If you love Opistognathus (jawfishes) but are jaded with the regular fare of O. aurifrons and O. rosenblatti, why not give the Chinstrap jawfish a try. It’s not a newcomer to the aquarium trade, but it is a species that has yet to be described officially. The Chinstraip jawfish is currently assigned a temporary scientific name of Opistognathus sp. 6, and is considerably smaller than most of its relatives. There are a few undescribed species floating around, but the chinstrap by far is the prettiest.
This species has a much stouter and shorter body compared to the other ornamental jawfishes available to the trade, and do not grow as long or as large. It’s namesake comes from a strap under its lower jaw, and the attractive snowflake pattern of coffee brown and off-white makes this a valuable addition to any reef tank. Chinstrap jawfishes are hardy and feed very easily, and will need broken pieces of coral, lose rubble or shells to construct and maintain their burrow.
Unlike the more familiar O. aurifrons however, this species is very shy and prefers to stay put in its hole and rarely, if ever, hovers on the opening. They are capable of darting back in and out of their burrows lightning quick to pick up floating pieces of food. Like other jawfishes, they are protective of their burrow and will not tolerate other fishes such as Stonogobiops or other sand dwelling gobies to enter. If an intruder gets to close, they ward them off by displaying their mouth wide open.
Offered occasionally from Indonesia and normally at very affordable prices, the chinstrap jawfish is a great fish to keep if you want all the charm of a jawfish without the overbearing cost. If you want it to be in full view of the aquarium, help it along by constructing a rough indentation in the sand against a rock where you want it to live. Release your specimen there and it should carry on finishing its burrow from there on. Remember to put in those coral rubble! Enjoy the short clip of our home specimen above.