News / Species Spotlight / Bluespotted Tuskfish (Choerodon cauteroma) (11/14/18)

Bluespotted Tuskfish (Choerodon cauteroma)

Speciess Spotlight - Bluespotted Tuskfish (Choerodon cauteroma)
Tuskfishes belong to the wrasse family Labridae and, along with the closely related hogfishes, represent the earliest branch to diverge within this enormously speciose group. The genus is thought to have originated roughly 15 million years ago, and today there are a little over two dozen extant species spread across the Indo-Pacific.

In the wild, these fishes are mostly large-bodied carnivores, predating on a varied diet of mollusks, crustaceans, and echinoderms, and its these qualities that have limited their popularity within the aquarium trade. While tuskfishes are coral-safe, they are otherwise inappropriate for reef tanks, and, similar to the behavior of many large triggerfishes, Choerodon enjoy redecorating their surroundings by flipping around any rock small enough to move.

Aquarists will be most familiar with the beautiful Harlequin Tuskfish (C. fasciatus) and perhaps the widespread Anchor Tuskfish (C. anchorago), but most other members of this group are fairly uncommon in captivity. There are a variety of reasons for why so many of these species are so seldomly seen. Some simply grow too large to be practical. Some favor habitats where little aquarium collection occurs. Some are more often found in deep waters. And then there are those, like C. cauteroma, the Bluespotted Tuskfish, which simply occur over a narrow geographic range.

To find the Bluespotted Tuskfish, youll have to travel to the inner reefs along Australias western and northern coastline, a region home to many uncommon aquarium fishes. Other examples from these waters include the beautiful Lennards Wrasse (Anampses lennardi), the rarely seen Red Anemonefish (Amphiprion rubrocinctus), and, a true holy grail, the Personifer Angelfish (Chaetodontoplus personifer). Incidentally, all of these fishes could be kept together to create a stunning West Aussie biotope.

Choerodon cauteroma is most similar in appearance to the Blackspot Tuskfish (C. schoenleinii), a widespread species in the West Pacific. Their colors are roughly the same, save for the dark markings that serve to distinguish them. The scientific name of C. cauteroma derives from the Latin for branded, in reference to the thin black dash found around the midbody. Size is also an easy tell, as the Blackspot Tuskfish is a relative giant, able to reach upwards of three feet in length compared to the roughly 18-inch maximum size reported for the Bluespotted Tuskfish. Interestingly, an even closer relative, thought to have speciated within the last half-million years or so, is another Aussie endemic, the Baldchin Tuskfish (C. rubrescens). This is another giant, growing to three feet, and is generally found (as adults, at least) in offshore reefs.