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Reef Safe Critters Explained - Reef Safe Starfish

Starfish For The Reef Aquarium

There are many types of Starfish that can be used in marine aquariums; however there are only a few which are useful in a reef aquarium. The starfish not listed here are left out do to their natural tendency to eat corals, coralline algae, snails, crabs and other beneficial reef inhabitants. I can tell you personally when I bought a Green Serpent Starfish for my 65 gallon reef aquarium I never expected to see a large mass in the center of its body and to be missing a Diamond Head Goby!! This variation of the Serpent Star cruises around at night and sneaks up on sleeping Gobies (and other fish) and eats them!! Can you believe it?

We have listed below the Starfish that are well suited to the reef aquarium (including non-green variations of the Serpent Star).

San Sifting Star:

The Sand Sifting Starfish is a welcome addition to any reef aquarium with an active sand bed. These guys cruise around at night, sifting through the sand cleaning up un-wanted detritus and left over food that would otherwise decay and cause Phosphate, Nitrate and Nitrite problems. They should be feed small pieces of food in the sand bed if there are not sufficient supplies of leftovers, and they should not be housed with invertebrate aggressive fish like Puffers and Triggers because they will inevitably flip them over and eat them alive, not good.

Serpent Star:

The Serpent Star is on my list titled “maybe I shouldn’t keep this thing with my expensive fish” due to my past experiences. With this said I have had many friends with Serpent Stars in their reef aquariums with no problems so I thought I would list them here.

First, I had a Green Serpent Star that ate my Diamond Head Goby, period!! For whatever reason this color morph, in my experience is not the best choice for a reef aquarium with calm fish that sleep stationary in a small hole. Once I removed the Green Serpent Star, replaced it with a Brown Serpent Star and replaced the Diamond Head Goby with a Yellow Watchman Goby everything was just fine. It could have been that this one Starfish liked Gobies, I don’t know. What I do know is that with the Brown Serpent Star, under the exact same conditions (feeding, light, filtration, etc….) I’ve had no problems.

The Serpent Star has five arms and a central disc that houses its mouth and digestive organs. They are nocturnal, using the cover of darkness to sneak up unsuspecting Gobies!! Sorry, I got off track again. They rest under rocks during the day and feed at night under the cover of darkness. If one of their limbs is lost they will regenerate a new one very rapidly. They are very sensitive to water quality fluctuations so they should be acclimated thoroughly before introducing them to your tank.

Brittle Star:

The Brittle Star is another beneficial starfish for the reef aquarium that both helps keep the tank clean and adds an interesting visual touch. These starfish are very delicate, as the name implies, and feed on detritus and other organic matter found in your reef aquarium. They are nocturnal like most other starfish and will hide amongst the rocks during the day only to come out at night to feed under the cover of darkness. They can usually find a sufficient amount of food in your tank but may need to be feed small pieces of shrimp or fish if your aquarium is extremely clean.

These guys come in a variety of colors, and are commercially available in the range of 3in to 10in, from tip to tip.