Up close and personal with Synchiropus occidentalis
To be perfectly honest, our first look at the West Australia Dragonet appeared to show a species which bears a lot of similarities to the common green target mandarin. The Dragonet from West Australia is sometimes classified as the unique species Synchiropus occidentalis, sometimes it is considered a subspecies Synchiropus picturatus occidentalis. Whatever it is, after studying this crop of new pictures of freshly collected specimens there’s no doubt that this fish is distinct.
Basically the West Australia Dragonet has the same body shape and a similar patterning as its closely related cousin the psychedelic mandarin. You may recall that many years ago there was a steady stream of ‘green’ target mandarins which actually had a much more pink base body coloration and these sometimes fetched a premium since they were ‘Pink Target Mandarins’.
Synchiropus occidentalis displays this same basal pink to orange coloration, except stronger and other features differ as well. The large target patterns on the ‘Occidental Dragonet’ are a little big more irregular than its Indo-Pacific counterpart, with the line work turning to squiggles and spots. Lots of little blue spots adorn the body of the West Australia dragonet, inside the targets and even more so in the fins and the face.
And Oh what a face this fish has! From where we are standing, S. occidentalis is defined by its gorgeous, gorgeous face which stands out from the pinkish orange body coloration with a more brilliant and vivid golden, burnt orange coloration. The brighter face color brilliantly contrasts with a few of the brightest blue streaks and spots of the entire fish.
Needless to say, we are quite smitten with this fish now that we’ve had a really good look at it from multiple angles. It goes without saying that we are crossing all of our fingers for West Australia Dragonets to make it to the U.S. and all around the world so that enough pairs can make it into the hands of experienced breeders.
A huge thanks goes out to Vebas Aquarium who spent no little amount of effort creating the most stunning catalog of Synchiropus occidentalis images ever seen. The reefing world collectively owes photographer Patrick Reed a nice cold beer since we now have even more reason to lust after this exquisite, exotic reef fish species.