In another effort to rectify the various misnomers that plague the aquarium industry, we’ll take a look at a small innocuous dottyback that has been masquerading under an inaccurate alias for far too long. The fish above in the tile photo has been erroneously identified since its conception into the aquarium industry, and despite its “regular appearances”, no one seems to really know that it is not what they think it is. The fish above is Lubbockichthys multisquamatus, and has been, for years, swimming with the misleading title of Pseudoplesiops rosae.
Despite its delicate rose-colored appearance, this fish has nothing to do with the false moniker in which it is associated with. Lubbockichthys is a small genus within the subfamily Pseudoplesiopinae, which includes four other genera. They are, Chlidichthys, Pectinochromis, Amsichthys and Pseudoplesiops. All of these genera are lesser known, very cryptic and rather deepwater. In the aquarium trade only Lubbockichthys and Pseudoplesiops make regular appearances. There is therefore, little wonder why the members within this subfamily are shrouded in a miasma of confusion.
Species of the genus Lubbockichthys are distinguished from the other pseudoplesiopine genera in having the following synapomorphies: They have small scales, which are cycloid at all stages of ontogeny. Some of the head bones are weakly honeycombed on the surface; and parietal enclosing dorsal part of supra temporal laterosensory canal. They are also very slender and snake like, especially in L. myersi. Three species are currently recognized in this genus, and they are Lubbockichthys multisquamatus, L. myersi and L. tanakai. An upcoming review of the genus will include more species.
L. multisquamatus is rose pink overall with a burnt orange head shield. The median and paired fins are hyaline and weakly edged with blue on the margins of the dorsal and anal fin. Like all Lubbockichthys, L. multisquamatus is coy, preferring to live in seclusion amongst steep reef walls riddled with holes and replete with cracks. The fish often adopts a vertical or upside down swimming posture, with its venter facing the rocks as it hugs its environment and snakes about the calcareous catacombs. It’s skittish nature makes it very difficult to approach, and photographing this species is always a challenge.
It makes semi-regular appearances from the Philippines, usually accompanied by another unidentified dottyback. But more on that later*. So now that the confusion with this species is cleared up, what exactly does Pseudoplesiops rosae look like?
P. rosae adopts a deeper, chubbier body profile more reminiscent of its genus, Pseudopleiops. Despite its name, P. rosae is relatively drab and highly variable, ranging from green or brown to bright yellow or bright red. The fish small, measuring in at 3 cm with large visible scales. The scales in Lubbockichthys multisquamatus are very fine and numerous, hence its name.
*To make matters even more confusing, Lubbockichtys multisquamatus has also been erroneously used. We know now that the real L. multisquamatus is the pink fish above, so what exactly has been going around with this wrong name?
As mentioned above, the real L. multisquamatus is often accompanied in Philippines imports by an undescribed dottyback that, ironically enough, has been erroneously identified as L. multisquamatus. Confused yet? Stay with me, we’re nearly done. The orange dottyback above is indeed a Lubbockichthys, but L. multisquamatus it is not. To make matters worse, a third entirely grey form is also known from the Philippines, but it is presumed to be the female of either species.
The orange dottyback above is being described in an upcoming review of the genus, and when published, will definitely set things right and clear up any residual confusion. So in conclusion, after all that ichthyological parlance, Lubbockichthys multisquamatus is pink, Pseudopleiops rosae is hideous, and Lubbockichthys sp. is orange. Savvy?
Gill, A.C. & Edwards, A.J. (2006) Lubbockichthys myersi, a new species of dottyback from Guam (Pseudochromidae: Pseudoplesiopinae). Zootaxa, 1320, 43–48.