It’s been a while since I had an aquarium; I prefer to shoot fish with a camera than keep them in a tank these days. It saves me a lot of cash as well, as both are expensive hobbies. But I can still recall just how excited I was with my first fish and invertebrate purchases, and how I excited I was, many years later, to see those same creatures in the wild.
Like any sensible aspiring hobbyist, I read a few books about marine fish when I started out. One of them listed the Lemonpeel Angel (Centropyge flavissima) as a good beginner’s fish. I won’t name the book, it had ‘beginner’ in its title somewhere I think, and I can only hope it’s now out of print.
I quickly learned that Lemonpeels were not fish I’d ever keep again, and could in fact be quite difficult to keep, what with their occasionally pugnacious ways and fondness for nipping on corals, clam mantles, zoanthids, and even xenia. This is one of those fish that comes with a ‘with caution’ label.
A few years ago, I had the chance to see Lemonpeels on a South Pacific reef. I think that when you spot a fish that you once had in a tank in an entirely different setting and context, it can cause a few moments of cognitive dissonance (I’m no psychologist, but I hope you know what I mean). There they were, a small group of half a dozen or so, flitting in an out of the reef picking away at the rockwork and corals, seemingly taking bites out of everything and having a fine time of it.
They were very wary of me, and it took a fair bit of time for me to get anywhere close to them, but I was struck with just how brilliant that yellow is against the greys and blues. As the fish moved, the electric blue highlights on their fin tips and around their eyes caught the sun. Absolutely stunning! Then a bicolor swam past and off I went in pursuit of that.
I hope these pictures will encourage anyone interested in this fish, to check it out a little further and be more mindful of its nature.