News / Species Spotlight / Popular Piscines - Harlequin Tuskfish (04/16/14)

Popular Piscines - Harlequin Tuskfish

In The Wild

Choerodon fasciatus has an odd distribution, with two separate populations, the largest population is primarily off the coast of Queensland, Australia with another population off Taiwan. They are a tropical and subtropical fish found near reefs in water between 40 and 120 feet deep. Unlike many other wrasses, fish in the Choerodon genus do not hide under the sand.

Juveniles and adults are generally found singly, with distinct pairings during spawning, which happens at dusk. They reach a max size of about 11 inches (30 cm). Reports of this fish getting up to 24 inches in captivity are erroneous. Even with this relatively small adult size, this is harvested as a food fish in some places.

They eat a wide variety of inverts like snails, crabs and bivalves; larger specimens are predators of urchins and smaller fish. Tuskfish will pull fish these prey out of rock crevices and use their pectoral fins to blow sand away and uncover potential foods. They have also been known to move rocks and whatever else is between them and a meal.

In The Aquarium

The Harlequin Tuskfish looks mean (look at the fangs!) but isn't really all that aggressive. In a large tank it will be just fine as a community fish, though small fish and invertebrates could become a meal, especially if the Tusk is underfed. On the flip side, this is a fish that is likely to be bullied if added to aquariums with established aggressive fish. While they are frequently reported to be shy initially, this is usually overcome in a few days and Harlequins will begin to recognize aquarists as food sources. To help maintain peace between these and other fishes, add them to a larger aquarium.

Because they don't bury themselves in the sand, Tuskfish need lots of rockwork so they can find a place to hide. Once acclimated they will be active swimmers, so plan aquarium layout accordingly.

Harlequin Tuskfish generally don't eat corals, and can be added to reef aquariums. On the flip side, they will move rocks, corals and just about anything they can pry up just to see if there is a meal underneath it. In addition, they will not hesitate to eat an entire clean up crew, so be prepared to replace snails, crabs and even urchins more frequently. They need to be fed a varied diet, a few times a day as they are very active, and frequent meals will help curb their appetite for items you don't wish them to eat.

All this being said, there a few fish in the hobby that are nearly as beautiful, especially that are this hardy and versatile. Australian and Melanesian specimens come from Short Supply Chains, and are a bit more expensive than eastern Asia fish, but the extra price shows up in a healthier animal.
Scott W. Michael, Marine Fishes, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications Inc, New Jersey, 2001).
Rudie H Kuiter, Fairy & Rainbow Wrasses and their relatives, 1st ed. (TMC Publishing, Chorleywood, UK, 2002)
Rudie H Kuiter & Helmut Debelius, World Atlas of Marine Fishes, 1st ed. (IKAN-Unterwasserarchiv 2006)
Scott W. Michael, Wrasses & Parrotfishes, 1st ed. (T.F.H. Publications Inc, New Jersey, 2009).
In House Resources: Adam Mangino, Eli Fleishauer