How to Set Up an Aquarium for Starfish


Because they are small and look peaceful, it is often believed that starfish are easy to care for. However, starfish, like many marine aquarium inhabitants, require very specific care and water qualities to remain healthy. Some starfish, such as those commonly sold under the name chocolate chip star, are finicky eaters and often starve in the home aquarium. Others, like the green brittle star, attack fish. There are some starfish, though, such as serpent and brittle starfish, that can live long lives when properly cared for.

Things You'll Need

  • Live sand
  • Live rock
  • Hydrometer
  • Water testing kit
  • Thermometer
  • Filtration system
  • Full spectrum lighting
  • Red or green micro algae
  • Select an aquarium that will be large enough to accomodate the mature adult size of the starfish species you've selected. A small starfish, about three inches across, can be kept in a 30-gallon aquarium while starfish that grow larger that three inches need aquariums that measure 50 gallons or more. A larger aquarium will also be needed when keeping more than one starfish. Each star requires about 3 square feet of space.

  • Fill the bottom of the aquarium with a live sand substrate. This sand layer should be between four and five inches deep, so that the starfish can bury into it if it wants to.

  • Place live rock in the aquarium. Live rock is rock filled with thousands of tiny microorganisms. This rock and its inhabitants will help to both feed the starfish and stabilize the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels in the water.

  • Install a hydrometer in the aquarium ot help measure salinity. Salinity levels are crucial to a starfish's health. The salinity should remain between 1.020 and 1.026. Salt or freshwater can be added to adjust the levels as needed.

  • Test the pH level of the water with a water testing kit. The pH should be between 8.0 and 8.4, depending on species. Water additives can be used to adjust this level if necessary.

  • Install a thermometer and monitor the temperature of the water. Water temperatures should be between 72 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the starfish species.

  • Install a filtration system in the aquarium. The filtration system should be powerful enough to keep the water clean, but should not cleanse the water so thoroughly that all the nutrients are removed. Water this pure will quickly starve some starfish species. A filtration system that predominantly filters biological or chemical, with no mechanical filtration, is the best choice.

  • Install a full spectrum light over the aquarium. Starfish need this light on order to obtain vitamin D.

  • Add red or green micro algae to the aquarium. This will help to feed the starfish. Sea grass can also be added to aquarium.

Tips & Warnings

  • The filtration system should be turned on and the tank set up for several days to allow the aquarium cycle to establish before adding any starfish.


  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images
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