The Fish of the Coral Reefs
Fish of the Coral Reefs
Peter A. Corina
Banggai Cardinal Fish
Names: Ptera, Pogo
Banggai Cardinal Fish are classified as endangered in the wild. Its geographical distribution is restricted to a small island chain in Indonesia called the Banggai Islands (the fish's namesake). As this fish became more popular in aquariums its wild population fluctuated greatly which led has in part to its classification as endangered.The specimens on display are captive bred – an initiative led by dedicated aquarists.
Banggai Cardinal Fish are mouthbrooders. After eggs are laid by the female, the males will incubate them in his mouth until after they have hatched. This is a defensive strategy that helps ensure the eggs survival but it can prevent the male from eating for up to three weeks!
Brian Gratwicke (cropped)
Names: Dan, Thias, Bart, Orum
Bartlett's Anthias are found in the Pacific Ocean where they live very actively. These fish are outgoing and often will spend more time out and about instead of hiding in the rocks. They are often found in larger groups rather than solitarily. These fish need to be fed 4-5 times a day because of their high metabolism and activity level.
Male Anthias tend to be aggressive with one another, so we have a small shoal with only one dominant male to prevent this. If something were to happen to this male, the largest female would change her sex to become the dominant male.
Blue Streak Cardinal Fish
Names: Lepta, Canthus
Also known as the Threadfin Cardinal fish, this fish is commonly found in the Red Sea. This fish is almost completely translucent except for several yellow stripes near its head, blue markings around the eye, and blue vertical strips that it develops with age. They are relatively small fish usually not growing larger than around 6-7 cm. Blue Streak Cardinal fish are very peaceful and are most active at night. The two in our tank are a bonded pair. Like Banggai Cardinal fish, Blue streak Cardinal fish are mouth brooders which means that the male will hold fertilized eggs in his mouth before they hatch into juvenile fish.
Bernard Dupont (Flickr)
Blue Eyed Tangs are also known as the Two Spot Surgeonfish and are native to the Indo-Pacific region.
Like its relative the Yellow Tang, this fish is an algae eater and helps keep algae from hurting corals and overtaking the tanks. It has a protrusible mouth that it uses to scoop and scrape algae off of rocks or rubble. Within its mouth are specialized teeth called bristle teeth which get their name from their resemblance to tooth brush bristles.
Although this fish does get along with other Tang species, you may observe some territorial competition in captivity.
Nick Hobgood (Wikimedia; cropped)
Names: Dis, Par
Dispar Anthias are very similar to their relatives the Bartlett's Anthias. They are very active and often in the front of the tank. They share the trait of being hermaphroditic with the Bartelett's Anthias as well.
The males have a bright red dorsal fin (the fin that runs along their backs) that they will raise when threatened. Because of this this species is also called the Redfin Anthias.
Klaus Stiefel / Flickr
Names: Mei, Dorsa
The Forktail Blenny is an omnivorous fish native to several Indo-Pacific islands including Fiji and Vanuatu. Its name comes from the distinctive lengthened edges of its tail that creates a fork like shape. Forktail Blenny also have a characteristic eye strip on their blue-grey heads. These fish have slightly venomous teeth and a tendency to be aggressive with one another. To make sure aggression is kept to a minimum, we only have a single, breeding pair in our exhibit. Our breeding pair were bred in captivity.
Line-Spot Flasher Wrasse
The Line-Spot Flasher Wrasse is also called the Dot-and-Dash Flasher Wrasse. The names come from the intricate pattern on this fish's body that is made up of very small lines and spots (or dashes and dots!). The Line-Spot Flasher Wrasse are plankton eaters found around the Philippines. Their colors intensify during mating. These are docile fish that have a male dominant social structure and like many fish, they can change their sex. If something happens to the dominant male of the group, the largest female will change into a male and become the new dominant fish.
Orchid Dottybacks are also called Fridman's Dottybacks, named after David Fridman, the founder of the Underwater Observatory Marine Park, located in Eilat, Israel. Orchid Dottybacks are easily identified by their bright purple coloring and distinctive black stripe that runs from their lips to right behind the eye. These fish originated in the Red Sea.
Orchid Dottybacks are hemaprodites where the largest of a group will become male and the smaller will remain female (in contrast to clownfish where the opposite is true).
Orchid Dottybacks make their homes in small dens or caves that they will protect from competitors and escape to if in danger. When mating, the male will perform a dance for the female and she will either accept or reject the display. If she chooses to accept, she will enter the cave the male inhabits and lay her eggs there. The male will then take care of the eggs until they hatch. He will guard the cave (even against the female!), fan the eggs to provide oxygen, and move the eggs around in the cave to give them the best chance at survival until they hatch.
Our Orchid Dottyback was bred in captivity. Many of the Dottyback family of fish are now available as captive-bred which helps to protect wild populations and promote sustainable fishing practices.
Percula Clown Fish
Names: Per, Cula
This fish is also called the Orange Clownfish. Clownfish are native to the Indo-Pacific area and are not found in the Atlantic Ocean. Clownfish are omnivorous, feeding on everything from algae, to zooplankton, to the leftovers of the anemones they live in.
Clownfish are one of the few types of fish able to resist the poisons of the anemones they inhabit. Normally, an anemone will snare a small fish in its tentacles and fire nematocysts (the sting organs) to inject poison into its prey. There are several theories on how Clownfish are able to avoid this response from the anemone. One idea is that the fish is coated in a mucous that is made up of sugar instead of protein. This prevents the anemone from recognizing the fish as a food source. The anemone provides a home, protection, and food for the Clownfish and in return the fish wards off predators and parasites from the anemone, lures small fish to the anemone to be eaten, and can also provide food through their waste.
Clownfish have a strict social order that is based on dominance (mainly determined by size) and gender. All clownfish are born male and become female when they mature or when the hierarchy allows it. This is called sequential hermaphroditism.
Clownfish are not just orange and white striped. There are many varieties that are yellow, red, pink, and even black. Most have white stripes that make them recognizable but some species have only white patches or are lacking this characteristic entirely.
After the popular film Finding Nemo, demand and collection of wild clownfish rose dramatically. This was really unnecessary as clownfish are the “poster-children” of marine ornamental fish captive breeding programs. Most species of these beautiful fish are now available as captive-bred individuals. There is now even a whole cottage industry of designer clownfish production with some amazing variations on wild species.
Red Velvet Fairy Wrasse
Red Velvet Fairy Wrasse a plankton eater common to the Maldives Islands. As the fish ages, the edges of the scales, especially near the head of the fish start to darken. Males tend to be much brighter and more colorful than females. During courting, the male may turn white on his sides to attract a mate. The color of this fish has also be linked to its mood, with more intense colors while distressed and more subdued colors when relaxed. This is a peaceful yet active fish that can often be seen in the front of our tank.
Red-Spot Cardinal Fish
Names: Parv, Ulus
The Red-Spot Cardinal Fish is semi-transparent, has horizontal lines of dark blue along its entire body, and the distinctive red spot at the base of its tail which is its namesake. In the wild these fish will form large schools but in smaller tanks with more limited territory they will fight until there are only two left. We have only one breeding pair in our exhibit.
Swales Swissgaurd Basslet
Swales Swissgaurd Basslets are generally peaceful fish native to Indonesia. They have distinctive colorful strips running horizontally down their entire bodies and spotted dorsal and ventral fins. They are born with and begin development with both male and female sex organs but as they mature they develop into only one sex. Unlike some of the other fish in our tanks like the Clownfish and Line-Spot Flasher Wrasse, once the Swales Swissgaurd Basslet picks a sex, it is unable to change it again. Ours is very shy and is usually hiding in small crevices or under the rock work.
Joel Abroad (Flickr)
Yellow Longnosed Butterfly Fish
Yellow Longnosed Butterfly Fish are found throughout the Indo-Pacific region. They are also called Forcepfish because of their elongated lips. Forceps are a medical instrument used to extract and hold things. In the case of the Yellow Longnosed Butterfly Fish, their long mouth is used for extracting small shrimp and other crustaceans from the rockwork.
This fish will darken at night to help it blend into its nighttime surroundings and camouflage their usually bright coloring. When daylight returns the fish will lighten and brighten again. The spot on its tail is thought to be a false eye. This is used as a defensive strategy to confuse predators into attacking the tail end of the fish instead of the head where much more damage could be done.
Francisco Sanchez (Flickr)
Names: Zeb, Soma
Yellow Tangs are common throughout the Indo-Pacific region and are characterized by their bright yellow coloring and a small white spot at the base of their tail. This is more than just a spot! There is a sharp spine that they use by flexing their tails to defend themselves against predators or to ward off competitors.
At nighttime, Yellow Tangs have been observed to darken their usually bright yellow coloring and a brown patch will develop along their midline. This is a strategy to help camouflage them at night when their colors would stand out much more conspicuously than in daylight. When the sun rises their coloring will return to its original brightness and the brown patch will fade.
Their elongated lips are used to eat seaweed and algae and they use them to prune algae that could suffocate the corals. In the wild they have been known to help clean turtle shells of algal growth as well.
Lonnie Huffman (Wikimedia)
Names: Leo, Tris
Zebra Barred Dartfish originate from Indonesia and are found in the Indo-Pacific and are very active. These fish can put on great bursts of speed when swimming and have been known to jump out of tanks (we have a screen to prevent this behavior and keep the fish safe).
Brian Gratwicke (cropped)
Blue Reef Chromis
Names: Omis, Cyan, Eus
Blue Reef Chromis are very peaceful shoaling fish. It is both a physically and socially active fish. Blue Reef Chromis often help bring shy fish out into the open of tanks. They are omnivorous fish. They have bright blue coloring outlined by a black margin. Blue Reef Chromis usually need to be kept in tanks in odd numbers due to their social structure.
Kevin Bryant (Flickr)
The largest populations of these fish are found in the Caribbean. Chalk Bass often live close to the bottoms of the reef and because of their smaller size will hide in small crevices or caves to escape predators. These fish eat zooplankton, shrimp, and other small crustaceans.
Chalk Bass are synchronously hermaphroditic which means they maintain both male and female sex organs at the same time.
Neon Blue Goby
Neon Blue Goby have very bright blue stripes extending horizontally from their heads to their tails. These fish are rarely aggressive with other species but are territorial and will show aggression towards other gobys. Neon Blue Gobys are carnivorous and often eat parasites picked off of other reef fish in the wild. They spend a lot of time in the rockwork and will often be perched on rock outcroppings. Neon Blue Gobys were one of the first species to be bred successfully in captivity and the individuals in our exhibit were tank-bred.