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Kaper22

Brittle Starfish Just "Appeared" In My Tank

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Kaper22

So I was checking out my tank (I like to make sure everyone seems happy and healthy) and I noticed weird tentacles sticking out from the suction cup area on the protein skimmer. After tearing it apart, this little guy was revealed... I have 2 questions: 1. What the heck is it and how did it get in my tank? 2. Is it harmful or beneficial? I guess that technically 3 questions, but thanks for any help you all can offer! 

 

I thought I could upload a photo, but I cannot. It's got 6 very thin long spiny legs and hangs on the side of the glass bowl I put it in until I can figure out if it's good or bad. 

 

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Tired

Brittle stars are beneficial detritivores. The only exception is green brittle stars, which are dark green and will eat fish once they get big. Unless it's dark green, put it back in your tank and enjoy it. If it's bigger than 2-3" across, give it a tiny bit of food (just hand the food to one of its arms) now and then to help it get enough to eat. 

 

It came in on something. Probably on your live rock, maybe as a baby on a frag. 

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RaymondNoodles

I acquired 10-20 brittle stars or serpent stars (not sure which) on live/wet/established rock I got from another reefer. They are helping keep my tank clean it seems, and they are quite interesting, especially when I turn the pump off for feeding time, all their long legs start appearing from every nook and cranny. I am not 100% sure which variety of starfish I have, but it sounds like they could grow to 1ft diameter! My tank is only 20g. My only real concern with them is outgrowing the tank and then finding them a new home. Currently my largest is about 3" diameter.

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Tired

Those are "black micro brittles", which aren't actually black, but people call them that. Similar to white micro brittles, but larger. They usually stay at or under 3" across, and will spawn and multiply. They're excellent detritivores, great to have, and shouldn't multiply past what the tank can support. If you find yourself with a lot, catch some out and give them away. One of the most beneficial critters you can get on your rock, beat out only by essential things like copepods. 

 

I believe the difference is that serpent stars are the ones with smooth arms, and brittles have the pointy bits? I don't know for sure. 

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