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FAQs about Sea Star Disease/Pests/Injuries/Health 3

FAQs on Starfish Disease: Seastar Disease 1, Seastar Disease 2, 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.

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

Sea-Star DBL trouble ... AdamJ's go   7/4/06 Greetings from Minnesota! <Greeting from Sunny-So-Cal.>   I have some questions I am sure you can answer. <I will do my best.> I have recently acquired a Double Sea Star (Iconaster longimanus). <A tough specimen.> My mother bought it for me because she felt my tank needed a Sea Star, Mothers : ). <Unfortunately I have received livestock as gifts too, including a surgeon of the Acanthurus genus, eek!>   If it was left up to me I probably would not have purchased this particular sea star for myself. <Agreed.> > the research that I have done I gathered that this sea star does not have a good reputation for staying alive in captivity. <Due to poor collection, shipping and holding mostly. The animal is often doomed before it ever reaches the hobbyist.> I used the drip method of acclimation over a period of about 2 hours. <I prefer even longer for such species.>   Once I was sure that the bag specific gravity matched my tank specific gravity, I let the bag float for 15 minutes to make sure the temperatures were equal.  After this was done I released it into the tank.  It was on the bottom and moved to the glass where it crawled around a bit.  The next day I noticed that he had not moved more than a couple of inches from where he was the night before.  Over the last couple of days it has not moved more than a couple inches per day.  Is this normal behavior? <No, the sluggish behavior is tale-tale of a "problem" with this species. Usually indicates starvation, poor water quality or as I said above a problem with collection, transport acclimation…..etc. .>   Could this be due to that fact that it is hungry, <Possibly.> light sensitive, <Doubt that is the problem.> or has experienced an acclimation problem? <Not-uncommon.> I would like to feed it, and the only method of feeding that I can find is to place some food stuffs in the sand and place the sea star over it.  The only problem is it has been on the glass for days, and I don't want to remove it for fear that I might rip off his tube feet. <If done VERY slowly this should not be a problem, however I would not move it just yet, if the Seastar is in fact in search of food, the addition ) smell alone) of such should encourage the animal to move.> Is my sea star doomed, or does he have a chance at survival? <There's always a chance, how large that chance is……..is the question.>   Here's my tank info... 1 yellow tang (will eventually end up in my 75g) <That is better.> 1 Three striped damsel 1 green clown goby 1 clarkii clown 2 blue legged reef hermits 1 emerald crab 1 porcelain crab Many Zoanthids, and polyps 3 stalks of pulsing xenia A couple mushrooms Candy cane coral Moon Favia Star polyps Nitrates - 0 or undetectable Nitrites - 0 Ammonia - 0 SG - 1.026 Tank is 40 gallons (eventually the sea star would go to my 75g, I know 40 is too small) <Good move, all sounds like you are doing your bets only time will tell if the star will pull through or not, Adam J.>
Double Sea Star (Iconaster longimanus) health mainly. Bob's go   7/4/06
Greetings from Minnesota!  I have some questions I am sure you can answer. I have recently acquired a Double Sea Star (Iconaster longimanus).  My mother bought it for me because she felt my tank needed a Sea Star, Mothers : ). <Where would we be w/o them? Uhh... not here> If it was left up to me I probably would not have purchased this particular sea star for myself.  From the research that I have done I gathered that this sea star does not have a good reputation for staying alive in captivity. <Mmm, "about medium" in hardiness for asteroids... which is not good> I used the drip method of acclimation over a period of about 2 hours. <Better to measure the animals source water quality, try to match it in an intermediate observation/quarantine setting...> Once I was sure that the bag specific gravity matched my tank specific gravity, I let the bag float for 15 minutes to make sure the temperatures were equal.  After this was done I released it into the tank.  It was on the bottom and moved to the glass where it crawled around a bit.  The next day I noticed that he had not moved more than a couple of inches from where he was the night before.  Over the last couple of days it has not moved more than a couple inches per day.  Is this normal behavior? <Mmm, no> Could this be due to that fact that it is hungry, light sensitive, or has experienced an acclimation problem? <Perhaps best titled/labeled: "cumulative stress"... from collection, handling/shipping...> I would like to feed it, and the only method of feeding that I can find is to place some food stuffs in the sand and place the sea star over it.  The only problem is it has been on the glass for days, and I don't want to remove it for fear that I might rip off his tube feet.  Is my sea star doomed, or does he have a chance at survival? <Some... not much>   Here's my tank info... 1 yellow tang (will eventually end up in my 75g) 1 Three striped damsel 1 green clown goby 1 clarkii clown 2 blue legged reef hermits 1 emerald crab 1 porcelain crab <Watch these crabs here...> Many Zoanthids, and polyps 3 stalks of pulsing xenia A couple mushrooms Candy cane coral Moon Favia Star polyps Nitrates - 0 or undetectable Nitrites - 0 Ammonia - 0 SG - 1.026 Tank is 40 gallons <Too small...> (eventually the sea star would go to my 75g, I know 40 is too small) <Good luck, life... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seastars.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Chocolate Chip Sea Star ... health   7/3/06 Dear Bob, <Denis> I've had a couple of Chocolate Chip Sea Stars for over 8 months; they were doing fine until a 20% water change earlier this spring. <Yes... sometimes it takes very little to "off set", "push over the edge" these stars> They never seemed to have any issues with water changes before, but this time the larger one stopped eating a day after the water change. He also only moved at the bottom of the tank where he normally was always at the top of the tank. He also held up the tips of his feet up most of the time. <Good observations, bad signs> If I put food on the bottom of the tank, he would run away and then stop. I moved him to a quarantine tank where he just moved slowly walking over fresh food at the bottom for about three weeks before he started falling apart and died. <Mmm, not atypical> Changing 20% of the water in the main tank the other day resulted in the other CCS to start the same behavior. He no longer climbs the glass, but he is still eating. I would like to save this one. I have read a lot of article and FAQ on your WWM site, I see that a broad-spectrum antibiotic or fungicide might save him, but I cannot find any references to a particular brand or type of antibiotic/fungicide. Can you advise me on an antibiotic/fungicide to save my CCS that has had good results? <Mmm, perhaps Kanamycin, but most any broad-spectrum, gram-negative type is worth trying... NOT in your main/display system... and I must admit (if not done emphatically enough previously) that the chances of "success" (i.e. recovery) are dismally small. Bob Fenner> Thanks in Advance   Denis

Orange Knob Starfish w/ Mass   7/2/06 Good Morning!    <Thus far...>    After an hour or two of looking on your starfish FAQ's I am still not able to locate a similar situation to what is going on with my Orange knob starfish. He is a pretty active little guy whom I've had for about five months. I have a 92 gallon corner tank, water quality is all in acceptable range, ammonia-0 nitrites-0 nitrates >10 pH-8.3 salinity 1.021 <Mmm, I'd raise this...> and temp around 80. Protein Skimmer, 8-watt UV sterilizer, and 20 gallon sump are all running in great condition. His tank mates are a large Volitans lion, and a rather docile lyretail grouper( I know, bad companion) <Not IMO/E... gorgeous, intelligent... not mean. Just gets too big> but he moves freely around the tank without any aggression from the grouper. Just last night, the star had a large swollen mass directly in his center. I flipped him over to look for deterioration but nothing was there, he is not secreting anything, no color change or whitening of the limbs is noted, and he is moving along business as usual. This morning it is still there but he still looks fine and is acting normal, and the mass is the same size. What the heck could this thing be? <Mmm, a reproductive event, stored food from a large feeding, evidence of some sort of pathology> If you need more information to thoroughly answer this question just let me know.       As always, Thank you for your knowledgeable assistance      -Heather <I would slowly (through water changes) increase your specific gravity (to about 1.025), perhaps administer an iodine/ide solution during your weekly water changes... Bob Fenner>

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

Seastar... beh., dis., fdg.    4/20/06 First I'd like to say NOBODY has enough information on sea stars as you guys... <Okay> i just purchased a sand sifting star and a couple days later a red general... the sand sifter was very active the first day i purchased him, he would go under the sand and come out an hour later and go to the glass, it was exciting to watch him move.... i hadn't seen him what so ever for a couple days... is it possible he may have go out? <Mmm, not likely> i do have dogs, I'm sure would eat a fallen starfish... i have a top but with all the cords and tubes it's far from being inescapable... my red general hangs out on the top of the tank exposing himself to the air (purchase from the pet store today), i realize this is normal for some star fish, but is it for the general... <Not normal... something is amiss here. Likely environmental> and my final question I've heard of "target feeding" can you explain how to do this? <Placing likely palatable foodstuffs right next to the intended consumer. Bob Fenner> Nate

Trouble with my CCS  - 04/05/2006 I have a 55gal tank and the water is perfect {with small exception on low magnesium, which is being treated}. I've had the tank for over a year now. In the tank I have a damsel, clown and strawberry Pseudochromid along with 7 blue leg hermit crabs {small} and about 20lbs of live rock with a few coral frags. I've had the ccs for about 6 mo.s now and just recently {within the past 2 days} I've noticed that 1 of the arms was breaking off as if it were separating from the rest of the body. <Ooops> I can see the insides of the ccs. He hasn't been on the glass for about 2 weeks. And wen he would fall he wouldn't move for hours. But the odd thing is that when I placed him on some of the live rock he moved around. And he would only eat brine ship by hand. All of his arms are tight and closed now, w/ and exception to 1. One arm is open and its suction cups are looking well. This morning I noticed that another arm is beginning to fall off. He is very flexible. I know that its probably too late to save him, but do you have an idea as to what may have caused this? <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/chocchipstars.htm The linked files on Systems, Compatibility, Feeding... Bob Fenner>

Starfish/Disease   3/25/06 Hi, <Hello.> I have read all of the FAQ's about the health of the chocolate chip star, but I didn't see one of the problems I'm having with mine. I have a 60gal. tank that's been set up for 6 weeks now. The pet store I've been getting most of my fish from have not been giving me enough/accurate information on anything. About 3 weeks into the cycle, We purchased what they said was a red ccs (he is white with red markings and chocolate chips). I have had him for about 3 weeks now, and up to 2 days ago he was acting perfectly fine. He's been eating shrimp pellets and frozen fish daily, and even comes to the top of the tank for us to hand feed him. He has now been at the bottom of the tank for the past 2 days in the same spot. The hairs on his back and arms are reaching out a lot more than normal, he won't eat, and it looks like several of his little suction cup feet are swollen and do not move. It looks like he cannot move his little feet enough to walk at all. His arms move fine though, sometimes his toes will curl up for a short period of time. When I gently rubbed one of his swollen suction cups, it came right off. He also gets really puffed up like a balloon (at first I thought he could have been digesting the big piece of fish he was fed 2 days ago). I didn't want to do a water change half way into the cycle of the tank, so I just cleaned it for the first time today. I tested the water, and everything is fine except the nitrites are 0.5ppm. The temperature of my tank is 80, and the SG level is between 1.022 and 1.023. My ccs was acting fine until I had to treat the tank for Ich. I used "Ich-Attack" because I was told it wouldn't harm my invertebrates. All of my other fish and invertebrates are fine. <Shouldn't treat tanks with sensitive inverts such as starfish.   They do react negatively to water parameter changes, and, especially being put in a tank that is not quite cycled.  Do consider quarantining your fish for three weeks prior to putting them in your display tank.  Problems such as these can be avoided by doing so.>  I was told by someone to turn off my protein skimmer while treating the tank, as well as take the carbon out of my canister filter via the directions on the bottle. The star isn't deteriorating, there are no sores on him, and his color is fine. I turned my protein skimmer back on yesterday to help remove the nitrites, <Skimmers will not remove nitrites.> but have not put the carbon back in. Is there anything I could do to help my star? I would really hate to lose such a beautiful starfish. Could the medication be what's affecting him? <Certainly didn't help matters any.  Do search our site on starfish, especially the FAQ's, and while you are at it, search quarantine and read as well. I suggest you do a 50% water change, it may improve the health of the starfish. Sorry for such a long post.  <Do search/read about animals you may intend to buy and learn their needs/requirements for maintaining.  James (Salty Dog)>

And another star down, and another star down. another one bites the substrate    1/25/06 Bob, I just noticed that my orange knobby starfish has white stuff coming out of him. I have read on your website  that a lot of people are having this same problem and to my dismay, I think my starfish is dying. He has curled and twisted his leg on top of him. This is the same leg that has the white stuff coming off of it. I have two seahorses in this tank. what should I do? <...?> Is there anyway I can save my starfish? Is there anything that could happen to my seahorses because of my starfish? <They might be mal-affected by the decomposition> please please please help me!!! I don't know what to do and it is too late for any store to be open to call. Hopefully you can email me back tonight, if not Ill call stores tomorrow, but please still leave your thoughts. Thank you,   Lacey <I would remove this star if you have another tank... Bob Fenner>
Re: And another star down, and another star down. another one bites the substrate   1/26/06
I don't have another tank, but someone told me to cut off his rotting arm. <... no> Now he seems to have lots of little white dots at the tip of his thorns. is he unsavable? <Highly unlikely> the man the store I bought him at said that if I cut off the left that was rotting, then he might grow it back and be fine. <... dismal> is this not true? <Not true> he also told me that he would not effect the seahorses in the tank, but my neighbor told me that it might. I don't know what to do :(     Lacey <Think... for yourself... after researching, seeking facts, experiences of others. Bob Fenner>

Chocolate Chip Star Trouble Again 01/19/06 I currently own a 55 gallon tank and I have a chocolate chip star. Lately it has been getting some white spot on its body (sort of like its losing its color). What should I do?<<Long term prognosis is not good. Please read the FAQs on Chocolate Stars at this link ( http://www.wetwebmedia.com/chocchipfaqs.htm). Hospitalization (which means remove him to another tank to treat) may be required. Search for Spectrogram as well.>> Josh <<Good luck - Ted>>

Orange Linckia Treatment   1/11/06     We purchased an Orange Linckia (it may be a Tamaria stria but appears to be reef safe)  through mail order almost a week ago.  Acclimated with a drip for 10 hours (water from shipping was .3 lower than quarantine with lower PH).  He looked good, but had a tiny white patch under the tip of a leg (bad I know).  The leg appears to be dissolving very slowly, white part is coming out and some of the orange tissue has peeled.  He is moving around slowly at night and sometimes attaches to rocks.  I added a UV to the quarantine (pretty stable QT with refugium - Temp 78, SPG 1.25, PH 8.3, Ammonia/Nitrite/Nitrate 0).  His leg seems to be getting slowly worse.  A few amphipods have also been roaming over him since the leg worsened (not swarms, but a few). <Doug, the Linckia will sometimes harbor a parasite (Theca crystallina), a cap shaped snail that adheres to the arms and literally sucks out fluids and tissue.  If you see something like this remove it.  Do not take the star out of the water in doing so.  Other problem may be necrosis of the legs.  Although you have acclimated this star correctly, God only knows how it was handled during collecting and shipping.  This is a bacterial infection and If you decide to treat be sure any medication you use is safe for invertebrates.   Most of the time the treatment doesn't help too much.>   I've been reading on your site that you sometimes recommend Nitrofurazone (25 mg per gallon), or possibly other antibiotics.  I have a clam, frags and new snails in the QT so I would have to move him to treat or "dip" with antibiotics (but I have another small tank and could transfer some water).  Any recommendation on treatment or should I just continue to watch him?  <I'd first look for the parasitic snail first.  If none present the choice is yours to treat or not.  May be better to observe a while and if it worsens, consider treatment.> Thanks, <You're welcome>  James (Salty Dog)>   Doug
Re: Orange Linckia Treatment   1/13/06
Hi again,   I checked for snails with a magnifying glass and there are none.  It has gotten worse (spreading to another leg with many white "globs" coming out).  He is still moving a little and raising his good arms (trying to eat I suppose).  Truly sad, I won't buy another Linckia as I now realize that contributing to the collection practices is wrong.   I am sure this is from acclimation (I think - before I got him,<I'm sure.> because I did everything I knew how to do).  Is there any antibiotic you would recommend trying?  I hate to put him through anything else - but he is moving toward a slow death now.  I even saw some reference on your site to cutting off the legs with necrosis - but I am not sure about that at all (can't quite imagine it but if recommended with some antibiotic treatment I would try). <I wouldn't cut any legs off, in closed systems they just don't grow back as well as they do in nature.  If it were me I'd probably start treating in a QT with Maracyn (saltwater).  The erythromycin it contains should produce some results.  James (Salty Dog)>  Thanks! (You're welcome>
Re: Orange Linckia Treatment   1/13/06
Thank you!  Should I just follow the instructions as they are for fish? <Yes> I will be moving him to a new QT (10 or 20 gallon) since there is a clam in this one and live rock, etc.  Also, how long should I treat with the antibiotic <Follow manufacturers instructions>(since I presume... possibly incorrectly, that I shouldn't put live rock in with the antibiotic).<You should never treat anything that doesn't need treatment including live rock.  You will have to provide food for the starfish while in quarantine.  James (Salty Dog)>

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

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

Dying Fromia - Questions Re: Stability of Water Parameters - 10/26/05 Please can you help? I bought a Seastar and introduced it into my marine aquarium about 1 month ago, the aquarium is a 180L tank which has been running fine now for about 8 months.  <<This system cannot yet be considered fully mature, especially when considering introduction of particular invertebrates. You don't mention how you introduced the animal, either, however, acclimation of Seastars is of UTMOST importance. The ill effects of poor acclimation methods can take a little while to show up. Please make use of the Google bar on our home page, and search on Seastars.>> I believe the Seastar to be a Formia {Fromia} (looks like a orange marble - Monilis). up in till the last few days it seemed fine, then I seemed to notice bits of it had started to come off, as if something had takes bites out of its legs. <<Does the flesh itself appear to otherwise be healthy? If so, I would continue to watch it closely, keeping an eye out for predators. However, it is more likely than not that what you are observing is an actual disintegration of the animal's flesh, which means it is dying. This can have many causes, but most likely water quality is the main issue. Many stars can be saved by going with clean, filtered seawater (such as Real Ocean) and treatment with a broad spectrum antibiotic. The one I've seen used with amazing efficacy is Spectrogram.>> I have watched the tank but seen nothing even go near it, but it still seems to be getting worse and worse and now the body of the Seastar is also starting to disappear - what looks like rot away! <<It's dying.>> It still moves a little bit but can't stick to the glass it just falls to a heap on the bottom and now it just lays on the live sand or live rock and hour by hour is moving less. The only other things in the tank are 2 damsels, 2 clown fish, 1 Copperband, 1 angel fish. <<These animals are unlikely to harm the star, but are nowhere nearly as sensitive to water quality. You don't mention what types of damsels, clowns, or what type of angel fish, and there are HUGE differences within the families. Even if the angel is of the genus Centropyge, the tank is overcrowded as it is. The Copperband will not do well long-term, and the biggest problem is maintaining water quality in a tank less than 50 gallons U.S.>> For the time being the Seastar is in its own hospital tank to ensure it is not being eaten by any of the other occupants. Water levels seem fine, pH may of {have} been a little low but I have added a buffer to keep it at 8.2. <<Seastars are INCREDIBLY sensitive to salinity, pH shift, heavy metals in the water, etc., etc. You've done the right thing by moving it, but if you can AT ALL get natural, filtered seawater, do use that, but DO acclimate the animal over a period of hours (all day would be great for a stressed animal) to it. I honestly think it's too far gone, but we have a responsibility to try, don't we?  Google "drip acclimation", hit the 'cached' link. Also, know that if you need to add buffers to keep the pH up, you need to address why the water has such low alkalinity. You really MUST have stable conditions, and pH shift kills more animals more quickly than most folks can really appreciate.>> Can you please let me know what I can do to try and help this Seastar, what is wrong with it, is this Seastar is going to die, if so what can I do to help prevent this in the future? <<For one, don't buy any more Seastars until you learn more about them, water quality, etc. You need to learn more about the importance of pH stability, and please understand that much of what these animals are sensitive to most hobbyists cannot test for (or test accurately/reliably). Yes, it's dying, you've done the right thing, try the above suggestions, have the Spectrogram on hand anyway because it's such a good product (medicine chest/First Aid kit for fish is ALWAYS a good idea). Once you learn more about HOW to keep water parameters where they should be, and your system is more mature, then you might be able to try one of the hardier species (serpent stars are preferable, still relatively delicate, but if one can keep other reef denizens, then one should have good luck with Seastars). You make no mention of live rock, please, do not underestimate the utility of this.>> Many Thanks Scott W <<You're welcome, and best of luck. Marina>> 

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

How do you tell if your starfish is dead.  10/5/05 <Mmm, lack of movement of tube-feet mainly... ultimately no movement period, decomposition. Bob Fenner>

Clown vs. Seastar  9/22/05 Mr. Fenner, some advice please? Would a clownfish attack/kill a sea star?   I have one orange clownfish in an 80 gal tank * I introduced a blue Seastar, which died sometime within 48 hours.  When I noticed it was dead, it had been chewed on by the clown.  Before I put anything else in there, is there any chance the clown fish is responsible for the sea star's demise?  What other creatures are a good match for this clownfish?  Thanks in advance for your help. <Natural reaction for the clown as some stars do dine on their eggs in the wild.  But we can't discount the fact that the star may have died first.  Drip acclimation is almost a must when introducing Seastars as they are very sensitive to changes in water parameters.>  James (Salty Dog)>

Sick sea star  8/26/05 I have had my orange sea star <Fromia sp.> for 1 week, on Tuesday I noticed the tip of one of its arms was hanging on by a thread, I think this may be because of my coral beauty angel fish. After phoning my local aquatic shop they suggested that the nest course of action would be just to place it in a breeding trap until the wound healed to keep it safe from fish picking at it, on the first day it seemed quite happy in the tank and moved about a bit, I placed a small amount of  Mysis shrimp in with it, however now it is just sat at the bottom and hasn't moved for 2 days, and appears 2 be shedding mucus, please can u help a concerned fish keeper will Hitchcock <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/stardisfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Fromia milleporella First Aid 8/22/05 Good Sunday WWM Crew... <What happened? Lost another day, again!> I hope that that this finds you well. Yesterday, I took receipt of a Fromia milleporella.  I live in KY and it came from California via Drs. Foster and Smith.  It was a mess.  Its shipping time was not unusually long, but evidently long enough.  His body, overall was still turgid but each of his 5 legs had developed necrosis (up to 1/4 inch in a couple of places) and he evidently had shed in the shipping bag.  Upon initial investigation, I modified my acclimation to floating him in the tank while using a 5 ml eye dropper to drip tank water every fifteen minutes (at a rate of one drop per second) and then emptying 1/2 the water and commencing my "drip".  This process took about 5 hours, but I checked his bag temp several times and it matched that of the tank.  I then lowered his bag into the water, slid him out and laid him on top of a piece of Cyclop-eeze wafer in an accessible, but protected spot on the substrate.  I kept an eye on him for the rest of the evening to see if anything was going to change drastically.  He moved about 1/2 inch and seemed to be pressing his disk down into the substrate where the Cyclop-eeze wafer was.  My goal was for him to be comfortable, and to have nourishment that he wouldn't have to work very hard to get. I reread all of the sea star articles and FAQ's currently posted, paying particular attention to the postings regarding Fromia milleporella.  One posting in the FAQ's mentioned that you could swab the necrosis spots with reef strength iodine a/o remove the necrosis (plus some) on the legs with a scalpel or razor blade.  This morning I performed the iodine swab with a disposable wooden grilling skewer (never used) and polyester filter floss attached to the end of it soaked in Kent Marine Iodine supplement.  I also did my best to remove the necrosis areas on his legs and vacuuming out the "pieces".  For today's nourishment I placed some starfish sushi (a.k.a. a piece of mussel soaked in Selcon wrapped in dried seaweed) under him and squirted some DT's Live Phytoplankton into the substrate underneath him.  He seems to be accepting the sushi, but it took him a couple of hours. My question is, if he can be swabbed with the iodine as Mr. Calfo suggested, can I fashion dressing for his legs with the iodine soaked filter floss, and then change it each day until it is able to regenerate? <I would leave off handling, treating this animal more than the one time> It seems to be working on it on its own as long as I can keep it as de-stressed as possible and nourished. <Yes> By the way, I called Drs. Foster and Smith once the starfish was settled, explained his condition and they gladly gave me a full and immediate credit (my choice, store or to my credit card).  I thought that was good customer service considering that I am not convinced that this guy started his trip from California in good and healthy condition. <Very likely so> Your advice is most welcome, and any other suggestions for me would be most appreciated.  I know that I have an uphill battle ahead, but the starfish seems to want to recover and I want to help it as much as possible. Thank you very kindly, Pam Cradic <I do hope this animal recovers in your good care. Bob Fenner>
Re: Fromia milleporella First Aid...one more quick question 8/23/05
Thank you, Mr. Fenner for your reply to my inquiry.  I have just one more question regarding my sick friend.  Yesterday afternoon it appeared as though the necrosis on four out of his five legs had stopped. <Very good news> The ends of these legs had skin (for lack of a better word) over the ends, and no white could be detected.  The fifth leg, unfortunately developed a new spot on it (after he "broke off" the necrosis portion of it) and it appeared to be traveling to his center rather quickly.   Now, his disk seems to be "shedding" or changing colors.  He's still interested in food, as he ate the "sushi", and reacted to the food stimuli this morning (DT's again in the substrate).  His disk is changing from dark red/black (his original coloring) to a much brighter solid red.  He appears to be "shedding" the previous skin.     Does this signal the beginning of the end for him? <Can't tell>   I had hopes as long as his disk looked healthy, and I am encouraged that he appears to be interested in food, but now I'm not so sure.    I appreciate your advice. Sincerely, Pam Cradic <Thus far, you have done everything I know of "right"... Bob Fenner>

Red Fromia Star leg injury 8/18/05 Hello Crew, Per the advice on your website, I got a Red Fromia starfish instead of a blue Linckia.. <A much better, likely to live, choice> I've had it for about 6 weeks now and it basically lived in the corner of the glass moving up and down, and he seemed happy.   Last week, I moved him to the live rock for more foraging (and better visibility for me) <... better to let these animals, almost all animals, find their own way...> and within 2 days I noticed that the tip of one of his arms was frayed like something picked on it. <Maybe... a biped> Over the course of the last few days its getting more and more frayed apart (thus the leg is getting shorter).  He's still on the live rock now and still seems to be moving around normal.... is there anything I can do to help the little guy out?  What's typically takes place now that he has an injury?  Does he just keep fraying apart to the point of death?? Thanks, Cody <Please read... here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marind5_5.htm Re Asteroids, Fromia... and please learn to/use the indices, search tool on WWM. Bob Fenner>
Re: Red Fromia Star leg injury
8/19/05 Bob, <Cody> I understand fully how to use the indices and the search tools.  It is most likely necrosis of the limbs, but nothing I've read tells me how to save the little guy's life.  Will you please help me with some definitive direction on what I should do? <Unfortunately... there is not much known re asteroid health/disease issues, cures... purchasing apparently healthy specimens of historically hardi/er species, providing them with stable, optimized environments, nutrition, a dearth of predators... and not fooling with them is about all there is. Bob Fenner>

Orange Linckia with blister 8/15/05 Hi and Thanks again! My Linckia has been healthy and active for months. Last night I noticed what I thought was a sore or a wound on his arm (only one), and assume a crab or something else had nipped him. Today, there's a "blister/bubble" coming off the affected area. Is this just part of the healing, or something bad? I love my Linckia! Please help me out with some info. <... not much to relate... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/linckiadisfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Sick Knobby Starfish? 7/30/05 Okay, shoot me if this has been answered before, but I'm really   worried.... we recently acquired a 55 gallon salt water tank and some   of the fish that came with it.  After setting it up, and acclimating   the live stock, all seemed to do very well, except our red knobby   starfish. <A not easily kept species> The first couple of days, the starfish was really active   and seemed to be doing well.  Feeding the starfish twice weekly a   diet of krill for the past week and a half, he seems to have taken a   turn for the worse.  He now seems to be lethargic and keeps to   himself at the top of the tank, rarely moving.  His legs/tubes aren't   as active as when we first acclimated him into the tank.  He now   seems to have a web like substance on him and in the tank.  Is this a   disease?  How do I treat it?  Is it stress related?  How do I treat   that?  Is it a loss cause? <Mmm, a type of environmental disease, no treatment per se, yes to being stress-related, better environment to "treat", likely dead or will be soon> Is it a sign of trouble for the rest of   the tank even though the other fish are doing well and active as   ever?  Nitrates, Ammonia, etc all test perfect.  HELP! <Help yourself... read... starting here: http://wetwebmedia.com/seastars.htm and on to the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Re: Sick Knobby Starfish? 7/31/05
> <A not easily kept species> Tell me about it.  Complete different   > story than I received from a reputable aquarium store in town.    > Today he moved from the bottom to the top of the tank, but now the   > "knobs" seem to be dissolving and falling off of him.  I've   > searched your site for answers on this?  Point me to the right   > direction? <Uhh, same... please look... don't write. Bob Fenner>

Sea Stars and Vibrations 7/22/05 Hi! I have a question and cannot seem to find answers anywhere, so I thought I would write to you guys. <Hi Erin, Ali here...> I am a zookeeper intern and during the summer, every area has "keeper chats," where a keeper goes out to talk to the public about different animals in their exhibit.  Our topic this year is "Tidal Treasures" and we have set up a "portable" tank, complete with chiller, filter, etc, that gets wheeled outside on a Rubbermaid cart three times a day.  Inside this tank is an ochre star, a sun star, a barnacle, and strawberry anemones. This cart gets wheeled though the building to go outside, over bumps, concrete, etc.  <Yikes, Holy Marine-Mobile Batman!. is it heavy?> This is the first time we have done this and part of my intern project is the welfare of the animals in this tank.  I was curious as to whether all of the vibrations from wheeling the cart out 20 times a week is detrimental to the animals.  I can't seem to find any sort of info on this topic anywhere.  I do not think that this can be good for them, but I would like a more advanced opinion.  Our aquarist agrees that the vibrations are not good for the anemones and the barnacle, but is unsure about the sea stars.  Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated and if more information is needed, such as size of tank, etc, please let me know. <In all honesty, I would not stress over the vibrations too much. As long as the vibrations are not great enough to cause massive jolts that end up detaching the animals causing them to fall onto one another, they should be A-OK. Additionally, I would aim your focus more on the water quality/temperature stability of your little 'on-wheel' ecosystem rather than the vibrations.>Thanks! Erin M. <No problemo Erin, and for what it's worth you seem like a really worthwhile person to take the time and ask a question that most people wouldn't even bother with. It does truly sound that you have the animals' best intentions in mind. This will end up taking you a long way on your zoo keeping ventures. Good luck and remember not to drink and steer! ;) >

Heap Dead Echinoderm 7/19/05 How do you know if a starfish has died.  It has fallen to the bottom of the tank in a heap. Nicole >>>Greetings Nicole, Anytime an animal of any kind becomes a "heap" it's dead. Jim<<<

My poor Starfish, Please help... :( 7/7/05 Dear Bob,    I know your asked questions like this all the time, but I could really use your help. I bought a Purple Linckia Star about 4 days ago and this morning began to crumble from the base of his legs near his body. My tank is about 3 months old and I have tested the water a few time to ensure accuracy. 0 Ammonia! Very, very little to zero nitrate and nitrite. PH 8.2ish. I don't have a QT and I'm very sad because I hate to see sea critter suffer! Plus I did about a 4 hour drip acclimation... I don't know what the #*(# is going on... Thanks soooooo much, Nick <Mmm, help yourself... read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/linckiafaqs.htm and the Related FAQs files linked above. Bob Fenner>

Chocolate chip starfish We have 3 CC starfish in our tank (sorry I don't know the size my husband's the one who set it up and maintains it).  One of the starfish recently started looking shriveled on two of its legs , eventually he looked so sick we removed him from the tank.  Any ideas what caused this and should we be concerned about the other two?  We have had all 3 for about a year and no new fish or other creature have been added to the tank recently.  Thanks , Kim   <<Kim, a common problem in tanks where 10% weekly (or equivalent) water changes aren't being made to replenish the trace elements most animals require.  I'd also add an iodine supplement weekly.  Starfish are sensitive to changes in pH, oxygen, and specific gravity.  This tends to cause rapid bacterial infections that cause necrosis of the legs or whole body.  I'm thinking this is what you are seeing.  It's a good idea to place small bits of crab/clam meat under the star weekly to make sure it is getting enough food.  James (Salty Dog)>

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

Question about starfish vs. hermit crab Bob, I have searched your site and have not found exactly the answers I need, so thus the need to bother you again with another email. First, thanks to your advice and site........ my second try at a FOWLR tank is doing wonderful except for my chocolate chip starfish. <Sigh... very often a problematical aquarium species> I noticed a couple of weeks ago one arm looked a bit "ragged" as if someone had bit him. I watched carefully and did not notice anyone picking on him and he was still eating well and moving around like normal. Then tonight I saw Crabby, our red-legged hermit crab, reach out and take a pinch out of our starfish. Chip moved up and out of the way quickly, but now he has two small ragged areas from his assault from Crabby. These are not big spots, but from what I have read on your site star fish can develop infections easily once they are injured. <Yes, this is so> So here are the questions..........can these two learn to live together. <Not likely> I really count on Crabby for cleaning purposes. Anything smaller and our Hawkfish devours it, is he hungry or just curious? <Perhaps a bit of both> Is there anything extra I can do for our star-fish to prevent infection besides keeping the water at pristine levels? <More live rock, hiding places... put it in a sump, other system> How will I know if it gets infected? What signs should I be looking for? <Very likely it will just be dead, but sometimes, with close observation, one can see vacuolations (missing, dimpled areas), fungal/bacterial growth markings, slowing-down, cessation of movement... Bob Fenner> Thanks for you help Shannon

Bali Sea Star Hey, <Is for horses> I have an orange Bali Sea Star in my 55gal aquarium. <What species is this?> I only introduced him three days ago. When I woke up this morning there was a chunk missing out of the center of his back. He is still alive so I haven't removed him yet. I was wondering if this is some sort of decay or if one of my other fish could do it. There is one Foxface Rabbitfish, three reef Chromis, and one Banggai Cardinalfish. Also there are some hermit crabs, snails, a cleaner shrimp, and a peppermint shrimp.  Thank You, Joe Lace <Read... on WWM Joe... help yourself, your livestock... turn off the teevee... Bob Fenner> 

Sore on Chocolate Chip Star (5/15/05) Hey crew, quick question. My CC star looks like it has a sore on one of its limbs. It looks like skin is missing b/c it is white where the sore is, almost like bone.  <Yes, the non-bony interior of stars is whitish-brown/gray. Of course, echinoderms have no bone.>  What could be causing the problem and are there any ways I can get heal it?  <Do you have any nippers in there? One suspicion is a bite from something. Another possibility is an infection or some deterioration in water quality. Stars need very stable pH, SG, and temp. Ammonia and nitrite at any level can be a problem and excessive nitrates are also a no-no. I'd check all of these.  If you have a fish nipping at it, one or the other has to go. If not, the best treatment is to maintain pristine and stable water conditions and hope for the best. Your water change regimen requires that you carefully match the pH, SG and temp of the change water to the tank to avoid harm to this and any other sensitive inverts.>  I have a 29 G tank and I am doing 25% water changes weekly. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks again and as always good luck with your fish and endeavors. Aaron  <You're welcome and thanks to you too, Steve Allen.> 

Starfish Disintegration (4/29/05) Hi I recently bought a Fromia indica and had to transfer it from my tank to another tank. It now has a cut in its leg with bits coming out of it.  <Bad news for .>  Would it be advisable to cut this leg off and allow a new one to grow or not? Regards, Kim  <Interesting question for sure Kim. Do you have a hospital tank you could put it in. Did you acclimate the star to the water of the tank you transferred it to over a period of a few hours? Is there anything in the new tank that might have inflicted this wound and thus poses an ongoing threat? Starfish do have remarkable restorative powers. The big risk with any open wound is bacterial infection. This is why a hospital tank with antibiotics and pristine water conditions is a consideration for treatment. I would expect that a more ragged wound is more likely to get infected than a clean cut. Therefore, I'd say that if the wound appears to be getting any worse, it might work as a last-ditch treatment to cut that leg off a bit in toward the center from the wound with a very sharp knife. If you do this, be sure to cut only the leg and do it without exposing the starfish to air. And don't accidentally cut yourself. Good luck, Steve Allen.> 

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

Fromia Sea Star Hello. I purchased an orange Fromia star two days ago. Within a day of introducing it to the reef tank I noticed holes or cuts as if it had been eaten. The next morning a leg was missing and with another day it was dead. I have a cleaner shrimp and blue and red crabs. What are the natural predators for a Fromia star and is it possible I may have one in the tank and not know it.  <I'm thinking what you've witnessed is necrosis of the legs/body of the sea star. This star is fairly hardy if handled properly. They are sensitive to changes in SG, temp, ph and oxygen levels that may be encountered during  shipping/acclimation, especially exposing them to air. Any of these changes can cause this.> THANKS!  <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Orange Starfish problem I've been running the tank now for 6 months with live rock. I recently got an orange starfish about a month ago and it seems to be doing fine. I tried feeding it flake food and frozen krill but it just crawls over it and leaves it there. The problem is just yesterday I saw it curled up and swelled it also looked pale in colour. I moved it and it seemed to be fine because it started moving again. I left it for a while and it swelled up again and its limbs were fat and kinked. I've looked through your site but can't find anything similar. Please advise.  <Problem with most starfish is they have to be acclimated very slowly. They are hardy but sensitive to changes in specific gravity, temperature, ph, and oxygen levels and may succumb to bacterial infections that cause necrosis of the legs or whole body, that is the tips of the arms usually turn white at the onset of this. I don't know of anything to reverse this if that is indeed the problem. James (Salty Dog)> 

Cobwebbed Chocolate Chip >Hello, I have never submitted a question before; just read everyone else's, but now I have one myself.  >>Hello, Marina today. >I have a 55 gal. system that has been running for 2 years. It is incredibly stable and only houses a bicolor blenny and a yellow tang. Both fish have been in this set-up for 1.5 years.  I am conservative when it comes to my tank and that is why I have only had the blenny and the tang for so long.  >>I am going to assume that you are aware that eventually the tang will outgrow this tank. >However, the other night, I decided it was time to add some life. I went to the fish store and bought a chocolate chip star and some more snails and hermit crabs to add to my cleaning crew.  The star looks great. In fact, I added him to my tank and he has been quite active since then. He seems to prefer staying attached to the glass, but moves all over the place. (I will add that I only have owned him for about 24 hrs).  My point of concern is this: the star seems to have what I can only describe as a "cobweb" coming off of him. I touched some of this substance and it disintegrates upon touch. It looks like bubbles held together by a thin strand. The star has some of this hanging on to one of his legs and whenever he moves to a different spot on the glass, you can see the outline of his body on the glass made from this substance.  >>Sounds like a sloughing of sorts, may be caused by poor or inadequate acclimation. Invertebrates in general are sensitive to pH and salinity changes, starfishes tend to be even more so. >I did a search on this topic on the chat forum on wet web and found other people having similar issues, but no one had responded with an explanation. I am not sure whether I need to worry or not since the star seems to be doing fine.  >>I would watch very closely, and have a quarantine/hospital on hand (really should have q/t'd this animal in the first place, but what is done is done), as well as Spectrogram. You MUST ensure that all parameters are MATCHED (not "matched closely"). >When I finally released him after acclimatizing him last night, he moved rather quickly along the floor of the aquarium. As I mentioned before, he has been actively moving all over the glass in my aquarium. One further question, assuming everything could be ok with my new inhabitant and he continues to stay on the glass, what is the best way to feed him? I have read that if the star is laying on the substrate that you can lift it, lay the food down, and then place the star on top, but what about if the star prefers the glass?  >>Cripes, I wonder how the folks who wrote such things think starfishes eat in the wild? Just put the food down near the animal, and if the fishes go to eat it, give a little more. >The reason I ask is because he seemed to favor the glass at the fish store as well. Please let me know what you think. I have been skittish about adding anything to my living room ocean since everyone has done so well and I don't want to upset the balance now! >>I wouldn't want to, either.  PART TWO: >I wanted to follow up with what I observed on my chocolate chip starfish this morning. The star has continued to be very active. We fed him last night and he responded very nicely to the food; consuming it all. He continued his travel on the glass through the night and was in a new spot this morning.  >>Typical. >I noticed that he has 2 "chips" that are falling off and now I am incredibly concerned.  >>Good reason to be concerned. This is a bad sign, and it's time to work proactively. Get him out, into hospital, and start with PERFECT water quality and that Spectrogram I just mentioned. >I mentioned in my last email about the "cobweb" like material that he leaves on the glass and that also clings to his body. I'm not sure what do at this point. I've only owned this guy for a day and a half, but I don't want further issues. While I am encouraged by his moving about and acceptance of food, I wonder how "well" he may be. Thank you so much, Katie >>Katie, for a single starfish, even a bucket with a heater will do. Get him out of the tank and into hospital. The Spectrogram is the only/best means of treatment I know, and I've seen it used with amazing success with other starfishes (mostly Fromia spp.). Marina 
Cobwebbed Chocolate Chip Coming Back?
>Marina, I think my chocolate chip star is improving.  >>Katie, that can only be good, yeah? >I did not remove him from the tank yet.  >>Alright, but do have the hospital bucket on the ready, most importantly have the antibiotic on hand. >I just can't help but feel leery about that.  >>No worries. >When I checked him today, I noticed he had continued his trek through the aquarium and the places where the "chips" have fallen off seem to be closing up.  >>And THAT, my friend, is what you want to see! >I want to give him until Sunday (my next day off) to decide what to do with him.  >>The don't "work" on our schedules, watch for further disintegration. If you see more, if you intend to keep this animal long-term, no dilly-dallying around, MOVE, and move immediately. Have everything at the ready. >I have been unable to find Spectrogram in any of the local stores so I hope he'll continue to improve.  >>Me, too. You may have to buy online (ask them to start carrying it, it's good schtuff!). >He doesn't look too bad and I don't see anymore "cobwebs" hanging on him either. I think I will try to feed him tonight and see how he responds to that. It seems to me that if he continues to move around the tank and eats that that could be a positive sign.  >>Mm... could be, but in my experience they may continue to move and consume, all the while dying. If they continue to disintegrate and it hits the central disc then it's a lost cause. I strongly advise NOT waiting until it gets that far. >I did call the place that I bought him from and they admitted that he hadn't been fed very much while in the store. Cross your fingers for me. I've read that they are fairly resilient so hopefully this guy will be ok. If he doesn't seem better by Sunday, I'll put him in the bucket and take him back to the store. They said they'd be willing to take him back.  >>Alright, no worries there. What's actually MOST important here is water quality, and NO shock via pH or salinity changes - I cannot emphasize this strongly enough. >Thanks again, Katie >>You're welcome, and I've got my fingers crossed for you (but not while typing.. tried it, doesn't work). Marina 

Damaged Linckia stars, need to study 2 major questions. my blue Linckia got into the filter. I couldn't pull it out so I pressured it and scratched some blue off. Will it die from that? <Could> What can I do to heal it? On the other hand I have red little Linckia star that has very small white patches all over and he is not as happy as he was few months ago. Somebody said that it was infection. What can I do to save him? <Read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seastars.htm and on to the FAQs on this genus... and elsewhere (the linked files above)... Bob Fenner>

Purple Linckia Starfish I have a large purple Linckia starfish I recently introduced in my 55 gal tank. He moves continually ALL over the tank and seems to be perfectly content...my question is every morning he has what appear to be "blisters" or "bubbles" on the top side of his arms. When touched they emit a small amount of fluid or nothing at all and disappear. What could this be and should I worry? Thank you for your help. Tami <Mmm, do a search on your computer with the scientific name of this animal (Tamaria stria) and "aquarium". Don't know what these structures are... but a 55 gallon system is too small for this species. Bob Fenner> 

Starfish and Kudos - His Fate Sealed Dear Mr. Fenner; I just thought that I should drop you a line, and let you know that you and your crew do a wonderful job with your website. For me it all started when I decided that I wanted to investigate the possibility of starting a Marine aquarium. I happened across your site, and ended up spending many hours reading and researching. In the end, you sealed my fate.  About three months ago, I invested in a 20 gallon tank for a FO system. Small I know, but I only intended to keep a pair of clowns. Ah yes.... The adventure started there. After spending god knows how much time finding the optimal mix for my sea salt to water ratio, I was set. A week and a half to make sure that the tank was running nicely (specific gravity constant, temperature constant, etc.), I bought a pair of damsels to 'cycle' my tank. The initial plan was to return them to the store for credit when I was done, but I just couldn't. They're really a very nice fish, and beautifully colored. Since, I have gotten my clowns (common), and have also added an olive snail, a cleaner shrimp, and a six-legged red starfish. Today, I began the process of getting a new 35 gallon tank running to put them in. I wanted bigger, but living in an apartment, and already having a 75 gal. freshwater tank, and the existing 20 gal. Marine, I had to be sensible (for now, until I move into a house.). Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that I have greatly valued all the help you have provided through your website, and had to let you know that you've gotten another person hooked on Marine systems. I had always imagined a Marine tank being much more work, but really, it isn't too much more. I do have one question for you... Over the weekend, I woke up and found my starfish on the glass ABOVE the waterline. I put him back into the water, but it seemed as if he was dead. His legs were beginning to disintegrate, and he just lay there. I was about ready to remove him from the tank, but decided to put him upright next to the glass. Again, he went down to the bottom, and sat there, this time on his back. I was determined, so I set him down "right side up" again. I left him for about an hour, and to my surprise he was on the glass again. His legs are smaller, but he seems to be on the mend now. Hasn't fallen off the glass, and moves around regularly. Any idea as to why -or even how- he was out of the water? Also, what do you think his chances are of making a full recovery?  <Bob and the crew thank you for your kind words. As the starfish goes, it's not uncommon for them to break the waterline. Most starfish will consume bacterial slime and it's readily available on the glass/acrylic of the aquarium. My advice is to let the star roam wherever he wants.>

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

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

Stinky Rock and Damaged Starfish! Hi, <Hi there! Scott F. here tonight!> I just purchased 45 pounds of Fiji live rock. I put it in  a tank to let it cure like the directions said. I noticed that after a few days, all of the rock has gotten this white slimy coating all over it. I've purchased the same rock before and it never did this. Do you know what it could be. <Hard to be certain, but this type of "coating" is generally necrotic material that is collecting on the rock surface. A routine part of the curing process for live rock. It is recommended that you use a turkey baster or small powerhead directed into the rock to blast this material off. Then, you'd simply siphon out this stuff and add fresh saltwater. Aggressive protein skimming during the curing process helps, too.> Also noticed a lot of worms. Some are pinkish and some are white. What are they? Are all of these worms bad for my tank? Is there a faster way to get rid of them other than plucking them all out with a pair of tweezers? They are so gross! <Well, they could be any number of possible worms which reside in the rock. There are lots of different types, such as Cirratulids, Terebellids, Syllids, Spinoids, etc., to name just a few. Many are harmless scavengers that are actually beneficial to your system, ugly though they may be!> Also, the rock has this weird smell and it's funking up the whole room. Is this normal? <A normal part of the "curing" process. Remember, the rock has been through a lot on the way from the reef to your tank, and many organisms in and on the rock die off and decay. That's all the more reason to employ a holding tank or bucket with a good protein skimmer, some activated carbon, and a regular water change schedule. Just keep up the water changes and skimming and allow the rock some time. This smell will definitely subside.> One other question. I have some Starfish in a different tank that I've had for over a year and there legs are missing. Everybody was fine one day and the next there missing some body parts. What causes this? I've checked my levels and everything is zero, ammonia was next to zero so I did a 25% water change. What's going on? <Well, it's hard to be 100% certain. Often, these animals will lose appendages during the acclimation process, or as a result of stress endured during this process. It's certainly possible that the creatures are being nipped at by another inhabitant in your tank. Do keep an eye on the water quality in your system, and continue to observe the animals carefully.> I really liked my Little Red Starfish and now he's missing a leg. Does that mean he will die soon? <Not at all. If the water conditions are up to par, and if you maintain a relatively stress-free tank, there is a very good chance that the animal will be fine. Echinoderms are legendary for their strong regenerative capabilities. Don't give up!> The other 2 are the sand-sifting Starfish. Any help would be great. <Hope that the insights outlined here are of use to you. Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Chocolate Chip Starfish Hi, I have a CCS and I am not sure what is going on. I have read through the FAQ's and some of them answered my questions but my starfish goes a little beyond those. For one it looks like it is disintegrating on its arms which is the part on the FAQ's that I read but everything else I could not find. If you look at him on the bottom there are holes in his body you can see right through to the other side and he has some very big white spots all over his body. The other problem is in between two of his legs it looks like he is splitting apart. He has a very large split (basically if you took a piece of paper and cut a slit in it at the edge at the bottom) and has some white mucus looking stuff coming out of the split along with white balls dropping from the same place. Can you please help me try to figure what is going on and is there anything I can do to fix him or save him. Also the last time we check the water everything was fine in the way of ph nitrate, nitrite and anything else. Thanks Jackie<I believe your starfish is on his way to starfish heaven.  Most starfish do not last too long in a closed system.  Nutrients is usually the biggest downfall.  Have you every offered it food?> James (Salty Dog)

Starfish is sick Hi Bob, <Carmine> I don't know if you can answer this question, but I have two tanks set up and last week I bough a small red starfish for each one from an online website.  Checked the FAQ but no luck, maybe you can help. <Will try> Starfish seemed to be fine, moving around, finding their spots, etc.  Then went out of town for two day and when I came back, they both look sick but not like described by other posters.  Their legs look fine but they both look thin or deflated, are they starving to death? <Maybe... perhaps internal bacterial, and/or parasitic involvement...> Water test seem ok except in one tank had slightly higher nitrates but other tank 0.  Left small piece of seaweed in tank for other tank mates, lights off for 2 days, any of this be a problem?   <No> Did 20% water change at 2am as soon as I checked tank, please help. Thanks, CS <What species of Star is this? How large are their tanks? How long set-up? Do you have knowledge of their nutrition? You may have read the Seastar FAQs, but you didn't understand what you read. Bob Fenner>

Chocolate Chip Questions (11/21/04) Hello, <Steve Allen today.> I just recently (about three days ago) purchased a chocolate chip star fish and for the first few days he was all over the tank but today he didn't move as much and for about the last few hours he seems to get bloated (in the middle) and then it will go away and now he was bloated but it looked like it moved to his arm is getting swollen. Is this normal? Thanks, Brittney <Sounds like it might be eating some sort of chunky food. They will remain still over food for may hours while they evert their stomachs and digest their food. They often pull a chunk of food inside themselves, thus causing a large bulge. This is most likely what is going on, in which case it will start moving and shrink down again as it digests the food. If not, then you will have to consider other possibilities. Let us know.>

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

Chocolate Chip Star Problems (11/3/04) Hi, my name is Cathy, and I recently got a chocolate chip star. I have had it for about two weeks, and it looked great when I bought it. But now, its skin is not as hard as it was, and when it is on the glass, it looks like the top legs are too thin, and the bottom ones are too fat. Like it is sagging. It also curls its legs upwards when it is sitting on the bottom of the tank. Now I have noticed that one of its chips has broken off. What could be causing all of these problems? <Hello Cathy, Steve Allen tonight. Did you acclimate the star slowly over a couple of hours? Are your salinity, temp and pH stable at normal seawater values? Stars are very sensitive to fluctuations. They are also sensitive to ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. That said, the loss of one "chip" may not be a problem. Anything in your tank that might have bitten it off? Their skin is not always hard, though will firm up as a reaction to being touched much. It may feel a little soft when first touched. The tube feet that are higher on the glass sometimes stretch out and the lower ones may be shorter and fatter. I have seen this with my own and suspect it is related to gravity-induced sag. Curling the leg tips up is also common. Thus, nothing at all may be amiss if it is moving and eating normally. Does it react to food and eat? The key here is to maintain stable and optimal water conditions. Do feel free to write back with more details. Hope this helps.>
Starfish Death (11/8/04)
well, my starfish died yesterday. <Sorry to hear.> It looked like it just broke apart... if that makes any sense. <Yes, disintegrated.> and white stringy substance started coming out of it. <Guts> It was hard to watch, but it seemed like there was nothing I could do to help it. <Very difficult to treat echinoderm diseases.> all I have in that tank are a blue damsel, a yellow tailed blue damsel, and I had a Percula clown, but it died the same day the star died. Could these be connected? <Possibly. Do check ammonia, nitrites, nitrates. Strive to maintain optimum conditions. Steve Allen.>

Sand Sifting Star, Archaster typicus fell apart! Howdy guys! <howdy> Once again, thanks for the awesome site Bob and Crew! Hours and hours and hours of excellent reading! Always an education. :-) <for us as well> I have a 70g new-ish reef (<1yr), 90lbs of excellent live rock, 60lbs live Carib Sea Sand, Pro Clear 150g wet/dry sump w/ skimmer, Eheim pump (700gal/hr), Current USA Orbit Quad Dual (10000K White / 6700K, Dual Actinic - 7100K Blue / Actinic 03) power compacts, Ebo Jager 250w heater. I add ESV B-Ionic 2-part Alk/Calc buffer system and Magnesium daily. Water: Ammonia/Nitrate/Nitrite - 0, SG: 1.0245, Calc: 460, dKH: 11, Alk: 3.1, <easy on the calcium my friend... 460 is too high and the very reason why your ALK is low/flat. Aim for more even keeled ranges. 350-425ppm Ca and 8-12 dKH ALK... but neither high at the same time> PH: 8.3, Phos: <0.1, Temp: daily low/high: 79.4-80.2. I do about a 20% water change monthly currently, but have thought about doing 10% twice a month instead. <much better... or more> Livestock: 2 False Clowns (Amphiprion ocellaris), 1 Scooter Blenny (Synchiropus ocellatus), 1 Rainford Goby (Amblygobius rainfordi). That's it fish-wise. Inverts and other stuff: 3 Emerald Crabs (1 BIG one; ~2.5-3" across including legs), 1 Sally Lightfoot Crab, 3 Hermit Crabs (1 red-legged), 2 Fire Shrimp, 10 various snails, 1 Abalone, 2 Sand Sifting Stars (Archaster typicus). <yikes... your tank and sand bed (depth) is not large enough to sustain even one Archaster sand star for even six months. They will starve to death... needing DSBs of 4-6" and tanks over 100 galls minimum (over 8 sq. ft of open sand min.) to have a prayer of surviving> I had 3 Stars, hence this email. About 3 or 4 days ago, one started visibly "falling apart". A chunk of a leg, then the whole leg. Today it started coming apart from the center and would not turn over when flipped on it's back, though it's "feet" were still barely moving; I thought a sure sign it was dying so I removed it immediately and put it in my QT tank. It died (at least I think it did) shortly there after; went rigid and non-responsive. I, of course being as paranoid as I am, panicked and checked all of the water, filtration, my fish, the other stars and all the livestock I could see (the crabs like to hide during the day). As far as I can tell, everything is hunky-dory except for that Star. I hadn't had it for long, a few months tops, but it seemed fine up until a few days ago. <they are poor shippers... it could be that simple> There was no necrotic or dead/hanging tissue, so I was really puzzled. Immediately I blamed "Hulk" (the big Emerald crab) as it seemed like the only critter capable of doing it. <this is true/possible> Just wondering if you guys could lend any insight here. Thanks! :-) ~Jeff <many possible reasons... without knowing how long you've had any of the three stars, I cannot say if it was attrition or not. I can say that you need not buy any more. Arriving healthy, they WILL starve to death in a short while. Most Asteroid species need 100-200 gall tanks min. Without them you get stories like this one or hear the blue Linckia stars are "hard to keep". Ahh... not so. Just not adaptable to small/home sized aquaria. Best regards, Anthony>
Sand Sifting Star, Archaster typicus fell apart! II 10/29/04
Thanks for the quick response, Anthony! :) <always welcome> My sand bed is about 4" thick uniformly. The tank is a 70g tall: 36x18x251/2. I bought extra sand just to have a thicker bed. <good depth as a DSB for NNR... but still too small for a sand sifting starfish. The footprint here is VERY small... and rocks cape covers even more of it. There is absolutely no way a single Archaster could live in this tank long term> The stars are have been in the tank for ~3.5 mo.s tops. I will not get anymore, as I don't think I could support them and have no desire to buy things I'm just going to kill due to malnutrition. <good to hear my friend. Bob and I do cover this subject (Asteroid stars) in great(er) depth in "Reef Invertebrates" (2003)> The one that died was (I think) full-grown; approx. 3.5" across. The two remaining are much smaller; 2-2.5" across. <please do trade or sell them ASAP. They really cant see more than 6 months if that on a bed this small> I had concerns about my calcium, so I've been working on getting it down with water changes. <good move> I was shooting for 420ish (or is that still a bit too high?). <no worries... 420 is quite fine... and expect ALK to run8 at 8-10 dKH> I figured my inverts must be loving it, the Fire Shrimp and Sally Lightfoot have both molted numerous times in the last six months. I use Oceanic Instant Ocean salt. <this sea salt "cheats" in giving the illusion of high calcium with really quite poor ALK in many folks opinion. Do test your ALK on a new batch of seawater and you will see.> There's a few spots that I allow some hair algae to grow on some of my live rock for my Blenny and Goby (as they enjoy nibbling in it). The stars occasionally seem to enjoy it as well. Is this a sign of starvation or they're just expanding their palette a bit? <tough to say... perhaps the latter as many/most are adaptable and not obligate> Also, on a slightly different yet related note, I've had a semi-recent explosion of Copepods. Well not explosion, but quite a few (hundreds probably) are easily visible on all glass surfaces. I have some Caulerpa mexicana and Caulerpa racemosa attached to fist sized pieces of live rock that came from a mature refugium to jump-start pod production for my Goby and Blenny (among other things). The majority of my live rock also came from a mature reef system that was torn down and sold. I had some pods immediately, but it seems in the last two weeks or so, the growth has been exponential. <very nice> I guess I just wanted to make sure that there's nothing wrong with this and I shouldn't worry about it. <no problem at all... a benefit, indeed> My fish seem to be enjoying it. They are both noticeably growing and somewhat "chubby". Thanks in advance for all your time, Anthony! :) You guys rock. :) ~Jeff <kindly, Anthony>
Re: Sand Sifting Star, Archaster typicus fell apart!
Ah, a nightcrawler like myself! ;) <actively writing... nicely quiet time :)> Thank you again, Anthony for the reply. I appreciate your time, indeed. <always welcome> Unfortunately, another one is starting to shed the tip of it's leg. I contacted my friend at the LFS (they generally have outstanding stock) and he said he'd be happy to give me store credit on the healthy one (as this one is shedding it's tip, it probably isn't considered "healthy"). So I guess I will just have to ride it out with this last one that's losing it's tip. I can't very well give it to someone when I do not know what's wrong with it. <you might consider rotating specimens between friends/tanks in the local/regional hobby club> I tried to take a picture of it, though it's difficult to focus that small. This is about the best I could do: http://65.124.75.190/starfish1.jpg  You can see the tip of one arm starting to "pinch" and come apart. That's how it started with the other one. <a very bad sign indeed> I cannot put it in QT at the moment either. My old QT tank sprung a leak. I picked up a new combo setup (stand/tank) and plan on taking the 20g out of my main tank when I do the water change this weekend and putting it in the QT tank. So it would be at least Sunday before I could QT it. <Ack... no, mate. Anything that holds water can be a QT tank. Tupperware, Rubbermaid containers, etc... hang the power filter on or drop the sponge filter in, etc. Place heaters inside of PVC tubes so as not to melt the sides of the vessel, etc> I tested my Alk/DKH again this evening and it came back as such: 3.77/10.6, using the Salifert test kit. Is this closer to my target? I am doing a water change Sunday (my change water has been circulating with a powerhead in a Brute garbage can since Wednesday). I have about half a bucket of the Oceanic Natural Sea Salt (had the name wrong) left. If this is an inferior product I have no problem ditching the remaining and getting something else. What would you recommend? <like most salts... it requires water testing and adjusting to suit your specific needs. I'd recommend Tropic Marin sea salt above at currently> I'm also preparing my water with the Kent Marine Ammonia Detox. <I would not recommend this... not needed> I know a lot of people do not like Kent Marine, <bingo> but I've thus far had no problems. <OK> I will likely just use up this bottle and move to Seachem next. I do not have an RO/DI unit, but I do have a central water softener (Potassium Chloride). The water where we live is outstanding (very rural area) as it is drawn from an enormous aquifer deep underground here (the Edwards Aquifer). <very nice... the water softener may not even be needed> I plan on getting an RO unit eventually, though I'm not sure I need it. <agreed> What should I be looking for when I test my plain water pre-additives? <look for phosphates and get a bead on hardness for adjustment> Not sure if I mentioned this earlier, but I am using the ESV 2 part B-Ionic buffer for Alk/Ca. <very fine... but be sure to shake all such supplement vigorously before every use... else they may get dosed imbalanced> I've backed off on the Ca additive until I get it down to where I want it (not sure if that's the right thing to do or not, but it made sense to me). <correct... or simply add some calcium hydroxide or Chloride to get on par then carry on with balanced 2-part mixes> I also add a little Magnesium (per the dosage req.) and Iron once a week (very small amount, the min recommend, which is 8 drops). Both are ESV products. <a fine company> Thank you again, Anthony! I need to send you guys some Xmas presents. :D <your success with healthy animals is the best gift of all. Anthony>
Sand Sifting Star, Archaster typicus fell apart! III 11/1/04 Thank you again for the thoughtful and insightful reply! :) <always welcome> One thing is different with this particular specimen. The other Archaster lost the tip, then the rest of the arm very quickly. This one has not lost the tip. As a matter of fact, the "pinch" has been reduced. It almost seems to be re-attaching (if that's even possible)! Could this indeed be an injury from a full-grown Emerald Crab (approx 2.5" across)? <yes... most crabs are ultimately not safe in reef aquaria. They are opportunistic> I have found homes for both of them and will be moving them in the next week. One is going back to the LFS where my buddy Jason has a large tank that they grow Caulerpa racemosa and mexicana in (close to 400g I believe; the tank was damaged high up on the glass, so they fill it about 1/3 of the way and cultivate Caulerpa in it now). It's got a fairly DSB (probably 2-3") and I'd imagine they'll be happy in there. He agreed to take the possibly "sick" one as the tank is isolated from the main system in the store. <excellent> Can you recommend a Calcium Hydroxide or Chloride product for Ca balancing? <many good ones out there. Seachem for quality overall. B-Ionic too... very good> Once I am through with this bucket of Oceanic, I will give Tropic Marin a shot. <TM is the top shelf brand and well worth it IMO> I've not had any problems with Oceanic and it seems to dissolve really well, but I'm always game for improvement. :) Thanks again, Anthony. :) -Jeff <kindly, Anthony>
Re: Sand Sifting Star, Archaster typicus fell apart!
Actually, that would be a relief really. :) <Good to hear/read> I was starting to worry about all these Archaster's. As an update, the one with the "pinched tip" on it's arm is still fine! The tip has not fallen off, it is still appearing to mend. :) Thanks! <Good. Bob Fenner>

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