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FAQs about Brittlestar Identification 3

Related Articles: Brittlestars, Sea Stars,

Related FAQs: Brittlestar ID 1, Brittlestar ID 2, & Green Brittlestars, Brittlestars 1, Brittlestars 2, Brittlestars 3, Brittlestar Behavior, Brittlestar Compatibility, Brittlestar Selection, Brittlestar Systems, Brittlestar Feeding, Brittlestar Reproduction, Brittlestar Disease, Seastar Selection, Seastar Compatibility, Seastar Systems, Seastar Feeding, Seastar Reproduction, Seastar Disease,

Hiker on a Kenya Tree frag      8/25/16
Hello, I have something sticking out of my Kenya Tree base. I am afraid to put it into my tank. People in forums think it is a brittle sea star.
I am not sure. Can you help?
<Yes to this being an Ophiuroid>
One picture is of a piece that fell off when we tried to remove it (thinking it was a worm). The other is the undersigned of the rock base.
The others are various views of leg-like things.
<See WWM re. Bob Fenner>

Re: Hiker on a Kenya Tree frag      8/25/16
Thank you. Are the beneficial? Should I be afraid to put in the tank?
<Keep reading! BobF>

Pictures... Echino ID?
I have some of these guys in my 220 tank and they seem to be getting pretty big. Are they safe for my reef tank ?
What are they ?
<The Ophiuroid
s? Brittlestars... definitive predators on the worlds reefs to abyssal depths of oceans>
They have shown up as hitch hikers and started pretty small. Penny @ AquaCorals here in Maine has not seen any of these .
<What? No... Penny has seen MANY Ophiuroids... is that what you're referring to in your too-large files/pix? Bob Fenner>
Thank You, Gene


Hitchhiker in my live rock   1/28/13
<Hi Paul>
Below is a pic of my very first piece of live rock. It has been in the tank for about 2 weeks now and up until today it hasn't been very interesting, you know what they say you can't teach an old rock new tricks. Anyway when I turned the light on in the tank this morning I found my first hitchhiker!!!! I'm still pretty new to saltwater and all the creatures one might find hiding in such rocks. Would you happen to know what this little guy is?
<Micro brittle star. Beneficial detritivore that max out around an inch in diameter.>
 I also saw a little insect looking critter but it was to fast to get a photo of it was about 1/8" long, brown and mighty fast. Not much to go on but if anyone had some ideas I could look it up and see if I find a match.
<Likely a Gammarid amphipod. Beneficial detritivores which double as fish food.>
Thanks in advance!!
<Quite welcome


Can You Help Identify these Brittle Starfish? 1/15/12
<... four megs of pix... Careful, Bob, remember your blood pressure>
I have done quite a bit of Googling, but I can't seem to find these starfish to identify them. I would love to know what type they are if possible, and how safe they are to keep with small fish like Firefish and other small shrimp Gobies. We have a 72 gallon reef tank, with 3 Firefish (one regular, one purple, one Helfrichi), and two different types of shrimp gobies living with pistol shrimp. We used to have a male/female pair of gobies with one of the shrimp, but the male disappeared. I cannot say if it was the sally light foot crabs or the starfish who got him. We removed the sally light foots after seeing one try to jump on a healthy swimming Firefish.
<Ah yes>
We tried to add in a couple of Royal Grammas after the crabs were gone (one fish at a time) but they both disappeared after only a couple of days, so we did not buy another.
The Stars:
The first is a maroon colored brittle star (at least I think it is a brittle star - I don't really know how to tell the difference between brittle and serpent stars, maybe you could help me with that too?)
<Both common appellations are applied to a mix of Ophiuroids... not a defined difference, though IMO serpent should be more often used for longer arm species>
Its disc is about 1 1/2 to 2 inches across, and it is larger than most I see in the LFS. The legs are thicker/darker than the small ones for sale, so I am not sure if it is the same type. Up close you can see bands/stripes on the legs that are either a dark brown or black. It came in the tank we purchased about a year ago on Craig's list so I don't know where it is from. Most people I have described this starfish to believe it to at least be a common form that usually costs about $5. I wonder if it is actually safe or if it is known to eat small fish?
<Can't tell from your pic what this is>
The second is a much smaller and brighter colored starfish. It is a pink-ish orange-ish with yellow. I have never seen anything like it. The LFS had this one for sale at $36, and said they actually stumbled across it being sold as a "neon colored star" a year or two ago when it was much tinier, but the customer who purchased it recently broke down their tank and brought it back to them so they had it for sale again. They stated also that since the time they stumbled on this one, they have never found another one like it. Unfortunately, I did not ask if she knew the scientific name, or if it was a serpent or brittle star. She did say that she believed it to be safe around my small fish.
<Mmm, my guess is that this is a color variant of Ophiomyxa flaccida... a common hitchhiker on/with TWA (Trop. W. Atlantic, sorry) live rock... commonly called the Slimy Brittle Star>
Since I loved the unique color I bought it, and although she said they are both safe to have together, she also said she would take my other one off my hands if I decide not to keep both. I may take the large maroon one to her and just keep the neon colored one. I was thinking if they are equally safe/unsafe perhaps a smaller one is even safer until it grows - and she said they take a very long time to grow large (this one is already around 2 years and is still small).
Any info would be appreciated. Thanks for providing such a wonderful site, I have read many posts and learned quite a bit!
<Mmm, I don't know re the "safe-ness" of these animals... other than the usual (for the Class) statements re their "crossing the line" if hungry, opportunity presents itself. It's my observation that in many, perhaps most environments in the seas, that Ophiuroids are actually top predators of smaller life; determinants of what lives on and near the surface above and below substrates. They can be very active predators by the dark of night.
Bob Fenner>
Thank You,

Brittle Starfish ID 12/10/10
<Hello Amanda>
I have a 72 gallon saltwater reef aquarium that is about 2 years old. It has soft and stony corals as well as several tangs, a Maroon Clown, a Pajama Cardinal, 2 cleaner shrimp, and a long spine black sea urchin.
Several months ago, we bought some additional live rock from a nearby fish store. A few days after we had it in the tank, I noticed a skinny black and white striped hairy tentacle or leg that would come out of one of the new rocks every once in a while. I haven't seen it for a long time until this morning. My mom was cleaning the tank and when she moved a pipe organ coral, this creature wiggled out from under it. She caught it and it's now in a small floating tank until we can find out if it is reef safe or if we should donate it to the fish store. The best I can tell from researching it on your site and Google, I think it might be a black brittle star. Some of the pictures of those online appear to be black and white striped, but I can't find anything to make me sure that's what it is. From the things I read about them, it says some of them (especially the green ones) can eat all of the creatures in your tank including fish! What kind of brittle star do you think this is? Is it reef safe or should I donate it? I have attached a picture my mom took of it.
<Amanda, the monster of the midway is the Green Brittle Starfish (Ophiarachna incrassata) which is a known predatory fish eater. What you have should be relatively safe in your system with its present inhabitants.
I will ask Bob to provide his input if needed. A nice looking specimen I might add.>
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

?? -- 09/03/09
What is this? It was caught and released in Alaskan waters, about 175' deep. It is about 14" in diameter, but was unfolding when we released it. Very interesting.
<Ah, yes... a basket star; likely Gorgonocephalus eucnemis
Thank you for sharing, Bob Fenner>
Dave Gassel

Goniopora Worms -- 5/26/09
<Hello, Lynn here this afternoon.>
I have searched and searched but I am not finding anything on this. I apologize for the stupid question.
<Not to worry, we're here to help. Besides, trust me - this is not a stupid question. Now if you'd asked me if it was a good idea to clean the walls of a glass tank with a hammer and chisel -- that would have been a stupid question! This is not!>
I have a Goniopora Flower Pot Coral.
I noticed today that there are at least two long, thin, striped looking worms on it.
<Hmmm, do the stripes run the length of the body or do they wrap around the body like bands?>
Do I need to be concerned?
<I doubt it. If the stripes are actually bands around what looks like a worm body, you might be seeing a harmless mini brittle star/Ophiuroid. Take a look at the examples at the following links and see if anything looks familiar. By the way, it's very common to see just one or two arms sticking out of the rock/coral and none of the central disk: http://www.melevsreef.com/id/baby_brittles.html
More examples here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestaridfaqs.htm >
I did try and remove one, but as soon as I touch anything with my tongs is closes up and I can no longer see the worms.
<Yep, it's an unfortunate reality that aquatic critters seem have a universal fear of tongs. It's like a cat and a vacuum cleaner -- when the vacuum approacheth, the cat taketh offeth! <G> By the way, if what you're seeing is not a brittle star, do try to get a photo of it - possibly through the tank glass since capture would be such a challenge. Like I said, I sincerely doubt that it's anything to be concerned about but if you'd like to pursue an ID, it would be the next step.>
I am looking forward to any assistance you can provide.
<Just let us know if we can be of any more assistance. Take care, LynnZ>
Re: Goniopora Worms: Possible Mini-Brittle Stars - 5/26/09

It is banded around the body like bands.
<Ok, good>
I did see some on the links that look very familiar. A bit hard to tell in that my flower pot seems very healthy and active and hard to see the worm down at the base when it is almost the same color as the coral itself - an off white/pearl color. This would appear to be harmless - wouldn't you think?
<I would think so, since you haven't noticed any signs of damage or stress. The most common hitchhiking mini-stars appear in colors ranging from a solid white/off-white to light gray, or combinations of one of those colors and bands in shades of gray or a salmon/pinkish color. These stars are very common, harmless, beneficial, and stay small.>
I don't believe my camera would pick up a picture, but I could try if you think it is necessary.
<Nah, as long as the coral's doing fine, I wouldn't worry about it. Just keep an eye out, like you would any other corals/livestock.>
I never see it leave that coral and the coral seems happy, just wanted to know if I needed to worry!
<Nope, I wouldn't worry. Most of the things that hitchhike into our tanks are beneficial or at least fairly innocuous, so chances are this is just one more example.>
Thanks Again!
<It was a pleasure! Take care, LynnZ>

Star ID? Basket Star - 2/14/09 Hello Crew, <Hi there, Luke.> This little fellow came on some live rock... see attachment. <Neat> Do you know this one? <Yep, it's a little Basket Star.> Should I be worried about this creature in my 60 gal system with soft and LPS corals? At present it is about an inch across in size. <I wouldn't be concerned. Basket Stars are mostly nocturnal creatures that feed on zooplankton and organic particulate matter. At night, they find a perch in an area of strong current, extend their arms, and wait for bits of food to drift by. Unfortunately, they don't have a great survival rate in home aquaria because of how much food they require. You can increase the odds however, with direct/target feeding (turkey basters are great for this). As far as what to feed, you could try frozen baby Mysis, frozen zooplankton, enriched baby brine shrimp, etc. For more information, please see these two links: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestars.htm Good information at this link regarding feeding: http://www.reefs.org/library/article/r_toonen17.html > Any info would be appreciated. Thanks Luke
<You're very welcome. Take care, Lynn>

Unidentified Growth -sponge 11/21/08 Hi Crew! I'm attaching a picture of a white sack that is growing on the side of my live rock. <That, my friend, is what we fish-folk call a sponge.> I don't know what it is but it seems to be getting bigger. <Cool... sponges are fun, attractive, and beneficial.> It may be hard to see on the picture, but there is a little hole with a spout near the top of the sack. Is this a nest? Should I be concerned? I thank you for your time and expertise. As always, you guys are the best! <Thanks... please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/sponges.htm  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/spongeidfaqs.htm  -OneCoolFish <Enjoy your sponge! Sara M.>

Unidentified inhabitant... Microbrittle star 11/20/08 Hi everyone, <Hi Robert, Mich here.> I have an unidentified inhabitant in my aquarium. <An IRI (unidentified reef inhabitant)? Heehee!> I used to have corals in it but now only fish and live rock. <OK.> One of the large rocks is very porous <Hopefully all your rocks are!> and when the lights go out this little guy comes out to play. <Cool!> There are five or six, two to three inch "arms" that extend from various holes in this large rock. They are a light color with reddish brown rings that go the entire length. If I saw a body I would say serpent star but then the whole rock would have to be hollow. What would be your best guess? <Likely a Microbrittle star, you can see images here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestaridfaqs.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/britstaridf2.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/britstaridf3.htm Let me know if this is what you've got.> Thanks Robert <Welcome, Mich>

Re: Unidentified Inhabitant... Microbrittle star 11/21/2008 YEP!! That's him! <YAY!> Since he only comes out in the dark and then just the arms I couldn't decide if he was a star or some other URI. <They are quite common... and beneficial... enjoy your new URI> Thanks for the pics and info. <Welcome!> Robert <Mich>

Brittle Star: Asteroporpa annulata - 4/1/08 Mr. Fenner, <Hi Lee, Lynn filling in today -sorry!> I live in North Carolina and I see this type of brittle star on almost every wreck. I can not find it in any book. Do you know the name of this brittle star? <Yep. It's most likely Asteroporpa annulata, in the family Gorgonocephalidae which includes basket stars, as well as some less ornately branched varieties. These Ophiuroids are usually associated with gorgonians, Oculina corals, crinoids, and...drum roll please. shipwrecks. Their range is from North Carolina to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and Bermuda. They also tend to be in a bit deeper water at around 100'/30m+. Size-wise, they get up to around 15' or so, tip to tip and feed with their arms extended up into the water column to catch copepods/microplankton. Here's another photo of this species for comparison: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/marine/sertc/images/photo%20gallery/Astroporpa%20annulata%2050%20dpi%20.jpg  There's not a lot of information out there on these stars, but if you have the book: Sea Stars, Sea Urchins, and Their Allies by G. Hendler, J. Miller, D. Pawson, and P. Kier, take a look at pages 100-101.> Sincerely, Lee Moore <Thank you for writing in and sharing such a beautiful photo! Take care, Lynn>

Brittle Star Identification? Ophiactis spp. -- 03/20/08 Hey WWM Crew, <Hi Jeremy, Mich here.> I frequently use your website for all things marine related (I think I actually know more than my LFS owner). <Heehee! Always possible!> Anyways this brings me to my question, I started a refugium on a 55g FOWLR system and got a nice wad of Chaetomorpha and other macros, but to my surprise not only did I get a bunch of various copepods I got two new brittle stars. I have attached an image because I have been unable to identify them. The closest I can match is Grey brittle star (Ophiura lutkeni). <Is a micro-brittle star, (Ophiactis spp.) More here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/britstaridf2.htm It is disk is roughly 6mm and its arms are around 2 - 3 inches in diameter. <I see, good picture.> Thanks for any suggestions. (Check out him eating that wad of shrimp pellet, had to coax him out of hiding ;-) <Cool! They are beneficial scavengers in your system. Enjoy this beneficial addition!> - Jeremy
<Cheers, Mich>

Baby Starfish? What type? 02/06/2008 Hello Bob & Crew! <<Hello, Andrew today>> Thank you all so much for all of the wonderful help you have given me and the great info you provide. <<Thank you for being a part of producing the information>> This morning, when my wife turned on the lights of our 56g tank, she saw a new addition". It appears to be some sort of baby starfish. I have attached two pics, and sorry for the clarity but this thing is tiny, about the size of the nail on my pinky finger. He was on the front glass and I was afraid he would get eaten by one of our fish or crabs, so I (carefully) let him climb right into a floating breeder container I have on standby for injured/pregnant fish. My questions are, what exactly is it? We have 1 chocolate chip starfish and one red knobbed starfish. This one appears to have 6 legs as opposed to the 5 of our existing starfish. Can these two cross-breed? Is it possible this simply "hatched" from our live rock or live sand? <<This is brittle star. They are actually a good addition to reef as they spend time cleaning area's which are not accessible by us, and they spend time stirring the sandbed>> I know these may be silly questions, they sound a little far fetched to me too, but we're just not sure how or where he/she/it could have come from? <<Its quite common for them to be hidden away in the live rock, and only occasionally sticking an arm out to catch food. Its very possible its been in your tank a while and is an off-spring by the sounds of it. If you have added any live rock or coral recently, it could easily of hitched a ride in on that>> My next question is, what should we do? Should we leave him in the floating breeder box to allow it to grow before releasing back into the main tank? We have added a VERY small amount of OSI Spirulina flake to the box to at least give it something in there. The box has very small vents on both sides and gets some water flow through, but it seems the vents are too small for it to get through and get out (it has tried already). <<It will be fine to release back into the tank. Set it free on some live rock and it will crawl away and setup home there. Not to worry about feeding, as this will scavenge from the tank>> I'd appreciate any input on what we have here and how we should go about caring for it at the moment. Thanks again for the wonderful help & info, as always, it is much appreciated. Mike P. <<Thank you for the questions Mike. Hope this helps. A Nixon>>

Starfish???? -- 1/26/08 Ok now this is the second time I've actually seen one of these guys out of the rocks. The other one, no doubt it was a star fish. This one, well, I don't know what to think. VEEEEEEEEEERRRRYY strange looking dude.. http://www.drekster.com/myrescues/starfish.htm Thank you Bridget <Is an Ophiuroid... with developing madreporite... See here: http://wetwebmedia.com/britstaridf3.htm and the linked ID folders above. BobF>

Photo to share... Ophiuroid ID f' - 1/17/08 <Hi Bridget> Just sharing http://www.drekster.com/myrescues/salttank.htm I know we've discussed the hermit crab and the baby starfish. Starting to notice more and more of the starfish, not real sure if I have more than I thought that have come in on the live rock or if they're breeding. Doubt they're breeding? <Might very well be.> I can think of 6 that I've spotted of various sizes, this is one of the littler ones and I have seen one, one time that was out, it had 6 legs and was about 2". <Neat! Unfortunately, I can't see/find it in the photo, but thank you for sharing!> Take care Bridget <You too, Bridget. -Lynn>
Re: Photo to share - 1/17/08
<Hi Bridget!> You can see the tips of two legs in this photo. <Ah yes, I think I can just see them poking out.> This is normal for these guys, they spend most of their time hiding in the rock with little legs sticking out catching floating particles. <Yes, they do indeed! Many people mistake those for worms, but they're actually neat little Brittlestars (Ophiuroids)! All of them are black and white ringed. <That's pretty standard with these guys - black/white, gray/white, or even a pretty salmon and white!> Bridget <Thanks again! Take care -Lynn>

Brittle Sea Star?...Sounds like it 1/12/2008 Greetings and Happy New Year! <And to you and yours! Mich here apologizing for the lengthy delay.> About 8 months ago I procured a few coral specimens that were loaded with hitch hikers... <OK.> I noticed what I thought was a mini brittle sea star on the glass early in the morning before the light turned on about six months ago. It was about the size of a dime including legs. <Sounds like a mini brittle star.> I've seen it once or twice since then, a shy little thing. Tonight I saw a mass of legs poking out of my live rock. Each leg was probably 1" long. (definitely not green though! :)) It also had in its grasp some of the Mysis shrimp I was feeding my corals. I didn't think the mini stars got that large or ate Mysis; was I mistaken in my ID? <Nope. All sounds consistent with mini brittle stars.> Thanks, <Welcome, Mich>

Re: Halichoeres trispilus 11/21/07 12/11/07. Peggy, FYI... Now Ophiarachna ID Hi Bob, <Hello Peg> Thanks for the id on the H. leucoxanthus. I concur on this identification after even a cursory look. I have one more for you. Came in on LR and is a big boy. Probably about 10" across leg tip to leg tip. <A beauty> Have him in the rock tank until I identify him. He appears to be an Ophiarachna judging by the pattern on the top of his central disc and the disc shape itself. <I concur> Does not appear to be O. incrassata to me. It's body is yellow/brown unlike the O. incrassata which has a very distinct green body. Would you care to opine? If he's not predatory, I'll add him to a large display. If he is, he'll have to stay in the rock tank. Just looking at him he appears to be predatory to me. I've attached a couple pics for you. Thanks again Bob. Peggy <No definitive ID... but the child taxa are listed here: http:// www.marinespecies.org/ophiuroidea/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=206179  Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Serpent Star Question 11/08/07 Reading tons of FAQ's and reading the RC forums I found myself confused. I understood brittle stars and serpent stars to be very different creatures. <Um, not necessarily. And this is the problem with common names. "Serpent" and "brittle" could be used to describe different animals or they could be used to describe the same animal. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestars.htm> I also understood green brittle stars to be very dangerous inhabitants to have in a reef tank, but I had never heard anything negative about green serpent stars. In my tank I have assorted SPS, 2 hammer corals (separate near an overflow), assorted Zoanthids, 2 blue/green Chromis, 2 pajama cardinal, 2 black Ocellaris (1.5"), 2 peppermint shrimp, and 2 skunk shrimp, and also a 5"red and 5"green serpent star) The tank is a 120G containing about 150lbs of LR, with a 25G sump, and 35G rock, Chaeto and DSB Fuge. About 1 week ago 1 blue/green Chromis, and 1 peppermint shrimp disappeared. I had previously wondered if there was any aggression in between fish, and in order to watch I set up a mirror and watched from the next room for several hours while surfing the web. <cool idea> There was no aggression I could see. Now after reading some posts from people about "dangerous green serpent stars" I wonder whether my green serpent star is the offender (there was no body found), or if someone was just mistaken and meant to right green brittle star. <Maybe they weren't "mistaken" per se but simply had a different idea of how to use the name(s).> To sum this all up, is the green serpent star dangerous, or does "green death" only apply to green brittle stars? <I think that the names "green serpent" and "green brittle" are often used interchangeably. I've seen Ophioarachna incrassata called by either name. Again, this is the tragedy of common names. So, my friend, I'm sorry to say it sounds like you may likely have the dreaded "Green Death" star (yet another common name--though one a bit more specific in this case).> Thank you so much in advance, you folks were a wonderful resources helping me get started. Joshua <Thank you and de nada, Sara M.>

Brittle Star? 9/9/07 <Hi Bellinda, Mich here.> We purchased a large piece of coral today and this little guy came out after we had placed it. What is it? There was also another one that was green with brown stripes that never came out enough to get a picture. <These are micro brittle stars. Beneficial scavengers. Hopefully they brought their family with them! You can read more here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestaridfaqs.htm  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestars.htm > Is this something to be concerned about? <Nope.> Thanks for all your help,
<Welcome! Mich>

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