News / Species Spotlight / Species Spotlight - Lesser Known Aquarium Fishes of the Eastern Pacific (Part Two) (08/24/17)

Species Spotlight - Lesser Known Aquarium Fishes of the Eastern Pacific (Part Two)

Lesser Known Aquarium Fishes of the Eastern Pacific (Part Two)
The reef fishes available to marine aquarists tend to come from just a couple geographic locations. In the West Atlantic, we get a sparse selection of popular species, like the Royal Gramma, the Queen Angelfish and the Yellowhead Jawfish. The offerings are far more diverse in the Indo-Pacific, with the fisheries in this region providing the vast majority of the species seen in captivity. Several major fish groups familiar to aquarists (Amphiprion, Cirrhilabrus, Zebrasoma, Siganus, Pseudochromis, Pseudanthias) are only found here.

But there are other parts of the world with their own unique species of reef fish which seldom reach the aquarium market. This is certainly true for Western Africa, whose limited reef fauna is especially uncommon. But today well be focusing our attention towards a different corner of the globe, the Eastern Pacific Ocean, and, in particular, well be investigating some of its lesser-appreciated fishes.

In comparison with the enormous biodiversity found in the Coral Triangle, the Eastern Pacific has a rather paltry selection to whet the aquaristic appetite. Some of the more frequently seen examples include the Barnacle Blenny (Acanthemblemaria hancocki), the Catalina Goby (Lythrypnus dalli), the Bluespot Jawfish (Opistognathus rosenblatti) and the Paddlefin Wrasse (Thalassoma lucasanum). The Passer Angelfish (Holacanthus passer) is an underappreciated gem found only on these reefs, and the almost mythically rare Clarion Angelfish (H. clarionensis) is one of the true holy grails for collectors of rare reef species. But, for those looking to dig a little deeper, the Eastern Pacific has quite a few more endemic fishes worth checking out

Giant Damselfish (Microspathodon dorsalis)

Damselfishes have a reputation for being a bit on the pugnacious side, but, truth be told, this only applies to certain members of the family. But perhaps nowhere is this aggressive personality more pronounced than with the bulky members of the genus Microspathodon. Four species are recognized in the group: M. frontatus in West Africa, the familiar Jewel Damselfish (M. chrysurus) from the West Atlantic, and both the Bumphead (M. bairdii) and Giant Damselfishes (M. dorsalis) in the Eastern Pacific. We typically dont see much of the Bumphead Damselfish in the aquarium trade, though its juveniles are quite attractive, having a blue and gold color motif quite similar to certain Pomacentrus species. Adults are, alas, rather drab in appearance, coming in a dusky greyish brown. Their cousin in the Eastern Pacific, the Giant Damselfish, is quite a bit more aesthetically pleasing, featuring a deep slaty blue across the body, accented with lovely white edges to the fins. Males are even more spectacular, with the forebody brightening dramatically when in its breeding flush. Juveniles of this fish, which are typically the size available, are primarily blue and resemble the distantly related Springers Demoiselle from the West Pacific. Theres also an aberrant population from Panama whose juveniles feature stunning lime green coloration. In total, this is an eye-catching addition for any suitably large aquarium, but, as this fish reaches upwards of a foot in length, only the most robust of tankmates should be considered. The territorial nature of the Giant Damselfish should never be underestimated!

Jewel Moray (Muraena lentigosa)
The Jewel Moray is truly a jewel of the Eastern Pacific. The species is highly variable in coloration, but its most attractive form finds the species covered in a spectacular vestment of black and gold spots. The look is somewhat reminiscent of the iconic Dragon Moray (Enchelycore pardalis), but at a fraction of that species cost. Another major selling point is the relatively small size for this fish, topping out as just two feet in length! By moray standards, this is a relative dwarf within the family. Species in the genus Muraena occur only in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific, and, in general, these are not terribly well-represented within the aquarium trade. Like most eels, the Jewel Moray is primarily nocturnal and feeds upon a diverse mix of fish and crustaceans.

Warthead Blenny (Protemblemarria bicirrus)
Barnacle Blennies (Acanthemblemaria hancocki) have become one of the most popular nano fishes in recent years, but the Eastern Pacific is home to several other close relatives who are long overdue for a little recognition. At the top of this list is the Warthead Blenny, whose rather unappealing common name belies the considerable beauty this fish has in life. The warts are in fact quite small and fairly unnoticeable, but the same is not true for the bright orange color that this fish can adopt. Its unclear if this bright coloration might be sexual in nature or, alternatively, a camouflage for certain habitats where orange is predominant. At other times, P. bicirrus can appear considerably darker in tone, with a variety of white speckles and dark blotches helping to disguise this little fish. The dorsal fin also possesses a prominent ocellated spot, though its similarly unclear how this might be used by this blenny. Is it flashed between rival males, as so many other blennies are known to do, or is it perhaps used to attract females?

Chromis limbaughi (Limbaughs Chromis)

Chromis is the largest genus in the damselfish family, with dozens of members scattered across the Indo-Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. In the Eastern Pacific, we find five species, but only one is of particular note to aquarists, Limbaughs Chromis, which occurs only in the southern portions of the Baja Peninsula and some nearby oceanic islands. Juveniles are particularly vibrant in their coloration, boasting a deep blue spot on each scale of the forebody, while the dorsal fin and posterior portions are dipped in a cheery yellow. With age, the colors dim only partially, becoming greyer centrally, while still retaining the bright blues and yellows which make this fish so desirable. Adding to its appeal is its relatively small proportions, with a maximum size of around five inches. When compared to some of its relatives in the region like the dull, grey, foot-long C. crusma, its clear why this sunny little damsel shines above all others.