Last week while making a crawl of the Denver area aquarium stores I stumbled across an insanely bright starfish that made my jaw drop. Now I’ve seen a few different types of ‘chocolate chip’ starfish, some of which were mostly red with brown to black spines on top and a dusky perimeter but never have I seen one that was completely saturated red orange in coloration.
If you’ve ever seen a bright orange Fromia starfish, imagine what color it would be if you cranked up the saturation in photoshop to 100% and you’d be halfway to how bright this starfish is. In the image above you can see what most would consider a blood red Echinophyllia chalice coral which appears almost dull next to the intense sanguine coloration of this brilliant starfish. It doesn’t hurt that this red starfish is illuminated by RGB LEDs but the red chalice coral has the same benefit.
I have tentatively placed this red chocolate chip starfish in my 29 gallon reef aquarium which is fairly mature with a diversity of epiphytic growth including coralline algae, some amount of sponge and almost no competition for biofilm. So far the starfish has totally ignored various plating stony corals including Turbinaria, Echinopora, Echinophyllia and a whole patch of different Euphyllia species. However, this red starfish has been spending a lot of time on an outcrop of zoanthids although I can’t see any damage to the zoanthids themselves, although some of the sponge that was growing between the polyps is notably absent.
I am not even sure if this is actually a chocolate chip starfish species, as it seems to have very minimal development of the spines on it’s dorsal surface and it has a more flattened appearance overall. I reached out to Christopher Mah who runs the Echinoblog, and he seems to believe that this may be an immature specimen of Pentaceraster and it may or may not grow into a different color and shape. Whatever this starfish is, all my visitors in the last week have pointed excitedly at the new addition and it’ll be getting a lot of careful ovbservation to make sure that it is doing well and not disturbing my precious corals in Ecoreef Two.