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Related FAQs: Ecsenius Blennies, Ecsenius Identification, Ecsenius Behavior, Ecsenius Compatibility, Ecsenius Selection, Ecsenius Systems, Ecsenius Feeding, Ecsenius Disease, Ecsenius Reproduction, True Blennies: True Blennies, Saber-Tooth Blennies, Blenny Identification, Blenny Behavior, Blenny Compatibility, Blenny Selection, Blenny Systems, Blenny Feeding, Blenny Disease, Blenny Reproduction, Blennioids & their Relatives, Algae-eating Blennies,

Related Articles: Combtooth Blennies, Algae Eating Blennies, Blennioids and their Relatives, Sabertooth Blennies, Family Blenniidae/Tribe Nemophini, Algae Control, Triplefin Blennioids,

/The Conscientious Marine Aquarist

Ecsenius Blennies;
Delightful Additions to All Types of Marine Systems



By Bob Fenner

Ecsenius stictus


            Herein is a tale of a large genus of small saltwater fishes that go largely unnoticed, unappreciated, and definitely under-used in the hobby. This is all for shame; as they are hardy, colorful and beautifully marked, and are neither rare in the wild, nor particularly difficult to collect.

            Let’s make a start to rectify this situation by a simple review of Ecsenius care and presentation of some of the genus’ many species.

The Genus Ecsenius: Wherefore or at are you?

            According to the superb data-base Fishbase.org, there are currently sixty one valid species of Ecsenius. These are tropical reef species found throughout warmer shallow coast from the mid Pacific westward in all of the Indian Ocean and Red Sea. None get very big; most max’ing out at three to four inches overall length.

Ecsenius Species on Parade!

Ecsenius aroni Springer 1988, Sharm el Sheik, Egypt.


Ecsenius axelrodi (Springer 1988), Axelrod's Blenny. Western Pacific; Admiralty Islands, PNG, Solomons. To three inches in length. This one hanging out on a sponge in Bunaken/Manado in Sulawesi/Indonesia.


Ecsenius bandanus Springer 1971, the Banda Combtooth Blenny. To 3.4 cm. Western Pacific; Indonesia and New Guinea. Here in Wakatobi in Sulawesi/Indonesia.


Ecsenius bathi Bath's Blenny. Borneo to Irian Jaya. To 1.5 in. Shown below, the striped and orange-striped variation. Found associated with sponges, tunicates. Raja Ampat pix





Ecsenius bicolor (Day 1888), the Bicolor Blenny. Indo-Pacific, Maldives to Micronesia. To about four inches in length. Two at a wholesalers and a brown variant in Raja Ampat, Indo.. A very popular marine aquarium fish... for peaceful reef. A brown variant at right in Raja Ampat, and two more morphs in Fiji below




Ecsenius dentax Springer 1988. Endemic to the Red Sea. To 4.8 cm. Sharm.


Ecsenius fijiensis Springer 1988, the Fiji Blenny. Endemic to Fiji. To 3.9 cm. Bligh waters pic of the two color morphs that occur in Fiji



Ecsenius gravieri Pellegrin 1906, the Red Sea Mimic Blenny. Western Indian Ocean; Red Sea, Gulf of Aden. To 8 cm. Mimic of Meiacanthus nigrolineatus (see page of Fangblennies). A small specimen here in Na'ama Bay, Sharm, Egypt’s Red Sea.




Ecsenius lineatus (Klausewitz 1962), the Linear Blenny. Indo-West Pacific; Mauritius to the Philippines. To three and a half inches in length. This image shot in the Maldives. Another beautiful member of the genus well-suited for aquarium use.


Ecsenius mandibularis McCulloch 1923, the Queensland Blenny. Only found in the southern part of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. To three inches. This one off of Heron Island.


Ecsenius midas Starck 1969, the Midas or Persian Blenny. Indo-Pacific; Red Sea to the Marquesas. To about five inches in length. Sometimes found in association with the Basslet Pseudanthias squamipinnis, which it resembles, feeding on zooplankton. Aquarium image.




Ecsenius nalolo Smith 1959, the Nalolo. Western Indian Ocean; Red Sea down African coast. To two and a half inches in length. This image made in the upper Red Sea.


Ecsenius opsifrontalis Chapman & Schultz 1952. Pacific; Micronesia to Samoa. To two inches in length. This one outside its known range (or a mis-id!) in Pulau Redang, Malaysia.


Ecsenius pictus McKinney & Springer 1976, the White-line Combtooth Blenny. To 5 cm. Western Central Pacific. Here in Wakatobi, southern Sulawesi



Ecsenius schroederi McKinney & Springer 1976, the Spoke-Eye Blenny. N.W. Australia to Moluccas, E. Indo. To 5 cm. Raja Ampat pix.




Ecsenius stictus Springer 1988, the Great Barrier Reef Blenny. Endemic. To a maximum of 5.8 cm. This one of many off of the Whitsundays, Queensland, Australia.

Ecsenius stigmatura Fowler 1952. To 6 cm. Western Pacific: Philippines and Indonesia. Raja Ampat photo



Ecsenius trilineatus Springer 1972, the Three Lined Blenny. To 3 cm. Western Central Pacific; New Guinea, Moluccas, Solomons, Indo. This one in Wakatobi, S. Sulawesi.



            During the day (light hours) Ecsenius divide their time pretty much twixt hiding in holes and crevices, looking out at their world; and diving out to interact with tankmates and looking for free-floating food items. Night times find them, like so many other reef fishes, lying in repose; avoiding possible predators in the dark.


            Ecsenius blennies are quintessential easy-going fishes; getting along with all other fishes, invertebrates and macro-algae. These fishes will greatly go in any compatible fish-only, fish and invertebrate to full blown reef systems. They will not pick on corals, snails, anemones, or tube-worms; and in turn they’re fast and smart enough to avoid most all the “usual suspects” in the way to aggressive fish tankmates. This being stated, I would still not place an Ecsenius with larger basses and wrasses, big puffers and triggers, piscivorous moray eels…

            Though some species do associate in “pairs” in the wild, even occasional social groups, I strongly suggest keeping just one specimen to a tank of any species. IF you have a huge system, you might be tempted to try more… providing plenty of habitats.

            And these and other blenny and some goby species don’t often mix well; the Ecsenius being territorial. If you have them together, the onus is upon you to assure they are getting along well enough and all receiving sufficient food/s.


            Finding good Ecsenius blennies is easy to do; as these fishes ship very well; and are usually healthy on arrival; able to be acquired and moved; often directly to your main/display tank. Yes; it may seem anathema, but I am suggesting you are better off skipping the rigors of quarantine/isolation of these little fishes and expediting them without delay. As many blennies and gobies, Ecsenius are often absent much in the way of communicable disease, and further, having handled thousands of specimens, I assure you that much more is to be gained than wagered and lost in delaying their final placement.

            The usual checklist of things to look for and avoid apply: DO seek specimens that have bright eyes and bodies clean of damage. DO ask that the specimen/s be fed in front of you; that they are taking the types of foods that you intend to offer.


            For blennies, the genus Ecsenius do require space; for physiological and psychological purposes. These are very active fishes; darting about during all daylight hours when not otherwise hiding out in ambush, waiting to dart out again in search of food. I would not place a lone specimen in anything smaller than a three foot long, nominally forty gallon system.

            These fishes are accomplished escape artists! You must do your best to secure all openings to the top that will permit their leaving; including screening overflows that they can and will get out of the tank by.

            Blennies appreciate clean, fast-moving water with a minimum of dissolved nutrients; no ammonia or nitrite and if practical, less than ten parts per million of nitrate are good values to shoot for.


            Like most Blennies, Ecsenius are largely feeders on small live invertebrates; mostly in midwater suspension, and attached micro-algae that they will pick as little life forms on rock and substrate. To keep them successfully one should provide similar food stuffs a few times a day; ideally via endogenous means like good-sized healthy refugiums and live rock and sand.

            If you can’t be there to supply foods a few times during the day, I encourage you to train your fishes to accept a good quality pelleted food of appropriate sizing; and supply this every few hours via an automated feeder.


            Without doubt, a lack of nutrition is the single largest cause of loss of these fishes; them just withering away due to too little meaty food being supplied often enough. Secondly the “disease” of jumping out of their system, escaping through plumbing, overflows or simply out the top via a large-enough opening is significant.

            As with all scale-less and small-scaled fishes, particularly those with close-association with the bottom and tubes, Ecsenius are on the better side of falling victim to external parasites. This being stated however, IF the system comes down with a Protozoan issue they can succumb. Again, being fine-scaled and small blennies are easily poisoned by metal (e.g. Copper), formalin and dye solutions. Hence my strong suggestion to utilize a Quinine compound (Chloroquine Phosphate a fave) in their place should you have a discernible need to treat.


            There are a few scant accounts of breeding Ecsenius. Males of the same size as females do develop thickened ends of unpaired fins; and may sport elongated high and low ends of their caudals. Females of some species apparently have more teeth!

            Eggs are laid by pairs in hiding spots, demersal and adhesive, guarded by the male; hatching out to planktonic lives in a few days. The real catch in rearing them, as with most marine fishes and invertebrates, is the steady provision of appropriate density of live foods.


            So there you have the genus Ecsenius; deserving of special attention in being delightful, small (to four inches) fishes that do superbly well in peaceful fish, invertebrate and reef systems; though better by far reefs containing live corals and their requisite good environmental conditions.


Biblio. /Further Reading:

Breder, C.M. and D.E. Rosen, 1966. Modes of reproduction in fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune City, New Jersey. 941 p.

DeLoach, N. 1999. Reef Fish Behavior. New World Publications. Jacksonville. pp. 96 - 121.

Michael, S.W. 1998. Reef Fishes Volume 1. Microcosm. Shelburne. pp. 624.

Springer, V.G. 1988. The Indo-Pacific Blenniid fish genus Ecsenius. Smithson. Contrib. Zool. (465):134 p.

Springer, V.G. 2000 Blenniidae (blennies). p. 632-634. In J.E. Randall and K.K.P. Lim (eds.) A checklist of the fishes of the South China Sea. Raffles Bull. Zool. (8):569-667.


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