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12 Types of Saltwater Starfish for Aquariums (With Pictures)

starfish in aquarium

No saltwater aquarium is complete without a starfish. Starfish look attractive and help keep the aquarium clean. There are many breeds available, and each has a unique color combination and specific needs. Matching a starfish up to your environment only requires comparing a few variables to make sure your starfish can be healthy without throwing off the ecosystem of your tank.

We have chosen ten different species of saltwater starfish to look over with you so you can see what breed is best suited for your ecosystem. Join us while we discuss adult size, coral safety, feeding, and more to help you purchase a suitable starfish.


The 12 Types of Starfish for Saltwater Aquariums

Here are the ten starfish we are looking at in alphabetical order.

1.  Asterina Starfish

Bat Star (Asterina miniata)002
Bat Star (Asterina miniata)002 (Image Credit: Jerry Kirkhart, Wikimedia Commons CC 2.0 Generic)

The Asterina Starfish is not the type of starfish you buy as a pet. This species gets into the aquarium on accident when you place a live rock or other materials in your tank, and it’s hiding within. There are many breeds called Asterina, and some are harmful to coral, and some are not. They reproduce extremely quickly and can become a significant problem if not dealt with quickly and completely.

2. Basket Starfish

Northern basket star, Gorgonocephalus arcticus, off Cape St Francis, Newfoundland, Canada (21349603975)
Northern basket star, Gorgonocephalus arcticus, off Cape St Francis, Newfoundland, Canada (21349603975) (Image Credit: Derek Keats, Wikimedia Commons CC 2.0 Generic)

Basket Starfish is a very strange looking starfish that is in the same class as brittle starfish. This breed uses nocturnal filtering to collect their nutrition. It is difficult but possible to train them to eat during the day. They require a constant stream of nutrients to feed on, which can prove challenging for even skilled aquarium keepers. They can also grow quite large and are extremely delicate. They can break off limbs by bumping the aquarium glass, so you will need 180 gallons or more in your aquarium to house them properly.

3. Blue Linckia Starfish

Blue Seastar (Linckia laevigata) (8476636602)
Blue Seastar (Linckia laevigata) (8476636602) (Image Credit: Bernard DUPONT, Wikimedia Commons CC SA 2.0 Generic)

The Blue Linckia starfish is a deep blue color, and it resembles a stuffed animal. It is a hardy starfish that can reach up to 12 inches across if the conditions are ideal. They will require a mature coral tank to feed properly. The Blue Linckia Starfish is one of the most difficult breeds of starfish to raise that we have on our list. Most specimens are damaged while still in the ocean as they are very delicate and do not transport well. Your starfish will require drip acclimation to get adjusted to the water in your tank, and you will also need to check the mouth area for a tiny parasitic snail that tends to afflict this species. If successful, a Blue Lnckia Starfish can grow to reach 12-inches across.

4. Brittle Starfish

Brittle Star back
Brittle Star back (Image Credit: Xaime Aneiros Vazquez, Wikimedia Commons CC SA 3.0 Unported)

Brittle starfish have long arms that break easily.  Once broken, the arm will flop around to attract a predator’s attention while the starfish flee. Once it has reached safety, the arm will begin to grow back like a lizard tail. Brittle starfish are active and move quickly while hunting, so they are entertaining to watch, and they can grow up to a foot across. Brittle starfish are nocturnal and will try to hide during the day but will move for food at any time.

5. Chocolate Chip Starfish

Chocolate Chip Starfish (Protoreaster nodosus) (6055618147)
Chocolate Chip Starfish (Protoreaster nodosus) (6055618147) (Image Credit: Bernard DUPONT, Wikimedia Commons CC SA 2.0 Generic)

Once you see a Chocolate Chip Starfish, you will have a pretty good idea of how they got their name. These starfish have an orange body with bits of wite between the fingers and covering the entire top are brown knobby spines that closely resemble chocolate chips. This breed is one of the easier kinds of starfish to maintain, and they are popular in aquariums because they are active, and you can watch them hunt and consume food. They are a larger sized starfish, often reaching 15 inches or more. One thing to think about before purchasing a Chocolate Chip Starfish is that they can damage any coral or anemone you have in the tank.

6. Double Star Starfish

Iconaster longimanus 2
Iconaster longimanus 2 (Image Credit: Blogie Robillo, Wikimedia Commons CC SA 4.0 International)

Double Star starfish are extremely sensitive to any fluctuation in the water. They require an environment that is stable and continuously monitored. They are also notoriously difficult to feed and can die of starvation even under expert supervision. These starfish come in a wide range of attractive colors that make any aquarium look amazing. Still, we only recommend them for well-seasoned aquarium keepers who know how to tell if the starfish is healthy and happy. This breed of starfish can grow to reach 12 inches across.

7. Green Brittle Starfish

green brittle starfish
Image Credit: ewaplesna, Shutterstock

The Green Brittle Starfish looks similar to a Brittle Starfish wit a green tint. However, they are a different breed entirely and are quite aggressive. It will actively hunt and grab any small moving fish in its path, and will also attack shrimp and crabs. They have a little central body so they will not attack fish that are too large, but bottom cleaners like the Goby can be in danger. Since these starfish can grow up to one foot across, they will require a large tank. We recommend an aquarium no smaller than 55-gallons to house the Green Brittle comfortably.

8. Luzon Starfish

Luzon Starfish
Image Credit: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH, Shutterstock

The Luzon Starfish is a unique breed that reproduces by breaking off an arm that grows into a new starfish. They are not hard to maintain but will require a special diet. The best way to feed them is with a reef aquarium because they don’t eat pieces of meat like other breeds. Luzon Starfish usually grow to about 5 inches.

9. Marble Starfish

Marble Starfish
Image Credit: Pxfuel

Marble starfish are extremely attractive and refers to a group of starfish that have similar markings. These starfish are known for their hardiness and long life. Most Marble Starfish grow to about six inches but will require a very large tank. Water chemistry and temperature change more slowly in larger tanks, and they also produce more algae for your starfish to eat.

10. Red Knobbed Starfish

Red Knobbed Starfish
Image Credit: Public Domain Pictures

The Red Knobbed Starfish is similar in appearance to the Chocolate Chip starfish. This breed is white with red stripes. The spikes on this variety are a dark red instead of brown. This breed is rarer, so its more expensive than the Chocolate Chip breed, but it is very easy to maintain and can reach up to 12 inches across. It would help if you did not keep this breed in a reef tank due to its appetite.

11. Sand Sifting Starfish

Sand Sifting Starfish is possibly the most popular breed of aquarium starfish. They are interesting and active and can provide observers with countless hours of entertainment. They are not difficult to maintain, and as their name suggests, they spent their time sifting through sand, looking for morels of food, helping to keep the aquarium clean.

Sand Sifting Starfish can grow to eight inches wide and are safe to house in a reef tank.

12. Serpent Starfish

red serpent starfish
Image Credit: Ludovicanigro, Shutterstock

Serpent Starfish are another breed connected to the Brittle Starfish. However, this breed lacks the spikes and bristles that the Brittle Starfish have. The Serpent Starfish body is entirely smooth, and they come in a variety of colors. They are easy to care for, and they mostly seek out dead prey or leftovers. A Serpent Starfish is usually around 12 inches wide.



Starfish can be quite challenging to raise in the home aquarium, but successfully doing so can be quite rewarding. We highly recommend the Sand Sifting Starfish to anyone looking to gain experience in raising these fascinating creatures. They are very hardy and have a long life span, giving you plenty of opportunities to learn the craft of perfectly balancing an ecosystem. Once you have your skillset, any of the other varieties are a worthy challenge, and the decision of which one to buy will depend on the aquarium you have in place.

We hope you have enjoyed reading and learned something new. If we have helped you, please share these ten types of saltwater starfish on Facebook and Twitter.

For more on Aquariums, check out these posts:

Featured Image Credit:  Vojce, Shutterstock

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