News / Species Spotlight / Sandhopper Blenny (Parapercis schauinslandii) (10/20/16)

Sandhopper Blenny (Parapercis schauinslandii)

Species Spotlight - Sandhopper Blenny (Parapercis schauinslandii)
The beautiful red and white fish featured in this discussion, Parapercis schaunslandii, has a bit of an identity crisis. Here at Quality Marine we refer to it as the Sandhopper Blenny, which is a fun name that gives some idea of its behavior, but, truthfully, this fish is not a blenny and doesnt act much like one either. Similarly, the name Red Weever Goby pops up now and then; however, this fish is no goby either. You might also see it called the Lyretail Grubfish, though this strange name is (thankfully) uncommonly used. Probably the name most frequently encountered is the Redspotted Sandperch, which seems reasonable enough given this fish has red spots and is related to the true perches. If at this point youre wondering to yourself what exactly this fish is, its closest relatives are now thought to be the Stargazers and Sand Lances of the Order Uranoscopiformes, all of which are elongated predatory fishes that live on the ocean floor.

You will often find this particular species misidentified in the aquarium trade as P. snyderi, a West Pacific fish with a very different appearance and one which is almost never actually collected. This is an important distinction, as these two species exhibit considerably different behaviors in the wild and in captivity. Parapercis is a large genus with at least 75 described species; most of these are bottom-dwellers that scoot about in a manner not too dissimilar to that seen in many dragonets, hopping from one location to another in search of the invertebrates that make up their diet. This is true for P. snyderi, but, on the other hand, the widespread Indo-Pacific P. schauinslandii is a species which spends much of its time along deep outer reef slopes floating well off the bottom in search of zooplankton. It even has a specialized lyre-shaped tail fin (best seen in larger specimens) to help it swim in this manner.

With a maximum size of around seven inches, P. schauinslandii will require an appropriately large aquarium. It tends to be a hearty and peaceful fish that will quickly adapt to standard aquarium foods. If mixed with overly aggressive fishes, this perchy pacifist is more likely to be picked on than to do any of the picking. Its even possible to keep small groups together in captivity, especially if acquired as juvenilesas a protogynous hermaphrodite, small specimens will likely be females and the dominant individuals will mature into a male, as with many wrasses and anthias.

Its a bit sad that there arent more Parapercis species regularly available for aquarists. These unusual fishes are fascinating to observe and make for a peaceful, hearty and beautiful addition to reef and fish-only aquariums. Whether you call them Sandhopper Blennies... Weever Gobies... Grubfishes... or Sandperches, this is one fish which deserves more appreciation.