What Do Starfish Really Eat?

Starfish in an aquarium e1580933490382

When most people think about starfish, they imagine Patrick from the “SpongeBob SquarePants” cartoon.

Most of us have never seen a starfish in real life. Sure, you can go into a pet store and find one in their tanks. But it’s rare to find one on the beach. Not only do they like to hide, but they don’t do well on dry land. They tend to stay in the water or clinging to cool, wet rocks. This way, they can stay moist. They can also keep their eyes out for lunch.

Even if you do see a starfish, it’s hard to figure out how they eat. You can’t see a starfish’s mouth. You can’t see their eyes or nose either. But they do have them. They just keep them hidden. Otherwise, how could they see where they’re going? And, how can they eat?

Whether we’re talking about a fish or an animal, they all have to eat. Well, most of them have to eat. Even if they’re only going to eat things like algae, they still need to somehow get it into their body. When it comes to starfish, you may be surprised to learn how they eat. 

What are Starfish, Anyway?

Most people know what a starfish looks like. They’re shaped like, well, a star. They come in a variety of colors and some starfish have a lot more legs than others. It all depends on the individual fish. Some have spikes on the outside of them while others have what appears to be tiny suction cups on them.

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One thing about starfish that is true – they can grow their limbs back. If they lost a piece of their legs to their enemy, they can grow it back. It takes some time, but it eventually happens. In this way, they’re like worms. You can’t actually see it happen, but, trust us – it does.

How Do Starfish Eat?

Starfish eats mussels

If you look at a starfish, you won’t see a mouth. As we mentioned earlier, you’re not gonna see eyes or a nose either. This is because their mouth isn’t visible. When a starfish comes upon a fish that’s actually slower than it is, it begins its attack. 

They’re actually quite powerful hunters. They grab their prey with their strong legs and wrap their muscles around the shell. This way, they can crack the shell and expose the meat inside. Then, the starfish pushes its stomach out of its mouth. Then, they basically suck up the other fish whole. 

They typically eat mollusks, like clams and shrimp. So, you can imagine what this must look like. Once the prey is in their mouth, they swallow their stomach again. After this, they start to digest their food.

Now You Know How They Eat – But, What Do They Like to Eat?

So, now that you have a visual of how a starfish eats, let’s talk about what they eat. We already said that they like to eat mollusks. This includes all sorts of things like:

  • Clams
  • Oysters
  • Mussels
  • Shrimp
  • Sand dollars
  • Snails
  • Small fish

But starfish don’t only eat fish. Like people, there are some starfish who are vegetarians. Instead, they like to eat things like sponges, plankton, plants, and coral. Yes, coral. That’s how strong their arms are. They can actually crack the hard coral so they can eat it.

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Starfish chilling waiting for the food

What Would You Feed a Starfish Who Lives in an Aquarium?

We said at the opening that most people won’t ever see a starfish in real life. We were referring to people who walk on the beach and swim in the ocean. There are people who buy starfish to keep as pets. Yes, pets. From what we understand, they don’t do a lot of tricks or talk much. But, hey – to each their own!

If you do have a starfish at home as a pet, you probably keep it in a fishbowl or aquarium. And, if you’re going to keep a starfish, you’re going to need to feed it. It certainly can’t fend for itself. And, no matter how many arms it has, it can’t drive to the local grocery store and or hit the McDonald’s drive-thru.

So, what do you feed your pet starfish? Here are a few ideas:

  • They cannot survive on fish flakes
  • Mussels or clams from the grocery store or fish markets
  • Frozen shrimp 
  • Prawns
  • Algae
  • Tiny fish

Now that you know what to feed them, let’s talk about how often you need to feed them.

Do You Have to Feed Your Starfish Every Day?

How often you feed your starfish really depends on what type of starfish you buy. Some of them eat a lot and some don’t like to eat that much at all. You need to make sure you do your research before you bring your starfish home. If you overfeed the fish, it can get sick and die. If you don’t feed it often enough, it will starve and die. Neither of these is good things.

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Some starfish need to be fed every day. This is just like any other fish. If this is the case, just try to feed our starfish at the same time every day. If, on the other hand, you have an anorexic fish, you may only need to feed them every couple of weeks. Just make sure you know what’s best before you take care of your starfish.

Starfish colorful

We’ll Leave You with This Final Thought…

So, we talked about what starfish eat. But we didn’t talk about whether you can eat a starfish. Why would you want to do that, you might ask? We’re not quite sure. But, if you’re traveling down the streets of Beijing, you might be asked to try starfish on a stick. Yes, we said starfish on a stick. This is a delicacy in China.

People who’ve tried this tasty treat say it tastes just like a sea urchin. Other people say it tastes like the brain area of a crab. We’re going to take their word for it!

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