Chocolate Chip Starfish
Written by Dan
The Chocolate Chip starfish has caught many an eye at the pet store and local aquariums. The common coloring pattern is tan to brown but there are several species with grey, red, and blue coloring. These are an awesome addition to a non-aggressive fish only tank.
- Where are chocolate chip starfish found?
- You should not keep chocolate chip star fish in a reef tank!
- What do you need for a pet chocolate chip starfish?
- What does a Chocolate Star Fish eat?
- How long do chocolate chip starfish live?
- How to acclimate a chocolate chip starfish to your tank
- What are some good tank mates for a chocolate chip starfish?
- What type of behavior can you expect from a chocolate chip starfish?
- How do chocolate chip starfish reproduce?
- Why is my starfish curling up?
|Minimum Tank Size||Varies with age full grown will require a larger tank|
|Water Conditions||Temp 72-78° F, dKH 8-12, pH 8.1-8.4, sg 1.023-1.025|
|Natural Habitat||Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea|
Where are Chocolate Chip Starfish found?
They are commonly found in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea. They like to gravitate towards shallow sandy areas preferring lagoon environments. They are also seen in slightly muddy grass beds and occasionally will even be found near reefs up to 100 foot deep.
Are Chocolate Chip Starfish reef safe?
Since their diet does consist of coral, shellfish, sponges, clams, and all the other little goodies you would likely have in a reef tank I advise against keeping these in a reef tank. Some great sea stars that are reef safe are the Red Sea Star, Tile Sea Star, Indian Sea Star, Brittle Sea Star, Linckia Sea Star, and the Sand Sifting Sea Star.
Chocolate Chip Starfish are not Reef Safe!
What do you need for a pet chocolate chip starfish?
Like most invertebrates, these star fish require their water conditions to be maintained at consistent parameters. The do not handle sudden fluctuations of the water conditions very well. The recommended water conditions for a chocolate chip sea star are a temperature of 72-78° F, alkalinity (dKH) 8-12, pH 8.1-8.4, sg 1.023-1.025.
A larger tank is also recommended. These stars can get up to 15” across. That is big enough move rocks and cover whole sides of small aquariums. Juveniles can be kept in smaller tanks just do so knowing that you will eventually even if several years down the road need to upsize your tank or find him a new home.
What does a Chocolate Star Fish eat?
As stated above they will feed on coral, shellfish, sponges, and clams. Really they will eat any meaty or organic stuff they can get including detritus and fish waste. Since they are slow moving, their ability to fight for food against your fish puts them at an immediate disadvantage leaving them to scavenge and clean up the scraps. Yes, I know that is why many of us keep invertebrates in the first place. To make sure your star is healthy though, you should spot feed him some meaty foods. Using tank tongs to place the food right next to the center body mass. The star will hover over the food and begin eating.
How long do chocolate chip starfish live?
The average life expectancy of these sea star is around 5-7 years in a healthy tank. Your tanks water conditions, the stars feeding habits, and its tank mates all have a major impact on this though.
How to acclimate a chocolate chip starfish to your tank
Being an invertebrate they are more susceptible to issues from fluctuations in water parameters. When acclimating starfish you should use the drip method. Setup a bucket or bowl housing the star in the water it came in but with enough room for a good bit of water to be added. Take water from your tank and slowly drip it into the bucket. This causes the water parameters in the bucket to gradually match the water in your tank. Allow them to drip for a couple hours to be safe.
When moving the star to your tank, it is best to do so without fully removing it from the water. Place the bag or bucket into the tank and allow the star to enter the tank w/out being exposed to air.
What are some good tank mates for a chocolate chip starfish?
First let’s establish some we shouldn’t to clear up any confusion. Do not house these star with predatory fish like Triggerfish, Puffers, boxfish, and parrotfish. These fish are aggressive hunters and will most likely view your star as a snack. Also, I would avoid placing them in a tank with things they will eat like coral, sponges, clams, etc.
A peaceful, fish only with live rock (FOWLR) tank is best. Species like Tangs, Angels, Dwarf Angels, Anthias, Clowns, and Butterflies are all good candidates for tank mates. Like anything else though, always be cautious and keep an eye on your tank after adding anything new. I have seen situations where animals from species that often get along just don’t. There is always going to be that one fish who, although from a peaceful breed, is just a terror to all their tank mates.
What type of behavior can you expect from a chocolate chip starfish?
Often when first placed in a new tank they may find a place in the rock work to hide. Once they are comfortable in the tank you will see them constantly scavenging for food. They will crawl over everything rock, sand, and glass.
They will seem to constantly be moving. Not always at a pace you can see, but you will be surprised by where they are as you go about your day. I have seen my star on one end of the house when I was walking to the kitchen for some coffee, only to see it 6 feet away on the other end my 180 10 minutes later as I headed back to the office.
How do chocolate chip starfish reproduce?
At about two years they will stop growing and will be able to reproduce. They will reproduce by the female releasing millions of eggs at the same time the male will release sperm. The fertilization will happen in the water around the stars and is done with several stars gathered in one location. Once fertilized the star will go through 5 forms of metamorphoses before becoming the 5 pointed creature you recognize as the chocolate chip sea star.
Why is my starfish curling up?
There are a couple forms of curling up and depending on how your star is curling could mean very different things. It is not uncommon for starfish to sit on the glass often near the top of the water with one or more tentacles curled back. This is a common feeding practice. They will do this to catch debris and algae film from the surface. For a carnivore like a chocolate though this could mean he is starving and you should try to spot feed him as described above.
If on the other hand your star is curling into a ball this is not a good sign and could be giving indication that he is sick. Check your water parameters and ensure nothing is out of whack. It is best to test your parameters regularly and keep a record of them so you know if there has been any major fluctuations with them. If you see any of the parameters are not inline address them and quarantine your livestock if needed.
There is one more situation I would discuss. It is where the star rather than really curling up seems to be flexed up on the tip of its tentacles and resembles a dome or yoga position this this could just be stretching or possibly a spawning position. It has been noticed in both captivity and in the wild. Keep an eye on the star and if it doesn’t stay like that long you should be OK.
In conclusion these make great additions to a peaceful fish only tank. They are good scavengers of leftover meaty food, detritus, and waste. Just don’t rely on that to keep them healthy, spot feed them regularly to make sure they get enough food. Keep the water parameters in line and consistent and this will be an awesome, eye catching addition to your tank.
Tell me about your experience with this starfish in the comments below.