Aquarium Fish: The Candy Basslet (Liopropoma carmabi (Randall, 1963))

It’s been a while since I last wrote an article about
fish and that’s primarily because I couldn’t think
of anything interesting to write about (at least nothing that
interested me). Well, I recently obtained
“my” Holy Grail of marine aquarium fish, the Candy
Basslet (Liopropoma carmabi), and that gave me the
impetus to write again.


Pictured is the Candy Basslet (Liopropoma carmabi) in the author’s 12 gallon nano-reef aquarium.

The Candy Basslet is part of the larger family (Serranidae)
of sea basses, groupers and reef basslets. It’s one
of 23 to 27 species (depending upon whom you cite) of reef
basslets in the subfamily Liopropomini. The reef basslets
have always been some of my favorite aquarium fish because
they’re generally hardy, attractive, easy to feed,
disease-resistant, and remain small. Also, since they do
not pick at sessile invertebrates, they’re an ideal
choice for the coral reef aquarium. One caveat:
They will eat any shrimp or crab that’s small enough to
fit into their mouth. This is less of an issue with the
smaller members of genus, such as the Candy Basslet, but
something to consider with larger species, such as the Wrasse
Bass (L. eukrines), which can reach 6 inches in


All the reef basslets are somewhat cryptic by nature and
inhabit the caves and crevices of rocky reef structures.
Depending upon the size of the aquarium, other inhabitants,
lighting and décor, they will become bolder over
time. All Liopropoma species share the same
torpedo-shaped body and many have horizontal stripes. The
Candy Basslet is most similar in size and coloration to the
Swissguard Basslet (L. rubre) and Swales Basslet (L.
) but is easily differentiated by its more intense
coloration. Although specimens can vary in color and
intensity, the Candy Basslet generally sports bright lavender
and red lines against an orange body. The colors can be
so intense as to make it difficult to photograph (the colors
tend to “bloom” in photographs). It’s
arguably the most beautiful and brightly colored of all the
coral reef fish. The coloration tends to make up for what
it lacks in size. As indicated earlier, the Candy Basslet
is a relatively small fish growing to a maximum adult size of
about 2 1/2 inches.


The Candy Basslet (Liopropoma
) does best in a reef aquarium decorated heavily
with live rock. It’s dashing into a crevice in the
rockwork in this picture.


The author’s Candy Basslet
(Liopropoma carmabi) peers from its cave located in a 12
gallon nano-reef aquarium.

The Candy Basslet generally accepts all meaty seafood in the
aquarium, such as Mysis shrimp, enriched brine shrimp, shredded
krill, squid and clam. Over time it may accept flake and
pellet foods, but I prefer to feed fresh frozen foods

The Candy Basslet is one of five species of
Liopropoma that occur in the tropical Atlantic
Ocean. It ranges from the Bahamas and Florida Keys, along
the eastern Caribbean, and down to some of the smaller islands
(Curacao, Bonaire, and Ascension) off the northern coast of
South America. In its natural range, it inhabits caves
and rocky recesses between 50 and 250 feet, with most specimens
found below 80 feet. Given its reclusive lifestyle and
deep-water habitat, they are not commonly collected for the
aquarium trade. When they do appear, they command a very
high price.

Candy Basslets are generally observed as solitary
individuals, and since they are not sexually dimorphic or
sexually dichromatic (you can’t visually tell the
difference between males and females), it’s best to
maintain them alone. If you have a large reef aquarium
(135 gallons or greater), and a big budget to match, you can
add more than one specimen. Each one will stake out a
territory in the rock structure. To my knowledge, none of
the reef basslets have been bred in captivity to date; although
they have exhibited spawning behavior.


Given its size and reclusive nature, I think its best to
maintain the Candy Basslet in a smaller reef aquarium (30
gallons or less). I’ve kept two related basslets
(L. mowbrayi & L. rubre) in my 500 gallon reef
aquarium for many years but I rarely see them. It would
be a shame to throw this fish into a large mixed reef aquarium
and never get to enjoy its beauty and unique habits.
Regardless of the size of the aquarium, the Candy Basslet is
best maintained in a reef aquarium decorated heavily with live
rock and, ideally, under subdued illumination. The
Swissguard Basslet (L. rubre) and Ridgeback Basslet
(L. mowbrayi) in my large reef aquarium only venture out
of the rocks for any length of time after the main lights turn


The Candy Basslet (Liopropoma
) shares it’s aquarium with a few other
passive fish, including this combtooth blennie (Ecsenius

I presently keep my Candy Basslet in a 12 gallon nano-reef
aquarium alongside my desk at my home office. This tank
is lit with two 24 watt compact fluorescent lamps. The
Candy Basslet is always visible and active as it moves between
rocks in the aquarium. It often parks itself under a rock
ledge at the front of the aquarium and gives the appearance of
“begging” for food. The only tankmates are a
neon goby (Gobiosoma oceanops) and small blennie
(Ecsenius sp.). The Candy Basslet is a passive
fish and compatible with most other fish, with the possible
exception of conspecifics (other Candy Basslets); although it
will mix well other small reef basslets, such as the Ridgeback
Basslet. I wouldn’t house the Candy Basslet with
any Pseudochromids or wrasses, especially in a smaller reef
aquarium. It would be fine with Grammas, Anthias, Tangs
and most Angelfish.

If you can find a Candy Basslet, be sure to look it over
closely for signs of swim bladder damage before plunking down
your cash. The swim bladder can be injured if the fish is
not properly decompressed after collection. It should be
able to hold a perfect horizontal position in the water without
any indication of a struggle. Although Candy Basslets are
not prone to disease, I’d still recommend a period of
quarantine in hyposalinity. I would not treat it with any
medication prophylactically.


Larger reef basslets, such as this
Wrasse Bass (Liopropoma eukrines) are more of a threat
to small shrimp and crabs in the aquarium.

The coloration of Candy Basslets can vary between specimens
from beautiful to spectacular, so keep an eye out for this as
well. You also want to be careful not to confuse a Candy
Basslet with similar and more common basslets, such as the
Swissguard or Swales Basslet. The distinguishing
characteristic, outside of the more intense coloration of the
Candy Basslet, is that the Candy Basslet lacks a black spot on
its anal fin, which is clearly visible in adult Swissguard and
Swale’s Basslets.


Candy Basslets should start eating after a day of settling
down in the aquarium. If not, you can entice them with
some enriched live adult brine shrimp. You should be able
to wean them off live food relatively quickly.

Before parting, I need to acknowledge Chris Pirhalla and
Chris Meckley of FINZ in Tampa, Florida, without whom I would
not have obtained my Holy Grail. Although it’s a
relatively new store, FINZ already have a reputation for the
rare and unusual and cater to the high-end reef aquarist.
They’re located at 150 South Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa

  Advanced Aquarist

 Gregory Schiemer

  (19 articles)

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