Helfrich’s firefish, Nemateleotris helfrichi, were once so rare in the aquairum hobby that you basically never saw them at the fish store. How times have changed now that the dainty little Helfrich’s is collected in massive numbers from the Marshall Islands and most decent LFS will stock a few of them often priced at $80 or less. However, a larger, more brilliant and deeper dwelling purple-face variant of the species exists to re-elevate Nemateleotris helfrichi to its former uber rare fish status.
We’ve written about the purple face helfrich’s firefish a few times before, LiveAquaria posted some in the DiversDen about four years ago. $600 is a lot to pay for a single brightly colored fish but that’s what it takes to provide conditioned, quarantined little dartfish that were caught on the other side of the world at depths approaching two hundred feet. Most reefing folk will be quite content with their affordable standard-issue helfrich’s firefish, or may even opt for regular or purple firefish but that’s why the purple-face Helfrich’s firefish is almost never seen.
In America the aquarium hobby depends on Quality Marine for all imports the Cook Islands including those fabulous ‘original’ Scott’s wrasses. So far we haven’t seen QM flaunting the purple-faces but in Japan pet fish powerhouse B-Box Aquarium scored a couple specimens of the Cook Island Helfrich’s firefish so we know the fish are coming up from the deep. Thousand dollar reef fish don’t sell like they used to but the purple face Helfrich’s usually sold like hot cakes so we hope to see them again stateside soon.