The cross eye soldierfish is a very peculiar fish that has held a soft spot in our heart for many a years now. Few saltwater aquarists would go out of their way to acquire a cross eye soldierfish, but if you have the right tank for one, it can make for a very unique aquarium inhabitant.
There are two known species of cross-eye soldierfish, Plectrypops lima from the Indo-Pacific and Plectrypops retrospinnis from the West Atlantic. Both fish are relatively similar, and when looked at in profile are generally trivial red reef fish with big eyes. But it’s when a Plectrypops looks at you straight on that you are taken aback and understand how this species gets its common name.
Cross eye soldierfish have two big eyes placed relatively close together so they can look at you straight on, with well centered pupils. We’re not talking about the goofy, lazy eyes look of a pufferfish, but the wide glaring eyes of a cartoon fish with binocular vision.
Humans experience the world very strongly through their eyes, and we relate emotionally to people and animals by the look of their eyes as well, hence our propensity for puppy dogs and their puppy dog eyes. So when a fish looks at you with a pair of peepers unlike any other, you tend to take note and if you keep a Plectrypops in your home tank, you’ll see what we mean.
Thankfully, cross eye squirrelfish are hardy, don’t grow too large, aren’t belligerent and there isn’t really a high demand for them from the aquarium trade. But if you ever come across a Plectrypops cross eye soldierfish at the fish store and really want a pet fish, this is one curious animal that will stand out from the bread and butter and the exotic rarities.