News / Species Spotlight / The Ventralis Anthias (01/07/15)

The Ventralis Anthias

The Ventralis Anthias

  • Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
    • Order: Perciformes (perch-likes)
      • Family: Serranidae (Sea basses)
        • Genus: Pseudanthias
          • Species: ventralis ventralis

The Pseudanthias ventralis is a deep water anthias collected mostly in the waters of the south pacific. These fish are regarded as one of the most colorful and vibrant fish of their genus. They are also one of the smaller members of their genus, seldom reaching a length of more than 7.5 cm. Males are a purple to reddish pink, with yellow fins and yellow markings on the face. Their rear dorsal rays extend further than those of the females. The female Ventralis typically have fewer colors, mostly yellow and reddish pink; however; they are still exceptionally colored fish. The pictures above give an accurate example of the color differences. Another variation is commonly seen in females where the upper yellow stripe is more sharply patterned with a distinct separation between the body color and the stripe, unlike the picture above.

Like other members of the Pseudanthias genus, all Ventralis start life as hermaphroditic females, having the ability to change sexes from female to male and vice versa. Smaller harems generally have one male, if there are two males, one will normally emerge as the dominant male and the submissive male will eventually morph back into a female. Conversely, in a harem with the absence of a male, the dominant female will often morph into a male.

Natural Habitat:

The Ventralis anthias are most commonly collected in the Cook Islands and occasionally around other islands in the South Pacific all the way from the Great Barrier Reef to Hawaii. They are deepwater fish inhabiting caves and coral rubble along steep drop-offs or channel walls between 25-135 meters deep. The temperatures at these depths and locations vary between 70-75 F. Ventralis species are planktivores, primarily eating a broad variety of available zooplankton and floating filamentous algae.

Aquarium Suitability:

The Ventralis anthias are considered to be one of the more delicate species of their genus. Being more recluse than most anthias, aquarium systems with high powered lighting should be avoided, as this is very different from its natural environment. Such high powered lights can cause the species to spend much of their time hiding as well as potentially masking some of their intense coloration, often making them appear washed out.

Due to their natural locations, the Ventralis anthias prefer very cool water temperatures. In the Cook Islands, where they are most commonly collected, they are found on very steep reef ledges. These ledges are exposed to a constant upwelling of colder currents and they are rarely found in areas where temperatures exceed 75 deg. Fahrenheit. We urge aquarists attempting to keep Ventralis anthias to make certain that the aquarium temperatures stay near those of their natural habitat, within the 72-74 degree range is ideal. Exposing these sensitive fish to warmer temperatures causes considerable stress and will most often prove to be fatal.

Solitary species of Ventralis should be housed in aquariums of 50 gallons or larger, however we recommend keeping these anthias in harems of two females and one male as they tend prefer being in groups. A 120 gallon system with dim lighting and ample caves and hiding spots would be suitable for a trio. Additional tank inhabitants should be selected with care. The Ventralis will not fare well if housed with other anthias as they will often fight other members of their family. Belligerent and semi aggressive fish may also pester these shy fish, inducing stress and making it difficult for them to feed properly. We stress that these anthias be placed in an aquarium with mild mannered fish only.

Retail stores and hobbyists should slowly acclimate these anthias to light and preferably keep them in a tank with the lights turned off until they properly adjust. They should be fed a vitamin enriched diet of various frozen zooplankton (brine, mysid, gamma shrimp, or cyclopeze) and floating filamentous algae at least 3-5 times a day. Care should be taken to ensure that they are feeding properly at each meal. If prepared frozen foods are not accepted, small ghost shrimp, guppies or selcon fed live brine shrimp may be used to entice a feeding response. Sometimes the presence of a readily feeding, hardy yet peaceful fish, may also help to teach and encourage the anthias to eat.

These are an amazing species, but due to their delicate nature we recommend that their care is left to experts and advanced hobbyists. However, these fish can be a great challenge for the advanced anthias collector. Be prepared to offer these fish a consistent supply of food along with cool (~72 deg.), clean, and well oxygenated water. The aquarist should also ensure that there is sufficient water movement and rock work with plenty of overhangs and hiding spaces.


Myers, R.F., 1999 Micronesian reef fishes: a comprehensive guide to the coral reef fishes of Micronesia, 3rd revised and expanded edition. Coral Graphics, Barrigada, Guam. p. 109