Chocolate Chip Starfish: What are they?thN9ZZX2OE

By: Hannah Henegar

The Chocolate Chip Sea Star is a highly-recognizable ornamental freshwater starfish. The dark chocolate brown tubercles (protrusions) dot the surface of the seastar. However, they are not suggested to be eaten. This seastar is a highly desirable addition to a FOWLR (Fish Only With Live Rock) aquarium.Also known as the Nodular Sea Star, or Chocolate Chip Starfish, the Chocolate Chip Sea Star naturally inhabits a fairly large habitat. Though most commonly found in shallow lagoons, the Chocolate Chip Sea Star can also be found at depths down to 75 feet deep in the Indo-Pacific reef region.

What do Chocolate Chip Starfish eat?

Chocolate chip starfish are scavengers, eating foods that have dropped to the bottom of the tank, but they are also predators and will eat corals, as well as killing and eating many small animals, even snails. You can feed your chocolate chip star fish meaty foods such as mussels, shrimp, and squid.  There are a couple of ways to do this.

  1. Place the food in the sea star’s path and wait for it to crawl over it.  This really isn’t the best method because generally speaking it can’t always find it, or some other tank dweller eats it first.
  2. Pick the sea star up and put it on top of the food.  This works pretty good, just be sure not to damage the animal when you handle it.
  3. Most likely your chocolate chip star fish will come to the surface of the tank, and bend backward with a couple of arms on the surface of the water like in the video above.  Place the piece of food on top of it gently and it will move it with tube feet to its mouth.

In the aquarium, the diet the Chocolate Chip Sea Star can consist of chopped clams, shrimp, and squid.

Chocolate Starfish Care:

The Chocolate Chip Sea Star should be kept in a large marine aquarium housing mild-mannered fish.The Chocolate Chip Sea Star is only appropriate for very large aquariums since it can grow up to 15 inches in diameter. A large aquarium with open access to a mature sand bed several inches in depth best recreates the preferred habitat of the Chocolate Chip Sea Star. While relatively hardy, the Chocolate Chip Sea Star requires particular attention to water quality. Like many invertebrates, the Chocolate Chip Sea Star requires high water quality and will not tolerate high nitrate levels.  Since they are slower moving than most fish, it should not be housed with predatory fish, including Triggerfish and Puffers. The Chocolate Chip Sea Star is not considered reef compatible since adults will eat soft corals, sponges, tubeworms, clams, and other starfish.

What are good tank mates for a chocolate chip starfish?

Puffers are generally a bad choice. Large hermit crabs are also not a good idea.  These aren’t the small crabs, but the large species like Dardanus megistos, the shell-breaking hermit crab.

Other than the above mentioned, most fish and shrimp will be fine. Discussing tank mates can be tricky because animals aren’t all the same. Be observant and ask questions of the local shop worker.

Is a chocolate chip starfish reef-safe?

No. They eat corals, especially soft corals like zoanthus and corallimorphs (mushrooms).

Red Chocolate Chip starfish?

The color of the Chocolate Chip Sea Star may be light to reddish-brown, blue, white, or yellow based on geographical location it hails from. With no distinguishing characteristics to help differentiate male from female Chocolate Chip Sea Stars, breeding in an aquarium is extremely difficult.The drip acclimation method is highly recommended for all Sea Stars since they are unable to tolerate rapid changes in water chemistry (oxygen levels, salinity and pH). The Chocolate Chip Sea Star should never be exposed to air while handling. Also, the Chocolate Chip Sea Star must not be exposed to any copper-based medications and avoid contact with a majority of anti-parasitic medications.

Because they are affordable, the chocolate chip starfish is a common beginner sea star. It is a relatively hardy species that is easy to keep and feed in your non-reef tank. Take the proper amount of time to drip acclimate your new purchase and you should be enjoying it for long time to come.