Owning a starfish requires effort, as this creature is not the easiest of saltwater species to maintain in the closed environment of an in-home aquarium. A tank holding at least 100 gallons is recommended, to provide adequate room for the starfish's tendency to eat surface debris as it moves around its environment.
Properly introducing a starfish to its new tank environment is a critical step in successful ownership. Don't just plop the starfish in the tank. The creature needs time to adjust to the new water temperature and environment. Your starfish should have made its journey to your home in a sealed bag. This bag should be placed in the aquarium for at least 15 minutes to regulate its temperature. When the starfish is released, be sure it does not come in contact with air: sudden exposure to air is fatal to starfish.
Know What It Eats
As your starfish is now dependent on you for its food, it is crucial that you know what to feed. Not all starfish eat the same type foods. Red linkia starfish like to eat the bio-film that can accumulate on the inside of the aquarium or on objects inside the aquarium. The popular chocolate chip starfish likes to eat meaty foods and will actually take foods directly from your fingers when offered. The fancy brittle species prefers small organisms and detritus—the undissolved material left from the decomposition of other organic material, particularly decaying algae. Learn what foods are best for the species of starfish you own. Be sure to place a starfish's food near or under him so he can easily access it without tank mates challenging him.
Starfish do not tolerate radical changes in water quality. Sudden changes in temperature and pH balance are dangerous to their delicate systems. It is best to add starfish to an aquarium only after the tank is well established. Many of the copper-based medications used to treat diseases in other saltwater species are toxic to starfish. Remove starfish if such treatments are necessary.
Safe Tank Environment
In the ocean, starfish like to anchor themselves to rocks. Include coral, rocks and a sandy bottom in the aquarium to accommodate this natural tendency. Don't house your starfish with his natural predators. Fish such as triggerfish, pufferfish, boxfish and parrotfish eat starfish. They will attack your starfish and if they don't kill him, they will harm him.
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.