“The world’s finest wilderness lies beneath the waves.”
Only a little larger than a teacup, starfishes are truly an amazing product of aquatic life form. But how many of you know that starfishes are not really fish rather they belong to the family of Echinoderms?? Stars are Echinoderms to be specific.
Unless you are a marine scientist or a zoology geek, you aren’t going to understand what an Echinoderm is. HAHA
So to keep things simple, the stars do not have gills, scales, or fins like fish do. Neither do they swim around the ocean like fishes. They have small tube feet that help them move around.
Did you know that there are about 2000 different varieties of sea stars??
What do Starfish eat?
With the 2000 varieties of the species that vary in color, shape size and anatomy, comes their varied dietary requirements.
So what do starfish eat? Since the starfish are slow-moving creatures, they usually feed on mollusks like snails, oysters, clams, slow-moving fish and mussels that are easy to hunt. Some of the starfish species also like to feed on seaweed, while some on sponges, sea snails, hermit crabs, sea urchins, and plankton.
Unlike the other members of the marine family, starfishes aren’t swift hunters, and they are mostly seen in the ocean floors and the tiny rocks seen in the ocean bed, which makes the species and plants that cling on to rocks, which cannot escape their favorite delicacy immediately.
Some of the starfish species go for decomposed material in the sea. Those who feed on decomposed material generally opt for dead animals and plants.
Did you know that some sea stars are known to show cannibalism?
In general, their dietary preference varies with their species, but most of them feed on anything that is easily accessible and comes across them.
How do starfish eat?
One of the most interesting features of starfish is their feeding mechanism.
Stars indeed have two stomachs, namely, cardiac and the pyloric. Once they target prey, their cardiac stomach comes out through their mouth, which is located on the underside of the central disc. Sounds creepy, huh?
The digestive enzymes released by the stomach touch the food, which is then absorbed into the organ. Once this process is over, the cardiac stomach retracts back into the body, and the digested food moves into the pyloric stomach.
One fascinating piece of information that I’d like to give you is that, if the starfish is not pleased with the food, they simply discard the cardiac stomach and grows a new one. They are also experts in opening the shells of oysters, clams, and mussels in order to feed on their flesh, which is done by their suckered tube feet. As soon as it opens, they insert the cardiac stomach inside the shell and digest the prey.
Bringing a starfish home
If you are a person seeking to adorn your aquarium with the little colorful seawater invertebrate, there are few things that you need to know and keep in mind. It is not that easy to take care of a starfish, especially when you are taking him out of his habitat.
Feeding the newbie properly is equally important as arranging a perfect replica of his natural habitat. There are quite a few things you need to keep in mind while having a starfish in your aquarium.
Bringing Your Star to Your Aquarium – The checklist
#1 Pick The Right Aquarium For Your Little Buddy
As beautiful and elegant they are, let me tell you that, they are not for inexperienced pet parents as they require a lot of care and attention, and also need a large tank that can at least hold up to 100 gallons.
The majority of them will starve if the tank is small and has few rocks. Therefore, you must pick the aquarium that is right for your little buddy.
#2 Acclimatise The Star To His New Home
The first and foremost thing that needs to be taken care of when bringing our little friend home is to ensure that he is made to acclimatize properly with the new home that you are introducing him to.
Know that your little friend will have reactions that are life-threatening if there is a change in water quality, and therefore, you should never introduce him to a tank directly after bringing him home.
First, immerse the sealed plastic cover in which you get him into the tank for 15 minutes to slowly acclimatize him to the change in temperature. Then follow the method commonly known as drip acclimatization by pouring a small quantity of tank water into the cover at regular intervals to introduce him to the tank water.
#3 Check The Salinity Of Water
Starfishes can survive only in salt waters. They do not have blood running through their body, unlike the other fishes. They have a water vascular system that uses seawater to pump nutrients throughout their body.
Having a saline environment is essential for your star to stay healthy. You need to double-check the salinity of the water in your tank and ensure that it is maintained between 1.022 and 1.025.
It is always better to keep it towards the higher end of the figure as a small drop below the lower figure can be fatal to your little friend.
#4 Replicate Their Natural Habitat With Care
It is also important to have natural sand in the aquarium as starfish derives nutrition by sitting on the sand as well. They like tanks that have rocks, sand, and corals, which are very much akin to their natural habitat and should, therefore, be made available in the tank.
Therefore, you should take care that, even while vacuuming the aquarium, the sand is not completely vacuumed out, and you retain a good portion in the aquarium, failing which your little friend will have serious adaptation issues which can even result in their death.
What Should You Feed Your Pet Starfish?
Okay, we need to agree that the little star in your tank was born to dwell in the majestic oceans and forage among the vibrant coral reefs. It is always wise to feed them what they eat in the natural habitat.
Before you bring a starfish home, you should thoroughly research the starfish species that you are planning to get to ascertain what will be the right food for them.
This is important as their habitat determines their dietary requirements
After doing complete research on your species, you should create a mini replica of their natural habitat in the aquarium to facilitate ease of adaption and comfort for your little buddy who will, therefore, feel at home and feed like he always did.
Can I Feed My Starfish The Usual Fish Food? If No, What Should I Feed Them?
No, you cannot feed your star the usual fish feeds and flakes like any other aquarium fish. They will only feed on the sediments that form at the bottom of your tank.
Unfortunately, that alone won’t suffice their nutritional requirements. Therefore you can now and then surprise your friend with mollusks, snails, clams, etc. to keep them happy and healthy.
They also eat varieties of algae, fungi, shrimp, and prawns. Some species also feed on vegetables such as spinach and other greens. Therefore, you can, in fact, design and formulate your feed to ensure that their dietary and nutritional requirements are met properly.
How Often Should I Feed My Pet Starfish?
Having thoroughly covered their dietary and nutritional aspect, let us come to the frequency within which one has to feed their little friend. The frequency of feeding can be determined by observing their consumption pattern as to how often they eat.
The frequency of feeding usually ranges between 2-3 times a day, but you can check if your friend is hungry by dropping a small portion of food into the tank and observing them as to whether they are eating the same or not.
What Not To Feed To Your Pet Starfish?
You should not feed your buddy food and medication that contains copper, as it can be very toxic to the star. Avoid cooked food and frozen food
As we have elaborately discussed above, it is clear that feeding your little friend is not that difficult as what matters more is you providing him with a habitat wherein he will be hearty and healthy.
Starfishes do not generally eat fish scales and other feed that you put typically for other aquarium fish, although like we discussed, they do eat the sediments that are formed under the tank. The only medication and food that is to be avoided are the ones with copper content, as they are highly toxic to starfishes. Avoid cooked food as well.
How To Feed Your Starfish?
The mouth of a starfish is on his underside, and therefore, in order to make the consumption easier, you may want to place the food directly under the starfish. Some species will eat it straight from you, but that is a rarity.
If you are lucky and your star trusts you, one day, he might eat the food from you! Fingers crossed
Here Are Some Additional Giveaways Regarding Starfish Care From Our Experts!
Can I keep more than one starfish in an aquarium? The answer to this is very subjective based on the species and also the tank you have in hand. Starfishes, unlike some normal aquarium fishes, do not hurt each other, but the point that is to be kept in mind is whether you can maintain them and whether the tank is adequately big enough to accommodate the new members.
Is it safe to keep my star in the same aquarium with other fishes? As it is not ascertained as to the fishes that are likely to attack your little friend, it is advised to keep an eye out regarding the activities in the tank for a while, especially if the tank has big fishes.
Conclusion: What Do Starfish Eat?
Now that you have all the information to welcome your dear friend home go ahead and bring him to his new home. Feel free to reach out to us in case of any queries.