Opistognathus decorus, the Tattoo Jawfish is the soul of a Polleni grouper trapped in the body of a jawfish. You can imagine how hard our jaw hit the floor when we got our first look at Opistognathus decorus, the most wild and crazy colored species of jawfish we have ever seen. Aside from the yellow head and blue spot jawfish, it seems that for every colorful species of Opistognathus there are dozens of grey to brown species that are rarely encountered. The tattoo jawfish is the coolest we’ve seen since Opistognahtus hopkinsi – but the first pictures and video of a live Opistognathus decorus show a much bigger fish.
This tattoo jawfish was collected at a depth of 200 meters (650 ft) in the Ryukyu Islands of Japan by Deep Sea Challengers, the purveyors of many incredibly rare and wickedly deep “reef” fish species. As far as we know the live Opistognathus decorus pictured and filmed is the first time the tattoo jawfish has been recorded alive and how are lucky are we that this fish looks unbelievable? In some ways the tattoo jawfish sports the same color palette of a fresh candy basslet, Liopropoma carmabi and the polleni grouper, Cephalopholis miniata, yet appears to be closer in size to the latter.
Even if that’s a smallish cleaner wrasse trying to provide grooming service to this tattoo jawfish, it could be between six and eight inches long (15-20cm)! With that kind of endowment of color and size this first-of-a-kind Opistognathus decorus is definitely going to go to Deep Sea Challengers’ best customer. In this case we hope it will be Blue Harbor or B-Box Aquarium so we can see and learn more of the tattoo jawfish. A part of us wants to be pessimistic about the prospect for ever seeing this species in aquariums, like ever again, but this year alone we’ve seen peppermint angelfish and narcosis angelfish so we can still hope.