Murder Mystery party anyone? Serpent starfish vs Chromis

oscarinw

New member
A blue/green chromis went missing and I am trying to determine whether my serpent is a likely suspect.
I have a bigger serpent starfish which made it to my tank about 10 days ago on a rescue operation. I am pretty sure this guy was very hungry because he was showing up at any time of the day when he 'smelled' food in the tank.
2 blue/green chromis went into the tank on Saturday. After a short trip from the LFS and a rigorous acclimation, the fish were very happy all over the tank, pecking and being curious.
On Sunday, I noticed one of the Chromis (the bigger one) had a banged-up lateral fin with an abrasion to his side and struggling to stay put in in the water column. The smaller Chromis (under an inch long) was still very active and ate really well. Monday morning, the smaller Chromis woke up swimming upwards in the corner of the tank. The bigger one was behind a rock, still pretty much visibly affected. At lights-on time, the smaller Chromis went out of sleeping and was all over the tank again. Ate well and all.
Monday night the small Chromis was trying to school with the larger friend behind the rock. Still would come out and do his thing but would go back to the side of the other guy.
Today, the corpse of the bigger guy was stuck to the overflow grill. But here's the mystery: The smaller guy is nowhere to be found nor is the serpent.
I have tried to pay attention to clicking noises and may have heard one or two over the last week, but nothing continuous.
Here's some specs for you:
95 gall built in overflow
sand bed
40 gall sump
one colony of larger zoas
pair of young black percula clowns. They sleep in an empty front corner of the tank.
100 pounds of live rock. Got them wet and teeming with life...

Suspect # 1:beige/brown serpent about 8-10 inches across. Head is about 1 and a half inches across. Picture is the same species although mine appears to be a bit larger than the one here:
beige_serpent.jpg



As you can guess, I am trying to start this reef system and all inhabitants are fairly new. Also wondering if my percs are in any danger...

I accuse Mr. Serpent in the Back of The Tank with the Prey and Eat technique.

Any ideas would be great.
Thanks!
 

GroktheCube

New member
100lbs of LR teeming with life?

I'd be pretty surprised if you didn't have one or two Xanthid crabs in there, at least. They're far more likely culprits than the star IMHO.

Have you set out any traps? Xanthids can be hard to catch, but if you set out a couple traps around the tank, you might at least be able to see them if they come out of their rocks to investigate.

I've got at least three in my tank that I'm working on catching. One of them is hand tame now (taking krill from my hand with zero hesitation), but is still shy about moving more than 2-3" from his hole.
 

a.browning

New member
The star may have eaten the body, but I doubt it killed the fish. Those stars are normally completely reef/fish safe.
 

oscarinw

New member
100lbs of LR teeming with life?

I'd be pretty surprised if you didn't have one or two Xanthid crabs in there, at least.

The possibility is there. All the crabs I have seen in the tank are hermits. One white guy very bad at climbing the rock, a couple of scarletts and about 5-6 blue legs... a couple or three snails, bristle and little feather worms, copepods
All these seem to be doing fine... I haven't ruled out a stomatopod as those are more difficult to spot but certainly would keep an eye out for a xanthid... The thing is all this rock I got was in a reef tank that someone had for a few years... I know that doesn't mean is pest free by any means but maybe the previous owner would have seen them...
I'll keep this story updated.
Thanks Grok!
 

oscarinw

New member
Thanks Browning!
I also looked for the fish around the tank in case it may have jumped. However, the tank has a canopy and I didn't find anything. I'm worried about my percs... Ill try to setup a sting operation to see who comes to the table...
 

Recliner

New member
I have a 16" serpent and a small 1.5" chromis in my tank. No problems.
My clowns are bullies (mainly the female) and my guess would be your clowns, by pestering, over the course of a couple days.
The serpent just ate the evidence.
 

oscarinw

New member
I have a 16" serpent and a small 1.5" chromis in my tank. No problems.
My clowns are bullies (mainly the female) and my guess would be your clowns, by pestering, over the course of a couple days.
The serpent just ate the evidence.
Tx Recliner... I saw the bigger of the percs go at the chromis one or two times although I was under the impression they were much faster than the perc.
It is possible... On to night #4 of my mysterious chain of events...
 

GroktheCube

New member
The possibility is there. All the crabs I have seen in the tank are hermits. One white guy very bad at climbing the rock, a couple of scarletts and about 5-6 blue legs... a couple or three snails, bristle and little feather worms, copepods
All these seem to be doing fine... I haven't ruled out a stomatopod as those are more difficult to spot but certainly would keep an eye out for a xanthid... The thing is all this rock I got was in a reef tank that someone had for a few years... I know that doesn't mean is pest free by any means but maybe the previous owner would have seen them...
I'll keep this story updated.
Thanks Grok!

How heavily did he feed the tank? Xanthids are typically lazy and opportunistic. If one of them was hiding in there and well fed, it's possible he never noticed it.

Couldn't hurt to peek around the tank with a red light tonight and see what you see, especially if you leave a little krill out somewhere as bait.
 

accordsirh22

New member
The star may have eaten the body, but I doubt it killed the fish. Those stars are normally completely reef/fish safe.

lol lol lol. if serpents are hungry, they will actively hunt/trap/catch/eat fish. that being said, keep it well fed with silversides or krill and that shouldnt be a problem

http://www.thereeftank.com/forums/f109/ever-seen-a-serpant-star-do-this-14867.html

cant find the main paper/site i saw with better detail. but there have been more than a few instances where people have come into the lfs i work at with serpent stars that ate fish
 

oscarinw

New member
Thanks everyone... Just a few days ago, I found the other body in the overflow box. There's a small opening between the outlet and the overflow grill he must have gotten sucked into. So much for a murder mystery...
Thanks again!
 
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