Reef to Rainforest: Discovering Tropical Species, Places, Nature


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Bodianus rufus, Spanish Hogfish Scott W. Michael

Family: Labridae

Species in Genus Bodianus:

Reference: A PocketExpert Guide to Reef Aquarium Fishes
Image credit: SWM
Text credit: SWM


The hogfishes are some of the hardiest members of the wrasse family. As a whole, they are durable aquarium fish that readily accept most aquarium fare, while ignoring all live corals. Most can be kept in reef aquariums as juveniles, but as they grow they will eat worms, snails, small clams, and crustaceans.

The size of the aquarium needed to harbor a hogfish will depend on the species—most small to medium-sized members of the family (i.e., those species that attain a maximum length of less than 10 in. [25 cm]) can be kept in tanks ranging from 20 to 75 gallons (76 to 285 L), while more robust species require a tank of 135 gallons (513 L) or larger once they reach adult size. They need hiding places as well as ample swimming room.

Hogfishes, unlike certain other wrasses, do not bury in the substrate, so the depth of sand in your tank is of little concern. However, several of these fishes will hunt buried prey items by blowing jets of water at the finer substrate. This predatory behavior is fascinating to watch and will also stir the upper layers of the substrate.

Many hogfishes will not tolerate the presence of members of their own species in the same tank, but they can be kept with other members of their genus. One caution: avoid placing two similarly colored species in the same tank.

As far as unrelated species are concerned, hogfishes can be belligerent toward smaller fishes, more docile species, or those fishes introduced after the hogfish has become an established resident of the tank. The moderate- to large-sized hogfishes should be kept with fish species that can hold their own, like lionfishes, squirrelfishes, soldierfishes, smaller groupers, goatfishes, angelfishes, hawkfishes, medium-sized damselfishes, sand perches, and less aggressive triggerfishes. Adding a hogfish to an established community of aggressive fishes, however, can cause the hogfish to remain hidden most of the time and never acclimate. Of course, large frogfishes, scorpionfishes, and groupers will eat any hogfish that they can swallow whole.

While the larger hogfish species simply won’t fit into the average reef tank community, some of the smaller members of this group are worthy of consideration. Choose carefully, based on size and feeding habits.