BlueHarbor is perhaps, one of the more iconic and reputable fish stores in the East and maybe even the world – Renowned for their incredible repertoire of some of the rarest reef fishes, as well as Koji’s incredible knowledge and skill in caring for them, particularly the deepwater species. Corals are also a prominent feature in the shop and BlueHarbor stocks a dizzying array of Acropora and other hard corals. We had a chance to visit this incredible store and we’ll split the experience into two parts. Keep reading for more pictures and updates on Cirrhilabrus claire as well as Centropyge narcosis.
The shop itself is a very nice, clean, and cosy two-storied space filled to the brim with so many interesting creatures that it would literally take a day to absorb in and appreciate all that it is. The display and setups inside the shop are shiny and new, white and very futuristic. On the ground floor, numerous display tanks and holding tanks hold some of the most eye catching species one can hope to see, while the second floor features mainly office spaces for the staff as well as a cosy sofa surrounded by countless reef related magazines and reference books – A mini library of sorts. The second floor also features three tanks, holding some of Koji’s most prized deepwater fish – We’ll get to that later.
The glow of blue actinic lights from the corner of the shop draws you to their “regular” fish section – by BlueHarbor standards at least. The fish at BlueHarbor are kept and displayed as per any regular LFS. The fishes are compartmentalized according to behavior, type, locale they came from etc. Everything is made to ensure that every single specimen is cared for and comfortable.
The stock varies from time to time but one thing’s for sure, BlueHarbor is never short on supply for incredible fish. Bandit Angelfish, Ventralis Anthias, Candy Basslets, Interrupta Angelfish, all in the pink of health are some of the staples.
Fancy Liopropoma from the Caribbean as well as juvenile Tinker’s Butterflyfish also make very regular appearances in their stocklists. So do Black Tangs, the rare Bodianus paraleucosticticus and Marcelle’s butterflyfish.
Contrary to popular belief, Koji is very much into corals as well as fish, and BlueHarbor stocks some really beautiful hard corals. SPS in particular, are a favorite amongst his customers and large colonies are imported from far flung areas of the globe to meet the demand. Many of the SPS pieces are left as whole colonies with little to no fragging.
There are surprises everywhere in this shop, and even in the most likely places you’re bound to find something cool. At the back where equipment and aquarium products are kept, a shallow polygonal tank adorned with mostly soft corals and LPS takes center stage. Despite the heavily dimmed and blued out tank, you can still make out the incredible fish that reside here. A juvenile interruptus angelfish as well as a juvenile Choat’s leopard wrasse are the show pieces for this display.
Macropharyngodon choati is a beautiful wrasse that hails from Australia and nearby islands. They are touchy and not the easiest of fishes to keep. This little juvenile is full of energy and looks happy and healthy. It’s even mildly obese which is kind of an ironic thing considering how picky these guys can get when it comes to food.
Getting spruced up for aquarium life in this tank are a pair of tiny bandit angelfish as well, about the size of a coin. These babies are still enjoying life inside the safety of their floating cage. Bandit Angelfishes are most often caught at medium to large sizes. Juveniles are rare and tiny ones like these are even rarer. As with most rare fish, they adopt an inverse price structure where the smaller they are, the more expensive they become.
Rare fish aficionados that have been following BlueHarbor’s track record closely will remember the very unique hybrid Genicanthus that they’ve had for awhile now. It’s still there and it is enjoying life in a solitary, undisturbed tank. The fish is beautiful in a subtle way that not many can appreciate. While it is not strikingly colored, a hybrid Genicanthus by any other form is still very much highly intriguing and very interesting.
Upstairs, a whole new set of even rarer, even more amazing set of fishes take residence. The second story features a reading lounge and three tanks. A glass tank housing the famed Cirrhilabrus claire, Centropyge narcosis and the new undescribed Bodianus, as well as two other acrylic tanks housing various deepwater fish including the one and only Lipogramma robinsi.
Koji is quite the innovator when it comes to deepwater fish and their requirements. These are custom made rockwall backdrop that are made to fit against the side of the tank. The rockwall backdrops are custom made by the same people who design and create artificial rockwalls for giant public aquariums. As such, they don’t come cheap. These artificial backdrops are extremely realistic looking with plenty of overhanging sections and nooks for deepwater basslets to hang underneath and hide in. Perfectly designed to suit their behavior and needs.
What’s even more clever is that the back of this backdrop is hollowed out, and there’s a subtle little hole for a wavemaker to be fitted it and concealed at the back. There are also teeth at the top for water to enter the overflow compartment as well as inconspicuous teeth at the bottom for water flow. Since this is custom made, it can be fitted for any tank dimension.
The acrylic deepwater tank houses a menagerie of rare fish. A trio of Prognathodes guyanensis, Lipogramma robinsi, a pair of Bodianus sanguineus, a juvenile Bodianus masudai, a harem of Tosanoides flavofasciatus, and a pair of Sacura margaritacea. Tosanoides flavofasciatus is a striking deepwater basslet from the cool and deep waters of Japan. Like many of the fishes in this tank, they require constantly cool water. The tanks are set at 18-19 degree celcius (64.4-66.2F), and the tank cabinets are lined with styrofoam which acts as insulation.
These two rare Bodianus are stunning. Not often seen are tiny juveniles of B. sanguineus and B. masudai. Although expensive and difficult to find, they look much better as full grown adults. That is when their colors truly intensify and become really beautiful.
The icing on the cake has to be the incredible glass tank featuring three of the rarest fish anywhere right now. Cirrhilabrus claire, Centropyge narcosis and the candy like hogfish with no name yet. Cirrhilabrus claire is so much more intensely colored in real life than any of the pictures posted of it so far. The fish is actually quite largely olive green, with a very nice purple stripe and dark colored ventral fins. It could be the lighting that it’s being kept in, but under certain angles, the greenish-yellow really intensifies.
Here’s the lesser seen female which has not been featured as much as the male – for obvious reasons. The female is a subdued pink with yellow fins throughout and a large yellow eye. At this stage, one can easily mistake it for a juvenile of any other fairy wrasse – especially that of C. rubrimarginatus and C. lineatus.
We’re also pleased to say that the C. narcosis is doing exceptionally well. Koji brought in a total of three pieces and two has been sold, leaving one still at his shop. This little guy takes pellets from the surface. There’s little more that it could do to prove that it is a happy, healthy fish.
The last fish to share the tank with the above two is the undescribed Bodianus. Strikingly yellow and orange, this fish is rowdy, tough and so neon its crazy. We leave you with a video of these rarities feeding on frozen mysis shrimp for now. Be sure to check back for part 2 of our BlueHarbor experience, where we reveal even rarer fishes, and even crazier stories!