1. Bartletts (Pseudanthias bartlettorum): I used to have a decent sized shoal of these guys and now, of this writing, I’m down to one. My oldest finally succumbed in 4/10 after having been with me for nearly 9 years. The remaining one is actually a juvie, part of a replacement shoal that I tried several months ago that was systematically killed off by my Bimacs. Other than that, I’ve found Bartletts among the easiest Anthias to maintain. They are also quite pretty, especially when young and, provided they’re not harassed, most will eat from the moment they’re introduced. Also, despite what you may have heard about high metabolic rates and such, I’ve always fed mine twice a day and have never had one starve. On the negative side, understand that these fish are hermaphrodites by nature, meaning that in the absence of a male, the most dominant female will quickly fill the breech. Well, in captivity, apparently the male need not be absent for this sex change to occur and if you have a nice sized group going, rest assured that you will eventually have more than one male. So, you ask? They fight?sometimes viciously. And in ‘SPS’ tanks, these fights can break off good sized Acropora branches, many times also injuring the fish, which can result in secondary infections and death. I have also witnessed them knock entire frags off their mounts and into crevices in the live rock which are all but irretrievable unless, of course, you just feel like tearing half of the tank down. Other battle scars? Dislocated or completely amputated jaws and severe eye injuries (they seem to especially target the eyes). As beautiful as these fish can be, they can also be just as nasty?at least the males anyway. Figures.
Finally, a friend of mine brought up a rather interesting factor regarding these (well, probably all Anthias, really) fish. I must state beforehand though that this friend is a quintessential ‘A-type’ personality guy; never stops fidgeting, never stops thinking, the doctors probably measure his blood pressure from the next room behind a safety glass. During one particularly bad day, I invited him over to chill out in the fish room, to just watch the tank for a while and listen to some music. To my surprise, he took me up on it. But to my greater surprise, he could only do this for a couple minutes. His reason? The Anthias. They are perpetual motion machines, darting about, fleeing suddenly from an imagined predator, never seeming to relax at all. In other words, they were him. Unfortunately, he couldn’t chill at all while watching him and left feeling even more tense than when he arrived.
The only reason I bring this up is to forewarn the hobbyist who seeks to mimic the ‘peace and tranquility’ of the coral reef that he may want to stay away from Anthias. They really are nuts, no doubt from millions of years of existing primarily to feed other creatures, but nuts nonetheless.
2. Bimaculatus (Pseudanthias bimaculatus): At 2 males and approximately 18 females, my current shoal of Bimacs make up by far the most prevalent species of Anthias (of fish, really) in the display tank. Almost everything that was said for the aforementioned Bartletts could also be said for the Bimacs, especially in regards to sex change and resulting aggression. In fact, at one point a couple years ago, I only had 6 Bimacs, 3 of them were male and two of those only had one eye. The aggression, in fact, it may be a little worse with this species because Bimacs tend be a little larger than Bartletts, the males here coming in at 4, sometimes even 5 inches long.
One interesting observation I’ve seen repeatedly now amongst these fish is spawning behavior. Almost like clockwork, after the evening feeding and before the lights go out, I will watch a male do its little mating dance before a seemingly reluctant female until she inevitably joins in then suddenly, BAM, and something will get released into the water because an instant feeding frenzy will ensue involving every single fish in the tank. Both males will engage in this ritual, separately of course, so there must be enough females at this point to ward off constant fighting. All in all, its pretty cool to watch and, like I said, it happens just about every evening.
3. Olives (Pseudanthias olivaceus): At some point in the early 2000’s, I had six of these guys (1 male, 5 females). Now, I’m down to just one, the male. And to make matters worse, I can’t seem to find these fish ANYWHERE! According to what I’ve read, they come from the Cook Islands, pretty near Hawaii, so it’s not as if we have to assemble the Pinta, the Nina, and the Santa Maria all over again to put together a dive trip. I’m guessing therefore that because they’re not the most colorful Anthias in the ocean, they’re not readily collected. This is a shame because if ever there was a ‘Model Citizen’ award for this species, I think the Olives would have their number retired. My shoal had no problems with their diet, showed no overt signs of aggressiveness or shyness, didn’t change sexes at a whim, and seemed pretty disease resistant. I mean, outside of Vegas Strip coloration, what more than that could you possibly ask for?
Even alone now, my male Olive seems to get along for the most part. Occasionally, I’ll see him get run by a male Bimac for a fe seconds but I’ve never seen any harm done. It should be obvious to everyone by now that I’d love to get my hands on 5-7 females?of these fish, I mean. But I have a feeling they’ll most likely be imported as accidental catches and probably mislabled. So if any of you see what you think are genuine P. olivaceus at your LFS or even online, since I can’t check everywhere everyday, please drop me a line asap. This is assuming that YOU don’t want them yourself, which, and I’m going to be totally straight with you, would be quite a mistake provided you have the room. To me, they are as close as I’ve seen to the perfect captive Anthias.
4. Blotchy, Speckled, or Borbonius (Odontanthias borbonius): One of the more recent ‘discoveries’ this deepwater species took the marine aquarium fish world by storm. Even today, they’re still expensive but available from many vendors both online and retail. I currently have a pair, down from three due to the tragic fact that my Crosshatch Triggerfish actually ate the third one alive! Note that you will not see this Crosshatch or, for that matter, any other triggerfish listed in my collection right now. The remaining Borbonius duo have been quite interesting in their interactions with their tankmates; the larger one (no info on how to sex these Anthias right now) seems understandably protective of its buddy now and will usually not stray very far from it. I have very occasionally seen it run another fish away for some perceived infraction although I have never seen a tankmate harass either of these guys in any way. They are not quite as gregarious as the other Anthias but by no means shy and are almost always out and about. Unfortunately, the smaller of the pair has a swim bladder problem (not unusual with this or any other deepwater species) which causes it to have to frantically use it’s pectoral fin in order to move and seemingly stay submerged. It also tends to rest upside down under my Idaho Grape Montipora. But these issues certainly don’t seem to keep it for maintaining an otherwise normal captive lifestyle; it eats, it gets along, and looks to be very healthy in all other aspects. I have read articles regarding swim bladder issues and treatments but until this fish shows signs of obvious distress, I think I’m going to leave it alone. Not only is surgery a level I hadn’t quite planned to reach for in the hobby right now but you know how you hate it when you’re sucking the air out of a fish’s belly with a hypodermic needle when the spouse and kids suddenly walk in and ask ‘whatcha doing’? Me too.