The Complete Guide to Sand Sifting Starfish Care

Sand Sifting Sea Stars are actually lovely to consider as well as they are actually extremely beneficial, also. The absolute best cleansers in the fish tank activity, Sand Sifting Starfish, are actually omnivores that gladly live on the remaining meals as well as scree of a sizable splint reservoir or even FOWLR (Fish Only along with Live Rock) reservoir.

Sand Sifting Starfish are actually calm critters that radiate in well established aquarium tanks. One warning is actually that if you are actually wishing to possess a Sand Sifting Starfish join your neighborhood, you will definitely possess to possess a storage tank that goes to the very least 75 quarts, or even your ocean celebrity will definitely certainly not possess sufficient meals to endure. Even if you nutritional supplement along with different healthy food resources, these permanently starving echinoderms will definitely certainly not possess sufficient to consume as well as will definitely certainly not grow.

We’ll review effective look after Sand Sifting Starfish, featuring what’s needed to maintain all of them active as well as flourishing in addition to exactly how they influence the habitat through which they exist.

Sand Sifting Starfish Facts & Overview

Sand Sifting Starfish

Care Level:Easy
Color Form:Tan/brown
Lifespan:3-5 years
Size:10 inches
Minimum Tank Size:75 gallons
Tank Set-Up:Saltwater (reef safe)
Compatibility:Peaceful commnunity

The Sand Sifting Sea Star, the scientific name Astropecten polyacanthus, is hugely popular in the aquarium hobby. Aquarists with saltwater tanks actively seek out Sand Sifting Starfish to keep their FOWLR and reef tanks healthy, clean, and safe. These sea stars are named for their work, which is sifting
sand. In saltwater tanks with a deep sand substrate, Sand Sifters sift through the sand for food, and in the process turn the sand bed over to prevent anaerobic bacteria and pockets of toxic gases from forming in the sand bed.

The one drawback of these merry maids is that their appetite often exceeds the food supply. The enthusiastic aquarist will have to have an established tank of at least 75 gallons in order to support enough small organisms to keep Sand Sifting Sea Stars satisfied. Sand Sifting Starfish also need stability in their water parameters.

Sand Sifting Starfish hail from the Indo-Pacific and the southeastern part of the Atlantic Ocean. They often live in rocky areas and sand beds.

Even though it’s a positive thing that these starfish are constantly cleaning, it is also true that they are actively and constantly disrupting the balance of live sand. Sand is part of an aquarium’s filtration system and offers an area for decomposition.

Because the starfish are constantly sifting, the sand cannot fulfill its purpose. Therefore, it’s vital to have a deep substrate that can handle the disruption of the sifting sand.

Typical Behavior

Sand Sifting Starfish are peaceful and easy habitants. However, don’t think that you can just let them loose on your tank and forget about them. When the detritus supply runs low, you will have to supplement their diet with small organisms like invertebrates and crustaceans


The Sand Sifting Sea Star is actually pretty attractive to consider, along with tan as well as brownish bands that different throughout its own divisions as well as body system. The ocean celebrity’s upper arms are actually covered along with heavy backs.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

Sand Sifting Starfish thrive in either a reef tank or a FOWLR (Fish Only with Live Rock) aquascape. FOWLR setups are popular in the aquarium. Since some saltwater creatures are not reef safe, FOWLR tanks provide a safe alternative for reef unsafe inhabitants.

Live Rock refers to the previous condition of the rock. It is composed of a coral skeleton, and therefore, is referred to as live rock.

As I mentioned before, Sand Sifting Sea Stars require a deep sand bed that serves three purposes:

  1. It provides cover for the Sand Sifting Sea Star
  2. It provides a habitat for the organisms that they will eat
  3. It ensures that the sand will be able to withstand the constant movement of the substrate.

Sand is the required substrate, for the Sand Sifting Sea Star will, as it looks for food, loosen debris from the sand so that it can be eaten or filtered out.
One danger of a deep sand bed is that pockets of toxic gas can build up in the sand, endangering all aquarium residents. The sea star’s constant sifting releases the gas that can form and disrupts the development of the gas pockets.

Water Conditions

Sand Sifting Starfish, like other invertebrates, cannot handle drastic changes in oxygen levels, salinity, and pH. As with other starfish, you should use a drip acclimation for at least an hour before adding your starfish to the tank. And remember that you should never expose your starfish to air while you are
handling it, lest potentially fatal air bubbles enter their vascular system.

The optimal parameters for Sand Sifting Starfish are:

  • pH levels: 8.1 to 8.4
  • Water hardness: 8 to 12 dKH
  • Water temperature: 72°F to 78°F (22.2-25.6°C)

What Size Aquarium Do They Need?

You’ll need a minimum of 75 gallons to properly house one Sand Sifting Sea Star. 75 gallons should produce enough food for the starfish and support the organisms it feeds on.

Tank Mates

Sand Sifting Starfish need peaceful and calm tank mates. They can be paired with peaceful fish, corals, and invertebrates that are peaceful to semi-aggressive.
Sand Sifting Sea Stars should be kept away from sharks, pufferfish, and triggers, as they are natural predators of these peaceful starfish.


Sand Sifting Sea Stars consume small invertebrates and other organisms that live in the sandy substrate of an established tank. You will also need to supplement their diets. Some of the things they will feast on are:

  • Amphipods
  • Bivalves
  • Copepods
  • Detritus
  • Mollusks
  • Shrimp
  • Small crustaceans
  • Small sea stars
  • Urchins
  • Worms


Sand Sifting Starfish consume copious amounts of invertebrates and detritus, so they need a large enough tank to keep them satisfied. If the tank is not large enough, the sea star will run out of nutrients, burrow in the deep sand substrate, and starve.

The best thing you can do to care for them is to provide them with a large home that will satisfy their dietary needs. If you notice the food supply running low, you will have to supplement their diet.

These food needs are one reason you might choose to keep singles, as providing enough detritus and invertebrates for two sea stars would require a significant tank.

If your Sand Sifting Starfish does starve to death, the rest of your community will also be at risk from the explosion of ammonia and toxicity that the deceased starfish will release into the tank.

Finally, Sand Sifting Starfish should always be added to an established aquarium, as a new tank will be
too clean to handle their needs.


How to established an aquarium

Scarlet Badis can be found in drainage systems of the Brahamaputra River in West Bengal and Assam in India. Its natural environment is restricted to this area and it only occasionally spreads to Bhutan.

Here, the crystal clear shallow waters have dense vegetation with a sand and gravel substrate.

Vegetation is very important for these fish as they use the different aquatic plants to establish their territories; something to keep in mind when creating their tank.

Hygrophila, Limnophila, Ottelia, Rotala, and Vallisneria are some of the plants that you could find in their natural habitat.

Scarlet Badis often share their space with other Badis species such as Badis blosyrus and Badis kanabo. Generally, you will find this fish swimming close to the river shores protected by thick vegetation.

Tank Conditions

When setting up the tank make sure to give the fish plenty of caves and hiding spaces (you can use bogwood and plants).

Java moss and other water plants such as water sprite are ideal for hiding spots.

As mentioned before, Scarlet Badis are very territorial. Plants and caves will help them to establish territories and prevent aggressive behavior toward each other. This intense vegetation will also prevent the fish from becoming scared.

You can use sand and gravel as a substrate.

Water conditions are very important for this fish. You should keep the water conditions as follows:

  • Water temperature: 71-79°F
  • pH range: 6.5-7.5
  • Hardiness: 10-20 dGH
  • Water movement: Slow
  • Lighting: Moderate

These fish are very sensitive to pollution so make sure you regularly change the water. Clean the aquarium at least once a week, changing 50% of the water.

What Size Aquarium Do They Need?

The ideal tank size for your Scarlet Badis is at least 10 gallons.

Because of their small size, they are becoming increasingly popular for nano-aquariums.

Tank Mates

Tanks Mates

Ideally, these fish should be kept in a species-only tank due to their extremely timid and shy nature. Their temperament will result in larger and more active fish out-competing them for food and space.

If you decide to place your Scarlet Badis into a community aquarium, you’ll need to choose their tank mates carefully.

They should be put with other small peaceful fish such as gouramis.

Avoid fish that are too active, because the Scarlet Badis will not want to come out to eat.

You might be successful in keeping them with a small shoal of Rasboras, as long as you make sure they are getting enough food.

Large aggressive and more active fish such as bettas, goldfish, and cichlids must be avoided.

Other non-fish inhabitants such as shrimps and snails are not a good idea and don’t make good tank mates (they will be eaten).

Keeping Scarlet Badis Together

You have to be very careful if you want to have a group of them in your tank. Males become very aggressive towards each other if you don’t give them enough space to establish different territories.

You can either have one male and several females in a small tank or multiple males in a larger aquarium. Always make sure that the tank is heavily planted.

This makes it easier for the fish to establish their territories and find shelter.


Scarlet Badis are fussy eaters. In the wild, they are micro predators and will eat small crustaceans, larvae, worms, insects, and other small zooplankton.

If you want them to thrive in your aquarium you will have to replicate their wild diet as much as possible. They refuse flake foods. They might eat small size pellets only if they are actively sinking in the water.

They will mainly eat live food such as daphnia, cyclops, brine shrimp, grindal worms, banana worms, bloodworms, and mosquito larvae.

This species is prone to obesity and diseases. Low-quality food should be avoided.

A well-balanced, diversified diet is the ideal way to keep them healthy and let them thrive in your aquarium.


Knowing how to properly clean your tank is the secret to keeping a Scarlet Badis healthy. Poor water quality is the main cause of infectious diseases.

Not much is known about diseases that they can develop in aquariums.

However, some of the most common diseases of ornamental fish can be bacterial. And some diseases can be of fungal origin. These cause skin disease and are easy to identify with visible signs on their bodies.

Protozoan can also be a major cause of outbreaks in tropical ornamental fish, these are parasites such as ich, that affect skin and gills.

Usually, good water quality and a diverse diet are good preventive steps.

In case of an outbreak, quarantine and antibiotics are the best solutions to care for your Scarlet Badis.

Be careful on the type of food you are adding to your tank. Live foods can carry infectious diseases, so make sure you are buying food from a reputable source.


Breeding these fish is quite straightforward.

Scarlet Badis have been bred successfully in both alkaline water and in more acidic waters.

When breeding tank vegetation is very important as they will lay their eggs on plants.

As the spawning starts, the male will show off his bright colors to the females. The male will start attracting the female into its territory by shaking and quivering. If the female doesn’t respond, then the male will chase her away by attacking her.

If she is ready to spawn, she will enter his territory allowing him to embrace her. This is very similar to Bettas. The male will fertilize the eggs as they get laid by the female.

After about an hour, roughly 80 large eggs are laid. The female is then chased away by the male, who will defend and protect the area. This species doesn’t care for the eggs; instead, the male is just generally defending its own territory.

The incubation period is 2-3 days after which the fry can take up to 1 week to absorb the egg yolk sac.

When the larvae hatch the offspring disappear in the tank for several days and turn into juveniles. At this stage, they will start swimming and feeding on their own eating other microorganisms found between among the plants.

You can feed them infusoria until they can accept a normal feeding routine such as microworms.

Is The Scarlet Badis Suitable For Your Aquarium?

The Scarlet Badis will bring some beautiful color to your aquarium. Although don’t be fooled, even though they are peaceful and timid fish they can be very aggressive to each other.

Heavily planted tanks are vital to let them establish their own territory and make them feel safe and sheltered.

They are demanding fish when feeding. As fussy eaters, they will not eat flake food and can easily become obese.

Do you think you are up for the challenge? Let us know in the comments section below if you have any experience with a Scarlet Badis.



Lucky author of (waited years for the domain). I've always kept a few tanks going. I keep a few African cichlids around in my 50 gallons but primarily focus on our 100 gallon which changes nearly every month depending on what my kids may have in mind.

Gill's Fish