The body of the Blackeye goby (Rhinogobiops nicholsii) is usually a light beige to olive in color with darker spots and mottling. The body coloration and its spots can change if needed. A thick black edge can be seen on the fore-dorsal fin. The raised, big black eyes are responsible for its common name.
Many aquarists who encounter this species in pet stores are unaware that an engaging inch-long juvenile can quickly grow over a foot in length, devouring any size-appropriate tank mates in the process. Because of its intelligence and bold personality, it remains one of the most popular New World cichlids in home aquariums. In its native Nicaragua, where it is known as Guapote tigre, it is also very popular, especially grilled or deep-fried, with garlic.
Described for science in 1903, this species was imported by the Umlauff Pet Store in Hamburg, Germany in 1904, making it one of the earliest cichlids kept in aquariums. Despite being large, aggressive, and prone to dig up plants, it has always been popular in home aquariums, especially after it received its common name in honor of the famous World Heavyweight boxer (1895-1983). Actually found from Southern Mexico to Honduras, it was long mistakenly thought to be South American, and misidentified as Cichlasoma biocellatum.
The “false eye” on the flanks of this fish is much larger than the real one in its head. This is a classic example of a distraction pattern which misleads predators into aiming for the rear of the fish, rather than its head. Similar eye-like spots are seen in other fishes and many insects. This is an abundant species in the Caribbean and the Southern Gulf of Mexico. In the summer, young specimens drift up the Atlantic coast with plankton, as far north as New England. This species has been popular in public aquariums for more than a hundred years.
While many angelfish have broad ranges in the Pacific or Atlantic, others are found in only a few locations. One of the more famous is this beautiful species, named for Clarion, one of the Revillagigedo Islands off the Pacific coast of Mexico. These islands are its center of distribution, but they are also found around remote Clipperton Island, and occasionally around the tip of the Baja Peninsula. Though kept in aquariums for more than 40 years, it remains a prized exhibit, collected only under special permit from the Mexican Government.
In contrast to many other angelfish, which live in pairs, swallowtail angels, in the genus Genicanthus live like fairy basslets, with a dominant male guarding a harem of females. As with fairy basslets, if the male dies, the dominant female will become male and take charge of the harem. This species is found only in the Red Sea and the Western Indian Ocean. Only the male has the zebra pattern but only the female has the black stripes at the top and bottom of the tail, commemorated by the Latin name “caudovitatu”, which means “striped tail”.
Named for its profile reminiscent of a French military cap, this fish is also known as the Humphead, and Maori wrasse (for its intricate cheek designs that look tattooed), and, because of its enormous size, Truck wrasse. The largest of all the wrasses, males can grow more than six feet in length and weigh over 300 pounds. In common with many other large Indo-Pacific reef fishes, it has been over-exploited by Chinese restaurants that serve live fishes. Trade of this animal is protected under CITES.
Like other fairy basslets, the Carberryi or Threadfin anthias lives in small schools composed of a dominant male and his harem of females. This species is found only in the Indian Ocean. It was described for science in 1954, one of 370 new fish species named by the famous South African ichthyologist J.L.B. Smith, who rediscovered the Coelacanth.
Like toucans and macaws, this fish has become a quintessential symbol of the Tropics, appearing as all sorts of kitschy souvenirs and “decorations”. It is often seen on postcards from Florida (where it is not found!). It is also familiar as “Gill”, in the Disney / Pixar movie, “Finding Nemo”. Because its tiny larvae travel well in plankton, it is found all the way from the East Africa, clear across the Indian Ocean and Pacific, to the west coast of Mexico, south to Peru. It is closely related to tangs and surgeonfish, but lacks their “scalpel”.
Many of the 80 or so members of the tang and surgeonfish family have wide ranges across tropical seas, but this uniquely spotted species is restricted to Madagascar, the nearby East African Coast, and the Mascarene Islands. As few fishes are exported from these places, it has seldom been seen in public aquariums.