A starfish can be an intriguing addition to your saltwater aquarium, but they do require proper care to thrive and have long, healthy lives. Knowing how to care for your starfish can help you provide the best environment for a diverse, happy aquarium.
Starfish aren’t actually fish, and are more accurately called sea stars. They are most closely related to sand dollars, sea urchins, sea lilies, and sea cucumbers. Starfish have tiny tube feet on their undersides and can move as fast as three feet per minute, and while they don’t have blood, they use a water vascular system to pump nutrients throughout their bodies. While the most familiar starfish have five limbs, they can have up to 40 different limbs, and can regrow limbs that have been severed.
There are more than 2,000 starfish species in the world, all of which live in saltwater, and there are many popular choices for home aquariums. The most familiar aquarium starfish include the Bahama star, brittle starfish, red or blue linckia starfish, sand sifting starfish, banded serpent starfish, different types of fromia starfish, the Luzon starfish, and the chocolate chip starfish.
Depending on the starfish species and the care it receives, these animals live 5-10 years, making them long-term residents of an aquarium.
Tips for Starfish Care
If you are interested in a specific type of starfish, it is best to research that animal’s needs and adjust its care to be as precise as possible. In general, caring for most starfish is similar, but these aquarium residents aren’t always right for beginners.
Choose Carefully for Your Tank Environment
Because starfish can be meticulous in their environmental needs, be sure your tank is suitable for what a starfish requires. These animals do not always adjust well to changes, and so need a stable, comfortable environment to stay healthy.
Provide a Large Tank
These animals might seem like they stay still, but starfish actually roam around a tank and will be happiest and most comfortable in a larger tank with space to explore. Ideally, starfish belong in a tank that is at least 100 gallons.
Create a Varied Bottom
To give starfish good stimulation and exercise, create a varied environment for them to explore with sandy spaces, rocks, and coral for climbing. This will keep a starfish engaged and active, which will improve their health and well-being.
Introduce Starfish Slowly to a Well-Established Tank
Starfish should be added only to well-established tanks that already have a balanced environment. Different acclimation methods, including the drip method and cup method, are both suitable for adding starfish to a tank.
Provide an Appropriate Diet
Starfish are carnivores and need ample protein in their diet. Live fish food is appropriate for most starfish, as well as bit of fish and shrimp. Some starfish will also eat algae and bacteria. These animals should be fed every 2-3 days.
Keep the Tank at the Best Temperature
An even tank temperature from 72-76 degrees Fahrenheit is best for starfish. Take note, however, that these animals tend to stay low in the tank, so be aware if there are any temperature variations at that depth.
Hit the Salinity Sweet Spot
Starfish are marine animals and require a tank salinity between 1.022 and 1.025. Measuring tank salinity regularly with an accurate hydrometer is essential to see if there are any changes, as variations can be detrimental to starfish very quickly.
Keep the Water Clean
While all aquarium residents – fish, plants, snails, clams, corals, etc. – need a clean environment, starfish can be especially vulnerable to contaminants. A clean tank will help them better resist bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infections and stay healthier.
Avoid Copper-Based Medications
Copper is extremely toxic to all starfish, so avoid any aquarium treatments, medications, or cleaners that may include copper. Similarly, do not put any copper decorations or accents in the tank, and do not use copper tubing or tools with the tank.
Starfish do require particular care, but these unique animals can be interesting and welcome additions to any saltwater tank. Once you know the basics of good starfish care, you can welcome different varieties to your tank and enjoy the antics they get into for many years.