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FAQs about  Brittlestars 3

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

Related FAQs: Brittlestars 1, Brittlestars 2, Green Brittlestars, Brittlestar ID, 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

A baby Ophiuroid pic by Mike Giangrasso, from his very healthy refugium.

Re: Starfish help, helping yourself   1/25/12
Okay great.  I went with a serpent star because my LFS did not have any bristle stars.  What can I feed him?
<? Posted: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestarfdgfaqs.htm
 Also, I got a cleaner shrimp what can I feed him as well?  Thanks.
<.... and here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clrshrpfdgfaqs.htm
Learn to/use the search tool and indices. Bob Fenner>
Re: Starfish help, Oph. rdg.     1/26/12

Great thanks for your help.
<Welcome! BobF>

Brittle/Serpent Star - 10/29/08 Hi, <Hello> I have a Brittlestar. It looks exactly like the picture <Looks like a Banded Serpent Star, Ophioderma sp.> and next day I went to feed it, I saw a baby Brittlestar and the bigger star was normal. Could the starfish have bread <bred> by itself? <It's more likely that what you saw was a very common and harmless/beneficial species of mini-Brittlestar (Ophiuroid). They're introduced into systems via live rock, sand, and/or even corals. Please see the following links for more information/photo comparison: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/britstaridf2.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestars.htm Hope this helps. Take care, -Lynn>

Re: Brittle/Serpent Star questions - 10/29/08 <Hello again!> Thank you so much. <You're very welcome.> I have another question: why would my star look like he got crushed or ate a shell or something? <I'm guessing that you're seeing some damage/injury of some sort on the star? I'd need a photo and a bit more information including water parameters, how long you've had the star, what you're feeding it (and if it's still eating), how active it is, what other inhabitants are in the tank, any other incidents that might have caused an injury (like a rockslide, etc). In the meantime, I recommend looking through the following link (as well as those listed at the top of the page) for comparison/similar accounts: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestardisfaqs.htm <Good luck, -Lynn>

Re: Brittle/Serpent Star questions, Pt. 2 - 10/29/08 <Hello> Ok this is what I have for fish(1 coral beauty,1 yellow tang, 1 dwarf zebra lion, 2 tank raised Ocellaris, 1 chocolate starfish, 1 serpent star (the victim), 1 red-legged hermit crab, 1 snail). There was no rock slide. <Good> Ammonia(0ppm), ph(8.3), nitrite(0ppm), nitrate(0ppm), and the salinity is at 1.025. The star is eating very well. There are no cuts or anything on him and he is very active. <I'm not sure I understand what the problem is. You said that he looked like "he got crushed or ate a shell or something". Again, I really need a photo to see what you're referring to. What you're seeing could be cause for concern or none at all. As long as he's eating well, and seems healthy and active, with no breaks in the skin, I'd just continue to monitor, feed him well, and keep your water quality pristine. -Lynn>

Bubble tip brittle starfish... no data or reading   6/12/08 I have a bubble tip brittle starfish that has a bit of a problem. About 2 days ago i noticed that he has a hole in the center of his disc about 4 cm in diameter. i don't know if this something to worry about because i could see direct through him. <... is> i noticed that there where brittles that were moving through the hole that appeared. Is this a common thing for starfish to do? I did do a water change the day before this happened. <Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marind5_5.htm toward the bottom... Bob Fenner>

Stars...    8/12/07 I caught a couple of Millipede Starfish. I was so gentle! Imagine my surprise when some of the legs started dropping off. What was that about and how could that have been prevented? Also, how can you preserve them? Vickie <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marind5_5.htm the last two trays. Bob Fenner>

Polydactylous Ophiuroids?  - 02/22/07 Bob, <Hi Brian, Mich with you today.> Possible for brittle stars to have more than 5 arms?   <Yep!  More or less are possible.  Often related to injury or reproduction... or an injury resulting in reproduction!> What I have in my tank - did not purchase - just showed up - tons of live rock - has 6 arms - but has the disc body with small spiny arms.   <They are often hitchhikers.  Be aware that if it's a green brittle star, it is a potential fish eater.> Just curious. <A valuable quality.> Thanks, Brian <Welcome!  -Mich>

Brittle Star question, gen.  husbandry   2/13/07 Bob, Anthony, Crew. <Tirion> Hope you are well. <Yes my friend, thank you> I am interested in obtaining general husbandry information (care and feeding) of Ophiocoma wendtii.  I have search high and low (well, at least to me) and 99.9% of the articles and information center exclusively on the crystalline lenses that make up their 'vision' and state nothing about their habits. <This is so... much of the "state" of invertebrate zoology is in a very "early" phase of simple descriptive biology... Not much money to be had (presently I emphasize) in general husbandry issues...> I would have to 'assume' that they are standard brittles in most aspects, sans being predominantly nocturnal.  I have opportunity to obtain a few.  However I will not at the risk of its well being or the general well being of my habitats populace. Could you assist? Regards and best to you all Tirion <As usual, I do wish I/we could... I am almost entirely ignorant re the practical care of the vast majority of species on the planet, even just the small percentage of those of common interest to us as hobbyists... If anything, I would make a pilgrimage to a/the large college library closest to you, and "do" a computer search bibliography re the species, then genus... up to the Order, Class... With terms like "care", "feeding"... in the search scheme... And of course, keep good notes yourself, use them and your lively ambition as an aquarist to compose, present as an article... Perhaps on our site! Bob Fenner>
Re: Brittle Star question   2/14/07
Thanks Bob, <Welcome> I have done so much looking for information (including some coastal places such as the Aquarium off NC).  I am reasonably sure that I have about as much info as I am likely to get on this one - especially if you and the crew are in the same situation. <Perhaps... I can imagine what the "Net" is soon to become... and can see/envision an "end-point" to our and other species in space and time> I had an epiphany regarding the Starfish last night.  Since these are captive and ready for sale to 'someone', and I am one of the more conscience hobbyists, I should probably just get them and care for them.  That way, I will know that whatever happens, their level of care will at least be dutiful.  My only failure to date have been Lysmata wurdemanni;  and even you advised me to just say no LOL.  I do have one now btw, for over 8 months now, so there :) (kidding around, y'all) Odd that my one downfall has been one of the easiest to the majority. <I see> A similar thought to the Atlantic dwarf octopus I wanted to try - someone will likely purchase it and pop it into a seahorse tank <Mmm, sans the Gasterosteiforms...> with low salinity and poor conditions.  Am setting up a small system with appropriate top and lighting for ceph's. and this is a good candidate.  I have access to smaller live foods.  There is a reasonable chance for a young juvenile so I might be able to track the entire sub 2-year life span. <Neat> Since they are not hermaphroditic that I am aware, I will miss out on any chance egg laying though... <Mmm, unless you were to be fortunate to secure a gravid, fertilized female...> Take good care. <Be chatting my friend, BobF>

Green Brittle Star Dying?    10/6/06 Hi, <Hello> I have a 45 gallon saltwater reef tank and have had a Green Brittle Star in there for about a year now.  He is rather large and today I noticed one of my small anemones affixed itself to the brittle star's body (on the top). <!> Well, when I came home, all I saw was a little bit of the anemone's tentacles protruding from the upper part of brittle star's body.... Obviously he penetrated it's skin and had moved INSIDE the brittle star. <Mmm, likely the two were/are caught in a predaceous act... to the detriment of the Serpentstar> Well, the brittle star has continued to develop more "holes" on its upper body and is "hiding" by the filter versus behind the live rock (where it has remained for the last X months). Any advice.... Is the anemone eating the brittle star from the inside out... or is it the other way around?? <A bit of both. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestardisfaqs.htm and the linked files above. BobF> Thanks, Craig Donnelly

Brittle Star... hlth., reading   8/16/06 I have a green brittle star. One of it's arms came off and a week and a  half still is moving in the bottom of the tank. The star is still doing fine, other than the missing arm. Can you tell me why this happened and will it grow   back? <Can...> Why is the arm still moving? <Happens> Thanks Patricia Neal <Likely something amiss with the environment, and/or nutrition. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestardisfaqs.htm

Sick brittle star? - 2/28/2006 Hi Crew, I have a short spined brittle star in my reef tank.  The other day I noticed when I fed my fish, he did not come out of hiding.  He always comes out when there is food.  I spotted his legs dangling, so I gave the legs a piece of food which he accepted.  I lifted the rock to see what was going on & he has a brown spot on his disk.  This happened over night.  He is still hiding today.  He moved to another place & is still not coming out for food.  It looks like his "skin" came off in this spot & it is a little powdery.  Is this an infection? Injury? Parasites? <Something amiss...> I am still trying to hand feed his legs if I can or should I let him alone?  I hope he recovers.  He is my favorite critter in the tank.  Thanks, Linda, "heartsick". <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestars.htm the linked files above... re Health/Disease, Systems of Ophiuroids. Bob Fenner>

Does Killer the Brittle Star Have a Chance? - 12/11/2005 Hello, <Hi Heather (my sister's name, she just calls me Brother though).> I tried posting on the forum only to have it tell me (no matter how many times I logged in) that I was a guest and couldn't. <Sorry that it gave you trouble. Do keep trying.> Today while beach combing with my daughter I found a plain brown Brittle Star. He was out of the water for sometime (about 40 feet from the shoreline), on his back looking dead (so I thought till I saw a slight movement in one leg). <My dog does that sometimes. It's hilarious when the front ones get going.> To make a long story short, Killer is now in a small tank with sea water and some sand we picked up. <Probably other "pollutants" in that sand. Could get ugly quick.> He has perked up noticeably and is much stronger than when I found him and has even gone after the bits of clam stuck in the shells we found and explored his new 'tank'. <Good signs. He may be a champ.> A great improvement over a slight leg twitch on the beach. <I don't know. I could go for a lazy, leg twitching day at the beach.> Does Killer the brittle star have a chance after being completely out of the water for so long? <Hmm. Try playing the Rocky theme. Honestly though, these guys  can be tough sometimes. Think of the ones that are out of the water for over a week, maybe two during the live rock collection/shipping process. Any water they are in is putrid, but they make it to home aquariums all the time.> Would it be better to release him back to the North Sea or take him to my friend's aquarium store? <He really could have been exposed to anything, so I wouldn't put him back at this point.> Ideally I would love to keep him, however I do not have a saltwater tank (although I am willing to provide him with fresh water changes from beach I realize that is daft and I don't know diddle about saltwater aquariums to begin with.) <Perhaps your friend at the aquarium store could teach you. If you do keep him, I would look to synthetic salt for more environmental control (lots to die off suspended in the ocean). It's a journey worth taking.> Thank you for any advise you have, Heather <Hope I've been able to help. - Josh>

Brittle Starfish  12/1/05 Hi Bob,  <James with you today, Mr. Fenner is off on vacation> Thanks for being the big help that you are! <You're welcome>  I have searched the site for answers to certain questions. I have a brittle star (brown) forget the actual name. I also have a tomato clown, green Chromis, Blue devil damsel (he is a devil),  <<We're waiting for the animal to be renamed "Chrysiptera satanensis".  MH>> and a bi-color Angel. I tested the water and everything looked good, except the Ph seemed a tad low. So I tried bump it up a tiny bit. The brittle star was to suffer from that move. He had what appeared to be sores at the top of two legs (near the body) Only for me to read on your site later he may have been ready to drop those. He also developed a hole in his body, it was small. I read he may regenerate these things with good water quality, so I did a quick water change and he appears to be recovering. I see no hole any more, That is good right?  <<Is very good, most folks have a good deal of trouble stopping necrosis in starfishes once it starts.  MH>> To get to the real point.. The bi-color angel picks on him, I believe it is pulling the food off the Star. I read on you site they do not feel pain (star). So why does he flinch when the Angel picks at his legs. Is this normal behavior for the Angel?  <<More normal for larger Pomacanthids, definitely known with triggers, rather than from Centropyge, but not unheard of.  Marina>> What can I feed the brittle star that the others won't steal from him. I read meaty items all over you site but what are those items exactly? In the Angel's defense he also keeps the Devil in check, as does the clown.  <Joanne, by your description it appears the brittle star has developed necrosis, not an uncommon thing in sea stars. Starfish are very sensitive to changes in ph, temp, etc. which can lead to this condition. Acclimation should be done by the drip method. As far as meaty foods, and of the prepared frozen variety are fine although the brittle star will more than likely find plenty of uneaten food. James (Salty Dog)> Thanking you in advance, Joanne  <You're welcome> 

Starfish  11/30/05 Hi, I just purchased a live rock with lots of purple and green stuff and a purple mushroom, someone had moved and sold a pet store all their stuff out of a 200 g tank that was about 7 years old, but the rock had (she said) a spiny starfish in it. It will not come out???? It's arms wave from every crevice in that rock, they are 6 inches or so and black little ridges that wave like an anemone, what do I feed it, it catches the flakes and moves them down into the center of the rock.  <Sounds like a brittle star by your description. No need to feed it, it will find uneaten food in the tank.>  I also have noticed some little gold/orange worms with lots of legs, like a centipede coming from the rock, are they going to kill my tank?  <<Tanks don't die, fish do.  Marina>> <More than likely bristle worms, not a nice thing to have as they can multiply quickly. One way to keep the population down is by not overfeeding and creating excess nutrients. Most of these worms are harmless detritivore feeders but some can grow large and eat other inverts in the tank. Coral banded shrimp and arrow crabs supposedly hunt down these critters for supper.>  They started moving to my other rocks.  <James (Salty Dog)> Help please  <Also look at the FAQ's here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bristlewrmfaqs.htm

Green Brittle Star  11/10/05 I have a green brittle star and a black brittle star. We did a water change a few days ago. Everything stayed pretty consistent as far as pH saltwater etc. However a few days after the change my Green star disk started swelling it looks like he swallowed a rock and he's going to explode. Then a few days after my Green star did this my black star started as well. What is going on?  <... mmm, maybe a reaction to the water change... but possibly from eating, reproductive products?> Does it have anything to do with the water change (I was thinking it might but wouldn't they have started showing this right after the change not days later)? <Not necessarily> Could it possibly be air bubbles? <Doubtful> I have a bubble tube under the gravel to emit little bubbles to float to the top is it possible they swallowed air bubbles and can't get rid of the air? They are still moving and everything but the green one just yesterday had a arm come off. Both the Green starfish and his severed arm are continuously moving. Let me know what I should do.  <... keep on keeping on...> I also just read on your website that the green brittle star can eat sleeping fish (can the black one also?)  <Mostly Ophiarachna amongst commonly kept Brittlestars...> Maybe that is what has been happening to my fish. I have a well established maroon clown who always hangs out in his anemone but when I try to add any new fish like tangs they are fine during the day and then mysteriously over night they are dead with just their skeleton floating around or with crabs and starfish eating the body in the morning. <Oops... time to get a flashlight out, check during the night...> I thought the starfish and crabs were eating them after they died. Is it possible that either the crab or the starfish actually caught the fish and killed them? <Oh yes> Please get back to me as soon as you can. This is beginning to quickly become an expensive project. Sherri Berg <Bob Fenner> 
Re: Green Brittle Star  11/10/05
Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. The Black star fish looks like his stomach came out and he was eating something last night. This morning I checked on him and he looks fine his big hump is gone. However my green one is not looking so good. He has lost another leg, still has his hump and is not coming out during feeding time. Sherri Berg <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestars.htm and the linked files above, particularly "Disease". Bob Fenner> 

Green Brittle Star 9/30/05 Hi, recently I bought a green brittle starfish last week on Tuesday.  The pet store had a display tank which they took down and put in separate tanks to be sold.  The brittle starfish I bought was from that display tank. <The most common cause of problems with these animals is shipping stress.  If this animal was already established in captivity, then it has to be something else...> My point is that now my starfish is like eating it's legs or something of the sort.  It's folding it's legs under him and I don't know if he's just cutting them off or eating them (maybe both -.- ).  Is he doing this because he's stressed from all the moving around or what? <Most likely, yes.  These animals are very sensitive to changes in salinity and pH.  It is most often recommended to acclimate them to a new tank over several hours and many folks actually use a "drip method" where a piece of airline with a loose knot is used to drip tank water into the bag water at a rate of one drop per second or so.> One more thing, my dad also moved the starfish from one side of the tank to the other because we were afraid it was going after the damsels since he was in their hiding place.  Since we moved him, I feel he has been depressed or something.  They told us to feed him once a month.  Is he just hungry?  I hope you can help, I really don't want him to die.  <Usually, when these animals start losing arms, they are doomed.  If it does recover, I would suggest small weekly feedings.  I would also watch it carefully for signs of predatory behavior, as they are quite capable of capturing fish.  Best Regards.  AdamC.>

Green brittle star loses all legs 29 Jun 2005 Hi my green brittle star just lost all of its legs over a period of 2 days.   <....> I have him and his legs in their own one gallon tank now. <?> All system parameters are were they should be.  do you have any idea what's happening.  in the tank i have one Koran Angel (left the starfish alone), one Clarkii Clown (left the star alone), one Scooter Blenny (very peaceful), one Lemonpeel Angel (didn't bother the starfish that i know of) No rock collapses either any idea thanks <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestardisfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Brittle Star Concern - 5/11/05 Dear Crew:  <Steve Allen taking echinoderm questions today.>  I have just purchased a black brittle star. Here are my questions: 1. I have dosed the water with Melafix (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals for my recent clown (False Percula) fish additions, Astrea Snails (2), and 1 Common Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis). I called the company and asked them if it was safe for the invertebrates. They said yes...were they wrong?  <I guess it is unclear to me why the Melafix was needed. Probably harmless and probably not all that effective either. I'm not aware of any evidence that it harms echinoderms.> 2. My Starfish has found itself a home among the cracks in the LR; however this morning it was all bunched up not extending its arms looking for food (it looks curled up around itself). Is it dead or sleeping?  <This is what they do. They curl up and hide during the day. Check out the tank with a flashlight some night and you will see it out and about. You will also notice it withdraw immediately in response to the light. It is not uncommon to put one in your tank seldom see it again.> 4.  <What happened to #4?>  My PH will not stabilize. I have a crushed coral substrate, and have been adding Kent Marine dKH/Buffer to help raise the PH. I'm under the assumption that PH fluctuates during the day am I correct?  <Just a few tenths. Some people operate a refugium lighted at night to help keep this more stable.>  I'm also adding at every water change Kent Trace Elements, Ammonia Detox, and Stability, and Prime. Any suggestions.  <Why the Ammonia Detox? Is it to get rid of chloramine from the tap water? That would be the only reason to use it. Stability is not necessary either. It is meant to provide biofiltration. An established tank does not need it. You shouldn't need the trace elements either if you are using a good quality salt. You don't need all of these expensive supplements. I'd suggest you verify your pH readings with your local fish store before worrying too much.> 24 Gal Nanocube (JBJ Lighting Systems) 15 Pounds of Live rock.  <Probably the biggest reason you are having stability problems is due to the small size of the tank. I'd suggest you do more reading on WWM and in books about nanos.> Please advise me, I want to take back the brittle star back if I'm not ready for it. Is this Star as dangerous as the green one for my little clowns?  <They are not as nearly dangerous as the greens, but there are no guarantees. If it's not very big, and they grow normally, you should be OK.> Thank You as always, Eric Ross  <My pleasure Eric. If you have further inquiries about the chemistry, please send a new e-mail titled as such so that it does not automatically get routed to me because it's "about echinoderms." There are others on the crew who may have other insights.> 

Link update on Brittlestars Greetings, I just browsed through some of the Brittlestar FAQS and noticed that the link to my website is a bit off (so it seems it does not work). Granted I have not updated it in some time, but it is still out there in cyberspace. http://ophiuroid.home.att.net or http://home.att.net/~ophiuroid Many thanks for your invaluable information! Cheers, Susan Hottenrott <Thank you for this update. Bob Fenner> Green basket starfish I just purchased a green basket starfish and seems to be doing very well, but it has lost a few tips from it's "legs/arms". What causes this? My water is very good, and it is moving around. I would appreciate any info you have.  <The basket stars are strictly plankton eaters. They need to be fed daily to survive. They normally extend their arms at night to catch and trap the plankton, so you will have to feed at night. Some research on your part should have been done before purchase to see if the animal's requirements were acceptable to you. I'll post a link here I think you should read. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/cav1i4/echinoderms/echinoderms.htm Just scroll down to basket stars. James (Salty Dog)> 

Invertebrates n Stars Good afternoon... some questions about invertebrates.  Couldn't quickly find the answers on your site. 90 gallon salt tank 3-5" live sand 90 lbs live rock protein skimmer I recently bought a sand sifting star to keep my sand sifted.  After reading your articles, I will be exchanging him for a brittle star as I do recognize my tank set-up only provides about 5 sq ft of sand surface.  I have historically had one or two black brittle stars of which all had legs break off and eventually die.  I am guessing that this is likely due to water quality as my tank was at my parent's house with me checking in about once every two weeks.  Anyhow, my tank has been relocated in a newly developed basement.  I am doing religious water changes <Hee hee, while praying?> and bi-monthly water quality checks.  I just noticed that my canister filter has not been filtering.  I suspect it ran for a few minutes but had an air bubble.  In short, I may have not had any filtration in my tank for not more than a week. <Mmm, your live rock... et al. will have been "filtering". Do drain, rinse your canister filter before firing over.> I am doing a 30% water change today, using water from my quarantine tank which matches the 'healthy specifications' of my main tank.  I did notice a little bit of ammonia and Nitrate.  My Sandsifting star still appears to be fine, but I will be exchanging him for a brittle star in a few days.  I also have a red serpent star that had about 1/3 of one leg fall off.  I'm guessing because of the lack of filtration and water quality?    Are my actions correct in your opinion??? <Maybe and yes> On another note, I seem to not be able to keep hermits crabs alive.  I've had two shrimp for over two years... never a problem.  I have about 10 hermits that have been around for close to a year, and the rest (smaller ones) seem to just disappear or die. <Might be being eaten by the shrimp, something else, or...>   I am curious, is there an appropriate salinity that I should be keeping my tank at to promote a healthier condition for my crabs and seastars?  I have typically been sitting at around 1.0024 (might have an extra zero in there... but you know what I mean, right?) salinity.  As well, I keep my tank at 26oc.  Are these appropriate water conditions? <Yes... near natural sea water: 1.025 or so... more important that this be steady... as in using pre-made water, being careful to check, top-off for evaporation...> With my serpent star and new brittle star.  Do these stars have to be fed specifically?  Or will they feed off leftovers? <Depends on how much there is... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brittlestarfdgfaqs.htm> I typically change up and use flake food that all my livestock are crazy over and then 5-6 hours later use either frozen brine, krill, or worms.  I typically plunge small frozen cubes/bits or flakes a few inches into the water so that they are picked up in the water flow so that they shoot all over the tank so that everyone gets a fair chance to feed.  Do I just rely on my brittles/serpents to feed off the bottom from leftovers? <Maybe> Last question.  I have a starving Algae Blenny, he seems to pick at the live rock without algae.  He is completely ignoring a nice pasture of green hair algae and lots of rock with a burgundy encrusting algae. <Not palatable to it apparently... the burgundy is likely BGA/Cyano... not tasty>   I then purchased some dried seaweed that I have been hanging on a feeder by his little borrow.  I also tried tying some seaweed onto a flat piece of liverock with a thin fishing line.  He still chews away at the non-algae covered live rock and spits out the particles of sand, etc.  I knew he was herbivorous, but I figured that  2 yr system and algae covered live rock (90lbs) would be sufficient.  I spent two hours trying to catch the sucker to move to my quarantine tank so that I can better target feed the guy... couldn't catch him as my liverock is pretty porous and I didn't want to totally disrupt my system.  I am expecting his death any day now.  Would a 3" Blenny that is almost all head n tail be much of an ammonia threat? <No> I have to leave town for several days and my girlfriend won't go near the fish tank. <Have another friend/aquarist, or a service company check in...> One comment that hopefully would benefit other readers should you post this on your website.  Quarantining your fish, not only serves the purpose of identifying health issues such as infections and disease... but also provides a great opportunity to 'spot' feed and observe exclusive feeding habits.  As well, it's a helluva lot easier to remove a starving fish from a quarantine tank than a large established system with lots of rock work.  On the other hand, all of my algae was in my main system... he would've starved in my QT too!   What a frustrating hobby at times.  AYE YIY YI <Thank you for this> Thanks for your comments gentlemen. Dave
<Bob Fenner>

Deep sea brittle star Dear Bob,    Sorry, I forgot this photo of brittle stars. They're collected in same place that I mentioned last e-mail.    Jay Pai <Neat. The echinoderms rule many deep sea areas that are vast. Bob Fenner>

Barred Brittlestars (10/21/04) Bob, <Steve Allen, covering echinoderms tonight.> I'm writing you because you seem to have the best website with information on the brittle starfish. <Thanks. Fascinating creatures indeed.> A couple of days ago I placed a new piece of live rock in my tank which being purchased in Sydney Australia may have come from somewhere near the barrier reef with lots of holes in it for just such creatures to hide. <Yes, a fairly small rock on the reef may hold many of them.> So far I have seen 2-3 Brittle starfish "like" creatures whitish with blackish barring on their legs and around and their legs are up to an inch and a half long. <Either a small species or juveniles of a larger one.> However they appear to have 6 legs not 5 <some do have extras> and three of them appear to be far smaller ...possibly due to re-growth <quite possible--legs eaten off or damaged in harvest>....however I have seen this on at least 2 of them.....what are the chances of 2 being attacked the same way at the same time? <Quite possible that they were damages in the breaking of the rock.> Can you help me identify them? <Not without pictures. They may not even have a species name, as many do not.> I will endeavour to snapshot them if it helps next time one is out in the light (they seem to stay in the crevices and holes and are only seen moving from one to the other. <That is their nature. You may want to have a look at volume 4 of Foss?& Nielsen's "The Modern Reef Aquarium"--great info and lots of pictures.> And could they be harmful to the fish at all? <Not likely. The big green Brittlestar Ophiarachna incrassata is a notorious piscivore, the smaller species are not.> I actually got up this morning to find our Coral Beauty Angel dead on the coral sand.... <Other causes> Thanks a lot, Rodger Wearne <Hope this helps.>

Holy Serpent star, part II > Hey Jim and/or crew, > Here is the picture of the thing poking out of my brittle star. I noticed an e-mail from another hobbyist describing what sounds like the same thing. > Have you heard back from this person: "Wounded green brittle starfish 7/18/03"? I wonder if you could put us in touch to compare notes. My starfish is still alive and looks good but has not eaten any offered food since about a week ago. The "seeds" on his disk swell sometimes, I haven't determined what causes this effect. Please let me know what you > think. Thanks. > Lorraine >>>Hello again Lorraine, This may be a form of parasite, but if it is it's not something I'm familiar with. Unfortunately I don't seem to be able to view pics that are sent here. I'm not sure if it's a server issue or what. Anyway, if it were me, I'd  try pull the serpent star out, and check to see if these growths can be gently scraped off. Jim<<<

Tiny Brittlestars, Friend or Foe? (8/30/04) I have recently noticed 4 or 5 very tiny starfish in my 120 gallon tank. <Lucky you!> I have only seen there legs penetrating out of some of my live rock.  They seem to be white with dark bands! <cool> Any idea of what type of starfish this could be? <No. Mini Brittlestars for sure. Almost certainly not babies of bigger brittle/serpent stars. There are so many of these in the sea that there is little in the way of taxonomic classification that has been done on them.> I haven't been able to get any pictures as they are fairly small. <Yes> Recently when my flower pot coral retracted I saw 3 starfish legs sticking out of a piece of the coral.  Is this starfish eating my flower pot or has it just found a home of a part that was already dead? <Found a home. BTW >95% of all flowerpot corals are dead within months of being put in the tank. I'd suggest you read about Goniopora on WWM. I had one once. I'll not try them again until experts have found a way to keep them alive. Personally, I think they should not be offered for sale to unwary aquarists (as I was when I bought mine).> I also wanted to let you know that I have found another type of starfish.  It is definitely white.  Not banded.  At least the size of a nickel.  It has 4 short legs and 3 long ones. Yes 7 in total. <Probably Asterina species. Not thin-legged like Brittlestars. They reproduce by fission and often are misshapen. Like Brittlestars, they are beneficial scavengers, but can become too numerous (many hundreds) under certain conditions.> I have a picture of this one if you would like to see it. <Check the pictures of Asterina on WWM or in books for comparison.> Thanks for all of your help. Lisa <Glad to be of service. Hope this is helpful, Steve Allen.>

Injured Brittlestar? (2/27/04) I had sent this message a couple of days ago: Hey crew, <Steve Allen tonight>   Thanx for all the help so far.  You guys take a lot of the stress out of caring for a new tank. <Our pleasure.> This one is going to be hard and unfortunately I don't have a digital camera.  Either way I can't see much of the new creature anyways.  I looked through the inverts section and didn't come across anything like this little guy.  Today I noticed to antennae sticking out of a hole.  At first thought they were just a tube worm but I noticed that each one split into two at the ends.  I also noticed that there were to little "eyes" looking around.  The shape of the eyes were oval and very dark.  I didn't get to see any of his body as he is to timid to come out of the hole in the rock.  I noticed an empty hermit crab shell next to the hole....hopefully the crab wasn't eaten....and it definitely isn't the hermit in the hole.  I got home tonight and noticed that the hole had been filled in.  Being curious and maybe not altogether smart I poked it the handle of a net.  At this time a piece of shell, clump of sand (not sure what) fell into the hole.  The little guy poked his head out and looked around and then put the piece back in place. Unfortunately it can't describe him much better than that as I haven't been able to seem out of his hole.  IF you can identify this or even point me in the right direction to try and identify him that would be great. Thanks again, Todd Hawman   Today (Feb. 26/04) I fortunately figured out what it was...a bashing Mantis Shrimp. <Why am I not surprised. They're wily little buggers. I thank my lucky stars to have never had the "pleasure" in my tanks.> I heard him attacking 3 or 4 of my hermit crabs.  He came with a piece of live rock that I had for about a month and a half, lived inside in a little hole then just came out on Tuesday (Feb. 24/04).  In the process of trying to catch him <did you succeed?> he swam to the rock where my brittle star was hiding and I heard four or five clicks.  I noticed that the brittle star has 3 red spots on the center disc and 2 white spots on one of the arms.  Is this damage from the Mantis Shrimp or is the Brittle Star sick?? <Probably injured, but at risk for infection. Keep your water pristine and watch him closely.>   I was also wondering if I have to worry about eggs from the shrimp since it had been in the tank that long and had gone unnoticed. <Probably not unless it had a mate. Also, something is bound t eat any larvae long before they grow into anything of concern.>   Finally I was curious about what color of green (bright green, dark green, probably all sorts) are the Green brittle stars. <Kind of a drab almost olive if it's Ophiarachna incrassata - pix on WWM at Brittlestar page.> I am having a hard time identifying mine.  He isn't very green...more grayish, but he has stood up on all arms like a tent waiting for fish to swim underneath <scary if you have small fish--read more on WWM>, and most of the day he just sits under a rock and isn't very active. <Typical. They mostly come out at night. If bold, they'll come out in low light if food is placed near them.> Tank parameters are: pH 7.9 (just recently dropped about .3) <Why? Very important to look for & correct the problem. You really want 8.2-8.3 range. Fluctuation is especially hard on echinoderms.>, ammonia 0ppm, nitrate 15ppm, nitrite 0-0.25ppm (closer to 0) <definite zero always is best>, temp 26 degrees C, SG 1.0215. <You should think about keeping it higher if you like inverts. More like 1.023-1.024 and stable. Again, fluctuation is hard on echinoderms.>   Thank you for the help, love the site, Todd Hawman <Happy to help.>

Broken Brittle Star (2/23/04)   Hi, I am setting up a new reef aquarium (72 gal w/ 25 gal Refugium).  I have some hermit crabs that have been in there for about 2 weeks.  Yesterday I bought a cleanup crew from my LFS.  The package included a brittle star (Red and Black color).  I notice tonight when I got home from work that it is laying on the bottom sand directly in the light and 2 of it's legs looked to have been cut off.  All other items (crabs, Mysis, snails) seem to be doing fine.  The star and the legs keep moving around every once in a while.  What caused this? <The toxins below>  Is it dying? <Yes> Should I remove it from the tank or leave it alone? <See below.> My water parameters are:  Temperature 77F, Salinity-1.022, PH-8.2, Alkalinity-100/ppm, Ammonia-0.25, Nitrite-0.25 and Nitrate 40/ppm.  Thanks in advance for the help! <Your tank is not fully cycled. You should have zero ammonia and zero nitrite. Your nitrate would be better kept below 20. All of your nitrogen compound numbers are toxic to echinoderms. Your SG is rather low for echinoderms. Closer to 1.025 if preferred. Echinoderms also require very slow acclimatization (preferably by drip) when added to your tank. Do not put any more animal life in your tank until ammonia and nitrite are zero and nitrate is lower. Your star is not likely to survive the shock of your toxic tank, but if you can get some safe water in a quarantine tank and slowly acclimate the star prior to transferring it there, you may save it. I would not leave the star in your main tank. It will only slowly rot away and raise your toxins even higher. Do read the brittle star FAQs on WWM for more knowledge of these fascinating creatures. Hope this helps. Steve Allen.>

Gobies MIA -- Did the Brittle Star Get Them? (2/23/04) I have green Brittlestar with arms about 12 inches across. I bought 2 yellow Watchman Gobies, one small one and one pretty good size.  The big one I had for 2 days--now can't find them. Is it possible the brittle ate them? <Indeed, rather likely. This species (Ophiarachna incrassata) can and will eat gobies. The one you have is quite large--shouldn't have much trouble sneaking up and ingesting a "pretty good sized" Yellow Watchman, the maximum length of which is not more than 3 inches. On the other hand, they may simply have burrowed somewhere out of sight. If they don't turn up soon, then I'd write them off as expensive brittle star food. If you want any sort of small or Gobioid fish, I'd give the star to someone who only has nice big fish rather than what this brittle star takes for piscine Little Smokies. Perhaps your LFS will take it.>  thanks for help <You're welcome. Steve Allen>

Dying Brittle Star? (2/17/04)   Bob, <Steve Allen tonight.> I have a green serpent star and have had him for about 4 months now. He has been doing well up until this AM. I was feeding him small dead frozen fish from a local saltwater dealer. <Are these fish that died of some unknown cause or fish that are intended as food?> He would eat that no problem, then about 2-3 weeks ago he stopped eating them. I assumed the fish were no good (freezer burn?) and pitched them. I have been trying to feed him some freeze dried food to no avail. <I generally feed mine a cheap fresh seafood assortment from my local Albertson's.>   Today I noticed he has two holes on the top of his body. <Uh Oh!> He still seems to be moving about normally but I can't get him to eat. <Not good. These creatures are usually voracious eaters.> I recently did do a move of the 55 gallon aquarium that he is in along w/ four Perculas, 1 Sailfin tang, and two green Chromis. At the current moment my salinity is a little low and in the process of raising it. <If you did not slowly acclimate the starfish to the salinity, temp and pH of the new tank, he may be suffering from shock.> Temp at about 75. any suggestions or ideas on what this might be. <Some sort of toxic effect. Once they start to disintegrate, they almost never survive. You could try putting him in a QT (starting with tank water) and keeping the water pristine. A broad-spectrum antibiotic might be helpful, but I am not optimistic for the survival of a Brittlestar with a deteriorating central disk, sorry to say.>

Brittlestar ID 92/7/04) Hi - <Greetings.>   Well, I went to the LFS yesterday [you've heard this one before ;-)] <Yup>   Anyway - I sold myself on these two sea stars ... which have been very slowly drip acclimated to my system ... and are presently being held in the refugium ... as I didn't want to add them to either my soft coral tank or my SPS/clam tank without being able to ID them and know their whole story.   I looked in the books I have, couldn't find a positive ID ... so here I am. Look/labeled like serpent and a brittle star, which seem from my reading [Calfo Fenner, sprung] to be reef-safe ... and good cleanup guys.  <Yes> Can you ID them?  Reef-safe I'm guessing? <#2 is and Ophiolepsis superba. #1 is tougher. Definitely a Brittlestar, possibly an Ophiocoma of some sort. Volume 4 of "The Modern Coral Reef Aquarium" has a great section on echinoderms. You may also find some info on the web. All of these stars are of the class Ophiuroidea and most available in the trade are of the families Ophiuridae, Ophiocomidae, Ophiodermatidae or Ophiomyxidae.> Any worries for my clams? <No>   I can put them in either tank, or keep them in the refugium [though not much a refuge then, is it?] <I'd leaven them out of there.> Anyway - both seem healthy and doing ok ... and held in my refugium before I move them to their permanent home, where I may never be able to get them out. [might never see them again, too ... hiding in the rocks] <Mine often come out during feedings or after the tank lights are off but the room lights are still on.> Thanks! Mark <Hope this helps. Steve Allen.><<RMF only has/had one pic...>>

Mini Brittlestars (1/26/04) Hello again, <Hi. Steve Allen tonight> Let me start by saying that you guys are very good at your jobs.  I have a question about a serpent star that I have found in my tank. I have been watching it for about 4 or 5 months now ,turns out there is more then one. My question is are there a mini kind of the family? <Yes> They seem to be a off white color and only about half an inch in size.  In the picture there is a red dot in the centers just up from that is the one that I tried to get a pic of , the dot is only about half an inch for size reference. The smallest one I have seen in the tank in only about a sixteenth of an inch in size. <I can't view the picture because it's part of the message rather than a .jpg attachment. By your description, these are miniature brittle stars. Very cool to have. Some readers of this message are surely envious. If you want more info, you can read more in Bob & Anthony's "Reef Invertebrates" book.>

Serpent/brittle star in danger!!!! Hi, crew thanks for the great web site. <You're welcome. A labor of love for all.> I purchased a successful reef aquarium from a friend about a year ago and have become hooked on the hobby, I have had FW tanks forever and always assumed SW was too difficult.  This tank has been up and running for almost ten years!!! <impressive>    Now for my mistake(?)  I have started experimenting with different fish/inverts etc.  My reef has approx 75 lbs of LR covered in green mushroom anemones, sponges etc.  I also have what looks to be colt coral or some type of Xmas tree coral that seems to grow like a weed.  (haven't been able to identify it yet but cuttings have so far financed my tank for a year!) <free enterprise is great>    LR sits on a 2-3 inch bed of sand/crushed coral.  Original inhabitants were a true <percula> clown, a few blue leg hermit crabs, assorted snails, two short spine urchins(?), red lobster, two serpent/brittle stars (not sure of the difference) and a  small Cuke.  The urchins and lobster have since died, not sure why, water is excellent <tested?>. (age?)  One of my stars had a falling rock incident and was crushed.  (Novice rock placement, oops) <If your rock is on top of the sand rather than being based directly on the bottom of the tank, collapse is always a risk.>    My question involves my remaining star.  I found him in the front of my tank one day with an arm severed, and wriggling.  I'm not sure what happened so I let it go.  That was a couple of weeks ago.  Last night  I noticed what appeared to be a white hole in his main body, today the hole seems to have spread down an arm (necrosis?) <Yes. Almost certainly fatal.> and there is exposed "skeleton".  I am concerned that one of my recent additions is not compatible with him despite all my research.    I have added a yellow tang (6mos ago), blue damsel <a definite meanie> (6mos ago), domino damsel <even meaner> (4mos ago), pajama cardinal (4mos ago).  Also added a few more hermits, lost a few of them too (have seen carcasses) <tend to die easily.>, two turbo snails, a coral banded shrimp, bristle serpent star, peppermint shrimp (thanks for that idea, not a trace of Aiptasia now),  a few feather dusters, small amount of Caulerpa <yuck. messy in main tank.> and a orange Linckia star.  (Linckia has only been with us a day or two) <I'd be surprised if it lives tow weeks. Very high mortality.>    Today I saw my peppermint on top of my star cleaning/eating him?  I hope he is just acting natural, I read one of your FAQs about this that suggests that he is.  I have observed the hermits on him a time or two but they are very active so I'm assuming that they are just moving over him.  <Both the crabs and the shrimp are taking the opportunity for a free meal from a helpless target.>   My water quality is excellent <what parameters do you measure?>, wet/dry trickle filter, protein skimmer, mechanical filtration etc all in tip top shape.  Any ideas about what may be wrong/eating him? <Initially wounded by something. Now in the process of being eaten by bacteria & scavengers.>  I don't have a QT but was wondering if it would be ok to put him in the sump for recovery and if so how to care for him there? (lights, food etc)  Please help!!! Thanks. <You can try the sump with a piece of LR for hiding, but the chance of it surviving with spreading rot is virtually nil. A QT with antibiotic may help, but again most unlikely to survive. Sorry.> P.S.  For Bob F.  I have been using your book as a guideline for my reef care, wonderful help thanks. <I'll pass this along as he's in the next room.> I am in the process of planning my next aquarium and have decided to go with a refugium/LR/sand bed set up despite the obvious success of the wet/dry trickle in my tank. <You'll like the refugium method better, especially for a reef--keeps the nitrates down.> I am intrigued by the mangrove swamp refugium (for decoration as well as filtration) in addition to utilizing a main under tank refugium.  Where can I find information/sources for set up, stocking etc.? <Some stuff on WWM. Also in Bob & Anthony's Reef Invertebrates book. The latest FAMA magazine has a few paragraphs in an overview article about various types of refugium.> I mail ordered "creating a natural aquarium" by Peter Hiscock, but it is a bit lacking in the mangrove section.  

Yellow brittle star 1/13/04 Well, after another 10 days, the entire top of my star's body is gone.   All his insides are gone. That being said, he is still active and the degeneration looks to have stopped and it never moved to his legs at all.  He really appears to want to eat, but as he has no innards left he can't possibly.  Have you ever heard of a star regenerating that much of his body?  Does it hurt him to just wait and see? Or should I be humane and "destroy" him?  Any suggestions on the most humane way do that?  Cold water/freezer is what I have done with dying fish in the past.  Thank you again for your advice!  Sherri <Hello again Sherri.  Sorry to hear of the severe progression of this problem.  It certainly does sound like it will be fatal.  Your biggest concern at this point is the rotting of the remains of your starfish.  If your tank is set up such that you can easily find and remove any remains, I would leave it.  If you think it will be difficult to find and remove, I would remove it now.  The freezer is an OK idea, as is a plunge into the running garbage disposer (sounds brutal, but is swift).  Sorry for your loss.  Adam>

Feeding Brittle Stars (1/4/2004) I recently add 2 brownish colored Brittle Stars to my new 55 gallon reef tank.  What and how do I feed them. <Generally no need to feed these critters in a reef tank. They are detritivores. They eat leftover food, fish poop, etc. that the find on the substrate & rock. If you want to have some fun, you can offer small bits of shrimp or other seafood on a prong. Hold it near the Brittlestar or touch it a leg. It'll take it quickly.> I am currently feeding the tanks only other inhabitants (10 hermit crabs and 2 small Percula Clowns) a mixture of frozen foods.  I have some phytoplankton, bought in anticipation of adding corals.  Will this plus the frozen stuffs be enough? <Read more about feeding corals. Most non-refrigerated phytoplankton products only increase nuisance algae without nourishing your corals. Search WWM for info.> Also, I have noticed small colonies on the front and back glass (before I added the Brittle Stars) of very, very small white/clear "things". They have a small circular body and 6-8 little appendages sticking out from all around.  Could these be Stars that came in with my live rock? Or are they Syconoid sponges? <If they're stars, they'll move. Hard to say what you've got without seeing it. Perhaps a hydroid? Check here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/hydrozoanfaqs.htm Thanks, Jerry W. - TX <Hope this helps, Steve Allen.>  

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