Soapfish may not be the first group of fish that jump to mind when it comes to selecting a good reef inhabitant. Heck, they may not even be in the first 8, 9,or 10 groups of fish, and generally there are a few good reasons why not. Some soapfish, such as the commonly encountered sixline soapfish, Grammistes sexlineatus, or the two banded soapfish, Diploprion bifasciatus, or the visually appealing saddle soapfish, Pogonoperca punctata, get large and are very predatory.
Other soapfish, like the Rypticus and Suttonia species are incredibly cryptic, being rarely seen in all but small tanks. Belonoperca pylei is highly desirable, but also highly priced, often in the thousands of dollars, placing it well out of the reach of most hobbyists. Enter Diploprion drachi, the yellowfin soapfish.
The yellowfin soapfish is from the NorthWestern Indian Ocean. The Red Sea, and the Gulf of Aden. It is a moderately sized soapfish, reaching 5” in total length and is nowhere near as predatory in aquaria as some of it’s soapfish cousins. In fact, I have safely housed D. drachi with fish as small as firefish. It is a handsome light blue, with a yellow stripe through it’s eye and black along the dorsum.
Soapfish, in general, are very hardy fish and disease resistant, too. Most other fish leave them alone, as they produce a toxic slime when irritates or in danger called ‘grammistin’. Soapfish, in turn, will defend any cave that they consider their “home base”, but beyond that are not aggressive towards different species of fish.
In the aquarium the Drachi soapfish, while not an open water fish, remains quite visible near it’s cave and is always eager to feed. They are not picky eaters at all, quickly accepting any meaty food that might be offered. Wild Drachi soapfish are interesting ambush predators. They will swim alongside a larger fish that will not cause alarm to the potential prey, such as tangs, and as the larger fish approaches the Drachi soapfish is able to covertly get within striking distance to an easy meal.
Red Sea shipments of fish can be hit-and-miss in terms of reliable availability, and Drachi soapfish are not collected with the numbers and frequency of some of the more popular Red Sea fishes, such as Sohal and Purple tangs. But the Drachi soapfish is well worth the patience needed to wait for one to become available.
This is a guest contribution by TJ Engels, one of the marine fish specialists at Greenwich Aquaria.