Starfish are Incredible but Not as Simple as People may Think

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livinlifeinBKK

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I love starfish and think they're some of the most fascinating and beautiful creatures in the sea! However, I think most of you reading this are probably already aware they usually don't live long. This is something I'm working to try to change but it's certainly not going to be easy. I'm not about to shy away from a challenge though! Most people would say the reason you can't keep them is because we don't know the natural diet of some star species or how to provide it which is half true but I don't think it's just starvation alone. Plus, in my experience they'll try to eat many things. Granted, we don't know how well they are digesting or absorbing the nutrients but they do have digestive enzymes and I've seen what an oyster looks like after my starfish has been eating at it for a couple hours. Unfortunately its been my experience that people have the impression that starfish will just somehow find leftover food from what the fish didn't eat but not only does the starfish have to compete with much faster scavengers like crabs for the tiny bit of leftover food, but nutrient levels are generally kept pretty low in reef tanks so there would be very little uneaten food anyway. They're also slow moving and don't have vision to help them locate the food. Even if they could get enough leftover scraps though this probably wouldn't suffice. The microbiome of starfish is likely extremely important though. Starfish lack any type of specialized excretory organ for waste removal and the waste is primarily ammonia which must be passed into the coelomic fluid and diffused through the body wall. A theory that I agree with is that bacteria aid in nitrogen transformations. This would make sense since many of the microorganisms consumed have this capability. Sponges also contain nitrogen transforming prokaryotes.

Some species are also very sensitive to parameter changes and can literally melt away if certain changes happen too rapidly. I think it's very important to do some research into their biology to understand how sensitive the species may be and learn about their natural diets which is of an unknown level of importance. Likely one of these stressors weakens its immune system and plays a part in the mortality to some degree.

I plan to try to find a way to keep them healthy and of course live much longer through finding a way to supply a natural diet. For now though, I think supplementing his diet by directly feeding him oysters and the occasional encrusting sponge is the best I can do. He also can feed off of the live ocean rock I started the tank with. The starfish is a Fromia indica star and I feel I can learn a lot from closely observing his behavior and activity level as well as through typical research.
 
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livinlifeinBKK

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So, if you hypothetically want a starfish, you should definitely do plenty of research and you'll probably have to spot feed him to ensure he's getting enough food although there's still no guarantee depending on the species you get. Stable water parameters also are important for the sensitive starfish (their bodies are much different than other animals). Also having as diverse a microbiome as possible in your tank is a big plus!
 

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I like your perseverance, is folks like you that will eventually push the hobby forward.
I’d like to question your method I’ve learned that trough discussion new ideas can be generated and improved.

in one of your threads you mentioned that you are going to culture bacteria and use a sponge to feed to the star, wouldn’t it be easier to manipulate nutrients in your main display to feed it directly from the glass surface were they normally seen in captivity looking for food?
 
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I like your perseverance, is folks like you that will eventually push the hobby forward.
I’d like to question your method I’ve learned that trough discussion new ideas can be generated and improved.

in one of your threads you mentioned that you are going to culture bacteria and use a sponge to feed to the star, wouldn’t it be easier to manipulate nutrients in your main display to feed it directly from the glass surface were they normally seen in captivity looking for food?
Ideally, yes, I would try to manipulate the nutrients to have a supply of the biofilm being produced but it's very difficult to propagate biofilm with a composition that's as close to natural as possible in an inhabited tank because even small changes in nutrient levels like nitrates or and parameter swing can cause a big shift in the composition of the biofilm and it would be much easier to keep nutrient levels and parameter levels stable in a small tank without fish, corals, filter feeders, etc. I could propagate the biofilm community on the sponge pads in the small aquarium and then just transfer one at a time. Also, I was going to use new live rocks from the ocean so that the current microbiome would start out as natural as possible...I'm sure my DT's microbiome is a little different now due to competition and other factors...of course, I am still working it out at the moment
 

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Ideally, yes, I would try to manipulate the nutrients to have a supply of the biofilm being produced but it's very difficult to propagate biofilm with a composition that's as close to natural as possible in an inhabited tank because even small changes in nutrient levels like nitrates or and parameter swing can cause a big shift in the composition of the biofilm and it would be much easier to keep nutrient levels and parameter levels stable in a small tank without fish, corals, filter feeders, etc. I could propagate the biofilm community on the sponge pads in the small aquarium and then just transfer one at a time. Also, I was going to use new live rocks from the ocean so that the current microbiome would start out as natural as possible...I'm sure my DT's microbiome is a little different now due to competition and other factors...of course, I am still working it out at the moment
I understand although is not to difficult to achieve if you know the basics of how nutrients interact with each other’s, I can build a tick white to translucent biofilm daily in my ecosystem tank by just manipulating nitrogen and Carbon and not lose stability. Depending on the current nitrates and phosphates of your tank they can be increased to form a thick film that will replace the usual green algae coating on the glass, if nitrogen is to high a green film will colonise the glass and if carbon to high the same will happen.

I just feel that the glass will be a better way to visualise the bacteria formation in comparison to rock or pads.
 
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I understand although is not to difficult to achieve if you know the basics of how nutrients interact with each other’s, I can build a tick white to translucent biofilm daily in my ecosystem tank by just manipulating nitrogen and Carbon and not lose stability. Depending on the current nitrates and phosphates of your tank they can be increased to form a thick film that will replace the usual green algae coating on the glass, if nitrogen is to high a green film will colonise the glass and if carbon to high the same will happen.

I just feel that the glass will be a better way to visualise the bacteria formation in comparison to rock or pads.
The glass does grow it better....I'm aware of how easy it is to grow a simple "biofilm" but the microorganisms composing a biofilm in a deep benthic habitat are pretty different and the intricate symbiotic relationships between all those microorganisms (microfauna is actually a better term because they're not just bacteria I was hoping to grow) would be very difficult to replicate from what I read...again, I'm fully open to suggestions though
 
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Also, I'm trying to determine if there are certain microfauna which I should prioritize over others if I must...I was thinking encrusting sponges might be a good choice since I'll be able to visually see consumption after he eats
 

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The glass does grow it better....I'm aware of how easy it is to grow a simple "biofilm" but the microorganisms composing a biofilm in a deep benthic habitat are pretty different and the intricate symbiotic relationships between all those microorganisms (microfauna is actually a better term because they're not just bacteria I was hoping to grow) would be very difficult to replicate from what I read...again, I'm fully open to suggestions though
I fully understand we’re you coming from, a little background from me would be that I also have been searching for ways to improve micro fauna and bacteria in a closed system for years, although my search is mainly related to dendronephtya.

what I’ve noticed so far is that the increase of bacteria alone in a reef tank is not enough and a supplement may be needed. Where I am now is increasing the bacterial in the water column with nutrients manipulation and a supplement of bacteria using something called biofloc. This allows me to culture a large variety of bacteria in a dedicated system using probiotics and then harvest the bacteria and introduced I’d daily to my system. In conjunction to this I have designed a filter in my ecosystem build that won’t filter any of these additions out of the water column by mechanical filtration. The bacteria and rotifers that are cultivated in the biofloc once added to the system will stay’s in the water column for over 24h and the ones that will settle in the substrate will still be live for consumption by other organisms.

mid you look at the video below you may see microscopic live food on the flashlight


am not saying that am there yet although from experience this is the closest I ever been to add a vast amount of different microscopic live foods to a system that don’t get filtered out almost instantly.
 
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Back to my first post though, I'm really curious if stars which are generally substrate feeders are able to digest foods such as oysters and other meaty foods. I think they probably can digest and absorb the nutrients although like I mentioned before, they probably require at least some minimal internal population of bacteria that make up their natural microbiome. If more owners were willing to spot feed a meaty piece of food directly next to them I doubt they would starve (they might have other problems though)
 
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I fully understand we’re you coming from, a little background from me would be that I also have been searching for ways to improve micro fauna and bacteria in a closed system for years, although my search is mainly related to dendronephtya.

what I’ve noticed so far is that the increase of bacteria alone in a reef tank is not enough and a supplement may be needed. Where I am now is increasing the bacterial in the water column with nutrients manipulation and a supplement of bacteria using something called biofloc. This allows me to culture a large variety of bacteria in a dedicated system using probiotics and then harvest the bacteria and introduced I’d daily to my system. In conjunction to this I have designed a filter in my ecosystem build that won’t filter any of these additions out of the water column by mechanical filtration. The bacteria and rotifers that are cultivated in the biofloc once added to the system will stay’s in the water column for over 24h and the ones that will settle in the substrate will still be live for consumption by other organisms.

mid you look at the video below you may see microscopic live food on the flashlight


am not saying that am there yet although from experience this is the closest I ever been to add a vast amount of different microscopic live foods to a system that don’t get filtered out almost instantly.
Anks for sharing! I was considering using Zeovit Zeofood Plus as a supplement for a similar reason but haven't decided yet
 

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Back to my first post though, I'm really curious if stars which are generally substrate feeders are able to digest foods such as oysters and other meaty foods. I think they probably can digest and absorb the nutrients although like I mentioned before, they probably require at least some minimal internal population of bacteria that make up their natural microbiome. If more owners were willing to spot feed a meaty piece of food directly next to them I doubt they would starve (they might have other problems though)
I think to answer that a simple experience could be made and see if the star would go for the food, unless you were able to observe actual bites you would have to take in consideration that most organic matter gets decomposes by a vast variety of heterotrophic organisms that the star could be preying also.
 
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I think to answer that a simple experience could be made and see if the star would go for the food, unless you were able to observe actual bites you would have to take in consideration that most organic matter gets decomposes by a vast variety of heterotrophic organisms that the star could be preying also.
I have made the observation actually and he definitely gave a feeding response for an extended period of time...it's diicult to observe bite marks or anything like that though because they expel their entire stomach to digest...it looked partially digested though... and I don't see how bacteria could do as much as was done to it within just 2-3 hours or so
 
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@sixty_reefer so many people claim they inevitably starve though and I don't know how they could all be wrong!? Then again I highly doubt many people take the time to spot feed for them

Btw, what probiotics do you use??
It’s complicated as many in larger systems observe them to live longer.

this video explains more or less what I do is just food grade probiotics you can see how much bacteria and micro organisms are in the cone sample.

 
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It’s complicated as many in larger systems observe them to live longer.

this video explains more or less what I do is just food grade probiotics you can see how much bacteria and micro organisms are in the cone sample.

It's difficult to find affordable probiotics for fish here which is unfortunate
 
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It's difficult to find affordable probiotics for fish here which is unfortunate
I use food grade probiotics which is similar, they Normally in supermarkets were vitamins are located to help digestive system
 
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Or you could use a live rock and seawater to achieve the same. Using natural seawater strains. Biofloc will only increase the availability of bacteria culturing
I was able to find one product made my Tropic Marin called Nitribiotic which has probiotics, purple non sulfur bacteria, and nitrifying bacteria...I really like it and I think it's definitely increased the health of my tank! I'd like to try PNS Probio too sometime when they finally sell it here
 
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I was able to find one product made my Tropic Marin called Nitribiotic which has probiotics, purple non sulfur bacteria, and nitrifying bacteria...I really like it and I think it's definitely increased the health of my tank! I'd like to try PNS Probio too sometime when they finally sell it here
It seems that the product may be similar, what you may need to see also is that most bacteria will only thrive if nutrients are available, nutrition is the basis for any reef tank organisms well being. In my tank I do have several species of bacteria thriving on the substrate without the need of keep adding extra on a regular basis.

92A8F474-4B34-4FB4-93D5-5C78E0D6FA5C.jpeg

they can be identified by the colour of the biofilm as demonstrated by the chap that is producing PNS I think it was in one of your threads before.
 
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It seems that the product may be similar, what you may need to see also is that most bacteria will only thrive if nutrients are available, nutrition is the basis for any reef tank organisms well being. In my tank I do have several species of bacteria thriving on the substrate without the need of keep adding extra on a regular basis.

92A8F474-4B34-4FB4-93D5-5C78E0D6FA5C.jpeg

they can be identified by the colour of the biofilm as demonstrated by the chap that is producing PNS I think it was in one of your threads before.
Yeah, I'm working to raise my nutrients a little bit. I do have some noticeable biofilm where I can see my sandbed through the glass though. It's a pretty deep sandbed too.

Btw, I'm sure people get tired of hearing me talk about starfish so much but they're just so interesting to me! I think I'll start up a starfish breeding company someday haha
 
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