of an animal states that "animal eats crustaceans" they sometimes mean these little amphipods (in some life stage)> The problem I am having is my "Bali" star <Not familiar with what is being called a Bali star these days. Is this a common name for Fromia species? Can you positively id??> has always come out at night and has never climbed on the glass, but now he is out during the day and is all over the glass, his leg now looks like it is going to come off. <Hmmmm. Something is not good here. Any aggression between starfish? What else is in the tank? How big of a tank? What water parameters have you checked? Without knowing what kind of star we are dealing with I couldn't even tell you if the nutritional needs of the animal. How long have you had this starfish? Any other new additions?> I have checked the water perms and they are fine. <Uhhh OK> So I am wondering if the bristle worms could be causing this? <Not likely. Especially if you feed the tank fairly often> thank you for your help....this site is wonderful <Thanks. You are helping to make the site better with your question. So....thank you, too! WE have a wonderful site. -Paul>

-The incredible shrinking Linckia- I have a blue Linckia that is orange in color. <Isn't that an oxymoron? :) > I have had it for over six months. She  moves around actively has no sores of any sort.  The problem is that she keeps getting smaller and smaller, I feel that she may be starving what can I do, I don't want to lose her? <Unfortunately, this is all too common with Linckia stars, especially larger ones. Since their diet consists of mainly microfauna, it takes a pretty large and well established tank to keep them truckin'. You can hand feed them by placing bits of seafood (got any sponge based marine angel food?) on the substrate in front of it's path or literally drop it right on top. Try this a few times per week or more. Good luck! -Kevin>

- ID & Care Requirements - Well it happened again. <It did?> I went into Bagel's' store and bought a fish, a plant and a starfish... without having much clue what they were. First, lets talk about the starfish... <It's a Fromia.>
<<... this is an Asterina sp. RMF>>
(Please see attached picture) It's orange, it's skin looks like a cross between a velvet surface and a snake skin :-) I was told that it was reef safe and that it would feed on the algae that is present on the aquarium sides. After about 3 days, the edges of the starfish rays seem to start deteriorating... My questions: a) I've never had a starfish... my tank is matured with fish, hard and soft corals, snails, cleaner shrimp and hermit and scarlet crabs. Any special care I should keep in mind? <Very low nitrates, otherwise clean water...> b) Will it really stay on the glass and eat algae? Is it really reef safe? <Yes it will eat algae, which may lead to it spending some time on the glass. Yes, it is reef safe.> c) Why are the rays deteriorating? <Either an undiscovered issue when purchased or perhaps issues with your current husbandry.> OK, now, lets talk about the plant... I've tried so hard to identify it, but I can't... Hopefully you can help me about identification and care of this plant. <It's commonly called a Shaving Brush a Penicillus species.> Is it beneficial in a reef tank? <Not detrimental.> (Nutrient export? Food for tangs? Will it grow fast?) <Not useful as nutrient export unless you export it. I don't think the tangs will eat it. Hard to predict how well it will grow - a lot of dependencies.> Now, for the final question and purchase. I've bought a cleaner wrasse. I was told that it will keep my fish Ich free forever... After I got hope and read about it, it seems that those fish are really hard to keep? Why? <They tend to starve - if they eat only parasites, what's left to eat when all the parasites are gone?> What are their special requirements? <Life in the ocean.> What food should I provide? <Try everything you've got.> Will it feed on Kent's Zooplex? <Not familiar with this product, so I can't predict.> Huge thanks guys,
<Cheers, J -- >

Chocolate Chip Starfish Disease <Hello! Ryan with you> Got a very weird problem occurring with a chocolate chip star. It started last winter when it was one of very few survivors of a power outage that resulted in a devastating temp drop, killing nearly all of my reef animals. (All of the live rock & hermit crabs lived as well) But it was left with a bright white tip on one of it's limbs. <This is a common stress indicator among Seastars.> This white tip, over the last 9 months has eventually proven to be some sort of rot, as this one appendage is now mostly gone, and the nub still tipped in white. The animal other than that, is very much alive, healthy & eating. Any idea what it is? <Have a look: http://wetwebmedia.com/stardisfaqs.htm> Is it treatable? <Only with improved water quality, diet> and is it dangerous to the other animals in a now replenished system? <Likely no.>  Thanks for your help. <Best of luck! Ryan -Pat

Mysterious Worm in My Blue Starfish - 8/15/03 Dear crew, <cheers> I have a blue starfish that in the last month has had a worm friend living amongst its 'legs'.  Is this worm harmful? <impossible to say without a picture or description, but likely so> I have tried to remove it but every time I try the starfish closes around it.  He got burnt on the heater last week but is growing skin back rapidly, so he is obviously healthy. Also, I purchased a piece of coral yesterday and when I got home realize that it was Goniopora.  I researched it on your site and found that it was basically doomed.  I rang the shop and told them that I would like to exchange it for something else and they said that they would.  Should I take it back straight away?  Thanks in advance Amon Masters, Canberra <it is very challenging by any measure. If your tank lacks a mature fishless refugium, deep sand bed and or you are a newer aquarist (less than a few years in)... I would agree: do exchange it for a hardier species. Best regards, Anthony>

Linckia problems... Greetings Bob & crew! Just stumbled across your site while searching for info on a lethargic Blue Star. VERY IMPRESSED!!!  Being new to the saltwater scene, please allow me to give you a break-down on how I've started and what I've got: <ok> HARDWARE, ROCK, SUBSTRATE, ETC 75G AGA Reef-Ready Tank w/corner overflow Coralife Compact Fluorescent Fixture[2 65W Actinic; 2 65W 10,000K] EcoSystem 3012 Sump w/20lb Miracle Mud (no skimmer) Gen-X MK-4 Return Pump (1190 gph) Won Bros. 250W Pro-Heat II Titanium Heater (in sump) 3 Maxi-Jet power-heads [Model 1200; 295 gph] (1 too many?) Ultra Ground Titanium Grounding Probe (in sump?) Red Sea Wavemaster Pro Wavemaker Tsunami ATI Dosing System w/Rio 90 Powerhead [for make-up water] 2 Moon Beam 470 Nanometer Blue Night-lights <cool!> 115 lbs LR (Tonga & Haitian) 80 lbs CaribSea Aragonite Seaflor Special Grade Reef Sand 40 lbs CaribSea Aragalive Reef Sand Crystal Sea Marinemix Salt Water: AquaFX RO/DI LIVESTOCK: 6 Turbo Snails 40 Astraea Snails 30 Blue Leg Crabs 3 Peppermint Shrimp 2 Fire Shrimp 5 Green Coral Crabs 2 Brittle Stars 1 Blue Linckia (See below) WATER QUALITY - Tetratest & Aquarium Systems SeaTest Kits Temp: 75 to 76 - Lifegard Little Time or Temp SG: 1.024 to 1.025 - SeaTest Full Range SG Meter ALK: 6 to 7 <That's in dKH and not alk I presume> pH: 8.1 to 8.2 - pHep by HANNA NO2: <0.3 <It better be 0!!! Nitrite is highly toxic but you are likely getting a false positive on your test kit (I'll guess that it's the Tetratest kit). Get another kit and have your LFS test it to make sure that you have none> NO3: 2.8 average NH3: 0 PO4: 0 Ca2: 405 to 465 (Kent Liquid Calcium added to make-up water) 20% to 25% water change twice a month Approx. 3 qt.s. evaporation & make-up per day O.K. Here goes: I initially filled the tank on April15th. Obtained & introduced LR on April 27th. On May 7th brown algae showed up on rock, glass and substrate.  After cycling the LR for 2 weeks, I added Caulerpa to the mud in the sump and it propagated well. On May 9th I introduced the snails, crabs and shrimp. Algae was gone within a couple of days. Awesome!!  On May 18th NO3 jumped to 5.68 and upon investigation found 5 dead Astraeas. I'm assuming this was the cause of the NO3 spike.<A nitrate level of 5 is hardly a spike, it's only toxic at a few hundred>  No change in NO2 or NH3. Removed dead Astreas and performed 20% water change. The next day NO3 was back to 2.8. On May 29th I added 2 Blue Linckias (wish I had read up on them first!).  On June 3rd NO3 had jumped back up to 4.54. You guessed it! <Nope, a nitrate level of 4 would have no effect on the star) A deceased Linckia (stomach distended and tips chewed off 2 appendages) <Sounds more like an acclimation problem to me. They need to be dripped for several hours>.  Performed a 25% water change an am now closely monitoring the second Linckia which appears to be somewhat lethargic and pretty much staying in one spot on a rock under an overhang.  I was contemplating quarantining the poor fellow, but from what I've gathered in your responses to others experiencing this same dilemma, I gather I should just leave him be and keep an eye on him. <You got it> As I stated at the beginning of this message, I'm a neophyte to this hobby and  guess I'm looking for constructive criticism as to how I'm handling things.  I started purchasing and reading books on saltwater/reef set-ups last November (5 months before I even began to purchase the tank and components)<excellent!>, but it seems there are as many opinions as there are authors!  [Tullock, Paletta, Tunze, Shimek, Skomal and Metelsky to name a few]. <Look for books by Borneman, Nielson, Fossa, Sprung and some sketchy characters named Bob Fenner and Anthony Calfo>  One question I have is the recent appearance of red slime algae in the mud/Caulerpa chamber of the EcoSystem sump.  Is this a normal phase? <Sometimes yes, sometimes no> Do I need to remove it or let it go? <Siphoning it out wouldn't hurt> Another question is when might I expect to see the development of Coralline algae on the glass. <3 weeks, 2 days, 11 hours, 26 minutes, and 32 seconds. Actually, the time it takes coralline to get going varies from a few weeks to a few months so just be patient and keep your calcium and alk high> There is a fair amount on the LR but I'm wondering how long it takes to propagate to the aquarium glass.  Does the presence of the Turbo and Astraeas on the glass negate the production? <Nope, or we'd all be in trouble!> Should I be adding Strontium? <That's debatable but it doesn't hurt> If so, how much and how often? <Follow mfg's recommendations> Is lighting a factor? <Yep, but your lighting is perfect intensity for many species of coralline> At this time, my Actinics come on one hour before the whites (which run for twelve hours) and remain on for one hour after the whites go off. <14 hour day? A bit long, try not to exceed 12 at the most> At the end of that cycle, the Moon Beams come on for six hours, shutting off just before dawn.  Another concern is feeding. As stated in the list of livestock above, basically all I have are janitors, as I will be out of town for ten days in July and want to hold off on adding any corals and/or fish until my return.  Do any of these guys require regular food or are they okay with what's on the LR and in the live sand? <They'll be fine for 10 days provided there's plenty of algae on the rocks. It would be preferable to have someone throw in some pellets half way through though.> I have been hand feeding the Fire Shrimp a pinch of flake food every couple of days (amazing how they will eat right from your fingers!) but that's about it. I have purchased a package of Formula 1 but have yet to try it, not knowing who will eat it and how much to use. <Everyone will eat it, try half a cube for starters then go from there> I sincerely apologize for being so long winded here,<hehe> but I figured too much info is better than not enough.  I truly enjoy the education I'm absorbing with this hobby, and although I have a minimum habitat thus far, I just can't get enough of it and look forward to setting up other systems; experience (and funds!) permitting. <Damn that funds thing, think of the incredible tanks we all could have!!!> Thanks in advance for any enlightenment you might be able to provide. <Good luck, -Kevin> Greg Binder
Blue Linckia trouble part II
Hey Kevin, First off, thanks for the quick reply. <I bet this one will be quicker!>  To clarify; yes, the ALK I referred to @ 6 to 7, is indeed dKH.  You were correct about the NO2 test being a Tetratest. <Figures, I'm not a big fan of most of tetras products as they have quality issues.> Had all tests performed at LFS a little over a week ago to see how his results related to mine and he read 0 Nitrites.  I think he uses Aquarium Systems SeaTest kits primarily. <That's what we use at the shop too. They're cheap, hard to screw up, reasonably accurate, and it's readily apparent if the reagent is bad. If you want better accuracy, go for Salifert or LaMotte> I'll check & pick up one of whatever he uses. Didn't drip the Linckias. <That's pretty much the do or die activity with these critters> Floated the bags for about an hour adding 3-4 oz of tank water every fifteen minutes.  Had I been aware that they are considered an advanced aquarist's species, I wouldn't have even thought about purchasing them. <I wouldn't say they're for advanced aquarists, they just need a really really long slow acclimation and a big ol' established tank with lots of microbial life to eat.> The second one I mentioned as being lethargic seems to be showing a little more movement the past couple of days.  I've got my fingers crossed.  I could kick myself for not researching these guys before acquiring them. <Ah, happens to everyone, you'll know next time.> I'm looking at it as a reckless act on my part but if there's an up-side to it, it's that at least I've learned to look before I leap! (More reading!) I did, by the way, order both the New Marine Aquarium - Reef Invertebrates and Book of Coral Propagation immediately after sending off the first e-mail. <Great!> In regard to the time element regarding the development of the algae being 3 weeks, 2 days, 11 hours, 27 minutes and 32 seconds.......What time zone are you writing from, and are the minutes and seconds from the time you typed them or from the time you hit the SEND key? LOL.  <Hehe, geez, I lost count already!> I had extended the lighting time from 10 to 12 hours after I introduced the janitors and saw how quickly they had seemed to clean up the initial bloom.  Not a necessary move, eh?  I'll go ahead & cut back to 10 hours if that's the case. <Well, you said that the daylights were on for 12 and the actinics on for an hour before and after, so after renting a supercomputer for an hour I came up with a photoperiod of 14 hours, maybe I misunderstood you. The idea is just not to go past 12 hours, it's very abnormal for these critters and can even be a little stressful to the photosynthetic ones.> Thanks again Kevin for the education and sharing your knowledge and expertise. <That's what I'm here for, enjoy! -Kevin>
Oops, One more thing...RE: Blue Linckia Starfish
>It has been behind the rock for just over one week.  Thanks! >>You're welcome!

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