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TCMAS Domain Owner
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
OK... over the past week or two, I have noticed a HUGE increase in the amount of small, oddly shaped starfish all over my rockwork and tank surfaces. They are weird because they have legs af varying lengths.

I need to get a picture of them to post here... in the meantime, these starfish on GARF's site look alot like them.

http://www.garf.org/STAR/starfish.html

Anyone have any experience with them? If so, are they really predatory?
 

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WOW, I have 2 and had NO idea they were coral eating. I haven't noticed any problem with my coral....YET! But I am going to keep my eye out now. Sorry I am not much help but thanks for the info.
 

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big fishy
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When my tank was invaded I was pulling 75-100 out a couple of times a week. Only lost I could contribute to them was my beautiful pipe organ. They would camp out on top of the tube so the polyps couldnt extend and they eventually killed it.

Ken
 

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I had a huge infestation of these guys, they never bothered anything, corals never seemed affected. I put in a Herlequin shrimp and with in a couple of months, you couldn't find a starfish anywhere in the system. Now I am noticing a few. Just keep in mind you have to keep feeding the Harlequin once they eat all the Asterina stars. My Harlequins eat a sand sifter every month.
 

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I have had these sorts of sea stars eat zooanthids, but only certain types of zooanthids, and only sometimes (but when they take a liking to a colony, the colony becomes a magnet for them). I have also had them eat Tubipora (pipe organ coral). I have never seen them do any other damage though.

They look strange, by the way because they are reproducing asexually by division (at least I think this must be how they are reproducing), so some arms are big and others are in the process of growing back. This would also explain how they can reproduce so well in an aquarium.
 

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TCMAS Domain Owner
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I have a very large colony of Zoa's at the front of my tank which looks decidedly smaller than normal and it coincides with the proliferation of these little vermin.

Never owned any Harlequins before... how large of a starfish can they "take down"? I have some very large brittle stars in the tank with legs in the neighborhood of 10-14" each. Any chance they would end up as lunch?
 

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I don't anything has been proven what they eat. Other than they reproduce at almost an alarming rate, if you have one, you have a lot more than you think. If you have a lot on your front glass, you have hundreds if not thousands of them. They are on corals and other things just because of the sheer numbers.
I have had them for years in certain tanks and they are not coral eaters here. They may be a slight nuisance, irritating a few things but coral eater, no.
Just keep pulling, sucking and peeling them off as often as you can. Harlequins are known to eat them. Getting rid of them is a long process if they are established. A numbers game, keep at it consistantly.
 

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Funny, I am seeing them now as well. Could this be the time of year that they split?
 

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big fishy
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I have a very large colony of Zoa's at the front of my tank which looks decidedly smaller than normal and it coincides with the proliferation of these little vermin.

Never owned any Harlequins before... how large of a starfish can they "take down"? I have some very large brittle stars in the tank with legs in the neighborhood of 10-14" each. Any chance they would end up as lunch?
I would say they would not be safe with a harlequin if they are a type off star the shrimp likes to eat.
I used one to get rid of the stars in my tank. When they were gone I would throw in a star fish for it to eat. I was amazed at how strong the Harlequin was. The sandy shifting star was fat and mcuh heavier then the star but it would come up to the star, flip it over and drag it off into the rocks. I have some pics of it dragging a sand shifting star up the side of my rock, very cool to watch.
 

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They can take down stars of pretty much any size.....those shrimp are voracious eaters. I bought the largest sand sifters I could find, they would use their paddle shaped "pinchers" to scoop the sand away from the star, they would then flip it and drag it up the rocks, where they would eat it from the legs in. They eat the legs first to keep it from dying and rotting.
The first one I put in my tank, droped to the bottom, flipped itself up right, went over to a small piece of rubble and started pulling like crazy.....upon inspection, I found a star on the rubble..... this was literally within seconds of going into my tank!! tough little buggers
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
My thinking on this matter is that I guess I would rather lose the beneficial stars in favor of my corals. Gotta get rid of these little nuisance buggers if I want to keep the corals. If that also means that the brittles are history... so be it.

Although, I could trade the brittles to members of the club too.
 

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I'm sure that they eat algae off of the rocks and glass, but if they also munch on corals, then they definitely have to go.
I guess I won't worry too much if I get them, since i'll probably be stuck doing a FOWLR setup until the tank is a year old.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I guess I won't worry too much if I get them, since i'll probably be stuck doing a FOWLR setup until the tank is a year old.
Bear in mind that even if you're doing a FOWLR for now, if you plan on having corals down the road, I would make sure to eradicate these little buggers if and when you do have them.
 

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My thinking on this matter is that I guess I would rather lose the beneficial stars in favor of my corals. Gotta get rid of these little nuisance buggers if I want to keep the corals. If that also means that the brittles are history... so be it.

Although, I could trade the brittles to members of the club too.

You know I think I may have heard somewhere that they don't bother brittle stars...I only had sand sifters...Do some checking before you get rid of your brittle stars. The harlequins are cute little buggers. When I would get a new star, I would hold it in the tank, where they could see it...they would crawl right up onto my hand to get the star
 

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Wow! I love these little starfish... I've never noticed them bothering any of my corals, but I don't have many SPS either.

Thanks for the link Dale!
Chris
 

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I don't anything has been proven what they eat. ...... They may be a slight nuisance, irritating a few things but coral eater, no.
While I have not heard of (nor looked for, I will admit) careful studies documenting the full ranges of their diets, I can tell you with great certainty what some of the items in their diets are.

As I mentioned above, I have absolutely no doubt that they sometimes eat zooanthids and Tubipora. This is not just irritation of the colonies, this is consumption of colonies polyp by polyp. In my experience they seem to completely leave other corals alone, and most of the time they don't even seem to bother the zooanthids and Tubipora. Most reefkeepers who have them in their tanks seem to never have any trouble with them getting into mischief though, so in most cases there is probably not that much to worry about regarding these seastars.

Something seems to switch them on to attacking particular colonies sometimes – I'm wondering whether some sort of stress or damage causes the zooanthids to start exuding something that the seastars are attracted to maybe???? I really don't know, except that one of these attacks (which lasted for months until the whole colony was eaten away, despite my attempts to remove the seastars from the colony on a daily basis) seemed to start up shortly after a zooanthid colony had gotten stung by Aiptasia. And for whatever it might be worth, it seemed that they mostly only attacked Caribbean/Fl Keys zooanthids (most folks have only IndoPacific zooanthids though). I'm remembering now that they also attacked an Isaurus colony I used to have.

Mostly I think they are eating biofilms (algae, bacteria, etc) off of surfaces. Actually, though I don't know what proportion of their diet is biofilm, I'm basically certain that this is a meaningful part of their diets. If you allow diatoms and such to grow on the glass you can see these little seastars with their stomachs everted onto the glass surface (and if you tap on the star you can see the stomach get pulled back in), digesting away whatever was growing on the glass, and leaving clear patches of glass behind when they move off. In these cases it is pretty clear what they are doing, and surely they are doing the same on rock surfaces.
 

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There are many many different kinds of these stars, all of which look confusingly similar. Some don't eat any corals at all and some feast solely on corals. Because it's impossible to predict what's what it's generally recommended not to have any at all.
 
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