News / Species Spotlight / Highly Underrated Fish - Meiacanthus oualanensis (07/23/14)

Highly Underrated Fish - Meiacanthus oualanensis

In the Wild

Meiacanthus oualanensis is blenny native to the west coast of Fiji; generally found in fairly shallow water. There is a very similar fish from Tonga, Meiacanthus tongaensis, that can be distinguished by a fringe of black along the base of it's dorsal fin. Another mimic is Plagiotremus laudandus flavus (Yellow Mimic Fangblenny) which feeds on the scales and slime coat of other fish. It has a distinct "overbite" lacking on the Meiacanthus so it can easily be distinguished.

They have a relatively small adult size, most staying under 4.5 inches. Fang blennies are generally found above sandy areas adjacent to reefs or other rocky structure. They have an interesting swimming behavior as they will swim forward a few strokes, then pause, then repeat with occasional dives down to the substrate (presumably to grab prey). In general they feed on plankton from the water column.

They are demersal spawners, (demersal eggs are heavier than water and are laid in prepared spawning sites on the sea bed.) Males will make a nest, and females will deposit eggs in them. One male will spawn with several receptive females, each depositing her eggs in the same nest.

In the Aquarium

Canary Blennies belong on the underrated fish list, and probably high on it. There is no good explanation for why we don't see more of them in the hobby. It could be that hobbyists are scared off by the idea of a "venomous" fish in their tank, or maybe calling all of their genus "fang" blennies has caused people to second guess having one in their tank. What ever the reason, people are missing out.

Among unlike most blennies that spend most of their time hidden away in a rock peeking out, these blennies will spend most of their time in the water column, looking for food. They very hardy; they accept prepared foods readily, and are resistant to most common aquarium ailments. They are planktivores, which makes them the very definition of "reef safe". They are great community fish, neither bothering, nor being bothered by the vast majority of other fish common in the hobby. They have been bred and reared in captivity, which is definitely achievable by hobbyists.

Yes, this is a "venomous" fish. Which is likely why it isn't scared of other fish, and would be such a visible component of your display. The venom (in the fangs of the fish) is very mild, and likely to cause most people less discomfort than a honey bee sting. This is (of course) contingent upon getting bit, which is very easy to avoid if you handle them with nets.


Matthew L. Wittenrich, The Complete Illustrated Breeder's Guide To Marine Aquarium Fishes, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications Inc, New Jersey, 2007).

Scott W. Michael, Reef Aquarium Fishes, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications Inc, New Jersey, 2005).

Bruce Carlson, Ph.D. and Marj Awai, "Getting to Know the Blennies," Coral Magazine, 26-39 (April / May 2008)

In house sources: Adam Mangino, Eli Fleishauer, Brent Robinson