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FAQs about Asterina (tiny, white...) Sea Stars 1

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

Related FAQs: Asterinas 2, & Asterina ID, Asterina Behavior, Asterina Compatibility, Asterina Selection, Asterina Systems, Asterina Feeding, Asterina Disease, Asterina 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 Disease Chocolate Chip Stars, Crown of Thorns Stars, Fromia Stars, Linckia Stars, Linckia Stars 2, Sand-Sifting Stars,

ID please - some sort of star? - 06/04/08 Hello, <Hi> I found this thing in the tank - it is approximately 1/4" in diameter, perhaps 3/16". I used a macro lens to capture it up close. I do not know what it is - my tank is approximately 3 weeks old and this is the first time I've seen it. The lights were on and had been on for 8+ hours so it apparently isn't afraid of lights. <Nice picture.> Any idea what it is? If I should remove it, how should I pull it out? I assume it is not safe to handle without using tweezers, etc. <It looks like an Asterina star. See http://www.wetwebmedia.com/asterinafaqs.htm . Some report problems with them, when they occur in large numbers and use Harlequin shrimp http://www.wetwebmedia.com/harlequinshrimp.htm with all the associated problems to get rid of them. However, they behave well and are very beneficial in the majority of reef tanks. I would leave it in there. They can be touched or collected with tweezers or hands.> Thanks again for the great website!
<You are welcome. Marco.>

Very nice pic! RMF

Methinks its a Limpet (but not sure)... Methinks it's Hard to ID Without Photos!  6/9/07 Greetings to all! <And a hardy hello to you Anthony, Mich here.> I recently bought a decent sized piece of liverock that currently has 12 mushrooms (all purple colored, ranging from dime-sized to half-dollar), and one Ricordea floridae about the size of a silver dollar. The first night I was checking for hitchhikers, and found at least 2 serpent stars (really small), <Likely Mini Serpent stars (Amphipholis) or Striped Micro Brittle stars (Ophiactis) both beneficial scavengers, which will hopefully reproduce in your system.> another starfish (its white with very pale brown markings, 5 legs). <Perhaps an Asterina star.> And what I know is definitely a gastropod of some sort.. <OK.> an ID of the mystery starfish would be greatly appreciated, as well as if it's bad or beneficial to the aquarium. <Umm, how? No pics, minimal descriptions, and I'm still standing here waiting to be beamed up to see your tank there Scottie!> Also, I would like an ID of this snail like creature... I can give a lot better description of him! <Well, give me something to work with!> it has a flat/domed shell on top, but the shell looks more like a clam shell (asymmetrical). It also has a pearlescent shimmer to it. The animal itself is odd though. For one, it seems like its too big for the shell (about twice as big as the shell, or maybe even bigger), and for a snail, it moves FAST! It has 2 long antennae coming out of the front, and what seems to be 6 other, smaller ones running along the side (3 on each side) of the animal. <Sounds like (I almost feel like I'm playing Charades here...) a Stomatella snail to me... a welcome addition to your tank. Reproduces readily in captivity and an excellent member of the clean up crew. A couple of photos on this page: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/snailid9.htm > Since I can only find both of these animals at night, I can't get a picture. <Uh huh... sure... because it's dark... that why there's no photos... I think your just trying to challenge me...> But should I pull them out of the aquarium, or are they safe for my current and future inhabitants (I plan on having more mushrooms, polyps, Zoas, and some LPS). <They are likely safe, if not outright beneficial.> I don't think the starfish is Asterina, because all of the Asterina I've ever seen have 7 legs, and half of those legs look as if they've broken off and are regrowing. <I've seen Asterinas with 2 legs, 3 legs, 4 legs... Here's a pic of one I took at IMAC with 8 legs! You can see the 3 old legs and the 5 new. OK, I guess I'm not able to attach it you this email, perhaps it will be posted on the daily FAQ's.> Also, would you have any pics that resemble what I've described, so I can compare? <Anthony... allow me to introduce you to Google Images... http://images.google.com ...Google images...Anthony. There you've met, now become friends! Hee!> Thanks a ton! <Welcome! Mich> Anthony Cagle <Please for future reference it is: "I" not "i">

Asterina eating a polyp  12/20/06 Hello Crew, <Hey Nick, JustinN with you today> Thanks for the awesome website! <Thanks for the kind words!> I was wondering if you could help me with a couple questions I couldn't find an answer to. <I can certainly try, can't I? *grin*> I have numerous little white starfish which I believe to be Asterina. <Likely so, very common> I have had them for well over a year with no problems. A few days ago I noticed that some of the polyps on one of my Zoanthid colonies were not looking very good, shriveled and discolored. Last night I looked at the colony and noticed one of the Asterina engulfing one of the polyps. <Scavenging, as they do...> Do you believe that this starfish was only eating the polyp because it was dead or dying? -or- Do you think it just attacked the polyp because it was hungry. (although I've never seen this happen for over a year since I've had the starfish population) <I think you answered your own question here *grin* You witnessed the degrading of the polyps before the incident happened, and as you stated, you are well over a year incident free. I personally believe these intriguing (and invariably free!) reef denizens have gained a bad rap in the Zoanthid fanatic circles. I've not seen anything beyond circumstantial at best information on this behavior from Asterina stars.> Worried, I peeled the starfish off and removed him from the tank. But now I wonder what would have happened if I had left him.... Do you think he just would have beneficially eaten the decaying part of the colony or would he have eaten the health polyps as well. <My thought is the former, not the latter.> So if I see this again should I just let the starfish do his work? <Yes, if you witness this again, I would just let it happen, is part of the biota balance.> One other quick question, I am giving some Chaetomorpha macroalgae to my brother for his refugium. I have a population of flatworms in my tank that I don't mind, but my brother might. I was curious if it would be ok to freshwater dip this algae to remove the worms.... I could just swish it in saltwater, but I'm afraid that it might not remove them all. <Why not just take the safety route and use both methods? Rinse in some saltwater first, then do a short freshwater dip before rerinsing in saltwater and bagging for your brother.> Thank you so much in advance for your help. Everyone have a happy Holiday! -Nick <Happy holidays to you and yours as well, Nick. Hope this helps you! -JustinN>

Asterina Starfish compatibility   11/24/06 Hello, <Hello and a happy Thanksgiving to you, Rosemary! JustinN with you today.> I very much enjoyed reading the information you had posted on your web sight about Star Fishes.  I am looking for information about a specific breed I did not see mentioned on your web sight.  I was told it is called "Asterina Mini Star"  I will email you the listing off eBay so you might see what they look like.   <Mmm, not necessary, am very familiar with this species> I am interested in learning anything you know about this species.  I especially wanted to know if they are coral safe?  I currently have a pair of Erectus sea horses and a Bluestriped pipe fish in a 15 gallon tank. I wanted to make sure this is a peaceful type.  According to the sellers listing this type is suppose to remain small so I thought it might be perfect for my tank.  I would greatly appreciate to learn what you know about them. I would be extremely grateful for any help you could give me! Thank you so much for your time! Best Wishes Rosemary <While some people like to point fingers and blame Asterina stars for such things as polyps not extending, and of consuming Zoanthids, myself and many other reefers in my area have many of these in our tanks and have never seen any deleterious effects. These starfish have little to no affect on the overall bioload, and are excellent detritivores. The main reason that they seem to get accused of as much ill as they do, is because they do reproduce like weeds. If your tank is nutrient rich enough, they can grow to plague proportions, although it is typically easy to keep in check with manual extraction. Do you have any live rock in your aquarium? If so, you may already have some Asterina stars and not know it yet! Have a browse through our existing Asterina starfish FAQ's and decide for yourself if they sound right for you: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/asterinafaqs.htm Hope this helps you! -JustinN>

Re: Asterina  9/6/06 Dear Bob, <Derek> Thanks so much for the info. These little starfish seem to be multiplying fast... I found another just after receiving your reply with the ID suggestion. So I now have a 3 legged, 4 legged, and this 6 legged one (the largest of them so far). I've attached a photo to help ID, and in case it might be useful for your FAQ section; it came out fairly clear, given the small size of the starfish. Is this an Asterina? <Does appear so to me> If so I presume they'll be fine just chewing on the algae in the tank... will they? <Likely so> From the pictures I found on your FAQs I'm sure the lesser limbed ones are Asterina (I've only ever seen the lesser limbed ones from below (as they stick on the front glass) and they match one ID'd in your FAQ). <Do come in a variety of leggi-ness> Also, on another subject... Some signs in my tank of other possible hitchhikers - Clicking noises (single not rapid clicks) mainly after lights out and holes appearing in most of the loose shells on the sand... Mantis Shrimp? Pistol Shrimp? <Possibly> FYI I have a sensibly stocked 150litre tank, 1 Maroon Clown, 1 Splendid Leopard Wrasse (which I'm happy to say will even eat granules now!), 1 Boxer shrimp (Cleaner-Shrimp murderer!), <Ahh, yes> 1 red Starfish, and the usual hermits and snails. BTW, I don't know what the red starfish is, but I got one of its legs in the attached picture so if you've any ideas? <Mmm, no> I don't directly feed it (tried but it refused), it's lived happily in there for a few months; it's very active and seems to just graze algae. I realize one leg isn't much to go on ;) So if it's no use I will get another picture sent another time. Love the site! Many thanks again. Regards,
<Again, very welcome. Bob Fenner>

Propagating Asterinas for Harlequins?   8/21/06 Currently, I have two saltwater tanks. One is a 6.6 gallon nano reef in which I have a small (1.5-2 inch each) mated pair of Harlequin Shrimp along with soft corals and a few other reef critters (Neon Goby, 1.5 inch Emerald Crab, 1 inch Porcelain Crab. <Don't think I'd want the Emerald Crab in the same neighborhood as the Porcelain Crab, may become a meal.> My other tank is a 20L dedicated to my 4.5 inch peacock mantis shrimp. The only other resident of that tank at the moment is a 4 inch reddish Chocolate Chip Star. Currently I have been feeding my Harlequins Chocolate Chips. <Mmm, no Lorna Dunes?> (well, I fed them once so far. I've had them 2-3 weeks. Been told to feed them about every 2 weeks.) <Could go up to four weeks if necessary.> In fact, the star in my Mantis tank was to be a feeder, but I decided he was too big and I didn't want him getting out of hand and munching on my corals. I am still determining how appropriate of a permanent tank-mate he is for my mantis shrimp. All build up aside, he is my question: I found can buy Asterinas on eBay. I assume some one is cashing in on a pest-ridden tank, just like you see "tulip anemones" for sale there. How feasible would it be to grow a herd or Asterinas in my mantis tank to feed daily or so to my Harlequins? Most people want to lose all their Asterina, I can't find any info on how to grow them. <They multiply like weeds.  No special care needed.  Read FAQ's here for more info.  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/asterinafaqs.htm> That tank gets pretty high in Nitrates from chunks of meaty food being discarded, hidden, then decomposing. Is that a problem or is a dirty tank the way to grow these guys? <Would do a little more maintenance than you are doing.  Asterinas are rather small and are not going to consume large hunks of food in one sitting until you have hundreds of them.> Can you think of any other reason why or why not to try this? <Absolutely not, they will reproduce faster than the Harlequins can eat them.  Keep in mind, they don't always go after Asterinas. Try it out, see what happens.> If I do, can you imagine any way to keep a bunch of these guys without them reaching "plague" proportions? <Discard them if they get to plague proportions.> I like to see inside my tank. I am in a position to set up a separate (simple) system to grow these guys. If you can clue to me in to ideal parameters for these guys, I may try that. <Nothing critical here, drop in some decent flake food and you are on your way.  Just keep normal parameters up such as salinity, pH, etc.> Thanks, <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Andrew

Asterina, bad English   7/12/06 hi I just have a small tank with sand and a sponge filter and two Asterina stars the owner gave them to me and he sold me water. its a small tank and it has a light like a halogen 60 watt light he gave  if you can answer this in person please help me.  I want to know how  they produce and live and thrive if you could help me. thanks <... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/asterinafaqs.htm and the linked files above. And don't send out such poor examples of English... learn to/use your spelling, grammar checkers... Bob Fenner>

"Baby Starfish" 7/12/06 Hello WWM Crew, I am a Marine Hobbyist. I have a 75 gallon reef tank. Learning things all the time. Loving it. Tried to search the web on this new issue, but can't find my answer. Did find you, and I'm hoping you have the answer. I'll only mention in this e-mail what I think is relevant to keep this short for you. I have a relatively big (hopefully fully grown) gray (with stripes) serpent starfish, and also an orange starfish (don't know the species off hand--slow moving, smaller). Anyway, this evening I saw a tiny baby starfish in the tank. It moved fast like the serpent. Looked like somebody had tried to take a bite out of a couple legs.   It didn't have any color though--just white. I was trying to figure out how the starfish reproduce. Everything I found on reproduction talked about splitting, which didn't happen here. Is it possible my single starfish laid eggs and fertilized itself? They don't cross breed, right? And are they "born" white and color up as they age? And while I'm writing. <No mystery here!  The tiny brittle stars are a separate species and were probably introduced with live rock or corals.  They often reproduce prolifically in reef tanks.  The reproduce by splitting and by direct development (brooding) of young.  The are a joyful and beneficial addition!> I lost my very large (7 or 8 inches) Mr. Goby. And then I lost my cleaner shrimp. My daughter thinks the serpent star ate them. Although the coral banded shrimp may have taken the latter. Do you think that is possible that the serpent star ate my fishes? <It is possible, but not likely.  Generally, smooth armed (serpent) starfish are considered safe while spiky armed (brittle) starfish, especially the green ones are considered at least risky to small fish and inverts.> I have not been feeding him frozen fish because I was afraid of how much bigger he could get, but maybe I should feed him frozen to keep him from eating everything else. What do you think about that? Thanks in advance for your wisdom. Vickie <As these animals get larger, it gets harder for them to get enough food.  Feeding it small bits of food will not only help prevent it from resorting to predation, but will more simply save it from starving. If it eventually outgrows your system, you can either trade it or use it as an excuse to get a bigger tank! Best Regards, AdamC.>

Asterina Star Invasion - 04/30/06 Hi Bob / Crew, <<Hello Matt...Eric Russell here tonight>> I have been reading through the FAQ's etc and I have determined that my 180 gal (semi) reef has a plague of Asterina stars. <<Likely not as much a problem as you perceive>> They are varying in size from dots to 1/2" specimens, and I have hundreds of them. <<Like many of the organisms in our tanks, these too are self-limiting based on available food stuffs>> On any given morning I could have between 150 and 250 of them on the front glass alone. <<Is a bunch...but probably not anything to worry about>> They are everywhere - and to be honest are quite unsightly stuck to the front glass all the time. <<Getting in the way of viewing your tank eh?>> My tank is not exactly a full blown reef - it has half a dozen mushroom (Sarcophyton) corals ranging in size from 12-14" to 2", some 'Shrooms and star polyps, and a mature finger leather coral (about 12"). <<Is still a "reef" my friend>> Reading previous FAQ's, I see that the only real options for removal are a tweezers (but they'll just divide and come back within a couple of weeks) or a Harlequin shrimp (that would run the risk of starvation once the stars are gone). <<Take a look at your feeding practices...these stars are eating "something">> I was thinking / hoping that seeing as I have so many of these little guys that it might be enough to sustain a single harlequin shrimp long term.  Would this be a realistic hope? <<I'm skeptical>> Failing this, is there any fish that could be reliably used for removing them?  Seeing as my tank contains only hardy, nasty tasting corals, I was hoping there might be a fishy alternative - like maybe a Maculosus or Navarchus angel or the like....... <<Not that I'm aware of mate.  I think your best bet is to adopt a judicious feeding plan and let them go by way of attrition>> Thanks guys <<and gals>>. Regards, Matt <<Things could be worse my friend...I wouldn't fret the stars, they will likely wane on their own.  Regards, Eric Russell>>

Micro stars/Detritus Control   3/16/06 Hey crew,  <Hey Eric> Hope you are having a wonderful day.  <Not bad.> I am having a little bit of a detritus build up problem in my tank. Some of the live rock I have has small pockets in the rock they look like small craters, but detritus seems to settle in these pockets and I have to eventually vacuum them.  Well after I vacuum most of these out all my coral and anemone seem to open up a lot more and last for a few weeks (I guess they could be eating this material but I really don't think so). <Correct.> I was wondering if adding micro bristle stars would help keeps these areas clean.  <Will help some.  The best control is what you mention...vacuuming and during every water change.> If you have any suggestions of other organisms that would work better please let me know. 180 gallon 300 lbs live rock 1600 gallons an hours of power head water flow. 4-5 inch sand bed. Thanks,  <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Eric

Starfish question  11/20/05 I have a quick question for you. I have a Euphyllia paradivisa going through quarantine. I've noticed that it has two small sea stars (1/2" across) attached to it. I've looked through numerous books and haven't been able to properly identify them. The closest picture I can find is in Bob and Tony's book excellent book, Reef Invertebrates, on page 353 of a Oreasteridae sp. I'm concerned they might not be reef safe. Should I remove them or let them be?  <I don't have the book so I can't reference that. But, I'm thinking they are probably Asterina stars. Not good to have as some do feed on coral tissue and multiply rapidly by fission. James (Salty Dog)> Thanks for your help!  <You're welcome> 

Starfish ID 8/23/05 Hi There: <G'morning> Just a quick question in hopes you can identify (photo attached) what is growing in my tank.  We assume that they are baby starfish (there are about 5 that we've seen), but not knowing for sure is driving us crazy.   Also, just for your enjoyment, attached is a photo of one of our starfish's arms growing a new starfish.  That is sooo cool! Thanks! D. Kelley <Very nice. Thank you for sending it along. Likely a species of Asterina... Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/asterinafaqs.htm Bob Fenner>

Starfish? 30 Jun 2005 I have just recently started a SW tank. I had put in one piece of live rock in a week ago. Today I noticed this grey thing with seven arms (I think). Is this a starfish and do I have to worry about it? what does it eat? Thanks  <Hi Julie. Looking at the picture, it appears to be a hitchhiking Asterina starfish. They are generally harmless algae eaters although some do eat corals. Do a search for "Asterina" or see this URL http://www.wetwebmedia.com/asterinafaqs.htm . Good luck on your new setup and keep us posted on the progress. Cheers - Ted> Sorry I forgot to add a pic of the starfish thingy. <Looks like an Asterina starfish. Generally harmless. You may find this URL helpful: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/asterinafaqs.htm Cheers - Ted>

Sea star ID Hello, In my reef tank I have found a tiny sea star which I have been looking up in the web but I have seen no pics at all, the more similar pic was one of a Asterina sp but from the bottom. <Very common> Unfortunately I have no pic of it but hopefully with the description it would be fine. The animal has no more than 2cm width, from top is of a blue grayish colour with a red/orange ring around the madreporic plate, it has 5 or 6 legs depending on the reproductive stage, which is very often. And I have tens of it. Any idea which species is? <... some Asterina species fit this description closely... Please see the Google Pix here: http://images.google.com/images?q=asterina&hl=en&lr=&sa=N&tab=wi> By the way I have white tiny sponges that I have seen pics of them in the web any idea about the name? <Nope> Hope you could help me, as soon as I get pics I will send them to you Lots of thanks <Even photos make it hard to discern these groups of animals to much more than family level... even for experts in their fields (of which I am not)... Require microscopic examination, sacrificing (taking apart). Bob Fenner>

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

(Asterina anxieties) Hi I'm wondering if you guys could help me out real fast. I have a small 7 gallon reef tank and this evening I noticed a very very small white star fish like creature in the tank. Looking further I have found a ton more hiding in the rocks and inside the green algae. Are these bad? What will chow down on them? I just now placed an emerald crab inside the tank to control more of the algae and was hoping he would dine on them as well. Any help you guys could give me would be great. I would also like to thank you for the countless articles of help I have already read for help in the past, Thank again, Brian S. <Mmm, not likely a problem with these little stars. You can read about others experiences with Asterina on WetWebMedia.com. I would use the Google search tool on the homepage and the genus name. Bob Fenner>

- Mini-star dangerous? - Hello All, First I want to thank all of the WWM crew for their tireless efforts to make the WWM what I consider to be one of the best sources for practical advice on marine aquaria I have come across in the "whole year" I have been involved in the hobby (read that obsessed). <Haha, that's good to hear!> Thank You!!! I have also just received "Reef Invertebrates" By Anthony and Robert, wonderful work and very much appreciated. <Will pass along!> Now for one of many questions, Attached is an amateur photo of the underside of one of several critters I have recently noticed in my 55 Gal. Reef. This animal is approx. 3/8" across and appears to be akin to some sort of starfish when viewed from above. They are somewhat active and I have observed them on my Tridacnid clam shell and some of the LPS coral bases but have not observed any damage done. Any help with ID would be greatly appreciated as I have scoured your site as well as a good part of the net with no success other than continued education. <That's a tiny sea star of the genus Asterina. Most of these critters are simply harmless algae and bacteria feeders, but some have been seen chowing SPS tissue. They are quite common in reef tanks, so don't be alarmed unless you see them cruising over on of your Acros. They reproduce by dropping legs, which explains the odd and highly variable shape!> As of yet I have had some wonderful success with my tank and am involved in propagating LPS and SPS corals, I have 120 lbs LR in a 55G show tank, 1-2" Med aragonite base, overflow to a wet dry with protein skimmer in sump, I have a 10G refugium loaded w/ copepods and all kinds of macro algae which along with the live rock I attribute to the successful existence of 2 fat and happy Dragonets 1 mandarin and 1 psychedelic, <Good to hear of fat and happy dragonets, I hear too much of the other extreme...> I was about 6 months into a FO set up when one of my vendors sold me the contents of his reef tank and thrust me into this wonderful world where I have been scrambling to learn as much as I can trying to keep everything alive with only a minor fatality of SPS along the way. <Sometimes that happens, don't let it get you down. Happy fraggin'! -Kevin> Thanks again for all your work and advice. Best Regards,  Jim

A Profusion of Stars (9/15/04) Hi Mr. Fenner, <Steve Allen helping out tonight.> I have used your web site for years to help answer many of my aquatic questions. Thank you. <A pleasure to have a role here. Bob and all who have contributed over the years have done us all a great service.> In many of your Q&A you refer to many links for people to follow. As a result, the first thing I did was go to as many issues to see if my question had been covered! - It has, but only in part. From what I've gathered I'm 97% sure there tiny Asterina starfish. <Make that even more so, these pix are clearly a form of Asterina.> This wouldn't be bad except they are eating my coralline algae at aggressive proportions! <Hmm. They generally eat other algae and I have not heard this complaint before.> As many as 35 might get plucked from a 6 inch in diameter live rock. I estimate roughly 250+ in the tank. <That is quite a lot. I wonder what aspect of your tank conditions favors this. Overfeeding? Inadequate detritus removal? Hard to say. Mine has only a few dozen.> They multiply so fast when they break their appendages, and are hard to see on the rock at times. The easiest thing to do would be to toss in a Trigger and let him go at it. Unfortunately, this system is a 5 year old 55gal reef and has an established group of "peaceful" fish, inverts (coral banded, hermits, bristles) and corals (candy canes, mushrooms, bubbles, colt, hammer, cabbage, polyps) What can I do! I have been manually plucking off the starfish with tweezers. The article from your site (colored in green below) is the nearest reference to my question I found. Attached are 3 low-res jpgs of my uninvited guests. <Asterina, to be sure.> You have my permission to use these images and our correspondence (edited) if this will help. Please help!!! Thank you. Clayton <I have to concur with Anthony's opinion on these. There are those who swear these stars will eat corals, but some very respected invertebrate experts in the hobby beg to differ. A Harlequin shrimp will need to be fed manually once it wipes out the Asterina. Someone at GARF was crowing about keeping them alive for 8 months. I am not impressed--18 months and I might start to be. It doesn't sound like you can use the kinds of large aggressive fish that might eat them. That leaves manual plucking with tweezers, which the sites I checked recommend. I'd suggest that if you do try this, you take the time to pluck out every last one that you can get at. Good luck.>

Tweezing Stars (9/16/04) Thanks Steve Allen. <You're welcome.> I was afraid tweezers or the Harlequin were my only options. <Regrettably so, the first of these being the only truly viable choice.> I will double check my "tank waste" levels. I would think they would want to be where the detritus is and not on my coralline however. <Go figure. Maybe they have developed a taste for it.> Time to tweeze. <You will have your hand & arm in the tank for a long time doing this. I strongly advise wearing a long-armed aquarium glove to protect your skin. It will take some practice to be able to use tweezers while wearing one. Go to www.drsfostersmith.com and search on "gloves" in the fish section for examples.> Thank you for your response. Clayton <Good luck to you. Steve Allen.>

Starfish, etc. I upgraded from a 72 gal. to 180 gallon tank last September.  I have kept the 72 gal. tank running a quarantine tank for new arrivals, but it has been without fish and LR for a couple of months - just water, substrate and some PVC pipe remained.  When I turned the light on last night, I discovered that the tank was full of small white starfish (at least 50 of them), small red worms (like small red inchworms) and various other small creatures.<Might be worms.>  The longer the lights were on, the more the creatures tended to burrow into the substrate.  The starfish have thin arms and they vary in size (including arms) from 1/8" diameter to the size of a quarter.  Without photos do you have any guesses regarding the variety of starfish (and worms) and do you think it possible/worthwhile to try to grow them in to larger specimens?<Could be bristle worms... good to have as long as they don't get too big... IMO if they reach 1 3 or 4 inches they need to be removed.  I have seen bristle worms reach almost a foot in length when fully extended.  The starfish I would like to see a pic of before I can say/guess the type.> I was intending to break down the 72 gallon tank in favor of a smaller quarantine/hospital tank.  If I decide to let the starfish grow, what do you suggest I feed them - I have not put any food in the tank for several weeks.  Thanks for your help!<You could just let them be.... they've lived this long... you could try a little bit of fish food.  Best wishes! Phil> Dan

Re: Mystery Starfish A friend of mine has a 55g F/LR/SC tank that is a real pleasure to watch. His tank has a number of different mushroom anemones, Xeniids, Zoanthids and things I've forgotten their names. No hard corals - not enough light. The place is just a little crowded along those line and I haven't mentioned the fish (though the Pseudochromis will eat out of his wife's hand.) Very recently we discovered that he has several "volunteer" starfish, origin and specie unknown. The largest of these has reached about 1 cm across. Attached is a jpg of the fellow slowly crawling across one of the pieces of live rock. As you can see, despite my poor photography, these asteroids have five arms and a rather significant margin. They are almost reminiscent of a "sand dollar", except that the arm spines are raised and pronounced. The obvious questions are, what is the species and should my friend be scavenging these out? Are they, as I suspect, a danger to their more sedentary tank mates? <Asterina sp. Not an uncommon LR "recruit". Please see here re:    http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seastarf.htm and the related FAQs (linked, in blue, at top). Bob Fenner>
Charlie H.

Little Dingy White/light brown starfish What are the little (1/4 inch) brown starfish that are so abundant in my 180 gal reef tank?   <likely you have an Asterina species. Do use this name to do a 'Net search for photos to confirm. They are prolific and actually useful for eating diatoms (algae). Some people culture these to feed the magnificent Harlequin shrimp which can live well and breed in captivity if provided a natural diet of sea star tube feet. As you have noticed, they can reach plague proportions. Some say they can eat coral... this is very rare. Aside form being prolific, they are quite useful. SPS keepers just like to use them as an excuse for why their corals are dying ;) These sea stars are merely scavenging the necrotic tissue of an already dying/infected coral. Best regards, Anthony>

Teeny Sea Stars I have a question about some teeny starfish I recently acquired-- they are about 4 millimeters across, most are missing limbs and I have been told they only get to the size of a dime and multiply like crazy. I have been trying to find out their species and nature...we have a brand new reef tank, 7 weeks old. Thanks for your help, Lizzi <I would agree with all of the above. Look up Asterina species here in our WetWebMedia.com archives and beyond. Any references you see about them eating coral are mostly bunk in my opinion. Very rare. They are only a nuisance for fast propagation. Great algae eaters and little harm else wise. Best regards, Anthony>

Tiny Little Starfish Hello all, or rather, whoever ! I had moved my 55 gallon tank a month ago and everything is pretty much broken down. Various fish are in different tanks all through the house, all inhabitants are doing great in their little vacation homes. My concern is this: The main tank which just has a lot of my live rock and live sand in it is infested with tiny little whitish, bluish starfish. I have had a few of these guys from the beginning but never so many like now. The tank has about 40lbs of live rock in it, about 4 inches of live sand, lots of brittle stars, macroalgae, etc., but no fish. I have read some things on these little guys, and I know they supposedly eat coral, don't have any of that, so it doesn't really matter (but will in the future), but I just don't want them in there and refuse to kill them. Is there some fish or such I can get to eat them? Do you know of any damage they may cause? <Without a picture, I can offer you a few good guesses. First, I bet the starfish are harmless. They allegedly eat coral, but you have none and they still reproduce and thrive, so I think they are probably eating something else. Secondly, they are reproducing without fish in the tank. Again, it makes me think they are eating something that the fish would normally eat and compete against them/starve then down in population or whatever fish you have may eat some of the starfish. I would not worry about them at this point, but do try to make a positive identification. Take a look in Julian Sprung's book "The Invert Guide" and Dr. Shimek's "Key to Identification" found on his webpage.> Also, I made my own protein skimmer (countercurrent flow, airstone driven). Since the filter system is broken down right now, I was thinking about changing it to Venturi driven. Is this more trouble than it's worth? <Generally less maintenance than CC air driven models, but far more difficult to DIY.> Do these things really run better than with airstones? <Very debatable. If you are getting good production now, I would be inclined to keep the current unit.> I sure go through a lot of airstones and thought it might even be more cost efficient over time. Whatcha think? <Airstones are pretty cheap. It would probably take years to recover and money saved in airstones versus the pump and Venturi valve to run the new DIY skimmer. Upon rereading, I am not sure you wish to DIY. If not, I would look through the FAQ's on skimmer selection for various recommendations for various size tanks and applications.> Thanks for all the advice, and have a good weekend, Jana <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Nuisance sea stars (Asterina) Hi, and thanks for your last reply on the length that I can keep mixed Kalk. I am now becoming concerned with the eradication of the dreaded tiny starfish that can get up to the size of a dime that I have had in small numbers in my tank for approximately one year.  <I assume that they have not eaten anything desirable, but that they have simply grown to a nuisance population?> I continually find them everywhere and have removed upwards of 200 from my tank over the same time period. The starfish have only been on one side of the tank but are now migrating to the other and I am worried about my SPS corals on that side of the tank.  <my friend... at these numbers, if the species hasn't eaten a coral yet, they are not going to. Most aquarists never have a single problem with this species... only a few honestly do. They are just a plague... not much of a predator> I have a 180 gallon. Will the Harlequin shrimp take care of these if I can find one or two?  <Yowza! This is an obligate feeder. It may eat the stars... but what happens when the stars are eradicated? Are you willing and prepared to buy live starfish monthly if not weekly to keep the shrimp (s) alive? I would never recommend that you simply put a Harlequin in this display for this purpose alone of even primarily. Harlequin shrimp need specialized and direct care> Would I need to keep two or more for the shrimp to feel at home? I don't think I have any fish that would hurt the shrimp. I do have emerald crabs which have never hurt anything that I have so far.  < "so far" being the operative phrase in that sentence... wait until they grow to sandwich size and the cat goes missing> Would I need to remove my sand sifting starfish or wouldn't the harlequins bother them?  <the Harlequins will likely bother your other sea stars> Any other ideas for ridding my tank of the pest starfish?  <dedicated ,manual extraction if they must go... else they are truly excellent algae eaters from the glass (and rocks). You will notice once they are gone> Thanks again, Jeff <kindly, Anthony>

Starfish? Hi Mr. Fenner, Very quick question today. In my refugium (with Miracle Mud, and Caulerpa ) I spotted a tiny starfish that is about 1/4" in size. I did not place him there. He is a very pale beige, you could almost say white. My main tank is a reef style tank. I will be putting a Fromia, and maybe hopefully a Linckia later on. The tank is 100G. in size. My question is that I would like to transfer this little starfish hitchhiker into my main tank, (it's just so cool that I got the little guy just like that). <Yes> I'm thinking he is quite possibly a sand sifting starfish, or it might be wiser to keep him quarantined till he grows bigger to try, and i.d. him in case he is not reef safe. Have you heard of starfishes hitchhiking in on things. The only possibility would be on the Caulerpa because everything else was new in the refugium, and the mud was in it's plastic packaging. Thanks in advance, Greg N. <Small Seastars do sometimes "just pop-up" seemingly from nowhere. Bob Fenner>

Little critters Hi Bob Today I went to change the little Chemi pure bags in my tank and discovered a bunch (50 or so) of these tiny little white starfish. What strain are they?  <Strain? Impossible to tell from where I'm sitting... take a look through Baensch Marine Atlas v.3 maybe... about the most complete collection of images, information on aquarium species of Seastars> are they coral munchers? or are they ok to have in there? They are very very bright white, as their color is so bright , I thought that they are probably night time dwellers, I think). As always great thanks, and have a good day! <Hmm, maybe take a look/see at the Seastar article and FAQs stored on the www.WetWebMedia.com site... a friend (Tom Walsh) had a common small star I took pictures of that I've seen other people keep with impunity... Maybe your species is the same... Bob Fenner>
Re: Little critters
Hi Bob I looked all over your site a still can't find anything about the tiny little white starfish I have been finding in my reef tank. <Hmm, maybe those pix didn't make it there quite yet...> These little critters are under both Chemipure bags that I have in my tank. I only have one brittle star in the tank. It has been in there for about 4 years now. I don't see how it can reproduce with just the one star. The little ones that I'm finding are a bright white in color, and look like a regular brittle stars. Do you have any idea of what kind they are? <Not anymore than your description... but very likely they're not a problem> All of them are about a quarter of an inch to a half inch in size. They all have five little legs, and are completely bright white. If you can be of any assistance please let me know. As always, thanks. and take care. <Starfishes span many reproductive types... some store their young within their bodies... or these could have come in on live rock, sand... Once again, not to worry. Bob Fenner>

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