A complete starfish resource for pet owners

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Starfish are marine invertebrates with unique radial symmetry built on a vascular system rather than a skeleton, featuring five or more "arms" that, together, form the creature's unique star shape. Since these creatures are technically echinoderms and not fish, the synonymous term "sea star" is preferred by many scientists.


Size: Most starfish average 5 to 8 inches in length from head to tip, though some variants grow as long as 14 inches.

Color: Varying shades of pink, gray, brown, blue and red are most common, and most sea stars have orange undersides. Like eels, the majority of starfish show little in the way of external patterning, though some individuals may have a silvery glitter to the scales that top the centers of their bodies.

Variants: While scientists have catalogued more than 1,800 unique subspecies of sea star, the best-known variants include the eleven-armed starfish and the quill-covered, many-armed "crown of thorns" starfish. Most aquarium enthusiasts who keep sea stars as pets have common starfish.

Behavioral Characteristics

Starfish tend to be slow-moving and rather sluggish, with low activity levels. One of the most useful facts about starfish for pet owners is that they move primarily in search of food and will keep to the bottom of your fish tank. They can be kept in the same saltwater aquarium as other fish, so long as you're careful to maintain the proper tank conditions at all times. For more starfish facts and starfish information on the different sea star species kept as pets, visit your local aquarium store and talk to a professional.

Health and Care

Feeding: In their natural environment, these creatures are carnivorous predators, preferring to feed on snails and small bivalve sea dwellers. In captivity, they'll be happiest if you feed them food akin to what they'd eat in the wild; visit your local aquarium store for a selection of live fish food.

Tank Care: You'll need to invest in a hydrometer so you can accurately measure the salinity levels in your tank. To replicate the natural starfish habitat, you'll need to maintain salinity between 1.022 and 1.025; aim for the higher end of this range, since even slight changes that lower the water's salinity below acceptable levels can mean death for your starfish. The temperature should fall between 72 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit.

Health concerns: Most starfish health woes are directly caused by less-than-optimal environmental factors, primarily tank salinity and temperature. Sea stars that are too cold will visibly waste away, and low salinity can cause similar symptoms. As with all fish, bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections pose serious health hazards; you can decrease the chances of these occurring by keeping your tank water clean. Use a quality pumping and filtration system, and change 10 to 15 percent of the water volume every week.

Life expectancy: The common starfish has an average lifespan of 5 to 10 years.

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Do They die or suffer when people pick them up at the beach?
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Posted by tyler on April 16,2014 at 03:00 PM
i got 4 common starfish in Brighton and i took home they are a bit warm and cramped it cost a lot for taking care (do not take any they are too hard to look after) i will be getting marine salt for them if you need help just email me im i don't know all the stuff but i can help
Posted by Brianna on November 24,2012 at 07:29 AM
I love starfish! I might get one for christmas, but only as long as I know how to take care of them. . . :)
Posted by Alondra And Jennifer on October 10,2012 at 10:20 AM
i like starfish but they are a lot of work so i will let it die and put it on top of my christmas tree this year of winter
Posted by sharon on February 28,2013 at 03:19 PM
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Posted by katherine on August 15,2011 at 02:34 PM
how can i tell if my starfish is dead??????????
Posted by Alondra and Jennifer on October 10,2012 at 10:21 AM
its eyes are closed
Posted by Jake on September 26,2012 at 11:33 PM
In my experience which is a single time, once they are dead they are limp rather than stiff like when they're alive
Posted by kate on August 14,2011 at 06:51 PM
i found a starfish today how do you take care of it?
Posted by bob on August 15,2011 at 02:44 PM
In their natural environment, these creatures are carnivorous predators, preferring to feed on snails and small bivalve sea dwellers. place sand at the bottom of the tank with a rock.
Posted by Rybe on May 06,2011 at 12:42 PM
They're soo cute
Posted by Delmares on February 11,2011 at 09:29 AM
i want a starfish
Posted by Livi on November 23,2010 at 10:25 AM
I am completely in love with starfish. I want one for Christmas my mom won't let me have a dog. So wish me the best. Thx
Posted by lini on November 19,2011 at 07:45 PM
same! i want one soooo so bad, so im asking for christmas and I can't have a dog either! good luck!
Posted by babygirl on June 28,2011 at 04:45 PM
if you really want a starfish, and your desprate for one, i have an idea. you see my friend and i went to the beach and we were looking under a dock and we found a star fish! try that. we weren't even looking for one. we just found it
Posted by Ericka on July 18,2010 at 09:44 PM
My mother whent to the beach at Canon Beach on saturday July 17 and brought me 2 star fish, and i'm trying to take care of them so they don't die. I hove sea stars and i would hate to see then died.
Posted by connie on July 15,2010 at 09:56 AM
i found a starfish at the beach. i have it in a bowl of salt water& sand on the bottom. it keeps trying to crawl up the long can i keep it this way? I plan to return it to the ocean today.
Posted by Renee on May 22,2010 at 01:36 PM
I might be getting a starfish as my graduation present! hu-rah!
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