An example of this same fish in the aquarium. The banded color pattern is displayed when the fish is stressed/frightened.
The Central and Eastern Atlantic is home to a number of reef fish species, some of which are very similar to more familiar fishes found in the Western Atlantic. For example, you have the Marcella butterflyfish (Prognathodes marcellae), which is similar to the bank (P. aya) and threeband butterflyfish (P. guyanensis) of the Western Atlantic. Then there is the ever-popular resplendent angelfish (Centropyge resplendens), known from Ascension Island (in the Central Atlantic), which is similar to its Western Atlantic counterpart, the cherubfish (C. argi) and flameback pygmy angelfish (C. aurantonotus) (Note: Wirtz et al. have recently collected a specimen of the later species from the Gulf of Guinea). The lesser known West African coral hind (Cephalopholis taeniops), which is very similar to its Western cousin, the coney (C. fulvus) and the African Creole wrasse (Clepticus africanus) that is a sister species of the Creole wrasse (C. parrae).
Recently, a lovely little serranid has been imported from Western Africa. It is a handsome little fish that, thanks to the efforts of Joe Russo, has become quite readily available (e.g., www.liveaquarium.com usually has one or more available). According to Joe, they are collected in fairly deep water (greater than 35 m). Dr. Peter Wirtz, an expert on the fish communities of this region, tells me that he has seen this fish at depths of 50 cm (these were juveniles) to at least 30 m. He also reports that it is a solitary species. Wirtz et al. (2007) report that this fish is common on hard and soft bottoms at São Tomé and Príncipe (Gulf of Guinea). It is somewhat variable in color, as you can see in the two photos included with this post.
At first blush, it exhibits anatomical similarities to some of the wonderful aquarium serranids from the tropical Western Atlantic. One of my favorites is the semi-social chalk bass (Serranus tortugarum). While related, the Serranus sp. from Africa differs greatly from the chalk bass in disposition. The undescribed Eastern Atlantic serranid is a true hellion! It is both aggressive and highly predatory (it appears to relish any fish or crustacean small enough to swallow whole). So, while you may be tempted to plop one of these beauties into your moderately-peaceful community aquarium, you may want to think again! Sanjay Joshi has one in a huge tank (500 gallons) and it has caused him much consternation attacking and eating its tankmates. While a maximum length has yet to be established, it can get at least 7 cm in total length.
There are other lovely fish from this region that Joe is bringing in to the US market. I hope to feature some more of these in upcoming posts.
Wirtz, P., C. Eduardo, L. Ferreira, S. R. Floeter, R. Fricke, J. L. Gasparini, T. Iwamoto, L. Rocha, C. L. S. Sampaio and U.K. Schliewen. 2007. Coastal Fishes of São Tomé and Príncipe islands, Gulf of Guinea (Eastern Atlantic Ocean)—an update. Zootaxa 1523: 1–48.
© Scott W. Michael