What more can be said about Paracirrhites xanthus, the yellow hawkfish? Reef Builders showcased a beautiful yellow hawkfish specimen a few years ago, and although still very rare, one has turned up in my care in a private collection in London, England. These shots were taken when he had only been in the aquarium a week or so, but I am happy to report he’s looking much chipper now, a few weeks down the line.
This Paracirrhites xanthus shares his 4,000 liter home with a few other Dream Fishes, including a Chaetodon daedalma, wrought iron butterflyfish, and the now-famous vitiligo dwarf angel. My main concern was it being able to compete for food in what is a very busy community tank, but aside from blustering straight into a bubble tip anemone the other day, he seems to be holding his own!
Once settled, Paracirrhites xanthus colors up to a bright banana yellow, and with its purple postocular mark (eye stripe), he stands out like a beacon even in a large, busy aquarium. Another rarely imported hawkfish (to The UK at least) is Cirrhitichthys aureus, the Japanese golden hawkfish.
Also going by the common name of yellow hawkfish, (aren’t common names helpful?!) C. aureus displays the typical pointed snout and high back seen in this genus, which includes the more commonly seen C. falco. While P. xanthus, as a species, sports a universal bright yellow colouration, individuals of C. aureus display colours varying from bright golden yellow, to brown, with some fish sporting dark blotches similar to C. aprinus, the spotted hawkfish.
Most hawkfish are thought to be hermaphrodite, and exhibit a haremic social structure. Interestingly, harems of Cirrhitichthys hawkfish have been observed to contain a congener Irelated species), for example C. falco and C. oxycephalus females turning up in C. aprinus harems.
Laboratory investigations have shown that spawnings between these species also produce viable eggs.
Cirrhitichthys aureus is found at greater depths than most species of hawkfish, and is also unusual in being capable of sex change in either direction, unlike the other hawkfishes which are thought to be protogynous hermaphrodites (female to male). It may be unlikely, but it would be interesting to see if the variation in colour in C. aureus is due to some introduced genetic material from potential hybridization with congeners.
Hawkfish are ‘reef safe’ to the extent that they won’t snack on your corals, but mobile invertebrates, and small fish, may not be so lucky. Cirrhitichthys aureus is found at greater depths, and is more solitary than most hawkfish, while Paracirrhites xanthus has a very limited distribution, making both species rarely seen in the trade, and commanding high prices when they do turn up.
However in regards to ease of keeping and strength of character, as well as glorious colour, I can definitely vouch for P. xanthus, the yellow hawkfish, as a top buy, and well worth the investment, should you ever be so lucky as to see one for sale.