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FAQs about Chocolate Chip Sea Star Behavior

Related Articles: Chocolate Chip Stars by Marco Lichtenberger, Asterina Stars, An Introduction to the Echinoderms:  The Sea Stars, Sea Urchins, Sea Cucumbers and More... By James W. Fatherree, M.Sc.

Related FAQs: Seastar Behavior, Chocolate Chip Stars 1, Chocolate Chip Stars 2, CC Star Identification, CC Star Compatibility, CC Star Selection, CC Star Systems, CC Star Feeding, CC Star Disease/Health, CC Star Reproduction, Sea Stars 1, Sea Stars 2, Sea Stars 3, Sea Stars 4, Sea Stars 5, Seastar Selection, Seastar Compatibility, Seastar Systems, Seastar Feeding, Seastar Reproduction, Seastar DiseaseAsterina Stars, Crown of Thorns Stars, Fromia Stars, Linckia Stars, Linckia Stars 2, Sand-Sifting Stars,

Is something bugging your Star? Meiacanthus grammistes (Valenciennes 1836), the Striped Poison Fang Blenny.

Chocolate Chip Star Lifespan? -- 3/14/10
I bought a chocolate chip star 4 years ago when it was about 3 - 3-1/2 inches across. He was doing very well until a few weeks back when I noticed he couldn't turn himself over after falling off the glass. I knew it wouldn't be long after, that he would die. For the next few weeks he moved very slow and not far at all until today when I noticed one arm tip turned bright white, crumbled off and it was dead. I was just wondering what the life span of this star should be and if the life span is from when its born or when it's a certain size? Do you think it died of old age? Thanks
<A very good question... I am guessing, but I'd say/state that the bulk of Protoreastor (nodosus or otherwise) specimens live mere weeks after wild collection... due to trauma, being placed in unsuitable circumstances
principally... Four years is a very long time historically. However, I have visited institutions that have kept these species for decades, and there are some who believe that Echinoderms (the phylum that includes Asteroids/stars) are or may be "invincible"... only dying when predated, or coming under untenable conditions. Bob Fenner>

Chocolate Chip Starfish Went Into Overflow Box!! 8/12/09
<Hello Mike>
I have an overflow box and my Chocolate Chip Starfish has gone down and back up. He now sits on top of the inside. Will (can) it get back out on its own?
<Yes, he got in there, correct?>
I have thought about shutting down the return pump and putting a shrimp inside the overflow box, to coax it back down and possibly getting him out that way. Any Suggestion
<I'd do as you mentioned, but would not shut down the pump. Starfish are great at locating food and the smell of the shrimp will be an invitation to dinner.>
He's rather large, as big as my hand. He seems to be doing fine in there but it's not so cool to say you have a starfish living in your overflow box.:)
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>
Mike Smith

Question about Chocolate Chip Starfish -- 03/29/09
I have a chocolate chip starfish who has been pretty lazy. But when we talked to the person we bought it from they said he was very active.
<Generally they only get fast when smelling food.>
So we turned off the light to see if it would de-stress him and he curled up into a ball. So we turned the light back on and he flattened back out. He did this a few more days. And then stopped. So today we decided we were going to change our stupid rock to Natural Coral Sand. And so he curled up and now he wont uncurl. While he was curled he rolled over so we saw his underside(stomach?) and something was coming out of it...Is he dead or just VERY stressed?
<Need more information about your setup, how old is the system, what is in it, what are the water parameters (e.g. ammonia, nitrates, pH, KH), how was the star transferred into the new tank, did you give him the time to close its vascular system? It is possible the star is dying, especially if this curling up remains unchanged for several hours, but they also lift the ends of their arms to smell the new environment. Indigestible parts of their prey are expelled by the mouth in the center of the star. >
Thanks, Michelle and Michael
P.s. The pictures are of him after he was moved. And he SEEMS to have uncurled a bit...
<Please see here for further information and the environmental parameters to keep them thriving: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/chocchipstars.htm
and the linked FAQs. Cheers, Marco.>

Question about Chocolate Chip Starfish II -- 03/30/09
I have a 10 gallons tank. There are two live rocks in it, two maroon clown fish and a coral shrimp. The parameters all read fine(ideal) we tested them this morning. When we were transferring him, we just placed the bag he was in and let it sit in the water for about 2 hours so he could get used to the different temps. The system is about two weeks old now.
<The system is too small for this sea star species. It is also very young, which makes it very difficult for a Chocolate chip sea star to survive. Please also see http://www.wetwebmedia.com/acclimat.htm and http://www.wetwebmedia.com/acclimcrllgtfaqs.htm for proper acclimation e.g. drip acclimation. Adjusting temperature is fine, but not enough for many invertebrates and aside the young age of the system likely a cause of its curling up reaction. Nonetheless, I do wish you luck with your star, hopefully it is possible to get him and the clowns into a bigger home in the long run. Cheers, Marco.>

Chocolate Chip Starfish Question, beh.  -- 08/31/07 Hello!! First of all, Thanks for taking the time to read this. The site is wonderful! <Wunderbar!> I just bought a Chocolate Chip Star yesterday and honestly did not know as much as I thought I did. <Isn't life grand?> (I don't suppose that is unusual here is it?) <Heeee heee! Far from it> Anyway, Once I acclimated him he went down on a large rock then slid off and promptly went over to my camelback shrimp (kind of snuck up on it actually) then once the shrimp skittered off he headed to the side of the tank and promptly climbed to the very top. He has made almost a complete lap around the tank (55 gal) and still is right up top. Literally with one arm upside down and his tubes out of the water and moving. Is this normal? <Mmm, yes... normal for a stressed specimen... in a setting it's trying to escape> I have seen that it is for some stars but was unable to find if the Choc Chip was one of those species. I know the movement is but what is up with that arm? I had seen this particular star fish at the store for over 2 months and his behaviour has been similar but I never noticed the arm in that position before. Currently the only thing in the tank with him is the shrimp. The set up is fairly new (about 2 months) with my going VERY slowly and checking all levels frequently. Also is there any one thing in particular that can help ensure this creatures survival? <All sorts... Live rock for one... refugium, DSB, macroalgae...> How long should I wait before I try to introduce any thing else to the tank? <A couple weeks...> Thanks Again! Melissa <Please (re?)read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ccstarbehfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Chocolate Chip Star Question, beh.  -- 08/31/07 Just thought I would add that I did see this question: Chocolate Chip Starfish 11/29/05 Hey Bob, <James today> I just bought a chocolate star fish and acclimated it right and I just wanted to know it is normal for them to get to the top and have two arms above water? I am assuming that it would not do this if it wasn't going to survive. Am I right? Please email me back. Thanks, Jake <Jake, nothing out of the ordinary, no need to worry. In future queries, please do a spelling/grammar check before sending. It takes much more time to respond to the query as we have to edit these before they are posted in the daily FAQ's. James (Salty Dog)><<RMF disagrees... behavior indicative of something wrong... trouble>> However I was curious as to the disagreement. <<As it states... seastars that approach the air-water interface are signaling that something is amiss... Water quality of some sort usual>> Also, http://wetwebmedia.com/chocchipstars.htm appears to have nothing but pic on it. <<That's all there is thus far. BobF>> Thanks Again, Melissa

Re: Chocolate Chip Starfish Question  9/1/07 Bob~ I had already read the behavior FAQ's. Thank you for the direct link however. There have been some positive signs with the chip; Last night once I turned out ALL the lights. I do mean all!! LOL including the T.V. the only light was coming in from the street through the window although it did allow me to see a little bit. Anyway, the chip came down and did a pretty good exploration and stayed down for most of the night. <Good> He made a thorough trip of the live rock starting at one end of the tank and basically going to the other end all along the length of the rock. He then got about 3 inches up on the back glass and cruised back around the tank staying at that level. I thought that was encouraging. Today however finds him back in his position. I have noticed though that the arm is no longer out of the water with the tubes moving. It is curled over though. I had planned on doing a 10% water change today as well as trying to hand feed him. Do you think 3 days is long enough to have waited before trying to feed him directly or should I have done so before now? <I think it's time now> Also you mention a refugium. Honestly, I don't even know where to begin with that and the idea scares the hell outta me. <A step at a time... read for now...> Can you point me towards a refugium for dummies reference so that I can at least begin to make a bit of sense out of it? <Mmm, WWM has pretty good coverage... though tis easier to see written out in a book for now... Reef Invertebrates by myself and Anthony Calfo... the first quarter of this work is pretty much dedicated to refugiums> I should point out that the tank was started with AragAlive 75 lbs and crushed coral 30lbs which I allowed to cycle for almost 2 months. I also used the instant ocean salt. Since then I have added 50 lbs of live rock. I definitely want to add some Maiden's hair but at this point I am scared to death of doing too much too soon. I apologise if I am asking the same old questions. Thanks again! <No worries... take your time. Bob Fenner>

Re: Chocolate Chip Starfish Question  9/1/07 Bob~ He moved right onto the shrimp and is happily eating. I am afraid I may have given him too large a piece though. Should I just let him be? <Yes... will eat its full... Don't feed for another week or so... then a smaller amount ongoing> Dunno why I keep referring to it as a him. :) <Echinoderms are separate sexes... perhaps there are elements of its appearance, behavior that reflect your judgment as being "male"> Once again Thank You so very very much for your help!!! <A pleasure. BobF>

Re: Chocolate Chip Starfish Question - 9/3/07 Bob~ Thanks so much for your wisdom!! I watched the chip for the last few days and he seems to be doing fine. Although I had noticed him with his belly out quite a bit trying to feed. I went ahead and gave him a small piece of shrimp. I took some pics of him eating. Thought you might enjoy them. Melissa
<Very nice; thank you for this update. BobF>

Question re CCS beh.   12/14/06 I just purchased a ccs and have noticed that when I shut the light off he curls his leg up but if I turn it back on he flattens out is this normal --schouinard <Not atypical behavior... You have read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ccstarbehfaqs.htm and the linked files above? Bob Fenner>

Starfish being Starfish - 03/02/2006 Dear WWM Crew, Every so often my Chocolate Chip Starfish attaches to the live rock. Is this ok? <Uh...yep. Just walkin' around.> Thanks for the information. <Sure. - Josh>

Chocolate chip sea star   2/26/06 Dear Mr. Fenner, <James with you today Linda.> I have had my chocolate chip starfish since April '05. He is currently in a 16 gal aquarium with  a Rusty Dwarf Angel, a tomato clown, and one turbo snail. <Much too small a tank for these fish.>  At first, the starfish was very active - moved all over the tank - sides, rocks, filter, plants, anything at all.  When I dropped in food, it moved quickly toward it. For about 2-3 months, I have noticed a drastic decrease in his activity, and lately, he hardly moves at all - what I would call "failure to thrive."   His appearance used to be okay, but this week he looks smaller, and his arms are curled up at the tips. He "appears" to eat - shrimp pellets and pieces of cooked shrimp that I place right next to him.  The water quality seems OK - pH, alkalinity, nitrites, and nitrates are in range, although I do keep the sg a little low - about 1.019 - 1.020.  I would greatly appreciate any help you could offer to save my sea star. <Well, since you have had him since April 05 it appears he was shipped and acclimated well.  I'd get the SG up to 1.024-25 for starters and ensure food is available on a daily basis.  The size of your tank doesn't help much since starfish are very sensitive to water parameter changes which will occur in a 16 gallon tank, especially one that is overstocked with fish.  Read here for more info on starfish.  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seastars.htm Thank you, <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> Linda Kozlowsky <Ahh, the co-star in the Crocodile Dundee flicks.>

CCS During Tank Cycle!? - 02/20/2006 My boss just got a new aquarium about a week ago, and so far it seems everything has been running fine, but recently I noticed our Chocolate Chip Starfish hasn't been as active as usual and he's taken to curling up his arms and just staying like that for hours. <This tank hasn't even been cycled yet! This starfish is doomed.> I removed him from the tank and in the net he straightens out his arms but when we set him back in the aquarium he curls up immediately. For a moment the tank was too hot so we lowered the temp, but nothing has changed. All of our other fish (eel, puffer, wrasse,) have been just fine. <This will change.> Please help. Thank you! <Wish I could! Please review WWM on tank cycling. These fish should be removed if they are to live. - Josh>

2 sick starfish...  CC health, beh.   2/14/06 Hi i am a new saltwater tank owner. I have had my bigger cc starfish for awhile now, but here lately it is acting strange. It curls up, it takes his legs and like puts them all in the air. What does this mean? <Usually either that it's looking for food, oxygen, or taking a dislike to conditions> My other star looks like its decomposing the little things inside its leg are turning white and some of its skin is coming off what should i do? <Look to improving the above> sorry for the lack off terms i am new to the hobby <No worries. Have you read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/chocchipstars.htm The linked files... in blue. Bob Fenner>

Chocolate Chip Starfish  11/29/05 Hey Bob,  <James today>  I just bought a chocolate star fish and acclimated it right and I just wanted to know it is normal for them to get to the top and have two arms above water? I am assuming that it would not do this if it wasn't going to survive. Am I right? Please email me back. Thanks, Jake  <Jake, nothing out of the ordinary, no need to worry. In future queries, please do a spelling/grammar check before sending. It takes much more time to respond to the query as we have to edit these before they are posted in the daily FAQ's. James (Salty Dog)><<RMF disagrees... behavior indicative of something wrong... trouble>>

Chocolate Chip Starfish I recently had to move my tank. In doing so we removed some of the water.  Our chocolate Chip Starfish fell off the wall during the process.  Everything was fine at first. Then we notice the crab over by him and the starfish was turning white.  He has gotten himself back up on the wall but he is still white where his black spots were.  Can you tell me what's wrong with him and is there anything I can do for him?  Thank  <Hmm, he may have been stressed, but falling off a wall or any object is normal activity for starfish at times. Was the crab attacking him?  If he is back where he wants to be he should regain his normal coloration.  This could be the normal result of thinking he is under attack and being disrupted. These starfish are quite hardy.  They do need regular feeding of meaty foods like shrimp, (a small piece of regular prawn), etc. and they are very vigorous eaters. They are not reef safe but fine for fish only set-ups.  I hope he is getting better.  Craig>

Seastar Staying Put (3/2/04)   Hello!! It would take me a dictionary size document to tell you all the help you and your website have done for me and my aquatic friends.  I have a 44 gallon saltwater tank, presently its only occupants are a Chocolate Chip Starfish <Nice, reasonably hardy Seastar. I have been enjoying mine for more that six months now.> and a false Percula.  I lost a Yellow Tailed Blue tang after a long fight with Ich. (my fault for not recognizing the problem and solution earlier than I did).  Either way, my Chocolate Chip Starfish for the last week has stayed in about the same place for about a week.  Prior to this he was all over the tank! (as I've heard they are prone to do)  Should I be alarmed?  He seems to be eating well and he is moving about, just in about a 4-5 inch radius.  Any help would be appreciated!  Could the Ich have gotten him? <No> From what I've heard they are not susceptible to Ich. <Correct. Echinoderms do not suffer from the same parasitic pathogens as fish.> I had to quarantine the Percula for about a month because he was starting to show signs of Ich.  All of those signs have been gone for a little under a month though. <fingers crossed>  Anyways, thanks for your website!! You've made this hobby an even more enjoyable experience <A pleasure for all involved. I've learned a great deal here too. As for your star, I would not be overly concerned if it moves about some, is eating well, and appears normal. It may just like things where it is, especially if you're hand feeding it in the same spot all the time. They are trainable. I'd suggest a check of all the key water parameters to be sure. Maintaining pristine water conditions is very important. If everything appears fine, then no need for hasty actions yet. Just keep taking good care of your tank and all should remain well.> Shawn

Starfish Stomach Eversion (2/24/04) Sir, <Just Steve tonight> Sorry, the last email I sent I forgot the pic. Anyway, what is this starfish doing? I have 2 other chips in the tank. These 2 hang together all the time. What is that stuff in the middle of it? This "stuff" got a lot bigger than this pic shows. This is wild!! Thanks, Craig Cornett <Your starfish has everted its stomach. This is how they eat. I'd bet it found something on the glass it wanted to eat. They evert their stomachs around the food and do a good portion of their digesting outside of the body before sucking everything back in. I suppose this could also be a response to stress, but if conditions in your tank are good, I would expect this star to pull it's stomach back in and move on within 24 hours.>

Chocolate Chips (3/8/04) Hi.  <Howdy. Steve Allen tonight.> I have had a chocolate chip starfish <Protoreastor nodosus> for 2 months. Recently, I have noticed that it's "chips" are turning from brown to almost black and I also noticed that it has a "bubble" on its arm. What is causing his "chips" to turn color and what is the bubble? Please let me know. Thank you.  Cori <Well, darkening of the "chips" is probably not a problem if uniform and if it's eating & acting normally. I can't really say much about the "bubble" without seeing it. Can you send a digital picture? I am concerned that this could be an infection or parasite.>

Dropping Chips, or Friends Off at the Pool? Starfish  >I have a chocolate chip starfish. the other day I was looking in the tank & I noticed he had part of a point missing! I'm not really sure how it happened. I don't have any type of fish that would attack it. (I made sure of that when I bought it) my biggest question.. will it live, & if so will the point grow back or will he just have a lil nub?? Angy  >>Angy, starfishes are among the most delicate creatures we can keep in our tanks. Even very small changes in salinity can cause their demise. What you must determine is whether or not the animal appears to be disintegrating. If so, it is dying, and you must make sure you've got the best water quality possible to help it along. If it isn't disintegrating, then chances are it got itself caught somewhere, and just needs time to heal. With good water quality their regenerative abilities are almost as amazing as those of sponges. Marina

Upside-Down Chocolate Chip Star (7/25/04) Every morning my starfish is laying on its back. We give it time to turn over but it does not seem to want to or able to. Is this normal? Does this mean something is wrong with this Chocolate chip starfish? Should we continue to turn him over or leave him alone? Thank you for your help! Sincerely, Robin Hirschi <Well Robin, where does he start out the night before? It is rather common for stars to fall off of the glass, especially in a high-flow tank. However, they can almost always right themselves because they are impressively flexible. I do find that they have a much harder time righting if there is not a nearby rock or glass to grab. Lying flat on its back on sand, it may not be able to right. If it appears intact and healthy and moves normally and eats well, then it is likely OK and it should be fine for you to turn it over as needed. Hope this helps. Steve Allen.>

Lethargic Chocolate Chip Star (1/23/04)    I've read through just about everything I could find on your website about chocolate chip starfishes (and there was a lot) and I am still not certain what is wrong with mine. My starfish has been rather lethargic for about two weeks now. I have a 55gal aquarium with the starfish, a Clarkii clown, 5 small damsels, and a peppermint shrimp. The salinity is 1.023 and the temperature is 78.    I have had the starfish for about 6 months now. He is not missing any limbs or any pieces, he's his normal color, but he won't move. I have tried placing food beside him but he will not go to it to eat, so I have had to put him on top of it. <Does he eat it then?> I know starfish move slow, but this one has only been moving about an inch per day. I have noticed very tiny spots of a red colored algae in the tank recently, is this a sign of a bad water condition that could be affecting my starfish? <Could be that your nitrate level is high enough to be toxic to it. I'd check ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH for sure. A water changes would be a good idea, maybe 20-30%. Just make sure you keep the SG the same. Also, if the pH if out of whack, fix it slowly. Sea stars are very sensitive to changes in SG & pH. That said, it can be very difficult to figure out what's wrong with a sea star. Hope this helps, Steve Allen.>

Chocolate Chip Questions (11/21/04) Hello, <Steve Allen today.> I just recently (about three days ago) purchased a chocolate chip star fish and for the first few days he was all over the tank but today he didn't move as much and for about the last few hours he seems to get bloated (in the middle) and then it will go away and now he was bloated but it looked like it moved to his arm is getting swollen. Is this normal? Thanks, Brittney <Sounds like it might be eating some sort of chunky food. They will remain still over food for may hours while they evert their stomachs and digest their food. They often pull a chunk of food inside themselves, thus causing a large bulge. This is most likely what is going on, in which case it will start moving and shrink down again as it digests the food. If not, then you will have to consider other possibilities. Let us know.>

Chocolate Chip Star Problem? (6/14/05) I purchased 2 ccs fish 6/13. <Chocolate Chip Starfish per your e-mail subject line. I would not know that by the term "ccs fish."> The smaller one is all over the aquarium, but the larger one is just sitting there. His chips seem to fold up in the middle until I pick him up then everything seems to go back to normal looking. Is he just stressed out to the new aquarium or should I look for something else wrong? <Impossible to say for sure. Did you acclimate slowly over several hours, as starfish require? Starfish aren't always active, and may sit in one place for a while. Try to feed it and see what happens. Keep a close eye on it. BTW, these are voracious eaters that are not reef-safe and need to be in a fairly big tank long-term. Hope this helps, Steve Allen.>

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