Freckled hawkfish (Paracirrhites forsteri)When it comes to keeping hawkfishes in aquaria, one of the more common admonitions is to avoid housing these predators with fish or crustaceans small enough to swallow. For most of the hawkfish species that grace our tanks, which generally have a maximum size somewhere between 3 and 5 inches, only very small tankmates are truly at risk. A noteworthy exception is the freckled hawkfish (Paracirrhites forsteri), which can reach a rather prodigious size and has a mouth to match. You really have to take that warning seriously with this species! That said, P. forsteri is a hardy, easy-to-care-for hawk that makes a worthy aquarium candidate provided tankmates and housing are chosen judiciously.Physical traits P. forsteri has the deep, stout body and high-set eyes, typical of the hawkfishes. Its maximum size is approximately 8½ inches.
Atlantic pygmy angelfish (Centropyge argi)Having very recently departed the state of Ohio and resettled his family down in the Florida Keys, Caribbean Chris has had to part with his beloved, long-established Caribbean-biotope tank. He’s also had to come to terms with the reality that the specimens he bequeathed to me are now gracelessly intermingled with my Indo-Pacific species. So, to give CC a little inspiration (or torment his soul, either way), I thought I’d dedicate today’s post to a fish species that might be a welcome addition to his new tank whenever he gets around to setting it up—the Atlantic pygmy angelfish, aka the cherub angelfish (Centropyge argi). A denizen of the tropical western Atlantic and Caribbean Sea, this dwarf angel is a visual gem and can be a good choice for smaller systems. It is, however, rather feisty for its size, and this trait must be factored in when choosing tankmates, contemplating order of introduction, etc.Physical traits C. argi is blue overall with varying (by individual) degrees of orange-yellow coloration on its face and throat. The eyes are ringed with blue, and most of the fins (with the exception of the pectorals, which are yellow) are very dark blue, almost blackish, with lighter blue margins. Typical of marine angels, this species also has sharp, backward-curving spines on its gill covers (which are prone to getting tangled in nets).
Rock Beauty Angelfish (Holacanthus tricolor)On one of my earliest dives down in the Florida Keys back in the 1990s, a gorgeous yellow and black angelfish caught my attention as I drifted over a section of reef. In my mind’s eye, I envision the angel hovering boldly above a large barrel sponge, but I can’t be sure whether that’s actually how it happened or just an idyllic memory. In any case, I was taken with its distinctive appearance and wondered whether it might make a good aquarium candidate. As anyone familiar with the fauna of the tropical western Atlantic has already guessed, the angel I saw back then was a rock beauty (Holacanthus tricolor)—a species that, unfortunately, tends to fare poorly in marine aquaria and is generally best left to advanced fishkeepers or, better yet, in the ocean where it can beguile other divers. I’ll get into why in just a moment.Physical traits H. tricolor is laterally compressed (flattened from side to side) and, in typical angel fashion, sports a sharp, backward curving spine on the gill cover (operculum). As alluded above, this species is yellow on the anterior portion of the body and on the caudal fin and black from behind the gills to the caudal peduncle (base of the tail). The margin of the anal fin, the edge of the operculum, and the opercular spine are orange.
Coral catfish (Plotosus lineatus)A school of juvenile coral catfish (Plotosus lineatus) rolling and wriggling en masse along the ocean floor is among the more endearing sights one can behold in the marine realm. Not surprisingly, after seeing this phenomenon in nature or on video, many hobbyists are inspired to recreate it in their home aquaria. What’s more, individual juveniles of the species—the only catfish found on tropical coral reefs—are irresistibly cute, so even those hobbyists who have never observed their schooling behavior may be charmed by them at a local fish store. But before yielding to temptation and acquiring P. lineatus for your tank, it’s important to be aware of some key facts with respect to its growth potential, social behavior, and defensive capability. So, let’s take a closer look at these and other characteristics exhibited by this species.Coral cats and CJS The coral catfish, aka the striped eel catfish or saltwater catfish, is one of several fish species available in the marine aquarium trade that exhibit what I (as of this morning) like to call Cute-Juvenile Syndrome, or CJS.
Green brittle star (Ophiarachna incrassata)“Voracious predator” is not a term one commonly associates with brittle stars—that is, of course, unless the brittle star in question happens to be Ophiarachna incrassata, or the green brittle star (aka “the green death”). This bold species has a well-earned reputation for not merely scavenging deceased small fish and motile invertebrates, as one might assume, but also for actively hunting and capturing these animals while they’re still alive and kicking. Physical appearanceO. incrassata, as its common name implies, is muted green overall with lighter colored dots forming a radial pattern on the central disc. Whitish to yellowish spines line either side of each arm. Specimens can reach a rather prodigious size of around 20 inches in diameter (arm tip to arm tip, that is). Feeding This brittle star is not a finicky eater. It will accept pretty much any foods offered to fish as well as consume detritus