Brittle Starfish

Updated August 5, 2019
Author: Mike - FishLore Admin
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The Brittle Starfish is one of those reef invertebrates that is often hidden away during the day. The brittle stars come out at night and scavenge all over the bottom of the tank and on the live rock looking for bits and pieces of things to eat. The brittle stars for the most part are rather good tank mates with fish, corals and other inverts. Some are quite cool looking, including the Tiger Striped Brittle Star varieties. Colors vary quite a bit with some being light brown with darker stripes and some are dark brown with even darker stripes. They are called "brittle stars" because there arms are easily broken off as some sort of defensive mechanism.

brittle star brittle starfish

Sea stars in general should be acclimated slowly to your well established tank. They won't tolerate extreme differences in salinity and pH. Don't add them to new tanks since they can be intolerant of changing or fluctuating water parameters. Do a slow drip acclimation over an hour or longer so they can adjust to your tank's water conditions. Once they've adjusted you should find them to be relatively hardy provided that you keep you water parameters at optimal levels. They don't ship all that well though with many perishing in shipment.

You can try to feed your Brittle Star very small pieces of fresh raw seafoods using a feeding stick. If money is tight and you don't want to shell out the $15 buck or so, you can always use the good ole chop sticks taped together trick to make your own feeding stick. If you can see one of their arms poking out of a cave or wherever they're hiding, place the food as close a possible to them. They should react to it.

Brittle Stars can be considered reef tank safe since they will leave corals, fish and other reef invertebrates alone.

brittle serpent star


Brittle Starfish Care

Scientific Name : Ophiuroidea spp. (over 1600 species)

Common Names : Tiger Striped Serpent Seastar

Care Level : Moderately difficult to care for in the home aquarium.

Life span : If well cared for they can live for several years in a saltwater aquarium.

Size : 12 inches and sometimes a little larger (30 cm) when measuring from arm tip to arm tip.

pH : 8.1 - 8.4

Temperature : 72°F - 80°F (22°C - 27°C)

Specific Gravity : 1.020 - 1.025

Carbonate Hardness (dKH) : 8 - 12°

Origin / Habitat : Found on many reefs from Southern Japan to Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Temperament / Behavior : These brittle stars are scavengers that should feed on detritus, dead organisms, etc. They should leave corals and fish alone.

Breeding : Unknown if breeding has been achieved in the home aquarium.

Aquarium Size : 20 gallon minimum

Tank Mates : Many given their behavior and feeding habits. Watch out for any stars labeled "green brittle stars" though. These are known fish eaters.

Reef Tank Compatible? : Yes, they should be fine in a reef tank setup.

Fish Disease : Saltwater Fish Disease - Diagnose, Symptoms and Treatment. These brittle sea stars are usually relatively hardy once established. Broken off arms should regenerate. Don't use any copper based meds, keep nitrate levels low too.

Food : They should scavenge the tank floor and rock surfaces at night. You can try supplemental feedings by placing small pieces of fresh uncooked seafood near them. They may come out when they sense that fish food hits the water.

Tank Region : All over the substrate and live rock.

Gender : It's very difficult, if possible, to determine external differences between male and female brittle stars.

Photo Credit : Photos copyright

References :

Brittle Seastar Comments

From: Riley
Mine does a decent job of keeping the sand clean and stirred up. I don't see it when the lights are on. I mostly watch it when I look in when the lights are off for the day. It does come out at times when I feed my fish. Overall it has been a great addition to my tank leaving the corals, shrooms and zoanthids alone. I bought it when it was around 4 inches size (arm tip to arm tip). Now it's about 10 inches.

More Saltwater Invertebrate Profiles
Saltwater Hermit Crab
Clibanarius spp.
Hermit Crab
Red legs, Blue legs and several other species of saltwater hermit crabs can make rather good scavengers but watch them closely around snails and other invertebrates.
Emerald Crab
Mithrax sculptus
Emerald Crab
Rumored to eat bubble algae and they don't get all that big. It should be ok, but use caution when stocking in a reef tank.
Pencil Urchin
Eucidaris tribuloides
Pencil Urchin
Will graze on algae but is not considered reef tank safe.