News / Species Spotlight / African Reef Basslet (Liopropoma africanum) (06/16/17)

African Reef Basslet (Liopropoma africanum)

Species Spotlight - African Reef Basslet (Liopropoma africanum)
The colorful and reclusive reef basslets in the genus Liopropoma are a favorite of rare fish collectors. These pint-sized grouper relatives are a common inhabitant in coral reef ecosystems, but, owing to their retiring demeanor, they are not often observed in the wild. Lurking deep within the rocky recesses of the reef, Liopropoma are typically seen for just a brief moment before quickly retreating back to safety.

The genus is particularly diverse and abundant in deeper mesophotic reefs, but several species are also encountered in relatively shallow depths. Of these, arguably the most beautiful and desirable species for aquarists (at least in the Indo-Pacific) is L. africanum, the African Reef Basslet.

Dont let the name mislead you, while this fish does occur up and down the Eastern African coastline, it is actually quite widespread in the Indian Ocean. Records exist from all overSeychelles, Chagos, Maldives and Western Sumatrabut, despite its broad distribution, specimens are only rarely collected for the aquarium trade, making this a rather expensive trophy fish for most.

But its not just rarity that the African Reef Basslet offers, this fish also has beauty in spades. Just look at the stunning yellows and reds and lavenders that cover every inch of it. And those vibrant contrasting stripes running along the body? 'est Magnifique! If theres any knock against this fish, its that it spends too much time lurking and not enough time strutting its fins about.

Since Liopropoma are essentially groupers writ small, there is typically no great challenge in keeping them happy and healthy in captivity. These carnivores will accept all sorts of meaty foods, and, once accustomed to life in an aquarium, can become quite gluttonous. It is important, however, to be sure this retiring creature gets its share at mealtime, as more energetic fishes could potentially outcompete it for its lunch.

For the especially well-heeled aquarist, it is possible to keep a pair of L. africanum together, though it is exceptionally uncommon to see the species sold in this way. Fortunately, this genus is known to change sex with age (and perhaps even to reverse sex when the situation calls for it, as many other serranids are known to do), so adding two specimens to a suitably large aquarium can reasonably be expected to produce a match. This might not happen initially and will ultimately depend on the size, sex and age of the specimens, but Rome wasnt built in a day. Liopropoma have been captively bred in recent years, but thus far L. africanum is not on that list. This seems like an oversight, yes?