News / Species Spotlight / Belted Sandfish (Serranus subligarius) (05/18/17)

Belted Sandfish (Serranus subligarius)

Species Spotlight - Belted Sandfish (Serranus subligarius)
The Caribbean is home to an impressive 14 species of Serranus basslet, many of which are hugely popular among aquarists. In the shallows, theres the Chalk Basslet (S. tortugarum), the Harlequin Basslet (S. tigrinus), the Tobacco Basslet (S. tabacarius), and the Lantern Basslet (S. baldwini)... all of which are commonly seen for sale. And then theres the Belted Sandfish (S. subligarius), an attractive little species that occurs in these same shallow Caribbean waters, but, which is largely overlooked. Pity the poor Belted Sandfish.

In the wild, youll find the Belted Sandfish along the Gulf Coast, from Northern Mexico to Florida and up towards North Carolina, in depths ranging from 3-80 meters. Their preferred habitat includes areas with rock and sand that are often heavily laden with silt. And by looking at this fishs cryptic patterning, its not hard to see how it would thrive here.

The Belted Sandfish has a little bit of everything going on. The body has numerous dark vertical bands. The scales are generally margined in an ocherous red, creating a look that is seen in many hawkfishes. In addition, there is a large black spot in the middle of the dorsal fin and a white blotch along the belly. As well as numerous fine spots in the fins and along the head. Theres also a stripe running through the eye, and the pelvic fins are edged in white. In total, theres not a place on this fish which isnt covered with some kind of interesting mark or color.

With a maximum size of around four inches, this should be a popular species among aquarists, yet it is not the case. Collectors seldom target the Belted Sandfish for this reason, and, consequently, it isnt available in anywhere near the numbers of its basslet relatives. But, despite of being comparatively rare in captivity, this is still one of the least-expensive of the Caribbean Serranus. This makes it a great choice for those looking to keep an unusual and uncommon fish without spending the kind of money that normally goes along with that.

As for care, the Belted Sandfish is little different from other basslets. Its generally best kept singly, unless purchased as a mated pair or provided with a suitably large aquarium to disperse any territoriality. Feed an appropriate mix of meaty foods and avoid keeping it alongside anything small enough to be swallowed. Theres no risk of the Belted Sandfish bothering corals, so go ahead and add one to a reef aquarium for a truly unique piscine experience.