Somewhere in Osaka Japan, down deep in the fish conditioning vault of Blue Harbor Aquariums, rests no less than five little treasures from the Pacific Ocean, the illustrious peppermint angelfish, Paracentropyge boylei. The quintet of holy grail reef fish arrived in the care of Blue Harbor owner Koji Wada this past Friday at which point they indulged in a 24 hour “nap” to recover from the 40 hour transit time they endured on their way to Osaka.
The five beautiful peppermint angelfish received by Blue Harbor were all on the small side, better to acclimate them to captivity, with the specimens measuring in at 3.5, 4, 4.5, 4.8 and 5cm long making them all about 1.5 to 2 inches long. Compared to the adult peppermint angelfish that have been collected in the past, these juvenile and subadult Paracentropyge boylei should be perfect candidates for aquarium life but they have another surprise strength for a long future in captivity.
The peppermint angelfish is the demi-god of the reef depths, as far as aquarists are concerned and where it is found the water is usually much colder than our tropical tanks. In Raratonga in the Cook Islands the peppermint angelfish lives well beyond 300 feet deep where the water fequently approaches 70F degrees or less.
Luckily, these new peppermint angelfish treasures were collected by Rufus Kimura at a similar South Pacific location where the water was much warmer at depth. Much to their surprise, Rufus and his team had set up holding tanks with a temperature of 71F in anticipation of collecting their prize. As expected the surface water temperature was 86F but even when they went down to between 400 and 450 feet, the water temp remained a balmy 76F degrees.
If the difficulty of diving (safely) beyond 130 meters underwater wasn’t enough challenge to collect the mesophotic peppermint angelfish, the habitat where they occurred sure was. Even once he and his crew found the red-and-white-gold living more than a football field underwater, the peppermint was attached to a thick, thick reef habitat which Kimura and his associates said made this species one of the hardest they’ve ever had to catch.
At the moment the five little candies are still conditioning in their halfway home at Blue Harbor in Japan. All the fish are settled in, acting well and perky but it’s probably too soon to expect them to eat. Don’t even ask how much these peppermint angelfish cost, because you know it was a heckuva lot, and it doesn’t matter because Koji-san has already found great new homes for them and given the temperature where they were caught, don’t be surprised if we eventually end up seeing pictures or video of a full-blown reef tank with a peppermint angelfish swimming around.
Update: It appears that one of the smallest pepper-mints has already started eating. Isn’t he Qute!