There can’t be many people who do not know what a brittle star is. Sometimes the creature is known as the serpent star.
The brittle star has a small central body which is circular or nearly so, and attached to this body are five long slender arms which are flexible. They can move if necessary at quite a speed.
They are simple to feed. Most of the time, particularly at night, they will crawl about looking for anything that is edible, and so can perform a useful function in the aquarium. Supplementary feeding is usually required if the aquarium is reasonably clean because of good husbandry. This is easily achieved by placing one or two small pieces of defrosted fish or shrimp nearby – they will be detected very quickly and consumed. I’ve seen brittle stars fed a larger piece of fish and they still consume it, their body extending quite grossly. This isn’t good practice though.
There exist some brittle stars that are predatory, taking snails, shrimps and even other brittle stars. As always, the aquarist needs to be sure that the type being purchased is not a danger to other livestock. Most on sale however are generally safe with larger cohabitants of the captive reef but care must always be taken if small fish and shrimps are present.
When brittle stars are introduced to the aquarium they must not be allowed to come into contact with the air. They should be acclimatized slowly in the same way as a shrimp, preferably using the drip method, and then released underwater.
Bristle stars are generally hardy and straightforward to keep. It could be that in the early days after introduction to the aquarium the brittle star only appears at night. This is likely to change as time passes, particularly when food is introduced.
Brittle stars come with all sorts of coloured patterns and sizes. They are a ‘different’ inhabitant of the aquarium providing interest and can be comical at times. They can also seem quite alien.
The pictures on the link transmit an idea of what these creatures are. Clicking on the pictures will enlarge them.