Starfish are some of the weirdest animals you may ever see at the beach.

As their name implies, they are star-shaped creatures with a varying number of arms, colors and even spikes. You will most often see them clinging to rocks where the water can keep them damp and cool, or in tide pools. Most starfish have an amazing ability to grow back limbs they lose through accidents or predators, and can extract oxygen from the water with tiny modules all over their bodies. But starfish may not seem so interesting at first glance. It's hard to even think of them as animals, when most people have never seen one move, let alone eat. But they can move, and they have to attain nutrition sometime to survive. So what do starfish eat? And how can they eat with no visible mouths or means of catching prey? They're actually adept predators, although their meals are usually as slow-moving as they are. If you want to know what starfish eat, how they hunt and digest food or what you could feed a pet starfish in your aquarium, the following sections will be able to help you.

Starfish are powerful hunters and primarily feed on mollusks. Their main sources of food are clams, oysters sand dollars and mussels, which are usually attached to rocks or otherwise unable to escape quickly. They also eat snails and injured fish, when they can find them. Not all starfish hunt for meat, however. Some species find decomposing plants and animals in the water or on the beach and consume them, making for much easier prey but lower nutritional value and increased competition from birds. Other starfish hunt in the water, catching sponges, plankton and even coral for their dinner.

Looking at a starfish, you may find yourself scratching your head. It doesn't have any eyes, nose or mouth visible, so what exactly does a starfish do with its prey, even once it has caught them? The truth is that starfish are actually very clever at staying alive. Their most vulnerable parts, including the mouth and stomach, actually face the rocks or ground they cling to. When a starfish has captured a mollusk, it first wraps itself around the creature tightly. Then it uses its powerful arms to break the muscles that hold a mollusk's shell together, exposing the meaty interior. After that, the starfish actually pushes its stomach out of its mouth and eats the contents of the mollusk whole. When it's done, the starfish re-swallows its stomach and begins to digest its meal more fully.

Starfish are exotic and colorful, making them popular features in aquariums. They can't be kept alive on fish flakes, however, so you will need to be familiar with what species you have and what it would live off of in the wild. Most starfish kept in tanks are of the variety that eats mollusks. As such, dropping in a few clams or mussels from the supermarket is usually all they need to be happy and healthy, but be sure to wash off anything you add to the tank beforehand. Some other good ideas are algae and frozen shrimp or prawns. Most pet stores that specialize in fish will have food designed for starfish, and you can also purchase food online. The frequency of feeding mostly depends on the species. Some starfish can go weeks without eating, while others must be fed daily. Once you have found the right routine, you'll be able to enjoy watching your pet hunt and feed with one of the most unique methods ever seen in the animal kingdom.



A What Do They Eat? project.