Help! Brittle star losing legs rapidly!!

Sharkbait19

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So, I posted a thread about a week ago about my brittle star missing the tips of its legs and being rather sluggish. I was told it was just my hermit crabs. Well this morning, not only is it active during the day, which is unusual, but he’s also missing his legs!
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What can I do?! I do not want to lose him, he is too special to me. Please help me turn this around, I don’t want him to be a goner!!
 
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BranchingHammer

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This is probably a stress response if you don’t have any harlequin shrimp or other invert predators. I’ve seen that its been caused by elevated nitrates potentially? I would think that one of your parameters is out of wack. They can regenerate their arms after they lose them. I saved a brittle star from another reefers tank which had extremely high nitrates (180ppm). He did not take good care of the tank, and the star only had one leg left, but after 6 months, all of the legs grew back in my tank.

Please post a full list of parameters-
salinity (make sure to calibrate refractometer)
temp
ammonia
nitrite
nitrate
phosphate (if you have it)
tds of RODI water (though I don’t think this is much of an issue)

Did you start this tank with dry rock and sand? How long did the tank cycle for? How old is the tank currently? What are the inhabitants?
 
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Sharkbait19

Sharkbait19

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I’m about to test the params. Just some quick background info— I started the tank with live sand and live rock. The tank has been running for around 5 months. I do 30% water changes every week. I run activated carbon which is replaced every two weeks. Tank inhabitants include:

Fish:
x2 ocellaris clowns (they were just added yesterday.)

Inverts:
x8 hermit crabs
x1 emerald crab
x1 scarlet skunk cleaner (also acting weird so makes me think nitrates)
x1 tiger pistol shrimp
x1 brittle star (I think there may be another that is a hitchhiker, but I only ever see the arms)

Coral:
x5 leather coral
x1 torch coral
x1 Hammer coral
x1 trumpet coral
x1 pulsing xenia
x1 GSP
x1 lithophyllon frag
x1 favia frag
x1 blasto frag
-Clove Polyps
-Assorted zoas/palys
-Assorted mushroom corals
 
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Sharkbait19

Sharkbait19

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Parameters, according to the API tests, are NOT good:

pH: 8.2
kH: 214.8 ppm
Calc: 400 ppm
PO4: 2.0 ppm!
NH3: 0.50 ppm
NO2: 0 ppm
NO3: 0 ppm
Salinity: 1.023
Temp: 78°F

So let me just start off by saying this is not the first test that was like this. In fact, they always read this same exact way! Now I’m confused— is it the crappy API test kit? Because I have live sand, live rock, and dosed dr. Tim’s, just to be sure, and yet according to the tests, no nitrogen cycle has begun for the five month lifespan of this tank, especially seeings the same test results every time! I have 20+ thriving corals so I want to say something is wrong there. Second issue is PO4. I have not had fish for 90 days, which meant no poop, no food, nothing that could possibly have died to produce this level of phosphates. I’ve done 30% water changes every week, even during the fallow!

So the other thing is that clearly the natural route of dealing with this problem is out the window, and I clearly need to start going the chemical route to get the levels in check. What products do you recommend for dosing to retain a thriving reef?
 
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BranchingHammer

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The use of chemical filtration to rapidly reduce nutrient levels usually results in death/unhappiness of corals. I would not trust the API test kits very much. However if the ammonia test was really green, higher up on the scale, it might actually be high. I would retest ammonia. The tank is pretty small (13.5*?) and suddenly adding two fish to it would cause an ammonia spike because the bio filtration is not used to the high levels of ammonia to process. Did the starfish start losing legs right after putting the clownfish in? If so, it might be ammonia toxicity. I would maybe add some prime (or other ammonia detoxifier) IF the next ammonia test comes back the same way.

In addition, since the tank is so young and small, the tank is probably not very stable. The constantly changing parameters might also have caused the starfish to lose legs.

Might be the pistol shrimp also?
 
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Sharkbait19

Sharkbait19

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The use of chemical filtration to rapidly reduce nutrient levels usually results in death/unhappiness of corals. I would not trust the API test kits very much. However if the ammonia test was really green, higher up on the scale, it might actually be high. I would retest ammonia. The tank is pretty small (13.5*?) and suddenly adding two fish to it would cause an ammonia spike because the bio filtration is not used to the high levels of ammonia to process. Did the starfish start losing legs right after putting the clownfish in? If so, it might be ammonia toxicity. I would maybe add some prime (or other ammonia detoxifier) IF the next ammonia test comes back the same way.

In addition, since the tank is so young and small, the tank is probably not very stable. The constantly changing parameters might also have caused the starfish to lose legs.

Might be the pistol shrimp also?
Thanks! I did notice some legs missing when I added the pistol, but the star is also acting strange. The thing is, this isn’t the first time my ammonia read this, even during the fallow. Maybe it is the API. I’ll dose prime, and hopefully that helps....
I’m really clueless after this test. I just posted an emergency thread, as I think I’m just setting up for an all out disaster, if the ammonia is truly this terrible!

The star has been slowly losing legs, but this morning is when it became really bad! Maybe the clowns are harassing it? Or are they raising the ammonia?
 

BranchingHammer

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I would do the recommended dose of prime and then test to see if the ammonia test went dow. If it did, then it probably was elevated. I would say the pistol shrimp might be harassing it, or it’s an ammonia issue from the newly added clowns. But definitely dose the prime I think, unless there are second opinions out there?
 
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ca1ore

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There aren’t a lot of aquarium animals that will actually eat a brittle star, but there are some that will tear it apart. Emerald crab or pistol are possibilities. The other, more likely, cause is its starving/dying and slowly disintegrating. Hard to see how nutrient levels would be a likely cause. FWIW, severed legs sometimes wiggle for days. They will not end up as a new star .... that requires part of the central disc. Discard them.
 
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Sharkbait19

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Update: he’s still very much alive which makes me think it could be a stress response. He’s been hiding in my GSP for the past couple of days, but my emerald crab seems to chase him back any time he sticks a leg out. I bought frozen mysis which I will start target feeding the star, and hopefully that brings it on the road to recovery.
 
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Sharkbait19

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Update: The brittle star has been in hiding for majority of the time. After my cleaner shrimp died, I was very concerned that something was in fact wrong with the water. However, today I saw the brittle star, and it’s actually growing its legs back!! It seems to be completely healthy, and was likely just being picked on. Although it is now hiding all the time, I am glad to see that it found a good hiding spot (the green star polyp) and is recovering. :)
 
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Sharkbait19

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The brittle star's legs pretty much fully grew back. Today, it was sticking its legs out for food when the emerald crab came up and ripped a leg right off! Right in front of me! I don't have any big sump to banish it to, but there will definitely be some punishing....

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Sharkbait19

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Glad to hear that the starfish recovered. Maybe just give the crab back to your LFS?
The issue is that as much as I hate him, he was one of my first inverts so does have a very special place in my heart..... He also does do a good job of cleaning my rocks of bubble and hair algae.

Of course, the starfish also has a special place in my heart, so I'm a little torn here...
 
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