Sand Sifting Starfish

Sand Sifting Starfish (Astropecten Spinosus) -The Ultimate Guide

Sand Sifting Starfish is called Astropecten spinosus also known as the Portuguese Starfish. The sifting starfish, or sand sifting starfish is a very unique type of starfish. These starfish are sometimes called the sand-treading sea aster or sand-sifting sea aster. They have a characteristic ability to burrow themselves into the sandy sea bed. Sand sifting starfish are relatively easy to care for and are popular in aquariums. 

The sand starfish is a rather unique creature that looks like an armored starfish. Starfish is just one of many types of sea stars. These have common names like a “sea star”, “starfish, and “asteroid,” but they also go by scientific names like Asteroidea and Echinodermata.


The sand sifting starfish, Astropecten spinosus, is one of the easiest to identify sea stars because it has extremely long spines that can reach almost half the length of the entire animal. They have five short arms and are mainly a dull grey-black color, with some variation in shades. The spines themselves are black with white tips, blending into the grey back shell. Spinos patterns vary between individuals, but there is a general pattern of rows of spots running down each arm.

Sand sifting starfish come in all sorts of colors, shapes, and sizes, but the most popular is probably Astropecten polycanthus (common sand sifter), known for its blue color and large size. Another popular species is Astropecten articulatus (spiny sand star), which has beautiful spines and a black body with white dots.

The sand sifting starfish is one of the most beautiful starfish out there. Their mesmerizing colors, hard convex top, and flowing arms provide so much grace and elegance. The brilliant colors that form a magical contrast will make any reef tank shine with undersea magic. You can easily identify them by the blue spots on their skin. The underside of the sand-sifting starfish ranges from orange to brown.

Sand–sifting starfish, also known as rough starfish, are large sea stars that live primarily buried in beach sand around beaches, tidal pools, and ocean beaches. In fact, they’re so good at burrowing into the sand that often the only part you can see is their spiny arm tips.

Diet & Nutrition

The Sand Sifting Sea Star has a relatively fast metabolism, so it must be fed often—at least twice per day. Even with regular feedings, it can still starve if there isn’t enough food in the tank. For this reason, it may not be able to survive in a reef tank that doesn’t have a significant amount of detritus present.

Like other starfish, the Sand Sifting Sea Star will also consume small invertebrates, including shrimp, urchins, mollusks, bivalves, or other small sea stars. Sand Sifting Starfish are omnivores and will eat anything they can get their hands on. 

They will scavenge your aquarium for detritus and leftover fish food, but they also enjoy snacking on small invertebrates like shrimp, urchins, mollusks, bivalves, or other small sea stars. The Sand Sifting Starfish is a very peaceful omnivore that will effectively clean even the largest home aquarium of detritus and leftover food. They are extremely useful for keeping your tank clean.

Natural Habitat

Sand sifting starfish are found in tropical waters throughout the Indo-Pacific region, from East Africa to Tahiti, Hawaii, Tuamotu Archipelago, and Japan.

The natural habitat for these starfish includes reefs, lagoons, and intertidal rock pools. They are found in the sand beds of the water, and often hang around rocky areas. They are usually under a few inches of sand, with not much of them appearing on the surface.

Sand sifting starfish is one of the easiest and most interesting creatures to have in a saltwater tank. They are very hardy and can be kept with a wide variety of other marine inhabitants. Sand sifting starfish are great for keeping the sand bed clean, as they dig through the sand of your tank looking for food.


The Sand Sifting Starfish is a fantastic addition to the marine aquarium. It is a member of the Astropectinidae family and is sometimes referred to as the Spiny Starfish, Spinous Sea Star, Thorntail Sea Star, or Thorny Sea Star. The scientific name for the Sand Sifting Starfish is Astropecten Spinosus. The Etymology of the word ‘Astropecten’ is Greek for star comb. The term ‘spinosus’ is Latin for spiny. 

The Sand Sifting Starfish belongs to the Class Asteroidea, kingdom Animalia, Phylum Echinodermata, Genus Astropecten, Species A. polyacanthus, and 

The Order Spinulosida (Spiny-rayed Sea Stars) Sand starfish have a variety of sizes and colors, but the common range is from 3 to 6 inches in diameter.

Lifespan of sand starfish 

The average lifespan of sand sifting starfish is 3 to 5 years, but they can survive in the range of 0.5 to 10 years. It depends on their diet, as well as the other conditions in the tank. The upper limit of their lifespan depends on the environmental conditions in a tank.

If starfish are kept in an aquarium without sufficient food sources they will starve to death. Because of this, they should only be kept in tanks with plenty of food or in reef tanks where there are live corals that produce mucus. In captivity, they usually don’t survive more than a couple of years because people tend to keep them in the wrong tank conditions or keep them with aggressive tank mates.


Sand sifting starfish (Astropecten sp.) reproduce sexually through fertilization. Spawning can be induced by a number of factors but is usually triggered by high water temperatures, high salinity, and low oxygen levels. These conditions are often present in the summer months.

During spawning, males release sperm into the water column and females release eggs from their gonads. The eggs develop into planula larvae which settle onto the substrate and eventually become juvenile sand sifting starfish.

This is a hermaphroditic species, which means that they can change sexes during their lifespan. They usually start off their lives as males and later switch to females, but there have been reports of them starting off as females. However, this hasn’t been observed yet.

Most of the time, male starfish are smaller than females. The difference between the sexes isn’t as obvious as with most other animals, though. When it comes to breeding, these starfish do so through broadcast spawning. This means that they release gametes into the water and fertilize them externally. This happens when the water temperature rises in the spring and summertime.

Starfish are echinoderms

Starfish are echinoderms, or spiny-skinned sea creatures, which means that they have a water vascular system. In other words, they have a network of fluid-filled tubes that assist in locomotion and feeding and provide the starfish with the ability to sense changes in its environment.

freshwater sand sifting fish
Sand sifting sea star

The most important feature of these tubes is the tube feet, which are located on the underside of their arms or bodies. They are used for crawling around, holding onto rocks, and eating. They also help in respiration because they exchange gases through them. They are one of the most successful groups of animals, with nearly 2,000 species spread around the world. You can find them in the deep ocean and in shallow tide pools.

However, there are species like sand sifting starfish that prefer sandy substrate instead. This type of starfish will eat microalgae and detritus in your saltwater aquarium.

Tank mates

The sand sifting starfish is among the most common types of starfish, and it’s popular for its ability to clean aquarium sand without any issues. Although this species can be an excellent addition to your saltwater aquarium, it’s important to consider the tank mates first before adding them to your home.

Ideally, you want to keep these animals with fish that are non-aggressive and non-predatory. Some of the tank mate options for these animals include Sand Sifting Goby, Seahorses, Sea Urchins, Sea anemones, Coral Banded Shrimp, shrimp, snails, crabs, and many more.

Sand sifting starfish tank mates should be chosen carefully as they are known to eat smaller species of fish. Starfish are slow-moving creatures and will not cause any harm to the tank. They also do not need to be fed separately and will feed off detritus and small organisms in the sand bed.

The sand sifting starfish is generally safe but it might cause problems for small fish or snails, so keep an eye on them if you choose to add them to your tank. If you have a non-reef tank, you can also keep clams, mussels, and oysters in the same tank as your sand sifting starfish.


The Sand Sifting Starfish makes a great addition to a reef tank, as well as a fish-only tank. It is one of the few starfish that can tolerate living with corals and invertebrates. It is not uncommon to see the sand sifting starfish sharing the same space with snails, crabs, shrimp, and even clams. There are a number of predators of the sand sifting starfish. They are eaten by octopuses, big fish, and other starfish. One of their natural predators is a fish called the Remora. The Remora is a fish that is used to hunt down and kill the Sand Sifting Starfish.

These predators are used because they have a special organ that allows them to attach themselves to a host. They will latch on to one of these starfish and swim around with it for a few days. At this time, they will eat away at it until all that remains is the skeleton.

Breeding & Spawning

Sand Sifting Starfish can not be bred in captivity. However, for informational purposes, here’s what happens in the wild: Sand Sifting Starfish do not mate. They are broadcast spawners and when they are on the sand, they release sperm and eggs into the water. Once fertilized, tiny larvae develop into adult starfish in months.

Sand Sifting Starfish have a very interesting breeding process. During the breeding season, these starfish tend to spawn in large groups. The male starfish release sperm and the female starfish release eggs into the water. The eggs typically get fertilized by swimming around in the water. A female Sand Sifting Starfish can carry between ten thousand and twenty thousand eggs at a time. The fertilized eggs will then hatch into larvae. The larvae will live in plankton for about two months before transforming into juvenile starfish. It is believed that these baby starfish use the currents to disperse them into a new location.

Unfortunately, most sand sifting starfish die within the first year of being introduced into a home aquarium. This is because they do not get enough food to survive. They tend to starve in captivity, even if there appears to be plenty of food available.

Are sand starfish suitable for your aquarium?

Yes, Sand Sifting Starfish is a great addition to any saltwater aquarium. They are relatively easy to care for, and they do a great job at cleaning the sand bed and breaking down waste in your tank. These are an excellent way to keep your substrate clean and well aerated. The Sand Sifting Starfish will sift through the sand, picking out any uneaten food or detritus that has fallen to the bottom of the aquarium. This is especially important for tanks that have a lot of live rock, as there are usually many hiding places for such things.

Sand sifting starfish are extremely useful in helping to create a healthy environment for all types of fish, invertebrates, and corals. They are also suitable for reef tanks due to their scavenging nature and ability to aerate the aquarium substrate. The Sand Sifting Starfish will not harm any corals or beneficial organisms and can be housed with other invertebrates and fish as well.

Sand sifting sea stars are increasingly popular in aquariums, but they can turn into a pest if you don’t choose the right species.

The right sand sifting starfish for your tank can keep the sandbed tidy and free of detritus. Unfortunately, some sand sifters can be too good at their job, stirring up the sandbed to the point where it becomes detrimental to your system.

No doubt, the starfish are a perfect addition to a marine aquarium, if you want to keep your sand clean and in good condition. They are also brilliant at consuming algae which can grow on your live rock. Sand sifting starfish are not aggressive, and will generally get along with every other inhabitant of your saltwater tank. However, like most invertebrates, they are very sensitive to copper-based medications and high nitrates.

sand sifting fish saltwater for Aquarium
Sand Sifting fish for Aquarium

10 Amazing cool facts about Sand sifting starfish 

  1. The sand sifting starfish is one of the best algae-eating animals in the marine world. They will help to keep your reef aquarium spic and span by consuming just about any type of algae.
  2. They get their name from the fact that they eat pieces of sand.
  3. The starfish doesn’t have a brain or central nervous system.
  4. Sand sifting starfish produce a venomous sting and can regenerate their limbs.
  5. They are great for biological filtration, which means they will filter out uneaten food, fish waste, and other debris from the substrate in your tank.
  6. The starfish will drink seawater and then spit it out, naturally filtering it to clean itself.
  7. It holds the Guinness World Record for being the longest-living marine animal.
  8. Scientists have a debate on their taxonomy, they are both fish and starfish.
  9. When they feel threatened, they rely on their armor to save themselves.

Sand Sifting Starfish – Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Are sand sifting starfish easy to keep?

Sand sifting starfish are very easy to keep and care for, as long as you provide them with the right environment. They are one of the few marine invertebrates that do not require live rock in the aquarium, so they can be kept in bare bottom tanks or even bowls (although this should be avoided).

These starfish can also handle a wide range of temperature and pH levels. However, they are sensitive to high nitrate levels and should have strong water movement and high oxygen levels in their tank.

Q2. How big of a tank do you need for sand sifting starfish?

A sand-sifting starfish will need a large tank with a deep sand bed and good circulation. A 30-gallon tank is a minimum size for one sand-sifting starfish, and a 50-gallon or larger tank is better. However, the larger the tank, the less often you’ll need to clean the sand bed.

These starfish are scavengers and need to have plenty of detritus for them to eat. If you have a smaller tank, you will have to supplement their diet by feeding them frozen brine shrimp or other meaty foods.

Q3. Is sand sifting starfish reef safe?

Yes, sand sifting starfish is a reef-safe marine fish. It will not harm corals and other invertebrates in the tank. However, it may eat small snails on the sand bed.

While a lot of people do keep them in their reef aquariums and find them to be reef safe, there are others that report that their sand sifting starfish have damaged, eaten, or even killed some of the corals in their reef tanks. The sand sifting starfish (Astropecten polycanthus) is a type of marine invertebrate that has gained popularity among reef aquarium hobbyists because of its ability to consume detritus and other types of organisms that can harm the corals and other inhabitants of the tank.

Q4. What does a sand sifting starfish eat?

Sand sifting starfish will be happy to take a variety of meaty foods like flake foods, brine shrimp, mussels, and clams. Some species will enjoy chopped-up pieces of fish too. In the aquarium, they will eat a variety of foods including frozen and prepared foods. Sand sifting starfish will also be more than happy to eat pieces of sand, algae, and detritus!

Q5. Do sand sifting starfish regrow limbs?

Yes, sand sifting starfish can regrow limbs, it can regrow the lost limb within 12-18 months if its needs are met. They are echinoderms and can regenerate lost limbs. The larger the starfish, the faster it can regrow its limbs.

Q6. Do sand sifting starfish come out at night?

The sand-sifting starfish that comes out at night is the sand-sifting. While it is extremely rare to see a sand sifter during the day, they are fairly active when the lights are off. If you want to see your sand sifters, try checking on them after dark. They will be out and about as they look for food in the sand.

The main reason why these starfish come out at night is that they are nocturnal creatures. In the wild, this species is primarily active at night, which is when they go hunting for their favorite foods. They use their long arms to comb through the substrate, where they will find small critters hiding among the sand grains. After finding their prey, sand sifting stars will either suck them up using their tube feet or eat them with their strong jaws.

Sand sifting stars are also attracted to light so if you have a moonlight bulb in your aquarium, you may be able to spot your starfish moving around even when it’s daytime!


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