Unfortunately, these guys are now on the endangered list due to overfishing to support the aquarium trade. I have been careful to support an eco-friendly tank. That would have been enough to nix the idea; however, turns out that these guys are a snap to breed in captivity. I became very excited when I spotted several juveniles at my favorite LFS. My heart sank when the fish guy told me they were wild-caught. I refused to purchase them. Upon visiting my 2nd favorite LFS, I spotted several mature Banggai Cardinalfish. These guys were captive-bred! Plus, they were very healthy. I selected a male/female pair that seemed very happy together.
Upon acclimating them to my tank, they proceeded to hide among the live rock, despite the fact that they are the biggest fish in the tank. Guess they just see themselves as bigger targets. They are verrrrry cool. Definitely shy, they don't stray far from their favorite hiding places. They don't swim around too much; in fact, they often supsend motionless in the water, despite the strong current. It probably would take less energy to just swim rather than fight the current to stay immobile! They get along with everyone else in the tank just fine. The male is obsessed with his reflection in the glass and spent 3 days challenging his mirror image to a duel. I pushed him away from that spot several times with my hand. Now he's set up post on the other side where he discovered yet another mirror image challenger. Ugh. We named them Mr. and Mrs. Roper due to their grumpy appearance. They appear to always be pouting due to their giant mouths.
Other facts about these guys?
They come from the Banggai islands in Indonesia. Their official name is Pterapogon kauderni, and are carnivores. You might want to take notes; there will be a quiz later. They are extremely easy to breed in captivity, partially due to the fact that they are mouth brooders, meaning that they hatch the eggs in their mouths (this is why their mouths are so big!). In fact, once the female releases eggs, the male actually is the one to care for the eggs in his mouth. For 20 days, the male carries the eggs, meaning that he doesn't eat during this time. Wow! Talk about chivalry. If only it were this way for our species. ;)
We're hoping our guys breed. Not only would it be fun, but I could give them to my favorite LFS to convince them to stop supporting the endangered wild-caught Banggai Cardinalfish. Right now, the narcissitic Mr. Roper is too obsessed with his reflection to court poor, lonely Mrs. Roper. Talk about vanity! Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? If he were human, he would be strutting around on the beach in his Speedos, waxed, oiled, and tan, flexing his muscles for all the sunbathers.
How can I tell the female apart from the male? This took some careful research and observation. The male has a longer 2nd dorsal fin from the female. Unfortunately, it often gets trimmed down due to pesky nipping by tankmates and is not a reliable marker. The males also have a squarer jaw, probably to accomdate carrying the babies. This was much easier for me to spot. Of course, the easiest way to sex a Banggai Cardinalfish is to put the unknown gendered fish (we'll call it "Pat") into a tank with a previously identified male. If Pat is a male, the two will fight (please quickly remove him to prevent a fatality). If Pat is female, the male will court her. Wish us luck on our breeding project!
Mrs. Roper peacefully swimming with Phillip and one of the clownfish (we don't know which one is Bonnie or Clyde yet). She never strays far from her hiding place. Here, she is wishing Mr. Roper would stop staring at himself in the mirror and keep her company.
Mr. Roper, annoyed that I pushed him away from his reflection. He returned to talking smack to his mirror image seconds after this shot was taken. Note that Mr. Roper's jaw is squarer and more pronounced than Mrs. Roper's (above).
Taking a step back, this is our tank, almost 3 months in the making. Not bad, eh?
Not our fish, this is a good example of male/female differences. The male (top) has a longer 2nd dorsal fin and more prounounced, squarer jaw than the female (below).
A picture of a Pajama Cardinalfish, closely related to the Banggai Cardinalfish. Pretty but not as much as ours! Maybe I'm biased.
Links for Banggai cardinalfish: