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Fish Absolutely: Becoming Familiar With Perchlets


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The most common Plectranthias you will see in the trade is P. inermis (often mislabeled as a geometric hawk).

 A new little fan favorite for nanoreefers in our shop are the colorful and somewhat bashful perchlets. They first came on the market approximately 10 years ago, and at the time little was known about these fish in captivity. Because of their pink, orange and fuchsia colors, and their small size, they have become attractive reef-habitat pets. There are 52 species named so far, are native to the Indo-Pacific reefs, with most captured in deep water (only a few are found in shallow water, within 50 meters), and typically don’t exceed 3½ inches. They all are from the genus Plectranthias.

Perchlets often are mistaken for hawkfish (Cirrhitidae). Rather, they are related to Anthias in the family Serranidae. Perchlets rest on the bottom and have a similar body shape to hawks, although unlike hawkfish they actually have a swim bladder (Hawkfish do not). As well, hawkfish possess tufts at the tip of their dorsal spines and Perchlets do not. They are both benthic predators, eating small crustaceans and plankton. Most hawks are larger in size, and found on coral heads or reef tops, where they can prey on larger organisms. In contrast, Perchlets are found within rock crevices, sand bottoms or rubble at the base of reefs.

We find these fish interesting because of their smallish size and peaceful demeanor.

Unlike the hawks, they will not engulf most ornamental shrimp such as skunks, cleaners, bloods, fires or banded corals. Because of their benthic nature they are less likely to jump out of your tank and be found dead on the floor. Unlike most Anthias they are less restrictive feeders. They do require small crustacean-like foods such as arctic pods, mysis or copepods. However, we find them to be much heartier than their Anthias cousins, in that they only need to be fed once a day on average, as opposed to three times a day for most Anthias.

The most common Plectranthias you will see in the trade is P. inermis, which often is mislabeled as a geometric hawk. I looked them up in our store records and found that we have purchased 27 this year, with only one recorded DAA (dead after arrival), which equals a 96 percent survival rate in our shop. Another Plectranthias we’ve tried with great success is P. pelicieri; they make wonderful reef inhabitants and seem to do very well in captivity. If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend trying them out.

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