Today’s Awesome Fish Spotlight features what is probably the rarest and least often seen species of Cirrhilabrus currently that has entered the trade. These are some of the clearest pictures of a large stunning alpha male anywhere right now and we are learning new things never seen before in this species since its discovery in the early 2000s.
Named after Claire T. Michihara, the wife of the collector of the type specimens, C. claire was described in 2001 based on specimens obtained from Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Since its discovery in 2001, no living or dead pictures, videos or specimens has ever been provided for hobbyist sans the two holotypes collected. It was only in 2012 when C. claire was caught and offered to the trade, did we have the chance to see and learn more about this fish.
The very first pair was offered to Koji Wada of BlueHarbor in 2012, by expert deepwater fisherman Rufus Kimura. Koji shortly after, released a teaser photo of the pair. The preliminary view of this fish seen by the world would be the first ever showing living coloration for this deepwater species. Shortly after, we visited Koji in Osaka and took pictures of the pair for ourselves seen here, and only then did we truly began to witness the exquisite and intriguing coloration of this fish.
Since then, four other specimens were collected in three separate batches, bringing the total number to date a low count of six. Only four males and two females of these deepwater wrasses have been caught, and all of them collected outside its initial type locality of the Cook Islands. Their preferred living depths in excess of 200-300 ft have sheltered it from a life of constant collection, and it proves to be one of the more elusive members of its genus.
The initial photographs of this fish shows the species adopting a very curious ectoplasmic green coloration, which can be seen very obviously here. However its description back in 2001 states that both males and females are lavender. The latest specimen to enter the trade has made its way to Iwarna Aquafarm of Singapore, and it is only then was I able to physically examine it in much greater scrutiny. The photos seen here were taken under daylight and it clearly shows a much more pinkish coloration compared to the greenish cast that have plagued the internet.
The green cast however, shows up under different lighting and angles. When photographed using harsh flash lighting, it appears green as well. Two other traits we’ve only just begun to witness are the really long ventral fins and the black edged tail. The first pair to enter the trade features a male with shorter ventrals and a tail without black margins. The dorsal fin is also clear in that piece whereas it is black here. This suggests that initial specimens were not full grown males, and that this piece we’re looking at now is the biggest and most well developed male of the four.
The lone male that entered Singapore was snapped up by local rare fish enthusiast Digiman, who prefers to be known by his online alias. If you are a rare fish geek and have been following ReefBuilders religiously, then you should be familiar with Digiman. His collection of fishes have been very well documented here over the past few years. He is a close friend of mine and a well respected contributor to many of my articles.
Enjoy these photos and the video above of C. claire. We have only just begun recovering from the alien like beauty of this fish. It is beyond, and it has to be witnessed in person for full effect. With C. claire finally caught for the trade and etched on the internet forever with its many pictures, it leaves its position exposed for the next Cirrhilabrus to stun the masses. A heartfelt thanks to Digiman of Singapore, as well as Iwarna Aquafarm and Koji Wada for importing and providing the fish.