News / Species Spotlight / Look-A-Likes: Tierra & Randall's Anthias (08/18/15)

Look-A-Likes: Tierra & Randall's Anthias

All Anthias look somewhat alike. The males are all more colorful than the females. They are usually some variation on pink and yellow, they usually have striking contrasts and flowing tail fins. However, the Tierra and the Randall's Anthias look strikingly similar: The same colors, the same barring, the same fin patterns. Look at the two male Anthias in the photo above; are they different fish? While there is some discussion about whether or not these are the same species, for now at least, Science has them as distinct species. You can see why there might be some confusion; and if you think these are hard to tell apart, you should see the females.

Pseudanthias pulcherrimus or Tierra Anthias

The fish on the left is Pseudanthias plucherrimus, or the Tierra Anthias, it is also known as the Resplendent Goldie Anthias. It is a deep reef fish, found usually at least 200 feet down, but has been known at certain times to be as shallow as 30 feet. They are normally located on clear coastal or outer reefs. Their range is limited to the Western Indian Ocean; commonly from the Maldives to Mauritius.

It is a very small species of Anthias rarely exceeding 2.5 inches. They are identified by the longitudinal barring on the body, and the "outline" on their pelvic and anal fins. While they are predominantly pink and yellow, there is some variation based on habitat and location. In addition, they are reported to look blue at great depth.

Pseudanthias randalli or Randall's Anthias

The fish on the right is Pseudanthias randalli or Randall's Anthias. It is also known as Randall's Fairy Basslet. They are found at the same depths (over 200ft, with occasional forays shallower) and reef types as the Tierra Basslet. They reach the same maximum size, and have the same defining characteristics. They even have the same color discrepanies based on location. In fact, these two fish are so close that in Kuiter's book "Basslets, Hamlets and their relatives" He has the following comment, "...possibly subspecific or synonymous with it..."

Why are they considered different species? The difference pops up when you look at the range. Randall's Anthias is missing from the Western Indian Ocean, being commonly found in the tropical Western Pacific.

How Can I tell them apart?

The short, easy, (and correct) answer is: you can't. Sure, if you study these photos here and on our website, you'll find some minute differences in color, but every difference you see is either a variability inherent in photographing live animals, or the previously mentioned variability in coloration based on habitat and location. Even our team of biologists couldn't do it unless we knew where they came from, which obviously we do. Someday, perhaps, someone will map the genome of both of these fish. When they do, I bet we will find out that they are the same fish, until then, we'll continue to separate them for you.

Aquarium considerations

Both of these are good Anthias for the home aquarium. While they both do well here, the Tierra Anthias we sell come from one of our Short Supply Chains, and they have the edge as far as how quickly they acclimate how quickly they take food, and how they generally perform in house for us.

Like all Anthias, they live in harems and we have found males and females from either species generally will share space just as if they were the same species. They eat well here; doing best with 2 or more feedings per day. Among Anthias they are some of the more timid, so we don't suggest housing them with some of the bigger more rambunctious Anthias like P. pleurotaenia or P. kashiwae.


Rudie H Kuiter, Basslets, Hamlets and their relatives, 1st English ed. (2004)