Reef to Rainforest: Discovering Tropical Species, Places, Nature


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Pervagor spilosoma, Fantail Filefish. Scott W. Michael

[edit] Overview

The filefishes are intelligent, interesting animals best suited to fish-only aquariums. Most have polyphagous diets, making them simple to keep, but some (e.g., the Longnosed Filefish, (Oxymonacanthus longirostris) are very specialized coral predators. These species almost never adapt to an aquarium diet and should be avoided.

Most filefishes are unsuitable for reef tanks and pose a threat to various ornamental invertebrates, including sponges, corals, crustaceans, and echinoderms.

Once incorporated into the Family Balistidae with the triggerfishes, the filefishes have deep, laterally compressed bodies. They have two dorsal fins, with the first fin usually having two spines—the first spine is long and narrow, and the second spine is much smaller and may be absent in some species. They have unbranched (simple) soft rays in the fins, and small scales with tough skin. (They are sometimes called “leatherjackets” because of their skin texture.) The jaws have six outer teeth and four inner teeth. These teeth are smaller than those of the triggerfishes and are better suited for nibbling the algae and/or sessile invertebrates on which filefishes feed.


Native range:

Taxonomic rank: Family

Common name: FILEFISHES

Total known Total profiles
Subfamilies 0 0
Genera 35 2
Species 95 2

Captive care: Although less popular than the closely related triggerfishes, filefishes regularly appear in the aquarium trade and some make colorful and interesting captive specimens. Provide a medium to large aquarium with suitable rocky hiding places.

Feeding: Feed a varied diet that includes crustacean meat and some hard-shelled invertebrates (such as table clams or mussels), or occasionally place a piece of coralline algae-encrusted coral rubble in the tank to help the filefishes wear down their ever-growing teeth. Provide food several times a day.

Notes: Be careful when handling or working in a tank that contains a large specimen as it may inflict a painful (and potentially serious) bite. Use a specimen container when capturing one of these fishes—the fin spine and teeth may get tangled in the mesh of an aquarium net. Generally plan to place only one member of a species in the same tank, unless you can acquire a male and female. In a large aquarium, it is possible to keep different filefish species together, but note that some species will nip the fins of their tankmates.

[edit] Subfamilies


[edit] Genera

[edit] Species

The males of some species have hooklike scales in front of the caudal peduncle that may be employed during intrasexual combat. The filefishes lay demersal eggs, which are often deposited on toxic algae. In at least one species, the eggs are deposited into the lumen of a sponge. The female of one filefish species takes her parental duties very seriously—she will push the egg mass into the algal mat with her snout and circulate water over it with her mouth and fins. A solitary parent (the female, in most cases) may drive off egg predators until the eggs hatch, while others simply ignore the spawn. At least one filefish species is known to form long-term monogamous pairs, while others practice a promiscuous mating system.

Living Stamp: Starfish

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