Chocolate Chip Starfish (Protoreaster nodosus)

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Chocolate Chip Starfish (Protoreaster nodosus): The Full Review For Saltwater Aquarium Enthusiasts


Saltwater aquariums are a window to the diverse and fascinating marine world. Among the myriad creatures that can grace these underwater sanctuaries, the Chocolate Chip Starfish, scientifically known as Protoreaster nodosus, stands out for its unique aesthetics and captivating behavior. If you're a saltwater aquarium enthusiast or are contemplating starting one, here's everything you need to know about this enchanting echinoderm.

A group of Chocolate Chip Starfish Protoreastor nodosus together on the sandy bottom of an aquarium.
Group of Chocolate Chip Starfish on a sandy bottom.

Description & Appearance

Common Names: The Chocolate Chip Starfish is known by various monikers that describe its distinctive look. Some popular names include the Chocolate Chip Sea Star, Nodular Sea Star, and the Chocolate Chip Starfish itself.

Appearance: At first glance, the starfish's surface might remind you of a cookie sprinkled generously with chocolate chips. These aren't edible treats but dark chocolate brown tubercles (or protrusions) that give the starfish its name and unique appearance.

Color Palette: The base color of this starfish varies, presenting a mesmerizing palette that can range from light to reddish-brown, blue, white, yellow, cream, tan, red, and even orange. This diverse color range ensures that no two Chocolate Chip Starfishes are exactly alike, making each one a unique addition to your aquarium.

Size: While a young Chocolate Chip Starfish might start small, it can grow impressively, reaching up to 15 inches in diameter. Considering tank size and companions, it's essential to account for this growth.

Origin: This starfish is native to the expansive Indo-Pacific region. You can find it in various locales, including the exotic waters of the Red Sea. Its origin contributes to its adaptability in different saltwater aquarium settings.

Habitat & Behavior

The natural habitat and behavior of the Chocolate Chip Starfish play a pivotal role in understanding its needs and ensuring its well-being in a saltwater aquarium setting.

Natural Habitat: The Chocolate Chip Starfish is accustomed to the warm waters of the Indo-Pacific region. They usually frequent sandy bottoms, coral reefs, and shallow lagoons. Such environments offer them an array of food sources and the opportunity to exhibit their natural behaviors.

Activity Patterns: Typically, the Chocolate Chip Starfish is a nocturnal creature. However, seeing them active during the day is common, especially when hungry or exploring their surroundings. They move slowly, using hundreds of tiny tube feet on their underside. Watching them glide gracefully over rocks and sand can be a therapeutic experience.

Diet & Feeding

Natural Diet: Beyond algae and sponges, the Chocolate Chip Starfish's diet in the wild includes soft corals, tubeworms, clams, other starfish, detritus, tiny organisms, and more. This varied diet makes them versatile feeders but also a challenge in certain aquarium setups.

Aquarium Diet: While they can be fed with shrimp and starfish food, a diet of chopped clams, squid, and other organic matter can closely mimic their natural feeding habits, ensuring optimal health.

Care & Maintenance

With proper care, these starfish can live up to 5-10 years in captivity, making them a long-term commitment for aquarium enthusiasts. Knowing their habitat and behavior is only the beginning. Understanding its care requirements is paramount if you're considering adding a Chocolate Chip Starfish to your saltwater aquarium. Let's delve into that next.

Tank Requirements: These starfish can grow up to 15 inches in diameter and need ample space to move. The substrate should mimic their natural habitat, with a mix of sandy bottoms and some rocks.

Water Conditions: The Chocolate Chip Starfish thrives in temperatures between 72°F to 78°F. Ensure the salinity remains between 1.023 to 1.025 specific gravity. Regularly checking the pH, which should stay between 8.1 and 8.4, is also crucial.

Lighting: While they aren't particularly sensitive to light, mimicking a natural day-night cycle will benefit the starfish and other tank inhabitants.

Acclimation: Introducing the Chocolate Chip Starfish to a new tank requires patience. Using the drip acclimation method over 1-2 hours will ensure a smooth transition, reducing the chances of stress.

Regular Maintenance: Like all tank inhabitants, the starfish benefits from clean water. Frequent water changes, siphoning of the substrate, and monitoring of water parameters are paramount.

Good tankmates for a Chocolate Chip Starfish includes can be a Royal Gramma, Clownfish and Yellow Watchman Goby.
Royal Gramma, Clownfish and Yellow Watchman Goby are good tankmates for the Chocolate Chip Starfish.

Compatibility & Tank Mates

Compatibility: While versatile, they aren't entirely reef compatible. Their natural diet includes soft corals, sponges, and other marine life.

Ideal Tank Mates for the Chocolate Chip Starfish:

  • Clownfish (Amphiprioninae)
    Description: Vibrantly colored and playful clownfish are among the most popular marine aquarium fish.
    Why Ideal: Clownfish primarily stick to their anemone hosts and don't disturb the starfish. Their active nature and the starfish's calm demeanor make for a visually appealing contrast in the tank.
  • Royal Gramma (Gramma loreto)
    Description: Known for its split coloration – purple on the front half and yellow on the rear – this small fish is striking and peaceful.
    Why Ideal: A non-aggressive species, the Royal Gramma typically keeps to itself, swimming in the mid-levels of the aquarium, ensuring they don't interfere with the starfish.
  • Banded Coral Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus)
    Description: With its bright red and white bands, the Banded Coral Shrimp is a cleaner species, often seen waiting for fish to clean.
    Why Ideal: These shrimp are scavengers and cleaners. They focus on cleaning fish and scavenging for detritus, ensuring they don't compete with or threaten the starfish.
  • Firefish (Nemateleotris magnifica)
    Description: Distinguished by its bright colors and darting movements, the Firefish is a timid yet captivating addition to any tank.
    Why Ideal: Being a peaceful species, Firefish usually find a safe spot in the tank and dart out for food, ensuring they coexist harmoniously with the starfish.
  • Yellow Watchman Goby (Cryptocentrus cinctus)
    Description: Recognizable by its bright yellow color and watchful eyes, this goby is a bottom-dweller and often pairs with pistol shrimp.
    Why Ideal: Sticking to the bottom of the tank, the Yellow Watchman Goby focuses on sifting through the sand for food, making it an unobtrusive companion for the Chocolate Chip Starfish.

Threats: Watch out for fish that might see the starfish as prey. Pufferfish, triggers, and large wrasses might nibble on them. Also, watch white lesions, as they could indicate bacterial infections.

Price & Availability

The Chocolate Chip Starfish has become a coveted addition to many saltwater aquariums worldwide. While it's relatively easy to come across this marine creature, the price and sourcing can vary significantly across suppliers.

For those keen on adding this unique starfish to their collection, it's priced around $14.99 on average. However, for a reliable and ethical purchase, aquarists trust and recommend

Why Purchase from

  • Authenticity and Quality: The team at is dedicated to providing only the best specimens. Every Chocolate Chip Starfish on their website, like the ones you can buy here, has been selected carefully, ensuring you receive a healthy, vibrant creature for your aquarium.
  • Ethical Sourcing: Not all marine creatures are sourced responsibly. Purchasing from supports ethical and sustainable marine life trading, ensuring a healthy life for your starfish and helping the broader marine ecosystem.
  • Expert Support: With every purchase, you gain access to a team of marine experts ready to guide you. Whether it's care tips, feeding guidelines, or compatibility queries, you're never alone in your aquatic journey.
  • Live Arrival Plus 8 Day Guarantee:  One of the standout features of is their commitment to ensuring that every marine creature reaches you alive and well. Their packing and shipping methods are meticulously designed to ensure the safety and well-being of marine life.
  • Comprehensive Information: Beyond just a purchase, the website offers a wealth of information about each species. You can dive deep into understanding the creature by visiting the Chocolate Chip Starfish product page, ensuring you're well-prepared to care for it.
  • Customer Reviews: Trust is built on transparency, and provides a platform for aquarists to share their experiences. Before purchasing, you can read genuine reviews from fellow enthusiasts, helping you make an informed decision.

While the Chocolate Chip Starfish is widely available in the aquarium trade, with most being wild-caught, making an informed, ethical, and quality purchase is paramount. stands out as a beacon of trust and quality, ensuring every starfish lover gets the best for their saltwater aquarium.

Customer Reviews

Reviews & Testimonials

Hearing from those with firsthand experience with the Chocolate Chip Starfish can offer invaluable insights. Here are some genuine reviews from aquarists who purchased their starfish from

"I only purchase the Chocolate Stars for my Harlequin Shrimp. So they don't last too long. Saltwater fish's prices are reasonable and of great quality. Highly recommended." Reviewed by: De Monte on October 8, 2017

"We've had Chocolate chip stars for years and have found them to be very adaptive to medium size marine environments. They are well worth the investment and almost always attract the attention of people viewing the aquarium." Reviewed by: Carl on July 23, 2016

"Chocolate Chip Starfish make a great addition to any tank. They are very easy to acclimate and care for, and stay very active roaming the aquarium cleaning the algae off of both the live rock and the glass." Reviewed by: Phillip A Thrasher Jr on April 26, 2015

These testimonials underscore the appeal and adaptability of the Chocolate Chip Starfish. From being a feast for the Harlequin Shrimp to becoming a star attraction in aquariums, this marine creature has made a mark in the hearts of many.


In conclusion, the Chocolate Chip Starfish is a captivating addition to any saltwater aquarium and a creature that evokes wonder and respect. Understanding its needs and natural behavior can ensure a healthy and enriching environment for this echinoderm. Whether you're an experienced aquarist or a novice, the beauty and grace of the Chocolate Chip Starfish can be a rewarding experience for years to come.

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