The Dwarf Dartfish, Aioliops megastigma, perhaps a perfect nano reef schooling fish
By Matt Wandell and Rich Ross
One of the great things about working at a public aquarium is seeing all the interesting and unique animals that come through our doors. Sometimes the most fascinating fish come in the smallest packages, like with the Dwarf Dartfish, Aioliops megastigma. At the Steinhart Aquarium we recently received a small shoal of these fish for eventual public display. In years past the only way to create a true shoal of fish in one’s aquarium was to have a large tank capable of supporting several Anthias or Chromis, but the recent influx of many different species of tiny gobies, cardinalfish, and dartfish like these make creating a shoal of fish in a desktop tank a real possibility. With a very slender body and a maximum length of just a little over 1”, these tiny dartfish are among the smallest fishes one can buy for a saltwater aquarium. Unfortunately a typical reef tank may be a bit ill-suited for these dartfish without taking some their needs into consideration. Obviously, these are bite sized gumdrops for any type of predatory fish, and even something like a propeller pump, overflow, or power filter intake can suck one of these little guys right up. The other drawback is that they appear to need live food at first, and they need it very frequently. While most hobbyist tanks may not be ideally suited to care for these fish, we look forward to seeing very carefully planned biotopes in the future that feature a shoal of these fish as a centerpiece.