The Harlequin Serpent Starfish gets its name from the contrasting coloured bands on its legs and the unique pattern on its central disc. Like all members of its family, it has a distinct central disc with 5 long legs and these legs are covered in scales rather than spines. The arms of this starfish are grey with light bands. The central disc is probably the most striking feature of this particular starfish. The top of the disc often contains a symmetrical pattern with the same colouration as the legs.
The Harlequin Serpent Starfish is found widely in the Caribbean. It lives on both reefs and reef flats at depths between 3 and 20 meters. In the wild, it tends to live in crevices in rocks, in dead coral colonies or under rocks. In a home aquarium, it requires ample rockwork in which to hide during the day and also appreciates a substrate for hunting and scavenging on.
Like all brittle and serpent sea stars, the Harlequin Serpent Starfish’s unique body shape makes it an interesting addition to any tank. In addition to being visually eye-catching, this starfish is also an effective carnivore who will prey on reef tank pests. They will not, however, harm any healthy fish or corals. They will also scavenge the rockwork and substrate for leftover meaty foods, thus helping to keep an aquarium clean. When they get larger it is recommended to feed them chopped squid on occasion.
While less commonly available than other species of brittle or serpent sea stars, the Harlequin Serpent Starfish makes a peaceful and interesting resident of a home aquarium with the added benefit of helping keep the tank clean.