Two thousand twelve saw a lot of great new developments in the reef and marine aquarium hobby, and we were graced with an especially good twelve months of awesome rare fish. This year saw some uber rare species become available to those who could afford them, and for the rest of us we at least got to see some really great new pictures os maybe even saw them at the LFS. Additionally, a couple virtually unknown species of reef fish saw some degree of exposure and a ubiquitous species was developed into the first domestic strain for this big family of reef fish.
Panda Banggai Cardinalfish – As much alarmist press as we have had to read about the endangered/invasive banggai cardinalfish, we almost lost our cool when we learned that there was a new, domestic strain of Pterapogon kauderni with a half black pattern. Called the “Panda Banggai”, we got our first look at this exciting new strain at InterZoo in Germany. Although the Panda Banggai strain has yet to enter the global aquarium market in any kind of decent numbers, when they do we expect to see breeders developing these into a myriad of new strains, and we personally can’t wait to see a “starry night” banggai which is all black with white spots all over.
Centropyge narcosis – The little yellow fish with a black spot known as the Narcosis Angelfish is a very special species of reef fish that lives in very deep water. Where the Narcosis occurs, you can also often find the holy grail peppermint angelfish and this year we even discovered a video of the two species living in the same habitat. A few specimens of the famed Narcosis angelfish made their way to Japan but thanks to Quality Marine we saw at least one of these uber rare angelfish make it to the United States and is now a proud resident of Texas.
Tattoo Jawfish – The Tattoo Jawfish, Opistognathus decorus, was a huge surprise deepwater treasure brought up from the depths of Japan by the superstar collectors of Deep Sea Challengers. Using a submersible DSC collected a single tattoo jawfish, which we had no idea even existed. This fish will probably never make it to mainstream aquarium channels, not even specialist rare fish dealers, but if we keep it in the headlines hopefully we can sustain the awareness for the tattoo jawfish and increase the likelihood that we see it in greater numbers in the future.
Plectranthias pelicieri – Ahhh, the ultimate basslet/perchlet has been revered for many years, always out of reach for Western rare fish afficionados but this was a golden year for Plectranthias pelicieri. Thanks to new collections in New Caledonia, Quality Marine has been able to sustain imports of Plectranthias pellicieri in small but consistent quantities to ensure that this small piscine treasure is reasonably available. The Pelicier’s Plectranthias is still a pricey fish but not completely out of reach, you might be lucky enough to see a live fish at your LFS. We thinks there’s still one at Old Town Aquarium in Chicago right now.
Dr. Seuss Fish – Without a doubt the unmistakable Dr. Seuss Fish is the hottest most, exciting fish in the aquarium trade this year. Long relegated to ‘bookfish’ status for many years since it was described, when this fish was collected the stratospherically priced specimens always made their way to Japan. This year saw the collection of perhaps about a dozen individuals of Belonoperca pylei, more than enough to satisfy global demand and leading to a handful of specimens making their way to the U.S. We saw our first Dr. Seuss Fish in person this year at House of Fins and we can tell you, neigh assure you that this fish is every bit the looker in person as it is in pictures.
Bonus – West Australian Dragonet – The wild card rare reef fish of 2012 is a lone little Synchiropus occidentalis that was collected in Western Australia. The mandarin goby and target mandarin goby (Synchiropus splendidus and S. picturatus) are some of the most well known and beloved little fishies in the aquarium trade, so it’s a wonder why the West Australian species is virtually unknown, with only a handful of pictures of living specimens known. Like the tattoo jawfish we hope that increased awareness will increase the sightings of this incredibly beautiful little fish, and at least it doesn’t live at bone-crushing depths so West Australians should be on the lookout!