Chocolate Chip Starfish (Protoreaster nodosus)
Max Size: 1 foot 3 inches
Reef Compatible: No. May eat corals and invertebrates
Minimum Tank Size: 50 gallons
The Chocolate Chip Sea Star is an eye-catching and sought-after addition to any FOWLR (Fish Only With Live Rock) aquarium. Its unique appearance, adorned with dark chocolate brown tubercles resembling chocolate chips on a cookie, adds instant appeal. Despite being a sea star, the charming color pattern makes the Chocolate Chip Sea Star somewhat adorable.
Also known as the Nodular Sea Star, or Chocolate Chip Starfish, this species is commonly found in shallow lagoons and the Indo-Pacific reef region, even at depths of up to 75 feet. To recreate its preferred habitat, a large aquarium with a mature sand bed several inches deep is recommended. While relatively hardy, the Chocolate Chip Sea Star requires strict attention to water quality, as it is sensitive to high nitrate levels like many other invertebrates.
Keeping the Chocolate Chip Sea Star in a large marine aquarium with peaceful fish is essential, as it is slower in movement compared to most fish. It should not be housed with predatory species like Triggerfish and Puffers. Reef enthusiasts should be cautious, as the Chocolate Chip Sea Star is not considered reef compatible due to its tendency to consume soft corals, sponges, tubeworms, clams, and other starfish. Its potential size of up to 15 inches in diameter also requires a very large aquarium.
The coloration of the Chocolate Chip Sea Star varies depending on its geographical origin, ranging from light to reddish-brown, blue, white, or yellow. However, differentiating between male and female individuals is challenging, making breeding in an aquarium extremely difficult.
As with all Sea Stars, the drip acclimation method is highly recommended to acclimate them slowly to changes in water chemistry (oxygen levels, salinity, and pH). Handling should be gentle, and exposure to air must be avoided. Copper-based medications and many anti-parasitic treatments should be kept away from the Chocolate Chip Sea Star.
In the aquarium, a suitable diet for the Chocolate Chip Sea Star includes chopped clams, shrimp, and squid to ensure its nutritional needs are met.