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Related FAQs: Fromia Stars, Fromias 2, & FAQs on: Fromia Identification, Fromia Behavior, Fromia Compatibility, Fromia Selection, Fromia Systems, Fromia Feeding, Fromia Disease, Fromia Reproduction, & Sea Stars 1, Sea Stars 2, Sea Stars 3, Sea Stars 4, Sea Stars 5, Seastar Selection, Seastar Compatibility, Seastar Systems, Seastar Behavior, Seastar Feeding, Seastar Reproduction, Seastar DiseaseAsterina Stars, Chocolate Chip Stars, Crown of Thorns Stars, Linckia Stars, Linckia Stars 2, Sand-Sifting Stars,

Related Articles: Sea Stars Sand Sifters An Introduction to the Echinoderms:  The Sea Stars, Sea Urchins, Sea Cucumbers and More... By James W. Fatherree, M.Sc. Genus Valenciennea GobiesDeep Sand Beds, Live Sand, Biofiltration, Denitrification, Live Sand, Live Rock

/A Diversity of Aquatic Life

Fromia, Gorgeous, Mostly Hardy and "Reef Safe" Marbled, Tile Sea Stars

by Bob Fenner Fromia indica Fiji 2011

The echinoderms called Seastars or just "stars" are largely an anomaly to marine aquarists; On the one hand, they're known to be tough to the point of being able to regenerate limbs to whole bodies from a limb... on the other, the vast majority of trials with keeping them in captivity end with mysterious loss; lethargy, erosion, silent dissolving in our systems.

    Like all groups of organisms there is a variation in the relative hardiness, call it aquarium suitability, within the Stars, with some being dismal in terms of incidental mortality (e.g. the members of the genus Linckia) and some being much better (though this should, does not imply "good") for captive use. Of the tougher genera that make their way into commercial availability, my all-time favorite are the smaller species of the genus Fromia... They are small in size (about four inches max.), gorgeous in coloration, and not too difficult by and large (for reef aquarists) to keep fed.

Fromia Species: Of the 11 or so Fromia sp., I've seen five from time to time offered for sale:

A Fromia elegans, a brown colored one in Fiji.

Fromia ghardaqana Mortensen 1936,Ghardaqa Brittle Star. Red Sea endemic. To three inches in diameter. 

Fromia milleporella (Lamarck 1816), a Red Starfish. Consistently reddish appearance typically, with pores visible on the upper surface. Looks flat and lacks tubercles. Indo-Pacific; eastern Africa to the South Pacific. A white spotted one in the Red Sea. 

Fromia monilis, the Necklace Sea Star. N. Sulawesi pix. Found in shallow waters in rocky habitats. 

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The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.

Fromia nodosa, Clark 1967, the Knobby Fromia Sea Star. Indo-West Pacific; Seychelles, Maldives, PNG, Indo. N. Sulawesi pix. Found in shallow waters in rocky habitats. 


   How to put this; "not much". Fromias are not very energetic... found on rock, sand, occasionally crawling over other sedentary invertebrates. The only reason to be alarmed re ones behavior is if it doesn't move at all day to day, or it is frequenting the surface... A sign that something is likely amiss in your system chemically or physically.

    Something I would like to mention is these Stars sometimes releasing bubbles, white and brownish matter from their leg tip areas and aboral disk areas. These exudations should not be accidentally mistaken for evidence of necrosis.


    Marbled Seastars are "poster children" for Reef Safeness... leaving other life alone and in turn generally being left be, with the exception of the usual suspects. Do beware of mixing crabs, larger/predaceous Hermits, Puffers, Triggers... that might to may well pick on the stars.


    Like most all starfish species, one can't tell much re the selecting Fromias from "snapshot" looks. Asteroids of all kinds "look fine" at a glance, whether healthy or soon to be-to just now dead. Do take care to leave newly arrived specimens at your dealers to harden, rest up, for a week or more, before picking them up. Be on the look out for the usual indications of trouble with spiny skinned animals: A total lack of movement, whitish, otherwise discolored patches on the body, and any outright depressions of vacuolations. Seeing any of these should discourage a purchase.

    Most all topics of reef-keeping have their, shall we euphemistically say, "Differences of opinion". However, I've yet to experience anyone suggesting other than a very slow acclimation process for introducing new Seastars... An hour or more of slow drip is best... and if there is really more than 0.001 (a thousandth) difference in specific gravity or any discernible difference in pH between the old systems water and your own, it's a very good idea to let the new specimen/s make the transition over days time in a separate/isolation/quarantine system (with cured live rock), with water being moved to their intermediate setting from the permanent/main display on a daily basis.


    For Fromias, and the vast proportion of marine invertebrates period, need to be "well-established". Half a year of being set up, stable is a good minimum time to wait before their introduction. Not only allowing for the settling in of chemical and physical changes in rock, sand et al., but this time span also provides culture time for foods useful to the Star/s. Such systems must need have "A +" water quality. 

    There is a positive correlation likewise with the size/volume of the systems and success in keeping Echinoderms. The larger the better, with a good deal of healthy live rock. I would place Fromias in systems of a minimum of a hundred gallons volume. Further, keeping with the notion of providing optimized, stable water chemistry, all make-up  and  water change water should be pre-mixed, stored and matched, if not planned to be "just a little bit better" than present system water. Any supplements, alteration substances should be diluted and added slowly to their displays.


    Fromia species are for the most part detritivores, really feeding on minute animals (micro fauna) found in and amongst detritus. In captivity, they benefit from occasional offerings of meaty foods (shrimp, krill, mussel, clam, etc.) cut up in small sizes and emulsified in a gel, or something similar in the way of commercially made wafer, placed near them. 


    The state of detecting disease, not to even begin treatments for same, is, should I state... "at an early infancy". Other than the items mentioned under "Selection" of new specimens, about the only and earliest indication of illness in these animals is cessation of movement and outright signs of decomposition. This being admitted, there is still reason to not give up immediately. First and foremost, if one suspects a loss of vigour, DO check your water quality. If you have another established reef system, do consider moving the Fromia/s to it; in the hope that whatever is too much or deficient may be present/absent in the other set-up. You can also  apply a heavy dose of whatever source of Iodine/ide/ate (e.g. Lugol's Solution) you use to the water, and daub it full-strength onto necrotic areas with a swab.

    There are disparate reports of using broad-spectrum antibiotics in concentration in dips/baths having efficacy... Perhaps 250 mg.s of Spectrogram is best, or a Furan compound, dissolved in a gallon or so volume of seawater, the Fromia being immersed for 10-15 minutes; moving the animal/s to a new/clean water setting subsequently.


    Most seastars tried as aquarium specimens live less than a month in captivity. This apparent high mortality is due principally to the trade/hobbyist use of improper specimens (e.g. Linckia spp.), harsh collection, holding and shipping, and secondarily to a lack of proper environment and husbandry on hobbyists parts. The genus Fromia is exemplary in being much more sturdy on average, and beautiful to boot! Even the Marble/Tile Stars require established reef conditions however.

Bibliography/Further Reading:

Net Resources:
Magazine Articles:

Mancini, Alessandro. 1991. Starfishes in tropical marine aquaria. TFH 9/91.

Rohleder, P.G. Undated. Linckia and Fromia- Two starfish for the reef aquarium. Aquarium Digest International #53.

Schlais, James F. 1981. Walking on water. FAMA 8/81. 

Wilkens, Peter. 1974. Stars to brighten your aquarium. Marine Aquarist 5:3, May/June 74.

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