The Fish of the Coral Reefs

Fish of the Coral Reefs

  Indo-Pacific Aquarium

Banggai Cardinal Fish

Peter A. Corina

Banggai Cardinal Fish

(Pterapogon kauderni)

Individuals: 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!

Bartlett's Anthias

Bartlett's Anthias

(Pseudanthias bartlettorum)

Individuals: 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 Gudgeon Dart Fish

Blue Gudgeon Dart Fish

(Ptereleotris heteroptera)

Individuals: Het, Ero, Era

Blue Gudgeon Dart Fish originate from the reefs of Fiji but are also found in the Indo-Pacific region. They are also called Blacktail Dart Fish or Blacktail Gobies. Their long, skinny bodies are great for putting on bursts of speed. Sometimes, like their relatives the Zebra-Barred Dart Fish, they jump out the top of tanks.

These fish are very shy and like to burrow in the sand especially when scared or startled. You can often see them poking their heads out from underneath rocks in our tanks.

Blue-Eyed Tang

Bernard Dupont (Flickr)

Blue-Eyed Tang

(Ctenochaetus binotatus)

Individuals: Bino

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.

Dispar Anthias

Nick Hobgood (Wikimedia; cropped)

Dispar Anthias

(Pseudanthias dispar)

Individuals: 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.

Orchid Dottyback

Orchid Dottyback

(Pseudochromis fridmani)

Individuals: Chromis

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

Haplochromis (Wikimedia)

Percula Clown Fish

(Amphiprion percula)

Individuals: 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 stripped. 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.

Yellow Longnosed Butterfly Fish

Joel Abroad (Flickr)

Yellow Longnosed Butterfly Fish

(Forcipiger flavissimus)

Individuals: Pig

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.

Yellow Tang

Francisco Sanchez (Flickr)

Yellow Tang

(Zebrasoma flavescens)

Individuals: Zeb, Soma, Flave

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.

Zebra-Barred Dartfish

Lonnie Huffman (Wikimedia)

Zebra-Barred Dartfish

(Ptereleotris zebra)

Individuals: 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).

  Caribbean Aquarium

Chalk Bass

Kevin Bryant (Flickr)

Chalk Bass

(Serranus tortugarum)

Individuals: Serra, Tortu, Garum

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.

Masked Goby

Masked Goby

(Coryphopterus personatus)

Individuals: Cory, Nat

These fish are found in the Caribbean. They are often seen in large schools in the wild. Because of their small size, Goby are often observed hiding in sheltered rocky areas. These are very docile fish that are rarely aggressive towards others.

Royal Gramma

Brian Gratwicke

Royal Gramma

(Gramma loreto)

Individuals: Gram

Royal Gramma originate from and are native to the Caribbean and are also known as the Fairy Basslet. Royal Gramma eat zooplankton, crustaceans, and have been known to eat ectoparasites (parasites that are located on the outer surface of the host) off the skin of other fish.

These fish are very protective of their territory and as a defensive display, will open their mouths very wide to make themselves appear larger and more threatening to competitors.

Royal Gramma, like Goby, tend to orient themselves parallel to the closest surface which means that you may see them swimming upside down under ledges or rocks.

Rusted Goby

Rusted Goby

(Priolepis hiplotit)

Individuals: Prio, Lepis, Hiplo

Rusted Goby are very shy fish that typically reside in the rockwork until feeding time. They will swim upside down under ledges and rock shelves which is an odd behavior not observed in many other fish species.