chocolate chip starfish
The chocolate chip starfish is highly-recognizable. It is also a popular choice for aquariums because of its appearance. You may also hear it being called a horned starfish. Both names are courtesy of the dark brown tubercles that decorate its body. They look much like chocolate chips or horns.

This starfish makes an excellent addition to an aquarium but with some reservations. It is easy to care for but requires some planning if you wish to get one.

A Look at the Chocolate Chip Starfish

This sea star comes in a range of colors, which is part of its appeal. The color may be light, but it is more often dark reddish-brown, blue, white, or yellow. It is generally based on from which geographical location it hails. Of course, no matter the color, it will always have the dark brown dots on its surface that are its trademark characteristic. It has a short and stocky body. The arms are also short and thick.

Living Conditions

The chocolate chip starfish comes from Indonesia and the Soloman Islands, but its habitats vary. It can be shallow waters of a lagoon to as far down as 75 feet in the ocean.

This sea star is best in a Fish Only With Live Rock aquarium. It also needs a lot of space because it can grow up to 15 inches in size. You also need to provide it with a sand bed that is several inches deep.

It is not reef compatible because it will eat coral and sponges. As a slow mover, this starfish should not be housed with predatory fish. Keep it with mild-mannered fish only. Puffers are generally a bad choice. Large hermit crabs are also not a good idea.  Other than that, most fish and shrimp will be fine.

While relatively hardy, the chocolate chip starfish requires particular attention to water quality. Like many invertebrates, it will not tolerate high nitrate levels or rapid chemistry changes. In addition, never expose it to copper-based or anti-parasitic medications. It cannot be exposed to air either, so always keep it covered in water. Due to their sensitivities, you should use the drip acclimation method when added one to your tank.

Do note that if you want to breed, it is probably not going to work. Unlike some other species, you cannot tell gender based on color. This means that breeding in an aquarium is extremely difficult.

Food Needs

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 starfish 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 well, just be sure not to damage the animal when you handle it.
  3. Most likely your starfish will come to the surface of the tank and bend backward with a couple of arms on the surface of the water. This will allow you to place the piece of food on top of it gently so it can eat.

Always make sure your starfish eats. You should not just drop in food or leave food for it to get to. Also, feed it separately so you can ensure it gets to eat.

Final Words

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. Taking the proper amount of time to drip acclimate your new purchase and choosing tank mates wisely should ensure that you can enjoy this pretty sea star for a long time to come.