News / Species Spotlight / Midas Blenny (01/15/14)

Midas Blenny

Midas Blenny
Scientific name: Ecsenius midas (Starck, 1969)
Common names: Midas Blenny, Persian Blenny, Lyretail Blenny
  • Taxonomy:
  • Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
    • Order: Perciformes (perch-likes)
      • Family: Blenniidae (Combtooth)
        • Genus: Ecsenius
          • Species: midas


Description:

The Midas Blenny is a member of the Blenniidae family, a large group of combtooth and mostly scaleless fish comprised of over 340 known species. Being similar to the goby family, blennies are distinguishable by their fully continuous dorsal spines. As adults most blennies lack swim bladders enabling them to perch on rocks and forage around the substratum. Blennies are mostly bottom dwelling species feeding on a mixed diet of algae and benthic invertebrates; some, like the Midas Blenny, are planktivores.

Found over a vast range, the Midas Blenny has been reported being seen all the way from the eastern shores of South Africa to the distant Marquesan Islands in the Central Pacific. They are normally collected for the aquarium trade in Sri Lanka, the Red Sea, and Africa.

The Midas Blenny was named after King Midas, who in Greek Mythology was best remembered for his ability to turn everything he touched into gold. These gold colored fish are known to be found in a variety of shades of yellow and orange. The more desirable specimens are found in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea where they normally have a deep golden-orange body with bright blue rings around the eyes and a faint touch of blue around and beneath the jaw. Their Pacific counterparts also have blue rings around their eyes but typically have a yellow body and occasionally display streaks of blue and yellow along the head and body. The Midas Blenny has an elongated cylindrical body with a round head and large dark eyes with a small dark marking around the anal passage. Midas Blennies are also known as Lyretail Blennies due to their deeply curved, lyre-shaped tails. The similar colored and shaped Fangtooth Canary Blenny (Meiacanthus oualanensis) is often mistakenly sold as the Midas Blenny and vice versa. The Midas Blenny is well adapted to rapidly change color. This change in color can be brought on by mood, feeding time, fear or stress in which case it can almost instantaneously darken its color to blend in with surrounding rock structure for safety.

Due to the lack of swim bladders, the Midas Blenny is not neutrally buoyant. As such it has to work harder than most fish to stay swimming and constantly uses its caudal fins. This generally upright motion gives the fish a very eel-like appearance when swimming.

In the wild the Midas Blenny has been reported to reach a length of over 5 inches, although seldom seen this large in captivity. Females are typically smaller than males, and the first dorsal spine is generally smaller than that of the males.

Natural Habitat:

The Midas Blenny is most often found on reef ledges at a relatively large range of depths from near the surface to below 125 feet. Here they are commonly found mixed amongst large schools of anthias. With the similarities in coloration some believe that the Midas Blennies are mimicking the female Lyretail Anthias (Pseudanthias squamipinnis). This is not scientifically considered a true mimicking behavior as apart from the coloration there are quite a few physical dissimilarities between the two fish (Springer, 1971). It is only believed that the Midas mixes with the Anthias for safety purposes. Due to this unique and un-blenny-like behavior along with other features, scientists nearly re-classified the Midas under a new subgenus.

The Midas Blenny is an oviparous fish, maintaining its eggs with little development within the mother. Males attract egg bearing females to lay their eggs in a small hole or crevice, or underneath empty bivalve shells (Breder, et al, 1966). Eggs are then guarded by the male or by both parents.

Aquarium Suitability:

The Midas Blenny is an excellent choice for beginning aquarists. Advanced hobbyists also often keep this species due to the unique behavior and color changing abilities. It is reef-safe and well suited for aquariums with corals and invertebrates. Unlike many other members of the family, the Midas Blenny acclimates relatively quickly to the captive environment and get increasingly personable with time. The Midas Blenny prefers an aquarium of at least 30 gallons with a good mix of open swimming space and rockwork. It tends to become more aggressive in smaller aquariums, especially towards other small planktivores such as dartfish and gobies. This aggressive behavior is not as prevalent in larger tanks where it presumably feels less confined. Aquarists should only keep one Midas Blenny per tank unless the aquarium is very large.

This species typically finds a hole in the rock which they make their own, often times leaving nothing but their heads poking out while investigating their surroundings. These holes offer a safe haven for the blenny which quickly swims into it if it feels threatened. This is an amazing sight to see as the blenny backs up into its hole, entering tail first. This amazingly skillful maneuver is done nearly instantaneously. When not tucked away in their favorite hiding spot or perching on rock ledges, these blennies are typically found swimming throughout the middle of the aquarium.

The Midas Blenny is a very attentive fish and will typically be the first fish to come to feed, swimming all the way out of its hole when food is placed in the aquarium. They are omnivores and require a mixed diet which should include finely-chopped crustacean flesh, mysids or vitamin-enriched brine shrimp, along with frozen herbivorous preparations, micro and blue-green algae.

Midas Blennies prefer to live in temperatures between 75 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. As with most fish they prefer clean, well filtered and well oxygenated water. They are also excellent jumpers, so we recommend tanks to be covered and prevent sudden movements and loud noises in and around the tank. They are a diurnal species, meaning they are inactive at night when they are usually resting in their favorite cave.

There are few fish that are as entertaining or have as much personality as the Midas Blenny. With very minimal effort these colorful fish can be kept very happy, healthy and well fed.

Bibliography:

Breder, C.M. and D.E. Rosen, 1966 Modes of reproduction in fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune City, New Jersey. 941: 670-671.

Springer, V.G. 1971 Revision of the fish genus Ecsenius (Blenniidae, Blenniinae, Saliriini). Smithson. Contrib. Zool. 72: 1-74.