The star of the sea. 

In the Name

Scientifically known as Asteroidea, starfish or sea stars, were given their name by a French zoologist in 1830. Meaning star in Greek, the word “aster” was combined with the Greek word “eidos,” meaning form or appearance. With rays, or arms, that fan out from a central disk shape, Asteroidea couldn’t be a more appropriate name.

In the Wild

These star-shaped invertebrates live in all oceans around the world with the largest variety being found in the northern Pacific Ocean. There are around 1,600 species of starfish, and they can be smaller than an inch in diameter and grow as large as 25 inches. These creatures are known for crawling across the ocean floors and up steep surfaces with their hollow arms that are covered in spines and pincerlike organs. If these arms are damaged or removed by a predator, the arms can grow back.

As bottom feeders, sea stars will eat creatures, such as mollusks and coral polyps, by swallowing their prey whole, as they scoot around. Certain types of starfish can also use their arms to hold their prey and to even open shells of other sea creatures in order to feast upon them.

In the Tank

As sea stars can come in all colors and shapes, they can be interesting additions to saltwater aquariums. In tanks, starfish can live up to 10 years as long as tank water has the proper amount of salinity. As starfish use seawater to fuel their organs, maintaining salinity around 1.022 up to 1.025 is necessary. A hydrometer can be an important investment for the health of tank starfish. In addition, tank temperatures should be around 72 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit.

In aquariums, starfish may eat snails and other bivalves, but some species may be content with feeding on algae. For most fish, starfish will be good tank mates.

Not Actually Fish

Though typically called starfish, sea stars are not actually fish. Fish are characteristically known for having gills, having swim bladders, and using their fins to move around. Starfish don’t have any of these features. In addition, where fish pump blood to their organs, starfish use seawater to distribute nutrients throughout their system.

Despite not being fish, sea stars can be beautiful and fascinating additions to any saltwater tank.

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