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FAQs about Linckia Sea Star Foods/Feeding/Nutrition

Related Articles: Linckia Stars, Asterina Stars, An Introduction to the Echinoderms:  The Sea Stars, Sea Urchins, Sea Cucumbers and More... By James W. Fatherree, M.Sc.

Related FAQs: Seastar Feeding, Linckia Stars 1, Linckia Stars 2, Linckia Identification, Linckia Behavior, Linckia Compatibility, Linckia Selection, Linckia Systems, Linckia Disease, Linckia Reproduction, Sea Stars 1, Sea Stars 2, Sea Stars 3, Sea Stars 4, Sea Stars 5, Seastar Selection, Seastar Compatibility, Seastar Systems, Seastar Behavior,   Seastar Reproduction, Seastar Disease Asterina Stars, Chocolate Chip Stars, Crown of Thorns Stars, Fromia Stars, Sand-Sifting Stars,

Dear Bob,
I was wondering if you could give me some tips on target feeding Starfish, Conch's and Shrimps. I feed my fish once a day, but I'm worrying that I don't target feed my stars and conch. I have a deep sand bed that is turned over well and I try to strategically place cockles and mussels into the sand near to the sand sifters and conches every now and again, but my Blue Starfish tends to stick to the rock and glass and I'm not sure if he is getting enough food. Saying that I have had him for a while now and he has survived this long so perhaps I'm worrying over nothing.
Any handy tips would be appreciated.
James Hall 

Hello James, and thank you for your question, concerns re feeding your motile invertebrates. I do concur with your efforts at target feeding these animals'¦ that is, placing food purposely, directly in front, adjacent to their bodies. Though in many a healthy reef setting, there is sufficient foodstuffs for the life you list, it pays to occasionally (weekly let's say) purposely offer some 'macro' foods.
            The 'Blue' Starfish, I take it is a Linckia species (perhaps L. laevigata)'¦ Do realize that feeding modes amongst Stars run the gamut'¦ from active predators, to filter feeders, to deposit feeding. Linckias, when they do survive the rigors of collection, holding, shipping'¦ starving all the while'¦ are known to consume a range of meaty foods'¦ from Silversides, live corals, to animal-material-based pellets and wafers. A few more notes I'd like to make'¦ This genus can be kept in well-established (several months plus), large (hundreds of gallons), systems with a good deal (hundreds of pounds) of 'healthy' live rock; seemingly surviving (though possibly slowly shrinking in size) on small animals, algae and detritus'¦ But the vast majority (likely upwards in the high 90 some percentile) perish. Hence my strong admonition re keeping much more suitable species'¦ Fromia spp., Gomophia spp., Nardoa spp'¦. That historically have substantially higher survivability.   
            For the specimen you have now, I would try 'trapping' a frozen/defrosted silverside or such other small fish near the central disc, twixt the arms, or Tetra Tips or such against the glass, in about the same area.

Blue Linckia eating plating and encrusting Montipora sp.   11/19/09
I've done lots of "Googling" to see if anyone else has had this experience and from what I can find nobody has.
I realize that the diet of a Linckia starfish is unknown, and that they typically die of starvation in captivity. As I evolve into a more aware and responsible reef keeper, I now know that this was a purchase that never should have been made.
I'm certain that my Linckia is eating two different types of Montipora. I have orange Monti. cap. and encrusting "superman" - blue with red polyps. Both of these corals are extremely healthy, grow rapidly, and have been fragged multiple times. In the past couple months, but never before, I have been catching my blue linckia on top of these corals. If I catch him soon enough, the corals are fine, but if he is allowed to remain on top of the coral all night, a significant part of the coral is completely bleached and all tissue is gone from that area. Could he actually be eating the coral? I thought these were "reef safe"
<Could be and are not>
Is he starving and resorting to whatever he can get? He is about 1 year old now.
<Mmmm, maybe>
Should I get rid of him? (give him to a friend that doesn't keep SPS)
<I would likely>
Since apparently very little is known about this species I thought you would be interested to learn this. Also I thought maybe you would have a different perspective on the situation.
Aaron Chandler
<Thank you for sharing your observations, speculations. Bob Fenner>

Re: L. guildi does appear to be the closest match  11/14/09
Thanks so much for your reply.
The manager at the LFS told me they did not feed the sea star anything special; just some packaged foods to feed the corals.
<Mmm, maybe this is more or less a detritivore then... or is able to scrounge enough small living organisms>
I normally use mysis (or Formula 1&2) soaked in Selcon or Boyd's VitaChem when I feed my fish. I also add a small amount of oyster eggs for the SPS once or twice a week. Other than that I rely on an EcoSystem Mud Sump (full of fresh LR) to supplement the food supply. I'll take your advice and vary
the food supply a bit to see if this stimulates a response from the Linckia.
<Sounds good>
After two weeks in the display the star appears well acclimated, with a firm body and good color. He slowly grazes over the rocks and seems to prefer areas with rather high turbulent flow. I can't determine what (if anything) he is eating and note that he does not seem to be eating any of the sponges in the display.
<Most stars don't... the Sponges have been "around" much longer... have mechanisms to discourage predation>
Assuming he is still around in six months I will post an update on WWM.
Thanks again.
<Thank you. BobF>

Feeding Linckia with Carbon Dosing? -- 10/02/09
Hi to all the crew,
<<Greetings Owen>>
Firstly thanks for putting together such a great resource, it's helped me out many times.
<<A collective effort 'we are pleased it has been of benefit to you>>
I've recently been doing a lot of research on blue Linckia starfish as I was thinking of getting one for me 50G reef.
<<Mmm, aside from this setting being too small and unable to provide sufficient substrate for grazing 'I believe we still just don't 'know enough' about this animal for the casual hobbyist to attempt>>
I have decided against getting one due to the size of my tank meaning that I'd have to move it on to a friend's larger tank once it had grown.
<<It's much more likely my friend that it would never survive to be moved>>
One thing did occur to me when doing the research though and I was hoping somebody could either confirm or deny the logic of my thinking.
<<I'm happy to proffer my opinion>>
Linckia are generally thought to feed on bacterial films on live rock.
<<I think it is more accurate to state the bacteria film could make up a 'part' of this animals diet, but that it grazes on the 'surface' of the rock which is comprised of the afore mentioned bacteria film, sponges, tunicates, algae, emergent life forms, etc.. I'm highly skeptical that this creature could subsist on the bacteria alone>>
Carbon dosing in a reef tank increases these bacterial films as bacteria take up the carbon along with nitrates and phosphates.
<<Indeed 'as well as available oxygen>>
Therefore a Linckia starfish will fare better in a tank that is being dosed with carbon than in one that is not (all other things being equal).
<<I dare say not 'as explained>>
Does that make any sense?
<<Not to me>>
Is there any reason it wouldn't work (wrong sort of bacteria maybe)?
<<This too may be a factor 'but more likely it just isn't 'enough''¦period>>
Would it be worth anybody with a starving Linckia trying carbon dosing as a way to increase available food?
<<I really don't think it would make much difference in the health/longevity of the animal; and if abused/utilized without due understanding and care, can prove hazardous to your other livestock. Better to provide a ready supply of 'new' live rock 'a not inexpensive proposition>>
Thanks for reading,
<<Thanks for participating/sharing... Eric Russell>> 

Blue Linckia Feeding 6/16/08 Hey there WWM guys and gals! <Howdy Kev!> I appreciate the wealth of information you guys provide. You are always my first source for information when I have a question or concern. <A pleasure to serve, share> I've read up on the Blue Linckia noticed the same "not much known about its feeding habits" remarks from many sources. <Heee! Or worse... "these are definitely detritus/deposit feeders"... Not!> So, imagine my surprise to pass by my 90g aquarium and see my Blue gnawing on an uneaten silverside that was apparently hiding behind one of my MaxiJet powerheads. Somehow he got hold of it and had it pressed against the glass. I watched him for about 30 minutes and he moved around a bit, always keeping the silverside with him and keeping it under his mouth. He kept it until my Sweet Lips stole it from him after the power compacts came on, the greedy pig. The Linckia is about 5"-6" wide, to give you some perspective. For Seastars like this, wandering around looks exactly the same as wandering around eating. So it's nice to have proof! I've attached a few pictures for your viewing pleasure. ;-) <Thank you for this. The folks at TFH magazine were kind enough to ask me to pen a piece on marine animals offered in the trade that shouldn't be... and some alternates... For their MACNA October ish... Oh, and Clayton at FAMA allowed me to scratch out a review of species of Asteroids appropriate for aquarium use... (and I tossed in a few notes re some that aren't). I did do more than mention this genus. Cheers! Bob Fenner>

Coral Eating Blue Linckia... Diet Is Not Well Understood 11/13/2007 Heya WWM. crew. <Hi James, Mich here!> I've had a Blue Linckia Starfish in my system for a little over a year now. <Mmm, These typically don't do well in captivity. Their natural diet is not well understood. They seldom live over 18 months in captivity, typically dying from starvation.> While everything has been great with him/her up until last week. When I was doing my daily inspection of the tank and residents, I noticed my starfish was at the base of my Kenya Tree coral. I thought nothing of it and went about my business. The following day I noticed that the Kenya Tree appeared "withered" and upon closer inspection it looked torn and "chewed". I decided to keep a close eye on the coral and within a week it seemed to heal itself and was happy dandy. <These are pretty hardy corals.> Yesterday while doing my inspection I noticed the Blue Linckia at the base of the coral again (this time on the other side of the Kenya). And upon waking today see that the coral is wither and chewed again. <Linckia sounds like it's trying to find food wherever it can.> Is this common with Blue Linckia Stars? <I have not heard of this.> Or do you think there is something underneath the coral he/she is trying to reach, and basically "chewing" the coral out of the way? <Perhaps... again the foods necessary for survival are not documented.> Thanks in advance, <Welcome!> James

Linckia Problem/Aquarium Suitability - 07/28/06 Hi, <<Hello>> I have a blue Linckia that has been happy in my tank for several months.  I have a 20 gal tank, with 20 pounds of Live Rock. <<My friend...suitability of this animal for aquarium use aside, this tank/volume of live rock is much too small for the continued good health of this animal>> The only other inhabitants are two Ocellaris Clowns.  The Starfish has always been extremely active and even now is climbing one of the intake pipes in the tank. <<Mmm, indeed...furtively searching for food...starving...>> What I am concerned about however is what looks like a white cut or graze on one of the legs.  He is still quite active but I am wondering what this is likely to be, and whether or not it is treatable. <<Likely the result/culmination of nutritional deficiency...adding/changing out old for new live rock may help but these stars rarely recover in aquarium settings.  Even so, you would only be delaying the inevitable.  This genus of starfish has a dismal survival record.  Those that survive the collection/shipping process still acclimate poorly...those that survive acclimation are usually doomed to slow starvation.  This starfish rarely, if ever, accepts offered foodstuffs (clam, shrimp, whatever), and thus requires large amounts of live rock in order to meet its nutritional requirements...which may also beg the question "is this animal truly reef-safe" as it will surely scour the emergent life from your rock.>> My nitrates are 0.0, but my SG is slightly high. <<Tells me nothing...what is "slightly high"?>> Any suggestions would be appreciated. <<Unfortunately there's probably little you can do for the star at this point.  But for future reference, I would like to suggest one of the smaller and hardier, easier to feed Fromia species would be better suited to your tank>> Regards, Simon Ashby <<Cheers, Eric Russell>>

Linckia help, please?   7/7/06 I've been a fan of your website for a few months now but haven't really been sure how to ask a question.  If this is the wrong way, please let me know the right way? <Mmm, this be it> Background: 55 Gallon Reef setup since January (moved in May), 2 false clownfish, 3 giant turbo snails, 3 conch snails, 7 hermit crabs, 1 blue Linckia starfish, 1 lawnmower blenny. Ph 8.0, nitrates, nitrites, ammonia 0 temp 78 I purchased the star w/o doing enough homework.  Once we got him home (about 3 weeks ago) I did a lot of research and am now really thankful he has survived.  I can't find any definitive source on what to feed him and the blenny (bought this week).  We have a LOT of algae in the tank and I leave the back wall and sides unscraped.  We have about 75 pounds of live rock.  Is this enough to support everyone we have? <Only time can/will tell... genus Linckia stars feed on numerous small animals, algae, detritus...>   Have I overstocked my cleaning crew? <Mmm, well, the Conch will eventually be too big...>   I have a hard time thinking yes since we still have a lot of algae, but I want to be sure.  I feed the fish/crabs marine cuisine (1/2 cube twice a day) and everyone seems happy.  I just want to make sure they stay that way.  Any suggestions? Thank you, Renee Bress <Mmm... not given the information presented... Perhaps other than reinforce your statement re investigating before buying. If you had/have a much larger well-established system, I'd move the Linckia to this. Bob Fenner>

-The incredible shrinking Linckia- I have a blue Linckia that is orange in color. <Isn't that an oxymoron? :) > I have had it for over six months. She  moves around actively has no sores of any sort.  The problem is that she keeps getting smaller and smaller, I feel that she may be starving what can I do, I don't want to lose her? <Unfortunately, this is all too common with Linckia stars, especially larger ones. Since their diet consists of mainly microfauna, it takes a pretty large and well established tank to keep them truckin'. You can hand feed them by placing bits of seafood (got any sponge based marine angel food?) on the substrate in front of it's path or literally drop it right on top. Try this a few times per week or more. Good luck! -Kevin>

Blue Linckia, leopard wrasses and angels Good evening Bob! <cheers, bub... Anthony Calfo in your service> Well, I know you've probably heard this a hundred times now.... I bought something for once without doing any research, a blue Linckia~ I was at a wholesalers and it was $5 and I've always wanted one.  <impulse and cheap price... a recipe for death> Don't shoot me!  <oops...sorry. I jumped the gun on the harassment> As soon as I put it in the tank it promptly disappeared into the woodwork, "Great! I just bought a lovely blue star that I'll never see!" hehe.  <or worse... it will starve, dwindle and die back in the rockwork and wipe out the while tank when you go on vacation. Have a nice Holiday! <G>> He's being more social nowadays and hanging around the clams. (Been in the tank about 2 weeks now) I read the FAQs and he's relatively healthy, he was kind of a grey/blue when I bought him, but he's not "cob webbing" or anything. Ok, my question is do they have any food requirements other than detritus and micro creatures?  <wow... these starfish like most sea stars need a lot of food. If you do not/cannot target feed them weekly if not daily, then they need very large aquariums (over 100 gallons) and very mature displays (well over 1 year old with a lot of live rock). Else they will slowly starve over a period of months like most. Surely not to live beyond one year, I am truly sorry to say> Currently he's in one of the most beautiful/healthy 58gal tanks in Miami that has been established for over 5 years. ;] It has a 3"+ fine sand bed, tons of little benthic critters, etc.  <awesome... the maturity of the tank is a tremendous help. Still... spatially... it is a bit small in surface area to sustain this deposit feeder. Especially if you have any blennies, gobies, tangs, etc that graze the rock competitively> Other than fish food (Spirulina flakes and pellets) I feed the tank Dt's concentrated plankton every other night, which the brittle stars seem to love. Also, are Linckias nocturnal?  <yes> It doesn't seem to move around during the day at all, like the brittle stars. Is it normal for Linckias to stay in the same position for a day and a half or more?  <common for imported ones...duress> Do they feed on diatoms that accumulate on the glass as well as feeding on stuff in the sand?  <not only diatom algae per se> His suckers seem to be in good shape, nothing looks irregular.  <good to hear... a good sign> Just they move really slowly, so a person tends to worry.  <understood> And he doesn't seem to get all excited like the brittle stars when I add plankton. ;]  <true... he is a strict detritivore... no suspension feeding at all> On another note, (thanks for reading all this, I have a special skill at rambling!) would a leopard wrasse and a yellow Coris wrasse be compatible?  <likely not... and you truly must avoid putting a leopard wrasse in a tank this small. They are categorically very difficult to sustain for more than a year or two. Best success is in huge aquaria (over 200 gall) with few other fishes> And would they be compatible with a bicolor blenny?  <stick with the yellow Coris and you will likely be fine... although there is always a chance of territorial aggression from the blenny> (My bi-color is currently in my 10gal nano, where he is king, I can't wait to see his expression when I put him in the 58g that I'll be moving to once my boyfriend has the 75g setup, heehee Two reefers living under the same roof is a dangerous combination. ;]). Also, are Rusty Angels reef safe, hardy, okay for keeping w/ above mentioned fish?  <now that's a hardy choice :) Seriously... a fine angel. Reasonably hardy and easy to feed... tends to be long-lived in captivity. As far as reef safe... eh... as reef safe as dwarf angels get (nibbler)> If so, should I keep a pair or single? Okay, that's it I swear!!  <oh... you are headed for a smack <G>. You do recall that you have a 58 gallon aquarium, don't you :) > Oh, can you sex bicolors?  <is this a trick question... Ok, I'll bite: yes... the male is the one wearing the smoking jacket and the female wears a silk Kimono> The males are so pretty during mating time.  <OK> Thanks so much for everything, I think you guys are awesome and I hope to know as much as you do someday. Sweet dreams~ Morgan Moore <ha! Thank you for putting up with the wise guy in your luck if the draw. Best regards, my friend>

Starving Sea Star?? Dear Bob- (or Anthony...) <cheers, mate> I have been reading your FAQs and I emailed the other day about my orange Linckia. Exactly what kind of greens and meat do I need to feed him so I don't overfeed the tank or underfeed him?  <tough to say... we first need to ID the genus of the star. Numerous genera are collectively shipped as "Linckia sp". Please scour the web, this site, Indo Pacific Field Guides, other books etc to get a genus and species of possible. In the meantime, simply a wide variety of frozen foods like you would feed a Marine angelfish to be specific> (29 gal reef tank, 2 months old, 2 clowns, 2 cleaner shrimp, 1 horseshoe crab (3"), 1 orange Linckia and 35 lbs of live rock!  <for what its worth... I'm certain that the horseshoe will die in their tank in 6-12 months despite your best efforts. They need a lot of food and a lot of room to grow, scavenge, bury/forage. They need huge tanks!> (seems like the Linckia goes around the rocks once, ends up on the glass and sits there. I clean the front glass so I can see the tank whole idea of reef tank!) and he sits on the clean glass.  <alas... not indicative of anything specific, my friend> After reading your info, I figure I need a protein skimmer, is the SeaClone"¢ Protein Skimmer ok for me?  <Ahhh... do read through the FAQs on this topic. Or visit the message boards. You'll find that most people like me won't even take this skimmer for free! You can add Prisms, Berlin and Nautilus to this category for me. I like to get a lot more bang for my buck... my strong advice without spending too much money would be an Aqua C Remora (for hang on the tank <H.O.T.>) or Tunze's smallest unit (model 210)... see here at General Aquatics: http://www.generalaquatics.com/myProducts.cfm?CFID=382338&CFTOKEN=23764741 &parentcategoryid=1%7Cprotein%20skimmers&categoryid=1|protein%20skimmers& vendoridtoDisplay=21|Tunze&collection=1%7Cprotein% 20skimmers > I don't want to take all the food out of the water for the star, but I notice it is getting cloudy!  <not sure that I follow the last comment? In reference to skimmer efficiency? If so... no worries... Seastars are deposit feeders. If in relation to target feeding... no pieces should be left more than a few hours to rot and cause cloudy water>  Please help and thank you very much!! Ron  <I sincerely thank you for caring, my friend. I truly believe that your empathy will make you a fine and successful aquarist. Best regards, Anthony>

Re: Orange Linckia (Target Feeding Deposit feeders/ Sea stars) What is the best way to feed these guys ? 29 gal tank with 2 bags live sand and 35 pounds of live rock. Tank only a couple of months old. <hmmm... going to be challenging here to be honest. Most would say the tank is too small to conceivably support a sea star. If possible, small daily feedings of a great variety of foods (green and meaty). Perhaps consider making a homemade food recipe (many on the net and in Bob's book, on WetWebMedia, etc)... freeze all in party cube trays and offer the star a food cube daily (mixed nutritious fare with vitamins) from the substrate> Have 2 clowns, 1 horseshoe,  <Doh! er... Horseshoe crab? Forgetting the adult size of about 12" in diameter... there will be no easy way of providing enough food in the sand to keep this crab alive in such a small tank. Too bad... indeed a fascinating creature. My string advice is to get this crab to an aquarist with at least a 200 gallon tank and DSB. In the meantime, bury mysids in the same place daily just under the sand (other meaty foods too of course for variety)> 1 linkia,2 skunk cleaners shrimp. I feed spectrum daily as well as Mysis shrimp (every other day), I have a few shrimp left on the sand when creatures are done eating. Can I hand feed a Linckia???  <yep> Small children perhaps??  <only if they misbehave or seem inclined to vote Democrat in the future> Thanks a lot for your response. Ron <my great pleasure... best regards, Anthony>

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