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FAQs about Sand-Sifting Sea Star Foods/Feeding/Nutrition

Related Articles: Sand-Sifting 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, Sandsifting Stars 1, Sandsifting Stars 2, & FAQs on: Sandsifting Star ID, Sandsifting Star Behavior, Sandsifting Star Compatibility, Sandsifting Star Selection, Sandsifting Star Systems, Sandsifting Star Disease, Sandsifting Star Reproduction, & Sand Sifters for Marine Systems, Sea Stars 1, Sea Stars 2, Sea Stars 3, Sea Stars 4, Sea Stars 5, Seastar Selection, Seastar Scavenger Selection, Brittlestar Selection, Serpent Star Scavengers, Seastar Compatibility, Seastar Systems, Seastar Behavior, Seastar Feeding, Seastar Reproduction, Seastar Disease Asterina Stars, Chocolate Chip Stars, Crown of Thorns Stars, Fromia Stars, Linckia Stars, Linckia Stars 2,

Other organisms may disturb your star into not feeding... or actually eat it!

Tank upgrade and Sand-sifting Starfish       5/23/19
H I guys, thank you so much for your hard work and great site!
<Hey Lori, thank you for your kind words!>
I have been reading up on here for over a year now and have made almost every decision based on all of your advice. Anyways, back to why I’m emailing. I have just bought a new tank (120 gal, with 40-gal sump) and want to transfer my inhabitants from my 65 gal with 25-gal sump. I have been reading all the ways to do it and it all makes sense except I cannot seem to find out about my starfish. I know I really shouldn’t move my sand over but I’m afraid he will starve without the old sand in there.
<For how long you have kept this starfish?>
I have a deep sand bed (around the 5” mark) right now and plan on doing the same for my 120 gal. I already have about 120 lbs. of new sand to put in when I can spare a couple of days to set it up but unsure what to do with my sand-sifter. I do have a section in my sump with a DSB as well, about 7”. Would it be better to keep that running and put him in there for a little while?
<You can put it in the 7” DSB but it will consume the available fauna faster than the time your new DSB will take to be colonized with new organisms; I don’t want to disappoint you but these species doesn't last for long periods of time (a year at most) in home aquariums as they very often starve to death once all available food is consumed, you should have try a less delicate species but, since you already have it, let´s do our best to make it prosper. >
I waited for a long time to get him to make sure food would be sufficient for him to be healthy but never anticipated an upgrade and how it would affect him. And advice would be greatly appreciated!
< I recommend you to place it in the old 7” DSB and hold it there as long as possible, preferably 4 weeks to give chance for the new DSB to be colonized with new micro fauna and the biological filter to be mature; during that period of time try additional foods like Mysis, Spectrum small fish food (.5-1mm) sinking pellets plus some other meaty foods such as scallops and mussels finely chopped and carefully placed with a turkey blaster in the sand near the starfish, I’d continue this feeding regime once the starfish is placed in the new aquarium. Remember to keep a very stable nutrient free environment and maintain proper calcium, magnesium, alkalinity and ph levels.>
Thanks again, Lori.
<You´re most welcome Lori, please let us know how it goes. Wil.>

Astropecten polycanthus; fdg.      9/30/13
I made the mistake of listening to the LFS salesman and bought a sand sifting starfish when I first established my 65 gallon tank.  I know this is a long shot, but I don't want it to starve, so I am wondering if you have had any luck introducing live food for them? I am wondering if adding some small Tapes clams would be a good food source. I would be willing to breed amphipods or the like too if that would work.  I hate to return him just to have him sold to someone else ill-equipped to take care of him.  I am willing to do what I can to supply a food source, but is that even really possible?
Thank you,
<Mmm; well; the volume of your system should be able to support a specimen... I would not go "overboard" trying to supply foods directly... as there are too many potential/probable downsides... Likely just settling on having good/healthy amounts of live rock, feeding your other life in the system will suffice. IF the Astropecten IS very hungry, you'll see/find it surfacing just after feeding... at which times, you can elect to place sinking food items near it.
Bob Fenner>
Re: Astropecten polycanthus     9/30/13
Thank you for your fast response. I am using live sand and Nutri-Seawater <Eh; see my comments re natural vs. synthetic water>
 to start the system and seeding dead rock with live rock fragments.
<Mmm, okay>
 I have a couple of starter fish from cycling.  So far I only see the tips of his arms sticking out of the sand, otherwise he is buried and going about his business.  What type of "sinking food items" would you suggest?
<Spectrum Pellets, Mysid shrimp... search WWM re>
I would like to keep him happy AND maintain a living sandbed if possible. 
I know he will clear it of virtually everything otherwise, correct?
<Of sizes, types of organisms... not all. BobF>

Sand Sifter Thank you, fdg.  -- 11/16/09
Hey crew,
<Hey Ryan, JustinN here>
Just wanted to thank you again for all you do. I have been reading a lot on your site about starfish recently. I just want to update the WWM community to a tactic that has seemed to be working as of late for me regarding feeding my sand sifting starfish. I have a 55g setup with fish/LR/inverts only. I know, I know at least 6 sq feet of deep substrate for the sand sifter; try telling that to my girlfriend. I promised her anything she wanted within reason (compatibility, price, etc) for her birthday. Oh well. Onto the info. I have been buying frozen raw shrimp(for human consumption) from the grocery store and placing one in a small cup with about 6oz of RO water until it thaws out. I peel and rinse the shrimp and cut off a small piece of shrimp about the size of a pencil eraser. I then cut that into 2 or 3 smaller pieces. I then draw it into a medical grade
lure lock 3ml syringe. I find using a smaller syringe helps control where the food goes a little better than a large syringe and you don't displace as much substrate. When I see him out I just inject it into the sand along
his path of travel. The star quickly locates the food and digs in. (to the food as well as the substrate) I do this a couple times a week and he seems to be very happy. There are tons of ideas and methods on your forum, I just though I would contribute another. After all this is all about sharing knowledge. It works for me so perhaps it will work for someone else. I purchased him with slight spine damage to one of his arms which has since regenerated so it must be working to some degree. Again a thousand thanks for each and every one of your individual and group efforts at WWM.
Happy fish keeping to all,
<Thank you for this, will be posted for all to see/benefit from. Keep up the good care! -JustinN>

Sand Sifting Starfish/Feeding 1/23/09 Hey, <Hey? Hello Mike> I made a mistake, but being new, one was bound to happen at some point. <Yes, and is why you should research before buying.> I recently bought a sand sifting sea star. Sadly I did not do ALL of my research and when coming to you guys, found out it kills all life in my live sand. <Can decimate the bed quickly.> Q1: If I set up a refugium (10g) and fill it with x inches of sand will this have the same effect on the system as if the fauna were in the main tank? <Not quite the same but refugiums are very beneficial.> If so what would x need to be for my 30g tank 24w x 12d x 30t? <Reading here and linked files above should give you the information you need on setting up a refugium. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm> Q2: Knowing he has been in the tank for about a week now everything in my sand is probably dead (he's been very very active, but at least the sand looks nice). Can I feed him a substitute diet, and will the fauna regenerate? <Would not regenerate to the level it once was. As far as substitute diets, you can get a large syringe (minus needle) and use this to inject brine shrimp or other fine foods into the sand bed directly under him. I have a Sand Sifting Starfish also, and this is the method I use and works quite well. Do read FAQ's here also. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/sndsftstrfdg.htm> Thank you guys so much for your help. <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> -Mike

Re: Sand Sifting Starfish/Feeding 1/24/09 Thank you very much for this info it helped me a lot. <You're welcome.> The only things I have left to ask is how often I would feed it brine shrimp using the syringe method, and when you say large syringe aprox. how many cc's are we talking? <I use a 30cc syringe but not because I am injecting that much food, more so for the larger opening at the end to draw adult brine into. I feed mine when I can see him so I have no schedule in that regard. Once the food is injected into the sand below him, it certainly doesn't take long for him to submerge to get at it.> Thank you guys so much. <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> -Mike

Sand sifter star (what should I do) 6/28/08 Hello and great site! <Hello, thank you very much!> Made two mistakes with new setup. Read conflicting info on sand sifters (burrowing sand stars). Girlfriend wanted on so we got it. 55g tank. Now I know the bad. <We all have at least one case that we learn the hard way!> What if I removed the star and put in 10g with sand. Could I feed dried shrimp or would it die. <This or some other marine based food could possibly workout, but I would not recommend it. The star will likely perish in time. It is more suitable to find it a larger home to donate to.> Other mistake 25lbs CaribSea sand and 25lb CaribSea coral, separated in middle (going to use live rock to keep in place little). <It will all intermix in time.> If I added another 25lb sand is that too much. <No, the deeper the better. Just be sure to have less than 1' of substrate or more than 3' to avoid substrate problems.> Better to mix the coral in after adding more? <Either or, it will all mix anyhow.> Increase the sand to coral portion. <Yes, I would.> Thanks for reading and helping people. <Welcome, thank you. Enjoy the new system! Scott V.>

UG Filtration use And Sand Sifting Starfish fdg.  2/22/08 Hi, <Hello Richard> I have a 200L tank which currently holds 6 Hippocampus kuda and a Blue Linckia (plus a handful of small critters thrown in for good measure). I'm filtering the tank through an undergravel filter combined with an external canister filter on one of the UG uplifts (the other two are just running on air). <The UG may/will cause big problems for you down the road. Do read here. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/ug5proscons.htm> I'm fairly new to a marine setup, having come from the freshwater world where I always ensured that I had something in the tank which rummaged through the gravel to remove the bigger particles & stop calcification. I don't have anything in this tank however to do that, so I'm looking around at what I can get for the job. I was considering a Sand Sifting Starfish, but I'm concerned that I'll end up having some kind of issue with the filtration (although I imagine it's not going to eat the filter - I hope! - or stop the bacteria working). <This would be a good addition in keeping the substrate churned. Keep in mind that the substrate should be coral sand. Crushed coral and the like isn't going to make the starfish very happy.> Any thoughts on this? I've read up in a few places about these starfish, but never in relation to UG filtration. <As long as the "sand" bed is 1 1/2" deep or more, you should be fine in keeping this starfish. It may require additional feeding if enough nutrients aren't available. I have one myself and whenever the starfish exposes itself for any length of time, it's telling me it's hungry. My trick is to use a syringe minus needle, and inject blood worms into the sand just below it. Believe me, it doesn't take long before the starfish buries himself and starts munching on the worms. Must have a great sense of smell.> Many thanks in advance, <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Richard

Feeding a Sand-Sifting Star (1/26/04) Hi Bob, <Steve Allen pitching in tonight.>    I have read over the info that I could find on the website and other sources but didn't really find my answer, probably just missed it.  I have a sand sifter starfish that doesn't move around a whole lot...does from time to time.  I noticed one morning that it was up at the top of the tank doing its thing.  Then later in the evening I found it at the bottom up against the glass looking all droopy...not rigid...kinda like a dying plant. <Sometimes they'll do this, but you might want to test your water quality parameters.>    I talked to my local aquarium pet shop...and was told to feed it some cooked/uncooked shrimp...just shrimp from the grocery store. <uncooked is preferable for nutrient value.> I tried this but it didn't even attempt to eat it...but it did get better...moved to a new location. I tried to feed it again but my Coral banded shrimp, recently purchased, steals the bit of shrimp from the starfish. <Yes, an aggressive feeder.> Is there a better way to feed the starfish? Do I need to feed the starfish? - I've been told I don't; just doesn't seem right. <How big is your tank? Only the sand bed of a rather large tank has enough life to feed one of these. I'd try some other marine foods like chopped clams, mussels, squid, etc & place it very close to the star.> Will this harm the shrimp? <No, they'll eat just about anything organic. Mine are quite bold at stealing from slower inverts.>  Just worried that everyone gets properly fed!! <Keep trying.> Thank you very much, <You're welcome.> Todd Hawman

Starfish Eating Shells 2 (1/25/04) My tank is only a ten gallon, so it's pretty easy to keep track of the different things in there, which is how I could tell he swallowed one of the shells.  Amazingly, he seems to be perfectly normal now! <Glad to hear it.> Thank you for your quick response! Sincerely, LeeAnne Strohmann <I hope all remains well, Steve Allen>

White Sand Star, Archaster sp Hi Bob, Once again I have done it.... Ordered something before researching. Now I have read your site (and others) and you don't think the White Sand Star, Archaster sp, is required to support a reef. <Hmm, no... there are reefs... wild, captive that certainly don't have them...> I now have discovered that some even eat inverts and coral. <Yes, can> The starfish has not yet arrived .... should I cancel? or take the chance he will enhance my environment. I don't really buy stuff for the reef just for looks... I do it to TRY and create a self sustained environment. Kind regards, Robert <"Worth the risk" in most all cases... don't know about your system... of size, has "enough" (a few inches) of softer, smaller substrate? This Seastar will very likely work out. Bob Fenner>

An asteroid in the sand Hi Bob, <PF here tonight, though I'm sure Bob will read this.> I have been reading all of the FAQ and email exchange. You are by far one of the most dedicated people to this hobby. I admire and Thank You for all the time you take to answer our questions. < Speaking on Bob's behalf, you're welcome, and yes, I believe he is very dedicated too.> Boy, the stuff you must cringe at:-) <The less said about that, the better.> I have a 30 gallon fish only, no live rock <I would advise getting some LR, and curing it in a separate container. Here's the FAQ on LR: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/liverock1.htm > just live sand <Your sifter is soon going to turn that into not-so-live-sand, that's the nature of the beast.> , 2 month old saltwater tank (almost immediately realizing it is toooooo small) <Good call on your part> but such is always the case with any addiction:-) I have received a sand star from etropicals.com I am from the old school and took a real chance ordering ONLINE. <Many fine etailers out there, but always do your research on the company before ordering.> He arrived with the tip of one of his legs cut but otherwise healthy. I acclimated him for about 45 minutes. <Just an FYI, in the future, do a drip acclimation, most asteroids (hey, I didn't name 'em) are very sensitive to salinity changes, the more we can do to help them, the better.> He took to the sand quickly but gradually (if that makes sense). <Yes it does.> He seems healthy and happy so far. <Good.> 1. What are some signs I can be looking for if he takes turn? <Stops moving for long periods (hours... days...) is one sign, drastic color changes is another, and falling apart is a really bad sign.> 2. What can I feed him to supplement his diet? He is not carnivorous <Well... that's a tough one. Sand sifting stars eat the organisms that make a sand bed live - amphipods, copepods, small bristle worms, etc. It will quickly sterilize the bed. I'm not really sure what you can feed as a substitute. A refugium that gravity feeds into the tank to restock the supply of detritivores the sifter eats may not be out of line. OTOH, it may just be happy eating waste from your fish.> I am not sure. 3. I have four small blue leg crabs and 8 small (tiny) bumble snails, will they hurt him? <I don't think they would, especially the snails.> 4. I am going out tomorrow to buy a hospital tank (in every article you respond to, you recommend a QT) I am sold. <A very wise decision.> 5. Can I set a QT without live rock. <Yes, to start the nitrate cycle, just use a small piece of shrimp (fresh or frozen) and a sponge filter, in a few weeks the tank should be up and running fine.> 6. Also do I keep the QT running all the time like my regular tank? <I would say yes, if you have the room for it.> 7. We are moving in September and my husband and I plan to move everybody into a 70 gallon tank, so I know they will be happier. <Good, they can use the room. If you decide to do a DSB in your 70g tank, the sand sifter will have to find a new home, it defeats the purpose of having a DSB. Kind of like using coyotes to herd sheep.> 8. We have: A healthy beautiful eating Yellow Tang:-), a watchman goby and his pistol shrimp buddy (purchased separately), two percula clown, a blue damsel <Might want to give the damsel a new home when you move, they get very aggressive.>, and the rest of the invert gang mentioned above. My water quality is high and I stay home so I feed small several times a day <Would that I could.> and monitor the tank constantly. I realize this number of fish etc is a challenge given the age of the tank but I have two young step daughters (8 and 6) who only come and visit from NYC three times a year and wanted the two clown fish to remind us of them when their not here (resist that one). <I'm with your there.> 9. Will we be ok until we can buy our fish their new 70 gallon house? < You didn't mention filtration. Be sure and use a good skimmer, it wouldn't be out of line to overskim a tank that full. And a method of running activated carbon would be good too. That is an awfully full tank. Have you given any though to setting up another tank (say a 20g long) and splitting the crowd out some?> Thank You for being a gift to the hobby. I am returning to it after 5 years of absence. <Welcome back. : ) > I read everything I can get my hands on <Now if only that attitude were infectious... ; ) >, but it always nice to have some consistent decisive advice. <Several years ago, when I first started writing and talking to Bob, he warned me if I hung around I'd wind up answering questions one day, I pass that warning on to you.> I look forward to hearing from you as I have envied all the folks  who receive a reply because I did not know until now how to get in on this. <Feel free to ask questions anytime, that's what we're here for.> Sincerely Christina <Good luck, and happy reef keeping, PF>

Sand sifting starfish !!! Hi guys. <Hello Marcin> I'm pretty new in marine systems but I find your site very helpful. I've had my tank (29gal) set up for about 3 months now. I have live sand (about 2'' deep) as well as LR (about 8lb) in my system. About a month ago I got one sand sifting starfish. I needed something to clean my sand and those guys from PetCo told me to get a starfish. I've been reading this site and I find mixed opinions on those animals. I have few questions for you. Is my sand bed deep enough? Is it true that sand sifting starfish eats needed fauna and bacteria in the send, much needed for a marine system to exist? What can I use besides starfish that would not destroy my sand bed and would be effective in moving sand? <Marcin, sand sifting stars are omnivores and eat pretty much anything, very small clams, worms, algae, detritus and microorganisms.  A two inch deep sand bed is really not deep enough to provide enough food to keep this critter alive for any length of time. A tank set up for just three months isn't going to be teeming with life in the sand bed.  I'd take it back if you can and give your sand bed time to age so it will be teeming with organisms for the star.  Do a google search, keyword "sand sifting starfish", on the WWM.  James (Salty Dog)> Thanks for all your help, Marcin

White Sifting Star question Have a 55gal tank with a 10gal (refugium/sump) established for about 1 ½ years with 50lb of live rock and 40lb of live sand  with a snowflake eel,  a harlequin tusk, <This fish needs more room> a cardinal, 1 ocellaris and 1 blue damsel fish. Also some coral/inverts like a crocea clam, frogspawn, green Goniopora, yellow polyps , some xenias, red mushrooms and a speckled leather coral, a couple of hermits and snails for clean up and 2 white sand sifting stars. I think because of the refugium, which has Caulerpa and 4 mangroves plants a good supply of what I think are amphipods have developed (I even discard some when changing the filter pads). The reason for this post is that after reading some pages of the Marine Invertebrates book in which mention that 1 sand star will require 6 square feet to sustain it I wonder  If my 2 stars are slowly dying. <Mmm, evidently not... some systems (like yours apparently) have much more food...> To me they look ok, they move around, burying and emerging form the live sand and even one of them re-grew one of its arms after the harlequin attacked it. I have had them for around  10 to 14 months. What do you recommend, taking out one of them and maybe put it in the fuge or give it to a fellow aquarist or keep both of them. <I would get a larger system period... if you can afford and fit it in... Bob Fenner>
Re: White Sifting Star question
Thanks! I'm in the process of getting a larger one(125gals). <Ah, good> Just to clarify, the book I'm reading is not Marine Invertebrates, is one of your books Reef Invertebrates. <Yes> So far it's great, I'm now in the refugiums chapter of the book, lots of new information to me and been honest, I can't stop reading it! <Outstanding. Thank you for the report. Anthony and I really wanted to "expound" on the virtues of such technology... urge people to investigate, use refugiums... and really "used the excuse" to cover principal marine invertebrate groups as a springboard if you will... to proffer the hundred or so "other pages". Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Starfish/Sand Sifting/Feeding - 2/28/2006 Good morning. <And a good morning to you.> First to let you know what I have, 29 gallon salt tank. The tank itself has been running for a little over a year. In the past couple of months I took out the crushed coral and replaced it with sand. (not live sand) 1" to 2" deep. I have about 6 pounds of live rock so far. ( I can only get a few pounds at a time due to lack of money). I currently have 1 blenny, 1 green Chromis, 1 clown fish, one turbo snail and 7 hermit crabs plus one sand sifting sea star. The question is..... The info that I read on your site pertaining to these sand sifting star fish is that a 29 gallon tank is WAY TO SMALL. I understand that I wish I would have read that before I got it. But you can't change the past. <Sure you can, take it back to the dealer, trade for something else.>  I don't vacuum the sand bed when I do a water change. Is there a way I could feed this little fellow? I have read that you could feed them shrimp. How big of a piece, how often would you feed him/her? Please help and thanks for your time.  <One method I use is to get a large syringe, remove the needle and draw in some prepared frozen food and inject a small amount into the gravel near the star.  It will soon find the food.  Cody, in future queries please do a spelling and grammar check.  We just do not have the time to edit queries before posting on the daily FAQ's.  Thank you.  James (Salty Dog)> Cody

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