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FAQs about Sea Star Systems

Related Articles: Sea Stars, Brittle 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: CC Star Systems, Linckia Systems, Sandsifting Star Systems, & Sea Stars, Sea Stars 2, Sea Stars 3, Sea Stars 4, Sea Stars 5, Brittle Stars, Seastar ID 1Seastar Selection, Seastar Compatibility, Seastar Systems, Seastar Feeding, Seastar Reproduction, Seastar Disease Asterina Stars, Chocolate Chip Stars, Crown of Thorns Stars, Fromia Stars, Linckia Stars, Linckia Stars 2, Sand-Sifting Stars,

I'm clueless - ID needed: Egg Ribbon - 3/18/08 Hello! <Hi there, Sonny!> Hope you can help me to identify this creature. <Sure hope so!> I set up a nano reef tank about 7 month ago. I am into the hobby about 9 years now. All my water parameters (including Mg, Ca, Sr..etc..) are close to perfect. I keep my temperature at 78-80 degrees. 15-17 lbs of live rock, 20 lbs of aragonite, Marineland C-160 canister, Hydor Koralia Nano powerhead, AquaC Remora Nano skimmer with MJ 900. Current Satellite light system, 1 dual actinic and 1 dual daylight, 40 W each, 80 Watts all together, set up with a timer. Only 8 hours daylight. 1 small colt coral, 1 green eyed and 1 yellow polyps, trumpet coral. 1 six line wrasse, about a dozen hermits, about the same amounts of assorted snails. 1 sand shifter <Sifter?> star, 1 red thorny star, <Uh-oh, these two stars need much, much, more room in order to survive. They will not make it in a small tank.> ..and 1 cleaner shrimp. Very happy and healthy environment. Yesterday I noticed something on one of my live rock, something I never seen before. If you look at the picture the creature is right above my fish, and it looks like a target. <Nice photo!> Round shaped, and has circles inside.. The color is kinda clear whitish...Please help me identify this new critter for me! <Hmmm, it looks like an egg ribbon, possibly left by a Nudibranch or snail. No worries, these things pop up from time to time and usually disappear within a few days - as food for the system's inhabitants! Please see these links for examples of Nudibranch egg ribbons: http://www.seaslugforum.net/display.cfm?id=1128  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nudireprofaqs.htm .>
Your help is truly appreciated, Sonny <You're very welcome! Take care, -Lynn>

Re: I'm clueless - ID needed: Egg Ribbon - 3/18/08 Thank you very much Lynn! <You're very welcome, Sonny!> I forgot to mention this is a 10G tank. <Yep, I had a feeling it was when you mentioned the light fixture, but didn't want to assume.> I also forgot that I just introduced a lettuce Nudibranch (beautiful creature, I never had one before) about a week ago, so I suppose he's the source of those eggs. <You got it!> The sand sifter looks very happy, I don't see him too much though. <Unfortunately, these need a large area of mature DSB to survive.> The red thorny star is not the African red knob sea star, but I'm sure you knew that. <Well, I wasn't sure if it was Protoreaster lincki or Echinaster echinophorus, but unfortunately, neither is suitable for this size tank.> When I purchased him (I bought him and the Nudibranch at the same time) they told me they won't grow bigger than 3-4 inches. <Yes, although I've read differing reports on their size (ranging from 4-8"). Most say it's around 4", so I'd be more inclined to go with that number.> Should I take him back? <Yes, actually I'd take both of those stars back. They'll starve to death in such a small system.> He seems healthy. My only concern is that ever since I introduced him to my tank, he's not moving a lot. Looks like he settled down on one of my live rock, and he's been there ever since. I see him moving his tentacles and arms, but he just "sits" there. I don't know.. He's beautiful bright red and orange color.. Any thoughts? <Yep, if he's been in the same place for a week, that's not good. Even if he was doing well though, I would still recommend taking him back.> My heavenly Nudibranch is all over the place, grazing for algaes all day. Actually I don't have too much of nuisance algaes of any kind anymore, is there any supplement I can use if unfortunately ( I can believe I said that:-) I run out of algaes? <Hmmm, you could try Nori, but I'm not too confident that it will be eaten. These sea slugs are nothing if not picky little eaters! They tend to like one particular algae and that's it. Some like Bryopsis, others eat Caulerpa, etc. Sadly, they're usually short-lived in aquariums.> Again, thank you very much for the info and those great articles, I think you made my night much better. <You're very welcome. I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news about the stars, but they really do need to be in a much larger system.> If you have chance Lynn, please let Anthony know that He rule the saltwater world.. By any means, He is the greatest. <Hey, what about Bob! I say he's the greatest! :-) Sorry, but I can't help being partial. LOL I just couldn't let that go without saying something! I've never met Anthony Calfo but he does seem like a terrific guy - knowledgeable, funny and kind. I'm hoping to meet him at IMAC in May. At that time, I would be most happy to relay your message!> Thank you Lynn, good night <You're most welcome, Sonny. Goodnight to you too, -Lynn>

Protoreastor Lincki Star... ridiculously over and mis-stocked system   8/22/06 Hi Crew,   I have a Protoreastor Lincki Star ( Red General Star as I call it or Crimson Tide star as my LFS called it).  In my 30 gallon <Needs more room> tank I have 20lb live rock 1 yellow Tang, <Ditto> 3 Damsels, <Ditto...> 1 Clarke clownfish, 1 Green Clown goby, 1 Chocolate Chip Starfish.  Everyone has been living in harmony for the past 6 months or more and about a week ago I added 1 Domino Damsel, <... You're... not... joking...?> 1 Blue Mandarin, 1 Spotted Mandarin, <... you... are... joking> and 1 Particular Clownfish.  They were all acclimated with the slow drip acclimation for two hours prior to putting them in the tank and they all survived with the exception of the Blue Mandarin that my Chocolate Chip Starfish ate. <Not w/o its dying first>   I usually hand feed my starfish frozen krill.  Now a few days after this I noticed my Red General's thorn like markings on his one arm was white as though he caught it on the live rock or something. <It's dying> I checked the water levels to make sure it wasn't ammonia burn or something but levels were fine.  Ph was down just a smidge.   Around 7 hours later I noticed the same thing happening to two other arms. I did a 25% water changes to vacuum out floor and added some buffer. Is this normal? <Mmm, no> Is this a disease?  Should I be worried? <I would be>   No sign of other fish or starfish with this change.  No sign their attacking him.  What should I do? <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/stardisfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Your tank is ridiculously over- and mis-stocked... It is likely on the verge of an outright crash... I would quick like a bunny read re the requirements of the species you list and either ASAP get another much larger system, or give away what you can't provide for here. Bob Fenner> Archaster typicus, sys., dis.      8/13/06 Hello WWM: Thank you for posting this life saving web site! <Welcome> I was "sold" a rather small Sand Crawler Starfish for my 20 gal. <Yikes... too small to sustain a specimen of this species food-wise> I was shocked to see the tips of this poor invertebrate decaying. Thanks to your FAQ section, I immediately ran out and purchased a turkey baster (sorry no syringes available) and loaded it up with "Mysis" frozen shrimp. Injected the thawed mixture, under the sand, near the starfish. What are the odds of survival if I continue this process through perpetuity?? Feeling guilty in Fishers, IN. <Better than without your careful, compassionate input here. Do keep close tabs on your water quality. I wish you life. Bob Fenner> Re: Archaster typicus-addendum It's "Mysis" shrimp, not "Mysis". Sorry about the miscue on the food. <No worries, understood> Data on tank: 20 Gallons-Hexagon Rena Canister filtration Aquarium Systems skimmer Blue Damsel Purple and Yellow Damsel Cardinal Fish Small live rock All fish healthy: Brine, Bloodworm and Mysis diet. Help save "Star" the Starfish (my 10 yr. old named him/her/it)! <Bob Fenner>

Seastars... how do they take the environmental wear and tear?   6/11/06 Hi, I would like to know how can sea stars survive the extreme conditions of being exposed to wind, hot sun, pounding waves and tides? <<Paola:  Sea Stars evolved to live in that environment.  Their feet stick to the rocks and their bodies preserve enough moisture to survive between the tides.  There are many other creatures that also inhabit the intertidal zone.  Best of luck,  Roy>>

Failing Faviid, stuck stars   1/18/06 Hi Crew, I have a candy cane that gets hair algae on it. <Mmm, not good... sign of unsuitable environment and/or degraded health in the stony coral> My normal way to clean it is with a tooth brush while holding it in a tub of old water from the tank. The normal reaction is for the fleshy part to recede but eye remains a bright green. Within a day it is back to normal. Well, for some unknown reason I cleaned it using plain (unsalted) water. It really looks sick now and it has been over 24 hours. The fleshy part of the polyp is barely there and the green eye is a dull green. What are the chances of survival? <Impossible to say> By the way, I have another candy cane where the polyp got as big as a quarter. And now I can see four mouths and it is changing its shape so I guess it will turn into 4 heads. It is really interesting watching this thing contort itself in very slow motion. <Yes> I have a tank with pods and crawling things and some micro stars. I plan to turn this tank off and would like to salvage the stars but I am having a difficult time finding and removing them. The tank has a sponge filter and they are living in the sponge. I can see them when it is dark and I shine a light at the sponge. If I try to get them they just move deeper into the sponge. Any suggestions as to how to flush them out? Thanks in advance. <I would cut the sponge carefully apart, replace it, or leave them in it. See WWM re Faviid Systems, Disease, Nutrition... likely iodine/ide treatment, perhaps fragging will save your CC. Bob Fenner>

Sea Stars and Vibrations 7/22/05 Hi! I have a question and cannot seem to find answers anywhere, so I thought I would write to you guys. <Hi Erin, Ali here...> I am a zookeeper intern and during the summer, every area has "keeper chats," where a keeper goes out to talk to the public about different animals in their exhibit.  Our topic this year is "Tidal Treasures" and we have set up a "portable" tank, complete with chiller, filter, etc, that gets wheeled outside on a Rubbermaid cart three times a day.  Inside this tank is an ochre star, a sun star, a barnacle, and strawberry anemones. This cart gets wheeled though the building to go outside, over bumps, concrete, etc.  <Yikes, Holy Marine-Mobile Batman!. is it heavy?> This is the first time we have done this and part of my intern project is the welfare of the animals in this tank.  I was curious as to whether all of the vibrations from wheeling the cart out 20 times a week is detrimental to the animals.  I can't seem to find any sort of info on this topic anywhere.  I do not think that this can be good for them, but I would like a more advanced opinion.  Our aquarist agrees that the vibrations are not good for the anemones and the barnacle, but is unsure about the sea stars.  Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated and if more information is needed, such as size of tank, etc, please let me know. <In all honesty, I would not stress over the vibrations too much. As long as the vibrations are not great enough to cause massive jolts that end up detaching the animals causing them to fall onto one another, they should be A-OK. Additionally, I would aim your focus more on the water quality/temperature stability of your little 'on-wheel' ecosystem rather than the vibrations.>Thanks! Erin M. <No problemo Erin, and for what it's worth you seem like a really worthwhile person to take the time and ask a question that most people wouldn't even bother with. It does truly sound that you have the animals' best intentions in mind. This will end up taking you a long way on your zoo keeping ventures. Good luck and remember not to drink and steer! ;) >

Starfish Tank Size (3/2/05) <Sorry for the delay. I've been traveling a lot (12,000 miles last month).>  I didn't know that those stars got those big.  <Chocolate Chip Stars and their kin do grow rather large.>  I have a 75 gallon tank. How many starfish should I have?  <Smartest would be only one.>  If I keep them fed should it be okay or should I get rid of one or two?  <I would not recommend having more than two, even if you are manually feeding and keeping up your other chores like water changes and such. Steve Allen.> 

Purple Linckia question Hello Bob! Great website!  I have question about a purple star I bought several days ago. <Thank you... I do hope/trust that this is actually a Tamaria stria... you can see it on WWM and elsewhere on the Net. Much hardier for aquarium use than actual Linckia species.> For the first few days, the star was very active, but today I noticed him upside down on the sand, with legs curled up so that the underside was showing. <! Very bad> I picked him up, thinking maybe he was dead, and placed him right side up on a rock.  A few minutes later his legs uncurled and lay on the rock, but only a couple of tentacles were actually extended and touching the rock I placed him on.  He started moving his legs around, but the tentacles won't extend to latch on to anything.  Also, he keeps curling his legs into weird shapes, like he's cringing.  Is he about to die? <Likely so> I also have a blue Linckia, which has been active for the past few weeks since I bought him, and he's becoming less and less active.  In fact, he's been in the same position for 2 days. is this normal? <Not atypical for them to be still for quite a while at times>   I have not target fed either star, since I read somewhere that they will find their own food.  My tank is a 29 gallon with about 50 pounds of live rock. <... oh my friend... this is MUCH TOO small a system for one of these stars> My soft corals, polyps, and fish are doing really well. Thanks in advance for any information you can give me! Vernon <Vern... do take a read through WWM... it's obvious you have not. Bob Fenner>

Sand Sifting Starfish Hi Bob Please could you help me, as I feel that I may have been wrongly advised I have a 50gal tank which has been set up for five weeks, (set up with RO water ... been testing... all is well) I recently went to buy something to help with a coating of brown algae on my 3inch sand bed, I was sold a Neon goby and a sand sifting starfish I looked on your website to read all relevant info on sand sifting stars, now I'm worried that my tank is to small and to new to keep it well fed I also have 2 turbo snails, 1 bumble bee snail, 1 shrimp and some live rock, (no fish yet) I run a Prizm skimmer and external Fluval 404   I have had the starfish for a few days .... so far all is well, Please advise Many thanks Sam >>>Greetings Sam, Your tank is indeed MUCH too small to keep a star such as this alive long term. Besides, it doesn't eat detritus, it eats the sand bed fauna that we work so hard to establish. Back to the point, it will slowly starve to death after it has depleted your sand bed of food. You need at least 12 square feet of sand bed to sustain one of these stars. Again, you don't really want one in your sand bed anyway. You need to look to nutrient export to get a  handle on your algae issue. Cheers Jim<<<

Adopting a Chocolate Chip Star (2/23/04) I need some help please.  I will be 'adopting' my brother's chocolate chip starfish when he moves.  I only want a small tank (10 gallons) - since it is basically just for the starfish.  I would like to know what else - if anything - I could put in the same tank.  I know he will eat other starfish (already has) and I know starfish can eat anemones and corals.  Is there anything you can suggest?  Thank you. <Unless you can do a bigger tank, you'd best not adopt this star. Better to give it to a marine aquarium store for sale to someone with a proper setup. Starfish require superb water conditions that are difficult to maintain in such a tiny tank, especially if you are a novice. They're also better off with a lot of live rock and live sand to scavenge. I have not heard of chocolate chips eating other stars of equal size, but they will consume just about anything they can get their stomachs around before it can escape. If you can get a bigger (say 30-40G range tank, you could set something up with the star and a shrimp and maybe a fish. You need to read a lot about the equipment and $$$ required for any marine setup. BTW, how do you plan to feed this starfish? Hope this is of some help. Steve Allen.>

Starfish + Nitrites = Unhappy Starfish (1/6/04) We need your help ASAP! <Ananda here at the keyboard today... this question's a bit outside of my usual bailiwick, but I've got an idea of what you can do.> We set up a 20 gallon quarantine tank and it has an Emperor 280 Bio-Wheel Filter and we have an air stone and heater and a couple PVC pipes in it.   <Sounds good except for the airstone. The Emperor will give you plenty of aeration, since it sprays water onto the bio-wheels.> We are keeping the temperature at 81 degrees.   <A touch on the high side...> We bought two clown fish and a chocolate chip starfish about two weeks ago and put them in to quarantine.   <I'd probably go with a separate quarantine for the starfish (purchasing it at a different time), but...> The problem is today we noticed our chocolate chip starfish is on the bottom he is moving a little but not like he was and his arms are all curled upward.   <I read this and immediately wondered what your water quality was.> Our nitrites are reading at 3.0 and we can't figure out why they are so high.   <Your quarantine tank is cycling.> The ammonia tests are reading 0 and the nitrates are reading 0. <You have sufficient bacteria to convert all the ammonia the fish produce into nitrites, but insufficient bacteria to convert those nitrites into nitrates.> Do you think this is why our chocolate chip starfish isn't doing well? <Absolutely.> Also, what can we do to bring the nitrites down?   <A very large water change -- in this instance, I think 75% is not out of line. If you do not have fresh saltwater ready, you should get a batch going and keep it mixing for at least four hours. If you can buy aged, pre-mixed saltwater at a local retailer, you might do that to cut down on the time before you can do a water change. Additionally, you might wish to consider Marine Bio-Spira -- it's a refrigerated product that contains live nitrifying bacteria to cycle your tank in a day or so. I've had luck with the freshwater version.> We do a 25% water change about twice a week.   <You will want to increase the frequency of your water changes.> Help!  Also, our starfish has like a white mucus floating on one of his chocolate chips.  What do you think that is?   <A stress reaction to the nitrites, most likely.> Your help would be greatly appreciated! Thank You, Bret Weddle <I do hope this helps and that you can get the water changed in time to save the sea star. --Ananda>

Starfish tank! Good morning Bob & WWM, <Mornin, Kevin here today> My father maintains a saltwater reef aquarium, but I love starfish and would love to set up a starfish-exclusive aquarium. You know how in the aquariums (the kind you visit) they usually have an open-top, large but shallow area for handling starfish, urchins, horseshoe crabs, etc... Have you ever heard of someone doing a set-up like that (minus the open top) in the privacy of his own home?  If so, can you please direct me to resources for doing just that so I can do some research and see if I can spare the time & commitment it would take? <Here ya go: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/starsysfaqs.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/starcompfaqs.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/starselfaqs.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/starfdgfaqs.htm There's more, just follow the links at the top of each of those pages. Should keep you reading for a few weeks. :) > Thanks... your website is wonderful! <Enjoy! -Kevin> Jennica

Starfish system part II Good evening WWM again, Thank you for your response!  :)  I did read over the information a bit before sending the e-mail, but it seemed to be primarily geared towards "normal" aquariums with fish in them and all... :-)  Though, I did read over the links more carefully, and I have hopefully better questions to ask... <ok> 1.  Since this is a shallow tank to house starfish only, what would you suggest be a minimum depth required for the starfish to thrive? <The depth does not matter. Just pick a larger system (upwards of 50g at least) because sea stars are very sensitive to changes in water chemistry (larger tanks take more time to change their parameters).> 2.  In your descriptions of the X number of gallons needed to house each species, are you referring to actual gallons or typical surface area that an X gallon tank uses? <Gallons> (seems like surface area would make more sense for starfish than volume... then again, there's also pressure to consider...) <The surface area really doesn't matter unless it's so small that normal gas exchange is impeded. The pressure of the water overhead has no bearing on the health of these critters, at least in an aquarium.> 3.  Any recommendations on which starfish species would thrive the most in this kind of shallow, starfish-only setup?  A quick glance over your starfish selection seems to suggest that a lot of starfish thrive off biomass created by other animals/plants, so I'm assuming my choices are rather limited (Doughboy, perhaps?). <I'd go for the meat eaters (Linckias and Fromias will likely starve in such a setup), these would include the ever popular chocolate chip star, the crimson knobby star (Protoreastor lincki), as well as some other Pentaceraster stars. I don't think I've ever seen a doughboy in the trade, nor am familiar with it's feeding requirements.> I think those are just about the only setup-specific questions I have that probably aren't answered in your site... the rest I can find through real research, so hopefully this is the last email you'll get from me... thanks for your service! <Just set up this system with a good protein skimmer, live sand, live rock, and make sure you read over the starfish acclimation procedures before you get going. It is also important to make sure the tank is well cycled before you start introducing any of these critters into it. Good luck! -Kevin> Jennica

Starfish Care Dear Crew I was reluctant to bother you with this but I have researched on my own and am still unsure about a compatibility issue.  I've read Rob Toonen, Ron Shimek, WWM FAQs, CMA,  etc.  Maybe I'm just a little thick! :-)  Anyway, I just "inherited" a beautiful starfish from a friend who is moving and disassembling his tank.  He refers to it as a Purple/Burgundy Linckia. However, my research indicates that it's probably a Tamaria stria. <Not unlikely> Most of the info I find relates to the Linckia sp.  Is the care and feeding of the Tamaria stria the same/similar? <Yes> I have placed him/her in a 15 gallon tank in which I had completed curing liverock. <This is too small a system> I left some liverock in the tank and also added some coral sand in one corner.  The tank is equipped with a HOT filter, heater, power head and protein skimmer.  After acclimating him I placed him in the tank and he immediately climbed up on the largest piece of liverock.  He has since moved about the tank as if exploring (but then he may be looking for an escape route).  Would it be prudent, after quarantine, to place him in my 50 gallon display? <Yes> Other inhabitants are a pair of maroon clowns, a bi-color angel, yellow wrasse, sally lightfoot and various hermits and snails with 60 lbs of Fiji premium LR.  Dr. Shimek states that these should be kept in an aquarium with sp 1.026 and temp 84 degrees. <Too warm IMO>   I keep my tank at 1.023 and 79-80 and current inhabitants seem to prefer it that way. Any advice would be appreciated including links would be appreciated. <We have a bit about this species here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seastars.htm> I'm sure I can find an appropriate home for him if you feel my situation isn't right for this animal.  Thank you for all the assistance/advise you give CMA wannabees. v/r Barry <Thank you for writing. Bob Fenner>

White Sand Star, Archaster sp Hi Bob, Once again I have done it.... Ordered something before researching. Now I have read your site (and others) and you don't think the White Sand Star, Archaster sp, is required to support a reef. <Hmm, no... there are reefs... wild, captive that certainly don't have them...> I now have discovered that some even eat inverts and coral. <Yes, can> The starfish has not yet arrived .... should I cancel? or take the chance he will enhance my environment. I don't really buy stuff for the reef just for looks... I do it to TRY and create a self sustained environment. Kind regards, Robert <"Worth the risk" in most all cases... don't know about your system... of size, has "enough" (a few inches) of softer, smaller substrate? This Seastar will very likely work out. Bob Fenner>

Archaster typicus Bob, What are your thoughts on the theory that the Archaster typicus starfish consumes too much of the bacteria in the live sand, depleting the aquarium of the bacteria needed for maintaining the biological equilibrium.  <Not a practical consideration. No problem> I have a 40 gallon reef tank that runs on the Berlin system, and I have one Archaster star; I was wondering if this was a legitimate issue. Thanks for the input. B. Brown <Not IMO/E. Bob Fenner>

Starfish Hi Mr. Fenner, I was thinking of adding some starfish to my 240. I was thinking of a Fromia elegans, a blue Linckia, and a purple Linckia. (starting all at 2-3 inches) Would this work? What do you think would be the best starfish number and species to add? I keep corals, clams, tangs, angels, and numerous small fish in my tank. My rock is med dirty and I feed rather heavily. Everything leaves my serpent stars and urchins alone so I don't think anything will harass starfish. <Please read over the Seastar materials stored on the www.WetWebMedia.com site> Also in Marine atlas Vol 3 it says the purple Linckia lives in water up to 20 degrees Celsius. Is it fatal to keep them at reef temps? Thanks, Everett

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