Basket starfish: care, food, and facts

What are basket starfish?

Also known as “Shetland Argus” the basket starfish is a type of marine creature commonly found in the deep sea. They have large “branches” for arms that can reach up to 70cm in length. It is this distinctive branching of the arms that gives them their named star shape. 

How to care for a basket starfish?

Basket starfish are not the easiest creature to care for. They are known for being hard to keep but, if handled well, then they can make a great addition to a home aquarium. However, they are slightly easier to care for than feather starfish, but the level of difficulty is roughly the same. 

One of the main things that a basket starfish needs to live comfortably is a large tank. Their native home of the deep sea obviously affords them this luxury and they are well adapted to it. Make sure that you have enough room at home to keep them.

Your home tank will need to be big enough that the basket starfish can extend its arms in all directions without touching the glass. Anything smaller than this will not make your starfish happy!

Although basket starfish can become quite large in size, typically smaller ones are chosen to be sold for home aquariums. Only if you have a lot of space, time, and money can you really consider getting a larger one. The arms extend off of a central disk, so always take this into account when working out the size of your tank.

Due to their natural habitat basket starfish like a strong current. This means that ideally, the water flow in your home tank will be very high to mimic this.

What do basket starfish eat?

The basket starfish is a carnivorous creature, feeding on basically anything that comes its way. They even eat each other! Typically when kept in a home tank they will feed on plankton. However, they will also eat anything else that you give them.

Examples of things that they will eat include:

  • Worms
  • Each other
  • Mollusks
  • Plankton
  • Jellyfish

Basically, basket starfish are not fussy eaters. Normally they are nocturnal animals and hence nocturnal eaters. This can be a bit of a nuisance for enthusiasts with one to care for. They can be trained to eat in the day if this suits you better, but it is not ideal.

Basket starfish eat by catching their prey in their basket-like arms and then covering the meal in mucus before lowering it into their mouths.

Fun facts about basket starfish

Basket starfish are a very interesting breed. Their lack of adaptability to new surroundings makes them a very stubborn creature, but their willingness to eat almost anything more than makes up for this. Below we will list a few interesting facts about them.

Many arms have many branches

Basket starfish have many arms, but each arm has several branches coming off of it. This means that the creature is able to form a basket-like web to catch its prey, hence the name. The clever design means that they often don’t go hungry.

Size and age

Basket starfish are known to live for a long time in the wild, up to 35 years in fact! However, unfortunately, they do not seem to live nearly as long in captivity due to the difficulty of keeping them and their demanding requirements.

Their need for a large home tank comes from the fact that their long arms extend from a central disk and they can reach a size of up to 70cm in arm length alone with a body diameter of 14cm!

Natural habitat

Typically basket starfish are found in the deep sea and in places such as Florida and the Caribbean. However, they have also been found off the coast of South Africa at only a depth of 15m. They prefer to anchor themselves to the seafloor by attaching themselves to rocks and using this as a form both of protection and hiding.

They extend their arms outwards from their hiding place and catch their prey while remaining stable on their rock of choice.

How they eat

The basket starfish’s unique design means that like a spider they are able to catch their prey in their web before covering and eating them. Once the creature has caught its meal it will normally cover it in mucus before devouring it.

However, basket starfish do not simply lower the food into their mouths to consume. They actually have five canals in their arms and the mouth is underneath their body. They feed by forcing their organs (their stomach) outside of their body and then consuming their prey.

As we have said, basket starfish are carnivores that will eat basically anything. They are also cannibals! They will literally eat almost anything that comes their way.

Basket starfish defense mechanisms

The open basket-like design of the basket starfish seemingly leaves them open to attacks from fish and other creatures on the hunt for food. However, their clever design means that they are able to roll themselves up into a tight ball, much like an armadillo, making it much harder for the predator to get a bite! 

They also use this technique if the current gets too strong in order to reduce their surface area and not be swept away! The smaller the basket starfish can make itself the safer it will be.

Are basket starfish endangered?

Although there has been a 90% decrease in the number of starfish of other types, such as the Sunflower starfish, thankfully basket starfish are not currently endangered. They are, however, very difficult to care for and can very easily die when kept in a home aquarium.

In order to not contribute to a declining species, it is best to be well-read about the needs of basket starfish and how to care for them before choosing to buy one. Their high demands may mean that you are more suited to other starfish for your home tank.

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