How To Get Rid Of Asterina Starfish In a Saltwater Aquarium
Saltwater hitchhikers come in all shapes and forms, and the Asterina starfish is no exception. It will often be spotted as an individual starfish making its way up the glass, or among the live rock. They are often not the traditional shape you would expect a starfish to be. The consensus is, if you have seen one Asterina, there are normally more. This article explores the life cycle of this star and how to get rid of Asterina in a saltwater aquarium.
How did a starfish get in my tank?
Asterina starfish are an extremely common hitchhiker, often unknowingly attached to live rock that you are adding to your tank, hidden out of sight. For new hobbyists seeing a cute starfish for the first time can be wondrous. The first sign of marine life in their new hobby, until they google or ask for an ID. Asterina’s can also be introduced on snail shells and frag plugs if they have not been scrutinised before adding them to your system.
Should I get rid of Asterina starfish?
In all likelihood, once you have spotted the first starfish, there will be others among the rockwork that will be very difficult to spot and get to. The suggestion is to remove every Asterina you see, and stay ahead of them. Invariably, however, they will out-breed your best intentions, unless you did happen to spot the only one in your tank. You may have been lucky enough to get rid of Asterina starfish population explosion before it started.
How do Asterina starfish reproduce?
The method of reproduction is the reason why they become numerous so quickly. Given an ideal environment, which is every saltwater tank, they proliferate at a surprising speed. Asterina starfish simply split in two. This is the reason you will often spot ill-formed stars instead of a symmetrical star. To put this into context, one star become two, two becomes four, fifty becomes one hundred, two hundred becomes four hundred! This happen in a matter of months, which is why reefers start acting to get rid of Asterina starfish.
Are Asterina good or bad?
This is a hotly debated subject. Reefers delving into whether the Asterina’s are of a type that will eat coral or not. It is agreed that the Asterina starfish is a great CUC, helping in maintaining the cleanliness of a reef tank. They manage to get into all the nooks and crannies because of their diminutive size. Once they have reached a point when you see them everywhere, they begin to diminish the aesthetic appeal of your aquarium. Let’s just say that your tank is no longer ‘instagramable’.
What divides opinion is the Asterina’s choice of diet. It is widely known that they are known to eat zoanthids, but hobbyists cannot agree if the zoa was already dying, or if it was a healthy specimen. There is also disagreement on what type of Asterina, or color of Asterina is more prone to eating coral. In my experience, the color does not matter. I have removed Asterina starfish from healthy zoa, and found them eaten through. I have also returned home one day to find an Asterina eating a OG Bounce Mushroom pup. I knocked it off, to discover the following morning that they had come back to finish the job!!
What kills Asterina Starfish?
To the crux of the matter – how to get rid of Asterina starfish?
Thankfully, we do have a natural predator that we can add to our tanks.
The Harlequin Shrimp to get rid of Asterina
A specialist starfish predator, not only of Asterina starfish. It is usually advised to add a pair of Harlequin shrimp to a tank so they can work in tandem, but even a single shrimp will do the job admirably. The Harlequin shrimp methodically will eat a starfish from the tip of an arm toward the centre mouthpiece, eventually consuming it in entirety. The only problem is that once the shrimp has no more Asterina’s to feast on, they can starve. They will not eat anything else. Some owners of Harlequin shrimp will go the next mile at buy Chocolate Chip Starfish, keeping it in the sump and subdividing it up to feed to the Harlequin. I have known others to buy Asterina starfish on eBay to satiate the shrimps diet.
Linckia Starfish to get rid of Asterina
Another starfish available through your LFS, an willing to dine on Asterina starfish. However, Linckia starfish are very delicate creatures, classified as EXPERT ONLY that should really only be introduced to mature tanks. They have a bad record of staying alive in a reef tank. The reason is thought to be that their main diet is bacterial film, which appears in abundance in well-established systems. Feeding other foods is usually not enough to sustain them.
How to manually get rid of Asterina starfish
Although Asterina starfish are prolific breeders, they are also easy to pick off one by one if you have the time and the patience. As you can see in the opening picture, Asterina starfish are safe to handle, so you will need to get your hands wet! The best time to pick them off is generally in the early morning before your lights come back on. At this time of day they have gravitated towards the water surface. Be as quick as you can.
Of course, you do not need to set your alarm for the morning. You could make it part of your schedule to remove every starfish you see once a day. This is sure to make an impact. Unfortunately, you will not be able to access those that under the rockwork and out of reach. Without the assistance of some biological help in the shape of a Harlequin Shrimp, this is certain to become a life-long battle!
Hi, my name is Craig.
I am the owner of The Salty Side.
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