News / Species Spotlight / Species Spotlight - Dream Fish: Orange Spot Filefish (10/02/17)

Species Spotlight - Dream Fish: Orange Spot Filefish

Species Spotlight - Dream Fish: Orange Spot Filefish
The Seasoned Aquarists Launch Pad to Difficult, Demanding, or Tank Busting Fish
Alien like looks, spots that pop, inquisitive nature that is what draws me toward these awesome fish called Oxymonocanthus longirostris. Orange spot filefish are obligate coralivores with a poor track record in captivity. In this Dream Fish segment, I will talk about the ultimate factors that allow success or failure with this species.

First lets highlight some quick stats about Orange Spot Filefish:

Max Size: 4

Min. Tank Size: 40 gallon

Aggression level: Passive

Reef Safe: With Caution/Careful Selection

Range: Indo-pacific

These filefish have high metabolisms since they graze constantly on coral polyps, so they need to be fed frequently in the confines of the aquarium. Once established, I would consider this frequency to be 3 to 4 times per day assuming they are not competing against bolder fishes. When first imported I would up that to 5 to 7 times per day depending on body condition.

This high metabolism makes it especially important to understand the way these animals are collected and transported to your live fish store. It is important that transit time is short-going from collector, to exporter, to importer as fast as possible. This fact makes orange spot filefish coming out of Australia or Fiji desirable, and generally in better condition than their Philippines and Indonesian counterparts for the most part, as some Indonesian and Philippines fish can sit in holding for days without food and be transported from island to island until finally being exported.

Orange Spot Files feed solely on Acropora millepora. In fact these animals are so selective, that it has been suggested that they may choose to starve to death if Millepora is not available to them on the reef. This poses an interesting problem for them in the aquarium. Do we as aquarists feed them Millepora? That would be quite expensive, and unreasonable, considering these animals can be trained to eat prepared foods out of the water column.

Training an Orange Spot Filefish to eat from the water column takes some patients at times. I generally start with a coral skeleton of the acroporid variety and paste on a variety of frozen foods such as nutrimar ova, mysis shrimp, spirulina brine shrimp, cyclopeeze, lobster eggs, fish eggs, etc. Then I freeze it to the skeleton in the freezer for about an hour.

Once Orange Spot Files see you introduce this tasty concoction into their aquarium, they generally will be very inquisitive and begin picking at the skeleton. As food floats into the water column, the files end up snatching it up further and further away from the coral skeleton until they finally are taking food out of the water column regularly, although this may take several tries before this becomes reality. Variety is the key to long term success, and I can even get a lot of these fish to eat pellet after a while.

I generally like to include a little millepora in their diet from time to time as well. This insures that they are getting some of the key nutrients that they may be missing from a prepared food diet, and gives them enrichment throughout the day.

To pick a healthy filefish, look behind the head and in the stomach areas, avoid these fish if these areas are visibly pinched or you can see the spinal column sticking out going from the head to the tail. Please note that as a customer, I would not buy an orange spot filefish if it were not feeding from a coral skeleton at the store. This indicates that it has not acclimated to captivity, and may have other underlying health issues.

Orange Spot Filefish do not do well with aggressive tank mates. I suggest passive fish with them such as small passive species of gobies, cardinalfish, wrasse, jawfish, dragonets, and blennies. Ornamental shrimp species are also perfect tank mates for these fish as they tend to clean up after the small foods put in the tank frequently. I have kept orange spot filefish with a variety of soft corals, LPS, and even SPS with some success. I generally will mold the tank around the individual, trying different coral and seeing if they pass a general inspection by the orange spot filefish and see if the harassment ends there or not.

As always, I suggest quarantining these animals to prevent obvious infective parasites such as Cryptocaryon, Amyloodinium, Neobenedinia and others. I do not find them all that susceptible to parasites though. Once eating, they do not seem to be all that affected by copper treatment or tank transfer method as long as they are in appropriate body condition. Going through a few rounds of praziquantel is also advised to clear them of some species of internal parasites and external flukes.