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Red Fromia Starfish Care | Fromia milleporella

Nothing screams ‘marine aquarium’ quite like starfish, does it?! As mentioned in our list of aquarium-proof sea stars, though, most species are unfortunately actually not suitable for life in our reef tanks. One of the tentative exceptions is the genus Fromia, of which the red Fromia starfish (Fromia milleporella) is among the most common. Although they’re not easy to keep alive in captivity, experienced aquarists with the right type of set-up should find it possible.

Let’s go into everything you need to know about red Fromia starfish care and how to make sure yours thrives in your home aquarium!

Name (Common, Scientific)Red Fromia starfish, black spotted starfish, Fromia milleporella
Minimum tank size100 gallons
Minimum group size1
Temperature72-78 °F
Salinity1.023-1.025
pH8.1-8.4
Difficulty levelHard

Red Fromia starfish (Fromia milleporella) description

This is really quite a nice starfish to look at! Tiny black spots on orange-red give the impression of hundreds of tiny pores. The species grows to a maximum size of around 6” in diameter.

Red Fromia starfish | Fromia milleporella

Red Fromia starfish (Fromia milleporella) aquarium

Confused by the fact that the informational table above lists a minimum of 100 gallons for a starfish that doesn’t reach past 6” in diameter? Some sources list 30 gallons as the minimum, but as we’ll discuss in the section on red Fromia starfish diet, this is unlikely to work in the long run. A small setup simply doesn’t provide the starfish with the amount of food it needs.

Although not much is clear about what a red Fromia sea star needs in its tank, it’s not a good idea to keep these guys in clean systems. That’s not referring to water quality, by the way, as it should be pristine at all times – they’re very sensitive – but to gunk. A Fromia will take a biofilm and algae-covered aquarium with lots of live rock, nooks and crannies over a sterile environment any day. 

We’ve heard many an account of sea stars losing a leg after getting it into powerhead propellors and other equipment. Although they have the fascinating ability to regrow their appendages, it’s probably a good idea to prevent any issues in advance by covering possible problem zones.

Did you know? Proper acclimation is extremely important. Like we said, these guys are highly sensitive to both low water quality and sudden changes in water values. At least around 3 hours of careful drip acclimation is probably the way to go.

Red Fromia starfish (Fromia milleporella) compatibility

The red Fromia starfish don’t hunt clams or corals like some other sea star varieties do. In fact, they’re completely reef and fish safe, which is one of the reasons they’re so attractive to reef keepers.

Obviously, you’ll have to avoid any fish or invert species that would try to make a snack out of your Fromia. Harlequin shrimp are the most notorious example, as this wacky-looking crustacean is adapted specifically to a starfish-based diet. 

Red Fromia starfish | Fromia milleporella

Red Fromia starfish (Fromia milleporella) diet

Diet is the big question mark when it comes to sea stars. For some species, it’s pretty clear what they eat (with some going specifically for corals, making them very much not reef safe). Others, like Fromia, are a bit more of a mystery. This is the main reason they’re so challenging to keep in the aquarium: they almost always starve to death.

It’s likely that red Fromia starfish feed on what is sometimes called epibenthic felt, a mixture of all sorts of detritus, algae and biofilm found on the ocean floor and various surfaces. This makes them detrivores. They expulse their stomach from their bodies, liquefying and absorbing whatever morsel they’ve found, and then retract the organ back in to be on their way. 

Some sources suggest that you can target feed Fromia starfish using all sorts of prepared fish foods and chopped seafood, which is definitely helpful. Still, it’s likely the only way to keep yours alive in the long run is to keep it in a large, very well-established setup with plenty of grime for it to consume.

Did you know? Aquarists who weren’t able to keep their red Fromia alive reported that the trouble usually started with the starfish mysteriously losing a leg. After that, the stars just wasted away, sometimes causing major water quality issues due to decomposition.

Conclusion

It’s best to leave the red Fromia starfish to the experts, especially those with very large and established aquarium systems. If you’re dreaming of a beautiful reef filled with colorful marine creatures like this sea star, we can help! Contact FantaSEA Aquariums here with your ideas so we can design, set up and maintain your tank for you. 

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Marijke Puts

Hey! I'm Marijke, FantaSEA's resident blog writer. I'm a full-time pop science author, part-time PADI diver and snorkeler, and have been keeping fish since I was a kid. When I'm not writing fish care guides, you can usually find me underwater or trying to figure out how to fit more tanks into my house.

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