This past 2019 was a fruitful year of new saltwater and reef fish species, introducing fish lovers to a whole host of new species. More so than other years we were treated to a nice variety of new official descriptions representing many of our favorite fish groups, many of which are well known and widely represented in the saltwater aquarium hobby.
Some like the gobies are so abundant and widespread that every year they almost overwhelm our rosters of new species, hence the need this year to split them off into their own collection. Others like the Liopropoma basslet and Prognathodes butterflyfish are so infrequent that they make quite a splash when we see a new species added to their family trees.
We had two new Anthias get their day in the peer reviewed literature; the Luzonichthys from Easter Island originates from so far away that we’re not likely to ever enjoy it alive in an aquarium display. The other, a Tosanoides from the Coral Sea lives at such depth it’s a challenge even for even the trained rebreather divers to get a glimpse of.
The gobies far outnumber the similar looking blennies in sheer numbers, which is why it was a real novelty to see a new species from two blenny genera that are commonly enjoyed in the reef aquariums of the world. By far the two new species of reef fish that made the biggest splash were – surprisingly – a damselfish and unsurprisingly a fairy wrasse, both of which were described by Reef Builders alum Yi-Kai Tea.
These were the Corazon Damselfish discovered in Madagascar just a couple years ago and quite different in appearance from any other related species with a beautiful white body color that sports hints of blue and black markings. But the one fish that really captured the attention of popular culture is the Vibranium fairy wrasse, named after the reclusive civilization of Wakanda from the Black Panther movie.
Two thousand nineteen was on par with similar years from the previous decade in terms of new fish species described, variety and uniqueness. But definitely stay tuned because we’re going to be sorting through the hundreds of new species described in the last decade to see which ten fish were the ‘Top 10’ of the last decade; we don’t know where this mission will lead us but it ought to be a very interesting collection.