Angelfish aquaculturists Poma Labs are offering a pair of short-bodied Spectacled Angelfish, Chaetodontoplus conspicillatus for sale on their website. Conspic angels are one of the most coveted large Angelfish species available to saltwater aquarium owners, although usually they are rectangular in body shape, and attain a maximum length of 10”/25cm. The obvious difference between the “Stubby” Conspic pair is that short body shape versus the elongate shape of “natural,” ones, and that’s caused some debate on socials between those who think they’re cute, and think they would make great aquarium residents, and those who think the abnormal pair should have been culled early on in their development. The pair is being offered for $2,800.
The origins of short-bodied fish
If you’ve been keeping fish for any length of time then your first introduction to short-bodied fish will have been the Fancy goldfish. Developed in China centuries ago, farmers line-bred goldfish first for color and then for body and fin shape, and short-bodied fancy goldfish are still popular and widely available to this day. The craze for short-bodied fish is still very much a thing in China and Southeast Asian fish-fancying nations too, and in the past decade or so the Western tropical fishkeeping hobby has also seen a huge array of short-bodied fish being offered from Convict cichlids to Red Coral Platies, Parrot cichlids, Pangasius, and for coldwater, even Koi Carp.
The issue for fancy goldfish is that further line breeding for fat bodies, twin tails, long fins, and head or eye growths has made them shadows of their hardy carp ancestors. And just like with fancy dog breeds, many now are dis-abled when compared to fish with standard bodies and short fins, and may need extra aquarium care, aquariums set up especially for them, and may have breed-associated health problems.
The Stubby Conspics being offered by Poma Labs are still a very long way away from fancy goldfish in terms of abnormalities, and in fact, the company states that they have had short-bodied fish for seven years and they are very much alive, well, and fighting fit. The question is if these Stubbies could be added to a high-end reef tank just like normal-shaped Conspics, navigating high flow situations just as easily. Or if placed into an Angelfish-only Fish-only tank, could they put up with the rough and tumble of other large angelfish species with those shorter bodies? And would they get to the food as quickly?
The future of short-bodied marine fish
We have huge amounts of experience with short-bodied freshwater fish, but barring the odd tailless Foxface, Regal tang, or short-bodied Clownfish it isn’t something we had much experience with yet in reefing. Will short-bodied fish become more of a thing as more saltwater species are captive-bred? 100% yes. And just like with domesticated freshwater fish, the debate will continue as to whether they are natural or not, downright cute, or an abomination. If a shorter body means restricted swimming ability then powerful wave pumps and perhaps some tank mates may present a problem.
On these Stubbies our stance is one of ambiguity, and with forty years of freshwater experience under our belts we admit to being somewhat desensitized to short-bodied fish in general. As for the possibility of long-finned short-bodied saltwater fish gracing our tanks in the future. The jury is out!
Image credit Poma Labs, https://pomalabs.com/wysiwyg-stubby-conspic-pair/