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FAQs about Sand-Sifting Sea Star Selection

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

Related FAQs: Seastar Selection, Seastar Scavenger Selection, Sandsifting Stars 1, Sandsifting Stars 2, & FAQs on: Sandsifting Star ID, Sandsifting Star Behavior, Sandsifting Star Compatibility, Sandsifting Star Systems, Sandsifting Star Feeding, Sandsifting Star Disease, Sandsifting Star Reproduction, & Sand Sifters for Marine Systems, Sea Stars 1, Sea Stars 2, Sea Stars 3, Sea Stars 4, Sea Stars 5, Brittlestar Selection, Serpent Star Scavengers, Seastar Compatibility, Seastar Systems, Seastar Behavior, Seastar Feeding, Seastar Reproduction, Seastar Disease Asterina Stars, Chocolate Chip Stars, Crown of Thorns Stars, Fromia Stars, Linckia Stars, Linckia Stars 2,


Sand Sifting Star Fish 5/10/10
Hello and thanks in advance.
Let me start off with my tank and what I have in it. I have an 85 gal show tank with a overflow box and wet dry filtration system plus a couple of power heads at each end. In the wet dry filtration system trays I have some pads plus live rock.
<I'd convert this wet-dry, get rid of these pads... for the reasons stated on WWM>
In my tank I have about 80 lbs. of live rock and about 3-4 inches of sand. For lighting I have a power compact lighting setup with 4 65w 10000k, 2 65 w blue actinic, and 10 moonlight leds. As far as fish from largest to smallest I have a Yellow Tang, a Tomini Tang, a Purple Pseudochromis,
<Am out in Egypt, diving w/ P. fridmani>
a Coral Beauty, and 2 True Perculas. I currently have about 15 snails and hermit crabs also. My question after reading some of the replies about sand sifting starfish is what would you recommend me getting instead of the 2 sand sifting start fish I currently have. I bought this last week not knowing the damage they could do to my tank. I bought them thinking they could help clean up the sand, but I would like it to stay healthy also. My tank has been running for about 2 ½ years with nothing else sifting thru the sand. It does tend to build up some detritus on the bottom. Also one other question is I am thinking about adding another fish or 2 for some color and wanted to know what you would advise getting.
<Mmm, perhaps some Nassarius snails... I'd trade out the Stars. Bob Fenner>
I do have a few mushrooms and plan on getting more soft corals in the future.
Walter Silva

Live Sand Stirring -- 02/08/10
Dear Crew,
I have a few inches of live sand in my 90 gallon tank. Until recently I was under the impression (LFS) that sand sifting stars were a good way to stir the sand,
<<Mmm'¦ While they will certainly 'stir' the sand, they are also extremely efficient at consuming all the beneficial biota present>>
so I purchased three of them a year ago.
<<Yikes! One is too many here, in my opinion>>
I did some searching on your site and read that they are more of a detriment than helpful and eventually starve.
<<They may not starve if the tank is well fed (or at least not quickly). But they have certainly removed any beneficial life from the sand bed>>
I will be returning them to the LFS soon,
but I was curious if there is a better substitute that doesn't destroy the life in the sand and stirs it.
<<There is>>
Any suggestions?
<<Indeed'¦ Nassarius snails do a good job of stirring the substrate, and are excellent detritivores. Another good choice is Cerith snails. Do also inoculate that sand bed from another mature system; once the stars are gone, to reintroduce burrowing worms and other 'sifting' or otherwise beneficial organisms>>
<<Happy to share'¦ EricR>>

Re: -sand sifting stars hlth/dis- 11/17/08  11/20/08
Sara m. - I do appreciate the reply but could do without your rudeness.
<I'm sorry, but I do believe you are confusing candor for rudeness.>
for your information, my husband has had a salt water fish tank for 20 years now and more than likely is more informed than you are.
<Then why did you ask me/us for help?>
he's had sand sifting stars last for more than 2 years...
<Sometimes these animals take 2 years to die. They linger on, slowing starving to death until they are too weak to steer themselves away from a pump or otherwise begin to disintegrate. The only way these animals can live more than a year or two in captivity is in a very, very large tank with a substantial, aged deep sand bed. And even then, the tank can usually only sustain one of them. As Mr. Fenner's article on Sea Stars points out, though "hardy" in some sense, they will inevitably and most certainly "denude" even tanks of hundreds of gallons of all interstitial fauna. Once
they've depleted the systems of their food source, they will slowly start to die. So, not only are you dooming the star fish, you are depleting your tank of much beneficial interstitial fauna.>
this was an unusual circumstance with a new purchase and something we had never seen before... we were looking for guidance, not sarcasm. thanks for nothing.
<I was not at all sarcastic, simply frank (as I'm again being here).
Sara M.>

UG Filtration use And Sand Sifting Starfish fdg.  2/22/08 Hi, <Hello Richard> I have a 200L tank which currently holds 6 Hippocampus kuda and a Blue Linckia (plus a handful of small critters thrown in for good measure). I'm filtering the tank through an undergravel filter combined with an external canister filter on one of the UG uplifts (the other two are just running on air). <The UG may/will cause big problems for you down the road. Do read here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/ug5proscons.htm> I'm fairly new to a marine setup, having come from the freshwater world where I always ensured that I had something in the tank which rummaged through the gravel to remove the bigger particles & stop calcification. I don't have anything in this tank however to do that, so I'm looking around at what I can get for the job. I was considering a Sand Sifting Starfish, but I'm concerned that I'll end up having some kind of issue with the filtration (although I imagine it's not going to eat the filter - I hope! - or stop the bacteria working). <This would be a good addition in keeping the substrate churned. Keep in mind that the substrate should be coral sand. Crushed coral and the like isn't going to make the starfish very happy.> Any thoughts on this? I've read up in a few places about these starfish, but never in relation to UG filtration. <As long as the "sand" bed is 1 1/2" deep or more, you should be fine in keeping this starfish. It may require additional feeding if enough nutrients aren't available. I have one myself and whenever the starfish exposes itself for any length of time, it's telling me it's hungry. My trick is to use a syringe minus needle, and inject blood worms into the sand just below it. Believe me, it doesn't take long before the starfish buries himself and starts munching on the worms. Must have a great sense of smell.> Many thanks in advance, <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Richard

Re: Undergravel Filtration And Starfish 2/23/08 Hi James, <Hi Richard> thanks for the reply. <You're welcome.> The substrate I'm using is 3mm crushed coral, so I guess the starfish is ruled out. Any suggestions on alternative cleaners? <Mmm, probably the Nassarius and Cerith Snails would be your best bet, the Nassarius being the better for eating waste/detritus as they often burrow into the substrate searching for food.> I've read the link on UG filters (even quoted it). Before making the jump from freshwater to marine I never really had any issues, as long as I had something in the tank which regularly churned the gravel (loaches were especially good for this), which is what I'm looking for now. Certainly it's my feeling that an UG filter is better able to absorb a spike in ammonia. <A wet/dry trickle filter would be my choice. If the substrate isn't maintained (gravel siphon) on a regular basis, a nitrate factory will soon develop sharing real estate with a hydrogen sulphide plant.> Also, the filter canister (440L/hour) is drawing through the UG which gives a nice final filtration/backup. This was probably the best info source that I found: http://www.syngnathid.org/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=FlatMates&Numbe r=53935&page=0&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=&fpart=1 <Led me to the home page with errors.> To be fair, it does kind of show the starfish in a crushed coral base. <Much easier for them to move around in a sand base than 3mm (1/8") gravel.> Thanks & regards, <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Richard

Sand Sifting Seastar - Salty Dog's Reply Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2005 I have some question regarding a sand sifting sea star. I just recently setup a 37 gallon tank with about 2 inches of sand in the bottom and a nice lonely 4 # piece of live rock (that stuff is expensive!!). I have one blue damsel and a coral beauty (so beautiful). I have had my tank like this for about 3 weeks and the sand started to get a little dirty looking. So I went to my local aquarium store and they told me that I needed a clean up crew.  So he goes off and gets me 3 snails and 3 crabs (the ones that are in the shell). I figured this was all well and fine and then he told me I should get a sand sifting star. I asked him "isn't my tank to small" and he told me that he has been doing this for like 7 years and it will be fine. He puts his hand in the aquarium, grabs the sea star with his bare hands, takes the star out of the aquarium so the star makes contact with the air (thought you weren't supposed to do that)... <No, stars are not supposed to be exposed to air>  ... and he puts him in a baggy with some water from the tank. I asked him why one of his arms was half missing and he told me this is how they reproduce. <Wrong, starfish can regenerate lost limbs but they don't reproduce this way>  So I decided I would take his word for it and go with getting the sea star. I took him home and did all the stuff that I normally do to introduce a fish. Put the bag in the water for like 15 minutes. Open the bag pour out a little water, Pour in a cup from my tank, wait 15 minutes a repeat 3 times and then put him in the aquarium.  Well I put him in the aquarium last night and he just burrowed himself into the sand and I've never seen him since.  <Sounds healthy>  My question for you is first of all should I have even gotten a sand sifting sea star? Is my tank to new to have introduced him? Is my tank to small to have him? <Your tank is too small to keep one of these alive for any long term duration. These stars eat the sand fauna present in the bed and on a tank your size that food source will be depleted in no time.>  Was he lying about the reproduction thing?  <Yes>  Should they ever contact open air?  <No>  Will I ever see him since he is in the sand?  <Occasionally>  And if I can't see him how will I know he is still alive?  <I suggest you take it back to the dealer for a refund/trade as it will not survive in your tank. I've read somewhere one of these stars require 10 to 12 square feet of an active sandbed to exist.>  This is my first visit to your site and I am new to salt water. Thank you so much for having such an informative wonderful site <You're welcome, James (Salty Dog)> 

Sand-Sifting Star, Cucumber, Or Both? - 11/25/05 Eric, ok if I ask a few more questions? <<I'm here to help...>> Again, tank info: 180 gallon with 6 ft. x 18 inch territory of sand.  Fish Stock: Starting with the largest inches from lips to tail) Naso Tang, Green Bird Wrasse, Hawaiian Foxface, Coral Beauty, True Percula Clown, Yellow Tang, Royal Gamma, 3 Striped Damsels, 3 Blue Damsels, Six-Line Wrasse.  Foods: Nori, Clams, Spirulina, Plankton, & Ocean's Formula 2.  Q1: Is there a sea star or cucumber that would make a good sand sifter for my aquarium? <<I utilize some sea cucumbers in my tank.>> If so, which is best? <<Holothuria thomasi, the Tiger Tail Sea Cucumber is a popular specie, as are some others in the trade.  Do stay away from the highly toxic "Sea Apple"...not a sand-sifter anyways.>> My Green Bird Wrasse is a hunter who has gone after crabs who now hide by day and eat by night.  I have stayed away from snails because of him so cleaning creatures that burrow or good hiders that only come out at night are a good fit with him in the tank. <<Mmm...if the wrasse goes after the 'cukes it could be trouble for the whole tank.>> Q2: Would our tank support another fish?  If so, we would like a Blue Hippo Tang.  Based on our tank size and tank mates, good or bad idea? <<I wouldn't, you're pretty full as it is...maybe too full once that Naso matures.>>   Debi Stanley-Viloria "Everything is ok in the end. If it's not ok, then it's not the end." <<Regards, EricR>>

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