Delay:   Loop: [stop] [reverse direction]

Hawkfishes are common imports for the aquarium trade, and are regularly found in marine aquarium stores throughout the United States. Often motionless, yet brimming with personality, you may find hawkfish to be an interesting addition to your aquarium.

Hawkfishes can be found throughout the world's oceans. Most inhabit the Indo-Pacific, with only three species, Amblycirrhitus indicus, Amblycirrhitus earnshawi and Amblycirrhitus pinos coming from the Atlantic. Of those, only Amblycirrhitus pinos can be found in the Caribbean (Catalog of Fishes).

Most hawkfish are shallow-water fish, rarely found deeper than 100 feet. Because they have no air bladder, they sink when they are not swimming. Thus, they spend their entire lives perched on substrate or corals. Much like their namesake birds, perched high up in treetops, hawkfish constantly scan for food. When they spot a possible meal, they quickly dart from their resting spot and capture their prey. Usually, the retreat back to the resting spot is as quick as the attack on the prey.

A variety of prey fall victim to hawkfish. Depending on the particular hawkfish species, they feed on either a variety of small crustaceans, larger shrimp, crabs or even fish. Their mouth size is largely the determining factor for the prey a particular hawkfish will hunt. Naturally, the larger the mouth, the larger the prey it can eat.

A difficult aspect of keeping hawkfish is selecting suitable tankmates. Hawkfish can be intolerant of some fish, so careful consideration and good judgment should be used when selecting tankmates. In all instances, the hawkfish should be the last fish added to the tank. Otherwise, it will constantly harass any newcomer to the point of death. The silver lining to the hawkfish's harassment of the newcomer is that it allows the aquarist time to remove the newcomer. In other cases, the hawkfish will simply eat the newcomer, affording no time to save the new addition, a.k.a. expensive meal.

Decorative shrimp should be avoided with hawkfish because in most cases, the hawkfish will kill and/or consume the shrimp. Sessile invertebrates are not at risk of attack, but the hawkfish may choose certain corals as a desired resting spot. Clams, and stony and soft corals can be irritated by a hawkfish's constant perching.

In the aquarium, hawkfish can be kept in pairs or even harems. In all instances the dominant fish in the harem, the male, is the largest fish in the group (Baensch, 1994). If a harem is preferred, then the aquarist should acquire a group of the smallest size fish possible along with one that is noticeably larger, and add them all at the same time. Even if this larger fish is a female, it will soon become a male in the presence of the group of smaller females. Females typically squabble a little, but if two fish continue to fight after introduction, it should be assumed you have acquired two males. In this instance, I recommend that the smaller of the two be removed, and to try again with another smaller fish, this time with the hope of acquiring a female.

For a more detailed discussion of hawkfish, see The Hawks of the Sea by Henry C. Schultz III in the June 2002 issue from which this text is excerpted.

Reefkeeping Magazine™ Reef Central, LLC-Copyright © 2008